Hampton School has produced some of the world’s most famous rock n roll musicians and many of them appear in a new 60-minute BBC documentary, Rock n Roll Island: Where Legends Were Born. The film celebrates the incredible musical history of Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, the epicentre of rhythm and blues in South West London in the 1960s.
Cheryl Robson’s award-winning documentary includes interviews and performances from a range of musicians and interviewees including many Hampton alumni such as Jim McCarty OH (1961) and Paul Samwell-Smith OH (1961) who were founding members of the Yardbirds in 1963.
Also featured are Paul Stewart OH (1964) and Pete Hammerton OH (1964), who along with Bob Freeman OH (1965), John Standley OH (1965), Nigel Baldwin OH (1965) and Ian McLintock OH (1965) formed The Others while they were still pupils at Hampton.
The film also details the rise to stardom of Brian May OH (1965), perhaps the School’s most famous music legend. At Hampton, Brian formed his first band, named 1984 (after George Orwell’s novel of the same name) with Tim Staffell OH (1966), John Garnham OH (1964) and Dave Dilloway OH (1965). In 1968, May and Staffell formed the band Smile with Roger Taylor, which continued performing until 1970, when Queen was formed.
As Paul Stewart, OH (1964) states in the documentary;
‘A lot of good music came out of Hampton Grammar School. A very, very straight and formal school, it had rules, for example, about keeping our hair a certain length. The free spirits wanted to rebel against that. And I think that was in common with people at Hampton who were the musicians – and there were a lot of them. I played the harmonica and became a singer in The Others. Brian May, he was the year below us in school, we used to play with him in the back room, you know, trading licks. Two of the Yardbirds came from Hampton School and were one of the first groups to tour America extensively.’
Paul’s fellow bandmate Pete Hammerton OH (1964) references the fondly-remembered music teacher Mr ‘goathead’ Smith;
‘When I was at Hampton School we had a lovely music master called Mr Smith. ‘Goathead’ Smith because he used to say ‘go to head, go to head’. We used to crawl out on our hands and knees – oh it was rebellious!’
The documentary is available on BBC iPlayer until 27 April.
Many thanks to Peter Edmonds OH (1965), who is also featured in the documentary with his wife Wendy, for his help with this article.