I was trained as a classical musician, but my heart was never there: it was always with the blues, rock and roll and experimental music.
The big shocks to my system came first when I heard Bob Dylan – I guess I was about 15 at the time, and then maybe at the age of 17 I suddenly heard a French radio station play “Hellhound on my trail” by Robert Johnson.
If ever there was an earth shattering moment in my life, that was it. I was amazed, and outraged – outraged because I realised that this music had been around all my life, and no one had ever told me about it.
How could they keep it from me? How could they not tell me.
The response to hearing Dylan had been to go out and buy a cheap acoustic guitar and then teach myself to play – being able to knock out Beethoven sonatas helped! Then I started writing in mock-Dylan style, until the moment when Mr Johnson appeared in my life and I changed my style.
Unfortunately not only was a white 17 year old kid, I was a white 17 year old kid living in Dorset, so the opportunities for me to present my new found creed to the world were small. But there was a folk club in Bournemouth, so once a week I trotted along, and performed my songs there. I’m delighted to say no recording exists of what I did there, but I wouldn’t mind a time machine to find out what the audience thought.
After that, two my events moved my world.
One was that I got to know the late John Ravenscroft, better known as John Peel, and arranged a campaign to get him a Sunday afternoon slot on Radio 1. Through a few record playing sessions at his house, and of course his radio programmes I took in Zappa, Beefheart, Country Joe, Roy Harper… the music that really did solidify my outlook on life.
Meanwhile I managed to blag myself into working for Rhythm and Blues magazine – which amazingly did manage to survive for three years. My first assignment – I think I must have been all of 18 at the time – was to interview Bo Diddley, which I duly did. It was something else
Perhaps it wasn’t just that I did it, but that I could do it. I could get my work published in a magazine, I could get an interview fixed up with just about the most famous R&B artist in the universe, I could ask him questions and get some interesting answers.
It opened the door.