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