Originally known as Arch Street and first mentioned in 1675, the reason for its present name is unknown.
Currently situated in the heart of Soho, it is also home to multiple drinks and entertainment venues including a cocktail lounge and low-lit, polo-themed downstairs bar with sofas and arched booths, viewed as one of the most sophisticated drinking dens in Soho. Archer Street has now also arrived at the Fifth Floor of the prestigious Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.
The image on the front cover of an issue of The Musician magazine from October 1951, titled “Street Scene” is one of Archer Street in London, a narrow back street in Soho which had become known as a meeting point for the West End musicians during the 1920s and the days of mass unemployment during the 1930s.
The reasons that Archer Street became the hub for musicians (rather than, for example, nearby Denmark Street which was the home of music shops and music publishers) wad down to its proximity to work places (nearby theatres and clubs) and places to drink and socialise. Gordon Thompson, the author of Please, Please Me describes the reasons for musicians congregating on Archer Street as being beyond simply “paychecks and contracts,” and as much to do with sharing “stories about gigs, owners, patrons, and, of course, other musicians”.
While the abundance of tea rooms, pubs and members’ clubs in the area undoubtedly contributed to its popularity with musicians, its popularity as a gathering point with musicians stemmed from the 1920s, when the number of musicians working in nearby theatres (The Apollo and The Lyric both had the stage doors which opened into Archer Street) made it an obvious congregation point.
On 27th May 1961, Melody Maker reported that the Police had stopped allowing musicians to gather on Archer Street on Mondays between 2pm and 5pm. It may be that this marked the beginning of the end of Archer Street as a meeting place for musicians. By the end of the decade, the Orchestral Association had closed its doors and the number of musicians employed in theatre orchestras declined as yet another sea-change in music employment and the music business took place in the sixties. And, though Archer Street survived as a musical hub through the musical changes of the twenties and thirties and the societal ones of World War II and its aftermath, the sixties were a change too far: musical and social changes combined to change the face of not just Archer Street, but Soho more generally.
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