bass guitar / flute / keyboards / vocals
I was born in June 1955 in a small town near Nottingham. However, I quickly realised that the place was going nowhere musically and at the age of 5 moved to Wolverhampton in the Black Country – destined to become the epicentre of the Heavy Metal movement.
Unfortunately our piano stayed behind in Nottingham and I had to wait until I was 14 before I owned a musical instrument – a bass guitar in fact. If I tell you much I paid for the guitar you will probably conclude that either (a) I am very old or (b) the bass guitar was very crap or (c) both. On the basis that I paid £10, the correct answer is probably (c). I bought the guitar from Pete Laingdon, who for several years ran a ‘gear’ shop in Wolverhampton. Pete’s enduring characteristic was that he looked, well…dodgy and as you left Pete’s shop you always felt somehow you had been ripped off – even if you hadn’t even bought anything.
Anyhow the bass worked – even if it had a TV aerial socket rather than the normal jack socket. The rest of the family then had to endure a lot of noise coming from my bedroom and a singular lack of a picture on the TV.
A Heavy Metal Bass Riff Guru?
Inevitably I joined a band with some mates from school. I can’t remember if we had a name – it didn’t seem important at the time – although the founder members went on to form “Svensk”. The band included Dave Kyte on keyboards (although Dave was a drummer), Tim Mansell on drums, Stuart Webb on vocals, a guitarist and myself on bass. After a few rehearsals we set up a gig at the YMCA hall (it had a stage and curtains) and invited everyone we knew. On the evening of the gig, having set up the gear, we retired to the pub across the road for some serious under-age drinking.
When we staggered back a scene of complete mayhem greeted us. The hall was packed to capacity and beyond, the excitement was palpable, people were screaming and shouting – possibly because we had launched maggot-filled balloons over the audience – all we had to do was play…
After the experience of the first gig a new guitarist was drafted in and more gigs followed, including an evening playing the full glare of the striplights at the Girl’s High School. Anyhow the inevitable tensions led to the band going their separate ways – Tim and Stuart wanted to play music seriously, Dave wanted to be a jazz drummer and I wanted to be a heavy metal bass riff guru.
Anyhow Dave Kyte (drums) and myself teamed up with Dean Abbott (guitar) to form “Thalamus”. We never learned any songs or for that matter wrote any new ones – we just played until we got blisters. The band existed on two levels – the reality of playing with crap guitars and home made amps (although Dave did have a proper drum kit) and the fantastic ideas for songs and a stageshow we thought up during periods of alcohol-induced euphoria. Musically we invented punk about 8 years before it happened although our (planned) stageshow had more in common with the worst excesses of the rock dinosaurs. This culminated in plans for a ‘Big Dipper’ constructed with a continuous row of drums along the track for the ultimate experience in high speed drum solos.
You Can Get Paid For Doing This?
It was about this time I played my first gig for money. I seem to remember getting £5 for doing (ruining) someone’s weeding reception. Considering I paid £10 for the guitar this was an enormous amount of money. Again we didn’t have a name although the band later gained local success under the name of “Fatty”. We were a guitar-drums-bass trio and basically modelled ourselves on Cream – i.e twice round the tune followed by a 30-minute guitar solo. The guitarist was very talented and in fact was a big mate of Gary Moore as I found out when we went to a Skid Row gig. Unfortunately the guitarist seemed to have a problem going outdoors and the band folded.
When I started University I was not playing with a band but began playing the flute. By the start of the second year I was becoming increasing disillusioned with student life so I bought a PA with my grant, left university and restarted “Thalamus” with Dave Kyte on drums, Dave Whyte on guitar and myself on bass and flute and occasional vocals. The band fell apart after an evening of complete insanity on our drummer’s 21st birthday, which culminated in Dave Whyte ending up in the police cells. Earlier in the evening we had crept into the Lafayette Club through an open side door only to emerge onto the stage in the full glare of the lightshow. Everyone thought we were the band, but when the real band emerged moments later an altercation with bouncers ensued.
Anyway in an attempt to engage with the real world again I then joined a folk band called “Tipsy Parson”. This was not the most musically liberating experience – I swear my volume control never went above 2 – but rehearsals were minimal, gigs a plenty and I almost made a living out of it.
After graduating I did not have any firm offers and so explored the possibility of making a career in music. An offer to play bass in a band on a cruise liner beckoned – all I had to do was learn how to read music – so when an offer to work as an Engineer building the M11 somewhere in Cambridge arrived I took it. I had no idea what the local music scene was like. Soon after arriving in Cambridge I noticed an advert in the Melody maker for a bass player – as it turned out with ‘The Zeds’.