A couple of weeks back, our esteemed literary editor Jason Diamond put together a pretty epic roundup of 50 places every literary fan should visit. The post got great feedback and responses from our readers, so much so that we thought we’d extend the concept to some of our other areas of expertise before the end of the summer vacation season. First up: music! From the backblocks of Brooklyn to the exotic locales of Kingston and Addis Ababa, here are 50 places that we reckon should be on every music fan’s fantasy itinerary. Let us know if we’ve missed any.
Kool Herc’s block, The Bronx, NY
This is a genuinely holy site for hip hop fans — the birthplace of rap, the place where Kool Herc first started cutting together the breaks from old funk records to create an entirely new sound. The grandfather of hip hop held his very first parties in the rec room of this building, which is at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in Morris Heights. More information here.
Graceland, Memphis, TN
An obvious choice, but really, if you’re at all interested in rock ‘n’ roll and you find yourself in the south, it’d be a crime not to visit Elvis’ mansion, if only to marvel at the abiding weirdness of it all.
The Elliott Smith wall, Los Angeles, CA
Since Smith’s tragic death in 2003, the wall where the cover of Figure 8 was shot has become a sort of unofficial tribute to the late singer. When the cover was photographed, the wall was part of a guitar shop; these days it’s a restaurant, and the mural was recently restored after years of graffiti took their toll on it. If you want to visit, it’s at 4334 W Sunset Boulevard.
Lexington and 125th St., Harlem, NY
Feeling sick and dirty? More dead than alive? Stand under the street signs, take a photo, and imagine how miserable this place must have looked when Lou Reed was hanging out here in the mid-’60s.
The Chelsea Hotel, New York, NY
Sure, The Chelsea’s not the same as it used to be — not since developer Joseph Chetrit stopped taking reservations, gutted the building, and allegedly started trying to force out long-term residents — but it’s still worth a visit for its unparalleled historical significance. The artists who’ve lived here and/or mentioned it in song are legion; whether you’re interested in seeing where Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe used to live, where Leonard Cohen got a blowjob from Janis Joplin, or the place where Nancy Spungeon died, the Chelsea’s your destination.
Paisley Park, Chanhassen, MN
If you’re a Prince fan, you’ve probably been dreaming about visiting this place since the Purple Rain days. Unless you happen to find yourself in town while Prince is throwing one of his impromptu late-night parties, a drive-by is the best you can hope for — there are all sorts of details as to how to get there and what to do on this fan site.
The Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA
It’s a museum dedicated entirely to music! And it’s awesome!
It’s a hideous cliché, but seriously, get the bus from the airport into Reykjavik, look out the window at the crazily beautiful landscape, and you can just about hear Sigur Rós. Also, Reykjavik is an awesome town, apparently populated exclusively by extremely photogenic people who are all in at least three bands each. What more could you ask?
Abbey Road, London, England
Oh, go on. Do the walk. Take the photo. We won’t laugh.
Salford Lads Club, Manchester, England
On a similar note, if you’re in Manchester, this is the place to recreate the inside sleeve to The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead. Just don’t entertain any fantasies of being the first to do so.
AC/DC Lane, Melbourne, Australia
Well, it’s actually called ACDC Lane because some sort of council jobsworth somewhere passed a regulation preventing the use of forward slashes and/or lightning bolts in street names, but fuck it.
Schloß Nörvenich, Nörvenich, Germany
The castle where Can recorded Tago Mago! They stayed there rent free for three years on the largesse of one Mr. Vohwinkel, setting up a commune of sorts and jamming like crazy in their improvised studio. These days, it seems to be used for weddings and also houses some sort of art museum (sadly, our rudimentary German doesn’t reveal much more in the way of details).
Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France
Look, forget Jim Morrison — if you’re gonna visit a Parisian grave site, make it Serge Gainsbourg’s. And while you’re there, you can visit Simone De Beavouir, Charles Baudelaire, and Kiki de Montparnasse.
Portishead, Somerset, England
For obvious reasons.
The Apollo Theater, Harlem, NY
“Went to the Apollo/ Should have seen her go, go, go…” Harlem’s grand old theater has seen ’em come and seen ’em go, and with many of the area’s iconic venues and clubs closing (RIP St. Nick’s!), it’s worth visiting a piece of living history while it’s still intact. Go for Amateur Night!
Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Apart from being a beautiful campus, this is notable for being home to Haile Selassie I’s former royal palace — which should make it a draw for music fans because the lyrics to Bob Marley’s “War” are adapted from one of Selassie’s speeches to the United Nations, and more generally, because he’s seen by many Rastafarians as the actual messiah.
Seaview Ballroom, Melbourne, Australia
A beautiful old venue (it was indeed once a ballroom) that was the epicenter of the city’s post-punk scene in the 1980s. It’s most notable for being the place where The Boys Next Door — who’d eventually move to London and become The Birthday Party — first came to prominence. These days it’s been swankified and is home to a cinema and fancy apartments, but it’s still worth a visit. Also visit the newly rechristened Rowland S Howard Lane, which is just a couple of blocks away.
Leonard Cohen lived on this pleasant island an hour or so from Piraeus intermittently throughout the 1960s, and still owns the same house there. Speak to pretty much anyone in one of the local tavernas and chances are they’ll have met the great man, or at least one of his family.
The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
It’s most closely identified with Asbury Park native Bruce Springsteen, but this venerable institution has hosted all manner of bands since it opened in the mid-’70s. It’s a compulsory stop on the Springsteen tour of NJ, but worth a visit even if you’re not a big fan of the Boss.
Waterloo Bridge, London, England
Walk across the bridge at sunset and gaze across at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and imagine Ray Davies staring right back at you. And sigh wistfully.
Theresa’s Stockbridge Café, Stockbridge, MA
You mightn’t recognize the name, but you’ll surely recognize the place’s former title — this is the very Alice’s Restaurant around which Arlo Guthrie centered the classic anti-war parable of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” The eponymous Alice apparently still lives and works as an artist in Provincetown, so drop in and visit her studio while you’re in town.
Valentine’s Park, Ilford, England
Again, the name mightn’t mean a great deal, but this seems to be the best bet as to the location of the real Itchycoo Park, the place where the Small Faces got h-i-i-i-gh in 1967. Apparently the nickname came from the fact that the park was full of stinging nettles, which honestly doesn’t sound like it’d be a whole lot of fun if you were on acid.
Sun Studios, Memphis, TN
The birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, or so they say. And really, no trip to Memphis would be complete without a pit stop here.
Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
Island Records’ Chris Blackwell founded this studio in 1977, and it became rightly famous for both the great records that were made here — Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, AC/DC and loads of others recorded here — and for the quality of its house band. And, y’know, it’s in the Bahamas. Australian musician and photographer Darren Sylvester, whose new single we premiered last month, made a photo book documenting his visit here a few years back.
Folsom Prison, Folsom, CA
Drive past. Don’t end up inside. Obviously.
Hansa Studios, Berlin
No Bowie pilgrimage is complete without a visit to the place where he made Low and “Heroes”. Iggy also made The Idiot and Lust for Life here during the same period, and while the studios have since played host to many other notable bands (Nick Cave, U2, and Killing Joke foremost amongst them), Hansa will always be synonymous with Bowie’s astonishingly fertile mid-’70s Berlin period.
Eight Mile Road, Detroit, MI
If you had one shot, etc etc.
Preservation Hall, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans’ best-known jazz venue, and a French Quarter institution. It hosts live shows every night, and these days it’s also home to a gallery and photo studio (and a pretty rocking house band).
King Tubby’s studio, Kingston, Jamaica
The great producer was tragically shot dead outside his studio in the 1989, but the house in which he built his home studio during the 1970s — thereby basically inventing both dub and the entire concept of the remix — is still standing. It’s at 18 Dromilly Avenue in Kingston; there are more photos of it here.
Church of the Holy Trinity, Ontario, Canada
The church in which the Cowboy Junkies recorded their classic Trinity Sessions album. Sit quietly and soak up the ambiance.
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Despite the title of their 2009 album, Animal Collective didn’t record it at this iconic Frank Gehry-designed amphitheater — in fact, they didn’t play here until a couple of years later. Quite why they chose to name the record for the venue is unclear, but it started a trend of 2009’s great records being named after non sequitur places (see also: Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, named after an island in Massachussets).
The Go Between Bridge, Brisbane, Australia
As far as we know, this is the only bridge in the world to be named after a band. It’s named, of course, for the Go-Betweens, who are Brisbane’s most famous musical exports — the name was decided on after a public competition, receiving twice as many votes as its nearest competitor.
Spike Island, Bristol, England
See where the Stone Roses’ career (and the whole Madchester phenomenon) reached its apex in 1990! Breathe deeply and you’ll probably end up inhaling some of the ambient MDMA that’s seeped into the island’s very soil!
What used to be The Fun House, Ann Arbor, MI
The notorious house in which the Stooges lived during 1968, and which eventually gave its name to the band’s epochal 1970 album, was at 2666 Packard Road in Ann Arbor. Sadly, it was torn down (you can’t imagine that future tenants looked kindly at the blood the band squirted on the walls from their syringes), but you can still visit the site.
Home of the Belleville Three — Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May — who basically invented the music that we know today as techno. Your correspondent has never been there, but the place looks quite pleasant; its official website describes it as an “attractive community nestled on the peninsular shores of beautiful Belleville Lake.”
Loretta Lynn’s ranch, Hurricane Mills, TN
No, really — you can tour Loretta Lynn’s Tennessee ranch (perhaps when you’re on your way to or from Dollywood!) Careful, though — it may be haunted.
The most remarkable thing about Dollywood isn’t the fact that a Dolly Parton-themed theme park is a thing that exists in the world — it’s the fact that the place not only exists, but it’s deadly serious and not the remotest bit camp. And even if you don’t like roller coasters, it’s worth a visit for the Dolly Parton museum, which is full of remarkably proportioned dresses and various other Parton paraphernalia.
Amoeba Records, Los Angeles, CA
If you like record shopping, honestly, this is your Mecca. It’s huge and intimidatingly well-stocked, and it’s almost impossible to walk out of there without a teetering stack of vinyl to weigh down your suitcase.
Andaz West Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
Formerly the Hyatt House, and known affectionately as the Riot House. The hotel’s proximity to the Sunset Strip made it the crash pad of choice for the hedonistic rock stars of the ’70s — Lemmy wrote “Motorhead” on a balcony here, and John Bonham is reputed to have once ridden a motorcycle down one of the hotel’s corridors — and it may well have been the birthplace of the throwing-a-TV-out-the-window rock star cliché. See also…
The Sunset Marquis, Los Angeles, CA
It doesn’t have quite the storied history of the Riot House, but The Sunset Marquis has still played host to plenty of notable musicians, many of whom are depicted in photos around the hotel’s pool. It’s most notable for being the place where Dave Gahan overdosed. Um. Anyway.
Young Street Bridge, Aberdeen, WA
The marquee stop on the Kurt Cobain tour of Washington State is his former home in Seattle, but a far more illuminating and moving experience is to visit Cobain’s hometown. It’s a pretty depressing place, to be honest — Aberdeen is one of those towns whose best days are clearly long behind it — but if you look around, you can find the very bridge under which Cobain reputedly once slept, the one about which he wrote “Something in the Way.” It’s a quiet, unassuming two-lane span over the Wishkah, and if you sit under there, you may well find yourself thinking about how strange and bewildering it must have been to go from this place to global mega-stardom.
Marcy Projects, Brooklyn, NY
Once home, of course, to Jay Z. The idea of cultural tourism through areas that remain underprivileged is one that is shot through with ethical dilemmas, but as with visiting Aberdeen, it’s a rather moving experience to come here and ponder just how far Jay Z has come, from dealing drugs on these corners to being arguably the most prominent entertainment mogul in the US today.
“Eighteen inches! It says it right here! On the napkin!” “Fuck the napkin!”
Joshua Tree, CA
U2 fans have been visiting here and taking photos with the park’s distinctive Yucca brevifolia since 1987. You, too, can do the same! (Also, the place is pretty amazing even if you’re not a U2 fan.)
Dunedin, New Zealand
Anyone with even a passing interest in the output of iconic New Zealand label Flying Nun could do worse than visiting the home of the Dunedin sound if they find themselves on the South Island. It’s a pretty little harborside city and still home to a thriving music scene.
Studio B, Nashville, TN
You’re spoiled for choice in Nashville — the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the animated corpse of the Grand Ole Opry — but if you’re only gonna visit one place in town, we recommend the fascinating RCA Studio B, a small building whose humble appearance belies its fascinating history. You can see Elvis’ old piano!
Hitsville USA, Detroit, MI
Also for fans of musical history, this is the former home of Motown Records, and it lived up to its name throughout the 1960s, with its studio operating pretty much around the clock, turning out hit record after hit record. Motown founder Berry Gordy moved Motown’s offices to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, catalyzing the label’s slow decline, but the building found a second life in the mid-’80s as a museum devoted to Motown’s history and achievements.
53rd and 3rd, New York, NY
Standing on the street and trying to turn a trick probably won’t do you much good on this corner in 2013, but back in the mid-’70s, it was the place where Dee Dee Ramone used to hustle for money. The sordid details are, of course, immortalized in the song of the same name.
The Integratron, Landers, CA
As if the name wasn’t cool enough, this crazy-looking building in the Californian desert is apparently a “an acoustically perfect tabernacle and energy machine sited on a powerful geomagnetic vortex in the magical Mojave Desert.” We’re not sure what this all means, to be honest, but we’re told that the place is pretty amazing.
You can’t go back to Constantinople. It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? It’s nobody’s business but the Turks.