I used to hum a lot as a child – could be irritating - so when I was about 8 my mother bought me a little Italian electric keyboard, about 3 octaves, with buttons that played whole chords (triads) for the left hand, similar to a (very) cheap accordion on legs. I learned to play tunes by ear (the chord buttons helped), and to fiddle around, making my own improvisations. I didn’t rate popular music much at the time – 1955 – even when Cliff, the Shadows and those guys came along – I don’t think much of what I heard was very good in hindsight - although I liked playing my parents vinyl, which was mainly Bing Crosby, with the occasional nod to Frank, and Durante’s the Lost Chord.
My mother was right though. Music was always in my mind, whatever else I might seem to be involved in; that hum just never went away.
At some point I was given one of those huge electric radios with Hilversum on it, which went next to my bed, and that was how I discovered classical music. I listened to nothing else really until I was 15, when on a family holiday in Spain, I happened to hear a station on one of those nasty built in bedside radios playing “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (1963?) by The Beatles.
The fact that they did not write it was lost on me – not long before a conversation at the school dinner table had gone “Who’s your favourite composer?”, whereupon some wit had said “Lennon McCartney”, and I didn’t know what they were talking about – but after a diet of Bing Crosby, hearing cannon-like counterpoint in a pop song opened my eyes to the possibility that you didn’t need to be Beethoven to compose and play great music.
That was a big turning point; that big old radio picked up the pirate stations – Jonathan Peel - and by the time I got to university in ‘66 I’d caught up, and started up my own mobile dance disco with a college friend (Go, Ian), all that by the time ‘Hey Joe’ arrived.
After University I was at a bit of a loss for six months, and remember walking home after work (marketing research) through Soho past Ronnie Scott’s hearing ‘Hey Joe’ again, blasting out into the street – that’s how I learned of the great man’s death.
Shortly after, an old University buddy introduced me to a group of Slade art students who were looking to form a band; she introduced me as her ‘great keyboard player friend’ – she had never heard me play - the self-taught, buttons in the left hand, accordion fiddler. I really wasn’t up to it, but I was up for it, and I learned fast in those days. I got a Vox organ if I remember right (no accordion buttons), and then a Fender Rhodes, and eventually a Hammond to fit under it; off we went.
We called ourselves “One Hand Clap”, although “Rudi Tchaikovsky” was mooted by Lizzie in Notting Hill; we had some decent songs, but some indecent drugs, which rather undermined our effectiveness (not moi; I wasn’t an art student; I took ‘Modern History’, and where I’d gone that referred to the Fall Of The Roman Empire onwards!)
After One Hand Clap collapsed in smoke, I couldn’t leave it alone (the music scene), and answered ads in Melody Maker, eventually finding the guys who, as it happened, had not decided on a name, and welcomed Lizzie’s suggestion, (a character from a Micky Spillane novel).
Rudi lasted for just four years, but they were the best. After Rudi, I changed course, and trained to be a Child Psychotherapist, working in the NHS for 35 years. I loved that too, and I am so glad I found something almost as compelling as playing music. But I still see myself as a musician in my soul, and as a band we do hear from each other every so often, which I suppose is how the live ‘tape’ has survived and resurfaces now.