While I listen to a wide range of music, readers of the Favorite Music page on my website would have noticed my partiality for ROCK.
During my days in IIT Bombay (1980-1985), rock music was the in-thing. Apart from listening to the music itself, we would cram up a lot of information about the origins and histories of our favorite rock groups (mine being, then and now, ELP, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd), including how they got their names, significance of the pictures on the album jackets, the group members’ previous affiliations, the names of clubs and bars in England where they used to play before hitting it big, and so on. There used to be countless informal trivia rock quizzes all through the year and one formal one during the annual Mood Indigo cultural festival. These were the days before the Internet, so we had to rely on the only copy of a glossy rock encyclopedia that used to be floating around.Â
By the time I moved to Germany in 1999 and used to visit UK off-and-on, I was wondering if I could actually visit all those places that I had read about in my graduate days. Unfortunately, by then, rock was no longer the mainstream music of England. Inquiring with local friends, colleagues and customers didn’t give me any clues about how I could start off on such a trip. Nor could I locate any convenient packaged tours over the Internet at the time.
A couple of weeks ago during my current stay in London, I decided to try my luck again. I struck pay dirt this time! When I Googled on "London Rock Music Tour", the very first entry was VIATOR, a tour operator in Europe I was familiar with from my previous trips in Europe.
The tour was rocking, as a rock tour should only be! For four hours of sheer pleasure and nostalgia, we were driven in a minivan around Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington, Earls Court and Notting Hill, and took in lots of rock music history, especially Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Oasis, Clash, Led Zeppellin and Queen. We crossed the pedestrian crossing outside Abbey House on Abbey Road, the same one that the four members of the Beatles had crossed some 40 years ago for the photograph of their album jacket. We saw innumerable bars where the rock greats like Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton played in the 60’s and 70’s. According to our tour guide, some of these greats (that is, the few of them who are still alive) land up in some of these bars and break into extempore gigs even now, which is what happened last Tuesday when Mick Jaegger’s brother was on the stage at a bar and pulled in Mick also to the stage. It was exhilarating to see the stone cow that features on the album jacket of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother atop a pink stone building in Chelsea! We also saw the set of four chimneys to the east, which was photographed for the jacket of Animals. On one of the side roads of Oxford Street, we got to see a blue plaque in honor of Jimi Hendrix. Our tour guide promptly handed out a petition to put up a similar plaque for John Lennon and requested the tour members to sign. To round off the tour, we were driven past the houses of Syd Barrett, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney and Freddie Mercury. Had the garage door of Clapton’s house been open, our tour guide told us, we could have even seen his Lamborghini parked there!
Since the trivia surrounding rock makes it so great besides the music itself, I’ll leave you with a few trivial facts that our tour guide told us and a few trivial observations of my own:
- Many rock musicians attended university because they came from middle class backgrounds and their parents found it convenient to pack them off to universities which were free and even provided for living allowance to their students those days in England.
- The blue plaque honoring Jimi Hendrix is the only one on the walls of London honoring a musician.
- Even though our tour group of 16 people had to wait for a full hour outside the Hard Rock Cafe on Piccadilly for the tour guide and the minivan to arrive, not even one of them was plugged on to an iPod or any other MP3 player.
- No wonder then that 78 rpm vinyl records of rock music (especially Beatles) are apparently the costliest rock memorabilia today. Incidentally, according to our tour guide, all of them come from India, which is the only country where rockÂ music was ever been published on 78 rpm.
- On the John Lennon plaque petition, our tour guide had asked us to enter not just our names and countries of origin (mostly USA, by the way) but also our ages, which ranged from 17 to 60. Does this go to show that "Rock and roll will never die … Rock and roll is here to stay", just as Neil Young had sung a few decades ago?