You might be forgiven for thinking that the East Sheen, Barnes and Richmond area can be a bit on the safe side.
On the contrary, in our experience East Sheen is one of the most soulful places in the world, with many of soul and dance music’s greats frequenting SW14 over the years. Here we present documentary* evidence to back up our case, and the fascinating stories behind the pictures. Hard hitting, cutting-edge investigative journalism with a unique local focus.
Michael Jackson waits for a cappucino and an almond croissant in East Sheen landmark Villa Rosa in 1979. Clive Dunn from Dad’s Army and his buddies look on. Despite it clearly being warm in Rosa’s it was rather chilly outside. When leaving, Michael forgot one of his gloves, but so liked the one-glove look he never came back for it. The glove is now proudly displayed above the premium quality panettones in a bullet-proof glass case.
Diana Ross and the Supremes on the platform at Mortlake Station in 1968. This was their first trip outside the states since Cindy Birdsong replaced Florence Ballard the previous year, and they were in East Sheen to headline Ryan Caine’s inaugural Sheenstock festival. They arrived at Mortlake aboard the Orient Express, seen here pulling away. Diana and Mary Wilson’s clothing would suggest they’ve just been fleeced buying ‘traditional Scottish attire’ in Regent Street. Clearly you can’t believe everything people tell you. Diana’s pose would be imitated years later by David Bowie in another train station, with a slightly more ambiguous reception.
Marvin Gaye leaving teashop Orange Pekoe in 1976. Marvin had apparently been invited to a Spurs game, but his driver didn’t realise there was more than one White Hart Lane in London and they ended up on the Sheen/Barnes borders. Even in a white suit and carrying a fur coat, Marvin appears to be unnoticed by the local population, which may well include Teena Marie, sitting on the left behind the groove in the pavement. He subsequently became very partial to Orange Pekoe’s Cinnamon Rooibos tea – allegedly the inspiration behind the hit ‘Got to Give it up’.
Marvin Gaye again, this time pictured in 1983 during his Essex casual phase. Marvin’s habit of singing loudly to whatever was on his Walkman had caused the carriage to empty. In a rare lapse in taste, Marvin was listening to Matt Bianco. He was later quoted as saying: “Man, that was embarrassing – when I got on the carriage was packed. If I’d been listening to Sharon Redd maybe that wouldn’t have happened.”
1971. James Brown sits outside TJ’s in Sheen Lane, pondering his next move after Bootsy and Catfish Collins leave the band to go and join George Clinton’s P-Funk collective. James was famous for loving TJ’s particular style of soul food (especially the poached egg and mushroom sandwich with lots of brown sauce) and was known for demanding unscheduled trips to TJ’s during his European tours.
1983 and the most controversial image here, Imagination, taken directly through the CCTV of East Sheen Waitrose. The band were forcibly removed from the store and prosecuted for lewd behaviour in a public place. Leee John’s defence that it was just an illusion failed to impress the judge.
Debbie, Kathy, Kim & Joni Sledge in a candid photo in the Sheen Garden Centre in 1980. Joni, the lead voice on Lost in Music, insisted on lilac petunias as part of the band’s UK tour rider, and was very particular where she got them from. Just out of shot are the girls’ producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, themselves rather fond of a hardy perennial. Rare copies of the July 1982 issue of Gardeners’ World magazine with the feature on Nile are keenly sought collectors’ items at car boot sales across the UK.
Isaac Hayes underneath a Stax advert at East Sheen station, now renamed Mortlake, in 1970. Isaac was so inspired by the area that he wrote Theme from Sheen during his time here. This was subsequently renamed Theme from Shaft, and with the addition of rewritten vocals it became his most famous work.
Barry White taking a selfie at the Mortlake level crossing in 1975. This was after Barry’s legendary secret gig at the Home Guard club, which still holds the world record for pairs of knickers thrown relative to audience size.
A very young Chaka Khan sits in the Upper Richmond Road waiting for a 33 bus and watches as the fifth one passes in the opposite direction. In another ten minutes, Chaka will get fed up of waiting and walk down to the 209 stop.
Finally, an unattributed paparazzi shot of soul superstars Barry White and Aretha Franklin. The funky pair are leaving venue Isola del Sole by its side door in St Leonards Road after a soundcheck. Aretha appears strangely under-dressed for the weather, and is hailing a cab. Barry seems more laid back and is probably walking down to Mortlake Station.
*when we say documentary, that may be a loose definition.
With thanks to the Soulsonic Force Tumblr.