music memories

Glen Priestly was the exception. He was an unusual guy. From infant school he always had long hair. He was also very smart. In infant school and junior school I was a below average student. I was always secretly jealous of Glen for his long girl hair and his intelligence. It was only in high school that I got my own head of long hair, somehow found myself in the special advanced math group, and played piano perhaps not better than he played guitar, but certainly more impressively. I'd always seen myself as a stupid kid so these small things were important to me. I went to my second concert with Glen. It was Supertramp and their Crime of the Century tour.

crime of the century

Another thing related to infant school: Catherine Banks. I loved her since I was six. I remember doing PE. If you forgot your PE kit you had to do it in your undies. One day Catherine Banks forgot her kit. Sure, we were only seven or eight, but there was something different about her chest from mine. She was like a topless angel.

I loved her from afar because until I got into high school I was a completely below average student with nothing that could possibly attract a topless angel.

But when I started high school I started to be odd and I started to be interesting and I started to learn how to improvise on the piano. Yes, Catherine Banks followed me through Junior School and Middle School and into High School.

By then she'd developed the most amazing chest. She was also taking piano lessons and, lucky for me, she was useless. I remember playing the baby grand in the music department at lunch time. Catherine Banks was standing behind me as I played. Her breasts pushed into my back.

"Are you really making it up as you go along?" she asked. Improvisation to her was impressive. Likewise was her impressive chest to me. She never became my girlfriend, but to feel an angel so close is a rare thing.

Of course, for every moment of happiness there was a month of misery and trouble.

One morning I decided to go to school in my pajamas. I have no idea why. Maybe I'd been listening to Frank Zappa's:

One Size Fits All

One Size Fits All

Pajama People

Actually, I didn't even wear pajamas for sleeping, so I had to put them on specially for this outing. When I got to school the teacher asked why I was wearing pajamas. I have no idea what I said, but he sent me to the Headmaster who sent me home to get changed.

I went home, got changed and decided to take the day off. I was probably exhausted from all that pajama changing.

John Smeaton's High School was the dumbest school in England and still is. And I was a dumb kid; but I suppose studying piano and reading books made the teachers go easy on me. Not one single kid in that place would voluntarily read a book. I remember a science teacher saying I was smart but I shouldn't be so supercilious.

I was shocked for two reasons. I had no idea I was smart in any way whatsoever. And I had no idea what supercilious meant. So I immediately went to the library and looked it up in a dictionary. I was also probably the only kid to voluntarily crack open a dictionary.


As young teens we all want to be adult. I felt really adult when my Shakespeare-loving teacher overheard me talking about Gryphon to some kid who probably didn't want to listen. Actually I had a habit of talking to entire classes, so it was probably pretty easy for him to overhear me. He came over and seemed surprised that I listened to music like that. He only had one of their albums. I had several. So the next day I took one in for him to borrow. I felt very grown up sharing something with that Shakespeare-loving teacher. When you're a teenage misfit, these small things are important and memorable.

Red Queen to Gryphon Three

Second Spasm

Of course, I was studying classical piano at the time, so I did buy the occasional canonical work. I considered Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to be the heaviest heavy rock I'd ever heard. Chris Bennet said I had no idea what heavy rock was.

The classical music I like best is melodic. In fact the music I like best is melodic. It's a very conventional thing. So you could say that my musical tastes are very conventional. Another classical work I saw from a rock perspective was the Holst's concept album The Planets.


At least from the age of 14 I had an unusual plan: I'd decided that when I finished high school, I'd leave home and be a street musician. Yes, a busker's life for me. There was a problem: I could only play piano. So I considered getting a piano accordion. Of course I had no money. So I stole a classical guitar from school and taught myself to play. I wrote a few songs.