Billy Preston

Billy Preston isn’t a name you would have heard of and probably wouldn’t know what part he played in music history. 

I was mulling over some time today and listening to some Beatles songs and it got me thinking about their infamous roof top concert they played at the end of the 60s. I was reminding myself of how much I love the song their performed called ‘Don’t let me down’. It was during this performance I noticed a man playing keyboards and wanted to know who he was and what connecting he had to the band.


My first reaction to him was that I loved the hair. But who was he and where did come from? His name was Billy Preston and he was born in Houston, Texas and his family eventually moved to Los Angeles where Billy was a renowned child prodigy as his keyboard skills had got him work with Little Richard as his keyboardist (their name not mine). It was while performing in Hamburg in the early 60s he met the Beatles.

Billy hooked up with the band again just as they were breaking up at the end of the decade and he played during the ‘Get Back sessions’ and kept the band together for what would be some of their final work.

He struggled all through his life with sexuality, knowing he was gay, which was in direct conflict with his strict evangelical Christianity. It must have been terrible of him knowing that who he was in a life which would have been fraught with guilt and self-loathing as homosexuality to those around him was a grave sin.

During the latter years of his life he struggled with drugs as it was a way of coping with the sexual abuse he suffered a child. It didn’t help his well-being that his mother did not believe him when he disclosed the abuse he had experienced.

Billy passed away in 2006 as a result of hypertension and pericarditis. He was 59.

In some ways the world has made great steps in LGBT inclusivity but still there remains pockets of hatred and ignorance when read of stories where people have been attack or worse killed because of their own sexuality.

Forward to the past

Despite being stored in a shed for fifteen years they are in surprisingly good condition.

I thought it was right time (along with the other 200 million people) to bring my vinyl collection back to life. At the moment I am listening to a vinyl LP from 1982. I am lucky enough to be old enough to say I lived through the eighties and enjoyed every moment of it. I have loved music ever since I can remember and vinyl was the way.


During my PGCE year, I met and ridiculed a lovely friend, Jeremy; berating him for having only vinyl in his collection. I was a CD/Cassette man. Technology = good – old vinyl shit = bad. I apologized to him recently and I publicly apologize to him now. I couldn’t be more wrong about something.

I did spend a large amount in the 90s driving long distances. I had to drive all the way from Oxford if I wanted to visit home. According to google maps (I cannot leave other technology behind), it should take me five hours to drive there. In the 90s it used to take around about six. Music was via cassettes as having a turntable in the car would be a little silly.


So now I am listening to those vinyls from the 80s. I got a Cliff Richard vinyl for my 19th birthday. Hey, you can take the piss but I have always been alt-trendy. Goodness knows what my parents must have thought of me. Oooo, don’t go there. That’s A WHOLE other story.


Chester Bennington

What do we do when someone we know commits suicide? How do we handle it? Do we mock them for being weak and ‘taking the easy way out’? Do we simply brand the person selfish? If only the answers to those questions were that simple.

I have tried to commit suicide. There I said it. I’ve wanted to. I don’t feel ashamed of saying it, but I am not proud of it. I don’t wear as a badge in a ‘feel sorry for me’ statement. My mental health has reached crisis point and it’s acknowledging that it’s got so serious.

Others have mocked people who have tried to take their own lives. A simple disruption to someones travel plans of a few minutes is met with derision on social media if they have found out that it was due to someone’s action at that critical point. It was someone on the lines or someone at the top of a building; cue the insults.

I don’t wish my worst enemy the thoughts of suicide. Believe me. If you have been there you know what it is like. Nothing that you could ever put into words or have a go at describing.

Chester Bennington’s death seems to some a natural consequence of a rock star lifestyle.

“He struggled for years with alcohol and drugs addiction” as is often reported in these cases. So do a lot of people, despite their wealth or fame, but suicide isn’t inevitable. It is the treatable manageable disease of depression which causes it. Depression and mental health problems aren’t helped by substance abuse although people seek short-term fixes to alleviate the suffering.

I have come to terms with my suicidal thoughts, I acknowledge them. If they get bigger than I can handle I know I have to seek help. Recognising they are serious is the first step. Stopping yourself getting to that crisis point by telling someone else you are feeling this way. I have done it numerous times. People will be happy enough to stick with you if they are good friends. It’s the pain of not reaching out to someone at that point that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

More music

The new technology now allows musicians and artists to go back to the master tapes of their material and clean up and polish their sound. They have done it numerous times with The Beatles albums the latest release of the albums sound amazing. Two artists, I have mentioned before Paul McCartney and Phil Collins have done such where they have gone back music released decades ago. Both albums I received today can be purchased on vinyl. I would love to go back and listen to some of those albums in that format.


I still believe that in the future people will be buying physical albums as we have seen with the vinyl market. I cannot believe that we could go so cold to only having our music purchased as a stream, not something physically we can look at. Television programme have an will become streamed but I think the event of an album release there will still be physical formats to buy.

Anyway, I am off to listen to more songs.


Which music has helped?

In my last blog about Music I said that I had listened to music over the past few months and it has given me comfort. Even more so in the past month in 2016. I have said before I have loved music since I was about eleven but I love it when new music comes out and really get into albums. Obviously I am a tad excited about the new Pet Shop Boys album out 1st April called “Super”.

Here are some of the songs and their videos that have helped over the past few months. I have mentioned some of the artists before, some you might have heard of and others you certainly will know.

Troye Sivan – Wild – Blue Neighbourhood

A great song about new relationships. Realising that what you had at the time was pretty crap hence ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ leaving the past behind and knowing that you are going to start on something new which for him seems pretty special.

Justin Bieber – I’ll show you – Purpose

A beautiful video shot in Iceland. It’s a confession. He knows he has fucked up in a lot of things in his life. Haven’t we all? But most of our stupid moments aren’t played out on the world’s stage as his are. Some will be publicity stunts others will be genuine moments of madness. He said he isn’t perfect. I have asked before sometimes if his management have a tighter rein on him and now he is an adult he will be rebelling. Everyone should be given grace and redemption. Makes me realise you can have everything that you want and still not be happy.

Scream – Michael Jackson (ft Janet Jackson) – HIStory : Past, Present and Future Book 1.

I hadn’t really listened to this song for along time (I cannot believe it was released over 20 years ago) but events in December 2015 brought it to mind and it fitted perfectly. You only need to watch the video to realise how stressed MJ was at the time. Partly his own fault and partly tabloid garbage. This song really helped. Helped me vent my anger.

Adele – Hello – 25

There is nothing better knowing that what pain you have gone through someone else has been through the same. I love this song as it takes me away from current things and makes me think of people from 15-30 years ago. I wonder what they are doing now? Would they like to meet? Do you ever think they think fondly of the time we spent together? These questions go through my head.

Loved me Back to Life –  Celine Dion – Loved Me Back to Life

I mentioned in 2013 that I had someone who did love me back to life. I love him to bits. It’s only when you know true love that you do find happiness. Finding a person who loves you unconditionally and you love them back is hard to find. There are so many who I thought were good friends and have turned out to be nob heads.

Stranger in Moscow – Michael Jackson – HIStory : Past, Present and Future Book 1

This is a bleak song about loneliness and despair. I am sure underneath all of Michael Jackson’s talent and craziness probably was a person who just wanted to be normal. When you are in the depths of depression and loss you don’t feel like anyone cares and you are isolated from the rest of the world. It’s an awful feeling.

Bond Meets Stacey – OST A View to a Kill 

What an odd piece of music you might think. It is take from the scene in A View to a Kill and I have listened to it over and over again. Beautiful. The reason I have included it is that mum LOVED the Bond films. When her dementia finally took over I heard this music come on my iTunes and I couldn’t stop crying at the time. It over-whelmed me. To know that she wouldn’t be able to watch and appreciate these films any more. It filled me with such sadness. It also helps me now to look over the years and decades I looked after mum putting on a DVD for her which she loved and appreciated.



Never ‘got’ Amy Winehouse until her second album. Never really did with Adele until she released her last album 25 as well. Watching the film made about Amy Winehouse simply titled ‘Amy’ reveals a complex personality. Someone who had immense talent but just couldn’t handle the fame.

The film mentions that there is no text book or manual that prepares you for fame. But there are thousands of people out there who have gone through the mill of press intrusion and having their lives scrutinised and placed under microscope of rolling 24 hours news and social media where one word taken out of context can travel the globe within seconds.

I always look at the management and advisors that are around the people who are in the magazines and TV etc. Too many ‘yes men’ and not enough of those who are there to protect the artist from the people who can either choose to make or break them.

Making major decisions in life I have always asked a friends opinion. You run it by them to get their ideas. Keep you on the right track. The sad story of Whitney Houston’s demise along with Michael Jackson and other similar stars that died too young reminds us that these people are human but leave in an unreal world. Distorting that unreal world with mind changing substances that numb the person pain makes things much worse.

There are those who have become famous and remained relatively unscathed by their lives in the spotlight. They might have had a moment of indiscretion but they have come out the other side seemly a better person.

Find the right balance of people who will keep you grounded and safe. Whether you are famous or not we all need some sort of stability in life. Not deciding to do what we choose without thinking first of the consequences of the process. I think it’s important that we surround ourselves with people who are good for us. Those who mean a lot to us. Not those who would demean and belittle us. It all sounds easy in words but actions are different.

Everytime – Britney Spears

On Saturday night I couldn’t stop crying. I feel okay today. Yesterday was okay. But with having lost a mother sometimes grief hits you when you least expect it. This song perfectly puts in to words what I was feeling. Particularly the lines …

I may have made it rain,
Please forgive me,
My weakness caused you pain,
And this song’s my sorry.




Over the past few months I have bought a few albums and I have mentioned to you the ones that have bought. Others I haven’t so I am going to list them in the last six months hopefully in chronological order.

  • Shawn Mendes – Handwritten
  • Anne Boleyn’s Songbook
  • Justin Bieber – Purpose
  • Adele – 25
  • Troye Sivan – Blue Neighbourhood
  • Chris Brown – Royalty

These are the release dates and not necessarily when I bought them. Some were just bought with Christmas money. Converted into iTunes vouchers. Others I still buy the physical CD. There is still something about getting the physical CD that I just really enjoy. The smell of the paper that it’s printed on and being able read the lyrics if some of the artists have bothered to print them and the thanks they have given to the people who have helped them make the album

I think resurgence in the popularity of the vinyl in 2015 goes to prove that people like to have something to hold in their hand. It’s seems all very clinical and uninspiring to download an album. I have yet to read at of the digital booklets that comes with them and iTunes isn’t the best platform for incorporating this. Plus there is a warmth you get when listening to vinyl that you don’t when you listen to even the best MP3/AAC file.

The most recent of the albums to be realised is Chris Brown’s ‘Royalty’ didn’t even know he was releasing an album until I spotted it on iTunes and checked it was a rehash or one of those dreadful collaboration mix tapes.

The album itself bombed in the UK entering the first week at *23 and fairing better in the USA as they seem to a be a little more forgiving in his misdemeanours. The album itself has rather dubious and x-rated lyrics. I will discover the rest of the album over the next few days.

The shock discovery this year for me has to be the Bieber album. I had heard a couple of songs before buying the album and was pleased with what he had released. I had spoken about the album before and was happy to give it as decent review.

Music over the past few months has given me stability in times when there has been none. Comfort when I have needed it. I am just hoping that 2016 will be decent album year.



the barefoot tree

Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

UK-based musical theatre geek previously living with a brain tumour!