Denmark Street – Centre Of The Music Industry In London
Author: Bob Handford
Denmark Street has been the centre of the music industry in the UK for much of the 20th century, perhaps with its heyday in the 60’s. The likes of Elton John, Rolling Stones and David Bowie were all here. Today the street is dominated by musical instrument shops.
Music publishers first moved here to be close to the theatres and music halls in the West End well back in the 1800’s. Denmark Street is within London’s theatre district today and at the heart of the book district too, so its a natural location.
The street slowly became filled with promoters, songwriters and musical journalists. When the youth culture explosion in the 1950’s started recording studios sprung up in the basements and the UK’s main music paper, Melody Maker, aimed at this new market was founded here.
Denmark Street is a pretty short street perhaps 400 yards long. Melody Maker was found at no 19. Elton John worked at a music publishers at number 20, reputedly earning £5 a week in 1965. In that same year Paul Simon tried to sell ‘Homeward Bound’ and the ‘Sounds of Silence’ to the music publisher Elton worked for – without success!. The guitar shop at 22 has Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Pete Townsend among its clientelle. At number 25 was the agent who controlled Tom Jones and Englebert Humpledink. The Rolling Stones made most of their dubut album in 1964 at the recording studios at number 4. At number 5 was New Musical Express the great rival ro Melody Maker that focussed on Rock Music. Here also was another music publisher who turned Paul Simon down as being uncommercial. If you thought the flower power anthem ‘Lets Go To San Francisco’ was recorded in California you would be wrong, it was recorded at number 8. That immortal classic ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’ was published at number 7. Number 92 was a coffee bar in the 60’s where David Bowie hang out and put together his first band.
As you can see most of the highlights of Denmark Street were a few decades ago now. The punk wave in the mid 70’s with the Sex Pistols rehearsing here (yes they rehearsed) was perhaps the end of this golden period. Today, Denmark Street is dominated by musical instrument shops but its still the place to go if you are budding musician or singer.
Recommended on any visit is the alley down the side of number 27, Hank’s Guitar Shop. Here the wall down the alley is full of notices of people seeking to put together bands or wanting singers or instrumentalists for all types of music. (See video clip below)
Getting To Denmark Street
Denmark Street is off Charing Cross Road, famous for its book shops. Its about 300m south of the nearest Underground Station Tottenham Court Road, the entrance being opposite Foyles Book Shop – another legendary place to visit.Its quite close to the British Museum.