Well, it’s out. I’ve only gone and done it and released an album.
When I first plink-plonked around the piano in our house as a small child, I had no pretensions of making a record. Of course I didn’t – at such a tender age, the perspective needed to map out your career path simply wasn’t there in your mind. You weren’t thinking beyond your next quarter of Strawberry bonbons from Lavells round the corner.
I imagine the first notion of being a ‘rock star’ (you always think about it in simplistic terms at a young age) would have been once KISS really got under my skin at the age of 10. My friends Stuart and Andrew Broad, who lived just around the corner from me, were swiftly conscripted into my first band. We never rehearsed once, never had a name, nor did we ever decide who was playing or singing what. But with ‘Alive II’ blasting on my Dad’s old Dynatron record player, some kind of plan was formulating in my head.
Call it delusions of grandeur. And Stuart and Andrew were quickly sacked for not seeing things long term!!
Andy Simmons understood my vision once I was in senior school and dabbling with drums…or more accurately a rubber practice pad. In fact, Andy was several steps ahead of me. He had written songs – proper ones with words and everything – and he had even designed his future band Minotaur’s stage set in minute detail, including the joined fists of the beast centre stage on which my 47-piece drum kit would sit and levitate Criss-like at the dramatic climax of his magnum opus Snowqueen.
Andy even made a cassette album as his alter ego Damien Death, crudely created on two tape decks in his bedroom-Death was a character in the Alice Cooper knock off vein with the ludicrously titled Maggots In My Deathmask a clear highlight of his burgeoning work.
Once we found a kindred guitar playing spirit in Keith Laurent a couple of years later, my musical focus sharpened considerably. Even more so when Andy & Keith bestowed me with the honour of being lead singer as well as drummer. Many hours were spent in an empty house (I had to wait until everyone else was out, for theirs and my sake) singing and playing along to the ‘Lick It Up’ album, turned up to ear-splitting volume on my personal stereo, fragile headphones attached around my head with a few wraps of Sellotape to prevent slippage. My efforts loosened my throat, my bowels and more noticeably the coving on my bedroom wall. Impressive in a destructive sense at least.
My forays into guitar playing, and therefore song-writing were tentative at first, but come 1987 as an acne-ridden 18 year old college student, I had a genuine reason to improve my skills as a writer – love.
Love and lost love is the song-writer’s best friend at times – by ’87 I was in my 1st serious relationship with a girl called Debbie, I was totally smitten and wanted to convey such smittenness (does that word even exist?) in music and lyrics.
I was asked to join Debbie and her family that summer on a holiday to France before our A Level results came in upon our return home. A chance to anticipate what the world would throw at us next depending on grades – at least in Debbie’s case, anyway. My delusions of grandeur had blossomed into full-blown denial about any other life choice than rock and roll, and so to me, such exam results were not as significant as they perhaps should have been.
During the course of the trip away, it dawned on me that Debbie was going on to further her education and that we were on borrowed time as a couple. And so, during moments of solitude on that holiday walking to the beach from our campsite, I started writing lyrics about us. Up to that point, my lyrical content had been sub-Dio sword and sorcery rubbish based loosely on the bleak year I spent playing Dungeons & Dragons in my early teens. However as the rhymes and themes developed in my head for a song that summed up the fait accompli that was to be a parting of the waves between Debbie and I.
She knew nothing of this, of course, and after a wonderful break, we returned home to discover that Debbie had an excellent set of results and was bound for another year of study somewhere. My results weren’t awful, but university wasn’t in my thoughts-this song was far more prominent.
Inspired partly by an FM song ‘Frozen Heart’ that both Debbie and I liked, I set to work back at home on a chord structure with my ham-fisted guitar playing. Don’t ask me what it was, but within a few hours, the whole song, lyric and structure was written and I had a feeling I had never experienced before – one of actual achievement, and I couldn’t wait for next band practice.
Keith, Andy & I used to rehearse in a local youth club at weekends near Andy’s house, and once we’d set up at the ensuing rehearsal, I asked to borrow Keith’s guitar as I’d ‘had an idea’. Keith usually rolled his eyes when I said this sort of thing – my technique never helped me get my ideas across on guitar that well and it could sound painful, but he handed his trusty Ibanez over anyway.
Thing is, I’d been practising really hard to make this song sound half decent. Borrowing my brother’s guitar at home when he wasn’t looking, I’d played and sung the damn thing time and again – so under the pressure of Keith’s steely glare, I didn’t screw up once as I played the thing through for him and Andy.
And for the first time in my life, a song idea of mine didn’t elicit a chortle or a snort from my cohorts. There was something of a pregnant pause, before Keith, eyebrows raised and looking somewhat shocked, stated ‘That’s not bad, that…’
That song was Stay In My Heart, song 7 on my debut album Prove You Wrong, the oldest song in the 15-song collection and maybe not the best one (matter of opinion I guess) but it is without doubt the most significant.
It’s the song that gave me the confidence to grow as a writer into my years with Shotgun Wedding, Sons Of God and beyond. And so, as I hold a freshly squeezed copy of the new CD in my hands I think I’ve done pretty bloody well to be honest.
We held a launch party for the ‘Prove You Wrong’ album at Birmingham City’s Jasper Carrott Suite last Friday, and even the crappy, snowy, icy bastard weather didn’t deter folk from turning up and showing their brilliant support. It was a lovely piece of synergy for me – launching my musical debut at my favourite footballing venue after 15 years working as a sports reporter in amongst my gigs, studio sessions and stuff like that – what a strange old trip it has been.
And the trip may well get stranger still as we go on – this whole album thing is obviously a journey into the unknown for myself, but the same goes for the management team at QEDG who look after me now – representing a football commentator who plays a good few instruments is a little different to looking after Uriah Heep and Snakecharmer as they do, after all.
‘And what is the objective…’ is a question I’ve been asked a lot in and around the release of Prove You Wrong. As far as I’m concerned, objective already achieved – I have an album with my name on it…that’s proved a good few wrong already without question. And here’s to proving countless more wrong as the sales roll in – which would be nice :o)