‘CHRISTOPHER JOHN Trevor Midgley was born in May 1946 at the Buckingham Nursing Home, Cardigan Road, Leeds’.
That’s the gist of the announcement the folks placed in the Yorkshire Evening Post late that month to celebrate my arrival.
Actually, I screwed things up from the first. I was three days old when a nurse picked me up from the cot and accidentally scratched my face with her watch-pin. Some bug got in through the wound, and all my skin peeled off. Bad news for one and all! This thing was so infectious, another new-born picked it up and died. My mother went home slimmer but still child-free, and I was shunted off for three months to Killingbeck Hospital For Skinless Kids to grow a new outer layer.
As for the poor old Buckingham Nursing Home, the Health Authority shut it down. It stayed closed for over a year, only re-opening in 1947 when the powers-that-be were sure that all unhygienic pricks were a thing of the past.
I have to say at this point that the decision to re-open the Buckingham was fully vindicated when, in November 1947, Sandra Elizabeth Baker was born there. Twenty-one years later, Ms Baker became Sandra Midgley.
I WENT TO MY FIRST SCHOOL, Brudenell Road Infants, when I was five years old and stayed there for two years. I broke my leg, the King died, but apart from that not much happened. By the time I left Brudenell, I was pretty good at reading, and at sums, but more than that I had discovered that I could urinate higher up the toilet wall than most of my classmates. Such things were important at Brudenell Road in the early fifties, and my skills were properly appreciated and admired by the discriminating elite of Miss Hall’s class.
Around this time, I also began to enthusiastically hammer on my grandmother’s upright piano.
At the age of seven, I moved from Brudenell Road to Queen’s Road School. I was in Mr Addleman’s class (sensible fellow, he quickly emigrated to Australia) and, to the best of my memory, he was a very nice guy.
As a kid however, you needed to be a bit more streetwise at Queen’s Road than at good old Brudenell. It was here I came across Morris Ford, a pint-sized thug who for a short time was my friend (believe me, it was better that way than to have him as an enemy!); Maurice Lee who shared my birthday, and later had a thirty-year career with the comedy/rock band, The Grumbleweeds; and the excellent David Austerfield. David could fold his ears in on themselves. I’d never met anyone before who could do that, and I’ve never met anyone since.
So, with my humble talents from the Brudenell Road urinals well and truly eclipsed, I was not sorry when, at the age of eight, my parents took me out of Queen’s Road and moved me to ‘the finest school in the North’, Leeds Grammar School.
1954 WAS SIGNIFICANT for another reason. My mother took me to the Leeds Empire to see a crooner by the name of Lee Lawrence. I can honestly say that Lawrence’s performance was the most tedious, mind-numbing, soul-destroying experience of my life to that point. (Since then, of course, I’ve seen Engelbert Humperdinck… but I digress.) I knew that I liked music, but I also knew that I loathed Lee Lawrence and all his mealy-mouthed sentimentality. There had to be more to music than this. Two years later, I found out what it was.
MY FIRST MONTH AT LEEDS GRAMMAR SCHOOL was something of a culture shock. It was made plain to me on Day Three that turning up at school with two lesbian white mice in my pocket was considered anti-social. (My family were not zoologists, and it took some time for everyone to realise why Jimmy and Jane had no offspring.) The defining moment however came a couple of weeks later.
I was the proud owner of two Dinky racing cars. One was a Maserati (Italian, a bit trashy, and garishly red); the other was a cool Cooper Bristol in British Racing Green. At breaks and lunch times, these were raced against each other and various Alpha Romeos and Jaguars down a dry mud gully in the grounds. One kid - I really don’t remember his name, but he was the same age as me and a bit bigger - accidentally stood on my Cooper Bristol. An argument followed, and it seemed that I was going to get the worst of it. Size does matter, you see; probably even more so when you’re eight. So, I did what any ex-Queen’s Roader would do; I hit him over the head with a piece of slate. Then I ran.
In fairness, there was more blood than damage. He made a lot of noise, but I was quite convinced I’d got away with it. Whichever way you looked at it, the assault was totally justified; anyway, the howling Cooper Bristol vandaliser wasn’t even in my form.
When the class re-assembled following the afternoon break, Miss Jones, the Form Mistress, seemed troubled.
"I am told", she said "that someone from my form" - she repeated the words more heavily - "from my form, has struck a boy from Junior Three this lunchtime. Whoever it is, I want him to own up."
Now, I was only eight. I was naïve; but I wasn’t that naïve. She didn’t seem to know it was me. I was in the clear; after all, I’d come back into school from the opposite end of the playground. So I looked round with everybody else to see who the culprit was, and said nothing. She asked again, and once more I swung my head this way and that, keen like the rest to know who had done the foul deed.
"Then if no-one will own up, the whole Form will stay behind for half-an-hour after twenty-past-three", said Miss Jones.
"It was him, Miss. It was Midgley!", piped one Tim Wood, apparently appalled at the prospect of a further half-hour in the J1 classroom. To my knowledge Tim Wood is still alive today, though doubtless the scab has been tarred and feathered or convicted of treason at some time over the last sixty-odd years.
But two things happened, one bad, the other excellent. I was brought out, bent over, and given my first taste of the slipper. That was the bad bit. So was Wood, for being a sneak. That was excellent. I think it was from that point that life, the universe and everything started to make a little more sense.
A YEAR LATER, aged nine, I moved from Junior One to Junior Four, and for the first time met a lad called Robin White. A little later that same year (1955), the Midgley family moved up in the world; to be precise, from St. Anne’s Drive, Leeds 4 to St Chad’s Avenue, Leeds 6. Rob lived close by, as did his friend and fellow Grammar School attendee, John Armistead.
John (or ‘Tarm’ as he became known) was an unmistakable figure. Six feet tall (one metre eighty-three) by the time he was twelve, Tarm eventually reached a height of six feet seven-and-a-half-inches (two metres two). Unlike most big kids however, ‘the giant’ was, and still is, a true gentle man - in both senses of the term. Midgley, White and Armistead it was who, along with a fourth Grammar Schooler John Allen started The Raiders rock group at the tail-end of 1960.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The indescribable boredom of that Lee Lawrence show in 1954 had left an open sore. Nothing soothed it. Not Guy Mitchell. Not Frankie Laine. Certainly not Johnnie Ray. Then in 1956, out of Memphis, Tennessee, came hope. Light from the darkness! ‘Heartbreak Hotel’! This was it. The wound began to heal, and I clung on to that strange name; Elvis Presley. I started to buy ‘Elvis Monthly’. A year later, my mind was totally blown away when I heard Scotty Moore’s power-chord intro. to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and Elvis’ opening howl ‘Warden threw a party in the county jail…’. At last, at last. The pretenders were dead! Long Live The King!
Forty years later, I ran across Scotty Moore at a guitar show in Dallas, Texas. He was a lovely man, but how could I put into a few words what four chords played on an old Gibson guitar so long ago had meant to me. All I could say was "Thank you", and he gave me a signed guitar pick. It’s not for sale.
SUCCESS IS NEVER EASY TO DEFINE. During my eight years at Leeds Grammar School I succeeded with many of the things I considered important. I became an enthusiastic smoker, avoided Games (Rugby and Cricket in particular) to the best of my ability, and was dropped from the Corps Cadet Force for insubordination. Sadly, my musical aspirations suffered a setback when I was unceremoniously yanked off the organ stool and ejected from the school chapel for attempting a spirited (though admittedly unauthorised) performance of ‘The Dam Busters March’.
But if the chapel organ incident was bad luck and bad judgement, leaving the Corps was not.
In fairness, I did enjoy some of the military manoeuvres. Loosing-off with a first-world-war .303 Lee Enfield was fun, and I actually got a marksman’s badge for my skill with a .22 rifle. My marching orders came however after a perfectly rational discussion with Company Sergeant Major ‘Slug’ Sleightholme, in which I referred to our Commanding Officer, Major Sunderland, as a ‘toy Soldier’. It was subsequently felt my presence was ‘not conducive to good discipline’, and for the remainder of my school career I had to attend the school library for three hours every Saturday morning instead of square-bashing.
I have to say, I bore this punishment with fortitude, and did a little experimental songwriting with fellow ‘librarian’ Jeff Christie, who a few years later had a world-wide hit with his eponymous band and ‘Yellow River’.
ONE NOTABLE THING happened in 1957; Beau first came into being. Doubtless he’ll tell you all about that on his own page.
LIKE I SAID, success is never easy to define.
I genuinely can’t remember whether I got four or five GCE ‘O’ levels; I know I got the hell out of LGS late in 1962, even before the printed certificates arrived. In the job market of the time, all that seemed to matter was having Maths and English Language. I’d got both of them, so jobs were never a problem.
I BOUNCED AROUND LIKE A PINBALL for my first two years out of school. Aside from earning money with The Raiders, I worked for Albert A. Spencer in Leeds Market, Naughton & Bird, British Relay Wireless, Alwyn Isherwood in Wakefield, and Tate Of Leeds before landing a job with the Halifax Building Society in late 1964.
I was an attractive prospect at the time.
From around the age of fifteen, I'd been gradually working my way through the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth I had perfected early on, and I was now well on top of Gluttony. Injudicious amounts of Tetley’s Yorkshire Bitter, supplemented where possible with whisky, helped push my weight up to sixteen-and-a-half stone (around two hundred and thirty pounds). A nail-nibbling, two hundred and thirty pound, thirty-five cigs a day, guitar-playing drunk may not sound ideal material for a major financial institution, but then winning ways and a ready charm can often see you through. ’Least, that’s what I think.
I remember when I first went out with Sandra Baker in 1963. Actually, I inherited her from Robin White, rhythm guitar player with The Raiders, and puller of renown. I turned up for our first date in a white linen jacket, off-white trousers, cowboy boots, a black shirt with white tie, and a white straw hat. Stylish indeed! I walked up one side of the road and she tried very hard to walk up the other. But I was glad I’d made the effort.
Strangely, it was a long time before she agreed to a repeat performance; in fact, it wasn’t until I got a couple of tickets to see Chuck Berry, live onstage in Bradford, that she agreed to go out with me again. I think it was the tie that put her off, first time around.
I WAS NEARLY NINETEEN when Ralph Sims, drummer extraordinaire with The Raiders, told me a truth that hit home. He said, "If you keep living like this, you won’t make twenty-one". It sounds dramatic, but somewhere deep down I knew he was right. So, after about five years of a sponge-like devotion to alcohol, I cut the drinking to a bare minimum. Funnily enough, I didn’t miss it; in fact, I felt better without it.
Shortly afterwards San and I got engaged, I left The Raiders to follow other musical interests (that’s not crapspeak, by the way; that really was the case), and I took one more decision. I would stop smoking, stop biting my nails, cut out drinking altogether, and lose weight. And that’s what I did.
This wasn’t any sort of religious experience, or a conversion on the road to Damascus; I was as Godless then as I am now. It was just that I realised that I was a prat. My mother took over what was left of a pack of Benson & Hedges. The Woodman (now "Woodies" for heaven's sake!), Three Horse Shoes, and The New Inn noticed a sharp decrease in profits. And I lost sixty-three pounds in four-and-a-half months. It was, as they say, as simple as that.
Oh, and I made it to twenty-one.
THE FIRST BEAU ALBUM was released in 1969; later that same year Sandra forsook the sensible name of Baker for the infinitely more clumsy Midgley, which to this day no-one seems able to spell ("Is there an ‘e’ in the middle?". The best I ever had was a woman on the phone who thought I was Italian - "is that MIJLI?". "NO MADAM, IT IS NOT…"). The Halifax, displaying true Yorkshire persistence, decided I was worth keeping and kept pushing me further up the tree. They kept me in Leeds for eleven years, then put me in as Assistant Manager at their District Office in Sheffield; and it was in Sheffield that John Trevor really came into his own.
Hmm, where are we now? 1976. I think it’s probably better if Beau, John Trevor and even newcomer-on-the-block, 2015's Simfonica take up the story from here. So let’s start wrapping things up.
In 1980, San and I moved south to Hertfordshire because the Halifax needed a new man in Stevenage. Eventually, in 1995, I found myself District Manager in the West End of London, based at Hanover Square which is just off Oxford Street. Hanover Square is only a stones-throw from Stratford Place. Never heard of Stratford Place? Check out Beau’s page and you’ll see how things really do come full circle.
I left the Halifax on 31st May 1996. Just two weeks after my fiftieth birthday, I became a person of truly independent means. Then I started writing a book.
IN 1998, Desolation Row Promotions published my four-hundred-page masterwork on Bob Dylan which I modestly titled ‘"DYLAN: CONTRABAND" - What Every Fan Wants To Know About Bob Dylan’s Bootleg CDs’. In my humble opinion, "DYLAN: CONTRABAND" is an essential buy. I myself wouldn’t go anywhere without it…
What’s next? Well, I’d love to tell you but I can’t; I’m sworn to secrecy, you see. All I can say is, when it’s all done and dusted, you’ll be the first to know. You’re just gonna have to watch this space…
CLICK AROUND, AND HAVE FUN.
Or you can e-mail me.
Or you can do both.
Hell, you’ve got this far: you can do ANYTHING…
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