"Better stop dreaming of the quiet life, 'cause it's the one we'll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus 'cause those rosy days are few
And stop apologising for the things you've never done
'Cause time is short and life is cruel but it's up to us to change
This town called malice" - The Jam

Our beloved heritage volunteers, Rosemary and Richard, have recently researched Woking’s musical heritage. In this blog, they explore Woking's pop music history, to find out which musicians drew inspiration from the area, rehearsed in Woking, or were born and raised in our beloved town.

Paul Weller was born in Stanley Road, Woking in 1958 and attended Sheerwater Secondary School. With Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler, he formed the band The Jam. Their first gigs were at Michael’s, Goldsworth Road. Their unusual mix of smart clothes and punk lyrics helped them stand out amongst their contemporaries. With songs expressing political and social concerns, the group’s fame spread, and they issued their first record in 1977. 

In 1982 The Jam disbanded and Weller went on to form The Style Council, a new wave band which had a jazzy, pop-punk sound. Since The Style Council's demise in 1990, Paul Weller has pursued a successful career as a solo singer, songwriter, and poet. The songs "Stanley Road", "Town Called Malice" and "Amongst the Butterflies" were all inspired by Weller's experiences growing up in Woking.

Paul Weller's guitar. Available to view in Woking's Story

Rick Parfitt (1948 - 2016) was brought up on the Elmbridge Estate, near Woking Football Ground, and also in Goldsworth Road where his grandmother ran a café. He attended Goldsworth and Highlands Schools and was interested in sport, becoming cross-country champion, high jump champion, and star of the football team, but showed little interest in academic pursuits. The first big group he saw was Herman’s Hermits at The Atalanta in Woking in 1960, and this fired his enthusiasm for pop music.

His talent as a musician was first spotted when he was singing and playing the guitar in the Feathers pub in Goodge Street, London. He then performed at The Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, followed by a spell at Butlin’s, Minehead, where he met Francis Rossi. In 1965, Parfitt joined Rossi’s band, The Spectres, re-named Traffic Jam, and then The Status Quo – ‘The’ was eventually dropped. At the time of Parfitt's death, he was the longest-lasting member of Status Quo aside from co-founder Francis Rossi. Parfitt and Rossi were awarded the OBE in 2010.

Rick Parfitt with Status Quo in 2014. Image © Christie Goodwin. Courtesy Duroc Media Ltd

Les Reed (1935 - 2019) was born in Woking and became an accomplished musician by the age of fourteen, playing the piano, accordion, and vibraphone. He studied at the London College of Music and after National Service, became a professional pianist. He was best known for his musical arrangements, his own orchestra, and for composing ‘Delilah’ and ‘It’s Not Unusual’ for Tom Jones and ‘The Last Waltz’ sung by Engelbert Humperdinck, among over 2000 other pieces. He was awarded the OBE in 1998.

Rick Parfitt's blue memorial plaque in Jubilee Square, Woking

The Spice Girls were formed as a result of an advertisement in ‘The Stage’ by Bob Herbert seeking auditions for a new British girl band to fill a gap in the musical market. After several rounds of auditions, the band's official line-up (Mel B, Mel C, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, and Victoria Beckham) began rehearsals at Trinity Studios, Knaphill in 1994 before moving to Maidenhead to prepare their first hit ‘Wannabe’. Trinity Studios are now Woking Youth Arts Centre. Since their split in 2001, the Spice Girls have had two reunion tours in 2007-08 and 2019 and have pursued solo careers. Most notably, Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice), a noted fashion designer and businesswoman.

Peter Gabriel was born in Chobham and went to school in Horsell, first at Cable House and then at St Andrew’s, before going on to Charterhouse. There he founded the rock group Genesis. He left Genesis in 1975 and has followed a solo career since, also being involved in humanitarian causes worldwide.

Who are your favourite musicians or bands? Are there any songs that remind you of Woking?

For more blog posts on Woking’s fascinating history – or some fun ideas for staying creative at home, please visit our blog.