I suppose my first foray into the world of adult music came when I first heard the unmistakeable tones of Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex back in the very early 1970’s – I was 12 at the time, an only son with two elder sisters, living in Bolton, Lancashire. Whilst my parents listened to Burt Bacharach and big band music, and my sisters were spinning 45’s of the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, The Searchers, The Hollies et al, I was up in my bedroom trying to get a decent signal in order to receive Radio Luxembourg. Hearing Marc’s vocals and especially his poetic, mystical lyrics filled me with wonderment – It also gave me an unbelievable sense of escapism, which allowed me to abscond from the humdrum of family life. Late at night, every night, as I pressed my ear to the transistor radio my sense of escapism increased with each rise and fall of Luxembourg’s spasmodic signals.
Of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex became T Rex, and Glam Rock was born!! For several, happy years I lived and breathed: T Rex, Bowie, Slade, Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Roxy Music ... and any other artist that emerged under the Glam Rock banner. It wasn’t long though before I found myself wanting more ... something a little different, and heavier. Roxy Music’s self-titled debut album had already shown me that music could be taken in many different directions whilst still maintaining the melody that I now loved. I was now on a mission!! Every Saturday morning, myself and a schoolmate used to go down town and marvel at all the weird and wonderful album covers – We rarely asked the shop assistant if we could listen to a song or an album; but we did eventually buy an album every week based on the cover alone. I will always remember being drawn to Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’, Hawkwind’s ‘In Search Of Space’ and Kiss’s ‘Destroyer’ (an album which was to change my musical landscape forever).
In 1974 I really did escape family life. Don’t ask me the reasons why, because I still don’t know to this day, but on the 5th September I joined the Army, where I spent the next 18 years of my life. My love of Rock music remained, and became an indispensable companion through both the good and the bad times. By now I had also become drawn to several Prog bands of the day; Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd mesmerised me with their lengthy songs and off-the-wall lyrics. I was still stationed in the UK in 1977, and therefore still able to visit record stores on my weekends off. It was on one of those weekends off that I spotted The Stranglers’ ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ album; the name of the band and album title gave me no alternative but to buy it; its aggressive riffs and dark, daring lyrics not only surprised me, but hooked me – Punk Rock quickly became another genre to my bow, so to speak. However, it wasn’t long until the inevitable posting to Germany arrived. A combination of military life abroad (including countless exercises) and a fledgling married life meant that music began to take a backseat. It wasn’t helped either by living and working in Germany, as my weekly trips to the record stores were replaced by Saturday morning shopping trips to our local NAAFI. Of course, my first port of call was the CD section, but all that the NAAFI had to offer were mainstream albums by: Madonna, Wet Wet Wet, Paul McCartney, The Bangles etc etc. The 80’s had well and truly arrived, and apart from a couple of Heart albums that the NAAFI dared to sell I was deprived of that golden age of Melodic Rock/AOR that folks back home were relishing. My knowledge of what was hot and what was not deserted me.
I left the Army as a Sergeant in 1992, shortly after the first Gulf War, but the change back to civilian life proved more dramatic than I could have ever imagined ... and for the following four years I suffered and fought chronic alcoholism. It wasn’t until August 1996 that I finally broke free of the clutches of the demon drink!!! As you can appreciate, or maybe you can’t, during those 4 years I lost all sense of purpose; I also lost my home, my family, my job …… and my music!! Within a week or two of sobriety I began to slowly get my life back. I was in contact again with my children; I was doing a Counselling course at College; I had a council house to live in, and, after a tentative visit to my local record store in Bolton ( X Records ) I was about to listen to my beloved music again !! But what to listen to ? I had been ill for so long I just didn’t know which bands were still alive and kicking!! I said to the guy in X Records in Bolton, ‘ I love my Rock music with melody, interesting lyrics, power and great vocals.’ ‘Here, try this,‘ the guy said, passing me a CD. I trusted his judgement and bought it, despite never having heard of the band !! Who was the band ? What was the album ? I hear you asking – Well, the band was TEN, and the album was ‘Name Of The Rose’.
From the moment I pressed play I was totally blown away!!! The album was, and still is unbelievable to my ears – the vocals, power, melody and lyrics were everything I could wish for. Within a few months I had bought everything that Ten had to offer, including solo albums from Gary Hughes. In addition, and thanks initially to Now & Then Records and attending The Gods’ Festival and subsequently Firefest, I began catching up on all the music I had missed out on: Gotthard, Pink Cream 69, Danger Danger, Theshold, Kamelot ..... the list is endless!! However, even though I listen to (and buy) hundreds of albums/artists, I can honestly say there have only ever been 3 Artists/bands that have significantly shaped my life: Marc Bolan, Kiss …. and Ten – The three of them have, between them, fed me poetry, theatrics and melody of the highest order, and I am forever grateful to them!!!
My road to recovery was almost complete in 2002 when I achieved a 2:1 Degree in English Literature/Creative Writing at the University of Bolton, and my job in the library there soon followed. In 2008 it was complete, as I married my childhood sweetheart, Mrs C. Since witnessing Ten’s comeback, (after a five year hiatus), on November 5th, 2011 at Fleetwoodstock my passion for music has never been as strong as it is now. I discover new bands (and old bands) on a daily basis; I have met, and continue to meet so many wonderful people, at gigs or via Facebook, that I hope I can now call ‘true friends’; and the cherry on top of the cake was being invited by Paul Jerome Smith to write for Fireworks. It is a huge honour, thank you!! I am the wrong side of 55, and I have never been so happy as I am now – Mrs C has been amazing in putting up with my musical obsession (and accompanying me to gigs), and my daughters, Gemma and Joanne, appear to tolerate my second childhood too – Never say goodbye !!