The Two I’s was the birthplace in the 1950s of British rock and roll. In this coffee shop's tiny basement Cliff Richard and the Shadows were discovered. So were Tommy Steele, Joe Brown, Mickie Most and two synonymous with later styles, Paull Gadd (aka Gary Glitter) and Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore.
The Two I’s features in Stoned, the first volume of Andrew Loog Oldham’s wonderful memoirs, since it’s central to the film Expresso Bongo, a seminal event in young ALO’s life. It also features in the film Absolute Beginners.
These days it is an Italian restaurant.
The 2 I’s, 57-59 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HP
Rock Shrine No. 2 - Abbey Road [The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis]
The most famous building on the most famous street in Britain. This is EMI Studios, Abbey Road. Converted from a Georgian house to studios in 1931, nearly every artist on EMI until the 80s recorded here. It is of course most famous as the recording home of The Beatles. The zebra crossing that appears on the cover of ‘Abbey Road’ is about 100 feet up the road to the left of the photo.
This is Studio 2, where The Beatles recorded nearly all their albums and Pink Floyd several of theirs (including Dark Side Of The Moon). This is also where Cliff Richard and the Shadows recorded ‘Move It’, the first British rock and roll single. The room is almost exactly as it was 40 years ago – the rest of the building is very different, especially Studio 3, where a lot of the last two Beatles albums were recorded.
The stairs lead up to the control room. I was once told that Paul McCartney was so used to this studio he had a photo of the room taken from the window of the control room and a fake window with the view put into his own studio so he could feel comfortable.
Paul shows Ringo and George Martin how you make a hit record…
Abbey Road Studios, Abbey Road, London NW8 9AY
Rock Shrine No. 3 - The Saville Theatre [Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles]
In 1967 this was the Saville Theatre, where Brian Epstein promoted a series of concerts.
A young Peter Gabriel saw Otis Redding here. It’s most famous for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ had been released two days earlier and Jimi kicked off the show by playing the title song while Lennon and McCartnery watched from the audience.
The Saville, 135 Shaftsebury Avenue, London WC2H 8AH
Rock Shrine No. 4 - Friar Park [George Harrison]
Henley is a beautiful town on the River Thames where several stars and artists live. Both Dusty Springfield and George Harrison were residents, though it’s a safe guess Dusty’s house was more modest.
In the old days the main road to Oxford went past George’s gaff and it was a busy road. Now it is bypassed. From the road all you see is 1/2 a mile of wall (literally), and a couple of gate houses – extraordinary examples of rococo Arts & Crafts. What a sight to greet you on your return home!
Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Rock Shrine No. 5 - Great Marlborough St. Magistrate Courts [Sid Vicious]
The photo is of a hotel lobby but in 1976 it was a Magistrate’s court. But not just any court. This is the location for several very famous rock star busts in the 1960s involving various Rolling Stones and Beatles. But more than that...
In 1835 Charles Dickens worked here as a court reporter. In 1895 Oscar Wilde filed libel charges against the Marquess of Queensbury, leading to the famous court case that ruined him. In 1963 Christine Keeler was in court over charges that led to the Profumo affair and the collapse of the government. That's some history.
But about those rock stars…
1969: Mick Jagger was fined £200 for drugs charges
1970: Case against John Lennon for exhibiting pictures which were too sexually explicit in the London Art Gallery dismissed.
1970: Artist Francis Bacon accused of possessing cannabis
1971: Songwriter Lionel Bart charged with possessing dangerous drugs
1973: Keith Richards was fined £205 for possession of marijuana, heroin, mandrax, a revolver and an antique shotgun.
He’s So Vicious
At the 100 Club Punk Festival Sid Vicious was arrested and the next morning appeared at this court. He sat in the dock about where the person is with the suitcase. His face was a puffy mass of bruises from where the cops had been banging his face into a table at the station the night before. He was remanded to Ashford Juvenile Prison, an experience that really scared him because those kids weren’t playing.
For him to get bail someone had to put up a surety – a backup in case he did a bunk. Because I believed him innocent and the cops arresting him had openly broken the law, I put up my house as security. The bail was set at £1,500 – the house was only worth £11,000, so a pretty hefty bail amount. A week later he was back in the same court and his face was still all blue from the bruises. Trial date was set for a few months later.
The trial happened right after the Pistols came back from Sweden. When I got to the waiting room Sid came over, beaming, and with a big smile introduced his new girlfriend. He was really, really happy. Nancy was as nice as she could be but in 30 seconds I was thinking ‘Oh boy…’ and everyone else was thinking the same. The judge ruled ‘not guilty’.
Now known as The Courthouse Hotel, it is opposite the top end of Carnaby Street, just around the corner from the London Palladium.
Courthouse Hotel, 19 – 21 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7HL
Hotel Web Site
Rock Shrine No. 6 - The Roxy [The Clash, Johnny Thunders]
In 1977, this window was the entrance to The Roxy, the coolest punk club in town. (It was the only punk club in town.) Through the door you went downstairs to a functional-cool big room, with the stage at the front and the bar at the back. Don Letts spun the discs between bands and filmed everything with his 16mm camera. If you go downstairs in the shop, imagine a couple of hundred punks jamming to The Clash and Johnny Thunders. It’s at 15 Endell Street, two or three blocks from Covent Garden tube station. Opening night at The Roxy:
The Roxy, 15 Endell Street, London WC2H 9BJ
Rock Shrine No. 7 - CBS Studios [The Clash, The Stooges]
This building used to be CBS Studios.
Hundreds of bands and artists have recorded here but today let’s talk about four. The Stooges recorded Raw Power in Studio Three. The Clash recorded their first album in the same studio. They also recorded a number of singles, including White Man In Hammersmith Palais. Mott The Hoople recorded "Roll Away The Stone" and "All The Way To Memphis". Happy Mondays recorded Gonna Step On You Again.
In the 80s it became an independent studio – Whitfield Street Studios – under the ownership of famed producer Robin Millar. Unfortunately, the last recording session was on 29 September, 2005. It is now empty.
CBS Studios, 31 Whitfield Street, London W1T 2SF
Rock Shrine No. 8 - The Pavillion [The Beatles]
In 1964 this was the location for the premiere of The Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night. It is now a shopping mall called the Trocadero. Located on Picadilly Circus. The Pavillion, Picadilly Circus, London W1D 7DH
Rock Shrine No. 9 - Regent Sound [The Rolling Stones, The Kinks]
Regent Sound is where The Rolling Stones recorded all their singles and albums until they moved operations to RCA in Hollywood. All the great first singles, those hot r’n’b numbers that make up the first album…This is where they were made. Many other "beat boom"groups recorded here as well. Most notably The Kinks, whose records made at this studio got the attention of Jimi Hendrix. When he first met guitarist Dave Davies he wanted to know how Dave got the sound on the solo of "You Really Got Me". Today it’s an instrument shop and very aware of its history. Inside is a wall of period clippings and photos of the Stones and other groups who used the studio.
The window is currently Beatles themed. The Rickenbacker is a 1964 model of the type used by John Lennon in that year. Yours for £1499, about $2800. Next to it is a 65 blue Fender, the same as used by John and George in 1965, the first time (the card helpfully says) they used Fender guitars. It’s £1400 or $2800.
Regent Sound, 4 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LP
Rock Shrine No. 10 - 6 Denmark St. [Sex Pistols]
6 Denmark Street was the home of Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook in 1976. They lived in a pretty disgusting room on the first floor. It was also a rehearsal space in the band’s early days. The building is just a few doors down from Regent Sound. (See Rock Shrines No. 9.) The building and windows look much cleaner than they do in reality. It still looks like a disgusting space.
Rock Shrine No. 11 - St. Martins School Of Art [Sex Pistols]
On November 3, 1975, The Sex Pistols played their first gig at St. Martins College of Art and Design. It was arranged by Glen Matlock, who was studying there at the time. They were thrown off before finishing their first song.
St. Martins is on Charing Cross Road, just around the corner from Denmark St.
Rock Shrine No. 12 - 100 Club [Sex Pistols, The Who, Kinks]
The 100 Club has a long history. It first opened its doors in 1942 as the Humphrey Lyttleton Club, a jazz club where even Louis Armstrong played.
After 22 years it changed its name to the 100 Club and started booking rock acts, including The Kinks, The Who, The Pretty Things and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Blues giants like Muddy Waters, Albert King and Otis Span have played here. In the early 70s I saw Ian Dury play a number of times in his first group, Kilburn and the High Roads.
On 30th March, 1976, a new band played – The Sex Pistols. The Pistols started a Tuesday residency in May that went through the summer; they became regulars until the end of the year. There were times during the summer that I was standing 20 feet from the stage and I was at the back of the audience.
On 20th September 76, The 100 Club Punk Festival happened: The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Subway Sect, The Vibrators and French band Stinky Toys. Promoter Ron Watts kept saying there would be 300 to 400 people coming and none of us believed him. When we came to the front door there was a line stretching down the street and around the corner. Those two nights were fantastic – loud, sweaty, exciting, fresh.
The 100 Club continues to present music. In 1982 Metallica did a secret gig. The Rolling Stones played there in the early 80s as well. In 2010 it looked like the club might close. Still owned by the same family they were hit with a big increase in rental fees. As part of the effort to save it Paul MacCartney played. In early 2011 Converse sponsored the club to ensure the club stayed.
Thirty years after the Pistols kicked a musical revolution into action, the club is exactly the same. When so much has been torn down, repainted, made corporate, it’s refreshing to see such sacred ground left alone.
Official web site
100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, London W1D 1LL