It's an alluring idea, to think that a place can be charged with significance and you might be able to sense that. I'll always recall the story I heard on a radio documentary about John Lennon's childhood home, Mendips. Now a museum, the caretaker described one particular young Japanese tourist who visited. Initially quiet, calm and polite, upon entering John's bedroom, she threw herself onto his bed and started wailing uncontrollably. Other visitors described how moved they were to be there, they described this feeling that took over them once they entered the house. In that way, the musical pilgrimage manages to align itself with the spiritual quality of a pilgrimage in the religious sense. Perhaps if I were more intuitive or had a greater sense of imagination, I could sense an importance, as opposed to simply being informed of one.
I love to consult the pilgrimages of Pete Frame's Rockin Around Britain, simply because the extreme level of research renders the spirituality of the musical pilgrimage void. I mean, I can't anticipate that anyone would venture out to the Permawrap cling film factory in High Wycombe simply because Howard Jones once worked in the stock control department. If anything, the fact that Frame has compiled such an enormously comprehensive resource indicates that culture is being created everywhere, in cities and villages, in halls and studios, even in squares and tube stations. It's a fact, but we're not always so inclined to react to any given locality in such a drastically emotional way.
Saying that, I'll rarely miss the opportunity to embark on one of these musical adventures. Not so long ago, I was sitting in a hotel room in Milan when my brother suddenly said to me: "Wait a second. Aren't the Paninaro kids from Milan?" I rushed to the baby laptop and replayed the promotional clip of the Pet Shop Boys' Paninaro - it became apparent that we had accidentally stumbled upon a place filled with musical consequence. I read out slabs of text, describing the 1980s youth culture. They seemed so glamourous, what with their insatiable appetite for American culture, designer denim and sandwiches. "They congregated around the sandwich bars at Piazza San Babila..." It seemed clear there was no turning back now: we were on a mission to find us some Paninaro kids.
The first thing we did the next day was venture out to Piazza San Babila. There was no abundance of sandwich, indeed there was nothing to indicate that anything had ever happened there. We walked over to the subway, recognising its inclusion in the Pet Shop Boys' video. Rafts of bored business men and tourists congregated together tightly, forming a queue by the gates and spilling out into the square. As we settled down to a bottle of milk at a nearby supermarket café, I thought about the Paninaro kids, who they were and what they might have become. One of them might have been in that crowd waiting for the subway to open, but we never would have known it. Perhaps if there were a plaque or something, a token boy in appropriate vintage attire, we might have felt differently about our failed excursion.
I've found, with my recent love of Kino and Viktor Tsoi that I've developed this desire to venture off to Russia and test this whole theory about musical pilgrimages. I'd love to go to Arbat Street in Moscow and be confronted with that heavily graffitied wall in Tsoi's honour. I'd love to deal with that struggle again, that difficulty in trying to honour the beauty and the relevance of their music. I'd love to go to Club Kamchatka, the Kino museum café bar in St Petersburg that was once the boiler room of the apartment block where Tsoi worked and lived. I might not ever develop a real appreciation of what it was actually like to be in the depths of the Russian underground rock scene, what it might have been like to see a gig or source a bootleg cassette, but I appreciate that are people who attempt to create such opportunities to remember those moments we unfortunately missed the first time round.
Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Soviet Pop Podcast #58
Yury Mukhin - Humouresque
Display - Foreign Lady
Electroclub feat. Victor Saltykov - You Marry Him, Do Not Go
Kino - Your Number
Aquarium - Rock n Roll's Dead
Rodionov - Electronic Jockey (Horse Racing)
Rodionov - Baroque (Fencing)
Forum - On the Next Street
Arsenal - Festival
Aavikko - Machu Picchu