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A Message From Steve Williams...


“FUCK THE LOTTA YOU” That was John Thomas on stage. Wild, confident, flamboyant, as all great rock guitarists should be. If you didn’t like what he played, or how loud he played it, tough shit. I loved it and I was always proud to be next to him on that stage. I love the guy like a brother. I was one of the first at his hospital bedside in June 2000. I even returned the tin of paint I owed him. (White matt emulsion I think it was) I also saw him just after his operation and it broke my heart to see the change it brought about in him. Like all his family and friends, I prayed it would only be a temporary change and that, given time, the old J.T. would re-emerge perhaps even stronger and more confident considering what he had gone through, and survived.

I visited him at his guitar shop in February last year knowing he hadn’t been playing for months, and managed to persuade him to agree to a rehearsal at Rich Bitch studios in Birmingham. I suppose, selfishly, I needed convincing that he could still cut it before I committed myself to any more Budgie gigs. Within minutes he blew away any doubts I had and I was, once more, looking forward to getting back on stage. We started rehearsing for the C.I.A. gig in Cardiff in early September and I remember having some misgivings but I put it all down to nerves and my own frame of mind having recently been involved in a motor accident on the M4.

I can’t really explain how I felt on the night of the C.I.A. gig except to say that being in a band is like being on a tandem. You all have to pedal as hard as each other in order to get anywhere. If one of you gets tired, it makes it that much harder for the others. I felt that John was getting tired and the enormity of what had actually happened to my friend suddenly dawned on me, right there, in the middle of the show.

I was later given a video of the concert and my heart sank while I watched it. I was so proud of the man. It took more guts than I would ever have been capable of to get on that stage after all he had been through, but that spark, that twinkle in his eye, was missing. I talked to Burke and he felt the same. I never for a moment thought it would be permanent, but I knew that it just wasn’t right and gave my full support to finding someone to stand in for John on a temporary basis. In Paul Cox’s defence I must point out that he had no say in the matter. If anything, he was against the idea but it simply wasn’t his place to make that decision.

The unenviable job of telling John fell on Burke’s shoulders and I know he tried hard to explain that it wasn’t meant to be a permanent situation. Unfortunately, that’s not how J.T. saw it. I really can empathise with him. I remember how I felt when Budgie first reformed to play Texas and they took Congo with them instead of me. Had they asked me I would have had to decline anyway as, at the time, I was unable to play on medical grounds. Consequently, I hold no bad feelings toward John or Burke.

For me, Andy Hart saved the day. He’s not J.T. (no one ever could be) but he’s a shit hot musician and having been a fan of the band, and John, he played the songs with the feel and integrity we so badly needed. He is a great guitarist in his own right and a gentleman to Boot. (Sorry Pete). What I take exception to are personal comments on how he, or any of us for that matter, looks. We have never purported to be Bon Jovi or Aerosmith. With us it’s always been about the music. If you want pretty go and see a manufactured Boy Band. If what your after is sweaty, whiplash inducing Galvanised metal, designed for the ears and not the eyes, your welcome at our shows anytime. (Even you Axel!)

It’s pretty much on the cards that Andy will be doing more shows with us in the near future and I really do understand how J.T. must feel at the moment but no one can ever know what the future holds (something I truly believe after seeing a sign on a fortune tellers tent at a fairground once that read “CLOSED DUE TO UNFORSEEN CIRCUMSTANCES”). We may all team up again when the time is right or, John may get a new band together and I will be the first in line to buy a ticket to see them. Your still my favourite guitarist Big J.T. and it makes me sad the way things have turned out, but please take Pete Boots advice and NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR FRIENDS, because, when all’s said and done, that’s really what we are.

Love, Your friend BILLY.

Message passed on from Steve Williams - May 2002

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