8 years ago
My local record shop in 1971 was across Blackheath on the Parade of shops facing the church. The young owner had the charts on the wall and kept a well stocked collection of record bins. One sunny afternoon i spied a record by The Nice it was called Ars Longa Vita Brevis, i had no idea what it meant or what they sounded like, but i bought it and my life was changed forever. It had come out two years previously and was on the Immediate Label, a label i could trust. I took it home and played it to pieces. Soon enough i was reading the band in Melody Maker and i bought some tickets with my mate Eric to see them at The Festival Hall. Keith Emerson rode his two Hammonds across the stage, while a cool Blinky Davidson coshed the drums and Keith Lee Jackson stood backwards playing bass. Within a few weeks of that show i found an old piano at a local church that needed a home, i moved it into my tiny bedroom on my estate, my Mum and Dad were curios as i had not been known to play the piano. I plonked away, mostly when they were out, and made up a few songs, they were vamps. I found some leather trousers in a market and with a knife a giddy aunt bought me for Christmas i emulated the Emerson. Large splits in the wood appeared and i was all over it, the neighbours must have thought torture was taking place. When the band split i followed Keith into ELP. I saw them at The Lyceum in London. I was nodding like a puppy in the balcony in total awe of the classical musicianship of the band, i had no idea what was going on but the vibe was to die for. They filmed the show, and im sure i can be seen on it head banging my way through Pictures At An Exhibition. My mood changed when while away with friends in Somerset my parents moved my piano out of my room and back to the church. I came home and sulked my way through a few Yes albums. I had moved on. I wanted to be in a band, but i knew that being a keyboard player was not going to cut it, although i did play piano on a few gigs with a local soft rock band, more in my book, coming soon. Keith Emerson was my hero, and when i saw he had died, i felt empty, the knifes were back in the drawer and another teenage idle had gone to dust. It makes me question time and how long any of us have. I remember trying to find his house one day driving through Sussex a few years ago thinking if i saw him mowing the grass on a Hammond C3 i would stop and shake his hand. I never found him. Life is so precious, i pick up my pencil and head to the next song, its time to stop the clocks and make the most of what cake remains on the table.