Liverpool has a rich musical heritage that extends far beyond the Beatles and the British Music Experience in the Cunard Building presents a broader overview of British pop and rock music and its influence on the world.
What to see at the British Music Experience
The British Music Experience (also known as the BME) is organised along a timeline that presents the story of British popular music from 1945 to the present day. Rather than being divided into individual decades, the chronological layout highlights events in the evolution of British music that have led to the birth of new musical genres. It is organised with zones that showcase the following periods in the evolution of British music:
- 1945–1962: The early origins of popular music where jazz and skiffle paved the way for rock and roll.
- 1962–1966: The rise of Merseybeat where the Beatles led the surge in popularity of British music in the United States along with other popular British bands of the era including the Animals and the Rolling Stones.
- 1966–1970: In the later years of the 1960s, rock music became more creative with influence from psychedelic drugs and often took on a political agenda.
- 1970–1975: The early 1970s became more flamboyant with the rise of glam rock and performers such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan of T. Rex and Slade’s Noddy Holder.
- 1975–1985: The rise of politically-charged punk music, ska and the more mainstream New Romantic pop culture movement that saw bands like Culture Club and Duran Duran become international hits.
- 1985–1993: The backlash against the manufactured pop sounds of the new romantics saw a rise in popularity of British metal bands including Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Motörhead. This era also saw the Madchester scene with a surge in popularity of Manchester-based bands such as the Charlatans, Happy Mondays, New Order and the Stone Roses.
- 1993–2004: The Madchester scene evolved into britpop with bands like Blur, Oasis and Pulp becoming massively popular. Around this time there was also a revival of pop music with bands such as the Spice Girls.
- 2004–present: This era saw an increase in manufactured pop hits lead by boy and girl bands launched off publicity generated by reality talent programmes such as the X-Factor.
The exhibition includes a rich collection of more than 600 artefacts and memorabilia including stage costumes, instruments and hand-written lyrics. Some of the artefacts on display include:
- David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust costume
- the outfit that was worn by Roger Daltrey at Woodstock
- the Spice Girls costumes
- Amy Winehouse’s dress from her Tears Dry on their Own video
- Adele’s handwritten song lyrics
- the Apple Corps front door from their Savile Row office
- and guitars from Noel Gallagher, Brian May, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Paul Weller and Bill Wyman.
There are several areas with interactive exhibits including a Boy George hologram, the Dance the Decades Experience where you can learn 12 iconic dance styles, music listening stations with headphones and an area where you can play musical instruments.
Visiting the British Music Experience
The British Music Experience is located in the Cunard Building on Georges Pier Head. It is right next door to the Royal Liver Building and only a five-minute walk to James Street station. The central location means that there are plenty of other things to see and do nearby including the Western Approaches Museum, the Cavern Club, the Magical Beatles Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which are all within a 10-minute walk of the BME.
An interactive audio guide is available in eight languages: British Sign Language, Mandarin Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish. The audio guide is free if you pre-book your tickets online but it costs an extra £3 if you buy your tickets at the venue.
The exhibition is fully wheelchair accessible.
There is a large gift shop near the main entrance as well as a cafe that serves drinks and light meals.
If you enjoyed the British Music Experience, Liverpool has plenty of other music-themed attractions (although virtually all of these focus on the Beatles). These include the Magical Mystery Tour, the Beatles’ childhood homes, the tour of the Casbah Coffee Club (where the Beatles played their first gig), the Cavern Club, the Beatles Story as well as music-related exhibitions at the Museum of Liverpool.
There is a lot to see and do here and you can easily spend 2–3 hours at the BME.