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

First stop for the Fab Four when they set off to create footage for the Magical Mystery Tour in September 1967? The Pied Piper Restaurant in Basingstoke! With Paul already on board, the bus left London and swung past Virginia Water in Surrey to collect John, George and Ringo. The band then stopped off here before heading off down the A30 to Cornwall, via Devon.

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 enroute 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 about 18 months earlier. On March 21st 1966, Bowie played a gig at The Galaxy Club, at St. Joseph’s Church Hall (now Carpenters Court) on Western Way. A pre-gig newspaper clipping from the time said:
“David Bowie (in real life a David Jones!) entertains at Basingstoke’s Galaxy Club on Monday. This 19-year old singer was discovered by Tony Hatch.”

Tony Hatch is a producer and songwriter who has worked with Petula Clark, Sasha Distel, The Searchers and Scott Walker – to name but a few. Fact fans: Hatch also wrote the theme tune to TV soaps Neighbours and Crossroads!

And if you still aren’t convinced that Basingstoke is a musical hotspot just take look at some of the names that graced the Town Hall, now The Willis Museum:

  • John Mayall’s Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton
  • Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac
  • Lulu
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Jimmy Cliff
  • 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
  • The Moody Blues

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

So, next time you’re stepping out of McDonalds or heading down to Halfords, glance away from your shake n’ fries, take a moment in the screen wash section; look up and appreciate Basingstoke’s well-deserved place on the musical map.

Want to make YOUR mark on the local area, and beyond? Brevity is marketing company in Basingstoke with the specialist skills you need to put your business centre stage. Contact us on 01256 536 000.

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