1. The Early Years
I was born in Coventry, Warwickshire towards the tailend of a rather inclement March 1968, the first child of Patricia and Roger.
We lived in a little village called Frankton for the first 18 months of my life, then, when my sister Julie arrived on the scene in 1969, we moved to Nottingham.
Obviously I have zero recollection of this part of my life, but according to my Mum, I was a happy little chap with a rather short fuse and a propensity to sing loudly and wander off into other people’s gardens, although not necessarily at the same time.
We moved again to the outskirts of Loughborough in late 1970, and my second sister Claire was born on New Year’s Day ’71.
And then there were three. What a handful.
It’s around this time that I can start to recall certain life events. From an early age, I was encouraged to be musical. My mum thought it was a good idea for me and my sisters to have piano lessons. I embarked on my grades at the age of 6, going to weekly lessons with an old lady called Mrs Preston who taught classical piano. To be honest I have little recollection of these lessons!
I’ve fond memories of early school days which included getting scolded by various teachers for not towing the line, having real trouble understanding the basics of maths, but loving reading and english, where I showed real promise by all accounts. I was still attending weekly piano lesssons, but apparantly I was more interested in improvising once I’d nailed the sheet music. These lessons continued right up until we had to leave Loughborough for the leafy suburbs of Nottingham once again in April 1975.
This time, we lived in West Bridgford, and I do remember my next piano teacher, an affable old guy called Stan Haywood. He was a very good tutor actually; I progressed easily through a couple of grades in the two and a half years he taught me. However, the lasting memories of these weekly lessons is less about the music I learned, more about the nice biscuits my Mum laid on and him laughing out loud at me farting! He really was a great laugh.
I attended the local primary school, Abbey Road and made some good friends in West Bridgford. We spent the long, hot summer of 1976 there, the whole family basking in the searing heat with the sounds of the radio hovering on the air; I guess it must have been around this time that I developed a serious interest in the weekly chart on Radio 1. One of my earliest chart memories was when Mike Oldfield’s ‘Portsmouth’ hit the top five in November of that year, and I also have strong recollections of The Manhattan Transfer hitting the number one spot with ‘Chanson d’Amour’ in early 1977.