1966 and on…
Music, musicians and performance has been an important part of my life. From an early age, music played a big role in helping me to express who I was. The love of music grew into a creative outlet which I use to this day as an extension of my love of story telling: the stories that bind us together.
Apart from playing a recorder at school, I played Fife in a Scout band for several years; something I remember vividly, the Sunday marches from our Scout and Cub Hut around the local streets stepping out in time with the fife and drum band and eventually ending up at the local Methodist Church. Around this time I started music classes at School and somehow ended up with the Euphonium as my instrument. I never had a desire to play the Euphonium, I always wanted to learn to play the guitar, piano or violin but reading between the lines, I was a big lad and I was matched with one of the largest instruments that you could possibly carry…the Euphonium. I can’t say I ever did much with it as the school didn’t have an orchestra and music classes were generally theory based as our raucous playing was frowned upon by other teachers who were trying to instruct much more sedate and tranquil subjects in nearby classrooms. The euphonium soon ran out of wind and for many years, music via the radio, my parents record collection and bands via the television captivated me and became the soundtrack to my formative years. I will talk about those early influences in future blog posts as they were important in shaping my musicality.
I had played a round on a cheap keyboard for a while and then in the early 1980s, I purchased my first synthesiser, a Yamaha CS -5 (I wish I had kept it). I spent hours and hours experimenting with sounds, rhythms, tones and melodies. I was a young student nurse back then and the synth and stand was the main feature in my small, utilitarian room in the nurses’ home where I lived. I had never had piano or keyboard training and my musical theory left an awful lot to be desired but with practice and perseverance I was able to put together a series of notes, chords and rhythms that to me, sounded pleasant and acceptable. At the time I was also writing a great deal, something I had always done since childhood. These two hobbies soon became intertwined and before long I had written lyrics to several of my tunes.
My ambition knew no bounds and I soon had the idea to write a musical based on one of my favourite reads at the time, George Orwell’s Animal Farm. For several months I sat night after night dreaming in my head how this classic novel could be staged, what the sets would look like, how actors could portray the different animals and how the story could be told through music and song. After many hours, I had written and memorised 14 songs, described stage directions, decided on costumes, planned the opening night and imagined myself watching the first night from the wings. I didn’t know about copyright back then and somewhat deflated, the script and score was filed away and remains to this day in my archive. Never one to be defeated I soon rose to the challenge and started from scratch and wrote my own story about two rival families and of the secret love affair between one families eldest son and the other family’s eldest daughter, eventually helping to heal the long-standing rift between the two families. Looking back at this document I cannot help but smile as it does remind me of the times Mama Rose in Gypsy reinvented June’s act, over and over again. Animal farm to family feuds…same format, different characters.
It was clear that with a growing collection of tunes in my portfolio, I needed further outlets and opportunities for my creations. With advancing, affordable technology, I soon had my eye on a Teac four track home recording Portastudio. With this piece of kit the possibilities were endless, I could potentially record up to 10 instruments and vocal tracks. Living in the nurses home created many opportunities to have fun with such equipment and together with friends Terry and Diane we made a series of silly comedy tapes with music that were great fun and even used in a local hairdresser’s shop to entertain his customers. Sadly, these tapes have long since disappeared but Terry and I still manage to quote odd lines to each other from time to time even after all these years… great memories.
A couple of years later I was reading the small ads of a local newspaper and something caught my attention, it read something like: Local band My Pierrot Dolls require synth player, contact Ivor on Rotherham……. I had thought about joining or forming a band but never ever done anything about it. Perhaps this was the impetus I needed? After a few hours of weighing up the odds of making a complete fool of myself I decided to telephone Ivor and see what the score was. Ten minutes later, a meeting/audition had been arranged and there was no going back.
Next blog post: Down at Dusty’s