Pop Rock Icons; London’s Swingin’ 60s and 70s – Book review

Image above: Cover image from Pop Rock Icons

R&B … Prog rock … Heavy Metal … Pub rock … Glam rock …

Richmond publishers Aurora Metro Books / Supernova have brought out a new book of photographs of rock and pop from Swingin’ London in the ’60s and ’70s.

Many of the ‘icons’ such as the Rolling Stones and the Who came from west London and made their names playing clubs in Richmond, Teddington and Ealing, and Pop Rock Icons; London’s Swingin’ 60s and 70s has pictures of them rehearsing, relaxing, just being themselves as well as the set piece publicity images published to promote their tours and albums.

The book starts with the Stones and the Beatles and makes its way through the London of the Mods and the Anglification of R&B to the eras of progressive rock, heavy metal, pub rock and glam rock.

The Chiswick Calendar talked to rock & pop journalist David Sinclair, who wrote the foreword to the book.

Image above: David Sinclair

“A fantastic snapshot of the era”

“Philippe Margotin has assembled a fantastic snapshot of that era” he says. “The book is a celebration of 60 years since the big Rhythm and Blues explosion and he has collected images from all over.”

Philipple Margotin has previously written a series of rock & pop books: Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Springsteen which have been translated from his native French into English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Chinese and sold more than 600,000 copies around the world.

David Sinclair has been a musician since the 1970s and music journalist since the 1980s. As chief rock & pop correspondent of The Times and a contributor to Rolling Stone, Billboard, Q magazine and many others, he has seen and met many of the bands featured in the book.

“What people forget about pop music in the UK at the start of the 1960s was the extraordinary effort you had to make to hear it” he says in the book.

“You might stumble upon a Chuck Berry track on the BBC kids’ radio programme Saturday Club or catch a glimpse of The Searchers on the only TV music show Thank Your Lucky Stars. Otherwise, it was a case of tuning into Radio Luxembourg, where the songs were deliberately faded by the DJ before the end.

“If you managed to hear a song you liked, you had to dash out and buy the record to be sure of ever hearing it again.”

Image above: Rolling Stones; photograph Tony Gale/Pictorial/DALLE

A “Big Bang in the world of grey cultural conformity”

The arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on the scene triggered a “Big Bang” in this world of “grey cultural conformity” that echoes to this day.

Though the origins of R&B were American, it was British bands who were responsible for the revolution in music, fashion and the culture which went with rock and pop.

“Americans were almost embarrassed by the Blues” he says. “They weren’t celebrating it. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Kinks put a British spin on it and the Americans were pretty impressed. They called it the ‘British invasion’.”

The first time the Beatles and the Rolling Stones met was 14 April 1963 at the Station Hotel in Richmond.

David frequented venues such as the Half Moon in Putney, the Crawdaddy Club, which opened in 1963 and moved to the Athletics ground in Richmond, and the hotel at Eel Pie Island which burned down in 1971, as both a punter and a musician.

“Nowadays, music is everywhere” he writes. “You can download virtually any song you want to hear at almost any time from just about anywhere on the planet. It is part of the cultural air that we all breathe.

“Yet with so much to choose from, the catalogues of the stars which started their journey from these islands in the 1960s and 1970s remain the gold standard by which contemporary pop and rock music is still judged.”

As Judith Simons wrote in the Daily Express at the time, the photographs of the Stones were guaranteed to upset the wartime generation and were like a wake-up call to the young:

“They look like boys whom any self-respecting mum would lock in the bathroom. But the Rolling Stones, five tough young London-based music makers with doorstep mouths, pallid cheeks and unkempt hair are not worried what mums think!”

It was not the done thing to smirk at the camera. It was insolent, provocative. “Would you let your sister go out with a Rolling Stone?” asked Melody Maker in 1964. Growing up in Bristol, I remember boys from Bristol Grammar School being suspended just for going to see them. (They may have bunked off school to do it. Maybe it was that which got them suspended, come to think of it).

Their manager Andrew Loog Oldham did his level, and very effective, best to distance them from the clean-cut image of the Beatles. There are two images of the bands at a golf club. While the Beatles look as if they are conducting a business meeting on the links, the Stones look as if they might do someone some serious damage with the clubs.

“If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth” said Keith Richards, “you might as well use both feet.”

The Beatles soon ditched the boy-next-door circa 1950 look and with characteristic arrogance John Lennon declared:

“We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”

At the same time John Mayall’s band Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, the Yarbirds (whose line-up included three of the greatest guitar ‘heroes’ in rock history: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page), as well as bands such as the Animals and Manfred Mann were putting some serious work into revitalising R&B.

Alexis Corner was one of the very first to introduce the Blues to UK audiences at the Ealing Jazz Club, which features in another book published recently by Aurora Metro: Rock’s Diamond Year.

READ ALSO: Celebrating the Rock heritage of SW London

Image above: Spencer Davis Group; photograph Tony Gale/Pictorial/DALLE

For those who weren’t there and those who can’t remember that they were

Pop Rock Icons; London’s Swingin’ 60s and 70s has a curious photograph of the Animals, with short cropped hair, all wearing suits and ties, in which it seems great efforts have been made to colour coordinate their shirts with the colour of the painted wall behind them, yet the angle of the photograph seems to indicate the photographer is more interested in the polystyrene tiles on the ceiling then they are on the band. Maybe that was considered cool.

The Spencer Davis group look more natural draped over a red mini and wearing silly hats, reminiscent of many a student photograph of the time and there is a fabulous picture of Rod Stewart before he entered the trademark shaggy mullet phase, in which his hair is positively bouffant.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and looking at the pictures. It did not tell me anything I did not already know, but that is not the point of it.

Coming from Bristol I missed out on the casual familiarity of the London clubs, having to watch the top bands in bigger venues such as the Colston Hall, but the fashions bring back lots of great memories.

I had a purple felt floppy hat just like the one sported by Roger Daltrey on one of the publicity photos for the 1968 album Magic Bus: The Who on Tour (though I would like to stress I acquired mine ten years later, probably (unknowingly) because Roger Daltrey had worn one on that tour). I remember crocheting something very like a dress that Sandie Shaw is wearing in one of the other pictures.

By the time I was a teenager Top of the Pops was well established and the NME, essential reading, had become the best-selling British music newspaper. Cream, Procul Harum, King Crimson, Cat Stevens, Genesis, all the bands we saw at the Colston Hall are featured in the book.

I was very upset to be left out when a ‘friend’ got tickets for what was touted as the ‘last ever’ Bowie tour in the late ’70s and left me out, but I saw Eric Clapton, Emmerson Lake and Palmer, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and my favourite band Yes, also in the book.

“I spent a day with David Bowie” David Sinclair tells me, doing nothing to lessen my sense of grievance. We went to Trident studios in Soho where he recorded Ziggy Stardust and the telephone box which he used for the back cover of the album. We had a great day out.”

ACDC were fun, he remembers. Malcolm and Angus Yaris were “hilarious”, while his fondest memories are of a couple of days spent with the Stones in 1995 or ’96 in Toronto.

“I did a terrible interview with Prince in New York. It was a contractual obligation for him to do it but he didn’t want to and he wouldn’t let me record it. He gave me monosyllabic answers or said either ‘that’s too personal’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about that’ to more or less everything I asked.

“He had a surprisingly deep voice and strong handshake. I spent three days trailing after him.”

Everyone has strong memories of the bands they followed in their youth, because I suppose we were young and they were a big part of those years. The book is aimed at “all those who missed out” on this era of British rock & pop, says David Sinclair, “and all those who were there and want to reminisce.”

The book is being launched with a bus tour of some of the old haunts of these bands in west London on Sunday 20  November, organised by Paul Endacott. Tickets: 60sbus.london.

Copies of the book are available to buy online here: aurorametro.com

Images above: Singing Sixties bus tour

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