Musical Barnes

Barnes can lay claim to the title of 'musical landmark' for both joyous and sad reasons. A roll of honour that includes the composer of the Planets Suite and the recording of Bohemian Rhapsody puts Barnes firmly on the music map. Sadly Barnes Common is also the site of the death in a car crash of the iconic 1970s pop star Marc Bolan.

Gustav Holst, who lived in one of the lovely Georgian houses on The Terrace by the river, came to Barnes as the Director of Music of St Paul's School in 1909 and stayed until his death in 1934. His post at St Paul's was then taken over by another revered, but slightly less celebrated British composer Herbert Howells.

St Paul's continues to play an important role in Barnes when it comes to music with its impressive Wathen Hall which runs concert seasons every year which have featured musicians such as Dame Mitsuko Uchida and Dame Emma Kirkby.

The jazz pub The Bull's Head has been holding nightly gigs since the 1960s and jazz greats that have played 'The Bull' include Colman Hawkins, Tubby Hayes, Shorty Rogers, Ronnie Scott, Humphry Littleton and Stan Tracy. The Bull was also the site of one of Mick Jagger's most intimate concerts when he joined his brother Chris's blues band on stage for an impromptu performance in 2008 to the shock and delight of the 80 people in the audience.

Barnes is also the home to one of the twentieth century's greatest lyricists Sir Tim Rice, co-author of Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, and as a great chronicler of rock history Sir Tim would probably be able to produce a much more exhaustive account of music in Barnes than you are reading here.

Finally no history of music in Barnes would be complete without a mention of The Olympic Studios. Sadly closed by EMI in 2009, these recording studios saw the birth of an amazing number of great albums. It was at the Olympic studios that The Beatles recorded the original track of 'All You Need is Love' and where the Rolling Stones recorded five consecutive albums in the 1960s. Queen recorded 'A Night at the Opera' there and Led Zeppelin, The Who and Eric Clapton produced some of their best work at the Olympic.  Amazingly diverse musicians were recording at the studios right up to their closure including U2, Oasis, Joan Armatrading, Corinne Bailey Rae, The Arctic Monkeys and Bjork. The full list is quite extraordinary and can be found on Wikipedia. The Olympic has now returned to its original use as a cinema, re-opening in late 2013. It honours its past by having the very latest Dolby Atmos sound system and will also house a small recording studio.


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