Just off West End Lane in West Hampstead is an imposing building with a surprising blue plaque.
The building on Broadhurst Gardens is Lilian Baylis House and owned by the English National Opera. But it was once Decca Studios - and was where Lonnie Donegan recorded the old Leadbelly song 'Rock Island Line' (and don't even mouth the words "cultural appropriation").
The building has had a chequered history. It was built in the 1880s as Falcon Works, a location for workshops - became West Hampstead Town Hall (though it was never a local government centre, simply a venue for performance or hire) - became a studio in 1928 - was taken over by Decca in 1937 and remained their studios until 1980.
It then became a rehearsal space for English National Opera - and is currently facing an uncertain future, as ENO intend to put the site up for sale.
And Lonnie Donegan may sound like a name from another era - but before the Beatles came along, he was Britain's biggest recording artist. He had three number ones and 31 'Top 30' singles. His best known number is 'My Old Man's a Dustman'.
'Rock Island Line' was his first single - and here it is:
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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