Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rock Museum in Barcelona

You'd perhaps not immediately put 'rock' and 'Barcelona' into the same sentence. I suspect that Anglo-Saxons would have a hard time naming a single Spanish rock musician; Anglo-Saxons have a hard time naming any rock musician outside of the English-speaking world. 'If it ain't in English, it ain't worth listening to' being the rather narrow-minded feeling. Barcelona would perhaps normally be paired with bull fights, the Nou Camp, Gaudi or San Miguel.

Spanish rock fans are not so culturally or linguistically hidebound, however, and the new museum illustrates this. Somewhat ironically, for Anglo-Saxon visitors, it is situated in the old bull ring, on the 4th floor of the new shopping centre Las Arenas at Plaça d'Espanya.

The museum houses a number of small galleries, some being permanent (inevitably those being Beatles, Stones, Punk and national music sections), while a couple of others are temporary. Queen fittingly in this their 40th year, take centre stage in the largest temporary gallery.

Inevitably perhaps, the range of exhibits is not as extensive as you'd find in the BME at London's O2. I doubt too many rock musicians have donated a chunk of their past here (perhaps they were never asked?). But it has some interesting local exhibits; posters advertising local gigs, local record sleeves and photographs. There's also a session room where local acts give shows, and a 'studio' where visitors can play out their rock dreams on a variety of instruments. Next door to their smallish merchandise outlet is an excellent rock-themed restaurant. Its size, food price and relative simplicity make it an interesting alternative to the Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe (one of the 135 world-wide...).

Add this new attraction to the more established Barcelona rock treat - a street of record and musical instrument shops, situated in the old town, just off La Rampla – and you have a great day out!

The records shops, by the way, are an Aladdin’s cave of delights. The selection of bootleg CDs and old vinyl spread over half a dozen shops is fantastic. Stuff you struggle to find elsewhere, especially the live performance bootlegs. What caught my eye on a recent visit was a new CD boxed package from the Godfather label; Pink Floyd's 1972 Rainbow Theatre appearance. The package consists of 4 discs, poster and facsimile ticket of what was basically the test launch of 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Given the historical importance of this particular performance, it’s probably a must-buy for Floyd fans, even at the hefy 89€ price tag.

And Spanish rock? Worth a listen are Héroes del Silencio. And check out flamenco-rock; a fusion of flamenco with progressive rock. Some of the most well-known examples of this scene from its 1970s heyday are the bands Smash and Crack.

Rock on Barcelona!

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