Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Map of British Rock


In the 1960's the UK invented rock music. To fully appreciate this genre of music you really need a thorough knowledge of British geography. British rock is firmly rooted in the psychogeography of UK towns and cities. To understand the music you have to know the towns and cities mentioned in the lyrics of the Great British rock bands. So let's take a tour of the UK and visit some of the places immortalized by the giants of British rock - such as The Proclaimers.

We begin our musical journey with a 500 mile hike from the lowlands of Scotland. The seminal Scottish rock band The Proclaimers famously sang that they would walk 500 miles. So we start our tour in Leith and from there we will walk 500 miles.

Luckily for us Cartonerd has mapped out a 500 mile radius around Leith so we know how far to walk. In I Would Map 500 Miles Carrtonerd has placed a circle showing where you could get to if you walked 500 miles from Leith. He has also placed another circle 500 miles further out just in case you want to walk 500 more.


About 75 miles out of Leith we arrive at the border of England. This part of England is known as 'The North'. The North is pretty grim and this grimness has had an obvious effect on the rock bands that emanate from this region.

The dourness of the north was famously celebrated by the KLF in their song 'It's Grim Up North'. In the song they recognize the unattractive, forbidding nature of 69 northern towns and cities. CityMetric has thankfully mapped out all 69 locations for us in Literally just a map of every town in the lyrics to ‘It’s Grim Up North’ by the KLF.


One of the northern cities not mentioned in It's Grim Up North is Liverpool, which is of course the home of The Beatles. Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever is an Esri Story Map exploring the important locations which feature in the music of The Beatles. In particular it examines the geography of the 'most important single ever', the double 'A' side record Penny Lane - Strawberry Fields.

As you scroll through this Story Map you will discover the importance of a sense of place to the music of The Beatles and how the band influenced other 60's artists to write about locations important to their lives.The Story Map explores a number of geographical locations mentioned by The Beatles in their music. In particular the map zooms in on two locations in Liverpool, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, and discusses the significance of these two locations to the childhoods of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.


No British music of note has ever been written south of Liverpool. Therefore we really don't need to walk 500 miles and will end our tour of British Rock in the dour north.  Let's now head off to tour north America instead.


Johnny Cash Has Been EVERYWHERE (Man)! - a map of every location mentioned in Johnny Cash's version of the Geoff Mack song 'I've Been Everywhere'
Looking for a Place to Happen - a tour around Canada and the locations mentioned in the songs of the Tragically Hip
Canadian Geographic: On the Coast - a map featuring Canadian locations that are mentioned in song lyrics


If you want a real map of British Rock then the best I can offer you is The Big British Music Map. This word map of famous UK bands and musical artists shows the most famous artists associated with the various regions and towns of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If you select an artist on the map you can listen to their most iconic song. You can also view information about the artist's net worth and charting history.

The association of artists to specific locations on the map can be a little tenuous. The map says that the artists are "attached to specific locations". This attachment seems to be a combination of artists having either been born at a location or having lived there. For example Fatboy Slim is shown on the map in Brighton. He wasn't born in Brighton but does now live there. Sting on the other hand is located on the map in Newcastle. Sting doesn't live there now but he was born near by.
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