I’d obviously heard one on “Maggie May” and on my brother’s copy of “Dingley Dell” by Lindisfarne which I played fairly regularly, but this was the first time I’d heard a mandolin being used in music that wasn’t basically diddly-diddly-folky type stuff. It was being used in my current kind of music, instantly transforming it into something that sounded “happy” instead of deep and philosophical. Which was the trick, of course, because the album is deeply philosophical in Daevid Allen’s inimitable style. It is mostly acoustic, always beautiful and strangely gentle – being played (as he points out on the album cover) by “a band without a drummer! Hurray!” There wasn’t a song on there that I didn’t like but I particularly enjoyed “Children of The New World” and “Have You Seen My Friend?” However, the one that I really loved, and still do, is “Wise Man In Your Heart”, a long, meandering song in true Gong style featuring glissando guitars, a great bass line and percussion that sounded a bit like my colander rhythms! What marks it out though, is Allen’s voice. It is aching and heart-felt, especially on the line, “I climbed through many lives to find, the secret golden flower…”
It was, I think, my interest in the mandolin, that prompted my dad to take me with him when he went to visit the home of John James, a friend of his. I don’t know how he knew him, probably something to do with work, but he was a musician. A real live, working musician who played in a jazz band! It was a smallish house down in the Eastwood area of Rotherham that looked like every other terraced house on the street. But inside… The first thing that struck me was that he didn’t have a television! No television? And then I saw the instruments – everywhere there were instruments – on stands, on shelves, on the settee, propped up against cupboards, everywhere. Guitars, banjos, a mandolin, trumpet, clarinet – and those were the ones I recognised! What’s more, he could play them all!
Dad also started taking me now and again to the Cranworth Arms pub in Rotherham on a Friday to see Dave Brennan’s Jazz Band. They played traditional jazz and people (dad included, much to my embarrassment) would sit, often with their eyes closed, nodding their heads and tapping the table along to the beat. Quite a few of the audience sat on their own but obviously weren’t bothered in the slightest, they just loved the music and the smokey, beery atmosphere of a jazz club.
Shortly afterwards, my parents bought me a second hand bass guitar from the same swap shop I got the Wah-Wah Pedal from on Orchard Lane. I practised for hours trying to play the Gong bass lines as well as making up a few of my own. Using two cassette recorders, I could now record a drum (colander) rhythm on one, and play that back whilst playing the bass guitar, recording both onto the second recorder. I then played that one back whilst playing along on my six string guitar and recording that back onto the first one. The sound quality was unlistenable but I was creating recorded music! It was also at this time, that on one memorable occasion, my guitar teacher said to me, “Yes, I think you can call yourself a guitarist now, not just someone who plays the guitar.”
John Brookes, one of the leaders at Hatfield House Lane Methodist Church Youth Club, was a guitarist and singer who’d recently started a band playing rhythm and blues covers. He was in his early twenties, as was Dave (I never did know his surname) the other guitarist in the band. The drummer was John Lacey who was the new Minister at church. They needed a bass player and whilst I wasn’t really a “bass player” as such, I did have a bass. I was in! We practised most weeks in the church hall at High Green Methodist Church playing songs by bands such as Cream and Fleetwood Mac. I didn’t really know them but was desperate to learn and got pretty good, pretty quickly. Our first gig was one Saturday night at our church and although it was blues and rock music, I still wore a tea-cosy hat and pretended I was Mike Howlett, playing my Gong-style prog-rock bass lines. We had a stage and lights and everything.
The performing bug had bitten!