Michele Whitby

The British Beat Explosion

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Edited by JC Wheatley

Written by Michele Whitby and Zoe Howe

Voted Best Blues Book (2014) by Blues Matters

Have you heard about Eel Pie Island?

Anyone with an interest in the history of UK rock n’ roll is familiar with The Cavern Club and the role that Merseyside played in the story of the British Beat scene. But on a far-less-celebrated, but no less significant path, over a small bridge onto an island in the middle of the Thames, Eel Pie Hotel, another great 60s club night, played host to acts that would later make a global name for themselves.

The Rolling Stones, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, The Small Faces, David Bowie and The Yardbirds are amongst the many acts who performed at the legendary Eel Pie Hotel during its 50s and 60s heyday, as did jazz greats like Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk, as well as more avant-garde performers like Ivor Cutler.

But how did The Eel Pie Club become such a popular venue?
What motivated its founder, Arthur Chisnall to create a space where young people could enjoy the music they wanted to, in an environment free from the usual constraints?
Why has this thriving West London scene been omitted from rock history when its influence has spread far and wide?

Recently, bands like The Mystery Jets have paid homage to Chisnall’s fabulous club, playing gigs on the island that launched careers and cemented rock’s infamous relationships.

The latest incarnation of the Eel Pie Club is alive and well. This book traces the origins of a scene that is long overdue for recognition.


The British Beat Explosion: Rock n’ Roll Island awarded Best Blues Book (2014) by Blues Matters magazine, who said:

“Here there are fascinating interviews with performers, and fans’ oral histories explaining why and how Eel Pie became the unlikely centre of a transformative musical and social scene.”

‘From the perspective of an Eelpieland regular — back in the day — it’s a wonderful read with great pictures — I couldn’t put it down.’ – Steven Cockcroft
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