A Rock’n’Roll History of Richmond

By Jonathan, on November 11th, 2012

Richmond is a pretty rock’n’roll Borough.

It’s been the home of many great British pop stars including Richard Ashcroft (The Verve), Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Rick Astley, Anastacia, Molly King (The Saturdays), Kylie Minogue and Pete Townshend, but not everyone is aware of the Borough’s rich musical heritage over the last 100 or so years.

Our story begins at the very end of the 19th Century when one of the great British songwriters, Noel Coward, was born in Teddington in 1899. And between 1908 and 1913 the other end of our Borough was home to Gustav Holst who composed more than 200 works, including operas, ballets, choral hymns and songs – but he is most well known for ‘The Planets’ which was first performed while he lived in on The Terrace, in Barnes – now marked by a blue plaque. If you’re into classical music that’s a very big deal.

But fast forward to the early 1960s and the mood turns to rock’n’roll. The area we now describe as Richmond upon Thames found itself as a hotbed of rock’n’roll, when the Richmond Crawdaddy became a favoured venue of the most exciting English R&B bands – including the very first gig by a bunch of misfits called the Rolling Stones… not to mention performances by Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Rod Stewart. The most legendary night was when the Stones played the Crawdaddy in front of a crowd including Eric Clapton and most of the Yardbirds.

At the same time, just down the road in Twickenham, Eel Pie Island took on a near mythical status as artists including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie performed.

By the end of the decade it had chalked up stars like Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Who, Hawkwind and Van Der Graaf Generator. To put that into perspective for everyone under 30, imagine being able to walk over the bridge to see bands like Muse, Coldplay, and Green Day playing there.

In the mid 1960s Olympic Studios moved to Barnes and became a favourite with the leading bands of the time.

The Stones recorded six albums, The Beatles recorded All You Need Is Love, Hendrix recorded significant parts of three of his albums including Electric Ladyland and Are You Experienced?, The Who made Who’s Next and Who Are You, and Led Zeppelin, Queen, Small Faces, Hawkwind, Deep Purple and David Bowie all spent time in the studio recording great music. Oh, and it was also used to record Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale. And that was all in the 60s and 70s.

Before the studio closed down in 2009, some of the biggest artists in the world had made music at Olympic, including BB King, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Boy George, The Cult, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, The Eagles, Ella Fitzgerald, INXS, Kylie Minogue, Massive Attack, Oasis, Paul Weller, Pet Shop Boys, Roxy Music, Spice Girls, The Stranglers, U2 and Westlife.

But it’s not all in the past. We still have a thriving music scene!

In the North of our great Borough Kew Gardens holds its annual Kew Music Festival with artists as diverse as Status Quo, M People, Chic, James Morrison, Will Young, Gipsy Kings and Los Lobos performing this year. We’ve been to a couple of these in the past and they are extremely civilised affairs, with posh picnics and much wine.

Strawberry Hill House is the home of two great annual music events. The Strawberry Hill Music & Fun Day is provides a stage for a number of local bands who rock the House every July, and their Jazz Festival has now successfully completed two years, despite an epic amount of rain this year! We hope it will run and run.

Richmond’s Riverside Festival has been running for 17 years (occasionally with different names) and is a summer celebration of global music and dance with an ever-diverse line up which this year included a Mexican Mariachi band, a French Quartet, and music from West Africa. It’s always great fun.

And in the last few years Twickenham Stadium has begun to host major concerts for world renowned artists including Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Genesis, U2, The Rolling Stones, The Police, The Eagles, Rod Stewart, R.E.M. and most recently, Lady Gaga.

Although the additional crowds do cause a local headache, the RFU have consistently offered reduced price tickets to local Twickenham residents as part of a ballot – and the people we’ve asked have said that most times they’ve applied they have received.

Of course it doesn’t all end there. The Borough is full of musical societies from Opera, Choral and Sinfonia to Jazz, Folk and Rock (see our music page for more info) and plenty of places to watch live performances in every town, albeit mostly pubs!

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