On 27 March, BBC Four television celebrated outer London’s music heritage with a screening of Rock ‘n’ Roll Island, a documentary about the legendary Eel Pie Island Hotel.
The island venue near Twickenham on the River Thames was undoubtedly THE south west London hub for innovative live music performance in the period 1956 to 1971.
Starting as a Wednesday night trad jazz club, Eel Pie picked up on the R&B boom which had been started at the Ealing Club in March 1962 by Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. It went on to host performances by a who’s who list of 1960s British bands including Long John Baldry’s Hoochie Coochie Men, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The Who. Musicians who cut their teeth there included Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton and Rod Stewart.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Island is an excellent companion to the story of the Ealing Club told in 62 Films‘ feature-length documentary Suburban Steps to Rockland.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Island film, a museum and regular Eel Pie Club gigs at The Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham are ensuring the continuing celebration of a music legacy that is closely intertwined with that of Ealing, Hanwell, Richmond and other outer London neighbourhoods.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Island included great interviews with figures such as Rod Stewart and Peter Frampton explaining how their careers began in music thanks to Eel Pie Island. Ealing Club followers will recognize Don Craine of the Downliners Sect and members of The Others and Robert Hokum of the Ealing Blues Festival who also feature in the film.
The venue’s last blast started in 1969, as an event known as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden that hosted the heavier sounds of the late 1960s. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Edgar Broughton, Free, Genesis, Hawkwind, Mott The Hoople, Supertramp, Taste, The Nice and Wishbone Ash all passed through.
The Eel Pie Island Hotel burnt down in 1971.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Island – Where Legend’s were Born is available on BBC iPlayer until 21 April 2020 from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gp1k/rock-n-roll-island-where-legends-were-born
Suburban Steps To Rockland – The Story of The Ealing Club is still available on Now TV at: https://www.nowtv.com/watch/suburban-steps-to-rockland…-2019/A5EK4nmp9qb4LBrEfV35G
For more on Ealing’s Music Heritage check out the A-Z of Ealing Rock.