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Street-sighting man: Dartford tour guide says we need to celebrate Rolling Stones

"I was born in a cross-fire hurricane," sang Mick Jagger on Jumpin' Jack Flash, but he wasn't; he was born in Livingstone Hospital in Dartford, on July 26 1943.

It was a Monday, and according to website www.weather.sumofus.org, the weather was "windy and sunny", but probably not windy enough to be a hurricane, of which there's certainly no record of in the Kent Messenger archives.

The Rolling Stones. Left-right: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood
The Rolling Stones. Left-right: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood

What's that? It was the middle of Second World War? Oh right, well maybe he was referencing that, or maybe he was dialling into a long held blues tradition of mythologising your origins, or maybe the song's about someone else completely – a gardener called Jumpin' Jack – but whatever, we're not here in Dartford for meandering critical song analysis. We're here for cold hard fan facts about the home town of Sir Mick and his long-standing guitar-slinging partner Keith Richards – the beating heart and soul and creative nucleus of "the world's greatest rock and roll band", The Rolling Stones.

These days we can't go and see Mick and Keith on tour, even if we could afford it, and Dartford's most famous sons seem further away than ever. Divided and locked away in isolation, Mick and Keith could be in any one of their various homes; Keith perhaps lurking like a pirate king in a secret Caribbean hideout, Mick maybe in a gold-lined bunker deep inside a Swiss alp. Who can say for sure?

Wherever they are, Mick, Keith and fellow Stones Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood have managed to keep busy. Assisted by the wonders of modern telecommunication and computerised recording techniques, the Rolling Stones have put out a number of new songs this year, including Living in A Ghost Town, a track from a much-heralded new album which they decided was too apt for coronavirus lockdown not to release early, in April.

Rolling Stones by Jim Pietryga
Rolling Stones by Jim Pietryga

Most recently, this month they've released the 1973 classic Goats Head Soup, complete with a number of previously unheard out-takes, some digitally reworked, rearranged and polished for the modern ear; and at least one – All The Rage – which Keith even confessed to completely forgetting he'd written at all. Ah well, he's got an excuse – he's written a lot of tunes, drank a lot of drinks, and as he recalls in his book Life, only slept twice a week for many years, which "means that I have been conscious for at least three lifetimes".

So fair enough. The fact is, life has come a long way since Jagger and Richards met on platform 2 of Dartford Railway Station almost 60 years ago in 1961, and went on to found the Rolling Stones. But be careful with those 'facts', or original bass player Bill Wyman might get angry. As he told BBC Radio 5 Live in 2015, after a plaque was put up at the station commemorating the meeting, Mick and Keith weren't the only ones to form the Rolling Stones. The plaque was "disgusting" he said, because "Brian Jones wanted to form a blues band and he enlisted each member one by one. He gave the name The Rolling Stones, he chose the music and he was the leader."

The blue plaque at Dartford Railway Station marks where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met before going on to join the Rolling Stones
The blue plaque at Dartford Railway Station marks where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met before going on to join the Rolling Stones

Well "disgusting" might seem a strong word, and as Mick Jagger reportedly stated afterwards, if they wanted to put a plaque up at Penge Station honouring Bill Wyman, he and Keith probably wouldn't complain.

Nevertheless, clearly we need an expert Stones historian to help us get this right, and who better than the man behind Dartford's "Satisfaction Tour", Ken Pimm?

Because while we can't see the Stones on Tour or go round their houses to ask them in person, we can mooch around the town where half of them spent their formative years, and Ken has been doing just that for the last seven years, taking Stones fans from around the world with him.

"I started in 2013", said Ken, speaking to KentOnline . " I went up to do the Beatles tour in Liverpool, and I thought how come they haven't got something like that with The Stones. I took me about a year to set it up and the first customer was from Cornwall.

"Now they come from all round the world, but they're mainly from Argentina. There's a big fan base there – they've got a bar in Buenos Aires dedicated to the Rolling Stones."

Street-sighting man: Rolling Stones tour guide Ken Pimm
Street-sighting man: Rolling Stones tour guide Ken Pimm

Maybe there should be a bar like that in Dartford, where Stones' fans from around the world could gather... but for now it's down to the station and into the back of Ken's Vauxhall Crossland, or at least that was the usual routine for fans until coronavirus hit the world.

"I meet them at Dartford Station and off we go from there", says Ken. "The first call is Livingstone Hospital where they were both born in the same year – Mick was born in July and Keith was in December. From there we go on through Dartford to where the statue is in Central Park, and from there we go to Keith's teenage home in Spielman Road.

"I use the car if it's only two or three people, but if there's more I hire an eight seater or 12 seater car."

Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones used to live above The Darling Buds of Kent florist along Chastilian Road in Dartford Picture: John Westhrop
Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones used to live above The Darling Buds of Kent florist along Chastilian Road in Dartford Picture: John Westhrop

After that, it's on to Holy Trinity Church, where Mick was christened and Keith sang in the choir, and then to Keith's teenage home in Chastilian Road.

"They moved around because the war was on," says Ken. "He was an only child and they lived above a greengrocers.

"Mick's family moved around in Dartford but then they settled in Denver Road. His brother (Chris) came four years later.

"From there they went to Wentworth Primary School, which is where they first met up. If you go into the school there's a cabinet with photos of them in their various classes.

"From there we go to the school where Keith went – Dartford Technical College (now Wilmington Grammar) – and then to Mick's teenage house in The Close in Wilmington – it's number 24. "Really from that point, that's where they become Rolling Stones.

"After that we go to Dartford Grammar School where Mick went to school and the Mick Jagger Centre."

Ken Pimm (front) with a Satisfaction Tour crowd at the Mick Jagger sculpture in Central Park, Dartford
Ken Pimm (front) with a Satisfaction Tour crowd at the Mick Jagger sculpture in Central Park, Dartford

Now 80 years old, Ken has a few years on Messrs Jagger and Richards, and was already into rock and roll when Mick and Keith were in their school uniforms listening to the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. So perhaps he knows more than most how it would have felt to encounter a fellow aficionado at that time.

"Mick was carrying some records he had from Chess Records in America," says Ken. "He was on his way to London School of Economics and Keith was carrying a guitar his mum had bought him, and was on his way to Sidcup Art College.

"That was in 1961 – they started meeting regularly in Dartford and then they following year in 1962 they went up to London and met Brian Jones – he was the one that called them The Rolling Stones."

Another insight into that meeting comes from Keith himself in his book Life, which records a letter he wrote to his Aunt Patty, shortly afterwards.

Keith Richards during The Rolling Stones concert at Ciudad Deportiva on March 25, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Picture: Dave Hogan
Keith Richards during The Rolling Stones concert at Ciudad Deportiva on March 25, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Picture: Dave Hogan

"You know I was keen on Chuck Berry," writes Keith, "and I thought I was the only fan for miles but one mornin’ on Dartford Stn. (that’s so I don’t have to write a long word like station) I was holding one of Chuck’s records when a guy I knew at primary school 7-11 yrs y’know came up to me.

“He’s got every record Chuck Berry ever made and all his mates have too, they are all rhythm and blues fans, real R&B I mean (not this Dinah Shore, Brook Benton crap) Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Chuck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker all the Chicago bluesmen real lowdown stuff, marvellous.”

“Anyways the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger and all the chicks and the boys meet every Saturday morning in the ‘Carousel’ some juke-joint well one morning in Jan I was walking past and decided to look him up. Everybody’s all over me I get invited to about 10 parties."

And Keith goes even further to say, perhaps prophetically: "Beside that Mick is the greatest R&B singer this side of the Atlantic and I don’t mean maybe."

File photo dated 12/9/64 of The Rolling Stones (from left to right) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Mick Jagger. PA Photos
File photo dated 12/9/64 of The Rolling Stones (from left to right) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Mick Jagger. PA Photos

Well, that's all ancient history now. Mick and Keith went to London, helped found The Stones, and embarked on a career that would take them around the world, playing to millions of fans, selling millions of records and carving themselves out a big fat tongue-shaped niche in history.

Scroll forward to the Covid-blighted world of September 2020, and Ken's on the brink of calling it a day, but like his heroes, he's got a keen eye for a business opportunity.

"I'm thinking of selling the tour," he said. "I think the The London Paramount park will improve the tourism, and Rolling Stones fans will want to come here, so I'm looking for someone to take it over.

"I've had people from Norway I've had a guy from Winnipeg. There's people from Japan, South America, not so many from Spain and Italy. One weekend I had a group of about 40 from Belgium I usually do weekends because of the schools having children there – you can't have people taking photos outside and you get so much traffic.

Keith Richards (bottom row 3rd from left), Mick Jagger (right of centre, holding a black cat). Image SWNS
Keith Richards (bottom row 3rd from left), Mick Jagger (right of centre, holding a black cat). Image SWNS

"They're sort of amazed that Mick and Keith came from this area," he adds. "I think when they go outside Mick's teenage house in The Close they get excited about that because he's the star of the group.

"There definitely should be more done to promote The Stones here. I think the council could do a bit more. Mick and Keith have put Dartford on the map to a certain extent, and it would be nice to have a statue of the two of them near outside Dartford Station on the roundabout. The one in Central Park is just of Mick, and it's at the back of the park behind the running track.

"I don't know why they put it there."

Meanwhile, The Glimmer Twins show no signs of letting up. Keith's allegedly cut down on the booze and cigarettes, Mick's bounced back from a minor heart operation, and coronavirus permitting, surely another world tour will follow the rumoured new album.

Mick Jagger performing at Havana. Picture: Dave Hogan
Mick Jagger performing at Havana. Picture: Dave Hogan

If things don't work out though, perhaps they could take over Ken's Satisfaction Tour. Keith could drive the bus and Mick could strut up and down the aisle with a mic narrating, while they manouvre through traffic...."Keith! What ya doing? Lowfield Street's one way now!"

Bill Wyman for one might buy a ticket, so he could sit at the back and heckle. But perhaps that's harsh – as Keith also reportedly said after plaque spat "we love him dearly, and he was a hell of a bass player."

As for Ken, from Sinclair Way, Dartford, he'll always love all the Rolling Stones, whether they buy him out or not, and still cherishes the memory of seeing them live.

"I went to Twickenham in 2015," he recalls. "I had a good spot and got right up close.

"I'm still a fan of The Stones. When they come on telly or the radio I turn it up."

A rare photo of the Rolling Stones by Philip Townsend, unearthed for their Exhibitionism display
A rare photo of the Rolling Stones by Philip Townsend, unearthed for their Exhibitionism display

The Rolling Stones by numbers:

Combined age: 305

UK Number 1s: 8

UK Top 10s: 21

UK Top 40s: 43

Weeks at Number 1: 18

Weeks in Top 10: 108

Weeks in Top 40: 295

Studio albums: 30

Live albums: 28

Compilation albums: 26

Singles: 121

Certified record sales: 100.7 million units

Biggest concert: Played to 1.5 million at Copacabana beach in Rio, 2006.

From Denver Road to Denver...

The Rolling Stones might be "the world's greatest rock and roll band", but there's only one King of the genre. And we can't let an interview with Ken Pimm slide without his story of meeting the man himself.

Ken Pimm's Elvis autograph
Ken Pimm's Elvis autograph

"I've met Elvis," recalled Ken "I was lucky enough in 1970 I was in America in Denver with a girlfriend and she told me he was going to do a concert. I said we'll get some tickets and try and find out where he's staying. She said they're staying at the Radisson Hotel – there were hundreds of people milling around but they said he had got the 11th floor. We waited and hour-and-half to two hours and we decided to go up.

"There was a security guy there, and I thought maybe we could ask him if we could get an autograph. As we came up the door opened – we walked along the passageway, and Elvis was down the end. He came towards us – halfway down there was guy sitting at a table. Elvis came up to me and shook my hand. I said I'm from England and he said he nearly got to go to England in the Army – It think they just touched down in Scotland, but never got to England. He said he'd always wanted to creep up on the English people. He wanted to come over.

"I asked him if he had met the Beatles and he said they had shot pool together. I said can I have your autograph – and he said no problem at all. We got some paper and he signed it.

"When I went on the antiques road show in Chatham they said it was worth £500.

"He was like an ordinary guy," he recalls. "It was just as though he was my mate."

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