The British Beat Explosion: Rock n’ Roll Island
Edited by JC Wheatley
Written by Michele Whitby and Zoe Howe
- Best Blues Book (2014) by Blues Matters
About the book
Have you heard about Eel Pie Island?
Anyone with an interest in the history of UK rock n’ roll is familiar with The Cavern Club and the role that Merseyside played in the story of the British Beat scene. But on a far-less-celebrated, but no less significant path, over a small bridge onto an island in the middle of the Thames, Eel Pie Hotel, another great 60s club night, played host to acts that would later make a global name for themselves.
The Rolling Stones, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, The Small Faces, David Bowie and The Yardbirds are amongst the many acts who performed at the legendary Eel Pie Hotel during its 50s and 60s heyday, as did jazz greats like Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk, as well as more avant-garde performers like Ivor Cutler.
But how did The Eel Pie Club become such a popular venue?
What motivated its founder, Arthur Chisnall to create a space where young people could enjoy the music they wanted to, in an environment free from the usual constraints?
Why has this thriving West London scene been omitted from rock history when its influence has spread far and wide?
Recently, bands like The Mystery Jets have paid homage to Chisnall’s fabulous club, playing gigs on the island that launched careers and cemented rock’s infamous relationships.
The latest incarnation of the Eel Pie Club is alive and well. This book traces the origins of a scene that is long overdue for recognition.
Don’t just take our word for it:
The British Beat Explosion: Rock n’ Roll Island awarded Best Blues Book (2014) by Blues Matters magazine, who said “Here there are fascinating interviews with performers, and fans’ oral histories explaining why and how Eel Pie became the unlikely centre of a transformative musical and social scene.”
‘From the perspective of an Eelpieland regular- back in the day – it’s a wonderful read with great pictures – I couldn’t put it down.’ – Steven Cockcroft
About the authors
Michele Whitby has spent most of her life in the Twickenham area. She discovered Eel Pie Island whilst looking for somewhere to set up a photographic studio after leaving college in 1988 and has never really left the place since. A jack-of-all-trades (hopefully master of some!) she has been amongst other things, a photographer, leather-worker, puzzle writer, comic-book colourist and shopkeeper. She became good friends with Arthur Chisnall around 1996 while beginning to research Eel Pie’s musical past. She coauthored the book Eel Pie Island with Dan van der Vat, published in 2009. Michele has two children, Louie and Leila, and lives very happily aboard a boat on the Island, venturing off here and there to catch some live music.
Zoë Howe is a writer, musician and visual artist based in Essex. Current projects include a film and book about the life and work of X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene. Previous books include, ’Lee Brilleaux – Rock ‘n’ Roll Gentleman’, the bestselling ‘Stevie Nicks – Visions, Dreams And Rumours’, ‘Barbed Wire Kisses – The Jesus and Mary Chain Story’, ‘Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits’, ‘How’s Your Dad? Living In The Shadow of a Rock Star Parent’, ‘Florence + The Machine – An Almighty Sound’ and ‘Wilko Johnson – Looking Back At Me’. She was a contributing author to ‘British Beat Explosion – Rock ‘n’ Roll Island’ and to Julien’s documentary The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson. In 2015, Zoë joined the Doc ‘n’ Roll Film Festival jury, and as of 2016, she is The Blues Magazine’s resident ‘rock ‘n’ roll agony aunt’.
John Platt became an active librarian in 1970. Between 1977-1982 he published the San Francisco psychedelic scene magazine Comstock Lode. He also wrote and published Yardbirds (1983), London’s Rock Routes (1985), Disraeli Gears (1998), and co-wrote Jimi Hendrix: Inside the Experience (1993) with Mitch Mitchell. John married in 1992 and moved to NYC in 1993, where he curated the Lincoln Center Cinerock Festival.
Following Platt’s death in 2001 his wife, Marylou Capes, donated The John Platt Collection to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. on 6th November 2007. The Foundation transferred the collection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. on March 31, 2011. [Ref: The John Platt Collection (ARC.0051)]
The Collection spans 1960 to 1999, the bulk of material centered around the San Francisco era of psychedelic rock – containing audiovisual materials, VHS videocassettes, audiocassettes and personal files dating between 1965-1975. Artists of note in the collection include: Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cream, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Platt’s files also contain research and correspondence for many of his professional projects, including the creation of video installations and short films for the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 1995. The Platt Collection provides extensive insight to the professional life of a lifelong rock and roll fan and historian. Of particular interest are original concert recordings and video footage of interviews with prominent artists of the era. Many of the video recordings are of European television broadcasts. There are over 100 audiocassettes of Grateful Dead concert recordings in this collection.
Gina Way and her husband Warren have been producing and promoting live music events since 1998. For over 20 years she produced dance and musical theatre events (under the label
Aspects of Dance) for charity, including two Royal Galas at Richmond Theatre. She has been running the Eel Pie Club since 2000. Gina was a regular visitor to The Eel Pie Island Jazz
Club in the 1960s (when still at school) and is a contributor to The British Beat Explosion book. www.eelpieclub.com
Peter Davis is an international global educational consultant who lived in London during the 60s, and as a long-time music fan he attended gigs, concerts and happenings all over the city including visiting Eel Pie Island during its heyday.