A Brief Musical History Tour Of 1960s West End

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 25 months ago

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A Brief Musical History Tour Of 1960s West End
Hendrix and Handel may make an odd couple but they lived in neighbouring flats... though not at the same time

London has a starring role in the V&A's upcoming exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution?: Records and Rebels 1966-1970. We took a tour of Soho and the surrounding area to dig up its rock 'n' roll roots.

Hendrix and Handel, 23 and 25 Brook Street

Rock star and classical composer: it's certainly an odd pairing. These adjoining flats off Bond Street are now a museum to both great musicians.

When Jimi Hendrix first rented his pad, he'd no idea about his previous next door neighbour. That is, until classical musicians came calling, wanting to see where their hero had lived. Hendrix would invite them up for a jam.

An interesting fact about Hendrix: his military training meant he liked everything ordered. A party could never get too wild, and if anyone spilled a drink, the rock star would clean it up right away.

Hendrix's bed is kept neat, just the way he would have liked it.

Hendrix's guitar lies on his bed as if he's popped out for an hour or so.

2i's coffee bar, Old Compton Street

A green plaque marks the spot of the 2i's coffee bar where musicians and promoters would meet, and where careers were made. Downstairs in the basement used to be a stage for performances — hard to imagine in your local Starbucks. It's referred to as the birthplace of British rock'n'roll because Tommy Steele was first spotted here and he would go on to be Britain's first rock star.

The plaque marking where the 2i's coffee shop once was.

Saville Theatre, 135 Shaftesbury Avenue

This cinema temporarily became a music venue when Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, leased it in 1964. Names to play here included The Who and Pink Floyd. In 1967 Jimi Hendrix performed, with David Bowie in the crowd.

The Saville reverted to being a cinema in 1970. Still, in these short years it staked its claim in musical history.

Saint Martin's, 107-109 Charing Cross Road

Creatives of all kinds prospered in London. Saint Martin's is now be located in King's Cross but it was previously in the West End. This is where the likes of Richard Long and Gilbert and George studied, adding to the melting pot of innovation that was Soho.

A shop in Denmark street. It's still the place to come to buy a Flying V guitar.

Denmark Street

Despite development threats, Tin Pan Alley remains the place to buy musical instruments. In the 1960s though, it was much more than just that. Denmark Street was home to music magazines (the NME was founded here in 1952) and the studio where the Rolling Stones cut their first LP. It was also home to the Gioconda cafe, frequented by Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Elton John. The cups of coffee must have fueled many a classic.

Trident Studios

Abbey Road is the most famous music studio in London, but it would be a crime to overlook Trident, the blue-walled studio tucked away down a narrow street. A list of what's been recorded here is proudly displayed in the window. The Beatles, Lou Reed and Queen are just three of the names to have laid down tracks. Today, it's Trident Sounds Studios, and mostly deals in audio for film and TV.

Carnaby street as it looks today, on a rare quiet day. Photo: DncnH

Carnaby Street

No tour of 1960s London would be complete without Carnaby Street. This was THE place to shop and socialise.

Mods and hippies hung out on the street where independent fashion designers like Mary Quant, Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin had set up shop. Tourists still flock here today, no doubt in part, drawn by the name.

You Say You Want a Revolution?: Records and Rebels 1966-1970 runs from  10 September 2016- 26 February 2017. Tickets £16.

The exhibition coincides with the ongoing campaign to save Soho for the performing arts.

Last Updated 06 September 2016