A long time ago, in an English town most of you have never heard of…
He has achieved huge success as a singer-songwriter and has – by his own reckoning – made and lost a million dollars three times.
But although he long ago moved to California, Al Stewart remembers in vivid detail his life as a pop-obsessed teenager in Wimborne.
He will be back in the town on Friday, August 1, for a sold-out concert at the Tivoli – and to visit his old home at Canford Bottom.
“I got a very nice message from the person who now lives in the house I grew up in,” he told the Daily Echo from California.
“This lady invited me to look at my old bedroom.
After leaving school, Stewart went to work at Beales in Bournemouth – not in the record department, but in the linen department.
He also played guitar with The Tappers, who later backed a young Tony Blackburn as he attempted to become a pop star.
When Stewart joined Dave La Kaz and the G-Men, Jon presented the band to the Echo, claiming hyperbolically that the guitarist had written 40-50 songs.
Bournemouth’s music scene was thriving at the time.
Manfred Mann were a weekly attraction throughout 1963.
Stewart knew Andy Summers, later of the Police, and remembers sitting in Fortes coffee shop off Bournemouth Square with star-to-be Greg Lake and Lee Kerslake, who would later become drummer with Uriah Heep.
He took 10 guitar lessons from Robert Fripp.
But the biggest star of the local scene, he recalls, was Zoot Money, whose walk he would mimic behind the singer’s back.
In August 1963, The Beatles played six nights at the Gaumont cinema in Westover Road.
Not only were Al Stewart and Jon Kremer there on the first night, but afterwards, they contrived a ruse to meet the band. Stewart tells the story on stage, while Jon Kremer set it down in his memoir Bournemouth A Go! Go!
Wearing suits, the pair managed to get backstage by telling the manager that they were from the Rickenbacker guitar company.
Before long, they found themselves outside the band’s dressing room.
Having dropped the Rickenbacker pretence, they spent a few minutes chatting with John Lennon and trying his guitar.
“People tend to forget that we weren’t living in an age of mega-security,” Stewart recalled.
“You can’t just walk backstage and talk to Justin Timberlake. In those days it was very lax.”
Not directly related to the story, but one of my favourite arrangements of “Year of the Cat”, in a live performance from 1979: