London’s music scene: nine music venues you need to know
London has some of the most legendary music venues in the world even though many have been lost to progress and development.
When the Marquee Club closed down, a part of The Who’s, Jimi Hendrix’, and Pink Floyd’s legacy went with it. The Hammersmith Palais is no longer an epic entertainment venue but the title of a song by the Clash. London has and has had music venues to cover all tastes – the culture experts at the London Pass have compiled nine venues you need to know about.
Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road
This theatre was built over the former Horse Shoe Brewery, the site of the 1814 London Beer Flood. The Dominion opened in 1929 and became well known for hosting musical shows. It wasn’t until 6th February 1957 that the hall saw its first proper rock and roll concert. Bill Haley and the Comets opened their British tour here where they were met my thousands of screaming British fans.
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road
This Grade II listed building has become one of the most famous music venues in London. The former railway shed saw The Doors play their only UK gig here in 1968 and by the early 1970s, DJ Jeff Dexter was a regular Sunday night feature. His shows helped launch the likes of David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones to fame
Punk arrived in 1976 and the Round House finished out the 70s with concerts from The Ramones, Patti Smith and The Strangers, Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Police, and so many more. After years of dereliction, the Roundhouse has risen from the ashes to become one of the capital’s best venues again.
The Electric Ballroom, Camden High Street
One of this venue’s claims to fame is it’s the location where Sid Sod Off – the last ever UK performance from Sid Vicious. Sid and his girlfriend Nancy wanted to move to New York and used the profits from this gig to do it.
In 1979 Joy Division performed twice – around the same time U2 and Adam and the Ants were playing. In 2007, former Beatle Paul McCartney played a surprise gig for an exclusive audience.
Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway Camden
The famous late Camden resident Amy Winehouse was a regular at this lively pub. It’s an institution of the indie music scene and launched the music career of Madness.
100 Club, 100 Oxford Street
The 100 Club’s roots are jazz and you’ll still find them playing it, but since the 1960s, they’ve been throwing rock music into the mix. In fact, the name of the club came from its larger-than-life rock nights where The Kinks and the Animals played. In the late 70s they brought punk music into the venue with shows by The Sex Pistols and Siouxie; in the 1980s, the Rolling Stones took breaks from their huge stadium concerts for intimate shows. The increase in rents threatened the existence of the club in 2010 but a fundraising campaign helped its doors stay open to today.
Eventim Apollo, Queen Caroline Street
If you wanted to see some of the best gigs through London’s rock and roll heyday, you went to this Grade II listed building in Hammersmith. Originally called the Hammersmith Apollo, it was renamed Hammersmith Odeon in 1962.
The Beatles played their second Christmas show here in 1964 – it ran for 3 weeks and sold out its 100,000 tickets. The show involved music, comedy sketches, and special guests which made for a uniquely British holiday experience.
Affectionately known as Hammy-O, this venue was just for live music. Live albums Alchemy by Dire Straits and appropriately titled No Sleep to Hammersmith by Motorhead were also recorded here.
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore
This historic venue dates back to the 1800s and was named after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. From the 1960s it has been used regularly to pop and rock concerts, which is when Cream performed their last show and Bob Dylan upset some of his folk purist fans by playing an electric guitar – the horror!
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys are just a few of the legendary names to have graved the stage of what is the grandest venue in London.
Ronnie Scott’s, Frith Street
Primarily a jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho is also a hotspot for rock music. The Who deafened an audience of journalists when the band launched their album Tommy here in 1969. It’s also the location of a sad farewell as Jimi Hendrix gave his last live performance here in September 1970.
Up on a Roof, 3 Savile Row
Savile Row may be known for Georgian townhomes and upscale bespoke tailors but this Mayfair street housed the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd group of companies. On 30 January 1969, the roof of Apple headquarters marked the group’s final performance and one of the all-time greatest moments in popular culture.
The Beatles got up onto their roof and had a set list of five songs. Their neighbours were not pleased with the surprise performance and called the police. When they arrived they stayed to watch the show. The performance was stopped after 42 minutes but the footage lives on. The building is now a branch of Abercrombie Kids.