I’m in London for two weeks, living in a great corporate apartment in Kensington High Street neighborhood, just across the road from posh South Ken. So my first spot of tourism was to hightail it over to the guitar stores on Denmark Street, not far from Piccadilly Circus and next to Tin Pan Alley. This unassuming and small street is the analog to our 48th Street in NYC.
I hopped out of a taxi at one end of Denmark Street and walked from store to store. My window shopping spree included looking around the following stores:
- Chris Bryant’s
- Hank’s Acoustics
- Music Ground
- Vintage and Rare Guitars
- Westside M.I.
Not surprisingly, I found many of them to be simple and decent shops, small and mainly stocked with inexpensively to mid-range priced guitars. I really did not see many guitars that were compelling except for the stock in two stores, Vintage and Rare Guitars and Westside M.I.
I also had a blast walking into Rockers, and watching a portly, balding, pasty-faced, business-attired Brit wailing with a Strat and a Marshall stack! The staff and I were duly impressed with the playing ability and the visual image of this guy attacking the axe with his large belly and working stiff demeanor.
With no proof other than personal experience, I’ve found that if the guitar store stocks an expensive or vintage range of guitars in addition to decent inexpensive guitars, then the staff is knowledgeable and treats you like a fellow guitar player versus potential client.
Before I even walked into Vintage and Rare Guitars, I was eyeing the beautiful tweed-style amp in the window (note it at lower left of store window above and pictured to the right). American-made, hand-built, tube amp from Swart Amplifiers based in North Carolina. Inside I was greeted with a raft of sweet, vintage guitars. Custom Strats and Teles, vintage axes from every decade; and that’s just the Fender collection; they were awash with all the great brand names. What specifically caught my eye, in addition to the amp, was beautiful 1969 Thinline Fender Telecaster, only 8,900 British Pounds.
Well, not wanting to walk that beast home, I instead bought a second-hand pedal, a sweet-sounding overdrive from T-Rex, the Mudhoney. Hah, and they let me try the box on the $1300 Swart amp with the $15K Thinline Tele. Way nice.
The other store that caught my eye, Westside, had a collection of Tom Anderson guitars, and I’ve had my eye on these for a while. They currently carry about five of his unique and near-custom guitars. I’ll be going back there to try those out soon.
All in all, fun was had. The guitars and their siren calls will sing to me again this week, and I’ll take another quick fly through.