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Part 1 - Early noises (1981-82)

I started creating songs in my head sometime in the early 80's - in fact probably not long after I started listening to and buying music regularly in 1979. Imaginary songs became complete imaginary albums, which I would play back in my head on long car journeys - my parents never had a car radio and these were the days before the Walkman. My imaginary band even had a name - "Opposite Sides". Without any access to, or ability to play any musical instrument, these songs stayed strictly inside my head. Looking back at some notes retrieved from that period, the world should feel lucky that they never got out. There are endless lists of song titles that sound like a prog rock nightmare, and the lyrics I wrote for some of these imaginary works are beyond cringeworthy.

My parents bought an electric piano in 1981, which gave me my first chance to experiment with playing music, although still with no understanding of the theory behind it. There were various other instruments dotted around the house, including a strange four-stringed wooden contraption built by my dad. I still had a desire to get some of the music in my head out to tape, and it was about this time that I realised the potential of what could be done with two cassette recorders. You could record a part with one machine, then play it back while playing another part along with it and record the combined sound on the other machine. This could be repeated a number of times to create a multi-layered track.

Thus began the sessions which produced a nine-track instrumental album entitled "Digital Dawn". I played all the instruments I could get my hands on - the electric piano, the "Magic Fingers" electronic keyboard, a glockenspiel and the aforementioned four-stringed item. I created percussion by hitting sticks against my bed mattress, I think. I won't pretend that the results were impressive, or indeed of any worth whatsoever. From another point of view it may sound like avant-garde experimentation, or some kind of "anti-music", but in truth it was just me playing random notes because I didn't know any better.

I've hung onto the tape for posterity, though, and even digitised it - which is just as well as the tape sounds very fragile towards the end of each side. I've included a few of the "Digital Dawn" pieces on this site as a sampler, but the rest of it certainly doesn't meet the criteria of quality and interest required for inclusion here! I can't come up with an accurate date for these sessions - I'm guessing at 1981/82. It would appear that my music-making career lay dormant for at least a couple of years after this.

The High Street in Tring, Herts., where our family lived from Sept 1977 onwards. This picture was taken in 2010, but it wouldn't have looked a lot different back then.

The first cassette recorder I owned - it was a Christmas present in 1979. Probably used in my earliest "multi-track" recording experiments.