Famous Bands in London
At Guitar Lessons London, a key aspect of what we teach within our lessons is history of the guitar. By taking inspirations from rock stars over the ages, we can learn new techniques and broaden our musical tastes, expanding on our creative influences. As a London based organisation, we are surrounded by a rich history of some of the most successful musicians in the world to date. To celebrate this, we have compiled a selection of biographies from some of London’s most famous artists.
The Rolling Stones
Formed in London in 1962 and still performing today, the Rolling Stones remain one of the most famous bands in the world. They officially received this title after being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Like many bands, The Rolling Stones didn’t shoot straight to the top. EMI rejected the bands first demo and the original line up of the band. It is certain that The Rolling Stones are one of the most iconic bands in the world, being famous for embodying the rock and roll genre!
Queen formed in London in 1970. Formerly called Smile, Queen boast a staggering 18 number one albums as well as 18 number one singles. Having become world famous, Queen claimed the title of ‘greatest live performance in rock history’. Famous for anthemic guitar riffs, powerful vocals and innovative song writing, Queen have sealed their history as one of the best bands of all time. Although lead singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991, the original members of Queen continue to tour today.
Emerging from Acton in West London, The Who dominated the rock scene of the 60’s and 70’s. Reaching the top 10 with their debut single established The Who and from there, continued to release hits placing them among the biggest bands of all time. The band members Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and Jose Entwistle didn’t always perform as ‘The Who’, having developed out of a previous band named ‘The Detours’. Famous for their boisterous stage antics and held in high
esteem as musicians, The Who qualify as one of the biggest bands of all time.
The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols were the epitome of the punk rock movement. Even with an incredibly short career of only two and a half years, their influences still lie solid in the punk and alternative scene. Guitarist Steve Jones had reportedly taught himself guitar only three months prior to his first Sex Pistols performance, but regardless they lie rightfully amongst the most famous bands in history.
Originally named ‘the New Yardbirds’, Led Zeppelin was created in London in 1968 from a collection of exceptionally talented session musicians. The band were responsible for an impressive catalogue of iconic songs being musical idols to millions world wide. Guitarist Jimmy Page is revered as one of the most influential guitarists ever and was ranked in the top 50 by Gibson’s ‘Top 50 Guitarists of All Time’.
The Kinks took Britain by storm in the 1960s, releasing a catalogue of music that has inevitably inspired many artists since. Lead by the multi- talented Ray Davies, the band experienced success at all levels throughout a long career. Turbulence within the bands relationship with one and other were apparent, but this did not stop the Kinks from becoming one of the most revered cult bands to date.
The Kinks started their musical careers known as ‘The Ravens’. A band started by Davies’s brother Dave. After gradually taking creative control away from his brother, Davies eventually renamed the band and recruited drummer Mick Avory and bassist Pete Quaife. Under the name the Kinks and with new members, the band eventually made it to number one in the UK and into the U.S. Charts with “You really got me”. From here on the Kinks remained consistently in the public eye.
From the mid-1960s the musical style of the Kinks evolved, following the influences of Davies. Content turned towards a more socially satirical style, contrasting to the hard rock singles of the early 60’s. Unfortunately due to disagreements with the American Federation of
Musicians, the bands U.S. touring prospects was hindered for many years until a resolution was reached in 1969.
In the interim, guitarist Dave Davies embarked on a solo project releasing numerous songs. His initial single ‘Death of a clown’ gained notable success, but unfortunately his successive releases did not. Ray Davies on the other hand was busy writing new Kinks material. It was within this period that Davies’s was said to be at his most creative and wrote a number of concept albums, including a rock opera that was written for British TV. Many hit songs emerged from this period of time as the Kinks re-entered the charts for the first time since 1966.
After changing record labels from Reprise to RCA in 1971, more concept works were composed by Davies, but they failed to gain the traction of pervious releases. Along side the failing success of their new material, the Kinks fast gained a reputation for their stage show, comprising of alcohol fuelled performances and arguments on stage.
In a move towards the theatrical, the concept albums morphed into bigger stage shows. School Boys in Disgrace, an album released in 1975, was composed for a horn section and extra vocalists. Following the recent trend, these albums remained unsuccessful.
In an attempt to turn things arounds, the Kinks abandoned concept works releasing a number of hits between 1978/79 charting in the top 40 charts. It was in this period the Kinks achieved their first gold record, since the release of their reprise greatest hits collection.
Many young bands have been influenced by the Kinks back-catalogue, with Artists such as the pretenders and Van Halen releasing covers of the Kinks songs. In 1978, the band hired bassist Jim Rodford in an attempt to improve the live performance aspect of the band. It was at this time the Kinks recorded one of the first ever, full-length, rock music videos which was received well.
Alongside playing in the Kinks, Davies had a moderately successful solo career. Notably collaborating with Tom Robinson and composing scores for multiple films. His brother Dave also released a few solo albums which sold reasonable well.
Following on from the success of their music video, the Kinks picked up some momentum again in the 1980s with more creatively produced
music videos. Obviously taking inspiration from this, Ray Davies wrote and directed his own film following the birth of his daughter Natalie in 1983. Unfortunately shortly after this, Ray and Natalie’s mother Chrissy Hynde (Singer of the Pretenders) separated.
The Band struggled on in to the late 80’s and 90’s, continuing to release underachieving albums and touring occasionally. Replacing drummer Mick Avory with Bob Henrit, left the Davies brothers as the only 2 original members. In 1993 the band toured America with the album ‘Phobia’, an album written introspectively about the on going personal disagreements between the brothers. Despite falling on hard times and a number of albums that flopped, the Kinks persevered, and remain one of the most influential cult bands ever.
In 1996 the band released a live studio album where they revisited many of the hits from their 30+ year career. Ray Davies also went on to perform a spoken word show, infused with him singing many of the kinks hits. When Brit-Pop emerged on to the scene in the mid 1990’s, it become clear that the Kinks’ influence had spread into many of the young bands emerging into the charts. This was the birth of their cult following. Both the brothers released autobiographical pieces, outlining experiences throughout their careers.
At the turn of the millennium, Davie’s moved into writing fiction, releasing a book of short stories. Some years later, Ray was back in the studio to release two more albums, both of which were well received by critics. In 2009, Davies collaborated with the British symphonic choir to recreate some of the Kinks hits, and named it ‘the Kinks Choral Collection’.
Overall, the Kinks success was turbulent. Releasing a huge body of work, varying stylistically that was received with mixed reviews. However, due to the rising popularity of brit pop and interest in post- modern rock, the Kinks have cemented themselves as a cult classic and will continue to aspire musicians for years to come.
David Bowie ( given name David Robert Jones) boasted a 50 year career as one of the most innovative and inspirational artists in pop music history. David Bowie was a keen musician from a very young
age. An avid listener of rock music, he started to channel his musicality through playing the saxophone as a teenager. Hailing from Brixton, in South London, Bowie released his first hit song “ Space Oddity” at the age of 22. Heavily influenced by fashion and how he portrayed himself, Bowie released the album Ziggy Stardust, which was creatively based around science fiction. Throughout his career, Bowie has collaborated with many iconic artists and is also an accomplished actor, staring in multiple motion pictures. David bowie sadly died in 2016 after battling cancer. He remains a member of the Rock and Roll hall of fame and will continue to inspire people through his music.
In the early 1970’s Bowie took sabbatical from live performance, focusing on recording new material. This took the form of a collection of covers from 1960s hits. Through a number of TV appearances and collaborations with other artists, Bowie remained in the public eye until touring America. Whilst on tour in America, Bowie spent time in Philadelphia, immersing himself in black culture and music. This triggered a fairly drastic change in Bowies musical style across both his recorded releases and his live performances. Bowie left the flashy stage shows behind and stripped back his performances with his new band led by former James Brown collaborator, Carlos Alomar.
In 1975, Bowie finally broke the American charts, reaching number one with his single ‘Fame’. This triggered a move to L.A. where Bowie encapsulated American Pop culture, starring in more motion pictures and releasing more music in this period, which included his most successful album ‘Station to station’. Leaving L.A behind, Bowie then moved to Germany. It was living in Berlin where he embraced painting and also met legendary musician Brian Eno, who he began recording with.
Working with Eno exposed Bowie to world of Avant-garde electronic music and music production. It is through this insight that led Bowie to produce Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot and Lust for Life’. He also toured America with Iggy Pop playing piano for him. It is thought that as a result of this, Bowie helped Iggy Pop rekindle a dwindling career. After this period, Bowie turned his attention to pursuing more acting.
In 1978 Bowie set off on a huge world tour, writing and recording albums along the way. He then moved to New York, where he recorded Scary monsters. Knowing the potential for film media he also accompanied these works with various clips of film. After this, he
decided to take another sabbatical from his pop music career, taking the lead role in the musical ‘The Elephant Man’, that toured the U.S.
Moving into the 1980s saw Bowie provide soundtracks to a number of projects, whilst carrying on his acting pursuits. It was also at this time he worked on ‘Under Pressure’ with British rock royalty Queen.
After recent success world wide, it was in 1983 that Bowie moved from RCA records to EMI, going down as one of the biggest music contracts in history. It was then Bowie released his first album in three years, ‘Let’s Dance’. It was no surprise to see it soar to number one with the likes of Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the mix. Three singles from ‘Let’s Dance’ broke into the top 20 of the charts, each accompanied with innovative music videos that paved the way for the MTV movement, ultimately bringing Bowie firmly back into the limelight.
However, this period was unfortunately followed by a very quick turn into mediocracy. Bowie was fluctuating between his recording career and movie career, never being totally engaged with either. A string of failed musical collaborations, including one with legendary Mick Jagger, flopped and fell to hard criticism. His acting career also started to follow the same path, rarely reaching any notable commercial success.
With the boom in CD technology, Bowie reissued a lot of his back catalogue on the new platform, taking this opportunity to release a new greatest hits compilation, which briefly restored some interest from the public. To ensure this revival flourished, he then set out on an unusual tour performing hits requested by fans through a special phone line.
In 1989, Bowie started the band Tin Machine. The band consisted of two brothers, Tony and Hunt Sales, and guitarist Reeves Gabrels. The band toured in America releasing two albums which were more rock orientated than Bowies previous material, but the albums never caught much mainstream success. 1992 saw the release of the album Black Tie White Noise, written as a present to his new wife Iman, who was a Somalian super model. After failing to gain any traction, Bowie had yet another unsuccessful failed venture, this time reuniting with Brian Eno again.
When Bowie turned 50 in 1997, he held a concert in celebration at Madison Square Garden. He was joined by an impressive roster of special guests, which elevated him back into the public eye. It was
around this time that Bowie initiated the sale of Bowie bonds, a process where people could buy bonds relating to his royalty revenues. This in turn made Bowie up to $55 million. In further collaboration with Brian Eno and this time, rapper Ice Cube, the album ‘Hours…’ was released. This showed a new side to Bowie and how his embrace of the internet and pop culture had begun to infiltrate his music. ‘Hours…’ was released for online download and even featured a song that was exclusively available online.
Post millennium, Bowie released the album ‘Heathen’ which he worked on with old friend Tony Visconti. He also performed the full album ‘Low’ in London for London’s Meltdown Festival. Whilst on tour, Bowie suffered a minor heart attack of which he fully recovered from, but his health was starting to become a worry for many.
In 2008 David Bowie was awarded a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. His career spanning 50 years gifted us with a wonderfully varied catalogue of music that is still treasured today. Bowie still remains influential to musicians globally, an advocate of self-expression and an idol to millions.