We Love Rock ‘N’ Roll

Rock ‘n’ roll, as Danny & the Juniors correctly prophesied in 1958, will never die—especially when so many of the sites that spawned the music beloved by a generation have become bona fide attractions in their own right. We’ve omitted the obvious (you already know Graceland and Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) and zeroed in on 10 watershed sites from the days of vinyl and transistor radios. Without them, our musical landscape wouldn’t be what it is today.

Nothing less than the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, Sun Studio is where the song considered the first in a new genre—“Rocket 88” by the Delta Cats—was recorded in 1951. Soon after, studio owner Sam Phillips brought in the adolescent Elvis Presley, whose fusion of blues and country (not to mention those swiveling hips) ushered in a whole new era for American teen culture. Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded hits at Sun Studio. The 24-track facility, now a National Historic Landmark, draws the likes of U2, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, and also offers hourly tours. sunstudio.com

The town of Muscle Shoals may seem an unlikely candidate for recording capital of the world, but in the ’60s and ’70s heavy hitters came to the area’s studios: Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Cher and more. They were in pursuit of the funky trademark sound of the Swampers, a group of session musicians who ultimately played on more than 75 gold and platinum records. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises), where Wilson Pickett recorded “Mustang Sally” in 1966, are both still active and offer tours. muscleshoalssound.org; fame2.com

Recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Surf is best known for its sad association with early rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. After performing there on February 2, 1959, the three perished in a plane crash en route to their next gig. Today’s Surf, with its 6,300-square-foot dance floor and retro South Seas décor, has a full calendar of dance parties and acts from doo-wop to ZZ Top. Stop in to see the autographed backstage walls and huge collection of photos and memorabilia. (For more Buddy, visit the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.) surfballroom.com; buddyhollycenter.org

Penny Lane will be in your ears and in your eyes during the 2-hour Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool, the majestic Merseyside seaport studded with Beatles-related sites. Board a psychedelically painted bus to see the iconic iron gates of Strawberry Field (the ‘s’ was added later for songwriting sibilance), the village church where John and Paul met as teens in 1957, the subterranean Cavern Club on Mathew Street and all four Beatles’ childhood homes (Ringo’s, in the working-class Dingle neighborhood, is the cutest). beatlestour.org

The Band’s 1968 breakout album, Music from Big Pink, was written and rehearsed in this humble Catskills split-level. A private residence, it still draws the curious for photo ops from the road. The Band is no longer, after original drummer Levon Helm passed away in 2012, but his Midnight Rambles play on, including such guest artists like Emmylou Harris and Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen. The house band fills the barnlike studio with country rock, folk, gospel and funk, including seminal Band hits (“The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek”) that have lost none of their hard-driving power. levonhelm.com

The cradle of late-’60s psychedelia was San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, where colorful Victorian houses known as “painted ladies” line the streets. Janis Joplin lived in one, 122 Lyon; the Grateful Dead occupied 710 Ashbury; and Jefferson Airplane’s temple-like Greek Revival mansion at 2400 Fulton was the scene of many a trippy hippie rave. Join the Flower Power Walking Tour for gossipy rock trivia and firsthand accounts of the Haight’s heyday. Then head to Golden Gate Park, where long-haired, love-beaded teens flocked from all over the country during 1967’s “Summer of Love.” haightashburytour.com

There are always flowers (and sometimes bagels!) atop the black-and-white “Imagine” mosaic, a wide ceramic circle set into a path at West 72nd Street in Manhattan’s Central Park. Yoko Ono funded its creation in 1985, along with a landscaped 2 1⁄2-acre plot known as Strawberry Fields, to memorialize her husband, John Lennon, who lived and was fatally shot in the gabled Renaissance-style Dakota apartment building that looms above. Every October 9, Lennon’s birthday, and December 8, the anniversary of the day he was shot in 1980, throngs gather with candles, flowers and guitars to sit, strum, sing and mourn anew. centralparknyc.org

Sit on the dock of the bay, just as Otis Redding did in 1967, while he penned his final and most enduring song (before dying in a plane crash two weeks later). At the time the 26-year-old rock ‘n’ soul great was living on a houseboat in Sausalito’s historic wooden-boat community. Though that particular boat is no longer there, you can walk around and take in the houseboats on your own, or join Victoria Colella’s 3-hour tour, which also includes maritime history, art studios, tea and cookies, and often a spontaneous singalong. sausalitowoodenboattour.com

Go on a rainy day that is not December 8, Jim Morrison’s birthday, and you may have his graffitied gravesite all to yourself. Otherwise, though hard to find, it’s usually attended by a few fans who have come to commune with the departed soul of the Doors’ lead singer and lyricist (“Light My Fire,” “Riders on the Storm,” “L.A. Woman”), who died in 1971 at age 27. Then pay your respects to Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein, or just wander around to absorb the moody atmosphere. pere-lachaise.com

A Jersey Shore shrine to ’70s music, the Stone Pony is most famous for launching Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, and for its long- time house band, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. The club opened in 1974, but it had declined by the ’90s, only to make a comeback after a 2000 renovation. It’s now a state-of-the-art music venue with a stellar display of rock artifacts. stoneponyonline.com

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.

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