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Rock and Stroll Tour of Dublin

Rock and Stroll Tour of Dublin

Dublin Tourism information centre is located in spacious recently converted church. When I arrived there on Monday morning it was pretty crowded with people waiting to book accomodation, tours or just find out about places they wanted to visit. But nobody seemed to complain about long queue, people were happily smiling and taping their feet to the music. No wonder speakers pumped some of the best rock tunes: U2, Sinead O'Connor, Chris de Burgh, followed by classic Thin Lizzy and "I don't like Mondays" by Boomtown Rats. Amazingly they are all associated with Dublin.

"Sir, what would you like to ask about, Sir" - nice red haired girl in green dress asked politely. "Well" -" I hesitated - how come that all this great music was created in Dublin" - I asked. She smiled - "it is secret but you can follow our marked 'rock and stroll tour' and maybe it will be revealed to you" - she replied mysteriously. Planning to stay in Dublin for one week I decided to spend my first day tracing steps of Irish rock stars and discovering places which put a mark on their career.

In early Nineties the music trail consisting of 16 simple plaques in the shape of LP was devised. Since then, armed with booklet not only rock devotees can follow the trail through contemporary rock history and by the way visit some of Dublin best known places. Plaques mark the places which were important in development of now world famous musicians, where they worked, first performed, or recorded.

Music is never far away in Dublin. In alleyways, shopping arcades and on street corners there are buskers (or future stars just waiting to be discovered) playing well-tried tunes. Every night in countless pubs and clubs, concert halls and stadiums, music fills the air. Even passing Dubliners are likely to be humming a tune to themselves. And as somebody remarked jokingly these Dubliners who are not writing a novel are certainly in a rock band.

To start from the beginning we should go to 13 Trinity Street, headquarter of Hot Press - Ireland's first serious rock music magazine that appeared on the news-stands in 1977. It was the key element in development of Irish rock scene. Records and gigs were intelligently reviewed, ideas discussed and first Irish music heroes created. Simultaneously, a crazy guy called 'the Captain' started the first pirate radio station in the terraced house on the outskirts of Dublin. Irish rock music has never looked back. Nearby Temple Bar, otherwise known as Dublin's Cultural Quarter is filled with cultural institutions, art galleries and exhibitions, as well as hip boutiques selling latest fashion accessories. Two places here are linked with rock stars. A plaque on a Merchants Arch is devoted to Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy. It was certainly first and some argue that the greatest Irish rock band. No doubt, their 1973 electric version of "Whisky in the Jar" is still one of the most frequently heard tunes not only in Dublin.

Another must-see is The Bad Ass Cafe in Crown Alley. Serving American Style burgers and pizzas, this place is mostly frequented by Sinead O'Connor fans. After all it was here that young Ms O'Connor was working as waitress before signing her first record deal and shooting to fame with her soulful and emotional music. Now fully pedestrianised, Grafton Street is prime shopping area and real heart of Dublin. Walking from Trinity College, we can drop to nearby Tosca, one of many eateries in this area. It is run by Norman Hewson, Bono's brother and hopeful fans come here to see their idol. Back to Grafton Street, another sign of rock and stroll tour is on elegant and old-fashioned Bewley's coffee shop. It was here that Bob Geldof penned "Rat Trap" - one of the greatest hits of Boomtown Rats. Was it on the paper napkin as some of the rock stars like to do? Rock historians are not sure.

A few hundred metres down the Grafton Street on the left-hand side is Captain America's Cookhouse. Opened in 1971 with the innovative aim to provide high quality, affordable, American-style food in trendy Pop-Art surroundings. This restaurant has since become an eating institution in Ireland's capital. Over the years it has collected extensive collection of Irish and International rock and roll memorabilia. Walls are adored by U2 signed guitar and original drum set, Rolling Stones signed T-shirt, and many items donated by REM, David Bowie, Tina Turner and many others, as well as film celebrities. Another claim to fame by Captain America's is mark by the plaque outside. It was here that Chris be Burgh began his career in early seventies by serenading the customers during their supper.

Further down, where Grafton Street reaches St. Stephen's Green, another plaque marks the place were U2 played some of their earliest gigs. The Dandelion Market has long gone but the present building bears the plaque. U2 definitely most famous of Irish bands was established in Mount Temple comprehensive school in Dublin's nothside wayback in 1977. Basing themselves in their native Dublin they have etched the city on to the hearts and minds of the whole world. They are commemorated in two places, the other one being Windmill Lane Recording Studios. Although quite a walk from city centre it is definitely the most popular place of pilgrimage of U2 fans. Virtually the whole small street is covered with graffiti; messages from all over the world cover not only walls but also pavement and street signs.

Although an ancient city, wherever you go Dublin buzzes with youthful energy and creativity. It is filled with music and dreams of being famous. Maybe that's the secret, maybe this is enough to put Dublin among World music capitals.

  Paul Kubisztal

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