It was the mid-1970s and my first professional job was playing piano in Elton John’s restaurant Friends, in Covent Garden.
He had an album called Friends and I think it was named after that. It had a huge yellow brick road running right through it.
It was a pretty wild time and there were always celebrities coming in, such as Freddy Mercury, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry. And then there was me playing piano with a girl singer. I used to think ‘what am I doing here?’.
I was born in the Northeast of England and was given piano lessons at the age of 5 but was a really bad student. I remember staying on the one-piece, The Happy Wanderer, for two years.
When the Beatles came out I was about 9 or 10. They were obviously a huge inspiration.
At about the age of 13 or 14 it all kicked off. By the time Elton John and Carol King were big I was hooked and realised that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I’ve had a number of musical incarnations. One was a month-long tour with heavy metal band Judas Priest. They were huge at the time. It was the Killing Machine tour and we were the support.
In 1979, another musical venture was an appearance on Top of the Pops with a band called The Monks, playing the song Nice Legs Shame About the Face. The Monks were a punk band and the song was a huge hit.
That same year I was signed by famous producer Micky Most and I wrote a pretty poppy single called I Believe Her, by Lino. I was quite proud of that.
I met Sydney-based singer Jeff Duff in London during the early-80s. At about that time I was in a band called Hollywood Killers and we were very popular with a particular group of female fans.
Following this I was in a band called Lost Patrol. We used to dress up in military fatigues and drape camouflage around the stage. We’d do a rock opera thing, telling the story of “the lost patrol”.
I was always blissfully out of step with whatever else was going on. I went through many phases in my career. Always writing my own stuff.
Used to love James Bond and for a while I was in a band that did spy music of the 1960s, called The Innocent Few.
After that it was jump jive music, based on that 1950s sound when swing was turning in rock. Our band Yow City Expedition released an album in 1986. That was my first foray into jazz.
During this time I’d met and eventually married an Aussie girl named Meredith. She was in the UK visiting her parent and ended up staying for eight years.
Towards the end of that time we had a major life event in which we lost a child. It made us question absolutely everything. We moved to Australia soon afterwards, in 1994.
I decided music felt empty and that it was a shallow profession. I got job cleaning at Mona Vale Hospital which was really enjoyable. But I realised that music done for the right reasons, and not just for the “look at me, I’m a rock star” reason, is a precious thing.
I owe a lot for getting a start here to (late) John Speight who kindly put me on at the Manly Jazz Festival. He also introduced me to the new entertainment manager at Dee Why RSL John McGee. I’ve been playing at Dee Why for about 15 years.
In 1996, Meredith and I became the parents of Jess who is a wonderful gift.
I am very thankful that for someone my age I am still ridiculously busy playing music.
Presently I am travelling to high schools around the state performing a show on the history of the keyboard, tracing the progression from the harpsichord to the piano — getting as quickly as possible to the 1960s.
I did the first Bach To The Future school shows for Young Australia Workshop in 2006.
In 2011, did my first What I Did On My Holidays preschool show. In 2015, also for the littlies, it was a debut for Spotty Bear’s Amazing Journey. Watch out for him. He’ll be big. What other job could you have where everyone is lined up, yelling: “He’s here! He’s here!”
For Holidays I get to dress up in a Hawaiian shirt and carry a Pan Am bag, with a parrot sticking out of it. At the other end of the spectrum, I also love playing in aged-care centres.
Once I went straight from a preschool show to one of these shows for the older folks, still wearing the Hawaiian shirt. Decided to stay in the same attire. They seemed to appreciate it.
I’m still doing new material and recently did the music for a film about the homeless called I Am Hank, narrated by a homeless fellow. I’m also in the throes of writing my first bestseller. It’s fantasy sci-fi for young adults.
I feel very blessed to live in Avalon, to have a great family, and to be so busy. I’ve always love having a laugh and a glass of red wine. Put this together with music and friends … it’s just wonderful.