Growing up in the Lancashire textile town of Haslingden during the 1950’s going to church was an inescapable aspect of my childhood. Trussed up in my Sunday best I was marched off with sister Valerie to the nearest church to be bored scared witless by a man in a big white frock and purple collar promising eternal damnation or salvation based on your personal behaviour. Now, for a naughty wee lad like moi, this horror show was guaranteed to turn me off established religion for ever and a day. Much rather would I be listening to the cowboy serials on the radio or trying to split an apple with an arrow from my trusty toy crossbow.
A little sand passes through the glass and I’m carrying my guitar case along Blackburn Rd with a Beatles tune in my head. One of the early ones – maybe ‘Ticket to Ride’ or ‘Help’. Thinking about the chords and how to shape them on a cheap gloss white f-hole guitar with an action like pressing hawser wire onto a steel girder, bought from the legendary Mary’s Music in Accrington. Mary’s Music was run by a kindly, knowledgable yet not-to-be-messed with lady. Walking with rhythm guitarist Ian Brown and singer Chris Hardman past the imposing walls that held the churchyard up off the main road to the lead guitarist John Cowpe’s house. Lucky John whose dada had fixed up their mains radio to act as a guitar amplifier, lucky John who owned a Selmer Futurama a guitar that closely resembled the mythical Stratocastor, lucky John who was deeply musical and who could play lead like Hank Marvin. Steven Proctor bashed out the drums with an uncanny sense of timing whilst Ian and I laiked about trying to work out the difference between E7 and E9. It was great. We never played any gigs, but we did carry on for what seems like a couple of years regurgitating the hits of the day by the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, Byrds et al, playing from old fashioned sheet music in the days before guitar tablature and internet.
All of this within shouting distance of St James’s church whose churchyard walls were once breached by the floodwaters of a local storm. A landslip ensued leading to the loss of a few coffins out of the cemetery slipping on to the road. Someone had the job of sorting out the remnants!
Painting the picture evoked these and other memories, including one of drinking cheap Woodpecker cider in the churchyard before miming to the latest Manfred Mann tune at the end of term school dance, sneaking the bottles into the hall within our guitar cases. Ah – that good old rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle!