The (Best of) British Music Experience
I had a great time at, and was similarly very impressed by, the British Music Experience, inside London’s O2 arena, last Thursday night.
On the purely personal side, it was a delight to be treated so well by the BME, which even splashed out for wine to make my All Hopped Up and Ready To Go event more of a book “launch” and a little less of a mere “reading,” and likewise it was a great thrill/relief to have dozens of people show up to the North Greenwich location. (It is much easier to get to than people like to claim, but a few tube stops from Central London all the same, and people are inherently lazy.) The talk went well, we sold some books, we drank some wine, I answered some questions, and as far as I can tell, everyone went home happy; thanks to everyone for coming out. I was especially honored to host the BME’s first ever book event.
On a more professional side, I was knocked out by the BME’s exhibits, which are designed for the modern, highly hyper, interactive/technologically-addicted generation, and yet which don’t skip on quality information and research. Offered a brief tour, I jumped at the opportunity to play a Gibson SG and a Les Paul (courtesy of a Gibson-sponsored room), though I’m probably among the many who opted not to have themselves video’d “taught” and then “performing” one of the many dances that have come and gone over the years. No, the stuff that really interested me were the timelines, the maps, the endless audio-visual elaborations on Britain’s musical history, the “round table” discussions that superimposed four talking heads onto chair fronts for any number of topics, and, of especial personal interest, the “Atlantic Crossing” section that spanned two separate rooms.
All of this was far above and beyond the imagination and capabilities of the powers that established the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York City, which might explain why that venue has closed already and why the BME appears to be going from strength to strength. There are, of course, some similarities too, especially in the notion that an “experience” – a modern word for museum, I suppose – wouldn’t be complete without physical, material artifacts. So, be it original posters and photos of the Who, or Paul Weller’s Wham! guitar as painted by my former Jamming designer Robin Richards, I was happy to see Britain’s musical history suitably archived. The fact that the BME pays as much attention to the rave scene as to skiffle, to punk as to pop, indicates that it’s been established without prejudice. As I type, I’m still toying with the idea of going back for a longer visit – especially if I can get hold of a hard ticket, by which one can “record” one’s visit (including musical and dance performances) and retrieve them online. Given all these possibilities, it’s no surprise that the BME reports that some visitors have spent an entire eight-hour day on the premises. In short, while Britain occasionally languishes behind the rest of the world in innovation, the BME is a truly 21st Century, thoroughly authentic representation of my home country’s obsessive infatuation with music. Cheers!