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CHAPTER 1


A STRANGE CHILD


“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”

Margaret Young



In 1989 I announced to the world that I was giving up playing music to go off and study full time. Most people reacted in a way I would have expected had I told them I was about to go and have a sex change operation. If they had read the chapter that you are about to read, they would have understood perfectly.


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I grew up in the East End of London. This was, and still is, one of the poorest areas in the country – but it’s very special. The people there are different. They even have their own way of speaking in Cockney rhyming slang. Don’t worry – this book is in plain English. 

I am the middle one of three brothers, which is supposed to make me a good communicator. There was a fourth, the eldest, but he was stillborn. He was named Billy after my father. Apparently, if my mum had given birth twenty times there would have been twenty boys. We grew up living a stone’s throw away from numerous uncles, aunties and cousins. Despite living in a poor area, we never wanted for anything and enjoyed growing up in a loving and close family. I was a very happy child who loved to daydream. 

Dr Terry was the first side to appear at that innocent time in my life. I loved nature. Plants were fascinating and animals were incredibly exciting to me. My childhood was a constant quest to acquire more pets. I remember, as a 12-year-old, being woken up at 3 am by my older brother John, who was most displeased to have been disturbed by my hamster trotting across his neck. Apart from pets, dead animals also fascinated me. My Uncle, Manny, was a driver for a meat company. He would give me various bits of animals, such as eyes and hearts, for me to dissect at home. Since none of the rest of the family shared my interest in these specimens, I now realise how tolerant they were of my strange habits. 

However, my mother, Donna Chimes, found herself somewhat lacking in tolerance when she walked into our lounge and found me, at the age of four, chopping up worms on the arm of the sofa. I still maintain that she was quite unreasonable about the whole affair. It got worse. When I was six, I was delighted to find a frog in the garden (this was the East End, where frogs were comparatively rare). There was only one problem: the frog appeared to be dead. I had read about this amphibian habit called winter hibernation. I thought that if I warmed up the frog he might come back to life and I would have a pet. So I did what any reasonable person would have done. I popped him in the oven and turned it up full. Ovens take some time to warm up and, as a six year old, I had a very short attention span, so I went off to my room to play with some toys. It was my mother who first noticed the smoke coming from the kitchen. Mothers are amazingly clever, aren't they? As soon as she found that frog, she knew exactly who put it there!

I don’t remember my first day at school but my mother has since reminded me of it. She was concerned that I wouldn’t like going to school and had asked me at the end of my first day what it was like. Apparently I replied, “It’s alright but I don’t think I’ll bother going tomorrow”. She told me that if I didn’t go tomorrow another boy would take my place and I wouldn’t be able to go again, so, reluctantly, I agreed to try one more day. 

A few days later, I was desperate for the toilet in the playground at school but I didn’t know where it was, so I simply urinated into the drain. A few minutes later two girls dragged the teacher over towards me and pointed at me accusingly saying, “it was him” and I got a severe smacking on the legs. I distinctly remember looking at those girls and thinking, “whatever have I done to you that you would do this to me?” I am no opponent of corporal punishment but I think they could have at least shown me where the toilet was. 

Around this time I asked my mother about cigarettes, and she amazed me by asking if I would like to try one. This surprised me, as I knew she hated smoking. I agreed to try it and she lit up one of my father’s cigarettes for me. I inhaled really hard and immediately ran to the nearest water tap. It felt like my lungs were on fire. That cigarette had the desired effect and I never tried it again. 

My paternal grandmother died when I was six. I wasn’t told anything about this. Presumably they thought I was too young. One day I casually asked my father why we hadn’t seen her lately. He replied, “She’s in heaven.” I knew all about heaven from school and so I simply said, “Oh, ok,” and thought no more of it.

My maternal grandmother was a very central figure in the family, not least because her descendents seem to have populated half the East End of London. On her 85th birthday celebration the large hall was full of people and my Uncle Manny said to her, “Do you realise that all of the people in this room have come from you?” She would often tell stories about her early life, which had been very hard. At the age of 10 her father died and she had to be put into a workhouse, somewhat similar to the one in Oliver Twist. Her hair hung almost down to her waist – this was cut off in one fell swoop as she entered the workhouse. They worked from 7 am until 6 pm six days a week. I found that story quite shocking. Not because hair was that important but because she had absolutely no control over her life at that time. That story and others like it made me determined to have some degree of control over my own life. This is why, from quite an early age, I always looked carefully at different career paths to make sure that I made the right choice. I wanted control over my life and I wanted to do something I enjoyed. Some would say that since my Gran was born in the 19th century it was impossible to compare that with the time I grew up – the Swinging Sixties. I didn’t agree. 

My two uncles, Manny and Billy, were always around when I was growing up. They bore an uncanny resemblance to the Kray Twins (the infamous East London gangsters of the sixties), but were actually the most charming men you could ever meet. They worked really hard loading meat onto lorries, driving the lorries to their destination and then unloading them. I remember looking at the cows and sheep hanging on hooks in the back of their lorries and marvelling at the sheer scale of the job of lifting these enormous beasts, one after another. What I found shocking about all of this is that my uncles worked incredibly hard; they hated their work and got paid very little for it. Of course, you had to admire them for getting up every morning and doing a job they hated so that their families would always be provided for. Furthermore, they were both extremely cheerful when you met them socially. Perhaps it was my tendency towards vegetarianism (more about that later) that particularly made me feel appalled by the work they had to do. For me this was ample evidence that you need to think very carefully about what you do for a living. At the age of 13 I promised myself that I would find something to do that I enjoyed and I would never do a job I hated – life was way too short for that. These childhood experiences heavily influenced my choices later in life. 

Kids growing up in the East End tend to have low expectations about life. I saw this all around me as a child and it can still be seen there to this day. However, this did not apply to us – my father made sure of that.

To say that my dad, Bill Chimes, was a one-off would be an understatement. I meet all sorts of people in my life but I don’t ever expect to meet anyone like him again. He was 5’ 5” and 3/8ths – a figure he often quoted to us. He was a dedicated family man with absolutely no interest in boozing or gambling. He had a gift of meticulous attention to detail combined with the patience of a saint – qualities I have unfortunately failed to inherit. He worked for the Sunday Times Magazine, making photographic plates for printing colour pictures. This was a highly skilled craftsman’s job back then. As a child I would boast to my friends that my dad could do anything because it seemed to me he could. He always seemed to have the answer to virtually any question you asked. He could strip down and rebuild any engine, repair any domestic appliance and was a wizard at electronics. He even created a series of animated films with a cine camera featuring the toys we used to play with. 

When I was 10 a friend of mine had one of those model cars – a Dinky. It broke in half and all and sundry told him that it would be impossible to repair such a thing. They were basically right because these toys were made of die-cast zinc, which cannot be soldered or welded. However, whenever my dad heard the words “it can’t be done” he would immediately set about doing it. Sure enough, when I told him about my friend’s car he told him to bring it to him. He cut a thread into both halves of the broken car and screwed each half onto the same piece of stud so that they met in the middle. He then filled the tiny gap between the two halves, sanded it smooth and repainted the whole car. The finished article looked brand new. This experience, along with numerous others, confirmed to me that my dad really could do anything. 

The other thing to say about my dad was that he was obsessed with music. He played the saxophone and clarinet. He had had his own dance band, even making a couple of records in his younger days. He couldn’t go professional because of the needs of his young family but I think it pleased him a great deal to see his three sons earn their living through music. Sons will often adopt the values of their fathers. I have many friends who became crazy about sport because their fathers were. My father never cared about sport, and nor do any of us, but we are all crazy about music! My dad’s brother, my uncle Pat, is also a dedicated musician. He played the trumpet, and his son, Tim Chimes, who is about my age, plays the saxophone in swing bands.

During World War II my dad was in the Royal Air Force, stationed in Aden on the Arabian Peninsula. His job was to repair Spitfire engines (the fighter planes of choice during World War II). If you were a pilot flying one of those planes in mortal combat, you would definitely want someone like my dad making sure the engine was working properly. 

When I was eight years old I was in conversation with my father, discussing what I would be when I grew up, and he came up with an astonishing statement: “You can be anything you want.” I quickly decided that this was nonsense and in order to disprove the idea I said, “Well I couldn’t become the Prime Minister of England, could I?” I sat back waiting for him to concede defeat but to my amazement he said, “Absolutely. You can be Prime Minister. But you would have to want it and work really hard for it.” I walked away scratching my head and wondering if this could really be true. I did not want to be Prime Minister but that was not the point. The effect of this little exchange would not be seen until much later, when I was nineteen years old and looking for a band I could play in.

It was also when I was eight that the Beatles burst onto the scene in a way never seen before or since. Looking at those four young men on the stage convinced me that being in a famous band would be a good career choice for someone who could “do anything you want!” As Beatlemania soared, our family had a nice surprise. My uncle, Harry Boy, turned up one day with Beatle jackets for me and for my older brother, John. These were exact replicas of the collarless jackets that the Beatles were wearing and they were not yet available in the shops. As an eight year old I didn’t really see what the big deal was but people kept stopping me in the street begging to know where I got the jacket. Of course, I just told them that my uncle got it for me, which was of no use to them whatsoever. Incidentally, none of us ever really figured out what Harry Boy did for a living. He was rather like the TV comedy character Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. 

We grew up near a car breakers yard. My friend Tommy and I spotted, amongst all the junk, a real sword – one actually made of metal. We already had plastic swords but this was way more exciting. It occurred to the two of us that if we took it no one would really miss it – or so we told ourselves. So we hatched a plan. I would run to the other end of the yard to distract the vicious German Shepherd guarding the place while Tommy would pull the sword out. The plan worked and we were now the proud possessors of this sword, although we hadn’t discussed who would keep it once we had it. This was an early insight for me into the perils of partnerships. I went to bed that night thinking that what I had actually done was stealing. My Catholic upbringing told me that stealing was a sin and an offence to God. I felt very bad about it and wasn’t sure what to do. I felt that I should give it back, but Tommy had no such qualms of conscience. 

I was quite upset at the time and my parents asked me several times what was wrong but I never told them. In the end I took the problem to the priest at Confession. He told me off, made me promise not to do it again and gave me some homework to do. After doing my homework, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I never wanted to have that feeling of a bad conscience again. So despite the criticisms you hear about a Catholic upbringing and the concept of Confession, in my particular case, at the time, it worked well. 

When I was nine and Bryn, my younger brother, was four we started to play music together. I had a recorder and he had a drum. We couldn’t produce anything elaborate but what we did do was get used to playing with someone else. In all the years I taught people to play music I found that one of the biggest challenges was to get them to listen to the other musicians they played with. 

My dad had the occasional habit of coming home with a surprise gift, such as a pair of pet rabbits or a new gadget. One day he presented us with a reel-to-reel tape recorder. We’d never seen anything like it before and our friends certainly hadn’t. It meant we could record music and play it back, which was quite mind-blowing at the time. It also allowed us to record speech. It had a microphone with a stop-start switch built in. John, my older brother, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to incriminate my long-suffering mother. We interviewed her with a long series of questions but by careful use of the on/off button, switched all the answers. For instance, we asked her, “Do you ever steal anything?”, turned off the microphone when she said “No”, and with the off button still pressed, ask her if she lived in London and turn the microphone back on for her “Yes” answer. So after an apparently harmless interview of 20 questions we had taped evidence of her admitting to all manner of crimes! But the real blessing of that recorder was that we could tape ourselves playing music and hear what it sounded like. This facility is considered essential now for any developing musician but back in those days most kids didn’t have it. 

At the age of ten I was active, with John, in the local scout troop. They were putting on a play called Rival Brothers. John accepted the role of the older brother and they offered me the lead role as the younger brother. They told me to think about it and decide whether I wanted to do it. I thought “if he can do it, so can I,” and so I agreed. I’ve sometimes wondered if my life would have turned out differently had I said no. We rehearsed for many weeks and eventually co-stared in a show that involved singing and acting in front of an audience. Funny that it was called Rival Brothers as we both ended up earning our living as musicians, both actually playing drums – albeit in a very different way. I found that I enjoyed performing on a stage and never felt nervous about it. This absence of nerves before performing lasted my whole career, which was very handy. In later life, so many of my musician colleagues were nervous wrecks when they were about to perform.

I would attend Scouts every Friday night. As I didn’t live near the school, I would go to my uncle Manny’s house for dinner. I did this regularly for years. Manny and his wife Joan always made me feel so welcome. Soon after I joined the scouts, Richard Tillbrook was appointed scout leader. He would only have been about 18 at the time and was new to his leadership role but he brought a lot of enthusiasm, working way beyond the call of duty. Richard went on to become a teacher of great influence and we always joked that he was like Mr Chips from the movie, Goodbye Mr Chips. He later retrained for the priesthood and now runs a parish in Colchester. Richard and I will remain friends for the rest of our lives. 

My mum has an older sister called Kitty who is a great character. Kitty was always full of life and you could guarantee she would be willing to try any sporting activity with any person, at any time. This would include snooker, football, go-kart racing and even boxing. Kitty had a market stall selling ladies’ underwear. As I reached the age of 10, she kindly gave me a job. I had only one duty to perform, which was to stand at the stall and watch everybody, raising the alarm should there be any theft. The stall consisted of a huge pile of ladies’ underwear of all sorts of colours, most of which at the time appeared to me to be much too large to fit an elephant, let alone a woman. The customers would walk up and spend ages sifting through the underwear and then either buy something or simply leave. Kitty informed me that many of the women would slip something into their bag while she wasn’t looking and walk off. 

I started the day determined to apprehend any thieves, diligently watching every single customer for signs of foul play. Unfortunately for Kitty, my boredom threshold at that age was between one and two minutes. Inevitably I started daydreaming. It seems as a security person I was as much use as a chocolate teapot. Kitty was a very generous person and paid me for my day’s work (in actuality, two minutes’ work). I felt very elated at the thought of having earned my own money and being able to spend it on what I liked. Shockingly, I was never invited back for further surveillance work but I will always be grateful to Kitty for starting me off. 

During my childhood I did all kinds of jobs to earn extra money such as cleaning cars, gardening or running errands. Every 5th November I would go out to try and raise money by asking “a penny for the guy”. For the benefit of non-British readers, Guy Fawkes was a Catholic revolutionary who, in 1605, very nearly succeeded in blowing up the Houses of Parliament while it was being opened by the King. Possibly one of the earliest known terrorists, he was caught and subsequently executed by hanging. Since that time countless British children construct an effigy of Guy Fawkes that is burned on a bonfire during firework displays on 5th November. A couple of days before, children proudly display their Guy Fawkes effigies and ask passers by to donate a penny for their efforts. Some parents disapproved, regarding this as begging, in the same way that some parents disapprove of trick or treat on Halloween. I saw this as an excellent business opportunity and went a step further by doing some market research. Having experimented with different sites we discovered that easily the best way to raise money was to set up outside the local hospital at visiting time. Visitors would be in a very sympathetic state of mind, manifested in generosity towards any children who happened to be there. This early introduction to the efficacy of market research would prove useful on many further occasions in my life. 

The system of education in England at the time was a two-tier set up whereby kids who were considered bright could pass an exam called the 11-plus and would go to a school for higher ability children called a grammar school (a confusing name for Americans). The kids that couldn’t pass that exam would go to a less academic institution known as a secondary modern. As I approached the stage when a decision needed to be made, the politicians came up with a new system that they thought would be fairer, the so-called comprehensive school, where children of all abilities would go. There was a battle between the traditionalists and the modernists as far as education was concerned and that battle is still going on today. The upshot for me was that I still took the exam but the teachers didn’t tell us it was the 11-plus so as not to put pressure on us. I passed the exam and went on to a grammar school called Raines Foundation. This school had been set up by a rich brewer in the 18th century to give kids from poor areas a high quality education. One of the advantages of going to a grammar school is that they keep telling you how clever you are, which helps negate the natural tendency of children in poor areas to have low expectations. Producing rock stars was probably not the intention of the founder of the school, but increasing self-confidence certainly was.

As a child I never really wanted football boots for Christmas, I tended to go for books, microscopes and chemistry sets. My favourite present when I was about twelve was called The Visible Man. This was a see-through plastic model of a man containing all of the vital organs, each of which could be removed and observed and which you painted yourself. Christmas presents were one area in which Dr Terry managed to get one up on Mr Chimes. 

Around this time John started to get seriously interested in classical music. My dad responded by acquiring a high quality Hi-Fi system together with some records. John’s favourite was Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. I’m certain that I can still remember every note of that piece; he played it so many times. He learned to play the piano but made a conscious decision to specialise in timpani or kettledrums. Of course, we didn’t have any timpani – they cost thousands of pounds – so John would practice for hours on end using pillows. He later joined the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, which gave him the chance to get serious about learning. He was quite obsessed with these drums and he certainly learned fast.

At thirteen my passion for nature showed no signs of abating. In 1969, when my friends were buying rock albums, I was thrilled to read that the BBC was releasing an album of recordings of British wild animal noises. This album, unsurprisingly, was not in stock in any of the shops and had to be specially ordered. I can remember the smirking face of the sales assistant as he ordered it. He was clearly thinking, “I’ve got a right nut on my hands here” – but I didn’t care! 

My younger brother, Bryn, is a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). According to NLP there are three sensory modalities or three ways to perceive the world. They are seeing, hearing and touching. What we now know is that most people predominate in one or other of these. In my case, I am an auditory – my sense of hearing is the most important to me. No big shock then to learn that I became a musician. I had read all about wild animals, I had seen pictures of them and I had seen them for real in the zoo (obviously, I was a zoo season ticket holder) but I was desperate to find out what they sounded like, and here was the answer. 

Incidentally, if you are an auditory and your wife is a visual, it is quite likely that you spend a lot of time and energy telling her how much you love her, etc. As a visual, she would think this is all very well but where are my flowers or trip to somewhere with a lovely view? Clearly then, it pays to know the primary sensory modality of the person you are dealing with. If you want to know which one you are, there is an easy test: Ask yourself, if you could have hugs from your loved one, or beautiful words, or visual delights such as flowers, but not all three, which one would you choose? When you have answered that question, you will know which type you are! 

Over the years of my childhood I had many pets but I was always hankering after something bigger and better. To me, dogs were too ordinary and I wanted something exotic. I decided a mongoose would fit the bill and after nagging my mother relentlessly we went down to an exotic pet shop in Camden Town. It was located just a few yards from where The Clash would rehearse about six years later. Talking to the man in the shop was very disappointing for me. It seemed that to tame a mongoose you needed to acquire it at a very young age, otherwise it could be quite vicious. The problem was the quarantine laws at that time meant that the young mongoose would have to be imprisoned for 6 months before being allowed through customs. By this time it would be an aggressive adult. It seemed that my plan to have an exotic predator as a pet would have to be abandoned.

However, I was not to be deterred and my research told me that the nearest alternative that could be bred in the UK would be a polecat, which is actually a form of ferret, but black and white in colour. This would not be a wild polecat but one bred in captivity – farmers breed them for hunting rabbits. I arranged to get one upon my return from a sailing trip with the Scouts. While I was away my dad had put his building skills to good use and built a fabulous pen for my new pet. This structure way surpassed my wildest expectations, being about 18 feet long. My polecat would be the happiest animal in London. 

I took possession of a young female and called her Venus. The rest of the family were not at all sure this was a good idea but there was no going back now. Whenever I brought Venus into the house the others would retreat to the safety of the lounge, keeping the doors shut and leaving me with the run of the rest of the house. You would think that Venus was a full-grown tiger the way they behaved! I later realised that female polecats need to breed to stay healthy so I persuaded my long-suffering family that we needed to have a family of polecats. We found a male called Arthur who was to be the father of the new family. Arthur would not move in; he would simply come and impregnate Venus. The mating ritual of polecats is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen. The male is much larger and stronger. Arthur walked up to Venus, grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and dragged her round and round the enclosure for over an hour whilst she screamed. I had to repeatedly assure my family that I had read about this and it was all quite normal. They couldn’t bear the screams and had to go elsewhere. After completely exhausting his new wife, Arthur then proceeded to go about siring the new litter. This took a further hour. At this point the screams of Venus were truly ear-splitting. 

Venus gave birth six weeks later to thirteen young, one of which died very soon after. As anyone would expect, she ate the dead baby (or kit as it’s known). This was one step too far for most of my family who asked me not to tell them any more about the breeding of polecats, as they couldn’t cope! Of course, from a biological perspective eating the dead offspring is the only safe thing to do. Otherwise you would have a rotting corpse and an infection spreading throughout the litter. This was a fine example of recycling. The other twelve thrived and grew very fast. A few weeks later they went through a very comical stage. The male kits were considerably larger than Venus but still quite young. One by one, all twelve youngsters would leave the safety of the pen to go into the wire netting run. Venus would grab them and drag them back into the safety of the pen. Whilst she was dragging one back, two others would venture out. I was amazed at how relentlessly she continued to keep dragging them back in. After a few days she gave up, exhausted. All of the young polecats were sold and this turned out to be my first ever business venture. I had managed to persuade the family that the female must breed to keep healthy. However, further breeding was to prove a step too far and I had to be content with just the one. 

Like many teenagers, I started getting interested in rock music. The first record I bought was Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison. This was a fine place to start, but I quickly realised that there was much heavier music out there. One evening John surprised me by insisting that we watch The Lulu show. I watched the programme and I was stunned. The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared as special guests. They played the wildest music I’d ever heard and seemed supremely confident and relaxed. They were clearly having a ball. That was the beginning of my idea that rock musicians had more fun than anyone else on the planet. I bought the album Killer by Alice Cooper and that was the start of my real obsession with rock, as I began to realise that I may actually be able to do this. Later I discovered Led Zeppelin and realised that the drums were the most exciting instrument in a rock band. I had tried most other instruments by then but as soon as I got to try a drum kit there was absolutely no doubt – this was the instrument for me. I started practising in the same obsessive manner that John had done with the timpani.

During my entire childhood my dad would be out nearly every weekend playing in a dance band. Whatever kids grow up with tends to become normal for them – for us it was natural for our dad to be playing music every weekend and that’s pretty much what we all did when we grew up. We tended to have more money than most other families around us, partly because my dad had a well-paid job, and partly because of the extra income earned from his music. Several times various women would say to my mother, “How can you put up with him being out every Saturday night instead of taking you out?” She very wisely explained that she had a husband who was completely loyal and faithful, would never get drunk or gamble, was a fantastic father to her children and always kept the family comfortable. You don’t have to look far to see husbands who don’t have these qualities. She understood that for my dad, music was important and to stop him doing that would have made him miserable. The wives of other musicians would warn her that he might meet someone else and leave her. Again, she ignored them. Interestingly, most of their husbands did just that but my father didn’t. Whenever there was music in the house, we would always badger my mum into singing and tease her that she sounded like Deanna Durbin, the singer and movie star of the 1930s and 40s.

One evening, after my dad had finished playing a gig with his dance band, I offered to give him a hand taking the equipment back to the car. He put a mike stand with a heavy base down on the pavement outside the hall and gave me strict instructions, “Stand there, don’t move and keep an eye on this mike stand while I go and fetch the rest of the equipment.” I said, “No problem” but felt slightly patronised that he had to say “Don’t move!” A couple of friends of mine appeared and were chatting in the foyer of the venue. I just popped in there a few seconds to say hello but in view of my dad’s instructions, ran straight back out to keep an eye on the mike stand. It was gone! As we were on a corner I was able to quickly look up and down both streets and there was not a soul to be seen. I couldn’t imagine any scenario where the mike stand could have been taken away so quickly. I thought if someone had roared up on a motorcycle, grabbed the mike stand and roared off, they could just about have got out of sight in time. Inevitably, my father appeared within a few seconds and said, “Where’s the mike stand?” To which I replied, “It’s gone!” My father said, “How could it have possibly gone if you were standing there?” I said, “I just popped in for a second.” To which I got the inescapable, “I told you not to move from that spot!” Equipment in those days was way more expensive than it is now, but my father was never one to get upset about mere money – he knew he could always earn some more. Just about every musician in the world has gone through the agony of having his or her equipment stolen.

During my teen years my dad suffered quite badly from a bad back. He told me that pills never seemed to do him much good and he ended up going to see an osteopath, who made him better. I never went with him on any of those visits but I remember being intrigued that this guy could make him better whereas the pills could not. I actually looked into osteopathy but back in those days there was very little recognition and the course was not established as a university degree, which put me off. Of course, all of that has now changed. 

In considering a career in medicine I started looking around for role models. There was a character on TV called Dr Kildare who was extremely good looking, had brilliant diagnostic skills and was always an object of admiration by all men and, more importantly, all women. I was very impressed with Dr Kildare but when I visited my local GP, Dr Chatterjee, I found the situation to be quite contrasting. Dr Chatterjee seemed to be inundated with extremely sick and elderly patients who kept moaning all the time. We had to sit in a waiting room with very thin walls and you could always hear everything that was being said in the consulting room. None of this bore any resemblance to the glamorous life of Dr Kildare. 

One of the problems with attending a grammar school was that rugby was always the game of choice. I quickly learned the key to this game, which I will share with you: When you get the ball, throw it without pausing for a second. It doesn’t really matter where you throw it. If you pause for a moment then ten other players will jump on you and it will hurt a lot. This is not the strategy used by the British Lions, but then they’re not normal. Inexplicably, I didn’t make the team. Those of us who weren’t in the team were told to run around the field for 90 minutes. After an entire year of running around the field, the games teacher announced, “There is an opportunity for two boys to learn karate – who is interested?” I was very excited by this possibility but I paused to wonder whether I could ever do karate. During my three-second pause, two other boys raised their hands and were promptly selected. I spent the next two years running around a field for 90 minutes wondering why I didn’t just raise my hand. In my adult life I have never been shy of stepping forward. Perhaps that is why.

John went on to study timpani at the Royal College of Music – a very prestigious establishment. He had only been there one year when he started getting offers to perform with various orchestras. He got the chance to play on TV to a live audience of 200 million people. This was the Last Night of the Proms, the most viewed classical music concert in the world. John’s success suggested that my father might have had a point when he told us we could do anything we want. I decided that I would like to play to millions of people too, but I would do it with a rock band.

When I got into the 6th form at the age of 16 we were able to go in and out of the 6th form common room, which felt like a big promotion. The first thing that I did at that stage was to put a sign in the window saying, ‘Terry Chimes Fan Club – Join Here’. At that point none of my fellow pupils had any inkling as to my musical leanings and I guess they just saw it as a harmless joke, which of course it was. But deep down there was something of Mr Chimes trying to break out.

This was about the time when one of my life’s great tragedies occurred. For some years, girls had been walking about in miniskirts, which were getting shorter and shorter. Then, just as I got to the age when I might have a chance to get somewhere near them, some idiot designed the maxiskirt – which reached right down to the ankles. I didn’t get to see girls’ legs again until the punk movement started. If I’d had my way, the inventor of the maxi would have been taken out and flogged!

When people say, “I am getting old” I often respond with, “Only the good die young”. This is said ironically but I believe there may be some truth in it. When I was 17 I hung around with a gang of friends. Peter Lydon was about six months younger than me. He was the nicest guy you could ever wish to meet in your life, always positive, always smiling and never had a bad word to say about anyone else. Those of us who used to hang around with him probably took all this for granted – it was just the way Peter was. The rest of us more than made up for his lack of negativity by our bitching and moaning. When I was 17 we all got the sudden shocking news that he had died in a motorcycle accident. Everyone was a bit stunned for a time, but we all just got on with our lives. I have never forgotten Peter but was pleasantly surprised when I went to visit my old scoutmaster, Bill Everett, around the year 2000 – he had a picture of Peter on his wall. It was nice to see that Peter was not forgotten. In my practice I come across lots of families who have lost a young person and they always seem to be saying the same thing – that the one they lost was the nicest of the bunch. Maybe it’s because they have died young that people say such things about them but I remain unconvinced by this as I have seen too many genuinely nice people leave this world very early in their lives. 

Around that time I got sick. I was not ill enough to miss school but my experience gave me a valuable insight into what it’s like to suffer illness and pain. It certainly didn’t seem very valuable to me at the time. I will explain the illness in a later chapter. My fascination with health and disease kept growing and was noticed by all those around me.

When I was 17 I applied to both medical and dental schools because I couldn’t decide which of the two professions would suit me better. On the one hand, medicine seemed to have greater prestige, with more variety of practice. On the other hand, doctors always seemed to be dealing with people who were dying and worked ridiculously long hours. Dentists seemed to have a good, independent working life. In fact, I discovered that dentistry is one of the most stressful professions in the world, with frightening levels of divorce, heart attack and suicide. I was surprised by this and for a while I thought that really wouldn’t apply to me because of my happy disposition but then I realised that some of those suicides had most probably started off as happy people before they joined the dental profession. 

I found the interviews for college discouraging in that the people interviewing me, without exception, were very serious, miserable old men in grey suits (they were probably about 40). I never came out of an interview at medical school feeling uplifted or inspired in any way. I can remember thinking quite consciously about who is more to be admired, Dr Kildare or Jimi Hendrix? Of course the answer to that question would depend on whom you asked. Most young people would, of course, say Jimi Hendrix whereas my mother, without hesitation, would have said Dr Kildare. Such musings as these are part and parcel of the process of reaching a decision to follow a particular career path. 

Whilst I was preparing for my A-level exams, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to audition with a professional band. I answered an ad in the paper and travelled quite a long distance to meet them. I played for what seemed a long time but in the end they decided they were not going to take me on because I was so young. I was slightly disappointed but was also aware that it would have been impossible for me to join as I had all these exams coming up and I couldn’t realistically go on tour. They had an upcoming TV spot on a programme called New Faces – a Talent Show. Sure enough a few months later I sat in my parent’s lounge and watched them on TV – they didn’t win but it felt good to have a connection between people you have met in real life and people on TV. It can sometimes seem as though these two worlds – the world of TV and the world you inhabit – cannot be traversed. This is perhaps the secret of success for shows such as the X Factor.

One of the upshots of my audition was the discovery that professional bands play a hell of a lot louder than I was used to. From that point on I would practise the drums at three times the volume. When my dad asked me why I was playing so much louder, I replied, “That’s what professional musicians do,” and he never argued with me. Some time after that conversation I was in the lounge when someone else was playing drums in the practice room. Every time they hit the drum, the TV picture would flicker. I asked my mother what was going on and she told me nonchalantly that the TV always did that. I instantly felt rather guilty about the vast number of hours of practice that I had carried out which had ruined the rest of the family’s viewing experience. Looking back, I think our neighbours were either saints or stone deaf. They were treated to the sound of me bashing on the drums, John playing the timpani and my dad’s band rehearsing every week. Just to put the icing on the cake, my brother, Bryn, also started a band when he was about 16 (although, luckily for the neighbours, John had moved out by then). 

During my last year at school, I decided that Led Zeppelin were the best band in the world, mainly because they had the best drummer – John Bonham. Bonham played with such power and authority that the whole band was elevated beyond anything else you could hear at that time. No other musician has exerted such a positive influence on me as Bonham and anybody who wants to play drums in a hard rock band should give Bonham a thorough listening to. Unfortunately, Bonham died very young (aged 32), something that rock drummers have a habit of doing. 

I once went to a studio to do some recording with three other musicians. We simply said hello and asked a few questions before getting started. The engineer looked straight at me and said, “You’re the drummer, aren’t you?” To which I replied, “Yes, but how do you know?” He said, “I’ve been in this business a long time and I can just tell.” That intrigued me and ever since that day I have played the game of guessing which one is which whenever I meet a band. I also try to guess what profession someone is in when I meet a patient for the first time. It is surprising how often you can get it right.

Just after my 18th birthday, I had taken and passed all of my exams and finally had to make a decision about my future career. Unfortunately, there was just no profession that involved touring the world playing drums whilst healing sick people. It seemed a choice had to be made. I think that one of the main factors in the decision-making process was that I could do music while I was young and change professions later. This idea sounded far more feasible than going to University and then becoming a musician afterwards. By this time I had been interviewed at medical schools and met lots of students and doctors. The impression I had was that if you followed that path you would have extremely limited time for yourself and certainly not nearly enough time to play in a band. 

And so Mr Chimes won the argument and I decided to join a band. It would be some time before I started to earn any money playing music so I needed to work. I took a job in the school laboratory. There were several advantages to this; my science qualifications allowed me to earn a reasonable salary, I knew all the people there and got on with them and most importantly it was easy to get time off to play music.  Furthermore, I managed to save enough money to rent a flat and buy a car.

I decided that to hit the big time I needed to keep auditioning until I found the right band. I would scour the pages of Melody Maker (the now defunct magazine which everybody then used to find musicians) and audition for any band that sounded like it was half decent. The process was as follows: I would carry all my drums from my upstairs flat into my car downstairs, drive to the place of audition, bring my drums into the place, unpack them, set them up, play for a few minutes, pack up the drums, carry them to the car, drive home, carry the drums upstairs from the car and that was that. 

It seemed like 90 percent of the people I was auditioning for were either useless or just didn’t seem as if they were going anywhere! Yet I pushed on week after week after week because I had a profound belief that I would, at some point, find the right band. If you asked me where this belief came from, I’d say it was a combination of my dad telling me I could do anything, the band I auditioned with appearing on TV and then seeing my brother on TV playing to millions of people.  All of these things had happened in my life and the obvious next step was me being on TV playing to millions of people. No amount of cynicism or derision would dampen my belief. After endless months of searching, my patience was soon to be rewarded.

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