Top 5 Rockstar Blowouts
Forget Eat, Pray, Love – if anyone has inspired a pilgrimage to India’s ashrams, it’s The Beatles. Chaurasi Kutia, the ashram of guru and creator of transcendental meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was the holy site where the band famously spent weeks penning songs that would eventually fill The Beatles, or what is known by most as the White Album. While it’s rumoured the group left shortly after they arrived – Ringo Starr departed after just 10 days, while Paul McCartney only hung around for a month – this ashram is a famous part of the Beatles’ history. Until recently, the abandoned buildings – like the Beatles Cathedral Gallery, which was brought to life by the art of street artist Pan Trinity Das – had been reclaimed by the surrounding wilderness. In 2015, however, the grounds were reopened to the public. As for what comes next for the ashram, future plans are yet to be confirmed, but it looks bright.
Take a step back in time at Berlin’s Paris Bar. Beneath its glowing neon sign, artworks by German artist Martin Kippenberger adorn almost every surface of the bar’s interior, which was once the haunt of many A-list artists, actors and rock stars, including Madonna, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Yoko Ono. It’s also the place of the infamous 1979 Rolling Stone interview with an inebriated David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and where Iggy drunkenly rolled around in the snow outside. It serves classical French cuisine and while a visit here is accompanied by a somewhat hefty price tag, it’s still worth sitting with the locals among the bar’s rich old-world glamour, admiring the art that decorates the walls and, if you’re lucky, rubbing shoulders with a celebrity.
In a bid to escape the bedlam of Los Angeles, a move to Berlin in the late 70s was a pivotal experience for David Bowie. While living on Haupstrasse in the quiet district of Schöneberg, he once described the city to Uncut magazine as a place of “virtual anonymity” and could often be found popping into cafe Neues Ufer for an espresso. The cafe’s name means ‘the new side’ (formerly it was Anderes Ufer, aka The Other Side). Coincidence? We think not. During his self-imposed exile, Bowie penned the enduring hit ‘Heroes’, which was inspired by a young couple kissing against the Berlin Wall, a moment he was said to have witnessed from a window in Kreuzberg’s Hansa recording studio (he would later reveal the couple was producer Tony Visconti and his girlfriend). Today, Neues Ufer is one of Berlin’s oldest gay cafes and retains its original ambience, with the addition of a few photos of the famous rock star. Join the Bowie Berlin Walk by Berlin Music Tours, where you’ll discover his other haunts in the Kreuzberg and Mitte districts, before finishing off with a bevvy at this enduring favourite.
Some may not know this, but Queen front man Freddie Mercury was actually born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi parents. While he spent years studying in Bombay, it was in Zanzibar’s Stone Town that this showman spent most of his childhood. In Shangani, where Mercury was born and later returned before leaving for London at the age of 18, the Bulsara family home still stands, now labelled Mercury House. It’s not open to the public, but Zanzibar Gallery, where Mercury also once lived, sells a bunch of souvenirs and a t-shirt or two in this Freddie-obsessed town. Visitors to the Tanzanian archipelago can also visit the Zoroastrian temple where the Bulsara family once worshipped. A number of tours offer the chance to trace his footsteps along Shangani’s streets, connecting you to the life of Freddie before he became a huge star. Plus, no visit is complete without a stop at the Mercury Restaurant.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono: this twentieth-century power couple has never ceased to amaze the world. In 1969, the pyjama-clad newlyweds spent eight days in a peaceful bed-in protest against the Vietnam War in Suite 1742 of Montreal’s Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel. It was here ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was also recorded. While the couple’s first bed-in – a room at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam – can still be visited, Suite 1742 in Montreal’s Fairmont has been refurbished for a truly immersive experience. The two-bedder has the iconic song lyrics splashed across the walls, as well as an interactive cabinet installation packed with videos, images and podcasts, and a virtual reality experience that allows guests to view the room as Lennon and Ono did half a century ago.