It all started on 28th March 1969 when my dad interviewed John Lennon for the Birmingham Evening News. Lennon came on to the line from his room at the Amsterdam Hilton and bellowed "Hello Birmingham!" at my dad in a Brummie accent. When Lennon was shot in December 1980 and I was nine years old, my dad told me this story for the first time. I asked him then, as I have asked him a thousand times since, what else did he say? Unfortunately, my dad can't remember. The significant thing, for me at least, is that this connection with Lennon had a huge impact and from that moment onwards I became a massive Beatles fan.
I had been playing in bands since I was at school, but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started to write songs that were half decent. In 2003, I broke up with my fiancé and I moved into a top floor bedsit in Cheltenham (a few doors down from my favourite record shop, Vinyl Vault). It had the world’s tiniest kitchen and the block I lived in swayed when it was windy, which freaked me out. I was heartbroken by the break-up and wrote a load of new songs, which eventually became the Solomon’s Tump LP.
I recorded the album in the bedsit on a Tascam analogue four track machine, playing all the instruments myself, and gave out copies of the CD to family and friends. Incredibly, one of them found its way to a London based independent record label and I was asked to sign a deal. By this time I had formed a psychedelic rock band called ‘Karma Truffle’, so I persuaded the label to sign the group instead.
We recorded an E.P. and an album but in the end it was impossible to keep the group together because we all lived miles away from each other. I was in Wiltshire, our guitarist lived in Gloucestershire, the drummer was in Birmingham and our bass player lived in Essex.
After we split, I decided to strike out on my own as 'Blake'; the name coming from my love of William Blake and adopted four years before the classical 'boy band' BLAKE released their first album. I also started a Beatles tribute band at this time, in which I played the role of John, and this provided me with a regular income. I continued recording records at home and between 2006 and 2011 I released seven albums on my Rockhopper Records label.
In April 2011 I began writing songs for a new LP, Stay Human, after reading about the murder of the Italian peace activist and journalist Vittorio Arrigoni in the Gaza strip. The album was crowd-funded, recorded in a professional studio and officially released on 15th April 2012, the first anniversary of Vittorio's death.
In December 2013 I released Star Over Bethlehem, a rock opera telling the story of the Nativity with all proceeds going to charities working in the Holy Land. In June 2014 I performed at the Bet Lahem Live festival in Bethlehem at the invitation of the Holy Land Trust, performing songs from Star Over Bethlehem and Stay Human, accompanied by my friend, fellow musician and occasional collaborator, Joe Brown. On our return from Palestine, Joe and I wrote and recorded a song called 'We'll Be Champions' which was released as a single on 25th July 2014 to raise funds for the Amos Trust’s Emergency Appeal for Gaza.
On Record Store Day 2015, I released a compilation LP called Vinyl Junkie dedicated to record collectors everywhere. The song ,'Vinyl Junkie', was mastered at Abbey Road Studios and released as a single. It is featured in the 2018 British crime film, "Dragonflies Only Live For 24 Hours".
I went back to my roots with my 2019 album, Reel To Reel, which was recorded on an analogue Tascam 424 four track and was released on cassette and CD.
I wasn't expecting to release another album so shortly afterwards but the lockdown changed everything. I have had a bit more headspace this Spring as a result and a lot of new songs came out. Recording them at home has been an enjoyable experience and a welcome distraction from the stresses of the restrictions. The album opens with a cover of Alan Parker's 'The Free Life', the theme to the ITV 1970s schools programme, "My World", which seems appropriate in these strange times. 1971 is released on 1st June 2020 for the pre-decimalisation price of £2 5s (or £2.25).