The Music of the West Country

There are occasions when people associate West Country music as being songs sung by rural folk bands that play at the local pub, or at a Young Farmers dance. It is true of course there have been a number of these acts that have shot to national prominence, and there is one group in particular that has brought this brand of music to the nation’s attention, and that is the Wurzels.

The Wurzels at home in Somerset

The Wurzels were formed in 1966 and became known as a “scrumpy and western band”. They have actually had a number 1 hit with “The Combine Harvester’, and “I am a Cider Drinker” reached no 3 in the charts. They were formed by lead singer Adge Cutler, in North Somerset, and despite his tragic death in 1974 the band are still going strong today.

Peter Gabriel has lived both in Bath and near Box in Wiltshire. One of his biggest hits was “Solsbury Hill” which was written about Little Solsbury Hill which is located on the Somerset border and where the singer had a spiritual experience during the 1970s. He is active in Witshire fighting for local rights, especially when it concerns the destruction of the local environment.

Midge Ure the lead singer of Ultravox also lives in Bath. He has also found fame fronting Band aid with Bob Geldof and has lived in the city for many years. The single “Vienna” that Ultravox released in 1981 was the fifth best-selling single in the UK that year and was also a success in the States.


The duo from Bath

One of Baths major pop successes has come from the 1980s rock band “Tears for Fears”. The band was formed by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabel who first met while growing up in the city. The group achieved international success with their second album “Songs from the Big Chair” which achieved platinum status both in the US and the UK. They have sold over 30 million albums around the world.

Bristol was the home to one of the world’s finest Jazz musicians Acker Bilk. He was born in Pensford in Somerset in 1929 and he soon started taking piano lessons, but it was the clarinet that he excelled. He performed in many Jazz bands as both a vocalist and a musician. His single “Stranger on the Shore” reached number 1 both in the UK and in the States and turned him into an international performer. He formed the Paramount Jazz Band that toured for many years and in 1981 he was awarded the MBE.

Bananarama also hailed from Bristol where two of the bands members Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin went to school together. The Band had many hits in the early 1980s including “Venus” which topped the US charts. Woodward settled down with her husband Andrew Ridgeley formerly of Wham and lived in Wadebridge in Devon.

One of the biggest bands to emerge during the punk era in the UK during the late 1970s were XTC who emanated from Swindon. The band were newer wave than punk, as they were serious musicians who were keen to produce good records. They made many singles and albums but perhaps they are best well known for the 1979 single “Making Plans for Nigel”.

Wiltshire is also home to one of the country’s most popular singers, Michael Crawford who was brought up on an army camp in the county. As well as appearing in television and films Crawford has appeared in the West End playing many different roles in musicals. He is most well-known for his 1300 performances playing the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera.

It was during playing this part that he also appeared on Broadway and won an Olivier Award for the best actor in a musical. As well as performing in musicals Crawford has also performed in many live concerts singing songs from the most popular musicals.