If my fading memory serves, I first met one half of my favourite band, Ezio, http://www.ezio.co.uk/ in a corridor at my old school, Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. Mark, aka Booga, was frequently described unkindly by local reviewers as a 'Man mountain with sweet fast fingers'. To me, I remember his generosity of spirit as he joined five of us in an impromptu jam session - six of the college's acoustic guitars being played with vastly variable levels of skill but somehow sounding reasonably harmonious. Booga had a rare talent and made it look so easy - while I had around four fumbling basic chords in my locker. Later he joined forces with Ezio Lunedei, whose orbit I'd entered thanks to dating my music teacher's daughter. On one house party I shall never forget, Ezio grabbed a rather battered acoustic and announced he'd written his first song - Saxon Street. It was quite brilliant and remains a staple of their live set.
Gradually they built a loyal following and flirted with the big time, not least with a much publicised one million pound contract with Arista records. a pre-Prime Minister Tony Blair famously named Cancel Today as one of his Desert Island Discs - and I can remember the London Underground being plastered with promotional posters for Ezio. I genuinely believed they had everything needed to 'make it'. I still believe they should be huge. The quality of Ezio's songs and their hypnotic and telepathic guitar-work still deserves recognition all these years later.
Last night I watched them live for the second time in a month; the first was on a stormy night in Settle, North Yorkshire in front of a small and tough crowd, the second in Birmingham - another small crowd crammed into a tiny venue. Each time, the Ezio magic warmed up and eventually won over the audience, and I sensed that yet again, the small army of Ezio fans based in the UK and Germany had been swelled by a couple of dozen converts.
During the interval I marched up to Booga, still a hugely charismatic presence, and announced we'd been to school together. After a couple of minutes of good-natured confusion the penny dropped and we enjoyed ten minutes of memories and life-story updates. (Old age injuries, break-ups and near grown-up kids.)
I can't begin to express how much that conversation meant to me. Ezio have provided the soundtrack to my last thirty years - always conjuring a song for any of the dilemma I've faced in that time. More than that though, they have always been an inspiration for me creatively. I'm sure there have been many times when they've thought about packing it all in, yet they've carried on all these years.
In a sense I wish I'd had that creative courage to carry on what you love doing, but now through audio book narration I have that opportunity. I love the scale of the creative challenges that narration brings, and the performance element too. Ezio and Booga are proof that once you find your audience - they will sustain and support you. That's my goal now as a narrator and a writer, with Ezio providing the soundtrack to my drive to fulfil that dream.