The artist and the punks of West Hampstead

In April 1977, Tony Drayton moved to London from Cumbernauld, a new town in Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh. From 1976 to 1979, Tony was the editor of the early punk zine, Ripped and Torn. He lived in London, Paris, and Amsterdam and had a very varied career, including fire eating. In the summer of 1978, his sister Val joined him in London. After living in several squats, in the autumn of 1979 they met some punks in West Hampstead. One was Adam Ant’s (Stuart Goddard) ex-wife Eve (Carol Mills) and one was Kevin Mooney, a bassist who later joined Adam and the Ants. They let Tony and Val move into an empty flat at 33 Sherriff Road, a house run by the West Hampstead Housing Association (WHHA).

Also sharing the house were Andi, the singer, and Ross, the bass player, of Australian band The Urban Guerrillas, and Dave Roberts, later a member of the band Sex Gang Child. There were more: Leigh Kendall, Andy Groome and Malcolm Baxter, who were members of The Last Words, another Australian punk band. They earned £6 a day by delivering leaflets and Tony said they spent most of it drinking in the nearby pub, The Railway, or listening to the punk bands at the Moonlight Club which was run at the pub by Dave Kitson from October 1979 until 1993.

Brett and Val on Westbere Road c1981

Tony began to edit a new punk zine and the first edition was produced for Adam and the Ants’ 1980 New Years Day gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. The run of 500 copies sold out on the night and had to be reprinted. Tony and his friends, who called themselves the Puppy Collective, produced six issues up to 1983. Tony also wrote articles for the Record Mirror, New Musical Express, and Zigzag. In the summer of 1980, Tony and Val moved to another WHHA house at 39 Westbere Road. Artist Jo Brocklehurst lived in the same street and saw them as they passed by her home. She thought they looked fantastic and invited them to her studio where she made wonderful pictures of them.

Tony Drayton, fire eating c1986 (Tony Drayton archive)

Jo Brocklehurst moved into 12 Westbere Road in the 1960s and stayed there until her death on 29 January 2006. She was born Josephine Blanche Brocklehurst in Lambeth in 1935. She was a very good athlete, and in the 1950s she competed for the Selsonia Ladies Athletic Club in the shotput and discus.

A precocious talent, Jo first entered St Martin’s School of Art shortly before her 14th birthday, on a junior art scheme. Having left the school at 18, she was a regular visitor to the costume life classes in the fashion department. From the late 1990s, Howard Tangye, then St Martin’s head of women’s wear and a close friend, invited Jo be a visiting lecturer to work with his students.

In the 1960s, Jo sketched jazz musicians such as George Melly, and worked in commercial fashion before becoming swept up in the punk scene. She is best known for her paintings of the early 1980s and her subjects included the punks in West Hampstead, The Blitz Kids, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Almond, Philip Salon, Boy George, and, in Berlin, the dance company of Pina Bausch.

Her first one-woman show was in Amsterdam in 1979. Following her big breakthrough at the ICA’s Women’s Images of Men show the following year, Jo had considerable success with her drawings, showing twice at the Francis Kyle Gallery in London in 1981 and 1982, and later at Leo Castelli in New York and the Connecticut State University Gallery.

In 1994 the V&A (which holds a collection of her work), showed a series of her figure drawings in Street Style. Brocklehurst began to spend more time in Europe, especially in Amsterdam and Berlin where she sketched in the clubs.

Her friend Isabelle Bricknall said, ‘She liked Berlin because it was very punk in a lot of ways; it was before the wall came down. There’s so little known about her here, but in Germany and Poland at the arts festivals, they all knew her. She played artist in residence – she’d be sketching on a daily basis for newspapers such as Berliner Zeitung, drawing different acts from theatre to art. She also made some very good friends in Berlin.’

Although sometimes compared to the Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Jo was an original and she drew people without the aggression of Schiele’s work. Jo was always drawing. She never minded being stuck on a bus for hours in traffic, as she always carried paper and pens. She drew places, situations and people. She enjoyed landscape, and would regularly cycle to Hampstead Heath.

Tony and Val at the Jo Brocklehurst Private View, 1980s

In her house in Westbere Road there were vibrant pictures of characters from Alice through the Looking Glass, each with more than a hint of the fetish club. She was fascinated by Charles Dodgson’s alternative persona as Lewis Carroll and called the work ‘Brocklehurst through the Looking Glass’.

Isabelle Bricknall met Jo through Colin Barnes, a lecturer at the Royal College of Arts, St Martins, and Nottingham Trent where Isabelle studied for her MA in fashion and textiles. Jo was a lecturer with Colin Barnes in fashion illustration.

Isabelle worked in the fashion industry with many top designers, such as Zandra Rhodes. She has been a fashion designer, textile designer, artist and model, working in many art different mediums including fabrics, glass, steel, film, and photography. This drew Jo and Isabelle together to create with each other’s art work. Starting with Isabelle modelling her own designs and Jo drawing them, to working on art exhibitions and other art projects, and helping Jo to archive her work. She and Jo visited clubs together and their creative relationship lasted until Jo’s death.

A retrospective exhibition of Jo Brocklehurst’s work, Nobodies and Somebodies, was shown at the House of Illustration, King’s Cross London from 3 February to 14 May 2017. It was co-curated by Isabelle Bricknall and Oliva Ahmed.

We would particularly like to acknowledge the help of Tony and Val Drayton, and Isabelle Bricknall. Anna Bowman helped us with information about the WHHA.

It was 56 years ago today, Decca said the Beatles couldn’t play

On a very cold New Year’s Day in 1962 the Beatles arrived in West Hampstead for their audition at Decca Studios.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein had several record shops in Liverpool and had a meeting with the marketing people at Decca. They told Dick Rowe – Decca’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) manager – about The Beatles and he sent his assistant Mike Smith to Liverpool to see them at The Cavern on 13 December 1961. Smith was very impressed by the audience reaction and an audition was arranged in London for 1st January 1962.

Back in 1962, New Year’s Day wasn’t a public holiday but Dick Rowe was away, and it was left to Mike Smith to organise the session. Brian Epstein travelled to London by train, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best, had to drive down the previous day in a van with their equipment. The freezing weather, with fog and snow, meant the journey took ten hours instead of the usual five. After getting lost, The Beatles finally arrived at the Royal Hotel in Woburn Place around 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Pete Best (who was replaced by Ringo Starr later that year) recalled what happened:

“Brian Epstein had read the riot act to us before we went down to London. You know, be good little boys, you mustn’t be out after 10 o’clock. And there we were with everyone else in the middle of Trafalgar Square as drunk as skunks. We were late getting to the Decca Studios the next day. Brian was there before us. He was livid and tore a strip off us left, right and centre. John said, Brian shut up, we are here for the audition’. (From: Love Me Do; the Beatles ‘62, TV documentary 2012).

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The boys arrived at the Broadhurst Gardens studio at 11 o’clock and were not at their best after a long journey and a night of heavy drinking. Mike Smith was more than hour late himself, having been held up by the snow, and Epstein was very annoyed. They briefly met Tony Meehan who went into the producer’s box. He had grown up in West Hampstead and been the drummer with Cliff Richard and the Shadows before working as an assistant producer at Decca. The Beatles started to set up their equipment but the Decca engineers asked them to use the studio amplifiers as the group’s were in poor condition.

Over the next few hours The Beatles played 15 songs, mostly cover versions; only three were Lennon and McCartney originals (Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved). Epstein had persuaded them to do a set that he thought would show their range of ability, including Besame Mucho, The Sheik Of Araby, Money and Till There Was You. Lennon and McCartney later said they had wanted to include more rock numbers. Epstein thought the audition had gone well and he treated the boys to a meal at a restaurant in Swiss Cottage recommended by Mike Smith.

Mike Smith at Decca

Later that same afternoon, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes auditioned at Decca. After the auditions Mike Smith wanted to sign both groups but Dick Rowe said they could only take one and told Smith to choose. He went with the Tremeloes because their audition was better than The Beatles’ and he thought it would be easier to work with a Dagenham band than a Liverpool-based group. Smith lived nearby in Barking.

The Tremeloes at Decca

After numerous phone calls, Epstein was invited to lunch with Dick Rowe and the head of marketing on the 6 February. He was told that Decca had decided not to sign The Beatles. In his autobiography Epstein said he couldn’t believe his ears.

“You must be out of your tiny little minds! These boys are going to explode. I am completely confident that one day they will be bigger than Elvis Presley!”

He said that Rowe told him:

“Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out …. Your boys are never going to get off the ground. We know what we’re talking about. You really should stick to selling recordings in Liverpool.” (From: Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise London: Souvenir, 1964).

Dick Rowe strongly denied that he said this, and believes that Epstein was so annoyed that the Beatles had been turned down that he made it up. But the story stuck and Rowe went down in history as ‘the man who turned down the Beatles’. But this is unfair because it was Mike Smith who made the decision. And he wasn’t alone; as Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham pointed out in his autobiography, “Everybody turned them down. Columbia, Oriole, Philips and Pye turned the Beatles down, based on what they heard from the Decca session”.

Epstein left the Decca meeting with the tapes of the audition. He stayed in London for a few days and on 8 February he met Bob Boast, the manager of the large HMV record shop in Oxford Street. They knew each other from a seminar in Hamburg and got on well. Boast was not very impressed with the recording tapes in Decca boxes and suggested that Epstein go upstairs where there was a studio that could make copies onto disk. He thought these would look better when Epstein approached the other record companies. The disk-cutter Jim Foy was impressed by the fact that Lennon and McCartney had composed three tracks, as it was unusual at this time for a band to write their own material. Foy told EMI’s head of publishing Sid Coleman who arranged a meeting with George Martin, who was then the head of A&R at Parlophone, part of EMI.

You can listen to 10 tracks from the Decca session for yourself in the video at the top of the article.

Most critics agree that it’s hard to appreciate the Beatles’ potential from this material. They didn’t perform well nor did their unique talent emerge. The original tapes were recently sold at auction to a Japanese collector for £35,000.

You can hear Mike Smith, Pete Best and Brian Poole talking about their memories of the audition after 40 years:

Epstein met George Martin on 13 February 1962. Martin was not particularly impressed by the Decca sessions demo either, but he admired the confidence Epstein had in the Beatles and he was struck by the freshness of the three original compositions. In May, Martin told Epstein that he wanted to sign the group and the deal was done on 4 June, two days before their audition at Abbey Road. The band recorded their first hit, Love Me Do, there in September. It was released on 5 October and reached number 17 in the charts. Their second single, Please Please Me, was released on 11 January 1963 and reached number 1 in the NME and Melody Maker charts.

Liked the Rolling Stones
Although Decca did not sign the Beatles, it did get the Rolling Stones. On 10 May 1963, Dick Rowe and George Harrison were judges at a local talent competition at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. George told Dick Rowe about a band he had seen who were very good. Dick returned to London and saw the Rolling Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond where they had a residency. Four days later he signed them to Decca. Their first single was Chuck Berry’s Come On, which was re-recorded at Decca Studios and released on 7 June. It reached number 21 in the charts. Shrewdly, manager Andrew Oldham wanted to retain the performing rights of the music and he produced most of the Stones’ other records at independent studios and then leased them to Decca.

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Despite being lumbered with the tag of the man who turned down The Beatles, Dick Rowe in fact had a long and successful time at Decca. He went on to sign The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, Them (with Van Morrison), The Small Faces, Lulu and Tom Jones among many others. He died from diabetes in June 1986 at his home in Greenwich.

A rich history
What of the studio itself?

The building in Broadhurst Gardens was built around 1884 as a workshop and then converted into West Hampstead Town Hall. Despite its name, this was not a public building but a private venue that could be rented for weddings and concerts.

In 1928, it became the recording studio of the Crystalate Record Company. During the depression of the 1930s, small independent record companies struggled to survive. Decca and EMI bought most of them and became great rivals. EMI opened its Abbey Road studios in November 1931, and in 1937, Crystalate was acquired by Decca which moved all its recording to Broadhurst Gardens. Thousands of records were made here by Decca until the company left in 1981. As well as many classical records, these included sessions by David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tom Jones, Lulu, Van Morrison, The Moody Blues, and Eric Clapton with John Mayall.

In its final form there were three main studios at Decca:
Studio 1: straight ahead as you entered the building, with the control room upstairs above the studios. This was used for many pop records.
Studio 2: a smaller room, was downstairs and was the main rock & roll and blues studio.
Studio 3: was opened in 1962 at the back of the building, and was large enough to take a full orchestra. Bing Crosby made one of his last albums, Feels Good, Feels Right, here in August 1976.

In 1974, The Moody Blues did a deal with Decca and took over Studio 1 as their Threshold Studios. They had made their previous albums at Decca and they recorded Long Distance Voyager at Threshold.

In 1980, Sir Edward Lewis, who created Decca in 1929, died. The company was sold to Polygram, and is now part of the Universal Music Group. The building on Broadhurst Gardens is now Lilian Baylis House, used by the English National Opera who took it over in November 1981.

Back in October 2017, I was asked by a Dutch radio station to give them a tour of the old Decca studios – it was also filmed and you can watch it here (the first bit is in Dutch, but the rest is all in English)

Hallelujah! Local carol singer raises £100,000 over 40 years

One of the best things about Christmas is the carol singing. It get’s you into the spirit of Christmas and those singing are raising money for good causes, a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.

Well done Tessa Henderson (not in the picture as she was taking it) and her friends. Merry Christmas.

Every Christmas since 1977, West Hampstead resident Tessa Henderson has been organising her friends to go carol singing. They have had a pitch at Waterloo Underground ticket concourse for two evenings in the run-up to Christmas. I write ‘they’ because she couldn’t have done it without the support of friends and family, but she is very much the driving force behind it.

Tessa says “It’s all down to the tireless energy of the singers and collectors who come year after year.  I just do a bit of organising. It’s an amazing feeling to raise that kind of money just from opening your mouth”.

These aren’t just any carol singers. Tessa has been singing all her life and has recruited friends from renowned amateur and professional choirs, including over the years, a few who were members of the ROH and ENO chorus. It is hard work singing for more than two hours non-stop, in a chilly underground station, but it is also great fun and rewarding to be part of such an incredible fundraising effort.

Over the 40 years, they have raised money mainly for Save the Children, although in the early years they also raised some money for Shelter, Oxfam and Marie Curie. Thalea Turowski of Save the Children says “Huge congratulations to Tessa Henderson and the Waterloo carollers on their 40th anniversary! The incredible amount of over £100,000 raised during that time makes it possible for Save the Children to help children in the UK and around the world when they need us the most – thank you so much for your amazing support!”

In the first year, they raised £268.30 setting off on a journey, which, 40 years later, would see her reach the grand total of £100,160. To help reach that, in lieu of presents for her recent birthday she asked for donations to Save the Children, and this year she has set up a 40th anniversary Just Giving page.

The carol that gets the best response? Ding Dong Merrily on High! (Click on the link to hear them in action).

Opera Up Close and Personal at ENO on Broadhurst Gardens

Over on Broadhurst Gardens the English National Opera (ENO) has launched its ENO Studio Live programme. This involves performances in the former Decca studios, made famous by recordings by the likes of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and others. For a reminder of what the building is like from the inside we went back stage last year.

But now you get a chance to go backstage too as part of the ENO Studio Live programme, which will be showcasing rising talent in the British opera scene. The productions are performed in English and are fully staged. The idea was conceived by Daniel Kramer, the ENO’s Artistic Director, who felt that the opportunity to open up the famous studios for audiences to see the work of up-and-coming directors was just too good to be missed.

The Day After rehearsal

The Day After rehearsal

These days the studios are primarily used as rehearsal rooms and business administration offices by the ENO. It is relatively rare for the building to be open to the public so this new programme offers the chance to attend intimate opera performances in a place of historical importance to the music industry. With a capacity of just 200 the audience will be much closer to the performers than they would most likely be at a more traditional opera venue.

The directors of the two productions are both in their 20s. Matthew Monaghan, director of Trial by Jury, told West Hampstead Life that ENO Studio Live is a great way to support the next generation of directors by giving them the opportunity to have their own shows, working with full choruses and celebrated performers. He also stated that the shows will be performed in a very special space where operas are rehearsed and where talent is developed.

The Day After rehersal

The Day After rehersal (Richard Peirson, James Henshaw, and Nicholas Ansdell- Evans)

The first production is the UK premier of The Day After, a new opera by Jonathan Dove which based on the Greek mythological story of Phaeton. The opera is directed by Jamie Manton and is conducted by James Henshaw with a full chorus and stage productions. This is showing on 26, 27, 30 and 31 May at 7.30pm

This is followed by Trial by Jury on 3, 6 June at 7pm, 5 June at 7pm and 8.30pm. This production is a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan satirising the pomposity of the law. This opera originally ran in the 1870s but has been updated for modern times including a satirical take on celebrity culture. Trial by Jury is directed by Matthew Monaghan and is conducted by Martin Fitzpatrick.

Tickets for ENO Studio Live are £25, with a buy-both discount of 20% available online and from the box office. For further details visit the ENO website at or call the box office on 020 78459300.


The Good Ship late licence at risk

The late license of Kilburn’s popular music/comedy venue, The Good Ship, will be reviewed this Thursday. At the moment, it opens until 3am, but if the licensing committee rules follows the wishes of the police, it will be required to close at 2am – crucially with the last entry at midnight.

You could be barred from entry after midnight

You could be barred from entry after midnight

Owner John McCooke says that a very significant percentage of the venue’s revenue is generated between midnight and 3am so the suggested measures would “effectively closes the venue at midnight, making the business unviable”.

If you don’t know The Good Ship, it’s a bar with a friendly stage that hosts an astounding number of bands, comedians, DJs, charity and community nights. Music ranges across all the genres from math rock to REM cover bands to jazz funk. It provides a valuable opportunity for new acts to get exposure and more established acts to practice new material – it’s pretty common to turn up for the comedy on a Monday night and see a household name added to the bill.

This decision is happening in the same month that a London night tsar has been appointed to champion late-night culture. Amy Lamé, who is the first person to fill the role, told the BBC ‘We need to stem the flow of those closures [of clubs and venues across London]. Long-time locals may remember the sad closure of Kilburn’s The Luminaire in 2010. This was a huge loss to the west London music scene, which began its inexorable march east.

There is inevitably some dispute about whether the Ship’s opening hours are contributing to antsocial behaviour. In the Kilburn Times, McCooke says reports of bad behaviour are exaggerated. My personal experience, and that of local friends, has always been that The Good Ship offers a fun night out and it’s certainly an important, vibrant contributor to London’s arts culture. How many more pubs and venues will be turned into coffee shops, bakeries and luxury flats? We wish John and team all the best of luck on Thursday.

Vera Lynn to Verdi: Go backstage at the ENO’s remarkable building

Welcome to the Tardis of West Hampstead.

Outside, people scurry past its flaking blue paint, barely noticing it’s there. But find a ruse to get in the door and you could get lost exploring for hours. There is a Bible Archive, but no holy books. There is a Rail Store and a Crew Room, which have nothing to do with the tube station across the road.

ENO building - Lilian Baylis House on Broadhurst Gardens

ENO building – Lilian Baylis House on Broadhurst Gardens

This is Lilian Baylis House, the English National Opera’s (ENO) rehearsal rooms tucked unassumingly down Broadhurst Gardens, and it is an unusual place. A meandering corridor concealed by Escher-like steps, which you must climb in order to descend, opens out into a vast hangar-like space. It’s disorienting. Are you underground or above? Which way did you come? And where is that singing coming from?

“Everyone who works here seems to love it because it’s so full of character,” says my guide Natasha Freedman. “There is something about the quirks of the building that make them nice spaces to work in.”

Perhaps its past plays a role. These walls have absorbed a century of celebrated musical history, with the ENO just the latest chapter.

Constructed as Victorian craftsmen’s workshops, the building served for a while as West Hampstead’s own Town Hall before becoming a recording studio in the 1920s for Vera Lynn and other big names of the day. Decca Records bought it in 1937. For almost half a century it recorded classical music and popular artists here, from big band leader Ted Heath, to Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

Broadhurst Gardens could have been as famous as Abbey Road given its history – but Decca only had itself to blame for missing that chance. In one of the music industry’s most notorious mistakes, its talent men auditioned The Beatles here in 1962 but turned them down. “Guitar bands are on the way out,” the band’s manager was told.

The studios closed in 1980 and were bought the next year by the ENO, which had outgrown its Coliseum home near Trafalgar Square. Today, it still needs to hire other rehearsal venues, despite three large spaces here. The site is now a confusing warren of different levels, stairs and corridors connecting three converted studios, all of it adapted to new uses rather than rebuilt.

ENO named the building after theatre producer and manager Lilian Baylis, who in the first half of the 20th century ran companies that evolved into the ENO, The Royal Ballet and the National Theatre.

Studio 2, deep in the bowels of the building where Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli once played, now has a grand piano, a wall of mirrors with barres – and a basketball hoop high on the wall that seems in keeping with the premises’ lived-in feeling.

“There is still evidence of the past, like the glass window in Studio 2 behind which all the recording equipment was,” says Freedman, who heads the ENO’s outreach division, simply called Baylis, which aims to bring opera to people who could not afford it or might never think of it.

“The building takes a good punishing, we’re moving equipment around all the time,” Freedman says.
Old soundproofing tiles still cover walls and ceilings, layered with pipes and cables that zigzag around the ENO maze. Doors in all directions are fitted with blue signs announcing the function of the rooms they guard, inside which are more discoveries.

“You can open a cupboard and it’s full of organised buttons – or another full of gentlemen’s shoes of every style,” says Freedman. “There’s one near our room full of underwear of all shapes and sizes.”
The building is long and thin and full of corners that never see daylight. It seems huge, having been extended to the back in the 1960s to house Decca’s giant Studio 3, which can fit a mock-up of a whole Coliseum stage.

During the opera season, the director, conductor, lead singers and chorus are here rehearsing for any of the three shows the ENO runs at one time. The singing you might occasionally just hear from outside will nearly always be in English, the language the company performs in.

The singers get fitted for their costumes here, occasionally giving a sense of time travel. “Walk down a corridor and you can hear a singer in one room having coaching and in the next, members of the costume department are doing fittings with their tape measures and pins,” Freedman says. Mozart’s doomed seducer Don Giovanni was here the other week to be measured up to meet his fate. Soon it will be the turn of the pitiful pirates and blundering bobbies of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance.

Since 2015 “LBH”, as its inhabitants call it, has got more crowded. The ENO’s off-stage staff – marketing, communications, administration and Baylis – all moved in from offices in St Martin’s Lane to help the cash-strapped company save money.

Lovely as West Hampstead is, can West End Lane really compete with the West End as a place to work?
Freedman smiles. “Um… for [my team] it’s great being close to the rehearsal rooms,” she says diplomatically. “Stuff is being created and made all the time. This increasingly feels like our home.”

Freedman says long hours mean there has been little time to explore the attractions of the area but named three ENO favourites: The Sherriff centre “very good church-cum-post office-cum-wonderful whatever a real community centre should be”; Wired coffee shop outside their front door; “We love Wired, everyone goes there to keep going”; and Vietnamese restaurant Pham House – “really lovely people and delicious food”.

Unsurprisingly, West Hampstead itself is not a priority for the ENO, although Freedman says she would love to find local partnerships to help reach teenagers who have never thought of opera before. “Camden as a borough is relatively well served in terms of the arts. Our focus is more on Brent, which is very poorly served.”

The ENO has links with secondary schools in the neighbouring borough. Students regularly come to the studios to watch rehearsals and see what goes into a production, from making hats to shifting stage sets.
Around 50 students spent a week here in the summer to create a project linked to ENO productions which involves performance, set and costume design and investigating some of the moral dilemmas shown on stage.

“Opera’s not just a museum piece written 200 years ago but is storytelling through music, drama and design,” says Freedman. “Once you start talking about opera like that with young people they totally get it.”

LBH is not open to the public, so how can a local get in to have a look? You could join the 110-strong no-audition-needed ENO Community Choir which meets here on Wednesdays (and where warmup exercises, to stick to the Dr Who theme, can include singing like a Dalek).

Frenchman Julien Molinet, a West End Lane resident since the summer, joined the choir after checking out the ENO – which he had never heard of – online. “It all looked a bit derelict and at first I thought it was a closed factory,” he said. “It was a real surprise when I walked in, the size of this place!”

Or you could email Baylis to join its community mailing list and be alerted to the next “Know the Show” in the spring – a one-day singing and drama workshop open to anyone who wants to get a feel of what it’s like to be an opera chorus member. For details of these events, email .

In case you never make it but were wondering about those rooms … well, the Rail Store is for clothes rails and the Crew Room is for stagehands. And the Bible Archive? For “costume bibles” from every production going back decades, minutely detailing all the designs, sketches, photos and alterations so that one day, it can all be brought back to life.

St Cuthbert’s showcases world-class pianists

Fancy enjoying some wonderful music performed by world-class musicians this summer – all within easy walking distance of West Hampstead?

The Fordwych Master Concerts series of performances, held at St Cuthbert’s Church, starts on June 13th with the outstandingly talented young Italian Scipione Sangiovanni, winner of second prize in the prestigious Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition.

Scipione photo

Following a marvellous inaugural concert in September involving both local and international musicians, the church has been host to musical fund-raising events for Save the Children and Camden Music Trust, and this summer the church launched its “Fordwych Master Series”.  Upcoming performers include pianists James Lisney and Piers Lane.

Good acoustics are not always achieved by church architects, but when Jeremy Allen re-designed St Cuthbert’s in the 1980s, he secured a hit: the “church in the bushes”, nestling in its pretty garden in Fordwych Road, turned out to be the perfect venue for small scale concerts.  Sadly it did not have a piano to match, but last year, after some fund-raising, investment by the church, and help from internationally renowned pianist Professor Frank Wibaud (a neighbour), the perfect piano for the church was at last in place.

St Cuthbert’s – and West Hampstead, can look forward to an exciting future, with more high quality professional performances, and opportunities for young musicians.  For more information visit the Fordwych Master Concerts website.

St Cuthberts Road   Church Piano

Steve’s Strange moniker from West Hampstead postman

Steve Strange, frontman of 1980s band Visage, has died in Egypt following a heart attack. He was 55 and best known for the Visage hit Fade to Grey.

Local historian Dick Weindling recalls how Strange (real name, Steven Harrington) picked up his unusual name:

“In 1978, Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived in Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, ‘You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange’. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979.”

Jack Bruce: the Cream of West Hampstead’s musical talent

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

The great singer, songwriter and bass player, Jack Bruce died age 71 on Saturday 25 October. Jack was best known as a member of the supergroup Cream. He lived in and around West Hampstead in the 1960s.

Born in in Bishopsbriggs, north of Glasgow, Jack was the son of Charlie and Betty Bruce, who were working-class parents with strong left-wing convictions.

My mother sang Scottish folk songs and my father was a huge traditional jazz fan of people like Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. But my older brother loved modern jazz. There’d be literally, physical fights in my house between my father and brother arguing about the role of the saxophone in jazz or something, real punch-ups.

As a teenager, Jack sang in a church choir, and won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music to study the piano and cello. Classically trained, Jack also played jazz and blues. To earn money he played in the Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband, but The Academy disapproved. Jack said; ‘They found out, and said you either stop playing jazz, or leave college. So I left college.’

In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of Alexandra Mansions on West End Green. Jack joined Alexis Korner’s ‘Blues Incorporated’, which included Graham Bond on organ, Ginger Baker on drums and Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. In 1963, Jack and Ginger joined Graham Bond, with John McLaughlin (guitar), to form the ‘Graham Bond Organisation’ (GBO). They were very popular and played numerous times at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. A session at Klooks was recorded by Decca next door and released as ‘One Night at Klooks Kleek’.

On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club. They moved to a flat at 25 Bracknell Gardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home in Alexandra Mansions. The phone books show they were still there in 1968. Later, with the success of Cream, they bought a house in Chalk Farm.

During their time in GBO, Jack and Ginger had a very fiery relationship both on and off stage, and in 1965 Bruce left the band. He briefly joined John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’ with Eric Clapton on guitar. In 1966 Bruce was with Manfred Mann’s band when they had a Number 1 hit with ‘Pretty Flamingo’.

In May 1966 Ginger Baker had approached Eric Clapton about forming a band. Eric suggested Jack should join them, not fully understanding how difficult they had found it to work together in the Graham Bond Organisation. However, Ginger agreed to try it out and the three of them rehearsed at his Neasden home, 154 Braemar Avenue.

#3166524 / 20th August 1967: (from left) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton

Cream was formed and they played their first gig at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, the band caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought Cream would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had already booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig – again at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August 1966.

Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek with Dick Jordan, remembers Ginger asking him how much they would get for the evening. He expected a grumpy response to the reply “£89”, instead, Ginger expressed surprise and thanks, as the bands he played with previously at Klooks had usually been on about £50. Maybe Ginger felt good because Cream were about to embark on their first US tour playing stadia for five-figure dollar sums each night. Cream’s popularity grew very quickly and the only other time they played at Klooks was on the 15 November. This gig was recorded next door at the Decca Studios. Planned as an EP it was not released, as the band saw LPs as the future.

After great success, Cream spit up in July 1968, with a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. In 1993, Cream were inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ and they reunited to play four sellout shows at the Albert Hall in May 2005, and three in New York in October.

After Cream split up Jack began recording solo albums such as, ‘Things We Like’ in 1968 and ‘Songs for a Tailor’ in 1969. He played in several bands but struggled with his heroin addiction. In 2003, Jack was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent a liver transplant. Although his immune system initially rejected the organ, he recovered and kept playing. But his poor health finally caught up with him in 2014 and he died at his Suffolk home.

Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, Jack Bruce: Composing Himself (2010). For more about Klooks Kleek, see our book, Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek.

Jazz night at The Wet Fish Café

Wet Fish Clement RegertThis month the Wet Fish is draped in guitars so owner André Millodot decided to invite a talented guitarist to lead his latest mid-week music night and say thank you to his guest Stephen Marlow, who made the guitars. French jazz musician Clement Regert brought along the rest of his trio, a drummer and a keyboardist who filled in the bass and harmonies.

We arrived for the second sitting just as the trio was kicking off. These music dinner events are very relaxed, as you’d expect from the Wet Fish, so you are seated and order when you are ready. The band played while we ate but diners were able to chat quietly and everyone paused to clap with gusto after each piece. In true West Hampstead-style we happened to be seated next to our real-life neighbours so took the opportunity to get to know them a bit better.

Mr Regert entertained everyone with his dry, young-Parisian humour and his playing was note perfect. The drummer carried the set despite softening the volume for the second sitting. A rousing and unexpected rendition of the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean finished off a very enjoyable, chilled midweek night out.

Wall of sound: Art guitars on display at local restaurant


The Wet Fish Café on West End Lane often showcases artists’ work on its tiled walls but, for another week, there’s a different kind of artwork on display.

West Hampstead resident Steven Marlow, builds professional-quality guitars for musicians, celebrity clients and collectors from all over the world, working closely with each customer to create bespoke instruments to their specifications. His guitars are in many celebrity collections, including those of Queen’s legendary guitarist Brian May and The Kooks’ frontman Luke Pritchard.

For his ongoing Art Guitars project, he collaborates with established and up-and-coming artists, most notably leading British artist Stuart Semple, to create these unique and striking works.

Steven said the Wet Fish Café was the logical place for his latest exhibition as “I’ve been going to the Wet Fish for years”.

For anyone interested in seeing Steven’s work, you have until 30th October to go and check out these beauties over brunch…


Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Polite apologies not required at Good Ship gig night

At a loose end on a Saturday night, we decided to check out the gigs at The Good Ship. After wandering down the hill, we stopped for a drink at Kilburn’s The Black Lion, intrigued by two things – the Burts Bees lipsalve at the bottom of my handbag and the fact that the only draught beer on offer was Guinness – what’s the story there, is it an Irish thing? [Ed: no, it’s a brewery dispute thing]

Across the road at The Good Ship we had missed the first couple of bands but arrived in time for new band Royal Youth, three young lads who make a lot of noise with one guitar, drum kit and voice. For such a new band they were incredibly tight. Their first song had echos of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android and their big sound reminded us of Muse. They have much time to continue to develop their own sound and I look forward to seeing them again one day.

Royal Youth

Royal Youth

Joe Mills followed, a strong acoustic guitarist/singer songwriter with a powerful voice that conveys great emotion. He kicked off with a wonderful irish ballad-type song but once joined by his band became less interesting including a Talking Heads cover (why do bands so often cover Talking Heads?).

The audience had thinned once headliner California Gypsies came on. This is a really likeable band from Camden whose line-up surprisingly includes a cello and a drummer/beat box. Their first song, Nothing is for Certain, reminded us of Darwin Deez. They introduced a cover of Common People with a polite apology and proceeded to deliver a brilliant upbeat rock reinvention of the song – I love it when bands can carry that off.

California Gypsies

California Gypsies

As usual the audience was an eclectic group of self aware teenagers, proud parents, middle aged music lovers and strange men in hats. It’s great to have bands on our doorstep, especially without a long overground ride home from East London.

Listen to the bands here:

The eventful life of singer and composer Turner Layton

Turner Layton was a great black singer, pianist and composer, who lived in Aberdare Gardens from the 1930s to 1978.

He was born John Turner Layton Jr. on 2 July 1894 in Washington D.C., the son of a singer, hymn composer and director of music at a local school. In 1915 John married Emma Lee and they had a daughter. John was studying at Howard University dental school when his father died in November 1916. There was no money to continue paying the fees and the family moved to New York. Here John began to sing and play the piano to make a living.

In 1917 he teamed up with Henry Creamer, who wrote the lyrics for the music Layton composed. They achieved success with some of the most popular songs of the day including; ‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans’ and ‘After You’ve Gone’ which became a million selling record for Sophie Tucker in 1918.

Layton wrote songs for stars such as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor and made his own first recording in 1921 for the Black Swan label.

In 1922 he formed a double act with Clarence Johnstone and they achieved considerable success when Layton played piano and they both sang. Layton and Johnstone performed in Harlem and were in demand for society events, including parties held by the Astors and Vanderbilts. They showed a more refined musical technique than most other black artists of the time and when Lord and Lady Mountbatten heard them sing, they suggested Layton and Johnstone should try their luck in England.

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

In May 1924 they opened at London’s Queen’s Theatre, in the revue ‘Elsie Janis at Home.’ They were an overnight success, partly because Edward, Prince of Wales raved about their performance and engaged them to play for his guests at St James Palace. Soon all of Britain wanted to see Layton and Johnstone. After topping the bill across the country, they decided to stay in England. The duo made more than a 1,000 recordings with sales exceeding 10 million records. Their BBC radio appearances meant they were equally popular at exclusive West End clubs such as the Café de Paris as in music halls such as the Hackney Empire, where they played to full houses. They were also popular in Europe and played in Berlin and Paris.

In the early 1930s, Clarence Johnstone had an affair with a married white woman. Raymonde Sandler was the wife of Albert Sandler, violinist and leader of the orchestra at the Park Lane Hotel. The Sandlers lived at 233 Goldhurst Terrace until they parted in March 1933.

Johnstone had signed a letter for Albert Sandler in May 1932 saying that he would leave Raymonde alone and giving his word that he would not see her again. But Sandler was later given evidence by Johnstone’s chauffeur of the dates when they had met. The public turned against Johnstone after the high profile divorce in 1934, when he was ordered to pay damages of £2,500.

Even though he married Raymonde in December 1935, bookings were cancelled and Layton and Johnstone faced demonstrations outside theatres they were playing.

Layton decided they had to dissolve the partnership and Johnstone was declared bankrupt in 1936. During the hearings it was revealed that between 1928 and 1935 they each had annual earnings of £64,000 worth about £3.5 million today. Johnstone had frittered his money away. In 1931 when his flat at Castelain Mansions, Maida Vale was burgled, it was reported he lost furs, a large diamond pendant, a diamond ring plus a platinum and diamond watch worth more than £6,000. After the divorce case, Johnstone and Raymonde returned to America, but he failed to revive his career and ended up working as a janitor. In 1939 he broke down and spent some time in a sanatorium. Raymonde divorced him and later remarried.

In contrast, Turner Layton continued to both work and tour successfully, from 1936 to the 1950s. He appeared in several films and during WWII he boosted troop morale with concerts and recordings. He retired soon after being the guest on Desert Island Discs in 1956. Layton’s description by a record executive as ‘a cultured fellow and a collector of early Augustus John drawings,’ was echoed by a friend who said he was, ‘a modest, soft spoken, and quiet individual – genteel, polished and cultivated.’

Turner Layton lived at 77 Aberdare Gardens and died at the Royal Free Hospital on 6 February 1978. His daughter A’Lelia Shirley Layton inherited his musical estate and left the copyright and royalties to Great Ormond Street. In the 1993 BBC Radio 4 play ‘After You’ve Gone,’ Layton was played by Clarke Peters and Lenny Henry took the part of Johnstone.

You can hear Layton’s wonderfully smooth tone singing ‘Deep Purple’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’.

Did Jimi Hendrix owe it all to West Hampstead’s Linda Keith?

Without a Cholmley Gardens resident, Jimi Hendrix might never have made it over to England and global stardom and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up hitting the ceiling of Klooks Kleek, the club over what is now The Railway.

A new biopic about Hendrix’s pre-fame years, All Is by My Side, has just been released in the US starring André Benjamin (aka André 3000) as Jimi, and Imogen Poots as his West Hampstead girlfriend Linda Keith.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) said he was inspired to write and direct this film after hearing an obscure instrumental recording by Jimi in 1970 called Send My Love to Linda.

In 1941, Linda’s actor father Alan (who had changed his name from Alexander Kossoff – he was the uncle of Paul Kossoff, the guitarist with Free) married Pearl Rebuck and together with Linda and her brother Brian, the family lived in 81 Cholmley Gardens from 1951 to Alan’s death in 2003.

Linda, who was born in 1946, had a far from conventional life. At 17, she became a model after she was discovered as an assistant at Vogue. Her first photo shoot was modelling hats for a spread in the Observer. She was photographed by David Bailey on numerous fashion shoots. Here she is in Soho in 1967 modelling an Ossie Clark outfit.

Her best friend was Sheila Klein, the daughter of a psychiatrist who lived in Frognal. Sheila was dating and then later married Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager. Linda was encouraged by Sheila to talk to the shy Keith Richards at a party and he fell in love with her. Linda said they had a shared interest in blues music.

West Hampstead Life reader Paul Ernest contacted us with his recollections:

Around 1964/65, I briefly dated a very pretty girl called Linda Keith who lived in Cholmley Gardens. She had a gold pendant that said Linda on one side and Keith on the other. She told me she was also dating Keith Richards and he was apparently tickled by the fact that their names were thus intertwined. Our dating came to nothing but I recently read in Keith Richards’ autobiography that she was the love of his life. I also heard that another friend, Neil Winterbottom, was driving her in his Mini for 1964’s midsummer dawn at Stonehenge, but he fell asleep and wrecked his car on a roundabout. Linda was thrown through the windscreen and suffered cuts and bruises. She said that in the hospital Keith Richards lent down and kissed her on the face, showing that she was not ‘a monster’.

Linda travelled with the Stones on their American tours and this was when she saw Hendrix. Arriving a month before the Stones she explored the New York music scene. Linda is interviewed in the documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’. She said she first saw him in May 1966 at the Cheetah Club in New York:

“I couldn’t believe nobody had picked up on him because he’d obviously been around. He was astonishing – the moods he could bring to music, his charisma, his skill and stage presence. Yet nobody was leaping about with excitement. I couldn’t believe it.”

Linda invited Jimi back to her apartment on 63rd Street where she played him a promotional copy of Hey Joe, a new record by Tim Rose. He was playing with Curtis Knight and the Squires because he didn’t own a guitar having pawned his. Linda lent him a white Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Keith Richards.

Jimi formed his own band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and Linda invited Sheila and Andrew Oldham to see Jimi but it was not a good evening. “It was a dreadful night,” she said. “Jimi was dishevelled in his playing and the way he looked. Andrew was weird as well. He didn’t want to know.”

Linda believed in Jimi’s unique talent and in August 1966 she invited Chas Chandler to hear Jimi play his regular mid-afternoon set at the Café Wha? Linda said that when Chas heard Jimi play the opening chords of his version of Hey Joe it just blew his mind.

Chas was still touring with The Animals, but then he brought Jimi to London and success. Keith Richards was concerned by Linda’s drug use in New York  (his own was yet to develop), and phoned her father Alan. Linda said, “When he walked into the Café Au Go-Go, I thought, God that looks like my father. He took me by the arm and marched me out.” Back in England her parents made her a ward of court and she had compulsory psychiatric treatment.

The relationship between Linda and Keith Richards had turned sour in the spring of 1966 when her drug habit came between them and she began to use acid and cocaine. Keith and Brian Jones wrote Ruby Tuesday in January 1967 about Linda.

Jimi’s visit to West Hampstead came when he sat in with the John Mayall band at Klooks Kleek on 17th October 1967. During the break, the drummer Keef Hartley remembers talking to a young American guitarist in what passed as the Klooks dressing room. “He was so shy that he did not respond to me. His manager, Chas Chandler, was showing him round the British clubs.”

It was agreed that Jimi could sit in for the second set and borrow Mick Taylor’s guitar. But when he picked it up he accidentally hit the low ceiling. After checking there was no damage to the guitar, Jimi Hendrix played a blistering set holding the right-handed guitar upside down, as he was left-handed. As he played he smiled as his Afro hair style got caught in the low hanging lights of the room.

In 1968, Linda made headlines when she went to an apartment in Chesham Place that Rolling Stone Brian Jones was using because it was close to his recording studios. She phoned a doctor, told him where she was and that she had taken an overdose. The police arrived and found Linda unconscious.

Brian came back to the flat after working all night and not knowing what had happened. He was shattered when the landlord asked the police to remove him. He protested to no avail that he only rented the flat for his chauffeur and had paid six months in advance. Linda recovered remarkably quickly and was released from hospital the next morning.

Linda lost touch with Jimi Hendrix but she said that just before his death he wrote to her saying he had written a new track called, See Me Linda, Hear Me, I’m Playing the Blues.

Linda now lives in New Orleans with her husband, record producer, John Porter. Jimi is currently framed on the wall of The Wet Fish Café.

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part three

Since publishing two stories last year (part one, ask part two), readers have suggested more musicians who lived in the area. Some stayed only briefly as their career was just beginning and they had young families.

Hank Marvin – Greville Place

Guitarist Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle as Brian Robson Rankin. When he was sixteen he came to London with his school friend Bruce Welsh and in 1958 they joined Cliff Richard’s band The Drifters after meeting their manager at the 2Is coffee bar in Old Compton Street. The band also included drummer Tony Meehan who had grown up in Sidney Boyd Court on West End Lane. After changing their name to The Shadows because of the US group called The Drifters, Cliff and the band achieved considerable success. Hank and his first wife Beryl were married in 1960 and lived in Greville Place about 1962. They had moved to Hendon by January 1963 when he legally changed his name to Hank Brian Marvin.

Ginger Baker – Mowbray Road, Brondesbury

In his autobiography, Hellraiser, Ginger Baker says he lived in Mowbray Road for a short period. He left the house because his wife Liz was pregnant and no children were allowed. At the end of November 1960, he moved to share a basement flat with fellow drummer Phil Seaman (who Ginger called ‘God’), in Ladbroke Grove. In 1966 Ginger formed Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.

Cream was one of the most successful British Supergroups and played their own mix of blues and jazz. In 1966 Eric Clapton was playing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Jack Bruce was in the Manfred Mann band and Ginger Baker was with the Graham Bond Organization (GBO). Because of Graham’s drug problems and erratic behavior, Ginger was effectively running GBO and wanted to form his own group. The three of them met at Ginger’s house, 154 Braemar Avenue, in Neasden to rehearse. The first Cream gig was at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, Cream caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought they would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August. They left the small clubs and were soon filling stadiums. (For more information see our book Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek).

Brian Jones – Weech Road

As is well known, Brian was a guitarist in the Rolling Stones. He was born in Cheltenham and came to London at the beginning of 1962 where he met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at Alexis Korner’s blues club in Ealing. Brian’s young girlfriend Pat Andrews arrived in April with their baby son Julian who was born in October 1961 and named after Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, the great American sax player. They had a short stay in a flat in Weech Road, opposite the Hampstead Cemetery, but were asked to leave because of the baby. Then they found a flat in Powis Square and Brian got a job in a civil service clothing store. Pat went to work in a laundry. But in September 1962 she took the baby and left Brian and he moved into the infamous Edith Grove flat with Mick and Keith.

About this time Brian took a job in the sports department of Whiteleys, the large store in Bayswater. The Stones became famous under their manager Andrew Oldham, but a rift developed between Brian and Mick and Keith. Then on the morning of 2 July 1969 Brian aged 27, died under suspicious circumstances in the swimming pool of his home in Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. Three days later the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park and Mick read a tribute to Brian. The Stones went on to become one of the most successful bands in the world.

Rod Mayall­ – Sherriff Road

Rod was the half brother of John Mayall from the second marriage of their father Murray Mayall, a jazz guitarist. Both the brothers became keyboard players in the 1960s. Rod played with several Manchester bands including Ivans Meads. In 1969 he was in the band Flaming Youth with a young Phil Collins. Rod said that he lived in Sherriff Road about 1970/71.

Doris Troy – Cholmley Gardens

Doris was an R&B singer and songwriter who was born in the Bronx and sang in her father’s Pentecostal choir. She sang with many soul singers before she co-wrote and recorded ‘Just One Look’ which reached US Number 10 in 1963. The song has been covered by The Hollies, Linda Ronstadt, and Bryan Ferry. She was a backup singer for James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Cary Simon and Nick Drake. In 1969 she came to England and signed with the Beatles Apple Records and released her first album the following year. Throughout the 70s she worked in England and was known to her fans as ‘Mama Soul’. With her sister she wrote ‘Mama, I Want To Sing’, a musical based on her life which ran in both New York and London – Chaka Khan played her aunt in the London production. She was interviewed at her flat in Cholmley Gardens in 1974. Doris died in her home in Las Vegas in 2004.

Chaka Khan – Hilgrove Road, near the Belsize Road roundabout

Born as Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, Chaka Khan has had a singing career since the 70s. Known as the Queen of Funk, she has sold about 200 million records. In 1973 she was the lead singer in the band Rufus and the following year, their record ‘Tell Me Something Good’, reached Number 3 in the US charts. Between 1974 and 1979 with Chaka’s powerful voice they had six platinum selling albums. Her first solo album was in 1978. In 1980 she appeared as the church choir soloist in The Blues Brothers film with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. In a wonderful career Chaka has won 10 Grammy Awards and collaborated with people such as Ry Cooder, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. She has lived in London since the 1980s and was in Hilgrove Road, by the early 90s.

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Jon Moss – Burrard Road

Drummer Jon Moss was born in the Clapham Jewish Boys Home and was adopted when he was six months old by the Moss family in Hampstead. He went to Highgate School from 1970 to 1975. He had several jobs after leaving school, including working in his father’s clothing store, and as a tape operator at Marquee Studios. In 1976, after meeting Joe Strummer in Camden Town, he tried out as a drummer with the Clash. But this did not work and he joined Riff Regan in a band called London. After an injury in a car crash on New Year’s Eve 1977, Jon joined The Dammed. In 1981 he and Boy George formed Culture Club and achieved considerable success. Since then Jon has played in many other bands. In 1977 he was living in a flat in Burrard Road which he said was terrible; with no heating and no hot water and an electric meter. There was another local connection when he held his wedding reception in the wine bar on the corner of Aldred Road and Mill Lane.

Miles Tredinnick – 94 Fortune Green Road and Shootup Hill.
Steve Voice – Crediton Hill

Miles was a musician who called himself Riff Reagan in the 70s. In 1976 he put an advert in the Melody Maker for a drummer, which was answered by Jon Moss who had briefly been in The Clash. Jon came to Miles’ flat in Fortune Green Road in his father’s gold Rolls Royce and Miles thought it was a windup at first. With Steve Voice, who lived in Crediton Hill, they formed the punk band London. They rehearsed in a lockup garage just off the Kilburn High Road. Managed by Simon Napier-Bell, they played at the Marquee and toured with The Stranglers. The band broke up and Miles went on to be a writer of stage plays and scripts for Frankie Howerd. In the 80s he moved to Shootup Hill.

Steve Voice became a successful record producer. In 1985 he married Liza Rosen who had been Billy Fury’s lover for 14 years until he suddenly died in their St John’s Wood home in 1983. Liza and Steve had famous friends such as Paul and Linda McCartney and Morrissey sang at their wedding. But after eight years of marriage Steve, using large amounts of cocaine, became very violent and beat Liza up. They were divorced in 2000 and he died in America in 2003.

Charlie Dore – 3 Lymington Mansions

Chalie Dore is a singer, songwriter and actress who appeared in The Ploughman’s Lunch (1983). Her biggest hit was the 1980 ‘Pilot of the Airwaves’ which received considerable airplay in the US and reached Number 13. It was also the last record to be played on 5 November 1990 by Radio Caroline as an offshore radio station. Her songs have been recorded by Tina Turner, George Harrison and Celine Dion. Charlie lived in Lymington Mansions from 1978 to 1984.

Natalie and Nicole Appleton – Cheshunt House, Mortimer Estate, Kilburn
Melanie Blatt – Priory Road

Mel Blatt and Shazney Lewis formed the group All Saints in 1993.  After Simone Rainford left the group the Appleton sisters joined in 1996. Nic and Nat were two of the four daughters of Ken and Mary Appleton who had moved to Canada in the mid-1960s. About 1980, when Nat was seven and Nic was five, their parents split up and Ken returned to London with Nic and older daughter Lorri, while Nat and Lee the eldest child, stayed in Toronto with their mother. Eventually, the family reunited and the girls were brought up in Canada, New York and London. About 1981 they lived in Cheshunt House in Kilburn. Nic and Nat attended the newly opened Sylvia Young Stage School where Melanie Blatt became a friend of Nat’s.

All Saints, who were named after the road near the ZTT studio, had their biggest worldwide hit with ‘Never Ever’ which was Number 1 in the UK charts in January 1998. They became one of the most successful groups of the 1990s with sales of over ten million records, including nine top ten singles and platinum and gold albums. The group broke up in 2001 but reformed in 2006 to record a third studio album. However they did not tour as a group and each went on to have solo careers.

Nicole was married to singer Liam Gallagher and they lived in Hampstead. They split up in 2013. Natalie is married to Liam Howlett, the bass player with The Prodigy. Melanie Blatt had a daughter with Stuart Zender who had been a bass player with Jamioroquai. Mel and Stuart spilt up in 2006. She recently lived in Priory Road.

Roisin Murphy – 40 Brondesbury Villas

Roisin is a singer songwriter from Ireland. In 1994 she became part of the duo Moloko with her then boyfriend Mark Brydon and they released their first album in 1995. ‘The Time is Now’ was their most successful single reaching Number 2 in the 2000 UK charts. After they broke up Roisin continued with a successful solo career. She was living in Brondesbury Villas until recently.

Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, Peter Salisbury and Simon Tong – Brondesbury Villas

Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and Peter Salisbury formed The Verve in 1989 in Wigan. Guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong joined them later. At one time all the band, apart from Richard Ashcroft, lived in Brondesbury Villas. Their single ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ became a world wide hit in 1997. The band recorded four albums between 1993 and 2008 and broke up and reformed several times.

Thanks to ‘PostmanNW6’, John McCooke, Rod Mayall, Frida Siton, Jeff Banister, Paul Stone and Keith Moffitt for additional information.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part two

Errol Brown

Errol Brown

This is the second part of our trilogy. Here’s the link to part one.

Thanks are due to Ade Wyatt, Simon Inglis, Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Stan Tracy, and Dudley Moore –80 Kilburn High Road
This building, next to Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road, was full of jazz musicians. Singer Cleo Laine lived upstairs with bandleader and composer Johnny Dankworth. One of the early British jazz musicians, Dankworth composed music for many 60s films and he and Cleo often appeared on TV. After a long and successful career he died in February 2010 just as Cleo had organised a concert for him. She decided it would go ahead and the audience were shocked to hear about Johnny’s death.

Stan Tracy lived on the middle floor of the Kilburn High Road building. For many years he was the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1966 album called ‘Under Milk Wood’, a jazz suite inspired by the Dylan Thomas play, is one of the most celebrated jazz recordings. Already awarded an OBE, Stan was given a CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours list.

Out of work, Dudley Moore had returned from New York and Dankworth gave him a job as pianist in his band. Dudley slept on a sofa in Cleo and John’s Kilburn High Road flat. In 1960 Dud joined Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett in ‘Beyond The Fringe’ which became a huge success. For more than ten years Pete and Dud had a very successful double act on TV and then Dudley went to Hollywood and stardom with the 1979 film ‘10’. Dudley was a highly talented jazz pianist influenced by Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner, who regularly performed with his trio.

Maurice McElroy and Wes McGhee – West Hampstead
Maurice was born in Belfast and started to play the drums when he was thirteen. He was in local bands before he came to London at the end of the 60s. Maurice played drums in soul bands in US bases in Germany and then met singer-songwriter Wes McGhee. They have worked together since 1970 and both lived in West Hampstead. Since 2000 Maurice has played with guitarist Ben Tyzach and bass player Constance Redgrave in the band Spikedrivers.

Wes McGhee was from Leicestershire and played guitar in a local band when he was thirteen. After time playing in German rock clubs, Wes got a record deal with a division of Pye Records. This was not a good experience and Wes formed his own Terrapin Records label. After receiving positive US reviews, Wes went to Texas where he played with many of the leading local musicians. He has written music for theatre and TV.

Mike Hall – 30c Priory Terrace, 63 GondarGardens, and 21 Iverson Road
Keyboards player, Mike Hall was brought up in North Wales where he played in local bands and Lemmy, later of Motorhead, was a roadie. Mike came to London in the 1960s. He said:

In 1969 Christine Perfect offered me the job of keyboard player with her band when she left Chicken Shack and went solo. She then changed her mind and did the keyboard work herself, but only did one tour before marrying John McVie and joining Fleetwood Mac. Then I played with a band called Canterbury Glass. We made an album at Olympic studios, and had the pleasure of hearing the Stones and Humble Pie recording at the same time. I was also doing work with blues singer/harp player Duffy Power during this time; gigs including Les Cousins, and the Marquee, and we recorded a session at the Maida Vale studios for Mike Raven’s show for BBC radio.

He remembers the night in October 1967 at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, when he heard Jimi Hendrix sitting in with John Mayall’s band. In 1972 Mike moved to GondarGardens and played regularly with the Lee Lynch Sound. Lee was an ex-Irish showband singer, whose show included everything from Country music to Presley covers. Then Mike joined Union Express with tours in Englandand Europe, and recording sessions for a single in Decca Studios. In 1975 he began a three year course at Leeds College of Music, followed by night club, big band, cabaret and cruise ship work in many parts of the world. During his time on the QE2 Mike played for The Queen, Princess Diana, Lana Turner, Stewart Grainger, and many other movie stars. Today Mike has returned to North Wales where he still plays and teaches.

Joe Palmer – 250 West End Lane.
In the 1970s, Joe Palmer was one of the founders of the successful ‘Peelers’ folk club in 1968, and from that grew ‘Peelers,’ a popular folk group led by Joe, with Tom Madden, and Jim Younger. Their 1972 album Banish Misfortune used old acoustic instruments such as the dulcimer, banjo, tin whistle, guitar and concertina.

Joe ran a record shop at 250 West End Lane. Marianne remembers the shop – which later became a video rental store still run by Joe – as very dark, with painted walls. Today Joe Palmer lives in Spain and runs Sunshine FM on the Costa Blanca.

Brian Eno, Gavin Bryars, Evan Parker, Howell Thomas and Graham Simpson –28 Brondesbury Villas
In 1971 Brian Eno moved into a room in 28 Brondesbury Villas which had lately been vacated by Gavin Bryars, the composer and bassist. This was another house full of musicians. At the front was Evan Parker (sax); the pianist Howell Thomas lived below Eno and the late Graham Simpson, bass and co-founder of Roxy Music, had the ground floor. After this Eno moved to LeithMansions, Grantully Road, Maida Vale. But in 1994 he was back in a flat at 28 Brondesbury Villas. Eno was a member of Roxy Music from 1971 to 1973. He has worked as a producer with David Bowie, Coldplay, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Grace Jones, and U2 among many others.

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Blunstone – Inglewood House, West End Lane
Colin was the lead singer with a very distinctive voice in The Zombies. The band was formed in 1962 in St Albans by school friends, Colin, Rod Argent (keys), Paul Atkinson (guitar), Chris White (bass) and Hugh Grundy (drums). They signed to Decca and in 1964 released ‘She’s Not There’ which became their biggest hit. The breathy vocals of Colin and the jazz-tinged keyboards of Rod Argent was a noticeable feature of the Zombies and the song reached number 2 in the US. Their other well known song was ‘Time of the Season’ (1968). When the band broke up Colin began a solo career and he had some success in 1972 with ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which reached number 15 in the UK. He released several albums on Elton John’s record label and was the vocalist with the Alan Parsons Project. Colin was living in Inglewood House, on the corner of Inglewood Road and West End Lane, in 1972 and 1973.

Alan Lee Shaw – West Hampstead
Alan moved to the area in 1975 after art school in Cambridge. When the punk explosion began he formed a band called The Rings. He worked as a singer and guitarist with several other bands including, The Maniacs (1977), and The Physicals (1977 to 1980). Alan was with guitarist Brian James in other bands and then in the reformed The Damned from 1993 to 1995.

Phil Lynott – WelbeckMansions, Inglewood Road, and Embassy Court, West End Lane.
Philip Parris Lynott, singer and bass player, was born in West Bromwich but when he was four he went to live with his grandmother in Dublin. He formed the band Thin Lizzy in 1969 and they recorded their first album at the Decca Studios in 1971. They had big hits with ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (1973) and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ (1976). In 1973 he was in Welbeck Mansions with his girl friend Gale Barber. By 1976 Phil was living at Embassy House. His heroin addiction led to his collapse on Christmas Day 1985 at his home in Kew and he died on 4 January 1986.

Candy McKenzie – Kilburn
Candy worked as backing vocalist for many bands including Bob Marley, Aswad, Gary Moore, Go West and Leonard Cohen. Candy was living in Kilburn in 1977 when she went to Jamaicato record with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at his Black Ark studios. The album has been released as Lee Scratch Perry Presents Candy McKenzie. She married and in 2003 she was living in Willesden.

Annie Ross – 12a Douglas Court West End Lane, and Ellerton Mill Lane
Jazz singer Annie Ross was born as Annabelle Allan Short in Mitcham, the daughter of Scottish vaudeville performers. Her brother was the entertainer Jimmy Logan. When she was four the family went to America and she got work as a child singer and performer. As Annie Ross she began recording as a jazz singer in 1952. In 1958 she recorded an album with Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, and Chet Baker on trumpet. She is probably best know for her work with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks as the trio, Lambert Hendricks and Ross, who recorded seven best selling albums between 1957 and 1962. She left the group and came to London where she opened her own nightclub, Annie’s Room, in 1964. In addition to solo recordings and theatre work, she appeared in a number of films including, Superman III, Throw Momma from the Train, and Short Cuts.

Annie had a relationship with jazz drummer Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke and the comedian Lenny Bruce. In 1963 she married the actor Sean Lynch, but they were divorced in 1975 and he died soon afterwards in a car crash. She had drug and finance problems and became bankrupt in 1978. Annie lived at 12a Douglas Court (numbered so as to avoid the superstitious number 13), from at least 1978 to 1983 and then moved to Ellerton the block of flats in Mill Lane.

Adam Ant – Sherriff Road
Adam’s real name is Stuart Leslie Goddard and he grew up in St John’s Wood. Before he achieved success, Adam squatted in Sherriff Road. After working in several bands, Adam formed The Ants who played several times at the Moonlight Club in the Railway Hotel in 1978. Adam and the Ants had ten top ten hits from 1980 to 1982, including ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’. He then had a solo hit with ‘Goody Two Shoes’.

Clive Sarstedt – Kilburn and West Hampstead
Clive and his brothers Richard and Peter Sarstedt were born in India and the family returned to Englandin 1954. The three brothers all became musicians. Richard became Eden Kane who had a number one hit with ‘Well I Ask You’ in 1961. Clive Robin became Wes Sands and had a hit in 1976 with ‘My Resistance is Low’. Peter kept his name and had a huge hit single with ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’ which reached number one in 1969. Only Clive lived locally: he was in Kilburn in 1981 and West Hampstead in 1985. Clive, as Wes Sands, recorded his debut single ‘Three Cups’ in 1963 with the legendary producer Joe Meek, who was also his manager.

Hazel O’Connor – Hemstal Road
Singer, songwriter and actress, Hazel was born in Coventry. In 1980 she played punk rocker Kate in the film ‘Breaking Glass’. This won her a Best Actress award in Britain, and the soundtrack reached number 5 in the UKcharts. She has made more than twenty albums and appeared in numerous theatre, film and TV parts. During the 1980s Hazel lived in a flat on the fourth floor of Beacon House in Hemstal Road. One of the residents remembers the fans waiting outside and that Hazel used to walk her Alsatian dog on the roof. She now lives in Ireland.

Dave Dee – Wavel Mews
A neighbour says that David John Harman of the band, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, lived in Wavel Mews. The five friends from Wiltshire originally formed a band in 1961 called Dave Dee and The Bostons. In 1964 the name was changed to the more memorable Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, which were their nicknames. They had several hits between 1965 and 1969 and two of their singles, ‘The Legend of Xanadu’ and ‘Bend It’, sold over a million records each. David died in January 2009.

David Van Day – Wavel Mews
David Van Day and Thereza Bazar formed Dollar in 1978 and their first single ‘Shooting Star’ reached number 14. Later singles, ‘Love’s Gotta Hold on Me’, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Give Me Back My Heart’ each reached number 4. In 1981 David was living in Wavel Mews.

Lynsey De Paul – FairfaxGardens
She was born as Lyndsey Monckton Rubin in 1948. Her parents Herbert and Mena lived at 98 Shootup Hill. Herbert was a property developer. After leaving the HornseyArtSchool, Lynsey designed album covers and then began writing songs. In 1972 she performed her own song ‘Sugar Me’ which reached the UK top 10 and was covered in the US by Nancy Sinatra. She has had written many other successful songs and appeared on TV.

Jimmy Nail – 50 Maygrove Road
Actor and singer, Jimmy Nail was one of the stars of the TV series Auf Wiedersehen Pet. When filming finished in 1983 he had what he called his first proper London home at 50 Maygrove Road. When the show was first shown Jimmy said:

I walked along to the end of the street and on to the Kilburn High Road to get a newspaper and read a review of the show, if there was one. All of a sudden all these car horns were honking. I wondered what all the fuss was about, until I saw people hanging out of their cars pointing, waving and shouting — at me. People in the street were coming my way, lots of them. I ran home with a mob on my tail, got in and locked the door. People were climbing up the railings and peering through the windows. I hid behind the settee and wondered what had happened. Fame had happened, and I was woefully ill-prepared for it. I didn’t know what to do. Everywhere I went there was madness. It was more than fame, it was hysteria. People believed Oz was me and I was him. I tried to explain he wasn’t real, but they didn’t want to know.

From Jimmy Nail’s autobiography, ‘A Northern Soul’, 2004

Jackie McAuley – Kilburn
Born in Northern Ireland, singer and guitarist Jackie McAuley was a member of Them with Van Morrison. After the breakup of the band, Jackie kept the name as Them Belfast Gypsies. He latter teamed up with Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble and recorded as Trader Horne. In the 70s and 80s Jackie was a session player on records by Jim Capaldi and Rick Wakeman. He also worked with Lonnie Donegan’s band and set up a Celtic rock band called Poor Mouth.

Barry Mason – 22 Priory Terrace
(John) Barry Mason is an important songwriter who has written hundred of songs including ‘Delilah’, Tom Jones’ big hit. Elvis recorded Mason’s ‘Girl of Mine’ and Rod Stewart did ‘That Day Will Come’.

Craig Collinge – Woodchurch Road
Craig was born in Sydney and started playing drums at a young age with local bands. He came to London in 1969 and joined Manfred Mann Chapter Three. He also played with Third World War, Shoot and the Frankie Reid Band. Craig also toured with Alan Price. In 1973 the manager of Fleetwood Mac put together a band, without any of the original members, to complete their remaining engagements. Craig joined the band after answered an advert in the Melody Maker, and toured with them until the manager was sued. He returned to Australia about 1976.

Chrissie Hynde – Canfield Gardens
American born Chrissie moved to London in 1973 and formed The Pretenders in 1978. Their first album was released in December 1979 and they have made eight albums. Two of the original members, James Honeyman-Scott and Peter Farndon both died of drugs.

Stewart Copeland and Sonja Kristina – Hillfield Road
Stewart was born in Virginia, the youngest son of Miles Copeland, a CIA officer. He came to Englandin 1975 and was a roadie for Wishbone Ash and Renaissance and the tour manager for Curved Air and Joan Armatrading. Stuart formed The Police in 1977. In 1978 he had a flat in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead which he shared with Sonja Kristina, the lead singer of Curved Air. In September 1978 Stewart and Sonjamoved to 21 LenaGardens, Shepherd’s Bush. They were married in 1982 and had three children. They split up after sixteen years when Stuart moved to Los Angeles.

Edwyn Collins – West Heath Studios, Mill Lane, and Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Edwyn formed the band Orange Juice in 1979 and their single ‘Rip It Up’ went to number 8 in the charts. His big solo hit was ‘A Girl Like You’ in 1994. This was recently used in a 2012 TV advert. In 2005 he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage but has now recovered and is performing again. He has recorded and produced records at his West Heath Studio in Mill Lane. He lives in Kilburn with his wife Grace.

Paul Cook – Kilburn
Paul Cook the drummer with the Sex Pistols, grew up in Hammersmith. About 1972, Paul and school friends Steve Jones and Wally Nightingale formed a band called The Stand. By 1975 they became the Sex Pistols and achieved success with their manager Malcolm McLaren. After a final Pistols concert in San Francisco in January 1978, Paul and Steve Jones continued working together with a new band called The Professionals. In the early 80s they discovered Bananarama and Paul Cook produced their first album Deep Sea Diving. Cook joined a re-formed Sex Pistols and they were a headline act at the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival. He has played with several bands, including that of Edwyn Collins. He lived in Kilburn about 1977/78.

Annabella Lwin – near Sumatra Road
In 1980, fourteen years old Annabella had a Saturday job in a Kilburn dry cleaners when she was discovered by a colleague of Malcolm McLaren. She auditioned and McLaren made her lead singer with Bow Wow Wow, which was made up of several members of Adam Ant band. Their first top ten hit was ‘Go Wild in the Country’ (1982).

Steve Severin and Spizz – Priory Road
Steve (Stephen John Bailey) was the bassist and co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1976. Around 1980 he had a flat in Priory Road which he shared with Spizz 77 (Kenneth Spiers), the singer with a punk band who changed their name often.

James Honeyman-Scott – Westside, 55 Priory Road
In 1981 Jimmy, the guitarist with The Pretenders, was living in Priory Road. He died from heart failure associated with cocaine in July 1982, aged just 25.

Jeremy Healy, Kate Garner and Paul Caplin (Haysi Fantayzee) ­– Sandwell Mansions, West End Lane
Formed in 1981, the members of Haysi Fantayzee were living in a West Hampstead flat owned by Paul Caplin. One night Jeremy wrote the lyrics to oddly titled, ‘John Wayne is Big Leggy’. He woke everyone up and announced that he had written their first hit. In 1982 this reached number 11. Kate Garner went on to become a successful photographer.

Don Powell – 37 Platts Laneand 23 Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Don was the drummer with Slade, a Wolverhampton band. In 1973 he had a serious car crash and his girlfriend was killed. He bought a flat in Platt’s Lane in 1976 and lived there until about 1980 when he moved to Cavendish Mansions. He was in Cavendish Mansions until 1985. Slade were formed in 1969 and became very popular, making over 30 albums. The original band broke up in 1992. Don Powell now lives in Denmark.

Barrie Masters – Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Singer Barrie was an original member of the band, Eddie and the Hotrods formed in CanveyIsland in 1975. He lived in Cavendish Mansions in the early 1980s. After gained a reputation as a live act they had a residency at The Marquee in 1976. The opening act was The Sex Pistols playing their first London gig. The Hotrods most successful record was ‘Do Anything You Wanna To Do’ which reached number 9 in 1977. That year they toured the US with The Ramones and Talking Heads. There were various personnel changes: one of the first to leave was Eddie, who was a tailor’s dummy. The band disbanded in 1981 and Masters joined The Inmates, other members joined The Damned. Later Barrie rejoined the band and The Hotrods have made over a dozen studio and live albums. They are still touring and in 2012 they supported Status Quo.

Tony Bagget – Kilburn
Tony is a bass player who still lives in Kilburn. He was in the punk band Cuddly Toys which formed in 1979 from a previous group. Their first release was ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan shortly before his death. It reached number 3 in the UK Indie Chart.

Seal – Brondesbury Villas
Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel, to give him his full name, was born in Paddington in February 1963. His mother was Nigerian and his father was Brazilian. He spent his infant years with a guardian away from his family. After four years he was reunited with his family and grew up with his older sister and four younger siblings in Kilburn. His best known hit was ‘Kiss From A Rose’ which won a Grammy Award in 1996. He married the model Hedi Klum in 2005 and they divorced in 2012.

Paul Jones – 182 Willesden Lane, and Garlinge Road
Paul is the singer and harmonica player with The Blues Band. He was born as Paul Pond in Portsmouth in 1942, the son of a Royal Navy Captain. He sang with Manfred Mann’s band from 1962 to 1966 and they had hits with ‘5-4-3-2-1’ and ‘Do Wah Diddy’. The Blues Band was formed in 1979 by Paul and guitarist Dave Kelly. Today Paul hosts a regular rhythm and blues show on BBC Radio 2.

Ronnie Scott – Messina Avenue
Jazz club owner and tenor saxophonist, Ronnie Scott was living in Messina Avenue in 1981 when he was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours. He helped Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek at the Railway Hotel, by allowing famous American jazz players to perform there before they played at his Frith Street club. Ronnie also played several times at Klooks on jazz nights.

Errol Brown – 84 Hillfield Road. Tony Wilson – 64 Hillfield Road
The founders of Hot Chocolate both lived in Hillfield Road. Born as Lester Errol Brown in 1948 in KingstonJamaica, at the age of 11 Errol and his mother came to England. He said: ‘To begin with we lived in a room of a cousin’s big house in Gipsy Hill, South London.’ When he was 14 they moved to 84 Hillfield Road, West Hampstead and he went to Warwick House, a small private school at 30 Lymington Road. Errol continued:

In 1968, through mutual friends, I met Tony Wilson whose flat was almost opposite mine. Tony and I formed Hot Chocolate, and I sat down and wrote new words to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”. We demoed the song but being so new we had no idea you needed permission. The guy that paid for the recording sent it to the Apple label for John’s approval. We all laughed but four days later he called and said: “John Lennon loves it and wants to put it out straight away!

In 1970 the debut single of Hot Chocolate, ‘Love is Life’, reaches number 6 in the UKcharts. A string of hits followed including, ‘It Started with a Kiss’ and ‘Everyone’s a Winner’. In 1981 the band performed at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding reception. In 1997 their previous 1975 hit, ‘You Sexy Thing’, was revived in the film ‘The Full Monty’. It’s believed that Errol may have later lived near Sherriff Road.

Michael Jeans – West Hampstead
A classically trained oboe player, Michael performed with John Williams on the soundtrack of Star Wars in 1980. He has been in the band Talk Talk since 1988, with the violinist Nigel Kennedy. Michael has made two solo albums, Eagle on the Wind (2002) and Leather and feathers (2005).

Sheena Easton – Mill Lane
In 1981 Sheena moved from a shared flat in south London to her own flat in Mill Lane. She was born in Scotland as Sheena Shirley Orr in 1959. The 1979 BBC TV documentary, Big Time, which followed her progress in the music business, propelled her to success. Her theme song for the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, was a top ten hit in the UK and US. Sheena has had a very successful career winning two Grammy Awards, achieving seven Gold albums and one Platinum and has sold over 20 million records worldwide.

Geno Washington – 212 West End Lane
In 1983 Geno co-owned a basement restaurant at 212 West End Lane, but he probably did not live there. About 10.30 he would sing blues songs such as ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Got My Mojo Working’ to the diners. Born in Indiana, Geno was stationed in Englandwith the US Air Force in the 1960s. In 1965 he was asked by guitarist Pete Gage to front his band which became Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. They played in all the London Blues clubs including West Hampstead’s Klooks Kleek, and had two best selling live albums in 1965 and 1966. In 1971 Gage formed Vinegar Joe with ElkieBrooks and Robert Palmer in the early 1970s. Kevin Rowland’s big 1980 hit ‘Geno’ was based on hearing Washington at gigs where the fans shouted ‘Geno! Geno! Geno!’ Washington is still performing today.

Jimmy Somerville – 12a Inglewood Rd
In 1983 Jimmy Sommerville co-foundered Bronski Beat with the other members of the band. They had a hit with their first record, ‘Smalltown Boy’. In 1985 Jimmy and Richard Coles formed The Communards. Their record ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ stayed at number 1 for four weeks in 1986. After two years he went on to a successful solo career.

Loudon Wainwright III – Inglewood Road
Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright was born in North Carolina in 1946. His father who was an editor for Life magazine, played piano and the records of Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg to his children and these had an influence on young Loudon. He started playing guitar in the late 1960s and while living in Rhode Island he wrote about 20 songs in a year. He was discovered when he was playing in New York folk clubs and released his first album on Atlantic Records in 1970. He is perhaps best known for his 1972 novelty song ‘Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road)’. In 1974-75 he played the part of Captain Spalding, the ‘singing surgeon’ in several episodes of the hit TV series of M*A*S*H. He has also appeared in several films, such as The Aviator and Big Fish. He was the regular singer on Jasper Carrott’s TV show in the late 1980s. Wainwright has recorded over 20 albums, several of which were nominated for Grammy Awards and in 2010 won a Grammy for High Wide and Handsome. In 1986 he lived in a top floor flat in Inglewood Road.

Herbie Flowers – West Hampstead Mews
In the late 1980s renowned bass player, Herbie Flowers had a recording studio in his house in West Hampstead Mews. He was a member of Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky. Herbie was a session player on hundreds of records, including those by Elton John and David Bowie. He is best known for the bass introduction on Lou Reed’s 1972 ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

Kevin Rowland – West Hampstead, Marlow Court Willesden Lane
Kevin achieved success with Dexy’s Midnight Runners which was formed in Birmingham in 1978. Their record ‘Geno’ about Geno Washington was a number 1 hit in 1980. ‘Come On Eileen’ was another number 1 in 1983. They disbanded in 1987. In an interview for The Guardian he said that in 1987, with the music business closing its doors and his self-esteem at an all-time low, he sought out cocaine. At his worst, he was spending £360 a night. Friends and family were frozen out. ‘Drug dealers were my gods.’ The following year he went bankrupt with debts of over £180,000. Evicted from his flat in West Hampstead, Kevin got a place in Willesden, stopped paying the rent and squatted. In 2012 now known as just Dexy’s they released a fourth studio album after 27 years.

Nick Beggs – Priory Terrace
In 1979 bass player Nick Beggs formed the band Art Nouveau, with Steve Askew, Stuart Croxford Neale and Jez Strode. Chris Hamill (who used the name Limahl), joined the band in 1981 and it was renamed Kajagoogoo. In 1983 their first single, ‘Too Shy’ reached number 1in the UK Singles Chart. After Limahl and Strode left, the three remaining band members worked as Kaja. A reformed Kajagoogoo with Beggs, Askew and Neale toured in 2004. Since then Limahl and Strode have both rejoined and the band has toured extensively over Europe in 2008 and 2009. Nick Beggs has worked with a large number of other musicians including, Howard Jones, ABC, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, D:Ream, Gary Numan, and Kim Wilde.

Bros – Exeter Road
Twins Matt and Luke Goss, together with Craig Logan formed Bros in 1986. They had eleven top 40 singles and three Top 20 albums, making them one of the biggest acts between 1988 and 1991. They reached number one when ‘I Owe You Nothing’ was reissued in 1988. They continued having hits throughout the late 1980s, including ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’ and ‘Too Much’, both which made number 2 during 1988 and 1989. About 1988 and 1989 they are believed to have lived in Exeter Road, near Kilburn Station.

Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte – West Hampstead
Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte are guitarists, song writers and record producers who live in West Hampstead. In 1977 Boz formed a band called Cult Heroes which became The Polecats and they released a single, ‘Rockabilly Guy’ in 1979. The following year they made their most successful album, Polecats Are Go! They had success in the UK and US charts.

Since 1991, Boorer and Alain Whyte have worked closely with Morrissey. The distinctive sound which Boorer and Whyte produced has been credited with revitalizing Morrissey’s career. Boorer has made solo albums and worked with other artists including Adam Ant, Joan Armatrading, Kirsty MacColl, Jools Holland and Edwyn Collins. Alain Whyte is best known for being Morrissey’s song writing partner, but he has also written material for Madonna, Rihanna, Chris Brown and The Black Eyed Peas. In 2005 he was with a band called Red Lightning.

Bernard Butler– Fawley Road
In the early 1990s Bernard lived in Fawley Road in West Hampstead. He was the guitarist with Suede who were formed in 1989. The original band consisted of Brett Anderson, vocals, Bernard Butler, guitar, Matt Osman, bass, and Simon Gilbert on drums. Their best selling debut album, Suede was released in 1993 and it won the Mercury Music Prize. Their second album Dog Man Star was recorded in 1994 at Master Rock Studios in Kilburn. In 1994 Bernard formed the duo McAlmont and Butler with singer David McAlmont who lived in Belsize Road. In 2004 Butler and Brett Anderson reunited with the band The Tears.

Bernard has worked as a producer on a number of records at Edwyn Collins’s West Heath Studios in Mill Lane. He has worked with Duffy on the five million selling album Rockferry. He has produced records for the Black Kids, Cajun Dance Party, the 1990s and many other groups. In 2008 and 2009 Butler won several best record producer awards.

Natalie Imbruglia – Goldhurst Terrace
Australian born singer, actress and model, Natalie, lived in the area since 1998. After appearing in the TV soap Neighbours from 1992 to 1994, she began a singing career and her debut album, Left of the Middle (1997), has sold over 6 million copies. Her best selling single, ‘Shiver’ reached number 1 in 2005. In 2010 Natalie was a judge on The X Factor and she has continued her singing and acting careers.

Alexander O’Neal – West Hampstead
R&B singer Alexander O’Neal was born in Natchez, Mississippi. He has lived in London since about 1999. He said in an interview, ‘I spent nine months of every year travelling between the States and England.’ He released his first album in 1985, and the 1987 single ‘Fake’ was number one in the American R&B chart. Other successful records were, ‘If You Were Here Tonight’ which reached number 13 in the UK, and ‘Criticize’ which was number 4 in the UK in 1987.

Lord Eric Carboo – Kingsgate Road
Still living in Kilburn, Lord Eric is the leader and percussionist with Sugumugu, an African drumming and dance group. He has worked for many years performing and promoting The Master Drummers of Africa.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – West Hampstead
In 2002 singer and model Sophie Ellis-Bextor lived in a West Hampstead flat with her manager Andy Bond. In 1997 she came to prominence as the lead singer with indie band Theaudience. After two years the band split up and she went solo. In 2000 she added vocals to Italian DJ Spiller’s instrumental ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ which went to number 1, and the record won several awards. Her single ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ became Europe’s most played record in 2002.  Sophie has now made five albums and she is a contestant in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. She is married to bass player Richard Jones and they have three children.

Rachel Stevens – West Hampstead
Rachel lived in a Hampstead flat for three years before buying a mews house near Fortune Green Road in 2004. She was a member of the pop group S Club 7 who had a TV series in 1999. During the five years they were together the group had four UK number 1 singles and a number 1 album. They sold 14 million albums worldwide. After they disbanded in 2003 Rachel began a solo career. She has appeared in several films and the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Elliott Randall – Kilburn
It is not known how long American guitarist Elliott Randall has lived in the Kilburn area. Elliott is a session guitarist who has played on hundreds of well known records. He grew up in New York where he was a friend of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. They moved to LA and became Steeley Dan, releasing their first album Can’t Buy a Thrill in 1972. They asked Elliott to record guitar solos and he best known for his work on ‘Reelin in the Years’. Reportedly, Jimmy Page said this is his favourite guitar solo. Elliott also played on Steely Dan’s later albums Katy Lied (1975) and The Royal Scam (1976). As a session player he has worked with John Lennon, The Doobie Brothers, Carly Simon, ElkieBrooks, and Peter Frampton. Elliott gives workshops and plays with bands here and in the US. There is a great duet with Mick Abrahams on YouTube:

Adam Sieff – Kilburn
After living in Willesden, Adam has lived in Kilburn for the last three years. Adam is a guitarist and record producer and is currently executive producer at Gearbox Records. He has worked as a session player on records and for many TV shows including, Spitting Image, Who Dares Wins, Ben Elton and Fry and Laurie. Adam was the jazz manager at Tower Records for three years, Head of Sony Jazz for ten years and an original member of SellaBand, the first music crowdsourcing website. He has worked with artists such as Herbie Hancock, The Bad Plus, Martin Taylor, Clare Teal, Wasted Youth, Alex Korner, Wynton Marsalis, KebMo and Jazz Jamaica.

Stephen Lipson – West Hampstead
Currently living in West Hampstead, Stephen is a guitarist, record engineer and producer who has worked with many major musicians including; Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Cher, Annie Lennox, Paul McCartney and Jeff Beck. In 2006 with Trevor Horn who ran ZTT Records, Lol Crème, and Ash Soan, they formed a band called Producers to allow the friends to play as a break from producing records. They played gigs in CamdenTown and in 2012 they released an album, Made in Basing Street, named after the address of Sarm Studios.

Andrew McCulloch – Fordwych Road
Andy is a drummer who has worked with Manfred Mann, Greenslade, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and is best known for his work with King Crimson who he joined in 1970. He gave up drumming to peruse his love of boats, and now charters his own yachts and teaches sailing.

Sean Taylor – Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Sean Taylor was born and still lives in Kilburn. He has played at the Glastonbury Festival four times. Sean released six albums between 2006 and 2013. One of the tracks on his 2012 album which was recorded in Austin Texas, was called ‘Kilburn’ and can be heard on YouTube. Another track celebrates ‘Biddy Mulligans’ the pub on the corner of the High Road and Willesden Lane.

Flutes – Kilburn
Formed in Glasgow, Flutes are Godfrey McFall (lead singer and guitar), Andy Bruce (bass, vcls and piano), Alex Bruce (drums, vcls), and Robert Marshall (guitar, piano, and vcls). Their debut album was called Flutes (2012). They have a single called ‘Kilburn’ which was released in 2013, and they say that they have all lived in Kilburn. The video can be seen on YouTube.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part one

Our new book - available from West End Lane Books, published by The History Press

Our new book – available from West End Lane Books

To coincide with this we will be doing an illustrated talk at West End Lane Books on Monday 18 November at 7.30. Come along to hear the true story about the Beatles failed audition at Decca, the evening that Jimi Hendrix played at Klooks, as well as the other great people who played at the club which was run in the Railway Hotel for nine years.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn
A little while ago I met guitarist Adrian Wyatt and we began talking about the surprising number of musicians who had lived in the area. Ade has been involved in music for many years. In 1975 he moved into Tower Mansions in West End Lane, and for two and a half years worked in Macari’s Music Shop in the Charing Cross Road, selling guitars, keyboards, and amps. The punk movement was blossoming, so one minute he was serving Mickie Most, the next, Mick Jones and Glen Matlock.

In 1978 Ade went to Australia for six months with a rock concept band called World, and when he returned he found his flat was playing host to a whole swathe of new rock and roll neighbours. These included, Wilko Johnson, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Lemmy and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, Billy Idol and Steve Strange.

From July 1980 to June 1981 Ade operated the sound system at The Moonlight Club at The Railway Hotel. Here he heard early gigs by everyone from Pigbag to Tenpole Tudor, Birthday Party to Joy Division, Altered Images to The Pretenders, Flock of Seagulls to U2, Depeche Mode, Squeeze, and ABC.

In the early eighties Ade joined The Vibrators (Mark IV) and he has played and toured with many bands. As a session guitarist he played with Joe Egan, B.A Robertson, Maggie Bell, and Oleta Adams. He is currently in the band ‘Dakota Red’ with singer-songwriter Sara Eker. She also lived locally in Dennington Park Road.

In addition to Ade Wyatt, thanks are due to Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

The following list of musicians is roughly in chronological order and as it has grown considerably, we will publish it in two blog stories. We have not covered classical musicians who lived here.

This is the most comprehensive list of people ever produced and we hope you find some surprises here. You can find lots of examples of the musicians work by searching on YouTube.

Max Jaffa – 5 Hillcrest Court, Shootup Hill
Violinist and band leader. Max lived in this block of flats for about two years in the 1930s. At the time his neighbours in Hillcrest Court were Joe and Elsa, the parents of Joan and Jackie Collins. Max Jaffa got his big break in 1929 with weekly BBC radio broadcasts. His ‘Palm Court’ style was very popular and in 1960 he did a summer season at Scarborough which he repeated for the next 27 years.

Joe Loss – 16 Kendall Court, Shootup Hill
The famous bandleader moved here in the late 1930s. His record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ sold over a million records in 1939. Astonishingly, he was awarded a 50 year contract with EMI and he played several times for the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Maurice Elwin – 16 CanfieldGardens
Born Norman McPhail Blair, Elwin’s obit in the local paper described him as, ‘one of the most recorded artists in the world.’ He made hundreds of 78rpm recordings under no less than 30 pseudonyms. He began in his native Glasgow singing ballads, moving on to popular songs and composing. In the 1920s and 1930s he regularly appeared with the Savoy Orpheans, the hotel’s big band led by the American Carroll Gibbons. There’s a short film of the band on British Pathe,

Maurice died in 1975 and was buried in HampsteadCemetery.

Wally Shackell – Bridge Street and 12 Hillfield Road
Singer Wally Shackell was born in Bridge Street at the bottom end of Kilburn in 1933. This area has since been redeveloped. In 1957 he joined The Five Dallas Boys and recorded ‘Shangri-La’ which was a minor hit. Most of the band came from Leicester and they appeared regularly on the TV shows, Six Five Special and Oh Boy. As a result of this they became national stars with a fan club of over 5,000 members. Wally went solo under the name of Jerry Angelo and made five records between 1959 and 1962, but they weren’t big hits. He now lives in Australia.

Dusty Springfield104 Sumatra Road
Dusty Springfield is considered by many people to be the greatest British soul singer. Her real name was Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, and she was born at 87 Fordwych Road on 16 April 1939. This was long believed to be the family home, but we found that the writer Jackie Collins was born at the same address, which was in fact a maternity home. Dusty was the daughter of Gerard and Catherine O’Brien, who lived at 104 Sumatra Road from about 1933 to 1939. Her father, who had grown up in India, was a tax consultant at 97 Lauderdale Mansions, Maida Vale. By 1944 they had moved to High Wycombe. Some years later they moved again to Ealing.

After leaving school in 1958 Dusty answered an advert for a female singing trio called the ‘Lana Sisters’. Then in 1960 she joined her elder brother Dion (who became Tom), and Reshad Field, to form The Springfields, a pop-folk trio. In 1963 she began her solo career with ‘I Only Want to Be with You’, which reached Number 4 in the charts. Her most famous songs were ‘The Look of Love’ which was featured in the Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ (1969). In 1998 she was awarded an OBE. Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 and she died in March 1999.

Mike Hurst – 7 Priory Road and Brondesbury Road
In 1962 Mike Hurst joined Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom in The Springfields. That year they had their biggest hit ‘Island of Dreams’ which reached number 5. They split up in October 1963. Mike formed a band called The Methods with the seventeen year old Jimmy Page on guitar. They played country rock and toured with Gene Pitney, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer. In 1965 Mike Hurst rented a flat in Priory Road. This was the same flat that bass player John Paul Jones and Madeline Bell of Blue Mink later occupied. Mike Hurst became a record producer and worked with Andrew Loog Oldham and Mickie Most. Hurst produced records for Marc Bolan, Cat Stevens, Spencer Davis and Manfred Mann. He later lived in Brondesbury Road.

Edric Connor – 27 Crediton Hill
Edric was a pioneering calypso singer from Trinidad who came to England in 1944. In 1951 he brought the Trinidad Steel Orchestra to the Festival of Britain. In 1952 with his band Edric Connor and the Caribbeans, he recorded the album ‘Songs from Jamaica’. This included ‘Day Dah Light’ a version of which became Harry Belafonte’s big hit, ‘Day-O’, or ‘The Banana Boat Song’, in 1957.

Edric lived in Crediton Hill from 1957 and his daughter went to school with Marianne. With his wife Pearl he set up an agency to support black actors and musicians. In 1958 he became the first black actor to appear in the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. He appeared on TV and in 18 films, including ‘Fire Down Below’ with Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitcham. Edric died in Putney in 1968 and Pearl died in 2005.

Phil Seaman – Goldhurst Terrace
Phil was a renowned jazz drummer who played with all the key figures in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1964 he played with Alexis Korner and Georgie Fame. He taught Ginger Baker and played on his Air Force album in 1970. He was a heroin addict and died in October 1972 in Lambeth.

Tony Meehan – 18 Sidney Boyd Court, West End Lane
Tony grew up in Kilburn and he went to Kingsgate primary school with Dick Weindling. He bought his first drum kit in Blanks music store on the Kilburn High Road. He played in the house band at the 2 I’s in Soho and with the skiffle group The Vipers. From 1959 Tony was the drummer in Cliff Richard’s band The Shadows until October 1961, when he joined Decca as a trainee producer. On 1 January 1962 he was at the famous audition when Decca turned down the Beatles. In 1963 he worked with his friend from the Shadows, Jet Harris, and had a number 1 hit with ‘Diamonds’ which featured two future Led Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. His style influenced other drummers. Sadly, Tony died after a fall in his London house in 2005.

Screaming Lord Sutch– 241 Fordwych Road and Glengall Road
David Edward Sutch was born at New End Hospital in 1940. His parents William and Annie Emily, lived in two rooms at 241 Fordwych Road. His father, a war reserve police constable, crashed his motorbike and died in September 1941 when David was only ten months old. With no money, his mother, known in the family as ‘Nancy’, moved to a single room in Glengall Road. David went to school at Salusbury Road and then they moved to South Harrow. At the end of the 1950s he first performed at the 2 I’s club. The ‘Savages’ were formed in 1960 and he called himself Screaming Lord Sutch after Screaming Jay Hawkins. His outrageous appearance and performances gained the band publicity. From 1963 he stood in parliamentary elections for the National Teenage Party and founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He contested over 40 elections with little hope of winning. Depressed after the death of his mother the year before, Sutch committed suicide in 1999.

Gary Grainger – Dibden House, Maida Vale
Gary was born in Kilburn in 1952 and grew up in Dibden House (where Sir Bradley Wiggins lived). After trying drums Gary took up the guitar and joined the band Strider who made two albums in the 1970s. He then worked with Rod Stewart’s group. Gary lived in the US for five years and did two world tours with Rod. During this time he also wrote songs for Rod’s albums. In 1981 he returned to England and wrote for Paul Young and then worked with Roger Daltrey during 1986 and 1987. In 1991 he formed the band The Humans with Jess Roden, and Jim Capaldi. Steve Winwood played organ on their recordings. In 1998 he formed the Blues Club. He is still touring the UK and Europe with colleagues from earlier bands.

Sandy Brown – 97 Canfield Gardens
The legendary New Orleans style jazz clarinettist Sandy Brown was born in India where his father worked as a railway engineer. He grew up in Scotland and moved to London in 1954. Sandy lived in Canfield Gardens from about 1959. He was an acoustic engineer and in 1968 he formed Sandy Brown Associates which eventually had an office in West Hampstead. Sandy designed the Moody Blues ‘Threshold Studios’ when they took over one of the Decca Studios in Broadhurst Gardens. He had his own band and played with numerous jazz musicians including Humphrey Lyttleton and Al Fairweather. Sandy played locally at Klooks Kleek, the jazz and blues club which was held in the Railway Hotel from 1961 to 1970. Sandy died in March 1975.

Colin Purbrook, Tony Coe, Brian Lemon and Jimmy Deuchar – 4 Fawley Road
Known as ‘Bleak House’ from the terrible condition it was in, Sandy Brown said that about 50 jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s lived in this house in Fawley Road. Colin Purbrook and Brian Lemon were pianists. Tony Coe was a sax player and Jimmy Deucher played trumpet.

Colin was ‘The Grand Vizier’ of parties in Fawley Road where he lived from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1999 and Steve Voce wrote a wonderful obituary in The Independent.

When his ex-wife, Maureen visited Colin in a Hospice in Hampstead, she told the consultant that Purbrook was one of the 10 best jazz pianists in the country. Later she told him what she had said. Purbrook, by now barely able to speak, croaked ‘Five, Dear. Five’.

Tucker Finlayson  – Hillfield Road
Tucker Finlayson played double bass in various Scottish bands in the late fifties. After his National Service in the RAF he came to London.  In 1963 he joined the Terry Lightfoot Band. The following year he joined the Acker Bilk Band and still plays with them. He has played bass with many other musicians, including Ray Davies’s album The Storyteller (1998).

Jack Bruce – Alexandra Mansions and 25 Bracknell Gardens
Bass player Jack Bruce was classically trained at the RoyalScottishAcademy of Music but also played jazz and blues. In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of AlexandraMansions on West End Green. On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club and who later helped with the lyrics of some of the Cream songs. They moved to a flat at 25 BracknellGardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home. Jack and Ginger Baker played in the Graham Bond Organization and then with Eric Clapton they formed the Supergroup Cream in 1966. Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, ‘Jack Bruce: composing himself’ (2010).

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – 33 Mapesbury Road
Mick and Keith had moved to a £9 per week flat on the top floor of 33 Mapesbury Road in 1963, after leaving 102 Edith Grove. The Stones manager and record producer, Andrew Oldham, joined them in Mapesbury Road in early 1964. He says in his autobiography ‘Stoned’ that he locked Mick and Keith in the flat for several hours and wouldn’t let them out until they had written a song.

Chris Jagger – Kingsgate Road
In 1982 Mick’s younger brother, singer Chris Jagger, lived in a house that Mick bought in Kingsgate Road. He released his first albums in 1973 and 1974. He has worked as a journalist and radio presenter. In 1994 he made a third album after a 20 year gap and his style has incorporated cajun, folk, country, blues and rock.

Tony Hooper – 32 Dennington Park Road
Tony Hooper, guitarist, was a tenant in the early 1960s. With Dave Cousins he founded The Strawbs in 1964. He left the band in 1972 and then re-joined them in 1983. Tony didn’t tell the landlady he was in a group and she was furious when she found out. The band members met to record a demo tape and the landlady’s daughter was told to run up and down a short staircase above their room, wearing hard, wooden ‘Dr Scholl’ sandals. The dreadful noise destroyed all hope of their recording.

Glen Hughes – Lymington Road
Glen was a very talented baritone sax player who regularly played at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel. In 1964 he was part of Georgie Fame’s highly successful Blue Flames. But in 1966 Glen tragically died in his flat in Shepherds Bush. Fellow sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith said: “Glen died in bed with a cigarette in his hand, drugged unconscious with smack. Glen was, in my opinion, one of the best baritone players the world has seen.”

Paul Soper – 350 Finchley Road
Guitarist and bass player, Paul lived with his elder brother in Finchley Road from 1964 to 1966. During this time he regularly visited Klooks Kleek, the jazz and R&B club at the Railway Hotel, where he saw many of the top blues bands. Paul has played with various blues bands including Bluejuice and the Bluesdragons. He still plays at various London pubs. See his interesting memories of the top British blues bands at;

Olivia Newton John – 9 Dennington Park Road
Olivia was born in Cambridge in 1948 and went to Australia when she was five. Her father Bryn was an academic, who became the Dean of Ormond College, Melbourne University. She appeared on Australian radio and TV shows. About 1965 she returned to England and lived in Dennington Park Road. Her first single, ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’, was recorded at the Decca Studios, Broadhurst Gardens, in 1966. Towards the end of the summer 1966 she met Bruce Welch, guitarist with The Shadows. He was 24 and married at the time, she was 17. They dated from September 1966 and lived together. In 1969 they moved from a flat overlooking Lords to Hadley Common, Tottridge. She became best known for her role in the film ‘Grease’ in 1978 with John Travolta. From then on her singing career blossomed and she still tours today.

Joan Armatrading – Cholmley Gardens
Joan joined a repertory production of Hair in 1968 and shared a flat with Helen Chappelle, in CholmleyGardens. Her first album, Whatever’s for Us, was released in1972. She had considerable success in the 1970s and 80s. Her biggest single hit was ‘Love and Affection’ in 1976 which went to Number 10.

Bert Jansch – 16a Christchurch Avenue
Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943. He and fellow guitarist John Renbourn shared a flat in Kilburn in 1966.  In 1968 with Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, vocals, Danny Tompson, double bass, and Terry Cox drums, he formed Pentangle, a very successful folk rock group. Thompson and Cox had previously played with Alexis Korner. In May 1967 Pentangle had a sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Jansch left the band to work solo in 1973. Pentangle reformed in 1982 and with various musicians continued to 1995. Their combination of folk, rock and jazz influenced later musicians. Bert Jansch died in Kilburn in October 2011

Roy Harper – Fordwych Road
In 1966 he was living in Fordwych Road and his first album, Sophisticated Beggar, was made that year. Singer songwriter and guitarist, Roy Harper has made over 30 albums. His work has influenced Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who named a track ‘Hats Off to Harper’ after him. Other musicians who say they have been influenced by him include; Pete Townsend, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. In 1965 he had a residency at the folk club Les Cousins and he met John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Alex Korner, and Paul Simon. Roy Harper played at numerous venues including the Lyceum and Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead. In 1968 he played at the first free concert at Hyde Park with Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Pink Floyd. He is still performing today.

John Paul Jones ­– 7 Priory Road
Born as John Baldwin, he played bass in various bands and did a large amount of session work. In 1968 with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham, he formed Led Zeppelin. Before he joined the band he lived in a flat in Priory Road. He recently played with Seasick Steve at the Glastonbury Festival.

Michael and Peter Giles, Robert Fripp – 93 Brondesbury Road
In 1967 and 1968 Giles, Giles and Fripp who became King Crimson, lived in Kilburn. Their 1968 home recordings were later released as ‘The Brondesbury Tapes’. Their first album ‘In the Court of The Crimson King’ (1969), initially received very mixed reviews, but has since gained classic status. They released another 12 albums by 2003.

Lulu and Maurice Gibb – Priory Place.
Lulu and Maurice each had long and successful careers. Lulu was born in Glasgow and when she was fifteen her 1964 recording of ‘Shout’ in the Decca Studios in West Hampsteadreached the top ten in the UK. With his brothers Robin and Barry, Maurice Gibb formed the Bee Gees in 1958. They achieved world-wide success with their music for the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Lulu and Maurice were married in 1969 after they had met during a Top of the Pops TV show. Maurice and Lulu lived in one of the modern houses at the Belsize Road end of Priory Place. They later moved to Compton Avenue near Highgate and were divorced in 1973. Maurice died in 2003.

Andy Ellison – Sumatra Road
He was the singer with John’s Children, Jet, and Radio Stars. In 1967 Marc Bolan joined John’s Children, and they toured with the Who and managed to upstage them, with Ellison ripping open feather pillows and diving into the audience. Jet was a glam rock band formed in 1974. Radio Stars started in 1977 and released three albums. They made their TV debut on ‘Marc’, Marc Bolan’s show.

Marmalade – Douglas Court, Quex Road
The Glasgow band, the Gaylords named after the post-war street gang the Chicago Gaylords was formed in 1961. They met the Tremeloes who suggested that they should join manager Peter Walsh, who also managed The Bay City Rollers, Billy Ocean, The Troggs and Blue Mink. In 1966 he renamed them as Marmalade and got them a residency at The Marquee Club in 1967. Their biggest hit was ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da’ which they were given by Dick James of NEMS in 1968. At the time they recorded it they did not realise it was written by Paul McCartney. The record topped the UK charts in January 1969. They signed to Decca in November 1969. Their other hits were ‘Reflections of My Life’ which went to number 3 in 1969 and later sold two million records. ‘Rainbow’ also went to number 3 in 1970. At this time the band consisted of Junior Campbell, Dean Ford (Thomas McAleese), Alan Whitehead, Graham Knight, and Pat Fairley and when in London they lived at Douglas Court.

Root Jackson – Sumatra Road
Root had a hit with his cousin Jenny with ‘Lean on Me’ in 1969. He has been a member of groups such as FBI (1976), The Breakfast Band (1989), and the GB Blues Company. A track on his album Funkin’ With Da Blues (2011) is called ‘Kilburn High Road Blues’.

Gaspar Lawal – West Hampstead
Gaspar is a Nigerian-born African drummer and percussionist who came to London in the mid 1960s. He has recorded with a very wide range of musicians including: The Rolling Stones, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Stephen Stills, Joan Armatrading, and Barbra Streisand. In 1975 he joined the rock band Clancy and in 1978 he formed his own group Afrika Sound. In the 1980s he worked with The Pogues, UB40 and Robert Palmer.

Dick Heckstall-Smith– 5 Eden Mansions, Gondar Gardens
Dick Heckstall Smith was an outstanding tenor sax player with Blues Incorporated, John Mayall, the Graham Bond Organization, Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum and Big Chief. He had lived in Gondar Gardens since 1972 and continued playing despite ill health, until his death in December 2004.

James Moyes – West Hampstead
James is a guitarist and composer who still lives in West Hampstead. He formed Sagram with sitarist Clem Alford and tabla player Keshav Satte. In 1971, with the addition of singer Alisha Sufit, they became Magic Carpet. They played at the 100 Club, and Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s Wavedon, plus other clubs and venues.Their 1972 album ‘Magic Carpet’ was described as ‘one of the finest Indian-influenced psychedelic folk albums of the 1970s’.

Robert Palmer – Dennington Park Road
Singer Robert Palmer lived in a basement flat in Dennington Park Road in 1972. Robert moved out of after the flat was flooded, destroying most of his belongings. He married and moved to New York. Then about 1976 he moved to Nassau in the Bahamas.

After working with several bands Palmer and Elkie Brooks formed Vinegar Joe and they released their first album in 1972. His first solo album, Sneakin’ Sally Thorough The Alley, was recorded in New Orleans in 1974. Palmer had a successful career and a number of major hits. His iconic music videos for ‘Addicted to Love’ (1985) and ‘Simply Irresistible’ (1988) featured identically dressed women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. Robert died in France in September 2003.

Steve York, and Graham Bond – 55 Mill Lane
Bass player, Steve York lived in Mill Lane from 1972 to 1977. He has had a long career playing with many well known musicians and recording numerous records.  Beginning with various blues bands in the 60s including Graham Bond and Manfred Mann, in 1971 he joined Dada which had three singers Robert Palmer, Elkie Brooks and Jimmy Chambers. Dada became Vinegar Joe in 1971. Steve said: “I left Vinegar Joe after we recorded our first album and lived in the US for about a year. I let Graham Bond stay in my flat in Mill Lane while I was away on tour in 1973. He was homeless after his marriage broke up.”

Steve recorded with Marianne Faithful on her albums Broken English and Dangerous Acquaintances,
also with Ringo Starr, Chicken Shack, ElkieBrooks, Joan Armatrading, Dr John, Chris Jagger and many others. He played harmonica on Robert Palmer’s Sneaking Sally and Pressure Drop.

Today Steve lives in Mexico. See his website for more details:

Graham Bond was a sax player but he was better known for his Hammond organ playing with the Graham Bond Organisation. This amazing group include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Dick Heckstall Smith. Guitarist John McLaughlin was also in the band in 1963. The GBO were very popular and played 39 times locally at Klooks Kleek. One of his best known tracks was ‘Wade in the Water’ which can be heard live from Klooks on YouTube with a jokey introduction by club owner Dick Jordan:

Brilliant as he was, Graham had a major drug problem and most of the money he earned was spent on getting a fix. He may also have been suffering from schizophrenia. Steve York, a good friend who supported Graham said, “When I returned from the US, Graham was in bad shape and he stayed with me intermittently in Mill Lane until May 1974. He told me that if it hadn’t been for Mill Lane, he would have finished it all. But even so, things were so bad that before I got back, he had collapsed in the street suffering from malnutrition and had to be admitted to hospital.”

Things got worse and tragically, Graham committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at FinsburyPark station on 8 May 1974. For an excellent biography see, ‘Graham Bond: the mighty shadow’, by Harry Shapiro, 1992 and 2005. The book includes a detailed discography.

Jeff Bannister – Holmdale Road
Keyboard player Jeff Bannister lived in Holmdale Road in 1972. He had worked with Alan Bown in the John Barry Seven who had supported visiting American acts such as Brenda Lee. When Barry disbanded the group in 1965 because of his increasing film work, Jeff joined Alan in the Alan Bown Set. Jeff sang and played organ and piano on the first singles produced by Tony Hatch, and then Jess Roden became the vocalist. When the Alan Bown Set split up in 1970 Jess Roden formed Bronco and Jeff played on their first album. In the mid 70s he joined The O Band and then toured with Charlie Dore and latter Gerry Rafferty. He continued writing songs and played on Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’. He also wrote the books, The Multichord for All Keyboards, and a history of The Alan Bown Set. Jeff is still performing today as a member of The Swinging Blue Jeans, which originated in Liverpool in the 1960s.

Wilko Johnson, JJ Burnel, Steve Strange, Lemmy and Phil Taylor – Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane.
While Ade Wyatt was in Australia in 1978, Wilko Johnson the guitarist in Dr Feelgood with the distinctive choppy style, rented his flat in Tower Mansions. He had formed the Canvey Island band with singer Lee Brilleaux in 1971. Sadly this year, Wilko announced that he is retiring because he has terminal cancer.

Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived upstairs in Tower Mansions. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, “You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange”. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979. He appeared in the David Bowie video, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and Visage had a hit with ‘Fade to Grey’ in 1980.

‘Lemmy’ (Ian Fraser Kilmister) and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, drums, were in Motorhead. Both lived at Tower Mansions during the late 1970s and 1980s. Motorhead was formed in 1975 and they have made twenty albums. Still performing today, Lemmy is the only remaining member of the original band.

Billy Idol – Tower Mansions, and 315 West End Lane
Billy Idol also lived for a short time in Tower Mansions. He and his girlfriend Perri Lister, who was an actress and dancer in Hot Gossip, were together from 1980 to 1989. They were a very distinctive couple when they lived in West End Lane in a flat above Fortune Gate, the Chinese Restaurant near the Fire Station in West Hampstead.  Billy Idol in Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on Top of The Pops. In 1981 he moved to New York and the following year he had a major success with ‘White Wedding’ when the video was shown on MTV.

Here’s Part Two

Making Music in West Hampstead and Kilburn

Our next book, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ will be published by The History Press in November 2013. This is the first history of Decca Studios, which were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1980 and where thousands of well-known recordings were made. From 1961 until it closed in 1970, Klooks Kleek was the famous jazz and blues club run by Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams on the first floor of the Railway Hotel, next to the Decca Studios.

This blog is the first of two stories about music in West Hampstead and Kilburn. The area has a surprisingly rich history of music. The first instalment looks at music production and the recording studios and record companies who operated here. The second, to be published later, will cover the many musicians who lived there.

The Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company
Crystalate took over West Hampstead Town Hall in Broadhurst Gardens in 1928 and moved their recording studio there. That year the Crystalate Manufacturing Company appears at 165 Broadhurst Gardens for the first time in the phone book. Today the building is used by English National Opera.

In August 1901 the Crystalate Company was founded at Golden Green (note, not Golders Green), Haddow, near Tunbridge in Kent , by a partnership of a London and an American firm. The British company had begun by introducing colours into minerals and making imitation ivory. The American company which had made billiard balls and poker chips started making gramophone records from shellac. In July 1901 the American George Henry Burt, applied for a trademark on the word ‘Crystalate’ for all their plastic products. The secret formula to make Crystalate substances was kept in a sealed iron box which required two keys to open it. Burt had one and Percy Warnford-Davis, the English director, had the other. It is said that Crystalate made the first records to be pressed in England in 1901/2; but there is no direct evidence of this apart from the 1922 recollections of Charles Davis, the works manager.

In 1926 they moved their office and recording studio from 63 Farrington Road to Number 69 which was named ‘Imperial House’ after one of their record labels. In 1929 they moved again to 60-62 City Road which they called ‘Crystalate House’. T he company made records for some of the very early labels such as Zonophone, Berliner and Imperial. Crystalate also produced large numbers of records for Woolworths under various budget labels, including Victory and Rex. At first they cost a shilling which represented very good value for the enormously popular artists of the day such as Gracie Fields, Larry Adler, Billy Cotton and Sandy Powell. Also on the label were American stars: Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and Cab Calloway.

During the Depression many of the record companies ran into financial trouble and they were bought up by either EMI or Decca. In March 1937 the record side of Crystalate was sold to Decca for £200,000, or about £10 million today. The Crystalate engineers were very relieved when they found out Decca had decided to close their existing studio in Upper Thames Street and move to Broadhurst Gardens.

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios
The Decca studios were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1981 and our new book will provide a detailed history. Stars such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Billy Fury and the Moody Blues were recorded here. On 1st January 1962 the Beatles auditioned at the studios, but after travelling down from Liverpool in a van, they’d gone out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and their playing did not impress Decca. Other labels also turned them down until EMI Parlophone, Decca’s great rival, signed them in June 1962. The Beatles first single, ‘Love Me Do’ was released on 5 October 1962 and peaked at Number 17 in the charts.

Gus Dudgeon, engineer and producer Lymington Mansions and Kings Gardens, West End Lane
When he left school Gus (Angus) had several short-term jobs before he got a job as the tea boy and junior assistant at Olympic Studios near Baker Street. He was ‘blown away’ by the power of the studio speakers with their tremendous bass and treble ranges. Desperate to play with the controls he said ‘I was terrified at the idea of ever getting onto the recording console.’ But he managed to get a job as an engineer at Decca Studios in 1962. At the time Gus was sharing a flat at 2 Lymington Mansions in West Hampstead where he stayed until 1965. The blues singer Long John Baldry slept on a bed in the hallway.

During his five and a half years at Decca Studios, Dudgeon engineered the Zombies’ hit ‘She’s Not There’ (1964) and the celebrated John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (1965), known as the Beano album from the cover, where Eric is pictured reading a copy of the comic. Early sessions included recordings for Marianne Faithfull with producer Andrew Loog Oldham and session guitarists Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin.

His first co-production credit came in 1967 with the debut album of Ten Years After. A year later, encouraged by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, he left Decca to found his own production company. He worked on all the classic recordings by Elton John, including such hits as ‘Your Song,’ ‘Rocket Man,’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. In 1969, he produced David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Oddity,’ and later, albums by such artists as Chris Rea, Lindisfarne, and XTC.

In the 70s Gus joined Elton John and formed Rocket Records. In the early 80s he built SOL Studios in Cookham Berkshire which he later sold to Jimmy Page.

From 1967 till 1973 Gus lived at 3 Kings Gardens in West End Lane. He then moved to Surbiton. The record world was shocked in July 2002 when Gus Dudgeon and his wife Sheila were killed in a car crash.

British Homophone, 84a Kilburn High Road
This building was behind the present Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road. Before British Homophone opened their recording studio there in 1929, it was the site of a large house called St Margaret’s.

The last owner and occupier of St Margaret’s was the builder Robert Allen Yerbury who rented the house about 1877. He soon bought the freehold as well as a large piece of land adjoining his grounds and built Colas Mews (behind the present Iceland store). He then used the garden in front of the renamed St Margaret’s Lodge as the site for a terrace of shops. Although completely hemmed in by the shops on the High Road, Yerbury was able to rent the house to a series of tenants.

By 1903 a hall and conservatory had been added to the back of St Margaret’s Lodge. ‘Professor’ Sidney Bishop ran ‘The Athenaeum’ for dancing there from 1902 to 1914.   During WWI it was used as a forces recreation room and in the 20s the Hall became the Kilburn branch of the Church Army, with successive secretaries living in the old Lodge.

The site was next adapted as a recording studio for the British Homophone Company Ltd. William Sternberg was the director of a company that had been selling gramophones under the trade name of Sterno for some years. They had used the masters and distributed records of the Homophon Company of Berlin since 1906, and also produced Sterno records from 1926 to 1935. On 24 May 1928 the Times announced that British Homophone was issuing a share capital of £150,000. In a contract dated 21 May 1928 , Sternberg put all his assets into the new company of British Homophone, for £37,500 worth of shares. They moved into 84a Kilburn High Road the following year.

British Homophone advert, 1928

British Homophone advert, 1928

Lots of well known performers and dance bands of the time were on the Sterno label including Mantovani, Oscar Rabin, and Syd Lipton. The most important artist on the label was the pianist and band leader Charlie Kunz who was selling an astonishing one million records. He became the highest paid pianist in the world earning a £1,000 week. Born in America , he came to England in 1922, and during the 1930s he lived in Dollis Hill.

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

In 1934 the BBC studios in Maida Vale sent recordings by telephone lines to British Homophone in Kilburn who recorded them onto wax discs. They were able to offer the BBC a quick turnaround of 12 hours for programme repeats.

But like other companies in the Depression, British Homophone struggled financially and in May 1937 Decca and their rival EMI jointly purchased all the British Homophone masters for £22,500. When British Homophone left Kilburn in 1939, the ladies clothing chain, Richard Shops, who had been at Number 82 since 1936, took over Number 84 and probably the studio as well.

William Sternberg lived at ‘Mondesfield’, in Exeter Road Kilburn, from 1924. When he died on 14 June 1956 , his addresses were Exeter Road and Seddscombe , Sussex . He was buried at the Willesden Liberal Jewish cemetery probably with his wife Eva who died in 1925. He was a wealthy man and left £19,379, today worth about £900,000.

Sterno and Canned Heat
As an interesting aside, Sterno was also the name of an American campsite cooking fuel made from jellied alcohol. During the Depression, and strained through cloth, it was used as a cheap substitute for whisky and popularly known as ‘Canned Heat’. The early bluesman, Tommy Johnson, wrote and recorded ‘Canned Heat Blues’ in 1928, and the famous American band Canned Heat, which was formed in Los Angeles in 1965, took their name from the song.

The Banba
The studio building was used from 1951 to 1968 by Michael Gannon who ran the famous and very poplar Irish dance hall there called ‘The Banba’ (taken from a poetic name for Ireland ). In 1971 the property was demolished with Sainsbury’s redevelopment of the entire site. Marianne can remember being taken to the Banba. She was bought a coffee made from Camp Coffee Essence, which Wikipedia describes as: A glutinous brown substance which consists of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. She left it untouched after the first sip.

British Homophone after the buyout
Despite the 1937 buyout by Decca and EMI, the British Homophone name continued into the early 1980s, but was no longer based in Kilburn. By 1962 it was at Excelsior Works, Rollins Street, SE15, New Cross. The new company pressed some of the early records for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records about 1965. Edward Kassner the boss of President Records owned the pressing plant. Eddy Grant and ‘The Equals’ were signed with President Records. Eddy set up Ice Records and a studio called the Coach House and bought the pressing plant in New Cross from Kassner in the late 1970s, where he pressed his own records until the early 1980s, when he left England.

Island Records, 108 Cambridge Road
Island Records was formed by Chris Blackwell who was born in London, but grew up in Jamaica. In 1958 after trying various jobs and using money from his parents, he decided to record Lance Hayward, a young, blind jazz pianist who was playing at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay. The record was released in 1959, and this was the beginning of what would later become Island Records. The following year Blackwell had a hit with Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie In My Bones’. Using the money from the sales he set up a small office in Kingston.   In 1962 Blackwell moved to London and began selling records to the West Indian communities in London, Birmingham, and Manchester from the back of his Mini-Cooper.

Blackwell took the name of Island Records from Alec Waugh’s novel ‘Island in the Sun’. Island Records Ltd began in May 1962 with four partners who invested a total of £4,000: Chris Blackwell, Graham Goodall, an Australian music engineer living in Jamaica, the Chinese-Jamaican record producer Leslie Kong and his brother.

From March 1963 to 1967 Island Records had their office at 108 Cambridge Road , since demolished as part of the South Kilburn redevelopment plan. Originally a barber’s shop run by the Gopthal family, when accountant Lee Gopthal bought the house, he rented it out. Chris Blackwell converted the premises into offices managed by David Betteridge, who was later made a director of Island. Initially the records were pressed by British Homophone and then at the Phillips factory in Croydon. In 1962, the basement store at 108 had been a recording studio set up by Sonny Roberts of Planetone Records. Blackwell introduced additional labels such as Black Swan, Jump Up, Aladdin, Surprise, Sue Records and Trojan which was run by Lee Gopthal .

Rob Bell describes his time at Island from 1965 to 1972 in a series of articles. See He said that Island were releasing about half a dozen records a week. The new release sheets were printed by Mr Reed who had a small print shop a few doors up Cambridge Road. Rob said he and others used to eat at Peg’s Café over the road and drink at The Shakespeare pub next to the office. In 1968 when business picked up with the popularity of reggae, together with the compulsory purchase for the South Kilburn redevelopment, Island moved to the much larger Music House at 12 Neasden Lane.

In 1963 Blackwell decided to bring the fourteen year old Millie Small to London. Looking for a suitable song for her to record, he found a copy of American singer Barbie Gaye’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ which he had bought five years earlier in New York. Recorded at Olympic Studios with a ska arrangement, the record was leased to the Phillips’ Fontana label and in 1964 it sold six million copies worldwide. It reached Number 2 in the UK and the US and became the first international Jamaican hit. Marianne heard Millie sing the song at one of the regular Saturday morning music sessions at the Kilburn State , held in their dance hall with an entrance in Willesden Lane.

Other successful records followed with Jimmy Cliff and the Birmingham band, the Spencer Davis Group who had several hits leased to Fontana such as, ‘Keep On Running’ (1965) and ‘Gimme Some Lovin’. Building on these hits, Island moved to new offices at 155 Oxford Street. In 1970 they moved again to Notting Hill where they had established their own studio in a former church at 8 -10 Basing Street. From here they expanded massively, with artists such as Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Fairport Convention, Free, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Grace Jones and U2.

In 1989 Blackwell sold his stake in Island and eventually resigned in 1997. His mother Blanche was Ian Fleming’s longtime lover and Blackwell now owns the writer’s house, Goldeneye, in Jamaica . He bought it from Bob Marley. For a beautifully illustrated book see, ‘The Story of Island Records’, edited by Suzette Newman and Chris Salewicz (2010).

Ritz Records, 1 Grangeway
Grangeway is the small road leading off the Kilburn High Road into the Grange Park. Mick Clerkin ran Ritz Records here which began in about 1981. They produced Irish records and had big hits with Joe Dolan and Daniel O’Donnell. Clerkin had previously worked as a roadie for the popular Mighty Avons Showband, and then in 1968 he set up Release Records. Ritz were still at Grangeway in 1996 but had moved to Wembley by 2000. The company went into liquidation in 2002.

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

Master Rock Studios, 248 Kilburn High Road
In January 1986 Steve Flood and Stuart Colman opened their studios in Kilburn High Road. Stuart Colman was a musician who produced hits for Shakin’ Stevens, The Shadows, Kim Wilde, and Alvin Stardust. He also worked as a presenter at the BBC before opening Master Rock Studios. Flood and Colman were soon joined by studio manager Robyn Sansone who came from New York. An amazing number of musicians were recorded here including: Elton John, Jeff Beck, U2, Eric Clapton, Roxy Music, Simply Red and Suede. The music for the film ‘The Krays’ was also recorded at Master Rock.

They wanted the very best quality recording equipment so they bought a Focusrite console. Focusrite was founded in 1985 by Rupert Neve and the Forte console was developed in 1988. The idea was simply to produce the highest-quality recording console available at the time, regardless of cost. But the prohibitively expensive design limited the production to just two units, after which Focusrite got into financial difficulties. One console was delivered to Master Rock Studios in Kilburn and the other to the Electric Lady Studio in New York .

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

Bernard Butler the guitarist with Suede who recorded at Master Rock said: “Master Rock Studios was originally haunted by buying one of the only custom made Focusrite consoles. It arrived several months late so left them without business for a long time and despite being used on everything after it arrived, I don’t think they recovered.”

Bernard was right. Despite the Master Rock Studios being busy, there were financial problems and in 1991 the business was put up for sale. Douglas Pashley bought it and became the CEO in 1992. But problems continued and eventually they closed in June 2000. Number 248 Kilburn High Road has since been demolished.

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

West Heath Studios, 174 Mill Lane
The composer and conductor Robert Howes, who worked with Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson on the Alan Parsons Project, said he was doing lots of work in different studios and decided that he needed to build his own. He had previously lived in Welbeck Mansions and knew the West Hampstead area. He found a building in West Heath Mews which ran along the top of a row of garages, and set up his studio there at the end of the 1980s to record his music for TV. He did ‘Songs for Christmas’, the theme music for Kilroy and Rescue and lots of other programmes. Then he leased the studio to Eric Woolfson who later built his own studio in Cricklewood Lane . Woolfson had met Alan Parsons at the Abbey Road studios where Parsons had recorded Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios is currently owned by Edwyn Collins who took it over in 1995. Edwin was born in Scotland and had hits with the Glasgow band Orange Juice. His major success was ‘A Girl like You’ which became a worldwide hit in 1994. After he and his wife Grace moved to Kilburn, Edwyn suddenly had a stroke in 2005 which left him paralysed. But he has since made a remarkable recovery and started to perform again. His cofounder and recording engineer Seb Lewsley kept the studio going. Edwyn’s friend Bernard Butler who lived locally in Fawley Road, recorded Duffy’s Rockferry album (2008) at West Heath. Edwyn recorded his latest album Loosing Sleep at the studio in 2010.

Have a look at YouTube for some amusing episodes of ‘West Heath Yard’.

Shebang Studio
This was a small studio in Coleridge Gardens, a mews off Fairhazel Gardens, run by Nigel Godrich. Nigel is a recording engineer and producer, best known for his work with the band Radiohead. He has also worked with Paul McCartney, Travis, Natalie Imbruglia, U2 and REM. Bernard Butler said, “Nigel Godrich’s studio was off Fairhazel Gardens where it meets Belsize Road and was called Shebang. He shared it with Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns who later became Zero 7. They were all assisting / engineering at RAK Studios at the time, which is where Radiohead and I met Nigel.” RAK Studios is in St John’s Wood and was started by Mickie Most in 1976.

The next blog story will look at the musicians who lived in West Hampstead and Kilburn.

Fifty years since Bowie recorded in West Hampstead

He was just 16 and still known as David Jones, but this was his first ever professional recording session. He wasn’t even on lead vocals.

David Jones (via the David Bowie official website)

Die hard fans can visit the David Bowie website for the full story, but here’s the overview.

On August 29 1963, The Kon-rads, David’s band, quickly recorded just one song live at Decca Studios on Broadhurst Gardens in West Hampstead (now the ENO building). They laid down a new song of their own composition called ‘I Never Dreamed’. There were talent scouts waiting to give the thumbs up or down. This was just two years after The Beatles had been turned down by Decca of course.

Once again, Decca said no. The Rolling Stones’ manager Eric Easton followed suit, as did the bookers of TV talent show ‘Ready Steady Win’.

Bowie wouldn’t be Bowie for another few years – David Jones was too close to the Monkees’ Davy Jones – but this recording session would mark the stat of one of the most remarkable careers in pop music. Bowie was only on backing vocals, it would be another 10 months before Davie Jones and the King Bees recorded “Liza Jane”, also in West Hampstead.

Decca’s master recording of I Never Dreamed has vanished, but there were some metal acetate discs cut at the studio. However, none have ever surfaced and two of the Kon-Rads have lost their copies.

The Bowie website has, however, managed to come up with the original lyrics to this historic track:

I never dreamed
That I’d fall in love with you
I never dreamed
That your eyes could be so blue

Till I looked your way baby
And saw your tender smile
I wanted you so badly
My heart was captured for a while

I never dreamed
Your caress could hurt so much
I never dreamed
That I would shake to your tender touch

Till you held my hand
Run your fingers through my hair
The other guys all laughed at me
But I didn’t really care

I never dreamed
I never dreamed
I never dreamed

Scene and heard – live music in West Hampstead & Kilburn

Francesca Baker, music blogger, promoter and recent arrival in West Hampstead, takes a look at why our local area isn’t as buzzing as it could be when it comes to live music.

Music. NW6. The two aren’t generally associated, but is that fair? We’ve already revealed West Hampstead and Kilburn‘s musical legacy and the impressive list of bands who’ve tuned up and rocked out in the area: The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Cream, U2, Joy Division, The Smiths, Nirvana, Blur, Suede – even Adele!

Anyone who’s recently walked past the billboards on their way to Kilburn Park station will see the vintage ticket stubs and posters that are testament to a once buzzing music scene. Where is it now, and can it be revived?

Music culture and creativity does continue in the area. Bands play in Kilburn most nights, there’s regularly jazz of various hues on West End Lane, Folkies, an ‘Aladdin’s cave of musical instruments’ does a roaring trade (for an independent store) and, of course, the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance attracts talented musicians to study on its many courses.

So far, so fertile. But a bunch of sporadic gigs doesn’t make a thriving humming music scene. Do West Hampstead and Kilburn have what it takes to be uttered in the same breath as Camden Town or Shoreditch when it comes to London music?

My generation
A music scene implies a community, a group, a shared feeling. This all helps generate the “longevity and consistency” that Simon Whiteside, local jazz musician, believes creates a scene. Ultimately, it is people – the right people – not history.

Matt Churchill, another musician who’s cut his teeth at local venues, thinks that the culture can transform quickly if the right mix of passionate people are there. This is what has driven the success of places such as Walthamstow, with its thriving art trail and mini festival Stowfest. It proves that a lot can happen when like minded people “start making some noise…and people who are interested start paying attention.”

Matt Churchill (photo (c) Howard Key)

I used to live in Ealing and, fed up of getting the night bus back home from central London and constantly bemoaning the lack of gigs closer to home, I decided to put on my own nights in a local pub. Lo and behold, I was not the only music lover in the area. A lack of music doesn’t mean there’s no demand; more likely it means the demand isn’t being heard or acted on.

Everyone wants to be in a gang and once something starts to develop it often spirals driven by the excited members’ willingness to spread the word, entice new people, and welcome them in.

You can’t always get what you want
A cursory glance at listings reveals alarmingly few gigs in the area. A prerequisite for a thriving music scene must be a range of good quality venues in which to perform (and rehearse).

There are venues of course. The Good Ship, which opened in 2005, delivers quality acts almost every night and attracts people from across London. Owner John McCooke asks that all Londoners ‘consider us an extension of your front room with a jukebox in,’ which in many ways is exactly what a venue should be: comforting and creative. The Good Ship has managed to attract a regular crowd due to its consistency, but this sort of thing does take time – and commitment

Carnegie Hall was real fabulous, but you know, it ain’t as big as the Grand Ole Opry.

Patsy Cline

Across Kilburn High Road is Powers, a smaller and darker venue-cum-bar owned by music impresario Vince Power but run by his son Patrick. Down the other end of the road there’s Love & Liquor, which has garnered attention for having Idris Elba (aka “Stringer Bell” aka “Luther”) as a guest DJ.

Up in West Hampstead the focus is more on jazz than ‘boys with guitars’, but it’s still individual venues doing their own thing rather than any sense of collaboration to drive the music scene. A jazz festival is in the offing, which might help unite the venues – most of which are cafés, bars or restaurants rather than dedicated gig venues.

Crosstown traffic
There are more than 60 live music venues across Camden, but the majority are in Camden Town and Kentish Town. Both have the larger venues that attract big-name bands, such as The Roundhouse or Koko. Is our part of London too far from Camden Town to pick up from its gravitational pull; yet too close to compete?

If you’re not a new-music addict, it is easier to go and see a well-known band than take a risk on a new and upcoming artist in a local pub. By the same token, bands and artists are more likely to gravitate towards bigger venues with a solid reputation rather than magnanimously attempt to kickstart a new scene. If it’s a choice between the chance of bumping into A&R in the Old Blue Last or Shackelwell Arms or playing a small gig to friends and family on a rainy Tuesday in Kilburn, well… need I go on?

Come together
The ease with which music can spread across the world means that local scenes don’t have time to develop like they used to. It is possible for bands to succeed without playing local gigs, and the allure of working hard to build a local following fades when challenged by the glamour and allure of a worldwide audience. The venues meanwhile find it hard to make much of a profit, and this means that the people involved generally have to be doing it for the love rather than for a lucrative return.

A venue that built a reputation as a high-quality (if eccentric) bastion of the independent music scene was The Luminaire in Kilburn. Yet, despite all its credibility and big-name acts, the owners closed it in 2010 as it became harder to meet their financial obligations.  If such a successful venue still couldn’t be profitable enough to survive then what hope is there?

Perhaps the answer lies in alternative uses of space. The Albert in Queen’s Park is a pop-up creativity hub that runs music and arts events, and there are some lovely alternative venues in West Hampstead itself, such as The Wet Fish Café, Brioche or La Brocca.

Simon Whiteside performs regularly at La Brocca as well as Ronnie Scott’s

A scene requires a network of people – fans – beyond the musicians and the venues. There needs to be a buzz. The Good Ship’s heavy use of social media to spread the word means it is well known in the music world, but McCooke believes that Brent Council should do more to help to encourage the scene to thrive in the community. He says that there is, for example, no night time culture featured in the Brent Magazine.

A support network could mean radio stations such as Shoreditch Radio, or a large student population. Local blogs, radio stations, and dedicated music media are all necessary to keep enthusiasm bubbling for longer than one night. Support and exposure are the real drivers, whilst passion, and a genuine belief in an area’s potential, can ensure longevity.

Kilburn’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance attracts and turns out quality musicians. It was once home to The Vaccines, Daughter, and The Robbie Boyd Band. But, according to its Industry Liaison Officer Giaco Bridgett, it too is “crying out for somewhere that has great production, cool nights and attracts cutting edge talent to the area.” We come back to the venues.

Where the streets have no name
Sometimes, it’s only after a few bands have emerged that a music scene is defined. The Happy Mondays were famously ignored in Manchester until ‘Madchester’ was coined. The Manchester scene was far more than a marketing ploy, but perhaps building a Kilburn Crawl or Whamp & Blues nights might get the ball rolling. Perhaps.

There’s enough activity bubbling along to suggest there is potential for a thriving music scene here, but the challenges that face music across the country are always exacerbated in London with high rents and stiff competition. The situation is, in the words of McCooke, by ‘no means terminal’, but it’s certainly in need of some love and attention, some great venues, and some excited people. Is that you?

Kilburn: All within 100 yards

As the literary world turns its gaze on Kilburn in the light of Zadie Smith’s new book, Kilburn is also the focus of a short film by Mark James.

Give it 10 minutes of your time.

For a different cultural take on Kilburn, watch this music video from Jonny Granville, supported by Camden Calling (a social enterprise run collectively with homeless and ex-homeless people with the broad aim of improving the access homeless and vulnerable groups of people have to mainstream music / arts and popular culture).

Klooks Kleek and Decca: help needed

Local historians Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms are writing a book about the history of Klooks Kleek, a jazz and blues club which ran at the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead, from 1961 to 1970. The book will also look at the history of Decca Studios which was in Broadhurst Gardens until 1980.

If you worked at Decca, or have any memories or stories about KK which they could use in book please email Dick at,

In the meantime, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, do read my quick rundown of West Hampstead’s musical heritage.

Locally Sourced

No, not a post about foraging for wild mushrooms down Bill Fury Way, but rather about Locally Sourced Productions. Let me let Paula take up the story:

“It sprouted out of a casual conversation at David’s Deli one summer’s day, and over the past 15 months has gingerly settled into an unpredictable routine of literary and musical events. We started with a poetry reading at the Deli. Since then, around every six weeks, we’ve presented story-telling, travel writing, writers reading from their first novels, composers, jazz musicians, singers, short stories, and most recently a rousing night of sea shanties. The point of the evenings is two-fold: to bring together our community for a bit of free fun and camaraderie and to have an opportunity to enjoy and discover our local artists who so kindly give of their time and talent.

While I have your attention, I just want to publicly thank a few local stars: Elias at David’s Deli who packed the audience in for many months and continues to support this endeavour down at La Brioche, where we moved three events ago; photographer and neighbour Dominic Lee who so generously prints the posters I hope you see in the window at La Brioche advertising the events; Roger Evans, our delightful host at La Brioche, and you, who come out on the occasional Monday night to meet up, support the talent, and make West Hampstead an especially wonderful place to live. If you have any ideas for events or want to participate yourself, let me know.”

Here are the details for this Monday’s event (and the evening of December 2nd, Roger’s own band will be playing in Brioche)

Jonathan Simpson: Camden’s Musical Mayor

I enter the Mayor’s parlour on a wet Saturday afternoon clutching an espresso from St Pancras. The mayoral ermine is on display, along with an incongruous golden football boot in a cabinet that also contained silver cake slices masquerading as trowels (for ceremonial brick laying you understand), punch bowls and goodness knows what else. But how does the man who has to wear the robes feel all this mayoral bling fits his rock’n’roll image?
Camden Mayor, Jonathan Simpson, 36, doesn’t immediately strike me as someone who is going to be over-excited by the regalia of office. When I meet him, he’s wearing a suit as casually as one can, and is certainly not weighed down by the chains of office.
The Mayor has been a councillor since 2002, initially representing Fortune Green for the Lib Dems. In May 2005, he controversially defected to Labour over the Lib Dems’ Asbo policies and was subsequently elected to represent King’s Cross in 2006, which he held in May this year. Away from public office, his private-sector career is in the area of regeneration. He has also served as a special constable in the Met and was a board member of the gay rights organisation Stonewall from 2000 to 2002.
Despite not being at first glance the clichéd image of a fusty ceremonial mayor, The Mayor tells me that every Wednesday he does indeed don the ermine for the weekly nationalisation ceremony. “It’s very humbling,” he says. “Sure, there are Americans who’ve lived here for 10 years but there are also people who’ve fled their home country to come to the UK.”
This is just one of the many roles the Mayor has in Camden. Unlike some London boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney, Camden’s mayor is an ambassadorial position with no political or executive powers. The mayor also chairs council meetings, much in the way of the Speaker in the House of Commons. The mayor is nominated (and therefore de facto elected) by the majority party of the council and holds office for 12 months. With Labour in overall control of Camden council, there will be no rotation of the post between parties when it comes time for someone else to be elected next May.
Simpson takes the apolitical nature of his position extremely seriously. He politely declines to answer any overtly political questions, but also backs away from anything that might be only remotely construed as political. I ask what he sees as the biggest challenges facing Camden over the next few years, beyond the obvious financial constraints brought about by the cuts that is. Even this is clearly risky territory.
I get the sense that as a relatively young mayor, he is determined not to let what seems to be a naturally open and conversational manner get the better of him. The most he’s prepared to say is that “anyone would have to be anxious about public services.” He won’t even be drawn into anything particularly quotable on how he feels about spending a year away from the cut and thrust of council debate.
Caution is perhaps the best approach for an office whose last occupant, Omar Faruque Ansari, was stripped of his responsibilities in January after being arrested on suspicion of benefit fraud.
When conversation turns to pushing the merits of Camden, Simpson is of course anything but reticent. With the incredible Gothic revival frontage of St Pancras looming large in the window behind him, it is easy to agree when he says, “We have some of the most amazing places in London outside of Westminster, and we’re much cooler than Westminster.” Camden is full of “bohemian, vibrant, young people”. It was this that first attracted the Mayor here when he was a student at UCL in the 1990s. “I came to Camden ‘cos it was fun. I absolutely loved the place.”
This perspective on the borough (formerly the three boroughs of Hampstead, Holborn and St Pancras) informed the Mayor’s decision to choose Camden’s musical heritage and its plethora of live music as his ‘mayoral theme’.
“More than a thousand people work in the live music industry in Camden and there are 61 live music venues.” The figures are well rehearsed, although almost certainly include those Kilburn High Road venues that fall on the Brent side of the road but that have willingly been adopted by Camden’s marketing machine. Of course The Roundhouse is one of the best known and loved of the live venues and The Roundhouse Trust, which helps kids get involved with the arts, is the mayor’s chosen charity for his term of office.
Simpson has also given his tenure as mayor a slightly edgier vibe by asking his good friend and BBC London radio presenter and self-proclaimed “chubby glamourpuss” Amy Lamé to be Lady Mayoress. He confesses that he thought she’d say no, but her American roots came to the fore and “she’s milking it.”
Simpson’s passion for music is evident. Did I know, he asks, that Morrissey’s guitarist Boz Boorer is planning to put on a regular rock’n’roll night at The Alliance on Mill Lane? I did not. The first one is November 27th.
He still manages to go to live gigs, even if the first part of the evening is usually in a work capacity. For someone who ceremonially comes after only the royal family and the Lord Lieutenant in the pecking order, it’s great to see him talk enthusiastically about electro-punk band Robots in Disguise, who performed for some excited kids and bemused parents at Holborn Library a couple of weeks ago.
Simpson confirms that his job is “absolutely astonishing”. “You can’t comprehend the amount of work it is. It’s certainly not just drinking tea and opening fêtes. I have done 340 events so far since being elected [in May], including opening the Kentish Town Baths and meeting the French ambassador.”
It strikes me as refreshing – and utterly appropriate for an inner London borough – to blend the historic paraphernalia of office with a younger, alternative outlook on the merits of the area. It would be a worthwhile legacy if subsequent mayors felt similarly able to find a theme that matched their own interests, rather than feeling pressured to focus on something more predictable.
Indeed, as I walked past the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras on my way back to West Hampstead, I found myself hoping that the next Mayor will also manage to marry the dignity of office with a bit of Camden joie de vivre.

Rock on the High Road: Kilburn’s music then and now

The arrival of The Betsy Smith – a pub/music venue – on the Kilburn High Road is yet another indication that the old Roman road is finding its way back onto the musical map.

After my brief round-up of West Hampstead’s musical heritage, I was delighted to be invited to join accredited blue badge guide Simon Rodway on a walking tour of Kilburn’s musical treasures. This was organised by Camden council, who are putting together a self-guided podcast. October is also Camden mayor Jonathan Simpson‘s Music Month, so what better time to catch up on music on the very edge of the borough – an area often overlooked in favour of Camden Town and Chalk Farm.

We kick off outside the iconic State building. Recently taken over by the Ruach Ministry on condition that the decorative interior was restored. When I first moved to Kilburn and lived round the corner from the State it was a bingo hall, but when it opened in 1937 it was Europe’s biggest auditorium , seating 4,004 people. Anyone and everyone has played there and The Who’s live performance there is a DVD classic. It is also home to one of the largest working Wurlitzers in the country and this too will be restored to its former glory.

The Rolling Stones backstage at the State Nov 19, 1963

Working our way north up the High Road (bizarrely with a full police escort, which makes us look like VIPs but does nothing to suggest that this is a perfectly safe part of town) we pause outside the National. This enormous venue was built in 1914 and was a cinema and ballroom initially. In the 1980s and early 1990s bands including Suede, Nirvana, The Smiths and Blur played here. It too was taken over by an evangelical church – the Victory Christian Centre – but this ran into all sorts of problems. At the moment the building is used by another church movement, the UCKG.

The next stop on the tour is not really music-related, but it is the epicentre of Kilburn’s cultural revival. The Tricycle Theatre is certainly one of the most respected off West End theatres in London, with a reputation for staging political plays that often transfer to larger theatres or go on tour.

From the Tricycle, with its “opened by Emma Thompson” plaque we head across the road to the Sir Colin Campbell. I’ll be honest, this is one of those pubs that I always thought you’d have to pay me to go in. It looks like an old-man Irish pub and upon entering there is indeed one old man sitting at the bar. The landlord looks surprised to see us, and does a double-take when the police escort walks in. But when prompted to tell us about the music at the pub he is more than happy to tell us about the sessions on a Friday night. It all sounds genuinely Irish and not tourist Oirish, and actually the sort of place that could be a good night out if you threw yourself into it.

We walk up to The Good Ship, the first of Kilburn’s cluster of live music venues. John, the owner, is there to meet us and give us the lowdown of the low stage. The Good Ship tends to have younger up-and-coming bands. John tells us of the night Adele and Kate Nash shared the bill, and explains that bands like the back projection that lets them have more imaginative visuals.

I throw in a good plug for the Monday night comedy. What I like about The Good Ship is that it’s completely lacking in pretension. It is also willing to try things out and has hosted spoken word events and quizzes as well as music. Right now, it’s the most reliable comedy club in the area and at £4 an absolute bargain. Recent better known acts have included Josie Long, Milton Jones and an unbilled impromptu opening from the great Ed Byrne. But back to the music.

We turn off the High Road to a place none of us has ever even heard of. The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance is a living and breathing rock school. It offers full BMus degrees as well as diplomas, foundation courses and specialist courses. We actually gatecrashed and they’re weren’t expecting us but the college’s CEO Paul Kirkham appeared and gave us a quick talk about the college. Its aim is not to churn out the next X-Factor winner or Simon Fuller band, but rather to give students a sustainable career in music. He cited the fact that half a dozen or so students were at Glastonbury this year as backing singers/musicians. The college was originally in Acton before moving to its rather swish Dyne Road premises, of which it is taking over more and more floors.

By now, Andy at The Luminaire was ready for us. Modest to a fault, he ascribed the venue’s success to the fact that there are clean towels in the dressing room. The club, above the Kings Head bar, has the biggest pulling power in the area. It has a slight tendencey towards bluesy/folky musicians, but also hosts its fair share of pop & rock bands. The Libertines, Editors, James Morrison and Jarvis Cocker have all played there, while some months ago I saw the last living Delta bluesman David Honeyboy Edwards at what may well be his final London gig.

The Luminaire’s famous “silence during the music” policy is almost a trademark and although it’s often ignored during the support acts, it has undoubtedly contributed to the fact that artists like the place. Punters like it because as well as good acts, the managemnt is conscious that they often have to get home on public transport, so sets tend to be over in time to catch the tube or train. Put it all together and it’s not surprising that Time Out and Music Week have both given it Music Venue of the Year awards. It also has an excellent website (something a lot of London’s music venues would do well to emulate).

The last stop on our Camden musical tour was meant to be Powers. Owned by former Mean Fiddler founder Vince Power, it is a more intimate music experience and again focuses on up-and-coming acts. Sadly, we were a bit early to have a snoop around and as this was the one place I hadn’t been to I had been intrigued to see inside.

We’d managed to spend several enjoyable hours exploring the musical legacy and contemporary scene along the Kilburn High Road (with the exception of The Westbury). It’s great that a street that inspired the name of Ian Dury’s first band and that has let Marilyn Monroe and Kurt Cobain entertain its residents, is still rocking.

UPDATE May 2011 – Camden has produced a PDF map of the musical heritage of the High Road.

The Railway’s musical legacy

It’s common knowledge that The Beatles auditioned at Decca studios on Broadhurst Gardens, now the English National Opera premises. The New Years Day (1962) session didn’t go as well as manager Brian Epstein hoped and resulted in the now infamous rejection: “The Beatles have no future in show business”.

Also fairly well known is that The Railway pub on the corner of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane had an upstairs function room that played host to big name acts including the Rolling Stones and London’s adopted guitar hero Jimi Hendrix. During this time it was called the Klooks Kleek and was a key component of the capital’s burgeoning blues scene. Supergroup Cream even recorded its first live album there. Along with Mick, Eric and Jimi, luminaries such as John Mayall and Georgie Fame graced the stage at Klooks – or would have done if there had actually been a stage. This article from Down the Lane tells the whole story.

Klooks was like an old Victorian drawing room, some 20 metres square and unlike other venues had no stage at all. The floor was carpeted, the walls curtained in red velvet and covered in flock wallpaper, all making for very good acoustics. There were no mixing desks, lighting rigs, sound/ lighting engineers or even sound checks, the bands just tuned up and played. It was a bit like a gig in your own front room

What I did not know until this morning was that even in the 1970s and 80s the venue was still pulling in big names. In 1979, an up-and-coming rock group played The Moonlight – as it had been renamed. It appears to be the first time Paul, Dave, Larry and Adam had gigged outside Ireland. The U2gigs site contains this short review of the set from an Adam Symons.

U2 were very intense and Bono was mesmerising. The small hot club with its low ceiling was claustrophobic in a good way, if that is possible. Their short set left a great impression on me…”

The Moonlight was also on the small circuit of London clubs that hosted the occasional southern forays by the new wave of Manchester bands. The Dark Circle Room blog has some of the recordings from Joy Division’s Factory by Moonlight gigs (note the spelling mistake in the sleeve notes of the live album).

Here’s a faster loading set list, photos of the entrance as it looks now, and an extract from the NME about the impending refurb of the club.

Of course West Hampstead has other musical claims to fame. Artists as diverse as Dusty Springfield and Slash were both born here; and that Decca audition might have put the Fab Four off NW6 but it didn’t stop them from recording some of their most influential material just down the road by the world’s most famous zebra crossing.

Live music can still be found from time to time along West End Lane: at the Lower Ground Bar, The Wet Fish Café, Pizza Express, even – once in a while – at The Railway itself. But local music fans have to trot down to Kilburn venues such as The Luminaire, The Good Ship or Powers, or hold out for the OxjamKilburn festival for their fix of anything redolent of the days when Keith Richards riffed through the clouds of his own cigarette smoke at Klooks Kleek.