Tin Pan Alley

Read our guide to the indie-rock guitar-buying Mecca that is London's Denmark Street - aka, Tin Pan Alley.

Seconds away from the Centre Point building and just off Charing Cross Road, rocker’s pub The Intrepid Fox on St. Giles High Street hints at the nature of the goings-on of Denmark Street, aka Tin Pan Alley.

The original Tin Pan Alley was established in the late 1800s in New York, on 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway, to be precise. After the American Civil War, New York began establishing itself as an important capital for performing arts. Music was becoming an integral part of life with more and more people attending concerts and learning how to play instruments. The retail of sheet music and musical instruments became a lucrative business, and whereas publishing houses had previously been scattered around the major US cities, they were popping up in dozens in this section of Manhattan.

Legend has it that the name ‘Tin Pan Alley’ was first coined by journalist Monroe Rosenfeld, who was staying in the area and used the term to describe the discordant sound of many pianos being pounded at once in the demonstration rooms of the surrounding offices, which he likened to the sound of tin pans being hit. Another less likely myth is that in the days before copyright laws for music had been introduced it was not unusual for plagiarists to sit outside rehearsal studios and write down each note a composer played as he was creating a new piece.

To stop this from happening the composer would pay someone to stand outside banging a tin pan, making it nigh on impossible for anyone to overhear the music being played within. In any case, the phrase caught on, and soon came to signify any area with a high concentration of music publishers and musical instrument shops, hence London having its very own Tin Pan Alley.

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