When you think of Kent’s best beaches, what do you think of?
Perhaps Thanet’s Botany Bay with its towering chalk piles, or perhaps the windswept stretch of Tankerton, overlooking the North Sea.
But one particular county beach takes the cake as a rather unlikely candidate to inspire musicians for decades – Dover.
The pebble shore overlooking the bustling harbor and the world’s busiest shipping lane has been a famous subject for artists around the world, from ambient legend Brian Eno to the California Bangles.
Earlier this month, rising South African star Baby Queen – real name Bella Latham – released her new song Dover Beach to hundreds of thousands of streams on streaming services.
Despite the picturesque views of her home country, it was to Dover that she made a pilgrimage to write her new songs, traveling from her current home in West London just to see it in all its “glory.” .
Bella told KentOnline that the beach lived up to its legendary place in her head: “I got in that cab, and it’s that dryer cab that lived in Dover. I was telling her how great I was. excited to be in Dover and looking at the white cliffs, and he was like “how are you”?
Baby Queen’s Dover Beach video clip, featuring shots of Samphire Hoe
“Anyone who lives or grows up in the place where you de-romanticize, because it’s your immediate surroundings and what you know so well, but it’s kinda nice to see it through the eyes of those people who have never seen it before.
“I thought it was amazing, I have never seen the British White Cliffs and had not seen the ocean for two years. It was truly a magical experience in a strange way.”
Bella’s pilgrimage to the beach gave her a space to be alone and write songs, in a place that had been living in her mind since childhood.
Sitting over there on the pebbles, she wrote Dover Beach, about feeling infatuated and seeing that person everywhere you go.
She said: “I like to write completely isolated and I decided to go to Dover, I sat on the beach and I wrote poems, it was great.
“I was really stressed out about writing songs and wanted to write music that sounded good to my ears, not what I thought was necessary to be successful.
“It was a really creative experience.”
So how come a rising star – who spent last weekend at Courtney Love’s performing Buddhist chants – fell in love with this particular part of the Kent coast?
Turns out we have none other than Victorian poet Matthew Arnold to thank.
“Listen! You hear the screeching rumble / Pebbles the waves pull …” – Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
Arnold, who was a close friend of William Wordsworth, published a poem titled Dover Beach in 1867, which became his most famous work.
It is believed that the poet wrote it in 1851, while he was on his honeymoon in town with his wife.
Known for tackling Arnold’s Crisis of Faith as the country fully embarked on the industrial age, people around the world also love the piece for its striking lines recounting the beautiful view across the Channel Strait.
Despite being a deeply pessimistic poem, the 19th century writer ends up proclaiming that the only thing that will stop the angst of existence is love.
Bella grew up with the poem and had always imagined one day visiting the place she had read countless times.
Speaking from her home in Fulham, she said: “Now I can’t wait to go back.
“It’s crazy, so many people from Dover went to the music video and commented saying it’s so weird to see Dover romanticized that way.”
Bella and her crew returned to town last month to shoot the music video for the single – though it’s worth noting that they picked the slightly more quaint spot of Samphire Hoe instead.
In the YouTube comments section of the video, user Victoria Packman wrote: “Came here after seeing the shoot on the beach in Dover, my hometown. Now a fan of Baby Queen! Hope she is fine. “
While Dan Parkes commented: “Quality! From a resident of Dover! Remember us when you are number 1!”
Bella was surprised when told that she was just one of many artists who used the beach – and Arnold’s poem – as inspiration for her music.
In 1984, the Californian band The Bangles released their first record All Over The Place, which contained a track called Dover Beach.
In an interview with the Songfacts website, Vicki Peterson said, “Susanna and I were a bit of a geek opening up the Norton anthology of English literature, flipping through that and saying, ‘Hey, that’s a great line. “
“She had stumbled across Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach poem at one point and it inspired this song, this idea to apply the escape fantasy and the reality of what it would really mean. It was a really fun time to explore the world. ideas. “
Despite KentOnline’s best efforts to contact the group and find out if they have visited the beach before, we received no response.
Nearly two decades earlier, New York poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg formed their group The Fugs, which has performed with Fleetwood Mac and Tangerine Dream.
The duo specialized in a satirical and political style mixing spoken poetry and rock music.
One of their most famous tracks is – you guessed it – Dover Beach, a cover of the poem Arnold.
As a major part of the ’60s countercultural scene, the band performed in damp sweaty venues in New York City and performed this song on a remote beach on the English coast.
The group set the poem to a curvy folk song – something which Pulitzer-winning American composer Samuel Barber also did with a string quartet in 1931. It has apparently remained one of Barber’s favorite pieces he did. has never set to music – he once described the poem as “one of the few Victorian poems that continue to hold their stature.”
The beach reappears in a piece of music created by Brian Eno – producer of Talking Heads, U2 and former keyboardist of Roxy Music.
Eno is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 21st century and was the spearhead of ambient music in the 1970s.
One of his ambient pieces, composed for the Derek Jarman Jubilee film, was called Dover Beach.
It’s a slow, brooding piece of music, with a background hiss that resembles the waves cascading over the pebbles on the beach.
Speaking to Newsweek, he also explained a connection to Arnold’s poem: “I thought so much that the message of this movie (Jubilee) was that young people were trapped in a turmoil that they cannot. not understand, what they, of course, react nonetheless to. So it seemed to agree. “
Again, it is not known if Eno has ever visited the beach himself.
But with such a rich heritage, the question is, who will be next to find inspiration in Dover’s pebble seaside?
The next time you visit, take a look around – you never know who might be there.
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Read more: All the latest news from Dover