Chris Standring's 21 Defining Moments
(in order of appearance)

 

There have been a few memorable turning points in my musical life. Cornerstones that would change my attitude and feelings about music, and ultimately affect my outcome as a musician and human being. Writing this down has been a fun thing for me to do as it documents some really pivotable moments and it's always good to get these sort of things down on paper I think. Just so when the old memory banks take a left, it's all nicely cemented...Hope you enjoy.

Me & Mrs Jones - Billy Paul 1972
I was 11 years old (maybe 12), sitting on our washing machine in the kitchen at Tetchwick Farm. We had a transistor radio (I remember it was always so dusty) and this song comes on the radio. Don't know what it was that had such an effect on me but something got through to me. That floaty, stringy sexyness got under my skin and I never forgot it. I recorded this song on my first nationally distributed CD "Solar System". I did a very different version, kind of hip hop with a rap verse, but I figured I couldn't really touch the original anyway.

Aladdin Sane - David Bowie.

I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, two hours north of London, in the heart of Buckinghamshire. Our farm was a mile bike ride to the local bus stop. There were three buses a day in to Aylesbury, the nearest town, approx 11 miles away. Yes, we were out in the sticks! Around 1973 I remember seeing David Bowie on "Top Of The Pops", (Britain's big pop tv show). I was 13 years old. I was stunned. He performed "The Jean Genie". I couldn't wait to get that LP. I remember getting off the bus in Kingswood and getting on my bike, holding the LP in one hand and peddling as fast as I could to go home. I simply couldn't wait to play it! Loved that record. My record player was mono, (stereo was still a big deal at the time). I played the grooves out of that record.

Heart Of Stone - Kenny
I had a tiny beige transistor radio that I would take to bed with me each night when I was twelve or thirteen years old. I quite looked forward to going to bed just so I could listen. I had discovered Radio Luxembourg (Fabulous 208!) Every hour on the hour they would present the "Radio Luxembourg Power Play" a featured pop single. I have no idea why but Kenny's "Heart Of Stone" at the time, sent shivers up my spine. I couldn't wait to hear the next power play at the top of the hour. Recently, I downloaded this song from the internet just to hear it again 30 years later. Absolutely dreadful. Appauling! Just terrible. What was I thinking! Just goes to show how we are affected by music at different stages of our lives.

Hamburger Concerto - Focus
When I was at boarding school I discovered a dutch band called Focus. It was 1974. I loved this band mostly because Jan Akkerman was the lead guitarist. He was astounding to me. This album was a very progressive rock record but Jan had a jazzyness to his playing and fluency that amazed me. I hadn't really heard anything quite like it before. My Dad still has all these old records at his house in England. When I was there last I played this LP. Jan's playing, even after all these years, sounds superb to me on that album. "Moving Waves" was a great record too.

Procul Harum at Friars Square
I remember I was 15 and you had to be 16 to get into the local club. Friars Square was quite a scene in Aylesbury and I couldn't wait to go and see a band play live. I was home from school for the holidays and I decided that I was going to go to Friars to see Procul Harem despite my young years. I rode my bike to the bus stop in Kingswood and caught the evening bus into Aylesbury. I was quite nervous as I hadn't been to a pop concert before and of course I was under age. I remember sitting in the lounge waiting for them to open the main doors and a security guard came up to me and said,
"How old are you son?"
"Sixteen!" I said fervently (after all, I had rehearsed this line for weeks!).
"You don't look it you know"
"I know, it's terrible, isn't it, I hate it but what can you do?" I replied. Well I thought there's no reason to disagree with him is there?
"Alright sonny" he laughed, "enjoy the concert".
And here I believe I learned my first lesson in negotiation.
The show was fabulous. I was hooked on being a performer from there on out.

Blow By Blow - Jeff Beck
This was a big big pivotal moment for me. It was 1975. I was 15, at school and starting to play in school pop bands. I was rehearsing in the water tower with my current group (which changed weekly!) and someone put that record on while we took a break. I couldn't believe what I just heard! Firstly, I had absolutely no idea what I was listening to as I hadn't really heard too much progressive jazz rock before. I remember feeling like I was eating a big fat gooey cake! The music was so deep, with so much substance - and that guitar sound - how dare he!! Even today he is my all time favourite guitar hero, there's no doubt about it. Nobody has a touch on the guitar like Jeff Beck. I still play that record today, about once a month. I never seem to tire of it.

My new Arbiter Les Paul Copy
I was still at boarding school (Shiplake College in Henley On Thames to be exact) I think I must have been about 16 and really starting to discover rock 'n roll. My music teacher liked the fact that some of us were attracted to pop music and had us learn a bunch of Simon & Garfunkel songs. This was all very well, but we couldn't wait to jam after school and play our new blues riffs we had just learned. When the summer holidays arrived my dad put us to work on the farm driving tractors and collecting corn. We got paid, about 50 pence an hour I seem to remember. (I really must talk to him about that!!) We would be up early and work long hours to make as much money as we could. One summer I wanted to buy a new guitar so I saved and saved and worked extra hard on the farm. I remember sitting on a tractor just dreaming about my new guitar and how I would make everyone jealous at school when I showed it to them. Well, I managed to save up enough money and bought a brand new shiny Arbiter Les Paul copy, a beautiful sunburst color. My Mum said I couldn't take it to school as I had to spend more time studying. I was devastated. I also couldn't accept this! I went up to my room, took the strings off, unbolted the neck from the body and put it in my suitcase, buried amongst my school clothes. When I went back to school my band won the inter-house music competition. My mum never knew all this until I told her a couple of years ago. She couldn't believe it.

AJA - Steely Dan 1977
My younger brother Justin bought this record home one day but I was the one, I seem to remember, who played the heck out of it. This was probably the biggest turning point in my career so far (even though I was still living with my parents at the time and not really a particularly good guitarist!). I remember asking myself "Should I put a band together like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or play jazzy stuff like Spyro Gyra?" What an odd dilemma looking back on it. But a real one. Aja was the album I think that made my decision for me, for better or for worse. I was fascinated with the liner notes and the fact that different musicians played on every track. Still a great record. Timeless music.

Rain Dances- Camel 1978
Camel was a British progressive rock band that came out of England in the mid seventies. I always thought of them as a poor man's Genesis. Don't know why. I actually preferred them to Genesis. I liked their guitar player Andy Latimer. He had a nice singing quality to his playing. The music to me was all a little self indulgent, a little bit too "moon and the stars" but for some reason I just loved it. I went to see them in concert at Friars Square Aylesbury (my weekend night spot) a couple of times. Very inspiring at the time.

Larry Carlton - first Warner Bros album 1978
This album was the next major pivitol influence on me since Jeff Beck's "Blow By Blow". I was now eighteen and playing in local bands around Aylesbury, and at the same time studying A level music (which I eventually failed!) and solo classical guitar. A drummer friend of mine played me this record at his house and I just flipped. "What the hell is that?" I said. I had never ever heard guitar playing like that ever before. It had such a sense of passion and finesse. His sense of melody and soulfulness was truly unique. I lived with this album (and his subsequent three) for the next ten years almost exclusively. From that day forward, all I ever wanted to be was a great jazz-rock guitarist. That was the level of musicianship that I simply had to attain. Boy what a goal I had set myself!

My Dad's Squash Court roofs 1979
When I left Aylesbury College of further education after two years, I wasn't quite sure what to do with my life. I knew I loved the guitar and had potential but I felt like I had been in the institution of education all my life and I wanted a break before I went back to more study (if indeed that would be my choice). My dad at the time had started a new business with a company called "Bicester Squash Courts" and was doing quite well building court complexes in England and parts of Europe. He suggested I spend some time building them with his team. The money was clearly much better than working on the farm (what could be worse?) and so I decided to do it. My older brother Steve had done it and it worked out quite well for him. What could I lose? The job I got was working on a squash court roof in Scotland with three tatoo ridden, pot bellied, sport watching beer drinkers. Quite good with hammers though I seem to remember. Well, I started working but for some reason I couldn't do a bloody thing right. (My farming abilities were strangely similar!) I was always banging nails into the wrong places and being constantly told off. Of course they couldn't fire me 'cos my dad was the boss. I detested this job. I took it upon myself to fire myself. On my way home I told the foreman that I was going to audition to go to music college in London. And so I did.

Breakaway 1979 -1980
After the squash court catastrophe I did indeed audition to go to music college, got accepted, but I had a whole year to wait until I went. I decided it might be a good idea to put an ad in the local paper advertising my services as a guitar player. I didn't expect to get a call but one day I did. A local cover band called "Breakaway" had just fired their guitar player. I joined the band and quickly learned songs like "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and "Desperado" by the Eagles. We all had blue jump suits and looked very tacky. But I was a pro now so I was ecstatic. We even spent one Christmas in Bahrain at the Regency Intercontinental. I had a fling with a hostess (with the mostest) in the hotel so that trip was a really good one for me. However, the bass player and I had a terrible clash of personalities I seem to remember and he had an enormous chip on his shoulder about his abilities. He once told me that "I would never be successful", and "Breakaway was the biggest thing I would ever do". Hmmm. Interesting. Of course that could have fueled my fire. Guess I should be thankful. Ah the good old days.

Dave Boruff Band at the Flying Jib 1980
So I decided to come to America 'cos after pouring over albums by Larry Carlton and Steely Dan and Earth Wind & Fire, I just had to be there, in the heart of it all. I flew to Miami, hitchiked up to New Orleans where I delivered pizzas for a week (now there's a story!) Took a greyhound bus across to LA and got a job engineering sandwiches in Northridge for 6 months. There was a great club on Ventura Blvd called the Flying Jib (sadly no longer) and I saw this really cool band that played 3 nights a week there. The band consisted of Dave Boruff on Sax, Pat Kelley on guitar, Vinnie Coliauta on drums, Neil Stubenhaus on bass and Barnaby Finch on keyboards. I went every week! A truly great inspiration for me at a time when I wasn't old enough to go into bars.

Robben Ford at the Baked Potato
1980
I went to a great little club called the Baked Potato to watch Larry Carlton. Sitting behind me was another hero of mine, guitarist Robben Ford. I asked him what he thought I should do as I was about to go back to London to go to music college and I wanted ideas as to how to break into the studio guitar business. He told me I should form my own band, write my own music and hire really great players so word would get out. He said that if I played great, people would hire me. I went back to London and that is exactly what I did.

London College Of Music 1980 - 1983
I studied classical guitar at the London College of Music with a wonderful guitarist called Robert Brightmore. I had absolutely no interest in any of my other musical studies apart from my lessons with Bob. I had already decided what I wanted to be and thought that "history of music" lessons were useless to me. After all, I really had no interest in what flavour tea Beethoven sipped first thing in the morning (oddly enough that's just the sort of thing I'd be interested in now!). My harmony teacher insisted I show him altered jazz chords which often took up the whole lesson. Every week he would say to me "What are you going to show me today? Now, this is not to say that I didn't learn anthing from him, I just thought the whole principal was a little out of whack that's all. And so I aborted those lessons too. I practiced at home in my little flat about 10 hours a day for three years. 5 hours playing classical guitar. 5 hours studying jazz. I was obsessed. I hardly knew anyone in college as I rarely went in.

Yellowjackets 1981
When this album came out and I saw it in the store, I couldn't wait to hear it as I had spent that inspiring moment with Robben Ford at the Baked Potato a few months earlier. The album was incredible! Robben's playing was tremendous. I understood it now because I had listened to Larry Carlton for so long and it seemed derivitive. I later learned that Larry got a great deal of his ideas from Robben.

The Charlie Parker Omnibook
Around 1983, during my last year at the London College Of Music, a friend of mine introduced me to the music of Charlie Parker. He said, "Everything's in this book!" Well, he was absolutely right. That book became my jazz bible for the next fifteen years or so. In fact, the Omnibook, along with Ted Greene's "Single Note Soloing Vol 2" are the only two jazz books I ever studied from.

Johnny Guitar Watson

I had a room mate in London who had a Johnny Guitar Watson album from the late 70's. At the time I remember smiling everytime I heard it. It was so funky, with a great sense of humour. Looking back on it, I don't remember ever thinking "wow this is incredible" or being affected monumentally, but now when I look back on it, that music got under my skin quite surreptisiously. Johnny Guitar definitely made his mark on me and his influence comes out in my music probably as much as any.

Offramp - Pat Metheny 1982
This, on the other hand was indeed an earth shattering moment. I remember listening to "Are You Going With Me" and "Au Lait" and being close to tears. This album changed my life without a doubt. Compositionally, I hadn't heard anything quite like this before. Pat's guitar playing was so open, heartfelt and honest, I could barely take it.

Venice Beach 1993
When I moved to Los Angeles permanently in 1991 I put a band together and played wild fusion music in all the local clubs. It was fun for a minute. I had a great deal of England to get out of my system after all. I was now playing with my heroes, those I had listened to on albums for years and years. After two years I got bored. People were not showing up to gigs. I remember doing a show at a club called Le Cafe (sadly no longer) and during the performance I asked myself; "Do I like this music?" but more importantly, "Would I pay ten bucks to come and hear me?" The answer was a resounding NO!! I had simply had enough. I canned the fusion band and spent the next year trying to figure out what on earth I should be doing musically. I loved dance rhythms and thought I might try something more commercial. I would go down to venice Beach and walk up the boardwalk, amongst all the crazy people. There is a concrete rink where rollerskaters dance and show off their skills. This was inspiring to me, watching everyone respond to the music. The DJ would play things like "Hip Hop Hooray" and cool instrumental acid jazz tracks with a trumpet blowing over the top. This was way cool I thought! And so a new direction started to form for me.

Pat Martino
Another earth shattering moment. I was working on some new acid jazz tracks around 1994 and a friend of mine played me this old album from the 70's entitled "Joyous Lake". Once again I was floored. How could any human being play that perfectly? But with passion and warmth and more harmonic knowledge than I had heard from any guitar player up until that point. There was an energy to his playing and focus to his phrases that, to me, was only possible from aliens living on other planets. His time, tone and feel was simply unsurpassed. Even to this day he plays flawlessly. This was the moment that inspired me to get a proper archtop jazz guitar. I bought another Pat Martino album called "Consciousness", which became THE Pat Martino record for me. One of the greatest jazz guitar records of all time. "The Visit" really did it for me as well.

And what now?
Well, I wonder sometimes whether I have experienced all the defining musical moments that I am going to. As I get older and more sure of who I am musically, the less external music I hear truly affects me. I sincerely hope that this will not be the case however. I just think that one becomes less impressionable as one gets older. I still believe there is a long journey ahead for me musically and I can't wait for new musical wake up calls. My antenna is up baby!