How did you first discover the Ealing club and what drew you to this fascinating untold story?
As a music fan I was searching for local live music venues, I think I typed ‘Ealing Clubs’ or ‘Clubs in Ealing’ and I was promptly directed to the Ealing Club Community Interest Company’s website. The Ealing Club CIC is an Arts-Council-funded, not-for-profit organisation that promotes local music heritage through live music events. They don’t have anything to do with the current management of the club (now called Red Room) but they occasionally promote concerts there. The story of the place and its importance were perfectly highlighted via the organisation’s website. It’s the typical rock’n’roll tale that for some reason has never been told.
What did the research process involve?
After some initial research, I met with the Ealing Club CIC’s director Alistair Young, who later became the Executive Producer of the film. He suggested a few books and documentaries and passed on a few contacts. After spending weeks reading biographies and watching music films, I came up with a storyline. This eventually changed quite dramatically as I went on with the interviews. The story of The Ealing Club never made it into the history books so I learned most from the people I interviewed and their countless recollections about sweaty nights and unforgettable gigs.
Who were your favourite people to interview?
The first world-famous musician who believed in the project was Cream’s singer and main composer Jack Bruce. We went to his house and his wife Margrit offered us tea and home-made cake. The interview was just great and he was very charming and nice. Unfortunately, he passed away a few months after our meeting but I still have fond memories of that sunny December afternoon spent with one of the greatest musicians of all time. Having said that, there’s been a bunch of other people whom I really enjoyed interviewing. For example, I’m still in a great relationship with Dick Taylor, founder member of The Pretty Things and first bass player of The Rolling Stones. We then worked together on another project and sometimes talk or exchange emails, it’s always a pleasure being around him.
What was the most challenging part of making the documentary?
The clearance of our 29-song soundtrack. It’s been very expensive and time-consuming.
How do you hope the documentary will change the musical history of Ealing?
I think the musical history of Ealing can only be changed by musicians. There are loads of good ones out there but they need a place to express themselves. What I’d like to see in Ealing is a proper music venue with concerts happening on a regular basis. If there’s a ‘scene’ and a venue at the centre of it that’s where young talent is nurtured, much like in the 1960s at the Ealing Club. Having said that, I’m very glad this film is now available on important platforms like SKY and NOW TV to help spread the word about the borough and its important musical heritage. You never know – someone might decide to invest in a music venue in the place where British Rock was born
As an Ealing resident, what are your favourite local spots in the area?
I like Ealing Studios and I adore its 1940s and 1950s film catalogue. I was a student at the Met Film School, a great institution where I now often work as a freelancer: the school is based within the Ealing Studios so I still get access to it on a regular basis. I have the feeling it hasn’t changed that much since its heyday – you still occasionally spot famous faces there like Anthony Hopkins queuing for food. I like Ealing Common, I think it’s a great green space and in a sort of suburban way, it looks majestic.
I like the fact that in Northfields there’s still loads of terrific independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Overall, what I like about the borough is that it’s very green and quiet and the people are generally friendly. I think there’s a strong sense of community which is remarkable for London. I truly love Ealing and if the boat could be rocked by a good gig once in a while that would be the icing on the cake. Having said that, the people at the Hanwell Hootie and obviously the Ealing Club CIC are definitely on the case and things have recently been changing. I also hope the borough will have its own cinema soon, in the meantime I’d advise checking out the Ealing Classic Cinema Club’s website, their programme is always outstanding.
‘Suburban Steps to Rockland: The Story of The Ealing Club’ is available on Sky and Now TV