Social Mobility by English Rock Stars

The music business has long been seen as a means for poor people to make a living, but in the late 1960s/early 70s there were some truly stellar rises by the few fortunate enough to become famous.  The following snippets come from Dominic Sandbrook’s book The Great British Dream Factory:

Bill Wyman had grown up in Sydenham (London) in almost stereotypical poverty, bathing once a week in a zinc tub, sharing a toothbrush with his 6 siblings, and shivering through the winters when his father, a bricklayer, struggled to find work. When Wyman was a boy, his mother would send him to the local market to buy stale bread and to cadge bruised fruit and vegetables from the stallholders. Later, eh helped her to earn a little extra money peeling onions for a pickling firm, which they abandoned after the neighbours complained about the smell… he worked hard and won a scholarship to the local grammar school. After joining the Rolling Stones he became Lord of the manor of Gedding and Thornwood.

But perhaps even more of a leap was made by Bryan Ferry.

He was born in the coal-mining town of Washington, between Sunderland and Gateshead, n 1945. His father, Fred, was a farm labourer whose working life seemed like something from the 19th century. He was ‘very quiet, smoked a pipe, courted my mother for 10 years, walked the 5 miles through the fields to see her, and go back again because he had to be up to milk the cows,’ his son recalled many years later.

The life of Bryan was later described by the man himself:

I normally go out on Friday night, so on Saturday I wake up quite late in my studio house in Chelsea… then I head for Mount Street – one of the great streets of London – where I visit Rubinacci, a splendid tailor from Naples who always has wonderful fabrics, and also Anderson & Sheppard, a stalwart of Saville Row. My shirtmaker Sean O’Flynn, is close by as is the great bespoke shoemaker, Berluti.

Saturday afternoon is a good opportunity to visit galleries, such as my friend Simon Lee’s and Gagosian I don’t buy much contemporary at myself, but I like to see what’s showing. My collection is mainly early 20th century British art – Augustus John, Walter Sickert, Paul Nash and Wyndham Lewis. …

If it is warm enough I play tennis before lunch… I like entertaining friends for lunch, too – it’s a good excuse to go to the cellar and get out some decent wine…

It’s tough at the top, clearly.

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