I had a happy childhood until I was 9. I enjoyed junior school and had a lovely music teacher called Mrs Barton. I was a happy, open child.
When I was 9, I was the victim of sexual abuse. This changed me: I became shy and suspicious and developed a stammer, which caused me to be bullied by a couple of older boys.
I had a mixed time of it as a teenager: I was good at sports, which made me a ‘success’ at school. I was also musical, and cast in lots of school musicals, including one that was featured in a broadcast on Southern Television in 1974. However, I was still bullied, and was very uncomfortable when not ‘performing’. I started to play the guitar at around 12 and the bass guitar at 14.
I left school aged 16 with a handful of CSEs and a couple of O Levels. I thought about going to college, but was soon busy playing music. I played modern jazz with Pete Burden and ‘Hot Club’ swing in various bands around Hastings and Rye. I played tea dances with a dance band at Eastbourne Winter Gardens. I depped with local pop, rock and blues bands and led my own trio. When I was 18, I joined The Enid, a band with a record contract, and spent the next three years touring the UK, playing festivals and recording four albums, including a live double album at Hammersmith Odeon (Apollo).
I’ve been playing professionally since 1974, and apart from the joy of playing the music, it’s wonderful to meet and become friends with so many musicians. I’m ONLY interested in doing my best to make the music sound as good as possible. The bass occupies a critical, central role in nearly all forms of music, and a sympathetic bass player provides the musical ‘glue’ that holds the music together. It’s a role that I love performing. I love singers and other instrumentalists, and love supporting them to make the music sound easy. A dance floor full of people, folk tapping their feet and smiles on the bandstand are my motivation. I understood this intuitively as a kid, and took to the bass quickly. My favourite music as a child was Tamla Motown. Of course, I didn’t know WHY those records felt so good at the time, but later I realised that the bass was the key to it all.
I like playing music that challenges me. I have done a number of theatre shows in the last few years. This is a real challenge, because I didn’t learn to read music when I was a kid, and I’m not a great reader. I forced myself to accept invitations to play with local big bands in order to develop my reading. I get roasted regularly. I did a big band set with Liane Carroll in Hastings last April. The charts were really hard and I was attempting to sight read them. God knows what it sounded like.
I judge myself harshly, and am perpetually concerned that I’m not good enough. I’m actually a good judge of my own strengths and weaknesses, but easily undermined in the moment, so that a difficult gig affects me very negatively. I’m very insecure and lacking in self-belief, so that I tend either to be working feverishly, or struggling to get out of bed. I’m also easily discouraged. My way of dealing with it is Beckettian: I can’t go on. I must go on. I will go on. Going on is better than the alternative.
I enjoy writing and arranging new music, and making records. The best records I’ve made are the first couple and those recorded over the last few years: The Cloggz Sawdust and Spangles, Full Circle’s Underbelly, my own album Palimpsest and the two Trees albums are all albums I’m proud to have been part of.
I have found the events and the trends of the last four years almost unbearable, and have immersed myself in musical projects as a way of getting through it all, but I find it impossible to be optimistic about the future. At a personal level, I’m getting older and less robust. I had imagined that I might go back to Italy to end my days, but it seems that this might not be an option anymore. Who knows?
Words: Terry Pack
Photo: Lisa Wormsley