A visit to Coventry Music Museum


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Coventry is not just famous for being bombed to smithereens in WWII and having a crap football team. My hometown has quite a decent musical pedigree, and in November 2013 the Coventry Music Museum opened to showcase the city’s finest exports from The Specials to The Enemy.

After paying a very reasonable £2 entrance fee, I climbed a flight of stairs to Coventry Music Museum – currently TripAdvisor’s number one thing to do in the city of three spires.

You may not think Coventry has too much to shout about on the music front, but back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, it was home to the world famous 2 tone record label, which housed local ska bands The Specials and The Selector (as well as Madness for a while).

The museum pays tribute to this era, with memorabilia such as gig posters and set-lists donated by fans and bands themselves.

The Specials had two number ones at the time. Too Much Too Young in 1980 and Ghost Town in 1981 which, contrary to common belief, is not a song about how dull Coventry is, but is actually about youth disenchantment under the Thatcher regime.

I was surprised to discover the band’s keyboard player, Jerry Dammers, went to the same school as me – someone has donated the programme of a school musical concert from the ’60s with “Jeremy Dammers” listed as one of the performers.

The highlight of the museum’s 2 tone theme is the Rudeboy’s bedroom – a life-sized box room of a ska music fan in 1979, with the clothes, posters and fag packets of that era.

The museum is keen to stress that music in Coventry did not start and finish with 2 tone. There are exhibits of ‘60s easy-listening crooner Frank Ifield (no, me neither), Delia Derbyshire – the local lass who had something to do with the Dr Who theme, and other ‘80s acts like King and The Primitives.

My favourite exhibit has to be the white trainers of Tom Clarke, über-chav and frontman of The Enemy. Their superb 2007 debut album “We’ll Live And Die In These Towns” still gets regular airplay on my iPod.

Initially, I was a bit suspicious about that TripAdvisor ranking thinking surely there’s some vote-stuffing going on. But I spoke with the friendly and knowledgeable curator who is always on hand to chat to, and got the impression that most visitors here enjoy it so much, they get on TripAdvisor as soon as they’ve got home and give the museum top marks.

I enjoyed my visit, although as 2 tone was before my time, it was difficult to stay longer than an hour.

To paraphrase The Enemy, after 45 minutes I’d Had Enough.

Getting There

The museum is not in the city-centre, but in the suburb of Ball Hill. I wouldn’t walk there if I were you – either drive and park in one of the side streets off Walsgrave Road, or get the bus (numbers 4, 8, 8A, 9, 9A or 10). The museum is in an alleyway called 2 tone Village at 74-80 Walsgrave Road, opposite a Boots store.

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Categories: UK and IrelandTags: , , , , ,

11 comments

  1. Always interesting to hear of these lesser known places to visit – and a great contrast to the cathedrals!

  2. £2 sounds about right for a Coventry museum!

  3. I have to say I never gave Coventry a chance! I’ll have to visit properly one day!

    • There are a couple of things to fill a half-day trip from Brum. You’d like a bar called Inspire and a craft beer shop called BeerGonzo, plus the cathedral area and this museum are worth a look.

  4. Sounds an interesting place. Not something I would think of visiting as I know very little about this music, apart from Ghost Town. But if I ever make it to Coventry I would like to take a look.

  5. stay tuned, stay rude! 😉 didnt know that 2-tone was from coventry. The specials and the selecters were good bands (but i rather prefer jamaican ska)

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