30 December 2006

Birmingham Music - An Under-Exposed Heritage

Despite not being (anything like) fluent in each other's native language, me and my girlfriend's Slovak father get on really well. One of our shared interests is rock music. He used to be a long-haired rocker in the 70s and the pictures of him and his bandmates are cool. Take a look through his record collection and one city dominates - my home town of Birmingham. Here are all the artists in his collection that are strongly linked to the Birmingham area.

Black Sabbath
Judas Priest (pictured)
Led Zeppelin
Moody Blues
The Move (featuring Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood)

That's miles more than any other city. This article shows that it is not just in the area of rock and heavy metal where Brum has had a great impact musically. Can I make this political? You bet I can. As described by Nigel Hastilow, there is something of an identity crisis in the region aided and abetted by unwanted regional government organisations. As I said in the comments to his post.

As someone who travels widely I find it very easy to describe Birmingham. "It's in the centre of England and Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath originated from the region making it the birthplace of heavy metal"

Discussions then move easily to our industrial heritage, Shakespeare etc etc. It's not rocket science. Some people need their heads banged together.

Despite this incredible heritage, I can't think of anything on the Birmingham tourist trail that tells this culturally significant story. As the Tory run council has improved services and delivered council tax rises which are amongst the lowest in the country, our opponents main angle of attack seems to be that we don't have a vision. My good friend and Birmingham City Centre council candidate, Peter Smallbone is inviting readers to contribute to the Conservative's May 2007 election manifesto. So here's my suggestion.

I'd like to see the establishment of a Birmingham Music Museum covering the main musical styles influenced by Birmingham musicians since the 1950s (UB40 pictured). I imagine that this could be attached to a pub with a music venue and would be a commercial venture. The main council "investment" would be for "Marketing Birmingham" to commit to provide the venue with free promotion subject to the venue meeting certain criteria re facilities and quality. Such an addition to the sights of Birmingham would be very welcome and definitely worth the investment.

As we are currently redeveloping Eastside, an area just outside Birmingham's CBD, I'd love to see a museum emerge in that area. It would be a great thing for me to take my Slovak friends (or indeed other outsiders) around when they come to visit Birmingham.


Paul Burgin said...

Ah but what about in the Classical arena as well. One of the delights of having a girlfriend who spends much of her time in Birmingham is discovering delights such as Symphony Hall :)

Praguetory said...

Your comment subtly reinforces mine (I think). Classical music aficionados have places of cultural resonance to visit in Birmingham - Scruffy Murphys in Dale End or other rock pubs and venues are not fitting tributes to our heritage.

Chris Palmer said...

Ah yes, ELO. Where is Jeff Lynne these days? They reformed about three times (lacking original members) and then seem to have disappeared again.

Praguetory said...

After ELO Jeff Lynne became a hugely successful producer. The last I heard of him was when he and Jasper Carrott (who also used to be involved in the Birmingham music scene) were linked to a bid for Birmingham City. One of ELO's album tracks is called Birmingham Blues (which is definitely about BCFC).

Croydonian said...

Not convinced by your laying claim to Led Zeppelin. Two of them were from your old barrio, but two were from the Great Wen.