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Having read my article Old Bones put Leicester on the World Map the only person featured to get in contact, was an old classmate, Mick Reynolds.
My initial memories of Mick weren’t the best. On my way home from school, I used have to run the gauntlet of newspaper delivery lads hanging about outside Goadby’s for their sacks of Mercurys and Evening Mails. Mick was among them. The newsagent stood on Leicester Road, across the road from the Assembly Hall next to the East Midland Egg Packing Warehouse in Syston.
Mick led his mates in taunting me. I was at Mill Hill School in Leicester at the time, a pretentious, little private school not worth the fees my prententious father resented so much paying, and made me suffer for. Mick was small like I was, and we both had something to prove. It was partly rough kids like Mick made me realise where I really belonged, and that wasn’t with the kids who had parents with far more money than my dad. Fed up with his abusive, alcoholic and ridiculous pretentions, I told him I wanted to leave shortly before my fifteenth birthday to stop his continued moaning about the fees I paid by working for him on his market stall on Saturdays and throughout school holidays. We left the house for Coventry at seven and didn’t get home until after seven in the evening.
Mick was already at Longslade Comprehensive in Birstall when I started, so our paths no longer crossed in the way we had before. Mick had his mates at Longslade, and I had mine.
One of Mick’s mates was another Syston lad, Robin Pizer, founder of 1960s band Legay; later changing its name to Gypsy, following the tragic death of drummer, Legay Rogers. Mick became heavily involved acting as their roadie among other things. Gypsy just missed out on breaking into the big time. In that role Mick and I met more often, on much friendlier terms than when he was still a paper boy, as I attended most of Legay’s early gigs, including their very first at The Casino on London Road in Leicester. I also saw them play at Longslade School.
Life went on. I moved to London and Gypsy faded away, as did far too many other provincial bands that initially showed such great potential.
Mick posted his comment not long after I posted the article on Leicester bands from the 1960s. Having had friends among so many Leicester bands of the time, with whom I had lost contact, Mick was almost the last person I expected to hear from. But, then again, he had become almost a neighbour in ex-pat terms, having bought a holiday home in Marbella – since which time he’s sold – not so far from where I now live. After forty years it was great to see him and to meet his wife.
Small as we were in childhood days we’d both put on a few inches in height, as opposed to girth. We recognised each other almost immediately. Nearing half a century, and almost a thousand miles from Syston, outside an Andalucian bar things didn’t seem so strange as you might think. Sitting outside the Pasaje on the seafront, we could’ve just as easily been outside Goadby’s, only without Mick taking the mick, so to speak. We began chatting about Legay and Gypsy within minutes. Mick told of his involvement in a project to publish a book on the band with Shaun Knapp. Shaun is Legay and Gypsy member, John Knapp’s younger brother. Due to personal reasons, I have had to withdraw my own small contribution to the project.
I gained a few more titibits about earlier times with Robin Pizer. Mick reminded me of Route 5, Robin’s first band. The little-known and short-lived, outfit from Syston, featured another old mate of mine, Mick Kouzaris, on drums. Though Mick flourished the sticks and bashed the skins for all he was worth, it wasn’t good enough for Robin. However, some years later, one of Thurnby’s sons, Dave Thurbon, and myself were lucky enough to witness Syston’s maestro of percussion guesting at one of his few live gigs before a well-oiled audience in a little hall near the small Norwegian village of Svelvik, on Oslofjord, one balmy summer night in 1968.
A few days previously, Thurbon, who toured Vestfold with Mick and I that year, had suddenly revealed himself to be an ace on keyboards during a long session of drinking in a bar with an unknown Norwegian composer, who was hoping we might show some interest in a pop song he had penned called The World is A Pin. Though I can’t remember the exact words, the title will remain with me to the grave. Kouzaris composed his own lyrics and tune to the title, with which he entertained Dave and I on many subsequent evenings, lengthening them considerably in the process.
Despite having endured a friendship with Dave for some years, modest as always, he had hidden his proficiency with the electronic ivories from Mick and I right up till that point. Unfortunately, the same modesty prevented him from proving it, when he turned down the opportunty to gig on that occasion. He’d probably injured his thumb while exercising it the previous night beneath the bedsheets. Something at which he also seemed to be very proficient. He proved not to be nearly so shy when assisting me to encourage a less than eager Kouzaris towards the stage with firm palms placed in the small of his back. In that manner, Mick heeded the call, taking up the challenge of pounding his way into Norwegian rock history in his his own, very small, and very special way. I’m sure the locals still talk about that night with a reverence usually reserved for other rock legends.
I live in the hope Mick Kouzaris will supply me with more details of his moments with Route 5 in the near future, if we take up exchanging the odd – and very odd indeed – emails once more.
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