I kept a diary when I was a teenager. It’s excruciating to read it now. Me getting really uptight about stuff that’s going down. I’d love to get in a time machine and go to that teenager and slap him round the head. You absolute twat! You have no idea. None of this matters. But then again, every now and again you find this tiny hint of something that will become really significant, like a record you’ve bought.
I hated school. Oh dear, I hated it. School’s horrible, isn’t it? There you are being dictated to by mediocrities with leather patches on their elbows. You’re actually oppressed. You always get these celebrities telling you about these teachers who changed their lives. It amazes me. I can’t think of a single one of those people I have anything but contempt for.
I knew very little about music but when I was about 15 I fancied playing the guitar, getting all the girls. Through learning the guitar I started to find out about music. I heard The Rolling Stones and I thought – wow. Then I looked into what influenced them. So I discovered American blues music. I never had any ambition to be a rock star. It was just fun. I’d never have believed I was going to have decades living the dream in the world of rock ’n’ roll.
I got to walk her home and I kissed her outside her gate. It knocked me off my feet
Girls weren’t a big worry when I was a teenager because I was very happily married by the time I was 19. And I remained so. Me and my missus, we were together until she died 10 years ago of cancer and I… well man, I’m in love with her still. I still really miss her. I first saw her down Canvey Island youth club, when I was 16. I can still picture her standing there. Then my band played the school leavers’ party and I danced with her, and her friend told me I’d been dancing with Irene. That’s the first time I heard her name. A few weeks later I got to walk her home and I kissed her outside her gate. It knocked me off my feet. I just went Blammo! And I remember when she died, I went to see her in the morgue. She was lying on this table. God, Jesus man… She looked like a saint. And I kissed her. And she was cold. I remember that last kiss and I remember the first kiss and there were 40 years in between.
Everybody must have asked themselves, ‘What would my reaction be if the doctor told me I was going to die’. When I was told [in 2013] that I had terminal, inoperable cancer, the way it struck me – I was immediately calm. I resolutely set myself against ever indulging in false hopes or looking for miracle cures. Although this tumour, which ended up at three-and-a-half kilos – the size of a baby – was growing inside me, I still felt healthy. I wasn’t losing weight or in any pain. So I didn’t want to waste the very little time I had left.
I spent the whole year after I was diagnosed believing life was at an end. I moved into this strange, intense consciousness. It was very interesting. I saw everything differently. I was thinking so intensely, having real insights about life that I can’t even put into words. I believed completely that I was going to die and I accepted it absolutely. And I started to feel alive.