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The Rolling Stones: How Eel Pie Island shaped the band’s career

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Mick JaggerImage copyright Mike Peters
Image caption Mick Jagger acting at Eel Pie Island in 1963

The Rolling Stones’ return to Twickenham on 19 June is extra than simply one other tour date – it is a rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage 5 a long time in the making.

Back in 1963, precisely 55 years in the past to the day, the younger band took to the stage simply a quick stroll away from Twickenham Stadium, as a part of their five-month residency at the Eel Pie Island Hotel – one in all the birthplaces of the ’60s revolution.

To mark the anniversary, these concerned in the haze of The Stones’ riverside gigs in south west London that summer time communicate to BBC News about their recollections and clarify simply why it was so particular.

‘Match made in heaven’

Tucked away deep inside the enigmatic island, the resort – in-built 1830 – started life as a luxurious three-story riverside resort, standard with holidaymakers searching for tranquillity.

Despite its obvious calm, it additionally contained the good elements for teenage rebel – a ballroom, sprawling bar, and, most significantly, a sprung dancefloor. Rumours swirled of raucous dance evenings all through the ’20s and ’30s, earlier than the venue fell into a long time of decay.

But even all through the wilderness years, these components remained intact, dormant and able to be rediscovered. When the rhythm and blues invasion gripped standard tradition it proved a passionate match made in heaven.

From 1956, the resort performed host to over 900 gigs. In the phrases of 1 early common, Janet Wedler, it grew to become a “mecca” for fervent teenage need – soundtracked first by reside performances from jazz greats resembling Acker Bilk and Ken Colyer, and, by ’63, the sound of The Yardbirds’ blues.

The Stones’ residency that summer time coincided with the launch of their debut single Come On – a rallying cry that chimed with the youth’s insatiable craving for change.

The seeds of the resort’s transformation lay at the arms of Michael Snapper and Arthur Chisnall.

The pair labored collectively at Snapper’s Corner – a Kingston emporium of oddities, furnishings and vinyl data, reflecting the flamboyant spirit of its proprietor.

After visiting Eel Pie Island, Snapper purchased the resort, recognising its potential.

Image copyright The Arthur Chisnall Archive
Image caption The resort, initially in-built 1830, hosted an estimated 900 gigs

Following the success of some casual jazz nights, Chisnall stepped in, providing to pay the bands and legitimise the venue as a membership.

Snapper “saw the dollar signs” and “bit his hand off” says Pete Watt, a journalist and historian at the Eel Pie Island museum.

“He wanted to help people further themselves,” Watt explains, including that Chisnall had realised that music was “the best way to unite young people”.

Speaking on Radio four’s The Eel Pie Island Hotel, shortly earlier than his dying in 2006, Chisnall mentioned: “I didn’t know what impact I was having on the music scene. You’ve got to remember that my job was to create a world for people and I created that world.”

The creation of this different actuality was galvanised by the bridge that Snapper in-built 1957 to interchange the ferry service over to the island.

The practice line from Windsor to Twickenham was affectionately renamed the Eel Pie Special. For Ray Chellingworth, an Eel Pie common, making that journey felt like “leaving ordinary life behind”.

Hidden down a winding path, the resort’s pale grandeur made it “incredibly unusual – certainly not a normal jazz club or bar”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The bridge, funded by Snapper, remodeled entry to the island and the resort, beforehand solely reachable by ferry

Its Wednesday evening gigs – which by ’62 boasted jive nights that includes Screaming Lord Sutch and the Rebel Rousers – grew to become a large success, eulogised about by youngsters throughout London and past.

Parental issues about the resort intensified amid quite a few studies of hashish raids. It was a time of multinational warnings about the creation of the teenager – a new idea, however this response solely served to strengthen the resort’s attraction.

The venue performed on this mythology. Regular attendees may apply for a passport which might grant entry to Eelpiland, whereas all people acquired an entry stamp – a pledge of allegiance.

However, one evening in early ’63, Chisnall arrived to search out the venue nearly abandoned. The cause? The close by Station Hotel in Richmond had The Rolling Stones performing.

‘I am with the band, man!’

A go to to one in all their reveals satisfied Chisnall he wanted to behave rapidly to catch the crest of the cultural wave.

Even at this early stage of their career, The Stones had already change into “the great sensation you must pay to see” says Keith Altham, who went on to symbolize the band from ’64.

Chisnall did simply that, providing the band an unheralded 5 month Wednesday evening residency, from April to September, at £45 a present (with the choice for them to proceed enjoying in Richmond each Sunday).

Their takeover rapidly elevated the membership evening to dizzy heights.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The resort’s sprung dancefloor at all times stored individuals shifting

Stuart Gurney, who labored on the door at the time alongside Chisnall has by no means forgotten the sudden, seismic influence the band made.

In a matter of weeks, he admits he went from not realizing who Mick Jagger was to realising he was watching historical past in the making.

“During one in all their first reveals, I truly stopped Mick from coming into as he did not have a stamp and I wasn’t conscious who he was.

“It was only when he said ‘I’m with the band, man!’ that I realised he was the lead singer,” Gurney says.

‘At breaking level’

Lengthy queues fashioned outdoors the venue, with the ballroom’s younger rock lovers “packed in like sardines”.

“We even had to begin turning fans away, because the venue – always dilapidated – really was at breaking point,” he remembers.

The cause for the band’s reputation lay, Gurney says, of their “energy and basslines” orchestrated by Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts on drums – and the reality they had been “just so bloody good”.

Chellingworth had a comparable expertise: “My buddies and I had been initially disillusioned, as we would gone to see The Yardbirds, however the Stones took their place.

“Mick was typically Mick, he hasn’t changed, I remember dancing like crazy.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A powerful communal spirit, overseen by Chisnall, stored the resort’s membership nights largely free from bother

The resort’s sprung dancefloor made it nearly not possible to face nonetheless. This solely added to the environment of the surroundings – scorching, smoky and stuffed with irrepressible power, as ale flowed freely.

The high flooring was meant to be closed off resulting from well being and security, however guests usually made their means as much as discover some privateness, shall we embrace.

“There was even a room upstairs for the bands, and girls got up there. That was where the action happened,” says Gurney.

Over time, the venue witnessed the teenage years of quite a few future stars from Ronnie Wood and his brother Art, to Rod Stewart.

“Rod was far from a big name then,” provides Gurney. “He liked a good time but I paid his entrance fee once!”

In the years that adopted the venue performed host to a huge array of names, till in 1967, the council revoked its licence.

‘Rock historical past gone ceaselessly’

Faced with a £200,000 invoice for repairs, underpinned by the flooring lastly falling in (inflicting one lady to interrupt her leg) Chisnall felt had no alternative however to half methods together with his enterprise accomplice.

Snapper ultimately discovered a new accomplice in Caldwell Smythe, in any other case referred to as Colonel Barefoot.

But whereas the roster of bands continued to extend in calibre below his watch, that includes Pink Floyd, Joe Cocker, David Bowie, and ultimately The Who, Snapper was pressured to concrete over the dancefloor for security causes.

“It lost its charm and became just another venue,” says Watt.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Mick Jagger (L) and Keith Richards (R) are at the moment on tour for the Rolling Stones’ No Filter Tour

By the finish the resort grew to become an impromptu hippie commune, till in 1971 – simply after Snapper had put in redevelopment plans – the resort burnt down in a mysterious fireplace.

“No-one knows for sure what happened,” says Watt, however “the long-standing slice of rock history was gone forever”.

Looking again, may the heady surroundings Chisnall created exist as we speak? Gurney would not assume so.

“Health and safety would have a heart attack, especially given the riverside surroundings,” he says. “Many people fell in drunk.”

While Chisnall enforced few rules (other than a strict anti-drugs coverage), all people purchased into his imaginative and prescient by way of a “shared love of music and new experiences”.

Ahead of The Stones’ return to Twickenham, Gurney hopes “Mick says a few words about Eel Pie”, including: “After all, that’s where it all started.”

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