London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

Regent Sounds Studio, Denmark Street & London’s “Tin Pan Alley”

For anyone with an interest in popular music history, a visit to Denmark Street in Soho is like a walk down memory lane.  Yet while many visitors strive to see Abbey Road, most ignore this location despite the fact that it is arguably London’s more significant location for music history.  In addition, several venues provide a way to experience the current music scene in a live and historically meaningful way.

While the original Tin Pan Alley was a specific place in Manhattan that developed at the end of the 19th Century as the hub for the music industry, the term has become synonomous for any area with a high concentration of music publishers, vendors and recording studios.  In Soho, Denmark Street (between Charing Cross Rd and St. Giles High St) became London’s Tin Pan Alley from the late 19th Century onwards, with its heyday from the 1960s to the 1970s.  There is still plenty to offer the visitor today as the street is lined with specialist music shops, eateries, bars and performance venues.

In the 1890s sheet music publishers set up business here focusing on a trade with all the nearby theatres.  By the early 1900s shops selling pianos and musical instruments started appearing.  Later came the recording studios and finally the live performance venues.

Regent Sounds Studio:  One of the most significant addresses here is 4 Denmark Street – home to Regent Sounds Studio (now Regent Sounds) – which was established in the late 50s as an independent recording studio. In 1961 the then owner, Ralph Elman, sold the studio to James Baring (heir of Barings Bank) who embraced the independent music culture and had become friends with many of the musicians who frequented the street.  In early 1964 the Rolling Stones recorded their first album creatively titled ‘The Rolling Stones’ here.  After that the list of now famous musicians who recorded here is like a who’s who in music.  The list includes the Elton John, the Kinks, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix.  There are some great historic pictures of artists recording here in the day on Regent Sounds website: http://regentsounds.com/history

Today the ground floor houses the newly reopened Regent Sounds – an independent music shop specializing in the sale of Fender and Gretsch guitars – while downstairs is the AlleyCat Bar/Club – open daily from 5pm til late – offering a variety of live music from Blues to Jazz.  See their website for specific events:  http://www.alleycatbar.co.uk

Denmark Street:  Many of the other shops on this street have a similar history and each one is worth exploring.  But the street is really the most significant as the names on the doors do change over time.  On this street Bob Marley bought his first guitar; David Bowie lived on this street in a camper van; Reg Dwight (now Elton John) worked here as an office boy at Mills Music (#20 Denmark St); Music magazines were published here – including NME (#5) and Melody Maker (#19); the now closed Gianconda Cafe (now Giancoda Dining Room) at #9 was the hangout for the Sex Pistols, David Bowie, the Slits and the Clash; and finally, the Sex Pistols lived

Music Ground, 27 Denmark Street, Covent Garden...

Music Ground, 27 Denmark Street, Covent Garden, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and recorded upstairs at #6.

This is just a selection of the storied history of this small street to nowhere.  A visit here can include a little shopping, eating, drinking and live music – but most importantly a step back in time.

Location: Denmark Street

Closest tube: Tottenham Court Road

24 comments on “Regent Sounds Studio, Denmark Street & London’s “Tin Pan Alley”

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  2. PHILL WARD
    April 13, 2013

    hi there im PHILL WARD i was one of the sound engineers in the early seventies with another guy called jim great guy and great place phill.ward@wanadoo.fr

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      April 14, 2013

      Hi Phil, thanks for reading the blog and for your comment. Ian

    • Tony Freer
      May 11, 2016

      Any idea what may have happened to all of the session files and possible tapes. Tony

      • phillward
        May 12, 2016

        I dont know what happend to all the tapes stocked in the basement with the reverb/echo system….(microphone /loudspeaker /distance) i remember there were tapes of the beatles …… i think jim maybe kept them PHILL WARD

    • mark tatham
      May 9, 2017

      you must have known bill Farley,good engineer and lively bloke,who had many credits to his name.Called up no other than Ian Hunter Pattinson for mott the Hoople audition,he was great company and had good all round knowledge of all types of music.

    • Paul Cantwell
      July 19, 2017

      Hi Phill, the Jim you mentioned was, I hope Jimmy Spencely who recorded my band in 1964, and in 1967 at Studio A in Tottenham Court road. I have written a book about my life which is about to go into print. Just thought you may be interested.

      • PHILL WARD
        July 20, 2017

        Hi there Paul ,you are right it was of course Jim Spencely ,very nice guy and good sound engineer.We only had 4 tracks to play with in those days and a transistorised mixing console, i belive this console was one of the first transistorised console used in studios,then we upgraded to 8 tracks (Studer)
        All the best PHILL WARD

      • Tony
        July 20, 2017

        Any idea where Jim Spencely is now.

      • Sean
        July 29, 2017

        Jim was a major part of my childhood. he was a family friend of my parents and to be honest I saw him as my grandad. we stayed with him many times during holidays and had the odd trip with him to regent sound. this would of been around 70s/80s . It was lovely to see the way you spoke of him on your post. and absolutely as I remember him too. a great guy.
        I am interested in the book Paul. When is it out ?

  3. Debbie
    July 2, 2013

    Fascinating. I didn’t know much of this at all.

  4. Ana
    August 13, 2013

    I loved this street.. I got there by accident, I was wandering around by myself when I saw some music shops.. I walked down denmark street and I was amazed, I entered many stores (including regent sounds!!!!!!!!!) and music venues and really felt something there! Now I realise how lucky I was.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      August 13, 2013

      I’m glad you found out about the history of this street. Thanks for reading and for your comment, Ian.

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  6. Charles
    October 30, 2013

    Hi I was in a Welsh band called the Dynamites. We Recorded 3 tracks at 4 Denmark Street in 1964, 2 original tracks and another called Cry an old Johnnie Ray number
    Why only 3 tracks?, We were paying for the recording time and ran out of money.
    Up and back to London in a day from Carmarthen west Wales was some trip in those days.

    Fly Fisher.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      October 30, 2013

      Thank you for such a great comment. I really enjoy reading personal connections to these posts and yours in an excellent one. Ian.

  7. Flora park
    October 13, 2014

    I have been researching the history of 10 Denmark St. as my great aunt was found shot in a room there in September 1895. Her lover had also been shot but he survived, My great aunt was dead. Does anyone know if there would be records of the owner at that time.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      October 14, 2014

      No idea other than contact the local council. They may have a historical records department.

  8. Mel
    September 23, 2015

    Hi l can remember our band The Firebrands from Somerset recording 3 demo tracks at the studios circa 1966/67
    I remember how tiny the studio was. I believe there was a very small water fountain in the studio.
    Although our band never made the BIG time….l still have the demo discs as an everlasting memory of those great times in the sixties.memm

  9. John boman
    December 4, 2015

    I have an acetate of a Reading band Vernon Bliss and The Blue Stars recorded here in 1963 . Followed Billy Fury in there !

  10. Iain McCabe
    December 21, 2015

    I’ve got an acetate of Lee Roye – Tears recorded at LTS No.23 Denmark Place. WC2 8HL. Been trying to find info on this but no joy! Any info would be appreciated

    • Charles.
      December 22, 2015

      I recorded three demo tracks with My band from West Wales “The Dynamites in 1964. I remember the grotty water fountain Went for a trip to London Last Year and went into the now guitar shop.

  11. Neil Meager
    May 5, 2016

    I used to go there with my dad in 1967 he was recording demos for the 60s artists such as lulu, Manfred mann, hollies and many more. I remember an Italian lady who I used to help make the tea and in the other studio was a red glitter Ludwig superclassic and mirrors on the walls it was the Clarke brothers studios a dance duo.

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This entry was posted on November 14, 2012 by in Camden, Famous People, Free Activities, Shopping and tagged , .
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