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World famous bands with links to Kent

By Chris Britcher

In the days before social media and Spotify, if you were a young musician the only way to try and whip up interest in your efforts was to play live and tour relentlessly.

It's often overlooked that Freddie Mercury and co performed in Kent during their early years.

But just a few months after the release of their debut album, eponymous, the group were touring the nation as support to Mott the Hoople who were still riding high from the success of their David Bowie-penned hit, All The Young Dudes the year before.

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury

Tickets for the show cost just £1.10.

Queen, who signed copies of their album for fans after the show, provided a strong supporting cast and helped deliver them their first top 10 hit, the following year, with Seven Seas of Rhye.

They would go to become one of Britain’s all-time favourites. Estimated sales worldwide range anywhere from 150-300 million.

Despite Mercury’s death in 1991, at the age of 45, the group has continued to perform worldwide.

If you want to see the Cure at their Hyde Park show in July then a ticket would set you back around £75 to join the 65,000 revellers wanting to hear the hits from a 40-year career.

If, on the other hand, you’d been wise to the group in their earliest days, you could have seen them for the grand total of £1 supporting rock band Wire in the Elliot Dining Hall at the University of Kent.

The band played just months after changing their name from Easy Cure and a few weeks before the release of their debut single Killing An Arab.

The Cure's Robert Smith celebrates the band's 40th anniversary with a huge sold-out show in Hyde Park this summer. Picture: Bill Ebbesen (2326419)
The Cure's Robert Smith celebrates the band's 40th anniversary with a huge sold-out show in Hyde Park this summer. Picture: Bill Ebbesen (2326419)

After inspiring a generation of goths to wear dodgy red lipstick, big hair and huge baggy jumpers, the Cure went on to sell nigh on 30 million albums worldwide and celebrate their 40th anniversary with the Hyde Park show and a new album planned for next year.

Having grown up in Bromley the young David Jones was no stranger to the live music circuit in the county as he took his first steps on a career which would ultimately lead him to adopting the surname of Bowie and becoming one of the world’s most celebrated artists.

But in 1964, the teenager was hoping to break the big time with blues band the Manish Boys.

They performed a string of shows - most notably Maidstone’s the Star Club half a dozen times, now the Royal Star Arcade - as part of a south east jaunt.

Other venues includes the Astor Theatre in Deal; Wye College, near Ashford; Chatham’s Pembroke Club, Medway County Youth Club and Invicta Ballroom; and an unidentified venue in Sellindge, near Hythe.

He would go on to a level of global stardom experienced by few others, selling more than 140 million albums and having a string of hit singles across the decades.

He passed away in January 2016. Depeche Mode’s career really has been one of two halves - up until about 1990 as fresh-faced electro-pop merchants and subsequently serious, bearded pop/rock stars.

David Bowie lived in Maidstone for a short time in his youth - as well as performing in the town
David Bowie lived in Maidstone for a short time in his youth - as well as performing in the town

Back in 1981 the Basildon band, still then featuring Vince Clark who would go to form Erasure, played Dartford’s popular nightspot hot on the heels of the release of debut single Dreaming of Me (which reached the heady heights of 57 in the charts).

As the band matured they enjoyed enormous international success - notably in the US - and have since sold more than 100 million albums.

Known for their elaborate and energetic stage shows, Muse can honestly say they have played some toilets in their time.

More used to playing sell-out shows at the likes of Wembley Stadium and the O2 Arena, and stadia across the world, two of their earliest shows were at the former public convenience now better known as The Forum in Tunbridge Wells.

The year 1999 was key for the Devon trio in their rise to the top.

They released their second EP, Muscle Museum, just days before their first Kent show which heralded their arrival to an indie audience - by the end of the year, their debut album, Showbiz, was rising up the British album charts and the band were picking up rave reviews.

Today they have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide with their Drones World Tour film will be screened in cinemas worldwide on July 12.

The Beatles played six nights at the Winter Gardens in Margate. Picture: ITV
The Beatles played six nights at the Winter Gardens in Margate. Picture: ITV

Having famously been formed following singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards rekindling their school friendship at Dartford railway station in 1961, the band had momentum growing when they embarked on their first ever UK tour in 1963.

Less than six months after bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts joined, the band hit the road with shows which included a performance at the Dreamland Ballroom in Margate on August 15 and a double-header at the Odeon Theatre in Rochester on November 1 - the month the group’s second single I Wanna Be Your Man made the top 20.

Just two months later, the band were touring again, just a month before Not Fade Away became the group’s first ever top 10 single, and performed at the Granada Theatre in Maidstone.

They would return to Medway for shows as their popularity rose, before achieving a stratospheric level of success.

Today they’ve sold some 240 million records worldwide and continue to regularly perform in front of sell-out stadium crowds.

Boasting the celebrated line-up which included Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett, the band were slowly but surely building up a fanbase when they came to Gravesend for a show.

Supporting the Foxtrot album, which would climb to number 12 in the charts, the band were beginning to build an international following, initially, at least, ahead of the band’s domestic audience explosion.

Suede performed in Folkestone the week their first single was released
Suede performed in Folkestone the week their first single was released

While band members would come and go - Gabriel quit for a hugely successful solo career in 1975 - they would go on to sell some 150 million albums worldwide.

In the days before Britpop exploded across the charts, the Metronome managed to attract some major up and coming indie acts in the early 1990s.

And in May 1992 it managed to get a band who less than a month before had appeared on the front cover of Melody Maker declared as “the best new band in Britain” - before they’d released anything.

In the week of the release of their debut single, The Drowners, they supported Hull trio Kingmaker in the small Folkestone venue on Grace Hill to an enthusiastic crowd, playing future hits from their eponymous debut album released the following year which sold 100,000 in the first week alone, making it one of the fastest selling debuts of all time.

Today, after a seven-year hiatus, the band are together again recording and touring.

You may have heard of this popular beat combo. But back in early 1963 not that many had.

The group’s debut single Love Me Do had reached number 17 in the charts and they were touring relentlessly in a bid to capitalise on their first impression.

The Forum, Tunbridge Wells - a breeding ground for future talent. Picture: Nigel Chadwick
The Forum, Tunbridge Wells - a breeding ground for future talent. Picture: Nigel Chadwick

And so it was to Chatham they travelled for a show staged the day after second single Please Please Me was released.

The following month the band would travel to Abbey Road for a marathon recording session which would see all tracks for their debut album, Please Please Me recorded in a single day.

Later that year they would return for a six-day stint at Margate’s Winter Gardens.

The rest, as they say, is history - 600 million claimed global album sales and the undisputed title of most popular and influential group in pop’s history.

When Pink Floyd were in their early days, it was their unique sound and role in the emerging underground music scene which made them notable.

But in 1966 the band were still including some R&B standards in their stage peformances, as well as original material which would emerge on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which would be released the following year.

It was at the Technical College, Canterbury, where the band would play, performing alongside Canterbury Scene stalwarts Soft Machine before they had a record deal.

The following year, having signed with EMI, they played the same venue, again with Soft Machine, before, in June 1967, shows at Dreamland in Margate and Brands Hatch.

Some 200 million album sales later, and they remain a hugely influential group.

It was hard to imagine in Radiohead’s early days that they would emerge from the indie circuit to become one of the most influential bands of their generation.

And even harder to picture it when they took to the stage in front of a few dozen fans supporting Kingmaker (a group perhaps now best known for the future success of its support acts).

The single Creep had been released and failed to chart and their debut album, Pablo Honey, was still several months away.

They’d go on to headline Glastonbury, win a critical acclaim achieved by few others and sell some 40 million albums.

They continue to tour with a committed fanbase.

OK, this isn’t quite the same as the others but...when Radio 1 brought its Big Weekend to Kent for the so far one and only time, many were blinded by the fact Madonna was headlining.

What most missed was an early performance by Adele as part of just a handful of UK dates on her first ever tour.

Performing as the opening act on the Sunday of the weekend event, her performance helped swell sales of first album 19.

Now, with worldwide sales of some 50 million she’s arguably one of the world’s most popular singers.

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