BIOGRAPHY...

A brief history of nearly 

everything...

 

On Music:  

 

At 13 years old I was on stage at school, playing Bach’s lute suite number one. Suddenly, my mind went blank. Fortunately, I managed to improvise a rapid ending and finish it. Most of the punters weren’t Bach fans and appeared not to notice, the rest were far too polite to say that I’d screwed up. I love Bach’s music and still regularly enjoy screwing it up…in private. 

 

After learning to play so many extended jazz chords at college, I found it impossible to play a 'humble' G chord…for years. I've fully recovered now though.

 

I once tried to teach my father the guitar. He was a willing student, but his hands were just too big, like shovels; his father had been a platelayer on the railways and a part time, bare-knuckle boxer. Fretting a single string just wasn’t possible. But, he could easily open any jar lid, no matter how tight…

 

I currently own about 20 guitars – but, they’re all very different…OK!?

 

The first solo concert I ever did on guitar was for my grandad, when I was 10 years old. I played ‘Apache’ by the shadows on my cheap old electric guitar through a Zenta amplifier. When I finished he said – ‘mmm, I suppose you want some pocket money now’. I’ve been thrilling audiences ever since… 

 

Ed Bickert, the wonderful jazz guitarist was once spotted feeling the weight of guitar amps in a music shop, uttering, “I don’t like the sound of that one”...at the heavy ones. 

 

On Recording– ‘the dark art’.

 

Karen Carpenter’s Neumann U87i vocal microphone was broken; stuck in Omni-directional mode. Peter Gabriel’s U47 on the album ‘So’ apparently, had a major electrical fault, which (the so engineer said) made it sound ‘special’. Why are so many ‘classic’ recordings done on broken/ damaged equipment?!

 

I never need a piece of studio kit, until I own it that is…

 

Musicians often say that it’s all about ‘the feel’ and not recording quality, tuning or timing. Yes, absolutely right. Hence the absolute necessity for auto-tune and quantise…

 

 ‘I just twiddle knobs until it sounds right’. – Legendary engineer Al Schmitt.  

 

‘What have you done to the sound?’ – the most common thing that is said when a musician hears the playback of what they have just recorded for the first time. 

 

‘Can I have more of me in the headphones’ - the second most common thing that is said when a musician hears the playback of what they have just recorded for the first time. 

 

Note to self - Courage and vision – what it took for Miles Davis to leave the many split trumpet notes on ‘A kind of blue’ still knowing it was absolutely ‘right’.

 

How can any vintage microphone sound the same today as it did back when it was recording 'classics', after having had 7 new valves & 4 new diaphragms fitted?!      

 

 

On Success:

I estimate that I’ve played at over 1000 weddings, birthdays and funerals and my voice isn’t shot.

 

The guitar geniusTed Greenplaying jazz guitar at ‘Joe B’s’ wedding; 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZENkj7C7Bw 

 

Young kids screaming, punters needlessly chatting to him half way through pieces – Ted is predominantly, being ignored, but, still smiling…

 

I’ve only publicly been called ‘shite’ at one gig…

 

My biggest achievement at infant school was being made a ‘milk monitor’. I didn’t exactly ‘monitor’ milk, but rather, poke straws through the foil tops. 

 

I made up the Spanish words for the song ‘La Bamba’ at pub gigs and parties for years and only got found out once, by a 1960’s nerd at a New Years Eve gig in 1998. 

 

I successfully changed the petrol tank on an Austin ‘Princess’ – once (helped a little, by my dad). 

 

Spanish Tony roped me into a flamenco gig in a tiny Streatham Hill restaurant once – real Spanish dancers - 'the works'; I tried to explain that I was a classical guitarist, but Tony wouldn’t have any of it. My right hand was bleeding profusely by the end. One punter said that it was the best music he’d heard since his recent, all-inclusive holiday to Torremollinos…  

Mo Money 

 

Owning an old, unreliable car is an asset that should never be underestimated. I’ve recorded some of my best music when I was due to be somewhere else, but couldn’t get there because my knackered old ford Mondeo gave out on me…

 

‘You paid what for that guitar??!!’ So, how much was that bloody watch??!!

 

Why is it that big name conductors of orchestras get paid a six figure salaries and the person sitting on the second flute desk will be getting a pittance?!

 

We still like to trawl second hand shops for fun… 

 

‘If I ever win the lottery’…’it will be a miracle’, as I don’t buy lottery tickets.

 

I wish that healthy food wasn’t so expensive…

 

My favourite guitar bargain is a 1961 Hashimoto classical guitar, bought locally for £150…it records like a dream. Hashimoto made the wooden dashboards for Japanese kamikaze planes in WW2 before moving onto guitars… 

 

Lionel Bart kept £1000 cash on his mantelpiece for people to dip into, in case they were a bit short of dosh, what a gent  – priceless…

Fashion – ‘turn to the left’.

 

When I was a kid, I bought a green military combat jacket in an attempt to try and look like Che Guevara. I just ended up looking like Citizen ‘freedom’ Smith. 

 

I have never seen a bad photograph of David Bowie…

 

Why is it at most marathons, you can always guarantee that there will be one bloke, running barefoot…they always have a distinct style of moving - as if on hot coals.  

 

My favourite boots wore out years ago – totally knackered, but I still can’t face chucking them out…

 

Faux Pas…

 

My first day at infant school, aged 5… I was too shy and embarrassed to ask where the lavatory was. I completely pooh’d my pants. Sorry mum…

 

I still, mistakenly let my car run out of petrol… sometimes.

 

I was at a Rufus Wainright gig once. He suddenly stopped and looked up in complete shock halfway through a solo piano/ vocal track…he apologised and promptly started over again. Bravo sir… 

 

Films…

 

Whilst watching any film or TV, I always have a slight feeling of being a bit of a pleb. Jiddu Krishnamurti said that watching anyfilm is not as good as being ‘in’ the most (sometimes seemingly) mundane reality. But what about telephone queuing Jiddu?!

 

‘Oh no, Mrs Robinson’.

 

Birdman or (The unexpected Virtue of ignorance) “Shave off that pathetic goatee. Get some surgery. Sixty's the new thirty, motherfucker!” Riggan: [as Birdman] 

 

 “I tried being reasonable, but I didn't like it.” 

― Clint Eastwood

 

I’ve always thought it a shame that they overdubbed the actor Dave Prowse’s Somerset accent with James Earl Jones’ menacing Shakespearian voice in Star Wars. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker might have got on so much better if they'd left it alone…

 

“You’re only meant to blow the bloody doors off!”

 

I must have seen ‘memento’ 5 times and I still don’t know what it’s about. I must have seen ‘memento’ 5 times and I still don’t know what it’s about… 

 

Early Years…

 

I was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in a house, which my mother still lives in. 

 

My father proudly shouted ‘it’s a boy’ from the bedroom window to the neighbours when I was born. I believe this is what people did to announce a home birth before mobile telephones or ‘facebook’ were invented. 

 

I’m not sure that my mother knew that the Second World War was over when I was a child (she was an evacuee). When I was 6, she used to send me with a large empty bowl to get ‘dripping’ from Allan the gay, local butcher for sandwiches. This finally stopped when ready-made junk food for the home was invented; Findus crispy pancakes...

 

My father (who was in the audience at the time) shook his huge fist at me at a gig once, because I was clowning around on stage with my brother Stephen…He gave up the guitar soon after, but remained an entertainer for the rest of his life... 

 

I joined my first proper band when I was 13. The rest of the members were much older than me, but they gladly took me to gigs, where people drank a lot and smoked cannabis. I’d dreamed of being a tree surgeon before I joined them…I wanted to be a tree ‘hugger’ after.

 

I took and passed grade 8 on the classical guitar within 18 months of taking it up; sadly, it made me really lazy with practising the guitar…

Prison Life... 

 

I spent 25 years teaching music, business studies and interview skills, as well as cleaning; yes ‘cleaning’, in various A – D category prisons around the UK. It's been quite a journey and an education...

 

I once gave a lesson in tap-dancing to a prison healthcare class - surreal.  

 

A prison chaplain once tried to block my women’s, prison gospel choir from performing at a Christmas concert at HMP. Fortunately, God had other plans for him and promoted him to a remote jail in the north of England before our gig, which still went ahead as a result. Hallelujah!!! 

 

I still find it odd when I see prisoners walking round in circles in the prison yard for...‘exercise'.

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