Piece written for use alongside the publication of 'There's No Drinking After You're Dead' - September 2017
I was born in 1961, in an upstairs bedroom of our council house in Upminster, Essex. The fourth son of six kids. My Dad was a Gardener and Green Keeper for the Council, at a park down the road a bit, and my Mum was a Housewife and Mother. We got by; we were happy kids; we were close. The Rent Man knocked on the door on a Friday night; the Milk Man knocked on the door on a Saturday morning; we had a ‘tab’ at the corner shop; and we put money in the meter for the gas. We didn’t have a ‘telly’ or a phone. From an early age, music and books played a big part in my life; and that was never to change. My Dad was the greatest singer I ever heard and, on occasional weekends, the gramophone would come out and we’d listen to 78’s of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Winifred Atwell, Nellie Lutcher, Earl Bostic and Elvis Presley; all singing along and having a dance about; these were happy days. I read Dickens, Conan Doyle, Stevenson and Scott; played football in the garden all Summer, and board games in the house all Winter. I was good at school. Happy days.
When I was a Teenager, things changed. My Mum went out to work and we had a bit more money coming into the house. We got a ‘telly’ and a phone. I was doing ‘ok’ at school, but there was always something else to distract me from academic studies. I had ‘mates’; Micky Coops, Ed, Paul; thick as thieves us. My eldest brother bought a record player, and I started, for the first time, to hear The Beatles, David Bowie, The Faces, Roxy Music, Queen, Bad Company, Don McLean, T Rex and Slade. My world changed. Football replaced reading altogether, but music was rapidly becoming more and more important than anything else. I started buying music for myself; Gary Glitter was my first single and Elvis Presley my first LP; and then 1976 happened; Punk. Me, Mick and Ed would hang out most Fridays, at Ed’s or Mick’s mainly, and listen to all the new singles that Ed would buy (he was miles ahead of us then). Sex Pistols, The Clash, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Blondie, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks; it was an endless list; it was new; it was exciting; and our parents didn’t like it. London was on our doorstep, and we went to countless, amazing, gigs.
And we listened to The Jam. And that was it for me. Paul Weller became, was, is, and will always be; the Man; 40 years, and counting. And, in 1978, whilst listening to ‘All Mod Cons’ I had an idea for a novel that I’d write one day.
I had a clutch of ‘O levels’ to show for my time at school, and I went to work. A procession of mind numbing jobs, in offices, pushing papers; I couldn’t stick with anything; and, in some cases, they couldn’t stick with me. A pattern was emerging.
I discovered alcohol and women, and pursued both with enthusiasm, abandon and to great excess for the next twenty odd years. Dark days. In 1984, I married and became a Father. My wife was a beautiful, and lovely, lady; my Daughter was awesome. Still I drank, and still I pursued (other) women. In 1988 we had a Son, a fantastic little fella. Still I drank, and still I pursued (other) women. I was a bad Husband and a bad Father. I was a bad man. Dark, dark days. Eventually, after many, many separations, we separated for a final time. I drank more, and pursued women with a new vigour; many women; countless women.
I’d been in bands since school, and I’d had my own mobile disco business at some point too; and, since 1988 or 89, I’d been doing some singing with backing tracks on cassettes. I was the resident host, compere, singer and DJ at a restaurant bar; a great job for a drunken womaniser. Something had to give. I started to take stock; where was this going to end? I had no idea.
An interest in reading was rediscovered and, having fumbled my way through a degree course, I took up Teaching for a bit; and I was bloody good at it too. English Literature. Now, I just needed to write that book.
The year 2000 was the tipping point. I stopped drinking; totally and forever; or, maybe, drinking stopped me, I’m still not sure which it was. Either way, I woke up in a hospital bed, and it ended. I continued to read, a lot; different books and different authors. My passion for music was, and is, as strong as ever; but more diverse; different bands and different styles; but still always Weller too. I, gradually, stopped pursuing women too. And I began to write. Good times. And that’s almost me, but for a few final pieces of the jigsaw of my life to date.
Some time passed. I started to find myself in a good place; mentally and emotionally. I met Pippa; we fell in love. I mean, we did; we really fell in love. I moved to Gloucester and we set up home together; we have three beautiful children; and we got married. My Dad died, and her Dad died; two remarkable men, who have left voids in our lives that can never be filled, great men. We both still have our Mums; both, remarkable women; great women. I’m blessed to still have a great relationship with my adult kids, and their Mother again now too. I’m a Grandfather twice over; two gorgeous little girls. I still have some true friends from my life in Essex and I’ve made some really great friends where I am now. I’m still a singer; I love to sing; and now, at last, I’m an Author. Yeah, I finished that book. And I’m currently working on two more. I’ve no idea how all this happened to me, or why, or where the time went; but I’m a happy man now; yes; I am. At last.
Piece written for use alongside the publication of 'Above The Clouds' - September 2018
I was 17 years old in 1978; a ‘gentleman of the Sixth Form’ at a good school, in Essex. It was probably lunchtime, and me, Coops, Ed, and Paul would have been gathered in the Russian Languages Room, a favourite hangout of ours. We’d have chatted about Football, and girls, and music. These were the things that formed the basis of our friendship; these subjects our common ground. It was an exciting time; a great time to be into Football, and girls, and music; it was a time when we really believed that we’d always be as thick as thieves. Coops was the ‘pretty boy’; Paul, the best footballer; and there was nothing you could tell Ed about music. Me? I was ‘spotty’; I lacked confidence; I was insecure and uncertain; but I felt blessed to have such friends for company. At some point, on one of those days, while we talked and passed the time, I scribbled down an idea for a story I wanted to write. It was about a young man, like me, who wanted to be a pop star. It WAS me, of course; it was what I wanted to be. I wanted to be Paul Weller; and it was going to be my story. I was going to write the story, and I was going to be a pop star. I never did become a pop star; and it would be another forty years before I finally finished writing that story. I couldn’t have written it back then anyway; I had neither the skills nor the life experiences to do so. It’s not exactly the story I outlined back then of course, but that was when the first seed was sown; that was when the character of Billy Hunt first became, for me, more than the ‘magical world’ figure, portrayed by Weller on ‘All Mod Cons’. The story became ‘Above The Clouds’, and here it is; it’s all yours now, to make of it what you will.