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 Strange vibes
Over the years Suffolk has been home to some pop and rock curiosities, says Richard Bryson
 Where do the best rock bands come from? The answer is often places of hardship and limited prospects, like some inner cities; environments where young people can kick back at authority. Little of that applies to Suffolk, the county of great artists but more of an esoteric assembly of popular music figures.
Looking over the border, Cambridge can boast Pink Floyd while Blur was formed by Damon Albarn and fellow pupils at Stanway School, Colchester.
We may not have revered, stadium filling bands but we do have more than a few hitmakers, as I will reveal.
Let’s start with Framlingham in the east of the county. It has produced two singer songwriters, the melancholic, low key Tom McRae and the international superstar Ed Sheeran, busy shifting albums or downloads by the millions and acquiring enough properties for a little hamlet.
Head southward and eighties pop star Nik Kershaw lived and started his musical
career in Ipswich. His father was a flautist and his mother an opera singer. Going in a different musical direction Nik taught himself to play the guitar and pen jaunty hits like I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. If his popularity waned as the 80s slipped into the 90s his writing and ability to come up with catchy tunes never went away. He wrote Chesney Hawke’s One And Only and collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Genesis, Gary Barlow and the Hollies.
Meanwhile Charlie Simpson of Busted, perhaps the most popular boy band of the early 2000s, has Ipswich and Framlingham connections.
At one time mid Suffolk - Debenham to be exact - was the home of the late comedian and musician Neil Innes, member of the Bonzo Dog Do-Da Band and co-creator of Beatles spoof, The Rutles. If Innes was a wry, witty performer there is humour too in a band from the coast - Lowestoft’s The Darkness. A heavy glam- rock four-piece, their thunderous songs came with far from subtle double entendres.
Anyone with only a passing interest in rock will have heard that former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman lives at Gedding Hall, near Bury St Edmunds, but did you know Jack Bruce, the bass player with Cream lived on the Suffolk/Essex border? I went to interview him a few year’s before his death - he was on the phone to bandmate Eric Clapton when I called at his home near Great Maplestead.
Bruce told me he liked going to a pub in nearby Bures with his friend, the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. The regulars rarely noticed him but always recognised and wanted to chat to Watts.
I wish I could say West Suffolk is home to real rock and roll riches but the cupboard is almost bare. There’s Clare- based The Enid, perhaps best described as a progressive or symphonic band, even though they don’t care to be categorised in that way.
Things get more sketchy now as friends have said that a member of the heavy 60s/70s rock group The Groundhogs once lived in Haverhill though we do know soul singer Dina Carroll was born in Newmarket to a Scottish mother and an American father. Songwriter, producer and one time member of Johnny Hates Jazz, former Culford schoolboy Phil Thornalley, originally hailed from Worlington, near Mildenhall. He also joined the Cure line-up for a while.
And you may not be aware the band behind Walking On Sunshine, one of the most insanely upbeat hits of the 80s, started out from Feltwell, a small village on the Suffolk Norfolk border. Take a bow Katrina and The Waves.
We will close with two Suffolk people who have more than left their mark on the rock world, but didn’t mind being away from the spotlight. The late John Peel had a home near Stowmarket and, as a late night DJ, loved to champion new talent. And if you are saying he was no musician you may have missed him on Top of The Pops playing - or pretending to play - mandolin on Rod Stewart’s hit single Maggie May. Apparently the Musicians' Union was enraged and insisted that Peel take no payment.
Peel gave airtime to the avant-garde seventies band Roxy Music shaped by Woodbridge’s Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry.
Eno left Roxy as they headed towards a more mainstream following and came into his own as a ‘sonic explorer’ and highly successful producer.

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