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London is steeped in music history and is the focal point for any music pilgrimage for fans discovering where their favourite musicians lived, recorded, played and partied. We asked Carl Allen - author of London Gig Venues - to give us a mini hit list of the best venues that music fans could visit.

The most famous venue in the history of London music venues has to The Marquee, although like so many others it has sadly closed its doors, but if you stroll down Wardour Street you’ll soon reach no.90 , which was the home of the Marquee from 1964 – 1988. This is where the London music scene exploded with music by David Bowie, Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin playing the venue and helping to shape the city’s culture.  The Marquee Club has been transformed into apartments but a little of the rock spirit remains in the shape of a blue plaque that celebrates the life of Keith Moon of The Who.

Next up head over to Oxford Street where you’ll pass The 100 Club, and yes you guessed it, it’s at 100 Oxford Street. The club opened in 1942 and every name in rock from BB King to Suede have appeared here, although it was probably the Festival of Punk in 1976 that cemented the club in the story of London.  Fortunately the 100 Club is one of the iconic venues that is still very much alive, so take a look at whose playing and you may just discover the next big thing.

Oxford Street has many lost venues such as The Metro Club (19 Oxford Street) and the Virgin Megastore – which had many in-store gigs, alas this building is now a Primark. At Tottenham Court Tube station turn into Charing Cross Road and where no. 157 would have been, stop and shed a tear at the loss of The Astoria and LA2/Mean Fiddler which were demolished for the new Crossrail station. Those to have played these mighty venues include U2, David Bowie, Eminem, Pulp and Morrissey. 


Credit: iStock

Follow the Charing Cross Road and you’ll soon stumble upon the Montague Pyke pub at no.105 this is the last home of The Marquee (1988-1996). Now run by JD Wetherspoons why not sit down and relax - have a drink and food and peer round it’s hallowed walls at where once REM, Kiss and The Prodigy  performed. The interior pays due respect to its musical heritage with guitars and a drum kit on display. The Marquee moved on to a further three locations but never quite recaptured its glory days. Tucked behind Charing Cross Road in Orange Yard you’ll find The Borderline – a little gem in the gig crown, a small venue that attracts big names, and with an open low stage you can get up close to your musical heroes. 

Of course London’s musical beating heart has now shifted east, and no musical tour of the capital would be complete without a venture into Camden and Hackney. My top venues to catch new acts would be Oslo, it’s convenient to reach as it’s located next door to Hackney main line station, or Café Oto for live avant-garde music from free jazz to psych rock. Downstairs at the Sebright Arms you can discover a whole range of fresh acts or try Koko, which has enjoyed an amazing history since it was opened in 1900 and even Charlie Chaplin treaded its boards. Today you’ll find big names and smaller indie acts strutting their stuff on its stage.

To find more about  these venues and many, many more, pick up London Gig Venues by Carl Allen, published by Amberley at £16.99 from all bookshops and Amazon 


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