Music in the blood
Music has always been part of my life. My parents were keen on music (although neither played an instrument) and I was brought up surrounded by Beatles singles and the like, and listening to the pirate station Radio Caroline.
My grandfather, Stan Herbert, was also an active musician – a multi instrumentalist and a band leader through much of his life. He was my inspiration once I started playing, and despite the age difference he came to some of my early gigs in London. He was always forthright with his reviews – something that I found hard at the time, but ultimately made me strive for better.
Piano? No, guitar
My first instrument was the piano. But after two years with regular lessons I never felt I’d made any progress.
So I switched to acoustic guitar, and started to make progress straight away. I bought a music book of Beatles songs and started to learn them up. Havings songs from my childhood I could relate to really helped me to perservere.
Inspired by Glam Rock I bought a 2nd hand Antoria Les Paul copy from a school friend complete with a really tiny naff amp.
After that I began playing with another friend who had just acquired a bass guitar and we worked up various Bowie, Status Quo, Chuck Berry, and Eagles covers every now and again.
When I went to university in Cardiff in 1976 I took both my guitars and kept practising much to the annoyance of the final year student in the next room.
The photo shows me playing guitar at my first ever gig on a Student Union Bar Music Night. I’d fallen in with some folkie friends at this point (but you probably guessed that from the facial furniture of the whistle player) and we’d storm through various folk standards which Mike (in the middle) would sing in a nasal style. I would occasionally do some solo spots as well.
In the second year I joined my first ‘proper’ group although we always struggled to find a drummer and never played live. It was during this time that the first stirrings of songwriting occured. We’d knocked out a repeating three chord pattern which anyone else would have told you sounded just like ‘All Along The Watchtower’, but it was ours and we played it for hours! On the one day when we did have a drummer, it actually sounded quite good.
But the band broke up because we fell out over musical direction. I was becoming heavily influenced by the ‘punk’ wave that had arrived in Cardiff by now, and I wanted to go that way whereas the other guitarist couldn’t stand it and wanted to stick to Neil Young and Rolling Stones songs. It seems weird now to realise how much the arrival of the Clash and the Sex Pistols changed everything, and how it polarised people so much more than Glam Rock ever did 5 years before.
It’s funny that while loving the punk attitude and sound so much, my own songs from round this time betray the bluesier and more melodic influences from the Beatles and early 70s artists. But I would not be in another band until the arrival of a new decade.
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