'Twas the long summer holidays of 1965 – they always seem endless when we are young, right? – but it was also the start of an enduring love affair for me. Dad gave me a sixpence, and said I could go (on my own!) and choose something on the café, or probably more appropriately, caff jukebox. This was a BIG DEAL and surely meant I was becoming a grown-up – after all I was nearly seven. The cafe was the local biker's haunt (or 'greasers' as we called them in 1960's England), and threading my way through the forest of denim and leather clad legs, I already knew what I'd be choosing. No question, it had to be HELP!
For me there was nothing more exciting than the newest single from the Beatles (football etc. took a back seat), and the wait for the release of the next single seemed unending. Of course I liked many of the other contemporary bands, but somehow, even as a child, I knew that some songs (usually by those Beatle chaps) were 'a cut above', and had that magic feeling about them. Strawberry Fields and I Am The Walrus almost became obsessions as I wore out my poor elder brother's treasured 7" singles.
My love of music didn't go unnoticed, and Mum decided that I should try learning an instrument. Guitar wasn't even a remote option at an English primary school at that time, so one fine day I found myself having my first cello lesson! Lugging the (to me) enormous thing to and fro on the bus was an 'adventure', but I persevered and found that I actually liked some orchestral music.
The next big musical event in my life was buying my first single with my own saved-up-for-weeks pocket money. With trepidation I entered Gooses Record Shop in Maidstone, and walked up to stare in awe at the full on 60's 'dolly bird' behind the counter. "Sp... Sp... Space Oddity please," I croaked. 'Ching ching' went the till and it was mine! (Years later I got to know the beautiful Wendy, for it was she who served me. She sweetly claimed to remember.)
I was unexpectedly given an old nylon strung guitar by my brother-in-law's younger sister, Jane. Better yet, this was followed by proper guitar lessons which Mum arranged with her workmate's husband, and even more exciting, good old Mum went on to shell out money-she-didn't-have to buy me a Columbus 6 string jumbo acoustic. I learnt quickly, and (though I blush to say this) became something of a prodigy, playing the repertoire of Bert Jansch, and similar, to a high standard by age fourteen. My undying thanks go to the wonderful John Hart for teaching me so well, and for being a great friend to a rather hyper and oddball boy.
I moved on to play electric guitar courtesy of a weird and possibly not wonderful instrument that one of the 6th formers at school had apparently made himself in woodwork lessons! Then came exposure to early Fleetwood Mac, Elmore James, electric folk bands such as Fairport Convention, three piece 70's English gigging rock bands like The Groundhogs ... and then ... Frank Zappa. Whoah there boy! Hold on a minute! The proverbial goalposts had moved.
Aside from all things Zappa, I quickly got swept up with the music of Weather Report, Jean Luc Ponty, Brand X, Chick Corea and a host of those great pioneering 'fusioneers' of the 1970's. I formed a 'jazz rock' band with some good friends in my hometown, and we rehearsed and gigged with gusto for several years. I guess we were pretty good for a bunch of teenagers, none of whom could read music. It certainly taught me how to remember a long and complex tune full of odd chords.
This really set me on a course embracing a great range of music. After the jazz-rock band came a soul band, Tall Man Thin, before moving onto a pop-rock band called Feel & The Speakers featuring vocalist and electric violinist, Marcus Beale. From there it was on to a North London reggae band where I was awarded the great accolade by some enthusiastic Jamaican fans of being able to, "Hold a damn good riddim, man". After that, a more local reggae band which went by various names, amongst them The Dub Factory Rockers and, quite bizzarely, Extraordinary Codpiece!
Next came the first guitar duo, with Australian friend Kirk Pinkney, playing gypsy swing jazz, mostly of the Django variety. Most recently has been the second guitar duo with Ant Baker, playing half original material and half jazz standards, with some recordings along the way too. Apart from all this, a career as a sound engineer kept me closely in touch with the music scene, and gave me the time to develop my own stuff too.
So ... finally ...
My long overdue album of original material; Collage. I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed making it. Strangely perhaps, even after two and a half years creating it, I actually still like it myself. Tell me what you think in the comments.
Guess I'd better get going on the next one ...