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It Happened On Denmark Street

While London is crammed full of places where rock and roll happened, (well, good thing or I'd really have nothing to blog about) no place has more condensed history than Denmark Street.

Just a few short blocks from the Tottenham Court Road underground station, Denmark Street saw its first music publisher, Lawrence Wright, set up shop in 1911 at #9. He also went on to found the famous magazine Melody Maker at #11 in 1926. Another little periodical, The New Musical Express (a.k.a. NME), was founded at #5 Denmark Street in 1952 and stayed there until 1964. By the end of the 1950s Denmark Street became known as Tin Pan Alley.

The 1960s saw a shift occur on Denmark

Street when the traditional publishers, unable to change with the times, were pushed out of favor as bands, like The Rolling Stones, proved it was possible that groups could write their own songs. So behind in the times were the publishers Mills Music, at #20 Denmark Street, told Paul Simon his songs "Homeward Bound" and "The Sounds of Silence" would never sell.

Here's a bit of what happened here by address: (note: all pictures shown were taken in March 2021)

#4 Denmark Street

  • In July 1961, Regent Sound Studios opened at #4 Denmark Street and became a favorite of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. The Stones recorded their first album here in 1964 and their song "Not Fade Away" became their first hit.

  • In 1964, The Kinks demo'd "You Really Got Me" in the basement studio (but went on to record it at IBC Studios).

  • In 1969, a band named Silence was auditioning singers at Regent Sound Studios without much luck when an overweight guy in sunglasses and a corduroy suit impressed manager Guy Stevens with a blistering rendition of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". Even though the guy was nearly 30 years old he got the gig. It was Ian Hunter. The band went on to be known as Mott The Hoople and had a big hit in 1972 with "All The Young Dudes", a song given to them by David Bowie.

  • Regent Sound Studios was the starting point for so many bands careers in the 60s and 70s. Demos, singles and albums were recorded here by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Kinks, The Who, Elton John, The Lower Third with David Bowie, Black Sabbath, The Troggs, The Yardbirds, Herman's Hermits and countless others.

  • Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were session musicians At Regent Sound as well as other Denmark Street studios (before going on to form a little quartet called Led Zeppelin).

  • From 1995 to 2004, #4 was the location of Helter Skelter bookstore specializing in books about music and bands. The checkout desk was where the mixing board used to be.

  • Regent Sound Studios closed in the early 80s but is now reopened as Regent Sounds, a guitar shop, and once again has music playing within its walls.

#5 Denmark Street

  • From 1952 to 1964, #5 was home to the offices of The New Musical Express (NME).

  • In 1969 it became the location of Top Gear the first guitar shop on the street that soon after became the hub for all major guitar players of the day.

#6 Denmark Street

  • In 1975, Malcom McLaren took a lease out on #6 and had an architect refurbish the basement rehearsal space for his new band The Sex Pistols. It was here they recorded their demos. They also lived upstairs in #6 in some pretty rough conditions but Denmark Street offered the boys in the band the first place they'd lived away from their parents and gave them their first taste of independence. In later years, during a remodel, cartoon graffiti of the band members as well as McLaren were uncovered on a hidden wall. It was discovered to be the work of one Johnny Rotten.

#7 Denmark Street

  • This was the location of the Tin Pan Alley Club. A hip watering hole famous for its musical patrons. Many bands were even photographed in front of the club for publicity pictures including: The Rolling Stones, Bill Haley and Malcom McLaren.

#8 Denmark Street

  • This was home to Southern Music - a ground floor studio which was used to record Donnovan's hit "Catch The Wind".

#9 Denmark Street

  • This was home to the Giaconda Cafe, a place where musicians often socialized. It was here that David Bowie recruited his first backing band, The Lower Third, and where the Small Faces formed. Other regular faces in the crowd here included Rod Stewart and Jimi Hendrix.

#10 Denmark Street

  • Rose Morris & Company moved into #11 in 1919 but moved to #10 soon after. The company became the first British distributor of Rickenbacker guitars in 1962. Rose Morris bought directly from Rickenbacker's factory avoiding delays buying from the sales office would have caused. Demand for these guitars was incredibly high after musicians saw John Lennon playing a Rickenbacker.

#20 Denmark Street

  • Number 20 was the location of Mills Music. In addition to their rejecting Paul Simon (as mentioned earlier), Elton John began working here in 1963 packing up sheet music for brass bands and taking the packages to the post office on nearby Shaftesbury Avenue. It was his foot in the door of the music business. There's been a long standing rumor that in 1970 Bernie Taupin wrote "Your Song" at #20 when Elton was working there. That rumor says that Taupin wrote the lyrics while sitting on the roof ("I sat on the roof, kicked off the moss") while waiting for Elton. Turns out Bernie has confirmed it is only a rumor saying that he wrote that line at Elton's mom's kitchen table. They do, however, mention Denmark Street in their 1974 song "Bitter Fingers".

#22 Denmark Street

  • Once home to Rhodes Music, this address provided a place for Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton to buy guitars.

#23 Denmark Street

  • This was once Pan Sound Studios and used by The Who.

  • In 1978 it become Forbidden Planet, a comic book and science fiction bookstore. In October of 1979, author Douglas Adams was attempting to get to the shop for a scheduled book signing of his book "The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" and was so shocked by the number of people in line he thought there was a demonstration happening for something else.

While Denmark Street isn't what it used to be there are still a number of establishments keeping the music alive.

How to get to Denmark Street....

If you're interested in the rock and roll places in and around Denmark Street check out our video The Stories of Some More Soho Places.

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© RockTourLondon, 2022

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