There are few things in the world that can do what music does. Just like nationalism, music can give rise to a homogenous society. Rather than saying one is American, people can identify themselves as a punk, a goth, a hipster, a gangster. In a similar vein to socialism, music is universal. It doesn’t matter who you pray to, what your sexual orientation is or what colour your skin may be, if someone likes the same music as you then they are your kin.
Music is a life form; it follows a similar principle of Darwinism. Wherever you may be on the planet, you will be blessed with music. Let us ignore pop music, that isn’t a craft, it’s just commercial produced toxin that poisons the ears of too many of us. No, let us look at the power of rock. Nothing brings people closer together than the beauty of rock, whether that be a killer riff or an outrageous performance, rock really does unite.
Rock has its roots in numerous cities across the world, all of which have contributed in their own unique way. But which are the definitive cities for rock? Where should one go if they want to immerse themselves in that wonderful rock glow?
Styles: Alternative rock, glam metal, indie rock, punk, psychedelic rock
Notable artists: The Doors, The Eagles, The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Van Halen, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Iconic venues: The Greek Theatre, The Roxy, Whisky A Go-Go, The Troubadour, The Hollywood Bowl, The Hyatt West Hollywood, The Satellite
L.A. is without doubt the epicentre of rock music. It is the music equivalent of Rome, everything else is just its subordinate. Not only has it given us some of the greatest musicians of all time, it is also the creator of genres, the giver of musical life so to speak.
The Doors epitomise everything brilliant about the L.A. music scene. Jim Morrison is revered to this day; the original anti-conformist rock star set the tone for what it meant to be a rocker. Drink was his vice, and how could he drink. It is nigh on impossible to not go for a quick stroll around Venice Beach and not encounter a building that has some sort of connection with The Doors.
Just like with budding actors, L.A. is a magnet that attracts musical talent. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere. The music video to the Chilli’s Tell Me Baby goes someway in highlighting just how many people flock to the city of Angels in the hope of making it.
Styles: Rock, punk, new wave
Notable Artists: The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, The Police, The Who, The Clash, The Cure, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Costello
Iconic venues: The Half Moon, The Marquee Club, The Roundhouse, Brixton O2 Academy, The Underworld
True Liverpool gave the world the Beatles, but if it were not for London the British Invasion would be nowhere near as profound.
Outside of L.A., London is the place where musicians come to cut their teeth. Whether that be on the underground scene which flourishes in the English capital, or in the more established venues like the Roundhouse; Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Doors are all but a few of the famous acts that have trodden the boards there.
Camden Town is a fantastic place to see music. The home of the late Amy Winehouse is quirky and nearly every pub there has some sort of upcoming band. Pete Doherty, the legendary front man of The Libertines, still calls Camden home and can often be spotted milling around Chalk Farm Road.
Styles: Just about everything
Notable Artists: The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, KISS, Blondie, The Strokes, The Ramones, LCD Soundsystem
Iconic Venues: CBGB, Hotel Chelsea, The Café au Go Go, The Pyramid Club
While L.A. and London may teach people how to become a rock ‘n’ roll artists; New York teaches you how to behave like one. All things nefarious and debauchery come from the experience of rockers in the New York scene. The party scene here in the Big Apple is quite simply staggering.
The CBGB (Country, Blue Grass, and Blues) was meant to stick to its name when it opened in 1973. However, along came a band that went by the name of The Ramones, who proceeded to turn the venue into a forum for punk rock. To this day, anyone who is anyone in the world of punk has to have a show at the CBGB.
It is always surprising when you find out that The Velvet Underground were a commercial failure. Andy Warhol’s house band gave us some of the most innovative licks and poetic lyrics. What isn’t surprising is just how much success Lou Reed, the lead singer of the band, went onto to achieve following the band’s dissolution.
Styles: Rockabilly, Motown, garage rock
Notable Artists: Bill Haley, Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, The White Stripes
Iconic Venues: The Majestic, Clutch Cargo’s, The Old Miami, The Fillmore
KISS loved their time in the city that much that they wrote an ode for it, and they were right to do so. Detroit is a hotbed for rock ‘n’ roll.
Giving us Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, three of the biggest components of Motown, would have been enough to gain entry into this list. The funky baselines that Gaye would incorporate into his music were spellbinding – listen to What’s Going On? and try telling yourself otherwise.
Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock is one of the earliest forms of rock recorded, but Detroit isn’t reminiscent about its past, as its artists are still carving out masterpieces. The White Stripes still have it – and their universal appeal will testify to this. Their fame spans right the way to Alexandra Palace, England, home of the World’s biggest darts competition, the World Darts Championship. Whenever Seven Nation Army hits and leading Championship contender Michael van Gerwen begins his walk-in, the place erupts. With so many booming artists – past and present – Detroit is and always has been Rock City.
Styles: Indie, acid house
Notable Artists: The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Oasis, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays
Iconic Venues: The Hacienda, Grand Central, Phones 4U Arena, Roadhouse
The past 20 years have been very kind to the Manchester music scene. The natives of this north-England city have been treated to some of the most iconic groups of our generation.
If we start with the infamous Madchester scene, which saw the city have the second summer of love. With The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays gaining a serious following, the city was the place to be. The Stone Roses managed to attract nearly 30,000 people to a reclaimed toxic waste site, Spike Island, which is considered by many as the “Woodstock for the baggy generation”.
Before Madchester we were treated to the indie cultural revolution that the city is famed for. Back in the day, there was Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, who has been dead now for more than 30 years, yet still revered by indie fans to this day. You also had The Smiths, who are regarded by many British music critics as the most important alternative rock band to ever emerge from Britain, while The NME named The Smiths as the “most influential artist ever” in a 2002 poll, topping even the Beatles; shame Morrissey and Johnny Marr don’t really get on.
Everyone has their fingers crossed that Liam and Noel Gallagher start mending bridges sooner rather than later. Simply, Oasis are too good and too embedded in British pop culture for them not be. Cryptic tweets by Liam have been posted but there is nothing official as of yet. Here is a band with more than 50 million albums sold worldwide, any reunion will be massive and will most likely occur at either Glastonbury or Benicassim. Alongside Blur, Oasis reinvented British rock in the 1990s.
Venues like The Hacienda are synonymous with the music scene of Manchester. If you made it to The Hacienda, you were not far away from smashing through the glass ceiling and into the mainstream. The Roundhouse is also a stellar venue that prides itself on snapping up talent just before they break out. Coldplay, The White Stripes, Ian Brown, Kasabian and Elbow all played at The Roundhouse before they outgrew smaller venues.
Styles: Alternative rock, indie rock, grunge
Notable Artists: Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters
Iconic Venues: The Crocodile, the Showbox, Vera Project
You couldn’t escape from the sound of Seattle in the early parts of the 1990s. Even today when you think about the north-west American city it is impossible to not think of Nirvana, and once you have started thinking about them it is even harder not to go and put Nevermind on. Nirvana’s magnum opus is still just as glorious today as it was in 1991.
After Starbucks, Grunge is Seattle’s finest export while The Crocodile is its spiritual home. Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie are just two of the local bands that would absolutely smash it there. Although the popularity of grunge died with Kurt Cobain the city’s music scene lives on. Cobain’s former bandmate, Dave Grohl, went on to form a pretty special band, one that goes by the name of the Foo Fighters. And the city has also given us Modest Mouse and Fleet Foxes in more recent times.
Styles: Indie rock, new wave, punk, hardcore punk, ska, metalcore
Notable Artists: Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Godsmack, Pixies
Iconic Venues: The Channel, The Rathskeller, the Boston Tea Party
Boston is the home of the rock anthem. It is the city of big hair and bigger choruses. We all love a bit of More Than A Feeling, while anything from the glory days of Aerosmith – namely Love In The Elevator – is always going to get your head banging.
With so many students in the area it is a great place for a band to build up a local following before gaining the nationwide attention; this is something that the great ones utilise brilliantly. These college students serve as the lifeblood of the city’s vibrant music scene. The Rathskeller is regarded as the “granddaddy” of the Boston music scene, and if it were not for it then the Hardcore scene that flourished in Boston may never have occurred.
Ska punk certainly goes under the radar in most places, but in Boston it is prevalent, and rightly so. The combination of electric guitar, saxophone and trumpet really is a marriage made in heaven. Following on from the success of Fishbone, the fathers of ska punk, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Boston natives) furthered the genre and its popularity in the city is still evident today.
Styles: Psychedelic rock, indie, punk
Notable Artists: Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Dead Kennedys
Iconic venues: Great American Music Hall
San Francisco is one of the go-to American cities following the counterculture movement. We are all familiar with Scott McKenzie’s advice of making sure to wear flowers in your hair if you’re going to the Golden Gate. Back in those days the artists were influenced by the bourgeoning motown movement and the British Invasion. As time went on, jam bands like the Grateful Dead became ever more popular. The Dead, along with Sly and the Family Stone, and Janis Joplin came to be known as the “San Francisco sound”.