Geoff Wills

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In 1964 I became a professional musician, playing drums in a beat group from Burnley Called Kris Ryan and the Questions. With National Service ended, what better way to escape the banality of everyday life than to sign up as a member of another great institution – the British beat group movement? We recorded with Dusty Springfield’s producer Johnny Franz, built up a following with regular gigs at Liverpool’s Cavern, had a single in Merseybeat magazine’s chart, and played as the warm-up group at the original TV studio for BBC’s Top of the Pops in Dickenson Road, Manchester, rubbing shoulders with The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and The Animals. When we broke up after a few years – typical of groups in that era – I changed direction, studied psychology, took the degrees of BA Hons, MSc and PhD and became a clinical psychologist. My PhD was a study of occupational stress in professional popular musicians, and among my interviewees were jazz musicians like Ronnie Scott, Digby Fairweather and Kenny Clare, while rock interviewees included Rick Wakeman and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. I wrote a series of articles on the topic for International Musician magazine and the research came out in 1988 as a book called Pressure Sensitive. Since then I’ve written academic papers for journals like The British Journal of Psychiatry and Psychology of Music, and I contributed articles to Ted Gioia’s (now sadly defunct) website Being a fan of both jazz and rock, I’d been intrigued by the music of Frank Zappa since seeing ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ being reviewed by a bemused panel on BBC TV’s Juke Box Jury. In 2013 I contributed a chapter called ‘Zappa and the Story Song’ to the book Frank Zappa and the And, and in 2015 my book Zappa and Jazz was published. Having read Jazz Journal since I was a teenager, there’s something a bit uncanny, but very gratifying, about finally contributing articles to it.

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