Legends of rock put Britain on the map

David Lister
Sunday 04 October 2015 23:26

THE LATE Kurt Cobain of the rock group Nirvana proposed to Courtney Love in TJ's nightclub in Newport, Wales, after arriving in a bright orange Skoda car.

More than one reason there for her to turn him down, one would have thought. But, of such moments are legends made. And so TJ's duly appears on the British Tourist Authority's new "Rock & Pop Map of Britain", published yesterday to help the increasing number of tourists anxious to see Britain's rock attractions.

Newport is not the only place that might be virgin territory for the international tourist. One of the "tourist attractions" featured on the map is the Francis Service Station in Stratford, east London. Now an old folk's home, this is a dubious part of Britain's rock heritage. Its fame lies in the fact that, refused entry to the garage's toilets in 1965, three of the Rolling Stones chose to urinate against the wall. Magistrates fined them pounds 5 each.

At least something did happen on that warm June night in Stratford, albeit of marginal musical and historic value. The rock tourist who follows the map to other locations might be pushed even to find a 33-year-old wall to justify the fare.

Blackburn, for example, features on the map following its reference in the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and the 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. In January 1967 a local council survey noted 4,000 holes in the town's roads. Alas, most of them have been filled in during the intervening period. But not to worry. For the intrepid traveller it is but a short journey to Widnes railway station where Paul Simon wrote "Homeward Bound" waiting for the milk train to take him back to London following a gig in 1964.

The rock tourist needs to be of a morbid as well musical disposition. A fair few of the map references are casualty spots: the tree on Barnes Common in London into which Marc Bolan's tour crashed and killed him; likewise the Hungry Horse pub on Rowden Hill in Wiltshire outside which rock'n'roller Eddie Cochran was involved in a fatal car crash. The map even contains a slaughterhouse: the one in Digbeth, Birmingham, where Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne once dispatched at least 250 cattle a day.

Some locations on the tourist map do provide footnotes to rock history. In Hull, where Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt met at the university, there was a furniture shop which used the slogan "You can buy everything but the girl". Sadly, furniture shops do no always anticipate BTA rock maps and it is no longer there.

Like all rock history, some of the "facts" are open to dispute. The map directs tourists to Waterloo Station where the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" is set. The song, the BTA tells us, is about a couple Terry and Julie, "named after film stars Terence Stamp and Julie Christie". Ray Davies of the Kinks denies this; but no tourist authority worth its salt is going to let the opportunity of a celebrity name-drop pass by.

The most imaginative tourist attraction must be Prestwick Airport in Glasgow which has been unearthed as the place that contradicts the legend that Elvis Presley never set foot on British soil. In March 1960 his aircraft did touch down briefly on his way back to the United States from military service in Germany. Well, kind of. Elvis actually landed at the nearby military base. But that is not open to the public. Still, Prestwick serves a very good cup of tea for the weary rock traveller.

This being Cool Britannia, a government minister launched the publication of the map at Madam Tussaud's Rock Circus at Piccadilly in London yesterday by the arts minister Mark Fisher.

Under the strap "One Nation Under a Groove", the pocket-sized map which unfolds into a poster with a guitar and amp in the shape of Britain, is free and will be available to overseas visitors through BTA's 44 offices world-wide, and via a hotline number, 01271 336083.

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