John McLaughlin

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14-Aug-15 My claim to fame is that I am the second jazz fusion guitarist from Whitley Bay called John McLaughlin. The other one has had (and is still having) a much more illustrious career. I have been greatly influenced by my namesake along with numerous other musicians. Playing music has to be one of life's great highs - like many folk here I am addicted to it. I started playing the guitar around 1969 and obtained my first electric - a Futurama - in 1970. The first band I was in was at school in Greenock and was called Steer and after playing a few gigs I left. I have it on good authority that I was replaced by the late John McGeoch, who went on to find fame and fortune with Siouxsie and the Bandshees, Visage, Public Image Limited and others. I think my next band was A Plague of Boyles, named after our self-appointed manager, Billy Boyle, with whom I had swapped a power drill to obtain the aforementioned Futurama. My favourite anecdote about Billy was that he got us a gig in Port Glasgow and took us to the hall we were to play in. He knocked on the door and an old caretaker opened the door. "We are playing here tonight and have come to set up our equipment". The caretaker said that there was nothing booked for the hall tonight. Billy peered at him and announced "He's obviously drunk!" as he pushed past him and we followed into the darkened hall. The caretaker came running in after us and Billy asked "this is [can't remember the name] Hall?" "No - that's two streets away!" So off we trooped to the right hall and played our gig. In 1977 I was asked to join what turned out to be a jazz fusion band. This consisted of Andy Strain - Fender Rhodes, Tony Gorman - alto sax and flute, Ronnie Garrity - bass, Davy Watson - drums and me on guitar. We got together to enter a competition in Glasgow and had our 10 minute set worked out when everyone left. I have uploaded a couple of these tracks here on SC - Ronnie's Disco Number and Café Waldo. The last band I was in in 1978 had the unimaginative name 24 Hours. We played a few gigs in Greenock and Glasgow and then one day at a band rehearsal the bass player announced that he did not want to learn anything that took more than 30 minutes and I responded that I did not want to play anything that could be learned in 30 minutes. So that was it! 24 Hours had called it a day. After a 35 years gap my next band went by the name of Abducted by Aliens comprising of Garry Brown on bass, Lynn Lucas on drums and me. Contrary to my statement of 35 years before, the majority of our tunes took no time to learn as we were a free-form improvisation band. Our crowning moment was playing at the Sage, during the Gateshead international Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, this was our last gig as work took me to Aberdeen the very next day, making the band a nonviable proposition. Almost a year to the day since that gig, I suffered a stroke and was rushed to hospital. A blood clot on the right side of my brain had caused a loss of function on my left hand side, effecting arm, face and leg. I was given a treatment called Thrombolysis and was told that it helps 33% of people who have it with 10% making a full recovery. But on the downside 4½% suffer a fatality - I remember saying those weren't good odds. When I got home from hospital, the first thing I did was pick up a guitar - my left hand felt like a crab's claw: my fingers did not respond. Fortunately, with daily practice, movement came back and I have been able to play again. The Consultant said that the part of my brain that I had used previously was now irreparably damaged and that the signals to my fingers were being re-routed. So, I have effectively had to learn the guitar again, but the advantage was that I have the knowledge, if not the full physical dexterity. I have been charting progress in my set After Stroke. So there you have it in a nutshell: a brief bio of the second jazz fusion guitarist from Whitley Bay called John McLaughlin.


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