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The Rest of the UK

(back to Music Travel)

Southern England

Reading Festival / Womad (Rivermead Centre, Richfield Ave, Reading)

The annual Reading Rock Music Festival is descended from the old Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, where the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds had their first taste of success. In the early 60s, the Crawdaddy Club was located in the Richmond Athletic Club, which also hosted the National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival. Many Crawdaddy regulars also appeared at the festival.

In 1971, the festival relocated to Reading and, until the late 80s, it was a bastion of mainstream rock, steadfastly ignoring the punk rock and electronic music revolutions of the 70s and 80s. London based rock magnate Vince Power took control in the late 80s and put on more “cutting edge” bands - like New Order, Nirvana, the Sugarcubes, the Pixies, and Iggy Pop.

The other major music festival that shares the Rivermead Centre is WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance), which started - with help from Peter Gabriel - in 1982 in Shepton Malet and moved to Reading in 1990.

The 3-day WOMAD festival is held every year in mid July, and has become a rallying point for the “world music” movement. The WOMAD organisation has grown into a worldwide operation which regularly stages events across the globe (see [1])

Headley Grange (Liphook Rd and Hurland Lane, Hampshire)

This damp old building (a 19th century workhouse for the poor and destitute) was used by Led Zeppelin to record their third and fourth albums, as well as some tracks from Physical Graffiti. It is a three-story house with a huge open hall. The huge drum sound on those albums was recorded on the old stone staircase. The house is located just off the A325 road.

Stocks Country Club (near Tring, Hertfordshire)

The Country Club was featured on the cover of Oasis’ Be Here Now. The club was chosen because it resembled John Lennon’s 60s mansion at Tittenhurst Park.

Knebworth Mansion (Knebworth, Hertfordshire)

The first Knebworth festival was held in 1974, featuring the US boogie group, the Allman Brothers. Since then, some of the biggest names of the rock industry have headlined at the festival, including Pink Floyd in 1975, Rolling Stones in 1976, Led Zeppelin in 1979, and Oasis in 1996.

East Afton Farm (Isle of Wight)

The farm hosted the 1970 Isle of Wight rock festival, which was Jimi Hendrix’s last appearance before he died a few weeks later.

West England

The Dug Out / Thai House (52 Park Row, Clifton, Bristol)

For most of the 80s, this was the home of Bristol hip-hop. The Wild Bunch sound system played here regularly (featuring Nellee Hooper, later to become one of the most in-demand producers in the recording industry); some of the kids who hung out here went on to record as Massive Attack, Tricky and Gary Clail. These days, the venue houses a restaurant.

Real World Studios (Box Mill, Mill Lane, Box, near Bath)

Realwrld
Peter Gabriel opened the studios in an old converted mill in the late 80s.

Brian Jones’ Grave (Chippenham Cemetary, Bouncers Lane, Chippenham)

Brian Jones grew up in Hatherley Road in Cheltenham. He went to live in London in the early 60s, and took a couple of young musicians under his wing - Mick Jagger and Keith Richards - and let them join his band, the Rollin’ Stones.

The band became successful, Brian developed a fondness for mind-altering substances that rendered him dysfunctional as a musician, and he was kicked out of his own band. He died in mysterious circumstances in the swimming pool at his country mansion in Sussex, and is now buried here, in section V near the chapel.

Eddie Cochran also died in a car crash at Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the old A4 road, on Easter Sunday 1960.

Glastonbury Festival (Worthy Farm, Pilton)

The festival intermittently ran as a free festival in the seventies. The first was held in September 1970 (headlined by T. Rex). The following year the bill included a number on “underground” acts, including David Bowie, Fairport Convention, Pink Fairies, Traffic, and Hawkwind.

There were no more festivals until 1978, when Peter Gabriel, Alex Harvey, and Steve Hillage played. The festival has been held most years since then, but it did not really become successful until 1981, when New Order, John Cooper Clarke and Hawkwind played; the profits that year went to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

[2]

Stonehenge (cnr A360 and A303, near Salisbury)

Every summer solstice from 1974 until 1985, the travelling hippie tribes of England gathered together at Stonehenge for a People’s Festival of music and altered experiences.

The first festival was organised by Wally Hope and was held annually until 1985 when the police attacked the convoy of travellers and drove them off the site (an event documented in the Levellers’ song Battle of the Beanfeast).

Since then, high fences have been erected around the ancient standing stones, and the police have gathered together every year to ensure that the young people of England will never again trespass on this land to conduct their pagan rites.

Brasenose Arms (Station Road, Cropredy)

Fairport Convention was a talented but unremarkable mid 60s rock band (sort of England’s answer to Jefferson Airplane) until folkie Sandy Denny joined the band, and introduced them to traditional English music.

The collision of electric R&B and folk traditions generated a powerful musical alchemy which the band took to the underground hippie clubs of London, and created a new genre: English folk rock.

The members of Fairport were a talented but cantankerous lot, and many great musicians passed through the band. The band finally broke up in 1979.

To mark their passing, they staged a festival at the town of Cropredy (where many of the band lived), and every August since then, all the ex members of Fairport gather together to stage a reunion festival.

The Brasenose Arms is a regular drinking spot for the Fairport musicians during the festival, and the pub was featured on the cover of their album Nine.

Manor Studios (Banbury Rd, Shipton-on-Cherwell, near Oxford)

The Who owned the studios, until Richard Branson bought them (the studios not the band) in 1972. At that time Branson ran a mail order record shop called Virgin Records, and he had just decided to open his own record label.

Virgin’s first big hit was recorded at Manor Studios by Mike Oldfield, who created a strange record called Tubular Bells, which became a big hit when it was used as part of the soundtrack for the very scary movie The Exorcist.

Other memorable recordings at the studio included Tangerine Dream (Phaedra), the Sex Pistols, Mott the Hoople, and Simple Minds. The studio closed down in 1995 (and there were plans to convert it into a health farm).

Midlands

The Corn Exchange (Wheeler St, Cambridge)

This venue is best known to fans of cult hero Syd Barret, who made a brief comeback in February 1972 with his post-Pink Floyd band. Stars. The band played their first and only gig (as the unlikely support band to the legendary proto punk MC5).

The gig did not go well for Stars, and Barret retired from the music scene to live quietly somewhere in Cambridge. The Corn Exchange is now an arts centre and puts on occasional rock gigs.

Syd Barrets Childhood Home (183 Hills Rd, Cambridge)

Roger Barret was born at 60 Glisson Rd on the 6th of January 1946. He lived there until he was four years old, when the Barret family moved to Hills Road in 1950, where they lived until young Roger (who had taken the name Syd, in honour of a local jazz musician) moved to London as in the mid 60s. Roger Barret died in July 2006.

Donington Castle (Donington Park)

Every summer, Donington hosts the Monsters of Rock festival, which is Europe’s biggest, with a hard rock/heavy metal bias.

Ozzy Ozbornes Childhood Home (14 Lodge Rd, Aston, Birmingham)

Like the rest of Black Sabbath, young Ozzy was a solid working class lad (which distinguished the band from their prog-rock contemporaries in the late 60s). His dad was a sheet metal worker, who made the band’s very first metal crosses. The band first met here, at Ozzy’s house, in response to an ad that he had placed in a local newspaper.

The band developed a simple and repetitive hard rock style, disliked by much of the rock press but much loved by their fans, and which in some ways prefigured punk rock. The band perfected their sound during a residency at Hamburg’s Star Club in the late 60s, where the Beatles had developed their own sound less than a decade before.

UB40’s Studio (92 Fazely Street, Birmingham)

When they started in Birmingham in the late 70s, UB40 created a brave and authentic fusion of reggae rhythms and left wing political rhetoric (they are named after a dole application form) that was closely related to punk and ska. Their offices and studio are located in a former abattoir in Fazely Street.

Phoenix Festival (Long Marston Airfield, Stratford Upon Avon)

The festival was first held in July 1993, run by Vince Power’s Mean Fiddler organisation (which at one point looked like taking over the entire London rock music scene). The festival features alternative rock bands and dance outfits, like Sonic Youth, the Chemical Brothers, the Prodigy, Massive Attack, Leftfield and Bjork.

Northern England

Sellafield Nuclear Power Station (off A595, Sellafield)

Fans of Kraftwerk, the German electronic pioneers of the techno groove, will know Sellafield through their minimalist masterpiece "Radioactivity". In the 90s, the band was invited to play at a Greenpeace benefit concert outside the Sellafield reactor, along with U2 and Public Enemy. However, the authorities cancelled the gig (which was eventually held in nearby Manchester). The reactor has a visitor centre, and has regular tours.

Wigan Casino (Station Rd, Wigan)

Wigan Casino looms large in the history of youth culture, and ranks with San Francisco’s Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms, London’s UFO Club, New York’s CBGBs and Manchester’s Hacienda, as crucial focus points for musical cult movements.

Throughout the 70s, young people from all over Northern England converged on clubs like Wigan Casino every week to dance athletically through the night to American Soul music.

Sadly, the Casino is now demolished. However, the spirit of Northern Soul continues to thrive at clubs across the globe, including the Ritz in Manchester, the 100 Club in London, and Galahads in Warmington (which features DJ Dave Knight, who was a regular at the Twisted Wheel and Sheffield’s Mojo).

Black Swan / Mucky Duck (Snig Hill, Sheffield)

This pub was the place where the Clash played their first public gig, supporting the Sex Pistols, in July 1976. The venue has long had a place in the history of rock, and Joe Cocker used to sing there accompanied by Robert Palmer.

Mojo / Crazy Daisy Disco (11 High St Sheffield)

In the late 60s, Mojo’s was one of the early centers for Northern Soul. It was run by Peter Stringfellow (who years later moved to London, and opened a club of the same name). When the Mojo became a progressive rock venue, the focus of Northern Soul moved to Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, and then to Wigan Casino.

The venue is also where, in 1980, Phil Oakley and Adrian Wright noticed dancers Susan and Joanne, and invited them to become part of the new improved Human League (in fact, the two girls had already bought tickets to go to see The Human League perform in Doncaster).

Nearby, in Glossop Road is Hanrahans cocktail bar, featured in the Human League hit of the early 80s, Don't You Want Me. And over in Devonshire Lane is the Human League’s recording studio, Monumental Pictures

A building society now occupies the former location of the Craisy Daisy.

Scotland

Boleskine (Loch Ness, Scotland)

Jimi Page, the guitarist from Led Zeppelin, bought this mansion in the early 70s. The house was once owned by Satanist Alaistair Crowley, who once described himself as the most evil man in Britain.

King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (272a St Vincent Street, Glasgow)

This Glasgow club is best known as the place where the youthful and contract-free Oasis blagged their way onto the bill, and made such an impression on Creation Record’s boss, Alan McGee, that he immediately signed them up to his label.

High Park Farm (Isle of Mull)

This is Paul McCartney’s 15,000 acre home, and is located close to the point which was the inspiration for the dreadful mega-hit single Mull of Kintyre

Wales

Bron Y Aur (Machynlleth)

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page rented a cottage in the hills outside of Aberystwyth to write the songs that eventually appeared on Led Zeppelin’s classic third and fourth albums. The cottage is commemorated in two songs that are included on Led Zeppelin 3, and Physical Graffitti. It is located off a steep narrow road that branches off the A493, just outside the small town of Machynlleth.

Rockfield Studios (Amberley Court, Rockfield Rd, Monmouth)

The studios are owned by Dave Edmunds, the king of retro rockabilly (and mentor to the young Stray Cats). The studios are located in a converted farm.

Some of the more memorable sessions at the studios include Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and Oasis’ What's the Story Morning Glory. Just down the road is Newport bridge (the angels which are sculpted on the bridge are featured on the cover of the Stone Roses’ disappointing recording, Second Coming).

(back to Music Travel)

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