After our initial foray into music there were only two things that I needed to do to realise my dream and that was to actually get a guitar and start to learn how to play. Now my history of great musical successes entailed recorder at Harehills, choir and a fleeting dabble with learning the violin. The violin career was a very short lived experience. My mother had bought the violin from a second hand/antique store on Roundhay Road at Harehills. It was three-quarter size and was shared between my older brother and myself. It was a wonderful, strange looking instrument and hopefully had been played during its life by others with more talent than I had. The violin teacher was an elderly lady who lived off Harehills Lane and I know she had a small iron railing outside her house. After my first lesson I refused to attend, much to the horror of my older brother and my mother. I remember vividly refusing to let go of the railing and screaming whilst my mother tried to drag me in. I was still a youngster at primary school, I must add, and I don’t think that my older brother continued much after that performance. Maybe it was a good grounding for my rock/punk days that came later. The violin then spent the rest of its days in the coal store that later housed the central heating boiler. A rather sad end for something that would have had an interesting tale to tell.
Anyway, I digress. A guitar was what I needed and I must be honest that where I got my first acoustic, Spanish guitar from, I can’t remember. I probably bought it from a mate, or stole it off my older and long suffering brother. Resplendent with a rather old, new guitar I got Pete to show me some basic chords. Tuning was challenging in those days and sore fingers from practising for hours was the result of my new obsession.
Social time would find us at one of the Youth Clubs, mainly Lidgett Park Youth Club, or St. Edmunds, but we were beginning to widen our horizons and Alwoodly Youth Club also became a venue. There were a number of things happening in my life. Up to this point Roundhay School had occupied me with homework and Rugby. I was never a natural at soccer, ok, just, but for some reason I was quite good at rugby and, being one of the tallest at thirteen years old, I found I had an aptitude and a joy of the game. I took an active part in House rugby and Kelvin did quite well. I was picked for the Under Fourteens and there was training during the week and matches on a Saturday morning. What I lacked in skill I made up for in enthusiasm, and I even got an honourable mention in the Roundhegian Magazine that year.
My school friends were particularly Anthony Indyk, Roger (Surname reserved for reasons to be revealed) and Chris Mills at the time, but Roger left when we were about thirteen, as his family moved away. We all played rugby and Roger was particularly good. He lived not far from the girls’ school entrance on Gledhow Lane, I believe. Now Roger had an air rifle and there was an element of wildness about us at that time. I regret to say that sometimes, when his parents were out, he would shoot at the birds in the garden from his bedroom window. He was a good shot and unfortunately a number of birds fell victim to his skill. He even got me to have a go once and I am very sorry to say that I took him up on it, but as I was a novice the birds were safe from me. His father must have been into shooting as I was once invited to go with Roger to their rifle club on the way into Leeds. I had totally forgotten all about this until I started writing this account. I was allowed to have one go on the range that was below ground and fired .22 shells from a rifle. I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with shooting and I have never had any desire to shoot again. That is apart from the odd go at the fair with air rifles. One incident that I do remember and I am sure that Chris does, was one day during the school holidays. I was at Roger’s with Chris and we had been listening to music and just hanging out when Chris had to leave and go home. Chris, I remember was wearing Levis and a T-shirt. He left, and Roger and I were in the upstairs front bedroom. Roger’s rifle was there and, you can probably guess what is coming. Roger picked up his air rifle, opened the window and, just as Chris was running across the verge, took aim and fired. It was just like in the movies. Poor Chris shot forward and fell prone on the grass clasping his derrière. Roger and I laughed nervously and watched as Chris climbed to his feet and staggered back into the house. This was probably a good time to mention that Chris’ father was a policeman, but I don’t think Roger had given this a thought.
Chris was furious. He clutched his buttock and then pulled his jeans down. The slug had not penetrated through the jeans, but it had certainly pierced his skin. There was quite a hole where the force had struck, but not a lot of blood. He was absolutely ropeable and would have attacked Roger if we hadn’t placated him. First aid was administered and soon he regained his composure. Luckily for Roger, and probably me as the accomplice, these were times when boys did not tell their parents anything, for fear of repercussions. Chris was probably worried that he would be stopped from seeing Roger or me, so his parents never found out.
The three of us were the Roundhay contingent at the youth clubs and they were with me when I first met Pete. Lidgett Youth Club was a very active one and all sorts of excursions and events took place. It was there that I took part in a charity fundraiser by playing table tennis for twenty-four hours. I can still remember the noise of the table tennis balls and the limited number of records we had. Cat Stevens, Tea for the Tillerman (1970) was played endlessly and by the end of twenty-four hours I think I could have killed Cat Stevens if he walked in.
Whilst all these things were occurring I was continuing my basic guitar playing and Pete and I would get together. A friend of Pete’s, John, was introduced and he could play the piano. Now this was something. Pete could bash out a tune on the guitar and the odd melody on the piano, but John had had lessons and could play. Pete’s house at Harehills had an old upright piano in the living room and, despite not being the most accurately tuned, Pete and sometimes John would create their own songs. The three of us formed the core of what was to become a band. We started to write simple songs, probably as we didn’t have enough skill to do good enough versions of other people’s material. One day Pete and John came with a song they had written. I learned afterwards that they had nicked a theme off the Moody Blues. It was a simple song, but it had something about it. It was called Atlantis and it had a lilting melody that John sang well and I produced a simple bass line on the acoustic guitar. It was the first song, I believe, that we did as a band. I remember taking the guitars on a warm, sunny afternoon into Potternewton Park and we sat under a tree and played. It must have had something, or maybe it was back to the mysterious allure of teenage boys, but a couple of girls came and listened and seemed quite impressed. Now this was much more successful than the pipe smoking misfit and I was sharp enough to pick up on that.
A Yorkshire Love Song