• Michael Bugeja

MARC STORACE: IN HIS OWN WORDS #1


Rockestra is back and, as with every passing edition, this year's concert is being touted as the rockiest yet. Not only will the show include, as has become the norm, some of the local scene's best-known pop, rock and metal artists, it will also feature Krokus frontman Marc Storace, without any doubt Malta's biggest rock export to date. His voice rocked the Alhambra in the 70s, shook Valletta's Power Station in 2006 and reverberated around Paceville's Sky Club in 2010, and this month, that same voice will at last be echoing throughout the MFCC when he steps onstage to join the ROCKESTRA team for another unforgettable night of solid live music on Saturday!

In my interview with Marc Storace five years ago, I had commented that despite having lived away from Malta for over four decades, he had lost none of his Maltese character. This still rings very true, further to which he still remembers very well where he came from too, as you will find out in this exclusive three-part series of posts penned by Marc Storace himself about his life in music and more. "Hope you like the answers", he told me, adding "I thought I'd write down all I could remember while I still can...LOL!"

IN THE BEGINNING...

My inspiration to start singing came from Paul McCartney. The Beatles' bass player, singer and songwriter also inspired me to want to join a band. I used to sing a lot of Beatles songs years before joining my first band and I remember thinking of buying a bass guitar too. Then one day I connected with a neighbourhood band, thinking I could try out their bass guitar as I had never played one before, but it turned out that their bass player was left-handed - just my luck! So I practiced some boogies on the fat strings of his brother's lead guitar instead and sang the odd song with them just for the fun of it. This went on for a little while until one day their singer got sick ahead of an imminent Saturday night gig. Suddenly all eyes turned on me! Marc, will you do it? I loved singing and knew most of their songs by heart, so I didn't refuse.

At that early stage the band was called The Icicles, and they rehearsed in the basement which today is Piccolo Padre restaurant near the Balluta church. The basement lies beneath the house where the Bernard brothers lived with their music-loving family. Mrs Bernard cooked the best cuppa tea served with crunchy Maltese bread toast. Albert played a Black Bison lead guitar and Anthony played a left-handed Hohner bass-guitar. Anthony also played an impressive version of The Moonlight Sonata on the family Grand Piano. Phillip Carabott played a set of Premier (or was it Pearl?) drums, and Malcolm Lowell played a George Harrison Rickenbäcker Rhythym Guitar. A room with a seaview and no neighbours to disturb, except the doctor living next door who complained whenever his night calls deprived him of sleep; what more could one wish for? We rehearsed a few times during that week and that Saturday night played in someone's big living room for a whole bunch of happy-go-lucky teenagers with nothing but fun on their minds! So, as Big Al would typically put it, my vocal chords got publicly de-virginised at a birthday party in an apartment in Balluta Buildings when I was just 14 years old!

When Philip left, The Icicles brought in Joe Burlo on drums and we played various old and new chart hits, songs by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Troggs, Bee Gees, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix and lots more. Later we changed our name to Stonehenge Union and added a fifth member, Joey Chircop, who had a Vox Continental keyboard and also sang backing vocals. A year later Joey was asked to join The Boys, and a few months later he called to tell me they wanted me in the band too, so that's how it went.

A couple of weeks later I joined The Boys, with Godwin Borg on drums, Tony Farrugia on bass, Cliff D'Ugo on lead guitar and of course Joey Chircop on keyboards. We played all the latest hits and we updated our repertoire very often. All the members did great backing vocals, which made our songs sound better and we experienced a steady increase in popularity for a few years. Things got more colourful as the Flower Power movement took over and we added songs from the musical HAIR. By the time Woodstock arrived, Godwin and Tony had left and were replaced by Joe 'Peace' Camilleri on drums and Albert Buttigieg on bass.

We added almost the whole of The Beatles' Abbey Road album to our set and packed out the Polytechnic. Phillip Said and Tony Agius eventually replaced Joe and Cliff, following which we surprised everyone by switching our name to Cinnamon Hades and adding harder rock songs by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and The Who to our set. Commercially, this wasn't a good move since the majority of our fans were far from ready for Hard Rock. Luckily we still had many underground rock followers, mostly Maltese students and many children of the British Forces families who were stationed here. Then, one rainy October night, I caught that blessed plane to London, and the rest is history...

Read the second part of this feature on Tuesday, September 8!

Rockestra will be held on Saturday, September 12. Doors open at 7pm, with an opening performance from Strummin' Live followed by the main event. General standing area tickets cost €15 and are available online at www.ooii.com.mt. This year, in collaboration with Hard Rock Malta, official Rockestra t-shirts are also available. All proceeds go to the Malta Community Chest Fund.

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