Places of rock ‘n’ roll interest

No.34 Montagu Square

This ground floor and basement flat in the swanky neighbourhood of Marylebone has achieved the lofty status of English Heritage ‘building of historical interest’ such is its role in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Ringo Starr was the original rockstar to occupy the attractive flat in 1965, but band-mates Paul McCartney and John Lennon and Yoko Ono also had spells living at the address.

In-between McCartney and Lennon, Jimi Hendrix briefly occupied it, reportedly writing classic ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ there.

Furthermore, McCartney began composing what would become ‘Eleanor Rigby’ in the ground floor and basement flat, and Lennon’s time there saw him working on songs which would become part of The Beatles’ self-titled ‘White Album’.

Less impressively, during Lennon and Ono’s time living in the flat it was raided by police for drugs, and the couple also shot their notorious fully-naked cover shot for the critical flop Two Virgins here.

The address is only a mile or so away from the famous Abbey Road studios where The Beatles recorded much of their best-loved music, so was certainly a convenient home for any of the Fab Four.

In October 2010, Ono helped unveil the English Heritage blue plaque which celebrates Lennon’s time living there in front of a flurry of photographers and journalists.

Location: 34 Montagu Square, Marlyebone, London, England W1H 2LJ

Marc Bolan memorial

Creative Commons / Britmax

The legendary glam rocker Marc Bolan was tragically killed on 16 September 1977, when the Mini he was travelling in with his girlfriend smashed head on into a Sycamore tree.

Bolan died instantly on impact, and this is the exact spot where the tragedy that cut short the life and career of one of Britain’s best-loved rockers happened.

Fans of the charismatic Bolan and his music – from the early folk years of Tyrannosaurus Rex through to his glam rock heyday as T.Rex – made the site of the crash an area of pilgrimage almost immediately after his untimely death.

You can now pay your respects at a well-kept shrine for the singer. There is a special bust of Bolan at the site, as well as plenty of tributes left by fans for visitors to have a look through.

To add to the tragedy, less than four years after his death in a car crash, Bolan’s friend and T.Rex bass player Steve Currie was also killed in an automobile accident in Portugal.

So spare a thought or two for Currie too if you make the pilgrimage to Bolan’s shrine.

Location: Queens Ride, Barnes, London, England SW15 5RG

Carnaby Street

© Rock 'n' roll travel / William David Wilson

Carnaby Street became an important home of independent British fashion in the 1960s – particularly of the ‘Mod’ variety – and continues to house a good number of boutiques of this nature today among the array of familiar retail chains.

Various underground music bars such as the Roaring Twenties and the legendary Marquee Club were located round the corner from Carnaby.

The area has a long-time association with world-famous London bands such as The Small Faces, The Who and The Rolling Stones; who frequented the area to work, rest, and play.

It quickly became one of the coolest destinations associated with the “Swinging London” scene of the 1960s.

So it’s fitting that Carnaby Street has been name-checked in a number of rock songs, including The Kinks’ ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ and The Jam’s eponymous B-side to ‘All Around The World’.

There are two Westminster City Council green plaques on the Street. The first, on 1 Carnaby Street, is dedicated to fashion entrepreneur John Stephen, who was chiefly responsible for beginning the Mod fashion revolution here. The second plaque is located at 52/55 Carnaby Street and is dedicated to the The Small Faces and their manager Don Arden.

A must-visit destination for fans of The British Invasion or mod culture.

Location: Carnaby Street, London, England W1F


Abbey Road Studios

Creative Commons / Misterweiss

The most celebrated and well-known recording studio on the planet, Abbey Road Studios in London is an undisputed rock ‘n’ roll landmark.

The studio boasts a storied history of recording, with many of the world’s most-loved rock bands and artists recording some of their best records in the studio.

The most famous example, of course, is The Beatles, who turned the studios into a site of pilgrimage when they titled their classic 1969 album after the road it is located on, and had that famous cover shot taken on the zebra crossing nearby.

Besides The Beatles, the likes of Pink Floyd, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Elliott Smith have all recorded albums or songs at this premier recording venue. Its acoustics, collection of microphones and vintage recording equipment and the skill of its award-winning engineers are legendary. The studio is at the cutting-edge of recording music, boasting the latest technology while maintaining a healthy respect for its storied past.

The studio also offers mastering, online mixing, archiving and transferring. It opens its doors for a limited number of events each year, too.

Location: 3 Abbey Road, London, England NW8 9AY


Former site of the Marquee Club

© Rock 'n' roll travel / William David Wilson

This legendary music club first opened its doors at 165 Oxford Street in 1958, before moving to 90 Wardour Street in 1964.

Beginning life as a coffee bar and jazz club at its first address, it holds the distinction of being where The Rolling Stones performed their very first gig, opening for Long John Baldry on the 12 July 1962.

In its second incarnation the Marquee club became a world-renowned venue. For almost 30 years it was one of London’s premier rock venues with acts such as The Who, Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Clash, The Cure, The Damned and the Sex Pistols all making a name for themselves there. Jimi Hendrix also made one appearance here in 1967.

The club fell into decline throughout the 1980s, although bands and rock historians were still keen to pay homage. It moved to Charing Cross Road in 1988, and the Wardour Street club is now the ‘Mezzo Bar’. The Marquee has since relocated to Leicester Square.

It is worth taking a moment to look at the building and ponder its illustrious history, and to see the English Heritage plaque dedicated to The Who’s drummer Keith Moon mounted on the wall outside.

Location: Wardour Street, City of Westminster, London, England W1F


Denmark StreetCreative Commons / Trecca

Denmark Street has played a really important role in British rock ‘n’ roll history.

The road in central London, a short walk from the Soho district, has even been described as the ‘British Tin Pan Alley’, and such a moniker is fair game. Denmark Street has both housed and inspired several well-known bands and artists over the decades.

Where to start? Well perhaps the first truly seismic music event here was the recording of The Rolling Stones’ début album in 1964. And soon after Scottish folkie Donovan and the peerless Jimi Hendrix recorded their first songs in Regent Sounds Studios on this very street.

Pink Floyd rocked the UFO Club and theatrical singer-songwriter Elton John really got his career off the ground with his first hit single ‘Your Song’, which he wrote here.

The Kinks named a song after it on the 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneyground Part One, and punk’s favourite nihilists The Sex Pistols lived and recorded their very first demos above no. 6.

Music venues on Denmark Street also have storied histories, playing their part in the rise of British jazz, R&B and of course punk music. The aforementioned Hendrix recorded in basements in the street.

Though it is more gentrified today, Denmark Street still holds on to its rock ‘n’ roll spirit, and as such is still lined with specialist music shops, bars and clubs.

Location: London Borough of Camden, London, England WC2H 8LS

Apple Building

Creative Commons / Misterweiss

A five-storey building purchased by The Beatles and their management that became the second headquarters of their Apple business, 3 Savile Row’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history is assured.

The Fab Four secured the premises for a cool £500,000 and moved their Apple Corps operation from 95 Wigmore Street into the building on 15 July 1968.

The building was equipped with a recording studio, and John, Paul, Ringo and George recorded what was to be their final LP Let It Be in the basement there.

The now iconic building was erected way back in 1733 and boasts quite a history. It was at this address that the Bowler Hat was invented in 1850, but it is perhaps best known as the place where The Beatles played their last ever set, on the rooftop of the building, on 30 January 1969.

In February 2008 construction company Kier was granted planning permission to extend the building, and by August 2011 the US fashion chain Abercrombie & Fitch acquired the property and the green light to turn the lower, ground, first and second floors over for retail use, installing their new kids flagship store there.

In truth, the move of the commonplace American outfitters has not gone down well with many of the classic British tailors on the Row, or indeed those Beatles fans eager for the historic building to maintain its rock ‘n’ roll roots.

Nonetheless, it is still worth making a trip here to imagine the Fab Four churning out the hits for one last time from the rooftop.

Location: 3 Savile Row, London, England W1S