Every destination in the world has its “not negotiable” sights, be they stunning architectural feats, breathtaking natural wonders or artistic masterpieces so familiar it feels like you’re finally meeting a long-lost friend. Amazing these must-sees may be, there’s something to be said for a truly personal connection with a far-flung locale.
Music lovers in particular will often have their own site of significance in mind when their well-worn boot heels deposit them and their backpack on foreign shores. And w’re not just talking about clubs and festivals (although setting foot on a Singapore beach for Zoukout or the California desert for Coachella is definitely something worth high-fiving yourself about). While those experiences are about the visceral, finding the coordinates of where your favourite album cover was shot, or that iconic music video was filmed, or where a host of classic albums were made – that’s about trying to connect with your favourite artist and get a deeper sense of where they come from and who they are. It can help you on your search for a deeper understanding of what their music actually means.
Or it could just be about walking across a pedestrian crossing in a leafy London suburb.
But if your idea of a music pilgrimage currently begins and ends there, we’re more than happy to offer up some less obvious alternatives.
#1 Carinda Hotel – Carinda, Australia
For fans of: David Bowie
If you find yourself in the tiny New South Wales outpost of Carinda – 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney – chances are you’re in the cattle business, on your way somewhere else, or a devoted disciple of all things David Bowie. The front room of the small town’s only pub was where Bowie, an upright-bass player and a film crew no doubt confused the hell out of locals in 1983 when they arrived to shoot the clip for comeback hit Let’s Dance. He couldn’t have been any further from Nile Rodgers’ New York studio, where the song was penned. The pub and the song still dominate their respective landscapes.
#2 18 Berry Street – Richmond, Victoria
For fans of: INXS
Also known as the lovingly restored inner-Melbourne terrace house which hosted the never-ending rock’n’roll party in ‘80s film Dogs In Space – the one that played out like a prescient documentary of star Michael Hutchence’s tragic future. Only the shell remains the same from the debauched pleasure palace of Richard Lowenstein’s cult classic. The house sold at auction for somewhere north of $1 million in 2012, so it’s probably best for all concerned if you approach after dark. Preferably with Rooms For The Memory playing through your headphones for full spiritual effect.
#3 Paul’s Boutique – Brooklyn, USA
For fans of: Beastie Boys
Another sacred site that looks little like the snapshot which made it famous is the street corner immortalised by the Beastie Boys on their sprawling, freewheeling 1989 opus. Paul and his boutique have long since moved on – the spot once housing assorted bric-a-brac is now occupied by a takeout serving gourmet wraps. Brooklyn’s gentrification is unstoppable even for its icons, though the current landlord has kindly allowed a mural of Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA to adorn the corner block’s walls for pilgrims to pay their respects. And you can still stand in the centre of the street to take in the album art’s panoramic photo. Just beware of incoming penny-farthings.
#4 Sky Valley sign – Sky Valley, USA
For fans of: Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age
Cult bands don’t come much more cultish than ‘90s stoner rock pioneers Kyuss, the pre-Queens of the Stone Age outfit of Josh Homme. Like the Carinda Hotel, the Sky Valley sign is a destination for the true believers. But if you make the 185 kilometre mission from downtown LA through the majestic wind farms surrounding Palm Springs, you’ll not only find a new incarnation of the sign immortalised on their 1994 Welcome To Sky Valley cover (some other fanatic no doubt has the original tucked away safely) but you’ll also be able to breathe in the desert air that fuelled a legend. And if you plan your pilgrimage wisely – let’s say mid-April in any given year – you’re only a 30-minute drive from the Empire Polo Club and the wonders of the Coachella festival. Win-win.
#5 Rare Records – Sacramento, USA
For fans of: DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Chief Xcel
While you’re road-tripping on the USA’s West Coast, you’d be mad not to head up to Sacramento. Sure, it’s seven hours on the blacktop from Sky Valley if you don’t take any rest stops, but once you reach your destination you’ll be able to thumb through the same racks of records that Lyrics Born and Chief Xcel do on the sleeve of DJ Shadow’s 1996 masterwork Endtroducing. Well, not exactly. The original Rare Records shop (where Shadow dug up vinyl to sample for his patchwork masterpiece) has since relocated to much smaller digs, but Beatles fans still visit a replica Cavern Club in Liverpool with little hope of unearthing a nugget of rare wax, so what are you waiting for?
#6 Sundlaugin – Mosfellsbær, Iceland
For fans of: Sigur Rós, Pixies, and any of the other (mainly Icelandic) bands who have recorded there
Sadly, the story of Bjork being bequeathed the only house on a remote Iceland island is apparently more urban myth than reality. Still, fans of Sigur Rós and a host of other Icelandic acts may find the magic behind that indefinably spacious sound if they venture just north-east of Reykjavik. There, in a nondescript street in Mosfellsbær, stands the former swimming pool building which now houses Sundlaugin (literally, “swimming pool”), the studio purpose-built by the band where ( ) and other unpronounceable post-rock journeys were meticulously constructed. As nondescript as the architecture may be, the surrounding landscape is postcard perfect.
#7 Battersea Power Station – London, England
For fans of: Pink Floyd
Because Pink Floyd once flew a giant inflatable pig over it.
(Lead image: The Carinda Hotel/Facebook)
Kris Swales is a News Editor for MSN Australia by day, and sometimes by night as well depending on which part of the 24-hour news cycle he’s currently lost in. He otherwise contributes to Inthemix and The Roar in between trying to work out how he’ll ever find time to travel to all of the music/sporting events the planet tempts him with. You’ll find him being sarcastic here: @KrisSwales