As well as celebrating Kingston upon Thames’s rich musical history, Kingston RPM also captured a flavour of its musical culture today. The Kingston RPM Project Album includes a range of especially recorded tracks from the project's very own Gig Day and the Kingston Music Service’s Festival of School Choirs. These musical numbers are complemented by snippets from the 15 oral histories captured for Kingston RPM.
Here you can listen to a snippet of the oral testimony of Ken Howe, a local historian raised nearby to Bushy Park and who made several visits to Camp Griffiss in peace time. Mean Spirit Blues by New Orleans inspired The Gator Dog Snappers marries some of the jazz and folk sounds that American GIs would have brought with them when they landed in the borough.
Beneath this the Kingston RPM: Strangers From Another Land (US Army Base) Spotify playlist captures the significance of the transatlantic relationship in popular music culture, with the US military presence in Britain having historically played a pronounced role.
The range of songs draws a thread between American records – the earliest of which would have sometimes reached British ears via American GIs – and the UK musicians who in the 1950s and 1960s became inspired by this stateside sound, many of whom emanated from the south west London region that Kingston lay at the heart of. (The final track from English blues-inspired rockers The Animals is a nod to the cyclical nature of this US-UK back and forth and its connection to the military: within a few years of the US flag being lowered for the final time from Camp Griffiss in 1963, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place became an unofficial anthem for the American troops whose presence in Vietnam was at the time dramatically escalating.)
The tracks that precede these trad jazz, rock n roll, skiffle, folk, US blues, and UK rhythm and blues numbers have a more direct connection to Camp Griffiss: Vera Lynn as the Second World War’s undisputed sweetheart and heroine of the war brides, while the Ink Spots and Glenn Miller both played on the base in wartime. Meanwhile a number of these tracks were cited by Kingston RPM’s oral history interviewees, who recalled the significance of hearing them for the first time – including Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven, Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue, and Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel.