London Rock Music Tour: A Virtual Audio Experience
Soho & Central London
Relive wild nights at iconic rock clubs
“Scores of clubs, many short-lived, gave space to young musicians. And the kids flocked to them to dance the night away. Three of the most important were on Wardour Street: the Flamingo, the Roundhouse, and the Marquee. Further along the street was the ‘Flamingo’, home to the blues all-nighter with Georgie Fame, Zoot Money, or The Animals, and visiting African-American soul singers like James Brown. Just a few doors up is the site of the old Marquee Club. I enjoyed some memorable nights here; Pink Floyd, Bowie, Hendrix, The Stones, Iron Maiden, and the Who all have their roots at the Marquee and Flamingo.”
Curzon Street, Mayfair
From pirate radio to rock 'n' roll tragedy
“Just at the back of the first and original Hard Rock Café lies Curzon Street. Not celebrated as much as it should be for its role in rock history, this street was tenanted by pirate radio station offices, music management companies, and agencies, clubs and private apartments. Dave Clarke hosted famed Sunday breakfasts at his flat but the most renowned must be the apartment of Harry Nilsson, friend of the Beatles, where both Keith Moon and Mama Cass were to die.”
Recording studios brought rock 'n' roll roommates
“London is a series of ancient villages that gradually got engulfed as the ‘Great Wem,’ as London was known, grew. In the 1960s various recording studios and record company offices like EMI and Pye were established in the village of Marylebone. Soon, basement or attic flats attracted musicians. One such flat became Ringo Starr’s flat, which he then passed on to Jimi Hendrix and who was succeeded by John & Yoko. If these walls could speak!”
Kensington High Street
Channel Queen, Bowie, and 1970s glam
“Kensington is one of London’s most upscale neighbourhoods where you’ll find Prince William, Kate, and family; the Beckhams; Jimmy Page; and many other celebs living and hanging out. It’s also home to the Royal Albert Hall, London’s finest musical venue. Musically, [Kensington's] heyday was the 1970s; this is where Queen band members lived and [played their first gig, which was] at the Imperial College Student Union Bar.
Basement clubs in the area also saw early performances of Pink Floyd, Yes, the Byrds, Chuck Berry, and Bowie. The 1970s’ Glam and Glitter Rock movements can be traced here and there places associated with George Michael, The Sweet, Roxy Music, Black Sabbath, and even Frank Zappa.”
Klooks Kleek & Decca Studios
See where the Beatles flubbed their first big shot
“Probably because it’s not as easy to find, or as well-known as some locations, few people ever visit the Decca Studios or the pub site of the legendary Klook’s Kleek Club. It was at these studios that the Beatles failed their first audition. Lonnie Donnegan recorded the groundbreaking skiffle track ‘Rock Island Line’; Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, and Bowie all recorded their first cuts; and most Moody Blues albums were made here.
The pub next door, Klook’s Kleek, was the recording venue for live LPs from John Mayall, the Cream, Ten Years After, and the great Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band. Even Led Zeppelin and Hendrix appeared upstairs at the Railway pub and in the 80s you’d have seen bands like U2 and Joy Division here!”
Notting Hill & Portobello Road
From Pink Floyd to punk rock and music royalty
“Arguably the greatest rock ’n’ roll neighbourhood in the world! It’s another neighbourhood where we could spend all day visiting atmospheric cafes and buying obscure vinyl at Rough Trade. Home to recording studios and record labels like Island, Virgin, and the more modern XL Recordings. It’s where the hippies hung out, Pink Floyd had their first gigs, punks like The Clash called home, and Bob Marley gave the world reggae. Hendrix (and alas many other rock giants) died here but it’s also where among many other Adele, Cat Stevens, Tom Jones, Lemmy, Joe Cocker, Madonna, Paul Rogers, Mark Knofler, Lily Allen, Nick Drake, and Eric Clapton have all called home.”
Islington & Holloway
Some of Britain’s most famed rock albums were cut in studios here
“To north London’s Islington and Holloway Road next. I love this area which has been much gentrified since the 1970s when Pink Floyd established their own Britannia Row studios and the kids from the local primary school became the most famed kids choir putting ‘Another Brick in the Wall.’ Being a cheap neighbourhood, it attracted musicians, artists, and actors, but it was also where [Rolling Stones drummer] Charlie Watts was brought up.
Famed local recording studios have included Wessex, where the Sex Pistols, Clash, King Crimson, and Queen all laid down seminal albums. Joe Meek’s legendary Holloway Road studio where the Tornados recorded ‘Telstar’ and a very young Jimmy Page cut his first disc. Let me show you this door, just around the corner—still the original one to the basement flat—where another young man, Reg Dwight, found the inspiration for his new name of Elton John.”
It’s not just history: Some music legends still live here
“Every music fan heads for Camden and the famed Camden canal-side market. Not surprising when you learn of just how rich the local music history is and the fact that there are still more gigs sites here than in any other London neighbourhood. It’s hard to choose what’s been the most influential location here; maybe the Dublin Castle Pub where everyone from Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse played and where both Madness and Blur had residencies.
But there’s also the great hippy-era Roundhouse (just Google it!) or the nearby Primrose Hill where Paul and George met ‘The Fool on the HIll.’ Oasis had their ‘Champagne Supernova’ house here and you might currently run into Robert Plant or Harry Styles!”
Kings Road, Chelsea
Swing through the heart of rock 'n' roll London
“The King’s Road, Chelsea, was the rockin’ heart of the 1960s ‘Swinging London.’ You take a walk down here and every second building has a story; there’s Bowie’s house, and Bob Marley’s, and Eric Clapton’s, and where Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso spent their London exile. Look, over here is where ‘Clockwork Orange’ was filmed. To the right, James Bond’s flat was supposedly at that address and over there the boutique where the Sex Pistols were formed.
You’re a Rolling Stones fan? It’s overload time; their original Edith Grove apartment, Keef and Anita’s flat, the pub where Bill Wyman was auditioned, Jagger’s current palace—all here! And what’s this building? Sound Techniques Studio where Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Nick Drake, and so many more made their first records. Next door was Pete Townsend’s flat where ‘Tommy’ was figuratively born.”
The most famous crosswalk in the world
“I can’t take you on a rock tour of London, the Capital of Rock, without coming to the location of the most famed photo in rock: Abbey Road. So much fun dodging the traffic to get your own photo done! Meanwhile, look at the old EMI studio next door. What great music has been made and continues to be here; The Zombies, Pink Floyd, Florence and the Machine, Kanye West, the list goes on and on.
But this was where the great Beatle era really began. About 70% of their music was recorded here. Yes, The Beatles were originally from Liverpool but it was London that made them globally famous and virtually every iconic photo of the Fab Four that you’d instantly recognise was taken in London. Paul still lives just around the corner, by the way… and nearby there’s a quirky little memorabilia shop.”
Although traveling to London might not be an option right now, you can discover London's music scene with Bruce once borders open again.
Top music experiences in London