“I discovered the blues under the bed.”
These were the words that jumped out at me when I found some writing that my husband, Mick Hadley, had written prior to his death. Music was in his blood and he had spoken to me of his passion from an early age. I was touched by his description of walking in the snow and tapping out a rhythm with the crunch of his shoes on the icy surface.
When he was sixteen his family began to recognise this passion, and on Christmas morning in 1957, he looked under his bed and found a turntable with the first records that he ever owned. “I wound it up, set the needle on the hissing outer edge, ‘Well it’s Saturday night and I just got paid.’ Little Richard’s voice filled the room, my parents retreated under the covers and my siblings cavorted around the room. This voice emanating from the spinning disk! I was mesmerised, oblivious to the rest of the universe. This was a seminal moment in my life. This was the voice of God!”
As his teenage years moved on, he fell under the spell of the early British R&B scene. “Work replaced school and the gloom of London fell heavily on my adventurous mind. For a couple of years I commuted to the city from my suburban home. The winters were especially bad, as I would travel in darkness both to and from work. The windows of the bus would freeze up. Stale smoke was permanently pervasive and the silence of the passengers would feel like a damp veil across the collection of the transported bodies. It all felt very unfulfilling. The only respite was the local music scene and every Saturday night I would be out somewhere seeing a live band.”
Then later, as he became a player in the music scene, he wrote of his love of being a performer. He was a fabulous front man, so his fans will resonate with this: “I long for a stage. It draws me it, seduces me – especially when it is packed with gear. The sight of a set of amps and a drum kit is like sirens luring drunken sailors to the rocks of rock and roll. As with the ancient mariners, many lives have been lost to its seduction.”
On arriving in Australia, he was immediately at home and never lost his love for it. “My head is spinning in the new world. After the intoxication of a heady mix of the bluest of blue skies, frangipani blossom, pristine Pacific rollers and surfie chicks, the need to spread the blues news was omnipresent. I had been in the stable at the birth of British Rhythm and Blues and my mission was to spread the word.”
The anniversary of Mick’s passing looms close, and last Thursday I was privileged to be present at the initial viewing of a very special DVD. It is a brilliant recording of the very last gig that Mick played at The Tempo, just four weeks before he died. Watching it I again marveled that this amazing man could muster up his ailing body to give the performance of a lifetime. His body was bloated from steroids and his hair had melted away from the radium treatment, but for many of us, he was the most beautiful sight and sound in the world. What a legacy he has left and how wonderful that one of the last acts of his life was to do the very thing he loved best!
A week later, even though his brain tumour had taken over much of his reasoning, he managed to do a harmonica backing for Caroline Hammond’s recently launched CD – “Between the shoreline and the moon.”
In Noel Mengel’s obituary he wrote:
Mick Hadley was one the greats of Brisbane rock’n’roll, a powerful presence on stage with ’60s band The Purple Hearts who kept rocking right until the end. He gave his last performance at Brisbane’s Tempo Hotel in September, a triumphant show where he had the audience roaring for more. None of his fans in the packed room suspected he was so seriously ill with cancer that he only had weeks to live. As ever, he stayed true to his roots of R&B music he brought with him when he arrived from London, aged 19, in 1962. Hadley was a drummer then but soon moved up front as singer, where he stayed for the next 50 years…
Image: Lny Traill