Rock stars and Surrey: From John Lennon to Eric Clapton

PUBLISHED: 16:13 16 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:32 02 May 2018

Stephen Stills and friends at Brookfield near Elstead

Stephen Stills and friends at Brookfield near Elstead

Archant

The Surrey countryside has long been a draw for rock royalty from John Lennon and Keith Moon to Eric Clapton. In his new book Rock Atlas, author David Roberts traverses the nation in pursuit of musical history, and here he shares with us a few of his favourite Surrey-related anecdotes

Keith Moon’s pyramid-shaped home, later rebuilt as a snail shell...

St Ann’s Hill Road, Chertsey

The Who’s larger than life drummer, Keith Moon, lived at Tara, a home built in the shape of pyramids and named by the original owner after the southern mansion in Gone with the Wind. The eccentric structure was party central during Moon’s ownership between 1971 and 1975, when he sold the place to Kevin Godley. The 10cc man then sold in turn to Erasure’s Vince Clarke, who demolished the place but, to his credit, created an equally eccentric rock star fantasy home featuring a futuristic snail shell-like house and recording studio. Still standing as it did in the Seventies, at the bottom of the winding drive to the house is a building that was a familiar and much-loved part of Keith Moon’s life, his handily-placed local hostelry, the Golden Grove pub.

 

Bow Wow Wow go wild in the country

Priory Park, Reigate

In a 1981 reconstruction of Manet’s famous painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, the new wave band Bow Wow Bow posed for the cover of their See Jungle! See Jungle! album (and also the following year’s Last of The Mohicans EP) at a location in Priory Park in Reigate.

The Surrey beauty spot, which is overlooked by the North Downs, is a 200-acre woodland area, but not really the most private place for a photoshoot involving a degree of nudity.

Although the cover failed to get used in the UK and US, it still presents a much-seen image due to the controversial nudity of singer Annabella Luwin, who was only 15 at the time.

Photographer Andy Earl recalls the original concept of Bow Wow Wow manager Malcolm McLaren.

“He came up with the idea of copying Le déjeuner sur l’herbe on the Saturday and then we went on to shoot it on the Monday,” recalls Andy. “I remember driving around Surrey looking for locations in my old Land Rover, and eventually found this spot at Priory Park in Reigate.”

 

Paul Weller’s Town Called Malice

Woking

The Jam’s single A Town Called Malice is reported to have been based on Woking, a town much-changed since the young Paul Weller kicked a ball about in his local streets.

Meanwhile, the title of his best known solo album, Stanley Road, is the Woking back street where he grew up. Sadly, his former two-up two-down Victorian family home is a distant memory as the road has since been redeveloped as a one-way street with offices and flats.

Joining Stanley Road in the hall of fame is Walton Road, where the teenage Weller played some of his first gigs at the then Working Men’s Club, now the Woking Liberal Club.

 

From Peter Sellers to Crosby, Stills and Nash via The Beatles

Brookfield, Fulbrook Lane, Elstead

The beautiful Brookfield estate was made remarkable by the property-buying chain that saw Peter Sellers sell to Ringo Starr who sold to Stephen Stills.

The 15th century oak-beamed house, complete with Japanese deer pond, waterfowl and stables, was owned by Peter Sellers when he married Britt Ekland. The actor added a cinema above the garage and, at vast expense, imported a beautiful front door all the way from Italy. Rumour has it that Ringo Starr later adapted the door by cutting a cat flap in it for the family’s Siamese cats.

During Ringo’s time, the place was the location for a meeting convened in January 1969 to attempt to get The Beatles back together to finish the Let It Be album. George Harrison was the defector summoned to Brookfield and the attempt to get back was successful, the four switching studios from the cold and not very nice atmosphere at Twickenham, as George put it, to their studio at Savile Row.

When Stephen Stills first rented, then bought the house from Ringo Starr, his period in Surrey coincided with a rich vein of form in 1970. Escaping the infighting surrounding supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young back in the States, Stills set about writing and recording his first solo album, commuting from Brookfield up to London’s Island Studios, where both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix contributed to the LP.

Through all the rock ‘n’ roll changes at Brookfield, one thing was constant: the presence of the estate’s gardener John. A calming influence over all he met, Stills even wrote a song about him: Johnny’s Garden appeared on the first Manassas album.

But it wasn’t the only legacy left by the pipe-smoking herbalist who had a profound effect on all Brookfield’s tenants: Peter Sellers based his performance of Chance the Gardener on John in the 1979 movie Being There.

 

Eric Clapton’s legacy of Layla

Hurtwood Edge, Ewhurst

Eric Clapton moved into his 1910 Italian-styled villa, Hurtwood Edge, in 1969 and it was here he wrote Layla for Pattie Boyd, who he later married. The house became love nest, band rehearsal HQ for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and Derek and The Dominos, and of course home to the reclusive guitarist himself.

The Dominos’ keyboard player, Bobby Whitlock, recalled writing songs with Clapton by the fireside at Hurtwood Edge, although Layla, Clapton’s signature song and the standout track on Derek and The Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, was one song Clapton worked on alone in his bedroom.

When Eric finally did marry Pattie, in 1979, a party to celebrate the occasion at Hurtwood Edge saw Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Denny Laine, Ginger Baker and Lonnie Donegan join Eric on stage for a jam in the garden.

On another point of interest, Bobby Whitlock, remembers visits to the local pub, The Windmill, at Pitch Hill: “We wrote I Looked Away, then we went down the village pub for sausages and beer.”

More from Surrey Life

00:00

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Yesterday, 11:55

Enjoy this 2 hour, 3.5 mile (5.6 km) walk around Nutfield and Priory Farm

Read more
Yesterday, 11:35

After a glittering ceremony at G Live Guildford on 13 September, we announce the winners of the 2018 Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2018

Read more
Yesterday, 11:31

With growing conditions to rival that of some of the best Champagne houses in France, the south east’s sparkling wine production is booming. We excusively introduce a newly-formed collective of five vineyards aiming to place Surrey firmly on the map

Read more
Mon, 15:29

Erin Boag, the first lady of Strictly, came to the UK 23 years ago. She bought an A to Z, stuck a pin in the map and found Surbiton which she had heard about through the TV series, The Good Life. She still lives there, along with husband Peter O’Dowd and son Ewan

Read more
Mon, 11:52

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more
Mon, 11:36

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thursday, September 20, 2018

Professional matchmaker Hayley Bystram discusses how to overcome the challenges of returning to dating in mid-life and later

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Surrey is a beautiful, green and affluent county and I’ve certainly enjoyed living here the last 11 years. Towards the end of April 2018, Surrey Police released its latest crime statistics and we are still one of the safest counties in the country.

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

To much fanfare, Guildford has welcomed restaurant royalty to town but can the food live up to the spectacular castle view?

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A choral singing boom is giving fresh meaning to the sound of music with new and traditional choirs pulling in more recruits than ever. Miriam Wakerly explores Surrey’s contingent

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

With beautiful countryside, stunning villages and plenty of bluebells during spring, Surrey is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A leading property agent is going back to his roots after a 32-year career by joining one of the UK’s foremost property search companies covering Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex East Sussex and Kent.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search