Written by taxi tour guide Rachel
My story begins quite simply with my love of music. I’ve been going to gigs and buying records for too many years to mention – music has brought so much joy and introduced me to so many fabulous people, it’s no wonder it’s the theme of some of my favorite tours. From places to buy vinyl to live music venues, I know all the best spots in the city.
Here are some ideas for music hotspots to visit in London.
Vinyl treasures just waiting to be found
On a budget? London has a multitude of charity shops with crates just waiting for your fingers to flick through the used vinyl from someone’s record collection. I have found so many old greats while searching through these. From Fulham and Chelsea to Marylebone and Fitzrovia, classic Andy Williams to heavy Hawkwind, you never know what you might find!
For new vinyl, let’s go to Soho. Berwick Street’s record shops are famous throughout London, going back to 1957 when Rock and Roll arrived with Bill Haley and the Comets, right through to modern day hip hop. Why not visit Sounds of the Universe on Broadwick Street? It was once the home of the famous Bricklayers Arms, frequented by many rock musicians through the 70s. Now a great record shop selling a fabulous array of new and secondhand gems, you can also find posters you won’t get anywhere else. Oh, and it’s a great place for jazz lovers.
Let’s now move up to Notting Hill and one of Rough Trade’s original record shops. The posters on the walls tell us so much about London’s music history. A fabulous selection here, and knowing Pink Floyd played one of their very first gigs nearby just makes it even more special.
The 70s punk movement brings me onto Camden. I often come here to invest in some old school reggae. I come from a part of London that is fortunate to have such a mixture of amazing people and we have all shared our music through the years, from reggae, to Bhangra and beyond.
The best live music spots London has to offer
So venues…. My youth was spent at various places all over London, but I always remember the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Here I spent a really hot and sweaty night watching a punk band (I can’t repeat their name here, tee hee) – they were a mix of the Sex Pistols, Thin Lizzy and The Boomtown Rats. There are so many nights to remember – Camden had, and has, some great venues.
Always check out what’s going on at the Roundhouse. Not only can you see some amazing heroes, recently Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets appeared there (Pink Floyd fans will know about them). My husband, also a cabbie, was given a spare ticket by his lovely passengers – what a thoughtful touch! – so he turned his lights off and enjoyed the night. Fantastic generosity from our lovely Londoners. They played an amazing set apparently.
You will also find all-day events, theatre and other artistic gems really worth checking out at the Roundhouse. Here’s one for the metalheads – did you know Motorhead played their very first concert here?
And why not have a pint in the Hawley Arms just round the corner? It was a favorite hangout of Amy Winehouse, amongst others. She would often get up and spin a tune here, she was a real Camden girl.
I’ve had some great times on tours taking my clients to the iconic Dublin Castle in Camden, the starting place for the band Madness. This place is not for the highbrow, but it’s definitely one for the old school music lovers. It’s an amazing sweaty little venue, and if you’re talking about London music history, it’s the one for me. There’s also the Jazz Cafe in Camden if you want a slightly less raw event!
Oh, and we can’t talk about venues without mentioning the long-lost Marquee Club that once stood on Wardour Street, Soho. Venues come and venues go, but the music lives on…
Here are just a few places to check out:
- O2 Dome – massive arena events
- Ronnie Scott’s, Soho – jazz, funk, soul, afrobeats and more – terrific venue
- Lexington Arms – Islington indie pub bands
- Dublin Castle – rock and roll, punk, and more
- The Piano Works, Farringdon – a great musical night of good dance tunes on the old Joanna (piano to those who don’t speak old london)
Enjoy all that London gives!