A magical musical mystery tour

Mullin, Nash, Hooton

There are always opportunities to rekindle musical memories, but a walking tour is an increasingly popular option.

This was the place, said the guide, where history was made. The Sinking Ship pub where The Jimi Hendrix Experience played in 1967. Stockport seems to have a bit of a swagger at the moment, and John Barratt’s musical walking tours are an unlikely but lively addition to the brag pack these days.

Along with fellow guide Peter Wadsworth – aka Dr Strawberry – the highlight of the tour is the iconic Strawberry Studios on Waterloo Road and the site of the famous Tabernacle club where Pink Floyd, The Small Faces and Jimi Hendrix played. 

The tour also visits the iconic music locations in the Market Place, Little Underbank and a Jimi Hendrix mural close to where he played in 1967 and on to Great Underbank and the site of Inter City Studios where the Strawberry Studios legacy was born.

You learn a lot on a tour like this, but also a reminder where music comes from.

Seven miles up the road in Manchester, tour guide Jonathan Schofield provides a tuneful swoop through the popular music scene of the city from the 1960s to the present day, examining the huge range of inspirational sounds that have shaken the musical world. 

All of Schofield’s tours are full of his trademark wit and wisdom, but the musical walking tour is a popular way for tourists and locals alike to better understand the city and its culture. 

To get people in the mood, every guest upon booking receives a playlist of the music featured on the tour.  He says none of Manchester’s famous bands and acts get missed, as well as surprises and pointers to new bands. 

The route takes in places that evoke memories of The Smiths, such as Salford Lads Club that featured on the artwork for The Queen is Dead album. Then there’s The Bee Gees, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Oasis, New Order, Joy Division, 10cc, The Hollies, James, The Fall, Elbow, John Cooper Clarke and more.

No doubt there’s space on the new tour for a chance to drop by at Disorder, a new bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter dedicated to the music of Joy Division.

It’s a peculiar thing that Manchester used to mock Liverpool’s Beatles obsession, yet now it is Manchester that has become a tribune for musical nostalgia.

Mullin, Nash, Hooton

Indeed, if anything, Liverpool is moving on. I was intrigued to learn that a new music history walking tour of Liverpool has been launched by members of two of the city’s most iconic bands as guides.

From April, Peter Hooton and Keith Mullin from The Farm, and Nasher from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, offer personal insights into some of the most important venues and locations in Liverpool’s music heritage.

Starting at LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) the route takes a personal 2-hour walk around Liverpool with either of the guides giving visitors a personal story about stardom but also sharing many anecdotes about what really happened during that vibrant period of music history.

It takes in gig venues, recording studios, pubs, hangouts, and more and is limited to a maximum of 12 people.

The tour involves the biggest studio complex outside London and the first UK Superclub that changed the face of dance music in the UK, the location of Probe Records home of the second wave of Liverpool groups in the 1970s/1980s and take a visit to the Ministry Rehearsal Rooms where Echo and The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Farm, Wah Heat, Black, Flock of Seagulls and The Pale Fountains played.

The tour’s been created by Peter Hooton, who was approached pre-Covid by Brit Music Tours.

The company already runs Fab Four-based walking and taxi experiences and wanted to create something that explored beyond that.