It’s a bumper fortnight – with two ‘Being Young In Bradford’ related blogs – of which this is the second, written by Anthony.
Just like the other blogs, We’ve also included a soundtrack selection – find the playlist at the bottom of the blog. (Editor’s note – I’ve been listening to this one a lot! – Heather) .
My Grandad died in the First World War and left his young wife a single parent with two children. These were very, very, hard times for people growing up and bringing up a family.
My Dad was in the Second World War at the tender age of 15 as his future wife was tilling the land, i.e., planting seeds for the crops, for food which was mainly for the people who needed it the most in the surrounding area.
As a youngster my family chore was washing my clothes. I remember the washing machine of our time, which had a mangle so that I could wringer my clothes, and every time I had fed the clothes through the wringer I would always trap my little fingers. What an experience indeed! I can feel it even now as I put these memories together.
Growing up in Liverpool, my birth place, was very interesting as I was around a multitude of cultures and gained an insight as to how these peoples made ends meet. I enjoyed the friendships built within the communities. Household visits gave me a real insight, which helped me as a young child to form a different mindset, and to form a solid friendship with peoples from different parts of the globe. Growing up in that environment, there wasn’t a great deal to do apart from play on the grounds that once had big buildings on them, which were destroyed in the World War.
The 60s came along and the big word of the era was ‘Hope’. We, the next generation were a number of years behind the tragedy and devastating shock the War brought to those before us. The Beatles were the main band that gave the younger generation a glimmer of hope. A hope of a brighter future for everyone. They were young, innovators to generations to come. Amazing artists grew out of the 60s and early 70s, and this really inspired me in later life as an artist and musician.
Moving to West Yorkshire
In the early 1970s because of the economic problems we had to move over the border to the West Yorkshire. One of many things that stood out for me was the weather. It was bitterly cold in winter with snow drifts that reached up to the top of the window tops. Many people perished in these inhospitable harsh weather conditions.
As a child I found it really strange because there was not an instant openness of smiles ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Day’ as there was in Liverpool. There was no sense of feeling welcome as we looked out for a resting place.
Without the technology devices of today you had to make your own entertainment. Self-reliance was an important skill and I learnt to be good with my hands. One of my best projects was a go-cart I made using the parts of a Silver Cross Pram someone had thrown out – it was the Rolls Royce of go-carts!
We always walked to school, a distance of one and a half miles. There were no cars or buses like there were for some of the kids uptown. And although we walked, can you believe we would never be late! As that would of have meant a beating by the school master which was common in those days.
We had a little rhyme we sang which meant that we had to step on a full flag stone and avoid the join. It was:
‘If you step on a nick, you’ll marry a stick, and a black jack will come to your wedding.’
A black jack was a figure to be feared as it meant bad luck. I became aware of the word black and how it always seemed to be associated with negative things, but I was also being described as black.
My life as a musician
My earliest memories of been a musician was in the early 80s when I would visit the local punk scene in Bradford in a place called the Royal Standard Public House. As a young and up and coming singer I thought that I would strut my musical trade on the local stage, and I would guest appear with Punk bands like The Lurkers, The Jerks, Angelic Upstarts, as well as Chelsea. I thought that this is the way to express my inner self.
Putting on gigs
I was a student/artist at the Bradford College and to make ends meet I put on gigs at the Queens Hall, which was an intimate and unique venue, at the side of the local baths and saunas. I befriended The Queens especially when they were in the need of support or help, as this enabled me to learn the art of staging the methods of presenting stage shows, by carrying PA and lighting equipment for them.
Once I played my part I then requested to the social and entertainment secretaries to put on events, so that I could bring in another type of audience, because at the time it was known as a rock venue, I wanted to introduce a ‘rootsier’ type of rock which more represented me and the kind of folk I was amongst.
EGS Record Store
After touring with Amazulu in 1983-4 I returned to Bradford and had an idea to get the bands I was bringing to Bradford to perform at Queens Hall to also do record signings at the record shop EGS on Kirkgate. It was great to see kids queuing up, excited to see bands, and for bands to see fans before gigs. We had American Rocksters Love/Hate; Pop/Reggae Desmond Dekker and Northern Soul Gino Washington, later a big influence on the Rolling Stones and Dexies Midnight Runners. Rico Rodriguez, an influential Ska and Reggae trombonist was one of the biggest thrills for me.
So that was the beginning. I gave local artists, musicians, singers and players an opportunity to have a platform to perform their works. To express my own musical inner visions, live and direct on stage, I would put a selection of session players together who would back me. Since then I’ve had a long career with an opportunity to work with many great musicians and experience many great events. Amongst the highlights are when I played the Womad Festival with the Makassars and singing with Amazulu supporting David Bowie and Nile Rodgers (at The Hammersmith Odeon) and playing on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury.