London, the Big Smoke. It’s without a doubt one of the most exciting cities on this planet. It’s rich with historic and cultural heritage, and home to world famous musicians. It is massive yet everything is within reach, and its North, South, East, and West divisions have their own strong individual personalities. But, you probably already know this.
But did you know what a YouGov survey classified each area as? The North got intellectual and pretentious, the East poor and up-and-coming, the South was rough and suburban, and the West posh (and pretentious too, actually). Beyond the survey, however, my experience is that us in the West, are considered to be far from all the cool places and we’re a drag to get to. Nonsense!
The West and its Rockin’ Famous Musicians
The West quite literally rocks, having played a pivotal role in shaping modern pop culture, being home to world famous musicians. For starters, Ealing and Acton are the birthplace to British Rhythm & Blues. The Rolling Stones, for instance, were formed in the Ealing Club, and The Who went to Acton High School (formerly Acton County Grammar School).
Furthermore, in the 1960s Marshall Amplification was based in Hanwell. Another name associated with the area is Freddie Mercury who studied at the Ealing Technical College & School of Art. Also noteworthy is Acton’s Adam Faith, the UK’s first artist to have his first seven hits chart Top 5. Similarly Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell, and more recently Jamiroquai hail from Ealing.
But besides being home to famous musicians, perhaps it’s no wonder there is such a big community of musicians in West London – it’s a magnet for creativity. Abundant with rehearsal studios (e.g. Survival Studios and Panic Studios), world-famous recording studios as Metropolis in Chiswick, tons of record labels and iconic live venues such as The Troubadour, we have musically industrious economy.
But enough of history; what about some of our current local musicians? Musos can sometimes be perceived as larger than life, mysterious and not necessarily relatable. This, as our experience of them is generally on stage, TV (YouTube), or our Walkman (iPod).
So who are they and what do they do? I thought I’d introduce you to a few to give you an insight into the music scene, community and industry from the comfort of your seat. Perhaps this might even inspire you to go check out more live music, or even pick up an instrument.
You see, musicians have to do lots of jobs. Meet Ed Thorne, a fantastic professional drummer who, as well as teaching privately and in schools, plays in a covers band, the iPhonics. But that’s not all; he works as a freelance sound engineer all over the country. When I asked him about how he feels about this type of work, compared to gigging and recording, he told me “it’s very rewarding striving to produce a good sound, both for the band on stage, and for the audience to enjoy and dance to!” And like the rest of us, he works so he can fund his originals band, The Fuse.
But you see, not all drummers do the same jobs either! I too am a professional drummer too but my work involves recording drums for artists all over the world, and giving private drum lessons. In addition to this I have launched products, published a book, amongst other things. The point is that we have to be entrepreneurial.
Similarly, there are also those of us who play for big artists. Take Dave Troke, a fantastic bass player whose work includes, amongst many others, playing with stars like Leo Sayer, Dido, Professor Green and Donna Summer. “What I like about my job”, he says, “is that fact I get to play with different musicians, in different locations, and I love playing bass”. Indeed, he also feels honoured when he’s asked to play with artists he listens or had a career before he was born. Such was the case with Sister Sledge, which he recalls as his favourite experience. And again, like most musicians, he also teaches – although he does so at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll?
So you see, it’s not all sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – well, maybe sometimes. The truth is, however, that the job is tough, sometimes long hours for little pay. And to cope with the physical and mental aspects, we need to stay in shape and keep our chops up to remain relevant and maintain our reputation. And, unfortunately like everyone else, we also have to do admin – nobody is safe from admin.
I hope this has not only given you a brief insight into the music scene here in West London, with both its local and famous musicians. But but likewise, made you a bit more proud of living in such a culturally rich and relevant community.