As a child smart in all the not very practical things being raised by his great grandparents, I had a lonely first decade. That shaped me in ways I still have not fully understood. With the arrival of my brother to mum and my new dad, things became strange and then returned to being the same. My only resource was me. Mum trusted the good lord to raise me well, which was a mistake. He and I stopped talking very early on. By the time my brother was five, I had been a thief, a consumate liar, a vandal, a thug, very much a loner and more than a little wierd, topped off by the fact that mum’s faith kept me going to a Sunday group called Crusaders for long enough for me to become a Templar Knight in their attendance based reward system. Looking back, I was ripe for an epiphany.
At school I struggled due to sheer laziness. I was a librarian to avoid bullies that had followed me from junior school and an English teacher described me as ‘glib’. I could talk my way out of damn near anything involving reasonable people. By the age of fifteen I was on track for moderate academic success and a steady job doing something average.
It was that year, 1977, when one of my wilder friends from wargaming briefly let the odd kid in on his other life. That summer, due to circumstances, all his usual mates were off with family. So I got to hang out with him as a last resort. On top of that, I discovered that some girls liked a lad who read and was funny and hated football.
I had become the disk jockey at the church youth club and discovered rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins (the only version of Blue Suede Shoes that counts). Apart from that, the rest was pop pap as far as I was concerned. One evening, my mate was listening to me whinge about the music and said “Listen to this”.
What came out of his speakers hit me so hard. I did not know that it was a brand new debut LP release by an unheard of band. All I knew was that the music reached deep inside me and settled in to stay. The album was ‘Motorhead’. After that, he played me Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’. That night, I cycled home in a daze.
I have never looked back with regret on that moment. What ‘heavy metal’ gave me was somewhere to be. Somewhere to find the words to express emotions half-formed inside of me, music to fit the words from the books I had read.
Thirty-five years later and my love of rock music is unabated. I still find new bands producing music that just reaches through whatever mood I am in to lift me into a place I can never describe but have not found any other way. This stuff is me. Down by my breathing, my faith and my love, there is heavy metal scaffolding that supports and defends what is truly me from all comers.
The Rolling Stones said: “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll – but I like it.”
I would go one step further: “It’s rock ‘n’ roll. I need it.”