Tin Pan Alley

It is barely 100 yards long and lies in the shadow of one of Europe’s biggest engineering projects.

Tin Pan Alley or Denmark Street as we would have to call it whilst on The Knowledge is under threat according to Peter Watts who writes a polemical piece in The Great Wen.

Historically it is London’s most important street for the music industry.

[R]unning between St. Giles High Street and Charing Cross Road, it started life as a line of residential buildings, by the 19th century it had become the centre for metalwork. For reasons no entirely understood by 1950 it was the hub for selling sheet music.

The nickname Tin Pan Alley is taken from a name given to a district in Manhattan where music publishers set up shop. The derivation of the term is unclear.

By the 1960s other associated strands of the music industry had moved in: publishers, managers, songwriters, musical instrument retailers, and more importantly recording studios Regent Sound and Central Sound. Both The New Musical Express and Melody Maker started newspaper publishing in this little street.

Tourists may flock to the crossing (and get run over) in Abbey Road; their destination should be this little uncelebrated backwater where London’s popular music began.

The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and more recently, The Sex Pistols have all at some point in their careers used the facilities to be found in the little forgotten street.

Now we are on the cusp of losing this little piece of history. As the area around St. Giles is redeveloped the remnants of the large Victorian rookery, the location of Hogarth’s Gin Lane cartoons, is being swept away.

Only fools would have tread these pavements during the 1960s but now a new breed of architects is making their mark on this beleaguered area.

Centre Point is being redeveloped into luxury flats and Renzo Pianos hideous Central St. Giles clad in primary colours is now finished but seemingly not completely let.

They are building OuterNet which – you’ve heard this before – promises to revolutionise the way we shop. This development has seen the destruction of some of the buildings backing unto Denmark Street and the remaining properties are being refurbished, or sanitised, in line with the ’improvements’ to the area with the arrival of CrossRail at Tottenham Court Road Station.

The campaigners fear this will spell the end of Tin Pan Alley with rising rents forcing out traditional retailers and heralding in another bog standard retail venue.

The small and enthusiastic group trying to save this historic street have a petition which currently (early December) has over 16,500 signatures https://www.change.org/p/head-of-democratic-services-don-t-bin-tin-pan-alley they can be emailed at savetinpanalley@gmail.com or or contacted at http://savetpa.tk/

Photo: Just Great Guitars information and anecdotes from this little street.

8 thoughts on “Tin Pan Alley”

    1. Thanks again Henry. I’m going to update the post with the petition links and, naturally, sign it myself. Good Luck with the campaign.


  1. This street began as a street of music in 1911 when sheet music publishers began to sell music to the public. Band leaders also came here to buy and sell music in the Jazz age, and then agents, music publishers, and managers moved in en masse. Soon songwriters were based here and famous songs such as Lily Marlene were written here for the likes of Marlene Dietrich. The famous Noel Gay organisation were based here writing songs like Run Rabbit Run for during the 1940’s . Lionel Bart wrote Oliver the musical in this street. Bob Martin & Phil Coulter penned Back Home (for the 1970 England World Cup Squad) and Congratulations (for Cliff) and Puppet on A String (for Sandie Shaw) and Roger Cooke & Roger Greenaway wrote I ‘d like To Teach The World To Sing (for Coca Cola) and Something’s Gotten a Hold of My Heart (for Gene Pitney). Larry Parnes moved in in 1957 and signed and named Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, and Tommy Steele and then the guitar shops moved in and then the recording studios. Henry Scott-Irvine music historian, journalist, broadcaster and campaign organiser for Save Denmark St)


    1. It’s amazing how much of our music culture has come out of a street barely 100 yards long. Thanks for all that background information.


  2. Like everything the fat cats ruin it for the subculture! I hope you’re happy in your penthouses with nothing to do but go to the theatre and speak to other like minded people because that’s what life is about right???


    1. Yes I’m afraid that London is losing some of its character with every ‘development’. Thanks for the comment


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