Denmark Street in London, a musical place for decades

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The centre of the music and sheet music industry for much of the twentieth century, and now dominated by instrument shops. It is located in the West End near Tottenham Court Road. Built around the 18th century, like most of the streets in the area, takes its name from Prince George of Denmark, consort of Queen Anne.

The street is located in zone that used to be known as St Giles, which was long a centre for printing and distributing sheet music which were then distributed by street vendors.

Melody Maker was launched in 19 Denmark Street in 1926 by Lawrence Wright, a composer and music publisher who also wrote music for Rudolph Valentino. Melody Maker became Britain’s leading jazz magazine, but lost ground in the 70s.

Elton John worked as a delivery boy earning £5 a week for Mills Music, a music publishing house, in 1965, when he was still known by his original name, Reg Dwight. Paul Simon tried to sell his song catalogue, which included “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence”, to Mills Music in 1965. But they didn’t want it.

Denmark Street was also famous for Wunjo Guitar and Rhodes Music among the most famous musical instrument shops in Great Britain, where Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck came to buy guitars.

Many of London’s greatest artists rehearsed or recorded early recordings on Denmark Street, including the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Small Faces, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols.

The Rolling Stones recorded most of their debut album here in January of 1964 at 4 Denmark Street, where Regent Sounds was located, the same studio was also used by Cat Stevens and Elton John early in their careers.

At number 9 there was La Gioconda Restaurant which was a meeting place for mods in the years’ 60 and was a place where musicians used to meet to network.

Denmark Street is not only famous for music, in fact Dennis Nilsenìwho killed at least fifteen men in the north-west of London worked at the Jobcentre at 1 Denmark Street between the late years’ 70 and the beginning of the years ’80, while busy with his own killing spree.

Apparently for the  Christmas office party in 1980, Nilsen brought a huge pot in which he had previously boiled the heads of some of his victims!

Denmark Street is still there, it has so far been saved by various development projects including Crossrail but it would be lying to say that it is what it used to be. It isn’t. There are still musical instrument shops but they no longer have the atmosphere of the past.

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