The Zimmers are the world’s oldest rock band, with a combined age of around 3000.
Since they formed in 2007, they have toured all over the world attracting a fan base of more than 50 million people. They have appeared on popular US chat show the Jay Leno Show and have even met George Clooney.
And it all started right here in Islington. 93-year-old frontman Raffaele ‘Alf’ Carretta (pictured) and backing singers Dolores Murray and Rita ‘Robo’ Roberts all call the borough their home.
The Zimmers came together following a BBC documentary called Power to the People, exploring the trials and tribulations of elderly people across the country.
Dolores Murray, 67, of Holland Passage, was contacted by the BBC over her campaign to save the Essex Road bingo hall from closure.
But Mrs Murray, who has been championing the rights of Islington OAPs for many years and whose efforts were recognised with a Mayor’s Civic Award last year, could never have foreseen the rock ‘n’ roll life that beckoned.
“When we were told about the song we started crying with laughter. We didn’t think we could sing for the life of us,” she says as she sips her cup of tea at home.
With less than half a day’s practice the OAPs were taken to Abbey Road Studios, where under the watchful eye of Fame Academy mentors Carey and David Grant, and with U2 producer Mike Hedges on board, they recorded a rendition of The Who’s My Generation. The song, released in May 2007, reached number 26 of the singles chart. On YouTube, the video – one of the most-watched ever – is just a few clicks shy of hitting the 5 million mark.
The band has attitude, a quality which Dolores herself also displays. Every so often, the phone rings and she gets busy scribbling away notes for their next appointment. “Don’t have to dress up, do I? …Should I prepare some sandwiches?”she asks.
Apart from the odd photo and the framed hit single proudly hanging on the wall, there is little evidence of fame, much less any bloated egos. “We don’t make any money – that goes to charity. But it’s not about that. I don’t care what I look like or what I sound like – it’s just about having fun. When I’m on stage I just come alive!” Dolores says. Robo nods in agreement, before glancing over at the television screen on which Countdown has been set to record.
Lead singer Alf, who was born in Clerkenwell and has lived in Islington all his life, has proven popular with the ladies. At one gig, young women held placards painted with the words: “We want to have your babies Alf.”
War veteran Alf takes it all with a pinch of salt, but not before adding his own: “If we’re not trashing hotel rooms we’re throwing the TV out the window,” he says, with a chuckle.
The Zimmers will be performing in neighbouring Hackney this Saturday. Dolores Murray will also be speaking out on behalf of pensioners’ rights on The Daily Politics on Friday BBC2, 12-2pm.