Gitbuddy in London – Rockbottom, Croydon

I’ve been on a little visit to London these past few days – South London to be more exact, in the vicinity of Croydon, which was recently voted ‘the scummiest place in England’ – a factoid that one can’t but help harbour with that sense of swelling pride in the bosom as one walks along the streets in mortal terror of being mugged, stabbed, raped, glassed, shot or just plain ‘dissed’ , while dodging the turds along the pathway.

Having only really just arrived, I haven’t yet had a chance to venture up to the West End of this once great capital to Denmark Street – the famed Tin Pan Alley of London where there is a large concentration of guitar and music stores and where it’s very easy to wile away several hours plucking things, rubbing them and admiring them. More on this later.

Instead, I did make a passing pilgrimage to the once proud ‘ROCKBOTTOM’ – Croydon’s largest music store (at least it was back a few years ago – I don’t know of any others).

When I was a teen, this place was somewhat of a Mecca for me where I would go whenever I had some free time or cash to stare at the instruments in wonder and hang around hoping to pick up licks or tips  from other more advanced guitarists or the owners. I’d hang around for hours in there just to buy a pack of strings, but always looking at all the cool gear they had. I bought my first effects pedal in this store. This store was also the place where I first heard of Yngwie Malmsteen from a helpful older guy who was shredding away and couldn’t wait to impart everything he knew to me and Warhead who were there together.

Additionally, when I was in the band, we used to come and rehearse in their basement studios in the evenings. Indeed, Rockbottom was a large part of my life back then.

Unfortunately, the store is passing the way of the rest of the urban decay that permeates much of South London. Sadly, it has the atmosphere of a junk shop now and was, at the time, staffed by a couple of loutish Estuarine dropouts who, judging by their conversation were probably into Avenged Sevenfold or some other talentless cretin band and had a combined IQ of about 6. One of them was plucking away on a acoustic and had the musical skills of some pubic hair clippings.  There’s been no evidence of any effort to restore or regenerate the shop since the mid-eighties when we used to come here. The stock seems to be that which caters to the lowest common denominator – Corts and Washburns (the cheap ones) were everywhere alongside cheap-ass solid-state Laneys, covered in dust from the late 80’s and I didn’t see any decent Gibsons (come to think of it I don’t remember seeing a Les Paul) nor any higher end Fenders. Despite not having had a guitar in my hands now for the best part of five days, I had no desire to touch any of the instruments on display for fear of catching ‘cheap’. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that this ends up as one of those businesses that goes the way of the dodo now the Internet is challenging them on price all the way. Don’t pardon the pun, but this place really has fulfilled its namesake and arrived at the rockbottom for quality, service, appearance and so forth. Honestly, if/when I come back again to this part of the world, I sincerely doubt that I will ever visit the place again.

Oh well. Next week, when I have time, I will venture up to Denmark Street for a looksee.


4 Responses to “Gitbuddy in London – Rockbottom, Croydon”

  1. I can’t stand Rockbottom, and have refused to go in there for probably the better part of twenty years now. For all the reasons you cited, but from your recent visit, it seems to have sunk even lower…”Rock Bottom” as you cunningly put it. I far prefer Gigsounds on the Mitcham/Tooting border. Proper old-fashioned, non-patronising service, and not staffed by tossers.

  2. Plankspanker Says:

    I used to live down the road from Rockbottom within staggering distance of the ‘Cartoon’ rhythmn & booze pub. I bought loads of stuff in there back in the late 80’s early/90’s. Last August I was in the Croydon area and a friend of mine asked if I would take his son to look at some guitars, as he was thinking about getting a decent one to replace his Squire.
    I agreed and off we went to Rockbottom.
    My memories of Rockbottom are warm and happy,full of nice,new,shinny things lit by spot lights.It’s where I lusted over Guitar-porn.
    Now it is a seedy,dull,dank,dusty pox ridden whorehouse of a musical emporium! The staff had no knowledge nor motivation and were busy working on their previous nights hangover,the stock was a joke, most of the place looked like some junk shop/house clearance place! The only half decent guitar in the shop was an overpriced Jackson covered in fingerprints and grime and in desperate need of new strings and some lemon oil! Various shifty looking ‘yoofs’ went down stairs to do gawd-knows what!? And the Drum dept upstairs was a shambles. Sad.
    There was a time that I would never have walked out of RB without parting with some cash,sometimes lots of cash.This time I left spending very little time in the shop and left with a feeling of doom and despair!
    I remembered to wipe my feet on the way out!

  3. Welcome, Plankspanker.

    Yep – the good ol’ Cartoon as well. I remember seeing Phil Hilborne there at least 3 times – it was like he was the resident artist or something. 🙂

    Yep – RB – a dump now.

  4. I used to spend hours in there in the early / mid eighties. I liked the fellas who worked there. Paul? Fat Harry? Great memories. Shame it appears to be circling the plug hole now.

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