Alan Rawlings is a guitarist who played during the British new wave era by the late 1970s and early 1980s.
By 1980, he joined Cowboys International, as Allan Rawlings, replacing Rick Jacks. He played some material which appeared in the Revisited compilation, in 2003.
In 1980, he played with Pauline Murray, of punk band Penetration, playing in her Peel Sessions.
Others note his solo work with the Desotos, The Virgin Daze and Up.
Currently writing now material.
The Alan Rawlings Story - Chapter 1
Chapter 1 (in my own words and typing)
The sixties were an interesting decade to say the least! I appeared on this planet at 02.00 hours on 27th august 1960. I don't remember it. I was the first born to a young couple from London. My mother had lost two children before me and I was lucky from conception onward. During her pregnancy with me my mother was given a drug called thalidomide to ease her discomfort. Thalidomide had a nasty effect on a lot of people but mum just used to vomit it straight up. Pretty lucky! I was the first baby born in that hospital on that bank holiday and won a three pound premium bond which I sold in 2014, mind you by that time it had become accompanied by 10,000 friends. About 25 years later, Tom Watkins was managing a band I was in, told me in writing that I was from a planet far, far away. I still have the document, it was a promotional item for the band who were called Spelt like this. I'm not entirely sure he was wrong.
Not much happened for the first few years. Apparently I began talking at a very early age and was jabbering away by the age of two. My first word was "unga" apparently which meant water my parents told me. I have not shut up often since. When I was created my father was working for a newspaper in London's fleet street and had lost enthusiasm for the city so he and mum moved out and decided to start a family, he did not want to raise a family in the area he was from. On my birth certificate it says he was a salesman. Sometime in my early years he was offered lucrative work running a petrol station which was in front of a large cafe called the old manor on the main road from London to Cornwall in our small town called Blackwater. It was an old manor house and had been a convent and a privately owned house occupied by Graf Zeppelin amongst others. It was a busy place being on the main road from London to the west country. It was also notorious as the hangout of a large number of rockers. Notorious enough for the BBC to make a documentary about it and in particular one of the rockers. It was called Tony the rebel rocker. I knew Tony a bit as I spent quite a lot of time there helping dad out. This also turned out to be lucky about 18 years later when I was in Amsterdam one weekend.
The rockers used to play a game most days and it went like this. One of them would be on his bike outside the cafe as the others put a single on the juke box. He would then have to race to a pub about three miles down the road which grew daffodils in the garden at the front,pick a daffodil and get back to the cafe with it before the record finished. Most singles being about three minutes long they had to do serious speed to do it. There were tragedies! I knew a number of them a bit as they respected dad as he would help them out now and then by advancing them petrol when they were broke. I used to play pinball with them and it was fun. They were pretty wild.
One day a mod came into the cafe and left his scooter parked in front in amongst their Nortons and Triumphs. Strange because even if he didn't know the cafe's reputation he must have noticed that he was the only mod there as he walked in but he didn't look scared. He was left alone to eat and drink and he was there for about an hour. When he had finished he paid and left. Outside a few of the rockers had dismantled his scooter and it was spread around in pieces. I don't remember how he fixed that. Tony and the boys could be found sitting on the wall in front of the cafe most Sunday mornings recovering from Saturday night.
Having spent quite a bit of time hanging around there, I was quite familiar to the regulars at both the petrol station and the cafe and had in fact by the time I was about seven learned a lot about how things were and could serve petrol, take payments and play pinball. I enjoyed these things, it was a laugh. I had started school in 1965 and although I was doing quite well, I didn't really relate to it. I found it difficult to understand why people wanted to do things like Maths and French. I started to learn French with Mrs Rhodes from the beginning but have never been good at it. On Saturdays my dad used to drive one of his employees to visit her parents in Basingstoke, Ivy was her name, sadly recently deceased. Her husband was a builder and part time special constable in the local police force and for some reason wouldn't or couldn't take her to Basingstoke so dad used to do it. While he was doing this I used to be in charge of the petrol station. People driving on the A30, the main road from London to Cornwall, would stop for petrol and be very surprised to be served by a 7 year old. I even got tips occasionally to supplement the money dad paid me so all in all I was a pretty comfortable 7 year old. I of course made mistakes and I can remember the biggest one I made. One time a massive lorry pulled in, the forecourt not having a canopy, could take them and it was a regular stop for loads of lorry drivers. Dad had a lot of account customers of this type. I could deal with accounts. This was a cash customer, I hadn't seen him before. I went out to serve him. He said fill her up. I stuck the gun of the diesel pump into one of the two tanks on the lorry, squeezed the trigger and it began to pump. As this was going to take a while I clicked the button on the gun so that it would continue to pump and walked away to do something else while it filled up, lots of gallons! I then did the same to the other tank and when it finished the driver came into the kiosk to pay. I don't know how but I had miscalculated how much had been pumped into the two tanks, the reality being about eighty gallons I think which would have cost about 30 pounds at that time. I charged him about 20 I think. He never flinched, paid and drove off. When my dad got back from Basingstoke, he read the shift down and saw my mistake. He was sympathetic but I still had to make up the difference. That meant about six Saturdays working for nothing and I Iearned from the error but I wasn't too bothered as I enjoyed working the Saturday mornings.
My brother Lee was born in 1962 and we spent quite a bit of time together as he would often be at the petrol station too. We also used to take a lot of holidays on the south coast which dad arranged and paid for and sometimes he was able to come with us, sometimes not. This basically made for a wonderful childhood, dad was generous and not poor. Around age 5 I had adopted an unusual attitude to life. I had decided, sort of unconsciously to try everything once, to not be impressed or concerned too much about money, to seek adventure and to believe most things as it seemed to me that if you did believe them they might just turn out to be true. I wasn't particularly big on thinking, introversion or cynicism at that time. Life continued to be great fun, until I was twenty two in fact.
I was doing well at school even though I was not in love with it, my first love being a gorgeous blonde girl called Delilah at about 8 years old. We never met as she was a few years senior to me in the school but I remember dreams about her.
I played a bit of football and was well out of order in my spare time, taking life as it was for granted and it was good, with a few aspects that upon reflection are difficult to explain.
At age 11 I took the 11 plus exam and scored highly. 7 of us, there being about 100 in my year, were told that we had been awarded places at the local grammar school and the others went to secondary modern or comprehensive schools. The headmaster of the grammar school, a welsh man called Joe Thomas came to meet with us and introduce himself as he architect of our academic deigns. He was a good guy so I decided to attend the grammar school even though it was all male as opposed to the co ed status of the other schools. That was my biggest reservation having become quite vulnerable to the charms of girls. My parents were well pleased and I was taken to a school outfitters in Aldershot to get the necessary components of the uniform. I hated uniforms, ties and the like from then onwards. I remember parading around in it carrying a brief case in front some of my relatives of whom there were many,
I started at the grammar school and it was acceptable but tedious. not only Maths, English, French, German and the usual stuff but things like Latin, Art, Religious studies which were particularly annoying for a number of reasons, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Technical drawing, Biology, Music, History, Drama, and most peculiarly from year three onward a compulsory place in either the Army, Navy or air force cadet force. I was thrown into the army lot because the Naval and Air force members were far too serious about it and were often considering careers in the services which was definitely not something I would ever entertain as possible for me.
I began to rebel, noisily, rudely and blatantly and I suffered as a result. Life got difficult but I still didn't worry much about anything. I persevered and began to fall behind. I was not popular with both pupils and teachers but still somehow I was not bothered. I had a strong faith in the future for some reason and I thought that I would probably end up doing okay working with my father. I stated this often in the regular periods put aside for us to consider our future career paths so I was not pushed too hard in that direction. I struggled on and one day, for absolutely no reason, I thought I know, I'll buy a guitar and try to get famous and rich, after all I had always been lucky and you never know. When the bell rang to signal the end of the school day that afternoon, I rushed home and cycled a couple of miles to the nearest music store. I bought a Spanish guitar for ten pounds and a book called teach yourself guitar for about three. I started to attempt to learn to play. It wasn't easy but I made a little progress and I found it interesting so I started to spend a lot of time on it. It being an acoustic guitar and not amplified I didn't make too much noise as I attempted to progress. I had been doing it for about three months when my dad noticed that I was taking it seriously and persevering and not giving up as he expected. I had been interested in a few things but not seriously and had attempted Football, Swimming, and Go-Kart racing which had been generously financed by dad and resulted in a crash which revealed a possible problem with my back. I gave them all up so having been at a loose end for a while the guitar took over. I spent most of my spare time reading the teach yourself book and bashing the Spanish guitar around. Dad sat me down in front of the record player at home and played me a track, a guitar version of the Gorge Harrison song something. It was pretty complicated. Dad said "if you can ever do that I will buy you a good guitar. I took that seriously and began my attempt. Took a while. There were times when I took a break and I would hang around with some well dodgy characters and I was bad news. I took up smoking, still do it now I love it, I drank to excess now and then when we could get hold of the stuff being way too young to buy it without lies and deception, and violence was involved. I considered myself to be a Droog when Clockwork Orange was released and although I was too young to see it and had no idea about the book it felt like the spirit of the time. I became less and less popular at school. By this time I had had a few sexual experiences. I won't go into them much, they were pretty uneventful but I liked the idea and had a regular girlfriend called Susan Whitman with whom I experimented in several areas. She had a very open minded family and there were things to find out about. There were a number of other girls but I didn't take any of them seriously. Susan's brother Howard was the guy who introduced me to Kart racing being serious about it and his father Roy provided time, money and effort to make it happen. Howard had won races and he and Roy went all over the place to compete. Howard had a crash and lost a kidney. He missed school for about six months and was held back to repeat year four at the same school as me. He had previously been at Winchester but left for some reason and came to my school.
There was a young guy called Colin Dawson working shifts at the petrol station and I was often sent to wake him up when he was late as he lived in a house nearby. Colin was into rock a bit and I remember being introduced to "Voodoo chile" by Hendrix amongst other acts. Colin was about eighteen and had a driving license and a car and he arranged tickets to see Robin Trower at wembley empire pool. Things had changed at the petrol station. A new motorway had opened, the M3 and it went south from London. The A30 had become a lot quieter and a competitor had opened a site on the other side of the road and he was selling petrol very cheaply. His name was Brian Gubby. Dad encountered harder times and got involved in a dodgy deal in an attempt to improve things. It worked for a time but somebody screwed up and dad ended up in court facing a two year stretch in prison. He appeared in court the day we went to see Robin Trower and just before we set off for Wembley he phoned to say his sentence had been suspended and he had been fined about £5000 which was good news because we were all expecting him to go away for two years and I didn't want to be father less.
The gig was the first I ever went to and had an awesome time because it was good and I was chuffed to bits about dad. John Miles supported and had that day released a single called Music which went to number 1 and was there for a few weeks. I was hooked. Rock music seemed to me to be the only way I might achieve and enjoy something. Every week I bought and read a music newspaper called Melody Maker. There was a guy Called Steve Stokes at my brothers school and we became good friends. He had an electric guitar and amplifier and he introduced me to them. I loved it and found the electric guitar easier to play than the Spanish so somehow I acquired one, a bettered old Les Paul copy. We used to play together quite a bit and I eventually felt confident enough to play "something" for dad. I did. He listened closely and said when I had finished, okay, what guitar do you want? Shortly after that we went to Kingfisher music in fleet where I played lots of nice guitars and chose a nice Fender Stratocaster. Dad bought it and I was ecstatic.
The petrol station closed after the court case and dad took a different direction. He became a partner with an old friend and they launched a business called record and tape supplies and they used to supply records, tapes and books to shops, hospitals and various other places on a wholesale basis. I sometimes went to deliver with dad all over the country. I think, I could be wrong about this one, that one of his customers was Pete Waterman who was in Knutsford in Cheshire and I went with him one day to make a delivery. He also used to supply the patients shop at Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane in Crowthorne. I also went there with him once and after a few security checks we were allowed in. As the guard closed the door behind us as we went in he said through a hatch in the door "You can't get out now unless I let you". I felt a moment of anxiety about that. I met some of the inmates who worked in the shop but no-one struck me as dangerous and I didn't recognise any of them. We got out okay.
Dad had some salesmen working for him, one of whom was called Terry Shand. Terry used to go all over the place arranging and delivering orders. He had friends in the music business including a pioneering band called Patto. He loaned me some records and I listened to them. They were different to say the least and I loved them. I had bought Steve Stokes's home built amplifier off of him and used to make a dreadful row! I would occasionally receive phone calls from neighbors who worked shifts asking me to shut up as they were trying to sleep. I did but most days I could be heard making a dreadful row. I persevered. Dad told Terry about my ambitions and he came to give his opinion one day. He told dad, wrongly I think, that I had potential. I was encouraged and became friends with Terry.
I had started to experiment with other, real musicians being an imposter myself and played at oak farm school and other places to see what happened. The regular drummer was a school friend called Tim Huthert. We used to hang around together during lunch hours and as I was inclined to play truant quite often I spent a fair amount of time with him. We became good friends and we still are fortunately. Tim's mother was called Yvonne and she used to help in all sorts of ways, driving us all over to see gigs and to play together. She was great and she loved music of all kinds. Tim was very talented, not only as a drummer but he was a talented artist. His younger sister Suzanne was a prodigy and is now well famous as a designer having written and published books and could do most things. Play guitar, violin, speak languages and all sorts of stuff. She and I became close very briefly. These were amazing times and we got to see lots of bands and meet lots of musicians. I had also run into and experimented with a few other things being inclined to hang around with the adventurous type, things like cannabis and LSD.
The time came for exams at school and I sat them not giving a damn. The results were published. I failed everything but Geography, English language, French oral and German oral and only got a passing C grade in those subjects. I didn't care. I had ambitions to bolster my ego. My dad was concerned as he pointed out that should I fail in my musical ambitions, some qualifications would be useful in helping me eat. I agreed and applied to one year crash courses in physics and maths and for some reason a two year course in French. Typically stupid of me. Should have taken three one year courses. I slowed down, shut up and studied a bit. Dad had told me that he would give me fifty pounds for each passing grade. The school was in the process of closing down and becoming a sixth form college which was to admit both boys and girls. There were some impressive students, some of them very attractive. I wasn't confident about my looks or my attitude and studied a bit. I kept a low profile which was unusual for me being a loud, obnoxious, uncertain lost soul who was jealous of the talented and successful types I was meeting daily.
Terry contacted a friend, a brilliant drummer called Hamish Stewart who had been around a bit! It was arranged that I should go to his rehearsal studio, in Fulham I think, and play with some professionals to see what happened. Hamish had a band called "Panties" and they were playing all over the place. Professionals! My dad drove me into London and I played with them. Almost. I set up my stuff, I had a proper amplifier by now and joined in They were playing a sort of fusion between Jazz, Latin and Funk. They were red hot. I attempted to join in but I had never heard anything like it and had no idea where to begin. I was here about an hour and they were very kind and not insulting, they should have been, this was like Sid Vicious playing with Carlos Santana! I returned home and never gave it another thought. Typically unaware of me. I continued to attend the college and spent most evenings alone in my room trying to copy what I heard in my growing record collection. Dad was generous and had opened a shop to sell records, tapes and books very cheaply and I often used to help there getting paid in records that I wanted. I got some rare and unusual records. This went on for most of that year. Was all good. The time came to resit the exams. I did. I had absolutely no interest in what happened, couldn't have cared less but I sat them. I got a B in Physics and a C in Maths, passing grades. I didn't sit French as I had, like I said, stupidly chosen a two year course.
Dad gave me a hundred pounds as promised, I thought momentarily about the future which at that moment looked like a few more years at school, and went to a party, one of the female students at the college turned 18 I think, she was gorgeous and way out of my reach. I got drunk and don't remember a lot except her name, Roseanna. I had no idea what was likely to happen and didn't care. My blind faith in god knew what sustained me. A few days later I was reading Melody Maker which had a large section of classified ad's and I saw one which said roughly "young band with record deal need guitarist, want to be rich and famous?" I called the number just to see what was likely to happen when I applied for auditions, I was kind of rehearsing. They told me a little about themselves and gave me a time, date and location where I was to go to audition. They were called Little Bo bitch, I didn't like the name but was open to new experiences and I was quite surprised how easy it was to get the audition. Apparently they had won a talent contest in London and had been awarded a record deal with Jet records. There was supposed to be an imminent single release. The single had been recorded at TW studios in Fulham with a successful producer called Martin Rushent. It was called "stop running" and when I heard it I was pretty impressed. They could play, well, and the singer was quite cool an ex street kid from caracas in Venezula who had been living in a London orphanage for ten years or so.
They were interesting so a few days later my dad drove me into London to keep the appointment. I went into the underground rehearsal room, set up my stuff and paid attention to other people, for the first time in my life. It wasn't easy, we jammed the blues a bit and played some of their own songs for about an hour and I was dismissed. I went home and didn't think much about it having decided not to be too optimistic, excited or uncool. I carried on as usual. A couple of days later the phone rang and I answered it. It was the band. They told me that there had been about 250 applicants, that I had played a 16 bar pattern when told to play a 12 bar, and that the youngest applicant after me had been 26 years old. As they were all around my age, they felt they had no alternative but to offer me the gig. They were a bit nicer than that about it but I was reading between the lines. I was amazed and accepted without hesitation. Lucky again! We Started rehearsals the next week.