When I moved to High School in 1972 I also moved up a gear in music.
Slowly but surely glam rock made way for the heavy stuff. David Bowie, Elton John, Roxy Music and Marc Bolan made way for Deep Purple, Montrose, Rush and Budgie. I was also getting hairier.
I remember discovering heavy rock in the stereogram in the lounge. My two older brothers had a stack of LP's stood up inside it. Among them were Cream, Ten Years After, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. There was also stack of 45's and one of them was All Along The Watch Tower by Jimi Hendrix.
It was the latter three that really took hold of my musical tastes and I began my full induction into the world of the hard and the heavy.
Sabbath's Masters of Reality was a revelation and the wild funereal riffs of Toni Iommi hit me like a runaway hearse. Ozzie's singing was out of this world and the lyrics tapped straight into my love of monsters and horror. It was a perfect album and my head was turned.
Purple's Machine Head had a similarly revolutionary effect. Not as heavy as Sabbath, the tracks were somehow more accessible to the budding guitarist and with my newly purchased cheapo Telecaster copy I sat down to master the source of all fretting, Smoke on The Water.
Yep. With its unforgettable but simple three chord riff SOTW is the quintessential hard rock toon and a delight to get right. It took me ages but eventually I did. Understanding the lyrics came much later, Frank Zappa and the Mothers could wait!
By 1974 I'd traded up for a Strat copy and met a bunch of headbangers like me at Skoo but a couple of years older. I remember inviting them round to my folks' house and feeling so nervous it was untrue. I was soft compared to these guys. They were in the last year of school and totally absolutely crucially cool.
They arrived at my home with long manes of hair, dripping in denim and metal studded belts. Quaking, I showed them to the lounge. It was like Motorhead turning up and my old Mum couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at me. They were so much wilder and wiser than I could ever hope to be but here they were in my house drinking my Mum's cold coca cola she brought in on a large floral tray!
Looking back I realise now that my folks had a few bob back then I suppose and had a rambling place with big rooms great for practicing in. Despite my cheap Strat copy in hand, I was a Mummy's boy surrounded by roaring lions that afternoon!
Still, I got to hear them playing their guitars through small amps and it sounded awesome and bodacious, except those words didn't exist back then. These rock gods in our lounge said stuff like Mighty and Soft! Needless to say I quickly copied their gruff voices, which, unlike mine, had actually broke!
We 'jammed' [I'm stretching the word 'we'!] like this a few times after school and I was introduced to new albums like Quo's Dog of Two Head [which remains a favourite], Montrose and the crunching Badmotorscooter and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird. But towering above all of these were two bands I came to adore above all others, two trios worlds apart who were without doubt the kings of heavy: welsh rockers Budgie and Canadian axemen Rush.
Budgie and Rush meant more to me than any other musicians in the mid-Seventies and to some extent still do. They defined the hardness I came to love and as such warrant a blog post in their own right.
So, in lyrics borrowed from Rush's By Tor and the Snow Dog, 'square the battle, let the fray begin!'
Until then .....