I’d like to say that my first musical memory was from the before I could walk, that it was of the Miles Davis quintet and that I was finger-popping in the womb, but I can’t. My first musical memory was being led to a television set to hear “The Ballad of Davey Crocket” and my first favourite song was Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boys singing “Last train to San Fernando” (which I recently acquired on 78rpm). Now that that’s out of the way and we’ve established my age, sorry pedigree I’d just like to say I’ve done my best to make up for any lack of taste down the years so laugh now for “if you miss this one, you’ll never get another one”.
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I had the great good fortune to grow up in Liverpool. The Liverpool I grew up in was still war-scarred. It was pitted with bomb sites and derelict buildings. Like scenes from the “Magnet” We now know that there were plans afoot throughout the 1950s to “manage” the decline of our once great city. No one could have predicted the next developments. From the heart of the city and the most unlikely origins came the future of world music.

As Bill Harry points out, it didn’t begin with the Beatles. It began with the music, the pulsating jangling crooned, shouted and sung soundtrack to just about everything from the church to the pub, the match and a wedding. The sound of a pub-piano or a strummed guitar changed an idle moment to a moment of harmony and re-creation in its truest sense. To sing or play piano was a gift, from God and to the community, to those around you. No wonder McCartney’s father, Jim advised his son to learn to play; it was a ticket to ride.

Always Saturday Night - Chapter 1
Liverpool was a special place when I was growing up. For a place that was bombed-hell-out-of it was an upbeat celebration of life in its most improvised form. Women were beautiful, vibrant, knowing, and always ready to smile or laugh. Men were adaptable, intelligent and busy, always busy. Young people made things; they made them out of anything they could find from “steering carts”, plywood go-karts with pram wheels on to bikes and most significantly, guitars.

Guitars were the perfect balance of functionality, beauty and creativity which existed. In Liverpool the forgotten skills of ship-construction, building and fitting were not forgotten. There were people who worked with cast-iron and those who worked with wood. To build a guitar with all its futuristic design was a statement of an artist as well as a craftsman or woman, and it was common to see people in the street carrying a part-built body or a guitar neck. It’s a long way away from the disposable culture of today.

It occurred to me during a recent gig how much I get from playing to the local audience on "Saturday Night Specials". This is what I wanted to do from day one. I was a product of a gigging culture which created a story at home before approaching the "business" which by and large, despised us after the Beatles blew a complacent showbiz out of the water and gauged our worth on how much we could make for them. The greatest compliment I ever got was from a profoundly deaf guy who came to a venue attracted by the quality of the vibrations on the pavement outside. The venue, the Slaughterhouse in Liverpool, was five steps up from the sidewalk! Two weeks ago I led an "Italian Through Music" session at the Royal School for the Blind in Church Rd. Liverpool. The students there have complex incapacities and they register their approval in special ways. To see a young man normally unable to sustain interest beyond 5 minutes, dance to my language exercises set to "La Donna e Mobile", "Hare Krishna" and "Volare" stirs the soul, believe me. Moral? There is more than one way to judge success. Thank god the Acme International Record Co. passed on the demos!
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