London has played host to some of the greatest musical legends of our times. From iconic studios to the finest live venues, the city has it all
A pilgrimage for any music lover
Abbey Road Studios, St. John’s Wood, London
This studio is almost as famous as The Beatles themselves, an address so cool that they named an album after it! Not to mention an innocuous street-corner with a zebra-crossing that became the most famous musical landmark ever. In a further list of superlatives, among the largest-selling albums, The Dark Side of the Moon, was recorded here by legendary producer Alan Parsons. Today, it is a heritage property that is a must-visit for any die-hard music lover.
A multi-media trip down memory lane
The London O2, British Music Experience, Canary Wharf, London
The British Music Experience is an interactive audio-visual treat for the music historian and aficionado. Quirky memorabilia like David Bowie’s Ziggy outfit and Daltrey’s spangled jumpsuit from Woodstock are part of the attractions, which also include live clips from the most legendary concerts ever. If you are lucky, you might also catch a great live act at the O2 Arena; Beyonce and Alicia Keys performed here just last year.
An authentic Bowie shrine
23 Heddon Street, Central London
Few fans will forget David Bowie’s cocky pose on the cover of his legendary 1972 concept album Ziggy Stardust. Since then, hard-core Bowie-heads have posed at 23 Heddon Street with that same iconic jauntiness. This is the definitive Bowie shrine, as Abbey Road is to the Beatles, and the Pere Lachaise Graveyard to Jim Morrison. If you are shopping along Regent Street, slip away to 23 Heddon for that magical nostalgia moment.
Iconic venue for ’40s swing to punk and all the latest acts
The 100 Club, Oxford Street, London
This historic venue on Oxford Street has rung with frenetic ’40s swing music to guitar wails of punk. The décor has not changed since the ’70s; they pride themselves on substance over style. Their roll-call down the years has included Joe Strummer, Louis Armstrong and Mick Jagger. The 100 Club played a big role in the history of British Jazz. The Clash and Sex Pistols played here in ’76, the Stones in ’82 and ’89. Today, you can catch upcoming bands in this 350-seat room.
Experience Musical Bingo for that perfect music-lovers’ date
‘Concrete’, Lower Ground Floor, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London
Be assured, this is not a bingo game for pensioners. The card contains songs instead of numbers, and you have to tick off as many as quickly as you can from a foot-stomping medley played by the resident DJs, thus combining a little fun competition with the thumping sound of the greatest hits down the ages. Treat this as a date venue, rather than a solo outing. Treat your partner to a delicious pizza at Pizza East, located just above Concrete.
For the sophisticated music aficionado
The Royal Albert Hall
This is something every music lover must tick off his list. Renowned for its delightful BBC Proms in summer, a strictly classical offering, they also have free jazz gigs at lunchtime. Despite the reputation as a serious music venue, they have also hosted the odd Cirque du Soleil, poetry recitals, and bizarrely, the only Sumo tournament outside of Japan! Music, however is the raison d’etre for this cultural landmark in this great musical city.
For those who love to sing
London’s Karaoke Bars in Soho
If this evokes images of lonely Japanese men singing out of tune, think again. Head down to Soho for a night of revelling and carousing. Record your favourite cover song and make your own video. Sound proof booths are available with wigs, costumes and props for your own little party. Try the Lucky Voice, the Bunga Bunga, and the Karaoke Box; the latter has songs in Japanese and Arabic too, so get ready for a multicultural musical experience.
Spend a day visiting the most definitive, iconic landmarks
The Rock Music Tour
The streets of London are a veritable museum of the golden age of rock. Visit McCartney’s flat where ‘Yesterday’ was penned, or where Jimi set his first guitar on fire and the other Jimmy (Page) cut his first album. Visit all the addresses made famous and notorious by the likes of The Who, Queen, Elton John, U2 and the Sex Pistols. Choose from a morning and afternoon tour, or take the granddaddy of them all, the eight-hour all-day tour. Rock fans only, please.
A restored relic of yesteryear
Wilton’s Music Hall, Whitechapel, East London
The location may not be much, hemmed in by take-away shops, but this beautiful music hall has been around since 1858. Time-worn as it is, it still plays host to gigs, raunchy cabaret shows and even plays. Musicians walk in and play for free in the Mahogany Bar. Check listings, and spend an evening here listening to great multi-genre music as you guzzle beer or sip wine. The Mahogany Bar is also open for delicious lunches, but the music kicks off only in the evenings.
Walk in the footsteps of the greats
Britain’s Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street, Central London
This is part of the Rock Tour, but you might want to do this by itself. You might get a kick out of buying a guitar from the same shop Bob Marley bought his, or tread the rooftop where Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’, or look in at the ex-Regent Studios where the Stones recorded their first album. Before Bowie became rich, he slept in a van outside Giaconda Café, now called the Giaconda Dining Room. Denmark Street continues to host live acts of all major artists.