Where to begin? Where better than one sunny day in the Shetland Islands when I was born on April 9th 1967, the day when Foinavon, a 100-1 back of the field outsider winged his way through the butchery and carnage of Beecher’s Brook to win the Grand National. He was the only horse to finish the race. Animal rights were non-existent in those days and death was a gritty part of the game. 

   Human rights, Women’s rights and Civil rights were not much better. A week before my first birthday, April 4th 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. Government agencies blamed a lone drifter called James Earl Ray who didn’t share the dream that all men should be brothers. The US Government didn’t share the dream either. I arrived in this world on a day when sixteen American states still outlawed interracial marriage. 

   But times were also a-changin’. 

   In the United Kingdom the Sexual Offences Act 1967decriminalised Homosexual acts between two consenting males in private. The age of consent was set at 21. In terms of equality it was nothing more than a shabby ‘exemption from prosecution clause’ for homosexuals in England and Wales and for merchant seamen. who could now have homosexual sex with passengers and foreign seamen, but not with each other. An absurdly drafted bill, but it was the first step of a long journey in the changing of attitudes and prejudice.

    On the same sunny day in Australia, human rights forged ahead in leaps and bounds. They hanged a convict and decided he should be the last Australian to be punished that way, whilst a referendum signified the first steps in recognising Aboriginal rights.

   The Australian Prime minister Harold Holt disappeared when swimming, presumably eaten by a shark.

   Folk musician Woody Guthrie, writer, radical and wanderer succumbed to Huntingdon Disease in Creedmoor Psychiatric hospital, New York.

   Guerrilla leader Che Guevara, author, radical and wanderer, succumbed to capture and summary execution in Bolivia.

The United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom signed the Outer Space Treatywhich banned the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth or for their installation on the Moon or any other celestial body. It limited the use of the Moon and outer space to peaceful purposes.

   The treaty was a roaring success and the first live international satellite television production beamed the debut of the Beatles performing ‘All You Need Is Love’across the world.

   War had changed too. Vietnam was probably the ‘Foinavon’ of the Global conflict circuit. No one expected a band of impoverished rice farmers to win that war. 

   In 1967, President Lyndon B Johnson assured his nation, ‘We are inflicting greater losses than we are taking. Progress is being made.’  To anyone watching news reports of the Viet Cong Tet Offensiveit became obvious that progress was not being made and for the first time propaganda had failed to convince a majority that it was noble and necessary to go to war. 

   Rock n Roll had changed all that and a generation of cannon fodder realised that going to San Francisco was a better alternative. 

   Love was in the air, flowers were in the hair, and the concept of using the moon for peaceful purposes was being applied to the earth too.           

   Governments were unhappy. They had signed an Outer Space Treatyto ensure that peace should be limited to the moon and other celestial bodies where it could hurt no one and here was the concept of universal peace being touted by socialist agitators, hippies, beatniks, peaceniks and subversive folk and pop singers. But the governments didn’t worry too much. Anyone who spoke too wise would probably be assassinated by a Loner. 

   Loners hated wise talk. Loners were ruthless assassins. Loners always got caught and Loners got life sentences. Jail was a lonesome place. Loners loved it.

   I was born into that. 

   The opening chord from A Hard Days Nightis my earliest memory. I can remember it from about 1970 and on. My mother was a Beatles fan and had the album. That Chord changed my life. It made me feel happy and I danced on the dining table. It probably changed the world in the same way. 

   Loner Jack Ruby had just shot Loner Lee Harvey Oswald who had just assassinated John F. Kennedy. The world needed cheering up.

   F(add9) played on a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar did the trick.

All memories after that are fairly disjointed, vague and distorted until 1974 when my grandmother died. My only memory of note was trying on a pair of knickers over my trousers that looked like red Tudor pantaloons.

The 70’s mouldered into a gritty industrial death, a dismal smog that poisoned the sweet flowers from the green meadows of Woodstock. The smog took Hendrix, Jim Morrison and others.

Life took a gloomy downturn and there was a lack of distinctive guitar chords to save it. 

Top Of The Pops was an embarrassment and it was hard to come with a counter argument to my Grandfather’s claims that they should bring back national service. Glam rock had dropped the baton and failed our generation with nothing to say. Some bands highlighted having nothing to say by means of unconventional spellings of song titles in an effort to add more sparkle to the nothingness and noize. 

 Angry people who worked in car factories had more interesting things to say than Gary Glitter or Slade and the country tuned into them. The seventies grumbled on in a blur of power-scuffles, power-cuts and pub bombings.

The music scene fragmented from the clown show into an exclusive dress code membership of taste, Metal, Punk, Ska, until the first signs of life rode in with combos on the punk wave. The Police, the Clash, the Ramones, Elvis Costello, or maybe it didn’t, but that’s how it seemed to me. 

The brave and beautiful heroes returned to the world with Red Rum, Johan Cruyff, Bjorn Borg and Muhammad Ali.

It had it’s anti-heroes too. The Ayatollah Khomeini and The Russians.

They had just invaded Afghanistan.

We rooted for the Mujahideen. The freedom fighters

‘Mujahid and Jihad,’ the strugglers in the struggle.

   In a year we would be rooting for Saddam Hussein in his struggle against the Ayatollah. 

The times were constantly-a-changin.

   Some things never changed. 

Being gay was still a disgraceful business. There was no pride back then, just suspicion, ruinous slur and a fear of ending up on the ‘Queer List’. 

Jeremy Thorpe was singled out and discredited as an example of that. He was a pointy faced sinister looking man. Nobody wanted to be like Jeremy Thorpe. 

America elected a grinning buffoon as President.

John Lennon had just resurfaced from a reclusive five years to release an album of love songs. He was considered the greatest threat to the right wing policies of the grinning buffoon.

   One month before the inauguration of newly elected President Ronald Reagan, John Lennon was gunned down by deranged loner Mark Chapman. 

There could be no plausible political connection.

 I spent my teenage years like Papillion watching for the wave to facilitate my escape. I escaped to Edinburgh at the age of 20, won on a 15-1 horse called Rebel Song at Cheltenham, married and returned to Shetland to work in construction interspersed with five years at the fishing. I cleared out a walk-in larder, installed a typewriter and spent my home time from the stresses of sea and other demons in there drinking whiskey. I was a Hank Williams Jukebox.

I was introduced to Mississippi John Hurt and Rev Gary Davis by the late Bobby Sandison of Whalsay, fisherman/musician/artist. The marriage with three children derailed and fell apart and I spent three months in my parent’s house sleeping in Britain’s most northerly shrine to Hank Williams that my father had created in a box-room nailing every original LP, 78 and 45 ever released by Hank to the walls. I was back in the larder.

I left the shrine for Amsterdam in 1996 where I set up larder on a balcony with Heineken and dabbled with commercial art until meeting a girl from Naples who I married and returned to Edinburgh.

Two children later the marriage fell apart and I ended up in The Royal Edinburgh Psychiatric unit dealing with depression and a gender identity disorder.

Following an unsuccessful few years dealing with barriers in an apathetic system I quit the gender clinic and set off for Holland again working on construction sites with East Germans until deciding it was time for a change of trade and name.

I returned to Edinburgh, took the surname De Micco to go with my Italian passport and got a job in an Italian restaurant where I worked the next 12 years as chef and waiter where I met a girl from Sardinia who became the mother of my daughter and sixth child. Derailment, drinking and identity disorders ended that like all the rest. I picked up my guitar again after 15 years and several operations on a damaged left thumb injured as a fisherman and moved to Spain where I busked and began writing songs again. 

I set up home in a cheap bedsit flat in the gypsy quarter of Malaga downstairs from Icelander Hjortur Blondal, a great musician, artist and companion who offered to record several songs I had written. We set up ‘The Salty Dog Stringband’ a bluegrass combo with banjo and fiddle players Jose Luis and Paco Gonzales. 

Hjortur left the band to pursue more interesting projects and was replaced by Double bassist Juan Carlos until I too decided the band was not for me and went back to busking with a gypsy violinist Jorge. We hustled the bar and cafe terraces for several months dodging police and rent demanding landlords before parting ways. I returned to Shetland and decided it was time to deal with the gender identity problem that continued to haunt my shadow and after getting a referral to the Aberdeen Gender Clinic in 2016 under the amazing consultant psychiatrist Dr Sarah Kennedy I began the transition completing it in Brighton under SRS Surgeon Mr Philip Thomas.

Wide Blue Ocean Blues began as a project distraction late 2015 on the back of a nervous breakdown. The idea was to write songs and send the guitar/vocal demo parts to musician friends to add their take to the song which they would send to my cousin Martin, the sound engineer, for mixing. 

I wanted no say or influence over what they did as the skills, style and authenticity I asked of them and their instruments was not my business. It was based on my brief recording experience with Hjortur Blondal who insisted to record one take only, or two at the most, in order to capture the true essence of the song before it inevitably gets lost in the process of technical perfections and overwork. 

‘That way we keep it authentic’, he said. ‘This is the charm.’

‘But I made a mistake and could do it better with another run,’ I insisted.

‘No one will ever know that,’ he replied. ‘They only know what they hear, not all the possible versions in your head.’

‘Okay’, I agreed reluctantly.

‘Do you like the song,’ he asked

‘erm, yeah,’ I said.

‘Then it is good.’

I came to appreciate this principle and applied it to the project as it was simply about writing songs and sharing them with people who played purely for the love of playing their music.

Thanks to everyone who has ever helped me along the way