Imagine a time of darkened rooms, hushed learned tones and music that mystified and delighted. These were the Friday nights that shaped and formed my love of a whole host of Rock and Metal bands as Tommy Vance shared with his attentive, headbanging masses the sounds that we’d hold dear to our hearts for the rest of our lives. Whether it was a live show from Dio, an in the studio session from Venom, or an interview with the Pomptastic Magnum, every week was an education in what was hot and what was not in the world of proper music and I really can’t thank the late great Mr. Vance and his BBC Radio1 show enough for his introduction to the main passion that has run through my life. Bands have come and gone over the years and my tastes have evolved and broadened, but a large part of what I listen to is still shaped by those days.
I’d bought my first ever 7” single (now those were the days) even before then, the Gerald Scarfe animated video for Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ adding to the easily remembered and chantable words to capture my imagination and make the elderly assistant behind the counter of Woolworths eye me with suspicion, as she marked this 6 year old purchaser out as a future anarchist. Something probably backed up by my first album purchase a few years later, ‘For Those About To Rock’ by AC/DC. Woolworths wasn’t the location of this swapping of money for magic though, with an early lesson in the art of snapping up second-hand vinyl setting a trend for trawling through piles and racks of unloved records, and rehousing and rehabilitating them, that remains to this day. The mighty Status Quo were however my first “favourite band”, their ’12 Gold Bars’ compilation on almost constant rotation in either my, or my brother’s room, ‘Paper Plane’ in particular striking a chord (or three…). Rossi, Parfitt, Coghlan and Lancaster still hold a special place in my heart, but it was the demon faced, star childing, spaceman of cats that truly enchanted me (although ironically it was the “unmasked”, Carr and Vincent augmented, ‘Lick It Up’ that brought me on board), with KISS albums old and new, Rock or Disco, solo or band, taking up as much of my time as possible; a penchant for the gimmick also being created as it did so, a plethora of picture discs, hidden red vinyls, “tongue-pulling” sleeves, posters and masks having me learning catalogue numbers and countries of origin by heart (Sad? Me? Oh yes!).
If I wasn’t listening to music, I was reading about it, Kerrang! (back when it wasn’t teen mag of nonsense), Mental Hamster, R.A.W., Metal CD (remember that?) and the US import Metal Edge all bought and devoured on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Add to that the possibility of a free flexi-disc, 7” single, cassette, or latterly CD and the hunt for music new and old was (and still is) never ending, whether it be the Prog of Marillion, Rush or Twelfth Night, the strut and pout of Motley Crue, Bang Tango or Cats In Boots, the adrenalin rush of Motorhead, Rose Tattoo or Little Caesar, the slickness of Dokken, Winger or Poison, the Thrash of Metallica, Megadeth or Annihilator, the… and on and on it goes. And little has changed with my thirst to find the classic act from the past only matched by the passion to discover a rip-roaring, naïve debut of the here and now. The list of (often totally nonsensical) subgenres investigated only ever growing.
I played drums with the same passion for many a year in many an aspiring, if ever underachieving band (the kit and cymbals was only retired to the attic a couple of years back) and went on to discover that watching bands in the live arena was even more captivating than rocking out in front of the mirror (just….!). All the while adding to the huge list (hello, my name’s Steven and I’m a listaholic) of vinyl, cassettes, compact discs, mini-discs, cassingles, 7”s, 12”s, bootlegs, promo videos, DVDs and memorabilia in my possession.
The writing malarkey came later, with an offer to help out a good friend with the (sadly no longer with us) Greek website Metal Perspective igniting a new passion for highlighting the music I love to others. From there I joined the knowledgeable team at the Sea of Tranquility website (and I’m still onboard and very active there), before an invitation from a certain Paul Jerome Smith (All hail!) found me a place at the high table of Fireworks and Rocktopia. Paul’s cajoling also enticed me a few years later into the “behind the scenes” team who beaver away tirelessly to piece together the excellent contributions from around Europe (and sometimes beyond) that form both Fireworks and Rocktopia, with the honour of the title Assistant Editor something I’m proud to say I have.
Passions outside of music? Well I’m a baseball fan (go Red Sox!), and even bigger follower of the mighty Dundee FC, a Babylon 5 (the best TV series ever made - FACT!) fanatic and a bit of a Star Wars geek. However over and above all that (and maybe even the music…maybe) I’m the father of three girls (well, young ladies now) who make me proud and happy every single day and occupy most of the time I’m not at work, or writing reviews. The day job? Pah, it’s purely the thing that gets in the way of the music and too boring to even mention, although at least with a lot of time spent behind the wheel of a car in the wilds of North East Scotland it does give me lots of listening time!
KISS are still my favourite band (although I concede they aren’t actually the band with the best music in my collection, but hey…!), but really anything from Power to Prog, AOR to Thrash, Ginger Wildheart to Steven Wilson, Saga to Opeth, Slayer to Toto, Enya to Bruce Springsteen, Terence Trent D’Arby to Enslaved, Miles Davis to Jefferson Starship… I’m there and ready to bore you to death on each and every one. Oh and about 71,976 other bands…and counting.