Dead End Streets: The Kinks Landmarks Under Threat


Little Green “Dead End” Street
I was up in Kentish Town sampling some fine ales in The Pineapple and The Southampton Arms and suddenly remembered there was one location that I’d missed off my last Kinks North London walking tour. Luckily it just happened to be handily situated right between both pubs. Little Green Streetwas the location for one of the first ever music promo videos, “Dead End Street”, which The Kinksfilmed to promote the single back in 1966. The short black and white film is packed full of black humour, intercut with various scenes of slums and poverty, it has the bandhamming it up dressed as undertakers trying to carry a coffin under the railway bridge along the cobbled street and into the doorway of number 4. The street has hardly changed at all, it’s a small and beautiful row of unspoilt Grade II listed Georgian terrace houses with bow windows and colourful doors, just off the main Highgate Road, it looks far less depressing in real life than it did in the video.

The street is still cobbled, well, apart from the terrible eye-sore of a huge blotch of tarmac put down by some council contractor with a total lack of regard for the street’s character or history. I was bemoaning this fact when I noticed a large colourful banner and some posters hanging in resident’s windows declaring that the street’s future was in danger due to a new property development. When I got home I checked out the web-site address on the banner to find out more and discovered the depressing, but not unfamiliar, news that the residents have been fighting a long battle with Camden Council in opposition to plans to build a gated development of 30 luxury homes with an underground car park. So, this lovely little street, that survived the Blitz, may not yet survive the property developer’s bulldozers and our Government’s obsession with smashing a wrecking ball through any last traces of individualism, local history and heritage. So, please do try and check out the “Save Little Green Street” campaign’s excellent web-site and share it around to help raise awareness and show some support to the residents.

Sadly, Denmark Street, or Tin Pan Alley as it is more commonly known, is another famous musical London landmark with a Kinks connection that finds itself under threat from property developers.

“Down the way from the Tottenham Court Road
Just round the corner from old Soho
There’s a place where the publishers go
If you don’t know which way to go
Just open your ears and follow your nose
‘Cos the street is shakin’ from the tapping of toes”
That brilliantly evocative verse is taken from The Kinks’ track “Denmark Street” which featured on the 1970 album “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One”. It was also performed in a stunning scene in the “Sunny Afternoon” musical which we saw at the Hampstead Theatre and previously reviewed on the Blog here. The Kinks recorded some early demos at Denmark Street’s Regent Sound Studios in 1963 including “You Really Got Me”, and some of those demos can be found on “The Great Lost Kinks Album” compilation. The studio, which was situated at number 4 Denmark Street, is long since gone and is now home to a guitar shop at street level and the Alleycat Club in the basement. As well as The Kinks, many iconic bands and artists such as The Who, Mott The Hoople, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and The Yardbirds recorded at Regent Sound Studios throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. Ray Davies’ lyrics to “Denmark Street” allude to the Music Publishers that were crammed into the Street and as it was rare at the time for singers or bands to write their own material they all flocked to Denmark Street to hustle for the best available songs to record. Of course this influx of some of the brightest musical talent around made it a magnet for Agents, Managers and Promoters all trying to snap up “Clients” that would hopefully make them a fortune in the charts. One of the main meeting points for all these movers and shakers was the Gioconda Café at number 9, which is now also sadly closed after a re-birth as the Giaconda Dining Rooms an there is now a Blue Plaque above the doorway highlighting the importance of the place.
The Blue Plaque in Denmark Street

However, Denmark Street’s history and relationship with music goes back way further than The Kinks of course. This small side street, located in the parish of St. Giles, was once home to a leper colony and then became a slum area called the Rookery with stocks and gallows for public executions. There were some good times though, for example in 1687 the street was improved so much so that it was described as “a fair, broad street, with good houses, and well inhabited by gentry” and there are still eight properties on the street that date back to that time. Due to it’s proximity to  Soho’s many theatres, Denmark Street became a prime location for printing companies specialising in the publication of broadside lyric sheets which then developed into the sheet music trade. In 1926 the composer and publisher Lawrence Wright started the music newspaper Melody Maker from his offices on Denmark Street and as the music related activity increased the nickname Tin Pan Alley, borrowed from Manhattan, started to appear. In the 1950’s the New Musical Express opened its offices on Denmark Street and the first recording studios appeared in the 60’s. The Sex Pistols recorded some early demos at Number 6 and there’s still some rather amusing graffiti preserved on the walls as can be seen in the DVD extras in Julien Temple’s “There’ll Always Be an England” movie. Denmark Passage is also home to Enterprise Studios where many well known bands have rehearsed over the years, in fact I have just seen it mentioned in Viv Albertine’s new autobiography “Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys”.

The 12 Bar Club Denmark Street

So, this historic and atmospheric street is also under threat from property developers and the Cross Rail work that has already seen destruction of The Astoria, the Metro Club, the LA2 and the St. Martin’s College of Art where the Sex Pistols once played an early gig. Why we need yet more identikit soul-less shopping malls packed with chain coffee stores and restaurants I will never understand, it is a disgrace. Most depressingly of all though, Retro Man Blog’s favourite London club,The 12 Bar, is one of the buildings under most threat and it will be a crying shame to lose this truly independent venue which promotes and supports unsigned bands 7 nights a week. As regular readers will know, the 12 bar has been the scene of some truly memorable gigs, and I’m sure you will be familiar with the neon bull-horn logo and the old forge behind the stage from many photos featured in the Blog. The Fallen Leaves legendary “Minimum R’n’B” club nights on the first Wednesday of every month are always highlighted in the diary and have become a fantastic social event for musicians and fans alike to relax, mingle and enjoy the great line-ups that The Leaves put on. The main room of the 12 Bar is a historic building in it’s own right and as you can see from the two pictures below hardly anything has changed since the top photo was taken 100 years ago!

The Medhurst company forge photographed in 1914
The Fallen Leaves on stage in the forge room, 12 Bar Club 2014 – Copyright Paul Slattery
The producer, writer and DJ, Henry Scott-Irvine has started up a “Don’t Bin Tin Pan Alley” petition on in the hope of gathering enough signatures to force the Council to think again about allowing planning permission for the re-development of the area. He told Mojo Magazine “This should be stopped. Denmark Street and the surrounding St. Giles area should be given full heritage status like Covent Garden Market, Hatton Garden, and Savile Row.” At the moment the numbers signed up in opposition stand at just over an impressive 11,000 and only 4,000 more are needed to reach the required target. You can add your support to the campaign by signing the petition at the link here and we would encourage anyone to please kindly share both Henry’s campaign and the“Save Little Green Street” details to help raise awareness and support. Please remember this is not just for fans of Rock music, it’s for anyone who values our culture, history, architecture and heritage and wants to continue to enjoy some sense of individuality on our streets and in our towns.


About hobo hippie

Hi I am an old hippie, a "beat" poet and novelist, and digital artist. I was co -editor and publisher of "Alpha Beat Press" alpha beat soup, bouillabaisse and cokefish and cokefishing in alpha beat soup with my late husband Dave Christy. My novel "eeenie meenie minee moe is for sale on amazon books. my other blogs are about humor and the weird. The blog is named after a Charlie Chaplin movie. a blog about world art.

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