Mrs. Miller gives me piano lessons. She also smokes a pipe,
gives me sweets and tickles me.
My parents move me to Mr. McRory. Little do they realise that
he is a pub pianist and gives me pop songs to play. This is
more like it!
At my Jewish Youth Club I play Russ Conway hits and sing the
top harmony of Everly Brothers songs. I'm suddenly more popular.
Girls start talking to me.
I am singing at my Bar Mitzvah and half way through I faint.
I am carried out but recover and claw my way back to finish
the performance. Four years later James Brown incorporates this
in his act. This is also my first experience of Musical Theatre.
I listen to lots of Ray Charles music and start playing piano
in dance bands.
I pass all my GCE exams - except music. This has some irony
as I have been a professional musician now for over 40 years
and still know nothing about biology. I would also like to believe
that my school music teacher now works as a caretaker.
I start playing organ: a Vox Continental. (I suggest that keyboard
anoraks take themselves off to my keyboard player page where
they can trace my keyboard journey in greater detail.) I join
my first semi pro band, the Hijackers, and we win a competition
at the Lyceum for the best R&B band in London. One night
we arrive at Orpington Town Hall and are amazed to see a queue
round the block. We think we've hit the big time but realise
we are supporting The Who. From the wings I watch Keith Moon,
expecting him to self-combust. Afterwards I have a long chat
with Pete Townsend about all the guitars he's smashed up but
are still unpaid for.
Playing all-nighters and trying to hold down a job as a Tax
Officer do not sit well together so I turn professional and
invest in a Lowrey organ. I am suddenly doing a month residency
at The Star club in Hamburg with an odd little outfit called
The Yum Yum Band. This amazing group called The Vanilla Fudge
turn up in two furniture lorries and top the bill for two nights.
I'm so impressed by them that I tell their keyboard player that
they've "gone beyond music". He takes this the wrong
way and throws me out of the dressing room.
I am in Joe Brown's backing band.
Earlier in the decade he'd had some chart success and we were
touring the clubs on the back of this. His daughter Sam did
well for herself in the 80s but I only remember her as a tiny
I play on the Roy Orbison show
but sadly my job is not backing Roy but a British comedian and
singer called Dick Emery. I also
tour with Heinz Burt, a wonderful
blond chap who had been with the Tornadoes.
I tour with the American soul singer Percy
Sledge. This is a great experience; particularly as when
we did shows and TV in Holland he was top of the charts with
'When a Man Loves a Woman'. It was strange to be driven around
Holland in a luxury coach with a chart-topper and then return
to the UK and push-starting the old Bedford van. I also record
an album with Chris Spedding, one
of my favourite guitarists.
I buy a Hammond M100 organ and join P.
J. Proby's band. People usually remember him for splitting
his trousers on stage but I recall nights when he was staggeringly
drunk on stage. The audience would heckle, he would invite them
on stage for a punch-up and I would hide behind the Hammond.
But there was just one night at the Wooky Hollow club in Liverpool
when he was sober - and sensational. I also start writing songs
and form my own group called 'Listen'.
'Listen' win the first Melody Maker Rock band contest. We sign
with EMI, I am interviewed on The Old
Grey Whistle Test, we release a single and do lots of
radio. Unfortunately two of the band are American and are beset
by work permit nightmares. The group folds. Meanwhile my bank
of keyboards now includes an ARP Odyssey synthesiser. May 6th
of this year was Tony Blair's 19th birthday. So why should this
be of any significance? Well, at this time he was trying to
be a rock promoter and he chose our band to kick off his career.
Unfortunately he booked us into the Queen Alexandra Hall (5000
capacity) and only 60 people turned up. Admittedly this was
about 50 more than we usually expected it but it has to be said
that the man made a poor decision. I believe that since then
he has moved on to make bigger decisions, like whether we should
go to war.
time I begin making the transition to Musical Director and composer
and for the next twenty years learn my new trade. Here are a
few jobs I particularly enjoyed.
A summer season called The Comedians based on the TV series
of the same name. This was on Clacton pier and I would have
blotted it from my memory but for one incident. Saturday night,
second house, bursting with the elderly, band in the pit (me
on Hammond) and Russ Abbott doing
his Tommy Cooper impression (he was at this time the drummer
for a group called The Black Abbotts). Suddenly a man in white
overalls jumps on stage, grabs the mike and makes two announcements
- unfortunately in the wrong order. "The pier's on fire."
"Don't panic". I couldn't believe that the drummer
was actually packing his kit away as I jumped the rail and pushed
past any elderly person blocking my exit route.
Resident Musical Director and composer at The Albany Empire.
and sheer energy of this fringe theatre in South London produced
a series of breathtakingly original shows. Actors such as Alfred
Molina and Jim Carter were regulars at the Albany and the band
Squeeze played many of their early gigs here. I'm now playing
a Fender Rhodes and Solina string machine.
Resident Musical Director and composer at The Bubble Theatre.
Bubble tours London parks and commons in a gigantic tent. I
composed the music for 'They Shoot Horses Don't They' with a
fresh-faced Gary Oldman playing
the lead. I still have a tape of him singing one of my songs.
In 1980 Bob Carlton's 'Return to The Forbidden Planet' began
its life at the Bubble as a late night show. My main keyboard
during this period is a Korg PS3200 polyphonic synth, basically
a wooden box with jack leads hanging out of every orifice.
of England by Peter Cox for The 7.84 Theatre Company.
(recognised these days as 'Charlie' in Casualty) played the
lead in a powerful musical play about the 1984 miners' strike.
Tanzi by Claire Luckham. This had already been around for some
time before I took over as Musical Director. I had the good
fortune to work at the Mermaid Theatre for six months with Toyah
Willcox playing Tanzi.
by Willy Russell.
I was Musical
Director for this show both at Derby Playhouse and Leicester
Haymarket. Both times the wonderful Lesley Nicol played Mrs.
Johnstone. She has since stopped the show nightly in Mama Mia.
Micky Starke (Sinbad in Brookside) played Micky.
Hunt of the Sun by Peter Shaffer.
one of many commissions for the Chung Ying Theatre in Hong Kong
but I have fond memories of this production as it also featured
Hong Kong's City Contemporary Dance Company.
Money by Caryl Churchill. Music by Ian Dury.
really Colin Sell's gig and I used
to dep. I mention it only because I managed to stop the show
(full house, Wyndham's theatre) for the worst possible reason.
I mistook a cue and brought the band in (just me, a synth and
a drum machine) half way through a scene. Sometimes actors are
Secret Policeman's Ball.
In this show, in aid of Amnesty International, I played piano
as part of the Ken Campbell Roadshow not knowing at the time
that they were going to turn it into a film.
I wrote the parade music that went out every day of the season
for five years. This was quite a challenge as every float needed
its own theme and style but all the music had to synchronise
when played together.
Comedy Store. I
often stood in for Richard Vranch on the improvisation nights.
Much fun was had by forcing Paul Merton