From The Beatles to Bowie: Basingstoke’s hidden magical music history

Written by Kaia Vincent
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You might not necessarily associate Basingstoke with a rich musical heritage. The town was once home to a 1960’s supergroup bassist (and electrician) Pete Staples of The Troggs, husky late-nineties chanteuse Tanita Tikaram, and that Libertine/Dirty Pretty Thing, Carl Barat – but that’s about it, isn’t it?

As a marketing company in Basingstoke, we’re always keen to discover fascinating new things about our local patch. Did you know that some of the biggest names in music have visited the town over the years?

Let’s start with a band you may well have heard of – The Beatles?

Basingstoke fields forever

When you think of places the Fab Four’s visited during the Magical Mystery Tour, Basingstoke may not have been in your top 10.  But you’d be mistaken.  There was much excitement across Basingstoke when the news spread that The Beatles were seen at The Pied Piper Restaurant.  Like most teenage girls in the 60s, my mum was a Beatles fan and can remember being upset that she didn’t get to see the Beatles – especially as the location was very near to where she lived.

The venue was only a stone’s throw from Halfords and The Harvester, or The Stag & Hounds as it was known back then, The Pied Piper was located near Brighton Hill roundabout. It was also neighbour to The White House, which had a spell in the 1960’s as an antique shop but is now known and loved as Pizza Express. If only their walls could talk, these buildings would surely tell the tale of that late summer day in 1967 when probably the most famous band of all time stepped off the Magical Mystery Tour bus to take their lunchbreak. Wonder what they ordered?

In May 1994 Christie’s auctioned a set of autographs with seven photographs of the Beatles outside The Pied Piper.

Just imagine

Our local cuisine obviously made an impression on John Lennon, as he visited Basingstoke again about sixteen months later with Yoko Ono. They were en-route to Southampton in their white Rolls Royce, hoping to board the QE2 and sail to New York with other glamourous voyagers such as Peter Sellers. Unfortunately, Lennon was left high and dry after the US immigration authorities denied him a visa due to his conviction for possessing cannabis.

If you ever get a chance to see the original promotional video for ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, you might catch footage of the Lennons outside the Pied Piper (or a signpost for Basingstoke at the very least).  Here’s a quick clip:

The man who sold out the church hall

Late, great trailblazing icon of popular culture, David Bowie, had also paid a visit to our neck of the woods in the sixties.  Not the renowned music icon he is today, Bowie played a gig at The Galaxy Club, at St. Joseph’s Church Hall (now Carpenters Court) on Western Way.  As my Uncle recalls, the venue was a popular music venue in the 60s.

And if you still aren’t convinced that Basingstoke is a musical hotspot just take look at some of the names that graced our small town:

  • John Mayall’s Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton
  • Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac
  • Lulu
  • The Tridents featuring Jeff Beck
  • The Troggs
  • Martha & The Vandellas
  • Them featuring Van Morrison
  • The Animals
  • Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men featuring Rod Stewart

Plus, Ukulele inspiration extraordinaire, George Formby, made a film here in 1944! It was called He Snoops to Conquer.

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