Have you ever tried to out-stare John Lydon? I have.
The first time was when I was very young. I was playing, probably drawing actually and this huge drumbeat began beating from the telly in the corner. It was slightly faster than my own heartbeat so I think I must have sped up to go along with it. I didn’t know that at the time of course but I felt it. I looked up to see this unusual man in a strange suit, arms wide, surrounded by sheets blowing from clothes lines! Not what I expected. He kept repeating, “I could be wrong, I could be right.”
For some reason this moment had a huge impact on me.
John Lydon portrait by Kevin McHugh Art
The main thing that caught my attention though were this man’s eyes. I felt like he was looking straight through the screen and could see me sitting there with my mouth open trying to understand what was happening. What was happening in fact was, for the first time in my life, I was experiencing the power of music.
“I’d sit alone and watch your light, my only friend through teenage nights and everything I had to know, I learned it on my radio.” When Freddie Mercury sang these words he may well have been speaking directly to me, telling me it’s ok to be impossibly shy, awkward, different, this magical little box holds all the answers – just follow the light.
Freddie Mercury Portrait by Kevin McHugh Art
The thing about being out of step with all your friends and classmates is that sooner or later you get left behind. At a time in my life that should have had me out experiencing the world, I found a different font of knowledge to draw from. I retreated to my room and pressed ‘play’. Music became my education. I discovered the wonders of AC/DC at full tilt, the ferocity of Guns N’ Roses, the 50’s inspired perpetual teenage universe described by Meat Loaf and the sheer power of Queen, where everything was turned up to 11.
“Sid Vicious is my only influence, coz he was the coolest bass player ever.”
So said Duff McKagan, not quite understanding that for me and tens of thousands like me, Duff was the coolest bass player ever. When I was young and I had a problem and no-one else could help, I didn’t call The A-Team (I couldn’t find them), I called Guns N’Roses.
Duff McKagan from Guns N Roses by Kevin McHugh Art
When I and three quarters of the planet discovered ‘Appetite For Destruction’ that was our Sex Pistols moment. That was Elvis shaking his hips on The Milton Berle Show, it was Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, it was a call to arms that said, “Your new life starts here, take what you can carry, leave the rest.”