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We have just learnt that we erroneously wrote that early Magazine member Bob Dickinson disliked performing live, which was certainly not the case. Bob has kindly provided more detail of those early months in the band’s life.

My brief encounter with Magazine back in '77 was very much a sabbatical from my doctoral research into live electronic music at Keele Uni. Performance-wise I'd previously worked on live projects with Cabaret Voltaire, Dick Witts (founder of The Passage) and a few European avant-garde composers. Magazine was quite different from this creative performance-work, a taste of the 'other side'. My first impressions of John in rehearsals were of a serious-minded, technically skilled guitarist willing to push harmonic and melodic boundaries but with a certain warmth and sense of humour which created a sense of inclusion for this 'outsider'.

I recall those early workings of my musical ideas for 'Motorcade', playing the chord sequence like a repeated mantra in rehearsals and on each repeat John bringing sonic elements out of that structure in an organic, free-flowing manner yet at the same time always in control. So very different from the more experimental performance work I was engaged in at the same time with Dick Witts, pre-Passage, at the Manchester Musicians Collective. In the ritual of live performance with Magazine, John was so focused and 'in the zone' as I observed and interacted with him, especially in those improvised sections of 'Motorcade'.

Following my departure from Magazine I returned to my research and a different form of performance, more rarefied and gentle in its minimal focus, as in a concert of some piano works with the composer Gavin Bryars only six months on from those intense rehearsal sessions and live performances with Magazine and more especially with John, a master of the guitar

Manchester 1976. Following a brief stint in an especially grimy house, with fellow art student and close friend Liddy Papageorgiou, the two housemates ended up moving above a wet fish shop on the Wilmslow Road, Rusholme (God alone knows how this could have been an upgrade).

Already living at the property upon John and Liddy’s arrival, was fellow poly student (and soon to be highly successful and acclaimed graphic designer) Malcolm Garrett, who was quickly captivated by John’s personality and sense of style. “John had this ‘Lewis Leathers’ jacket. It was never off his back! It’s all I ever recall him wearing. Certainly, until he joined Magazine - at which point his inner sartorial self kind of emerged in his stage clothes. We began to see more tartan trousers and more brothel creepers! It really was about the ‘Lewis Leathers’ though. I had never heard of that brand. The way of the jacket was the way of John. He would tell me that a leather jacket was a personal thing which moulds itself to you. When I first earned a bit of money, which I got from designing ‘Orgasm Addict’ for Buzzcocks, I wanted to get a Lewis Leathers jacket! I couldn’t get a black one, as that was John’s look, so I got a red one”. To this day Malcolm pines for it. Having seen the prices these items now command on online auction sites, I’m not surprised!

Photograph by Dave Formula, taken whilst on tour in the Magazine days. John wearing his Lewis Leathers.

It wasn’t only Malcolm who admired John’s jacket. So coveted was it that John loaned it to a friend for a couple of weeks, and subsequently had it returned in better condition than it had left in! “John let a friend of ours, Sparky, borrow the jacket. He took great care of and returned it and he’d polished it! John was a bit bemused at the time “what are you doing fucking polishing it?! You know, leather jackets are supposed to gently degrade”.

For music fans, John had a cool on-stage presence which was perfectly personified by his clothes. The classic ‘never trying too hard’ vibe which was maintained throughout his days with Magazine and the Banshees. As Malcolm says, “if you look at his style with Public Image, he’d certainly picked up the John Lydon feel. All the way through Magazine and the Banshees, he was a rocker. In Magazine, Howard was fairly sartorial, in that he had a look, and I think John balanced that. It seemed to me that in the Banshees he definitely settled more into the leather jacketed look again, which for me totally suited that whole Juju era Banshees thing. It just looked and felt right, it had grittiness.”

Two of John’s physical characteristics are made mention of as Malcolm says, “John wasn’t the tallest person on the planet, but I don’t know that he was self-conscious about it, certainly not at that point. I don’t know whether it was he himself that referred to it like this, it may have been, but he had milk bottle shoulders. They weren’t square, they were sloping. As far as his height goes he certainly never let it get in the way of defending himself. To borrow cockney parlance, John was tasty!” John most definitely walked the walk and perhaps wearing a biker’s jacket had more connotations of roughness then than it does in the present. John was by no means a thug - quite the opposite, but for all his artistic and cultural know-how he was somebody you messed with at your peril.

Going back to the poly days, Malcolm attempted to use John’s clout to tackle the shirking of washing up duties in student land. “I came home one day about 5pm and nobody had washed up or they’d only washed the inside of this pan and the outside was coated in student food shit and I then washed it. So, I drew a picture of John on a piece of paper and wrote John McGeoch says… always wash the outside of pans too! My thinking was that anyone else living in the flat would do what John said. The problem was John read it as if I was having a go at him! He took it to mean I was blaming him for not washing the pan. What I was trying to do was lay down a threat to the grubby sod who’d left the pan like that ‘if you don’t fucking wash the pans, John will fucking kill you’!”

As you will discover in the book, it was Malcolm who introduced John to punk via Spiral Scratch and John enjoyed his friend’s collection of records. “I always felt that I was more into music than John was, only because he didn’t really have records. I collected them and loved them, John not so much – at least not back then. I do remember he came home one day and he’d bought a present for me, second hand, Frank Zappa’s double album Uncle Meat. Even then it wasn’t the easiest record to come by. He knew I loved Frank Zappa and I’d never heard this album and he bought it for me. I can picture him holding it now and listening to it reminds me of John, I still have the album. I always remember John particularly loved the spoken word bits on the album Lumpy Gravy and especially the part ‘Umm, my lips are getting heavy,’ that really made him laugh”.

Malcolm would go on to find significant success courtesy of (amongst other things) his album sleeve designs for the likes of Buzzcocks, Magazine, Simple Minds and Duran Duran. The two friends enjoyed a really tight bond until John left the house share and moved down the road to live with then girlfriend, Janet. Thereafter meet ups became less frequent and eventually the two went their separate ways, reconnecting briefly when they were both settled in London in the early 1980s.

Malcolm Garett in his Lewis Leathers jacket. Photography by Joe Barry, a very close friend of John's.

John’s leather jacket is an iconic reminder of the exuberance and passion of youth. A small but not insignificant jigsaw piece of the man and the different tracks he travelled along. Something which captures him approaching and nailing the peak of his brilliance.

Putting together The Light Pours Out of Me was a daunting task. Weaving a thread that became the story of John’s life was only possible by way of the amazing contributions from his family, musical allies and friends. Friendship has been a watchword throughout the process. John had a lot of good people in his life who cared deeply for him and have cherished memories of the times spent in his company. One such person was Nick Tesco.

My introduction to Nick came via a chat with John’s first wife, Janet. She told me about the bond that he and John shared and that I really should speak with him. I’m so glad she brought it up and that I was able to get in touch with him. Initial contact was made online prior to our conversation over the phone in November 2020. Nick informed me that he had been thinking about John a lot since I approached him. It had brought back a lot of memories, some sad but in the main lovely and fondly remembered. He spoke in glowing terms of what kind of a man John was. What great company he was and just what an impact he had made on him. It was a wonderful interview and he was clearly moved when I informed him that Janet had made mention that at that time in his life, John had considered him to be one of his very closest (if not closest) friends.

He recalled the setup when John and Janet moved into a large house in Ladbroke Grove with him and his then girlfriend. Tales of great times ensued, and he said that he looked back on that period of his life as a really happy time, for all of them. Nick was busy with The Members as John’s career was taking off with the Banshees. The two friends offered each other support through the ups and downs of being on the road and the pressures that are so entwined with it all. Nick was really wowed by the work that John had done with Siouxsie and he was quick to add just what a great drummer Budgie was and how they were all just perfect for each other as a group. He talked about how much fun it was to be in and around the band at that time and what good company Siouxsie and Severin were. He told me stories about John playing him rough mixes of songs that ended up on the amazing album Juju. In particular ‘Monitor’ had left a mark. Nick was a great raconteur and brought the times to life for me. He made me feel like I was there.

It was obvious that Nick was a genuine, caring and giving person. Just a few minutes in and it was as though we’d spoken dozens of times before. He was just one of those very open and personable characters. He made me feel at ease and I was hanging on his every word and totally engaged in an engrossing conversation. I’m glad I was able to share my transcriptions of the interview with him, so we could go over certain points. He was very encouraging and happy that a book was coming about somebody he really loved (his words). Nick said how honoured he felt to be involved. Absolutely genuine. He spoke with such admiration for John, the scrapes and funny stories that went with it all. Likewise, Nick didn’t hold back when recounting his friend’s funeral and the pain of that sad day was clearly still fresh for him.

He wanted John to be celebrated. He wanted his achievements and what he had brought to the world to be recognised. “He was a joyous person to be around, a really intelligent and sharp man. His company was just bliss. We even spoke about doing something together musically. He hasn’t been credited enough for the stuff he did”. Nick spoke at great length and detail about John’s talent and legacy. Magazine, the Banshees, Armoury Show. Nick knew it inside out. He was especially impressed by what he saw of John in PiL and how he got that same sense of satisfaction seeing him up on stage with Lydon at the Astoria as he had when seeing John at his peak with the Banshees. It was also because of Nick that I was able to speak with Lu Edmonds. He put the word in and we made it happen. So, I (and the book) owe him for that also.

I was so taken with Nick that I mentioned to him if he would be interested in writing a foreword. He was flattered and more than up for it. Sadly, it didn’t happen and perhaps my one regret is that I didn’t push enough. That being what it is, I am forever grateful to him for being so enthusiastic and ready to help. He has made an important and loving contribution to The Light Pours Out of Me and I will never forget him for that. Nick believed in the project from the start and got on board very early. Having people show that desire and want, it means an awful lot. They are entrusting you to get it right. They are putting their faith in you that you will deliver what you say you will. I hope Nick would have approved of the result.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends. He’ll never be forgotten and his talent as a frontman and a lovely bloke will remain in the hearts of all who knew him. The tributes paid to him are testament to that.

RIP Nick.

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