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Roger Meddows Taylor was born on Tuesday, July 26, 1949 at the West Norfolk and King's Lynn Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, to Winifred and Michael Taylor. Michael was an inspector for the Potato Marketing Board. 'Meddows' was a family name that had been passed down successive Taylor generations, and it was subsequently passed on to Roger as a middle name. Roger had attended his first school, Gaywood Primary in King's Lynn, for three years when the family, now including sister Clare, born in 1953, decided to make the major move down to Truro in Cornwall where Roger was enrolled at Bosvigo School. In 1957, aged eight, Roger was watching his cousin play simple tunes on his guitar and decided then and there he wanted a guitar too. At first he made do with a ukulele, on which he taught himself basic chords. It was enough to persuade him, even at that age, that he should form a band - there might be money to be made here! The band were called the Bubblingover Boys and played skiffle music. Roger played, or tried to play, the ukulele, someone else had a tea-chest bass, and a couple of other lads had guitars.
Roger: "None of us could actually play. We just stood there and strummed and twanged tuneless chords. It was dreadful!"
The Bubblingover Boys played just once more, at the Bosvigo School
at a school dance. It was a short-lived venture, one reason being that
none of them were very good at it, and another that in May 1960 Roger
started at the Truro Cathedral School and left behind his fellow band
members. He was awarded a choral scholarship to the school, which
involved joining the cathedral choir. He was an unwilling member of
that elite fellowship, as it involved singing three times every Sunday
and at special services such as weddings and midnight mass at
Christmas. Although the experience was invaluable, Roger never
considered himself the choirboy type. In September 1960, Roger won a
place at Truro School. This public school was academically the best in
the area, and Roger was the only pupil from the cathedral school to get
a free place there. It was a boarding school but as Roger lived nearby
he went as a day boy. The joys of playing guitar were already beginning
to fade for Roger, and he found himself more and more drawn to
percussion. He started off by bashing upturned saucepans with his
mother's knitting needles, using the lids as cymbals. He actually found
a snare drum one day while out playing with friends, and was given a
hi-hat cymbal. For Christmas 1961, his father presented him with a bass
drum and a tom-tom - he had picked up both for £12 and had mended
and polished them. Although it was a mismatched kit, Roger was
exceedingly proud of it. He went out after Christmas and bought himself
a brand new Zildjian crash cymbal for eight shillings - his first
proper cymbal - and eventually another tom-tom as well. During 1963 he
and some friends formed a band. They called themselves the Cousin
Jacks. Roger was initially their rhythm guitarist, but he didn't enjoy
this, and subsequently took over on drums, where he felt far more
comfortable. The band split after a year.
Roger: " I remember when I was a
really young kid, I was inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard,
all the really early rockers. I didn’t even have a record player
at the time! My cousin had one though. Later on my big all-time heroes
became Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Archetypal influences I
suppose, but why not? "
In 1965 Roger joined a local band called Johnny Quale and the Reaction. On 15 March, after rehearsing together for a couple of weeks, they considered themselves competent to enter 'The Rock and Rhythm Championship', an annual event run by the Round Table in Truro City Hall, at which bands from all over Cornwall and Devon would compete. Johnny Quale and the Reaction came fourth and that served to start them off on the Cornish music circuit, which was quite significant in those days, attracting many of the bigger, London-based groups. September 1965 saw Johnny, the lead singer, leaving the band. His departure came just before they were booked to play a gig, so Roger, the only one left who could sing, took over on lead vocals. They dropped the first part of the name and became Reaction. On 7 March 1966, Reaction entered the Rock and Rhythm Championship again, this time with Roger on lead vocals. The hard work and endless gigging over the past year paid off, and they won. Not to be outdone, Roger too acquired a pseudonym 'Splodge', coined for no other reason than that it rhymed with 'Rog'. Even though he was busy with Reaction, Roger's school work didn't suffer, and he left Truro School in the summer of 1967 with seven O levels- in English language, English literature, biology, physics, chemistry, French and math. He also had three A levels in biology, chemistry and physics. By this time he had heeded the advice of his teachers, decided on a career in dentistry and been accepted at the London Hospital Medical School.
Roger: "I was going to be a dentist
once, but that was just a way of getting to London ad gaining the means
of support from a student grant. Being a student was cool then."
Reaction eventually split in the summer of 1968 when Roger went back to London. Roger went back to university intent on getting into another band. His appetite for fame and fortune was keen and he read the music press regularly, looking for an opportunity. In early autumn Les Brown noticed a postcard pinned to the Imperial College noticeboard asking for a 'Ginger Baker/Mitch Mitchell type drummer' for a new band. He passed on the information to Roger, who, intrigued, contacted the name on the card the following day. It was Brian May, of Queen. Roger became the first member of Queen to launch a solo career with the release of the single "I Wanna Testify" in 1977. His hit debut album "Fun In Space" followed in 1981, and was succeeded by 1984's rock-based "Strange Frontier". Both LPs reached the Top 30. In 1987 Roger formed his own band The Cross, in which after more than 20 years he finally resumed the role of lead singer. The Cross released three distinctive albums and toured extensively in the UK and Europe. After the tragic death of Freddie Mercury, Roger returned to his solo career with 1994's "Happiness?", an album on which he explored the theme of "dealing with life and looking for happiness". The success of the album prompted further tours of the UK and Italy. Roger Taylor's last album, "Electric Fire", was released in the UK and Europe on September 28th 1998 and featured eleven self-penned songs, together with his version of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero". With Brian May, Roger is a producer and musical supervisor of the hugely successful stage musical, "We Will Rock You", created with Ben Elton, and currently playing to capacity audiences in London's West End, Melbourne, and in Spain. Roger and Brian were most recently instrumental in making the Nelson Mandela 46664 concert happen in South Africa and have provided several new songs to the forthcoming 46664 album which also sees them collaborate with the likes of Bono, Anastacia, Dave Stewart and Beyonce. The album is due for release on April 5, 2004.
Unofficial Fanpage: roger-taylor.net
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