Don’t feel bad. We’ve all done it at one time or other.
For those who don’t know, Denmark Street, London’s Tin Pan Alley, is home to
half a dozen or so guitar shops. Andy’s Guitar Shop at the far end was perhaps
the most famous, as it was in business seemingly for ever, but went into
receivership in 2007.
The problem faced by the shop-keepers on Denmark St is the rent and business
rates. Rents there are much higher than anywhere else in central London,
which is already expensive, largely because the property is owned by one individual.
Think about the game Monopoly. If you own all the shops on one street you can
charge what you like, and the owner certainly does like to charge. This is partly why Denmark St prices
are so high and perhaps why the shops themselves are so shabby – huge
overheads to meet every day and hard-nosed landlord.
There are plenty of colourful stories about Denmark St, people ‘taking guitars
off the wall’ because they couldn’t get their money, guitars being stolen from
one shop and sold to another – no questions asked. The stories may or may not be
true, but the street certainly has more than its fair share of characters and
there’s usually a buzz to the place. Pop and rock stars abound – go there, be
inspired, but do be careful. (Or in the words of Pete Townshend – “Pray: We
Don’t Get Fooled Again”).
Of course, Denmark St shops aren’t all bad and we exaggerate for your
entertainment. There are some beautiful guitars for sale and some very
knowledgeable people working there. Indeed, our very own luthier and repair guru
Graham Noden is there in his basement, underneath Andy’s old shop. (“Meet the
new boss, same as the old boss.” Graham’s business remains unchanged although
the shop now has new owners.)