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My Greenwich: Jools Holland

One of Greenwich’s most famous contemporary faces, and a former member of Squeeze, Jools is an ambassador for the borough where he grew up and which is home to his Helicon Mountain studio

“All our music is made here – all our records and rehearsals are done here in my studios in Greenwich. All the artists we’ve worked with, be it George Harrison or Bono, have come to Greenwich and people who haven’t been here before can’t believe it – they don’t realise that there’s nowhere else like it in London.

I remember when Ray Davies came – I recorded with him and I took him to Greenwich Park . There was a problem in the studio, which was going to take an hour to fix, so we went for a walk in the park and he couldn’t believe it – he didn’t know what Greenwich was about.

I’ve been very fortunate because I work with a lot of people. When you get people along to Greenwich who I’ve grown up listening to and they sing a song you’ve given them, it’s extraordinary. When those people are in Greenwich, it’s like you’ve invited them home somehow.

I grew up here. My parents and grandparents all lived just around the corner from the Old Royal Naval College. I think they would have been amazed to see me playing in those old buildings, which are a unique and extraordinary bit of Greenwich.

Greenwich is a fantastic place. You’ve got some of the grandest, most amazing buildings and the sweetness of the town centre and you’ve got the Victorian and late-Georgian streets, with the park in the middle and then the old dock area all whisked up together. There’s real life in Greenwich – it’s a real place and it’s the place where I first learned how to play music.

We didn’t have a piano for a long time. We couldn’t afford one, so I used to have to go over to my grandmother’s house because she had a piano in her front room. I drove everybody mad, bashing about all the time.

I remember going round the streets of Greenwich listening to The Beatles and Tamla Motown and all that. When I was a teenager, I loved Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and all that rock-and-roll, rockabilly and blues stuff.

We played in pubs around here – we used to play in The Mitre, which was a traditional jazz pub, and then Squeeze used to play in The Bricklayer’s Arms. And Glenn (Tillbrook) and I used to play as a duet in a couple of pubs.

I’ve been going to the same pubs for years. The Blackheath Standard is good but a lot of the little pubs and cafes have gone. My grandparents used to have a greengrocer’s shop so they used to go to the fruit and vegetable market. It was a shame when that went – it had a bit of earth to it, a nice atmosphere and a nice smell. But, you know, things come and go and there are so many great things here now.” 

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