During my early teens (13-15) albums and concerts both cost £1. The first concert I ever went to was also The Sensational Alex Harvey Band at Leeds Town Hall on the Next tour. There never was a better live rock band than SAHB, so what a miraculous way to enter the world of live music.
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band live were very theatrical and Alex had that magical power to hold an audience in his magic spell. At the other end of the spectrum was Ginger Baker, drummer first famous with Cream. Cream were a bit before my time, but I remember the formation of The Baker Gurvitz Army. Ginger Baker lets the music speak for itself. There's no on-stage drama, no costume changes, no antics. But I was completely mesmerised by his drumming. I loved the narrative of "Toad," the 15 minute live drum solo on Cream'sWheels of Fire. And I remember when I bought the first Baker Gurvitz Army LP and then soon after they came to Leeds. I had just enough money for the ticket but not for the bus to buy the ticket. So, on the day they went on sale, I left school early and ran the 8 miles to Leeds University to hand over my cash. Yes I ran and I ran and I ran and I was in a panic because the tickets went on sale at 2pm and it was already 3 by the time I arrived.
It was an amazing show and the support band, Trace from Holland, were absolutely incredible. The following week I went into town and bought their first album. This album is one of the all time greats. Really, music can't get much better.
Meanwhile the grandmother piano teacher with her living room upright decided to move. So I found a new teacher. She was probably in her late 20s and a bit odd in the way musicians can be. But she had a kind of garage converted into a music room and she had A BABY GRAND!!!!!!!!!!!! God I loved playing her piano.
I was a lazy student but I was soon at grade two. Now the music was getting interesting and SEVERAL PAGES LONG! This was really amazing for me because less then a year earlier I was playing "Three Blind Mice" that was only three lines long.
As you can tell from the Trace track, I was starting to move away from basic rock to Progressive Rock, even though I had no idea about such terminology or differentiations.
I'd go to a couple of record shops every Saturday and browse. I had two ways of choosing what to buy: the length of each track and the album cover. If you can't judge a book by its cover, well I realised that you could quite easily judge an LP by it's cover.
This way of choosing music had some very unexpected results. The first Van der Graaf Generator album I bought was Godbluff. I admit at first I wasn't quite sure what I was listening to.
Soon though I had most of their albums and, like all the other artists I mention here, I still think they're great.
Another group that confused me at first was the Dutch band Focus. Unfortunately, because I was choosing albums largely based on track length and cover design, I bought Focus Live at the Hammersmith Odion. It was a somewhat concentrated introduction to their unique music. I wasn't really sure what the hell I'd bought once I got home. Especially the following track really threw me a spinner.
I remember: it was early summer, just before school broke up. I was 14. I was basically obsessed with music and romance. Romance mixed with music mixed with sex. I had a constant fantasy of walking barefoot through a summer field with which ever girl I dreamed of at the time, and the sun shone, and we came to a hay stack and climbed into a hollow and made love. That fantasy kept me going for many years. Hell, maybe even now.
Any way, I woke up just after dawn, which is very early in Leeds during the summer. I had some beer or cider stashed under my bed. I sneaked downstairs and mixed some of my dad's whiskey, rum, vodka and whatever in a big glass with some concentrated orange squash.
Back upstairs I started drinking all the completely sickly alcohol. Kneeling on my bed, elbows rested on the window sill, I watched the early morning world of our cul-de-sac. I watched the early morning world wake up, the milk man coming and going, blackbirds pecking for worms on the sparkling dew covered lawn, the sky blue and everything somehow so sad and so romantic and so me. I watched the early morning world with my headphones on. I remember listening to Camel, and this track in particular.
Of course as I listened I was crying. I was crying from the power of music and the power of being alive and the power watching the sunny yet sad world wake up while most people still slept. I went to school drunk.
And then I was in my last year of high school. There was a new kind of music much discussed in papers like The New Musical Express. It was a back to basics kind of music, they said. Authentic. Working class. They called it Punk Rock.
Leeds Polytechnique held a Punk Rock concert featuring four bands. The headline group was the one we'd all heard about: The Sex Pistols.
I bought my ticket and I went.
First band, awful.
Second band, awful.
Third band, awful.
But all the audience, myself included, was waiting for The Sex Pistols. Every one was talking about them. They had to be something special.
And indeed they were. They were so special I have to say it was the worst noise I'd ever heard. After thirty minutes more than half the audience, and definitely me included, had left.
So this was how Punk Rock began. Hardly any one liked it because it was crap. Here they are. I illegally downloaded this song because, of course, I don't own it. Enjoy.