From snapping up tickets for iconic sports events to tracking down locations featured in much-loved films, theme-based bucket lists are all the rage. Foodies devise plans to dine at as many Michelin-starred restaurants as budgets allow; party animals tick off A-list carnivals and festivals; and American retirees set out in massive motorhomes to see all 50 states (finishing with a flight to Hawaii). Music lovers have global checklists, too, and they don’t come much bigger (and in some cases brasher) than these seven.
1 Elvis, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Elvis Presley was 22 when he paid just over US$100,000 for Graceland, in 1957. Five years after his death, in 1977, the mansion opened to the public and last year, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll claimed fourth spot in Forbes magazine’s list of highest-paid dead celebrities, earning US$35 million. And revenues continue to rise, thanks in part to a new 200,000 sq ft entertainment complex across the street.
While Graceland is a celebration of family and home life, the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex focuses on his musical career. Visitors can check into the 450-room Guest House at Graceland, a resort-style hotel described as “refined” and offering “classic elegance”– words one doesn’t immediately associate with the famous property on the opposite side of Elvis Presley Boulevard.
After a good night’s sleep, prepare a few rounds of Elvis’ favourite peanut butter and banana sandwiches, drive 150km to Tupelo, Mississippi, and follow signs to the modest two-room shack where the hip-swivelling singer was born.
2 The Beatles Story, Liverpool
Unesco World Heritage Site on Albert Dock, Liverpool; check. Quirky array of memorabilia including the original Strawberry Fields gates, faux Eleanor Rigby gravestone and a real yellow submarine; check. A museum dedicated to the life and times of the Fab Four, the Beatles Story offers fans the chance to walk through a re-creation of their Abbey Road recording studio, past vintage instruments and artefacts to a mocked up Cavern Club.
New for 2018 is a Beatles in India exhibition celebrating 50 years since John, Paul, George and Ringo travelled to the subcontinent, where, surrounded by sitars, they wrote much of what would become The White Album. Before leaving Liverpool, be sure to visit 20 Forthlin Road, where Paul McCartney spent his adolescence and penned a few songs with John Lennon, such as She Loves You (1964) and I Saw Her Standing There (1963).
3 Bob Marley Museum, Kingston
Dying young has always been a good career move. Bob Marley’s afterlife earnings put him just behind Elvis, according to Forbes, with royalties from his record sales dwarfed by profits from Marley Beverage products and the House of Marley audio merchandise (Buffalo Soldier headphones, Stir It Up turntables, etc). Five years after the reggae legend’s death, in 1981, his widow, Rita, converted their Kingston home into the Bob Marley Museum, complete with original recording studio, 80-seat theatre and the One Love Café.
A back room is still pockmarked with bullet holes, the legacy of political upheaval in 1970s Jamaica that saw the superstar caught in the crossfire and lucky to escape alive. If possible, time your visit for Bob Marley Week, which coincides with the great man’s birthday, February 6, now a national holiday on the Caribbean island.
Reggae fans and Rastafarians from far and wide gather at 56 Hope Road to remember the man and his music with gigs, goat curry and ganja.
4 Jim Morrison’s Grave, Paris
The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the last resting place of some of the most celebrated writers, painters, musicians and politicians, from Édith Piaf to Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin and Marcel Proust. However, the most visited grave in one of the world’s most visited cemetery belongs to Jim Morrison, who died in the French capital in 1971.
Obscured by other tombstones, the nondescript burial place could be missed – if it were not for the crowds, flowers, graffiti, television crews, security fences, chewing gum-covered tribute on a nearby tree, groupies with mobile phones and mini speakers blasting out Light My Fire, and fans sharing a beer with the Doors frontman by pouring half over his grave. On second thoughts, you’ll find the sacred spot in no time.
5 ABBA: The Museum, Stockholm
The recent announcement that Abba have written and recorded their first songs since splitting up in 1982 makes it a topical time to visit ABBA: The Museum, in the Swedish capital. The exhibition tracks the origins of the Nordic superstars, from the early days to the height of their 1970s fame. The band sold upwards of 400 million albums – the gold and platinum discs are there for all to see, as are some of the glitzy costumes.
Besides the treasure trove of exhibits, an interactive element enables fans to dance and sing along on stage as the fifth member of a holographic Abba. The museum promises that you’ll “Walk in and dance out”. It doesn’t add that you’ll be humming Thank You for the Music until bedtime.
6 Kalakuta Republic Museum, Lagos
It should be one of Africa’s premier musical pilgrimage sites; a place of homage to the creator of Afrobeat, a genre that combines traditional West African melodic styles, jazz and brass with stinging social commentary and criticism of the political establishment. Fela Kuti was harassed, beaten and imprisoned for his beliefs, but fought back with his lyrics.
In 2012, his former home in Lagos opened as a museum, funded, ironically, by the very people he railed against; the Nigerian government stumped up US$250,000 to convert his three-storey “commune”. Not everyone is impressed, however, with some visitors describing the project as “disappointing”, “underwhelming” and short on memorabilia.
Ill-informed guides, unable to answer basic questions, an unwillingness to turn on the electricity to run the air conditioning, sound and video systems and a cafe that doesn’t accept credit cards aren’t the best way of honouring a true visionary.
7 Mozart museums, Salzburg
In a November 1999 poll to find the most influential musician of the millennium, former boy band member Robbie Williams (he of the World Cup middle finger) finished an impressive sixth. Impressive because it was one place ahead of Austrian flash-in-the-pan Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But since the British crooner doesn’t yet have a shrine for fans to visit, we’ll have to settle for a look around No 9 Getreidegasse, in Salzburg.
The house where the composer was born and lived for 17 years is now one of two Mozart museums in the city and items on display include the violin that Mozart played as a child, portraits, letters and miscellaneous family paraphernalia. When their fourth-floor flat became too small, the Mozarts moved to a larger property across the Salzach River. The Tanzmeisterhaus at Marktplatz serves up more information and exhibits relating to the seventh most influential musician of the past 1,000 years.