Paul Thompson plays drums in Roxy Music. He joined the band in June 1971, replacing initial sticksman Dexter Lloyd, an American classical timpanist, who had played drums in the initial Roxy Music line-up.
Paul Thompson was born in Newcastle on 13th May 1951 and went to live in Jarrow at the age of six months. He attended West Simonside Infants and Junior School.
"I remember the music lessons in the infants; there were drums, triangles, bells, tambourines etc. I always wanted to try the drum, but never got picked, so one day I waited until everyone left the classroom, I slung the drum over my shoulder and rattled out a tune. Thats when I knew I could play!
A meccano set, cardboard boxes, and biscuit tins (along with an aptitude for making things) developed into my first drum kit. I used to play along to records; The Beatles,The Stones and the Tornados. I hadn't yet developed enough mechanical skill to make a bass drum pedal, so I used to stamp on the floor!
At the tender age of eleven I persuaded my parents to let me buy a drum. I'd spotted it in a neighbours' catalogue. it was called a Kat-Kit, a 14"x3" snare with calf heads and a 10" cymbal on an arm attached to the stand. Still no bass drum, still stamping on the floor, but I did manage to join a band - Johnny Blue & The Blue Boys they were called.
School days sometimes ended up going round to a friend's (Bryan Luke) house to play on his old antiquated kit. He did have a bass drum though, and I did learn a lot, playing along to Bobby Elliot and the Hollies.
At the age of about fourteen I joined a group called The Tyme. There was this Bell Music catalogue being passed around; I used to dream about owning a full drum kit, even just a bass drum would have been enough, but the band were pestering me to get a kit, so I went home and persuaded my mam and dad to buy me an OLYMPIC kit on HP. It was about £70 - about four pounds a week. I could tell they were worried about making the payments, but I convinced them that I could contribute by the money I would get by playing gigs at the local youth club. They nervously signed the agreement. They knew how badly I wanted those drums (bless them!). We used to carry our equipment to the club in the guitarist's dad's wheelbarrow. People used to laugh, but we didn't care, we just wanted to play.
When I left school at the age of fifteen, I went to work in Palmers shipyard in Hebburn to become an apprentice metalworker. I was still playing in The Tyme, but spotted an advert in the local paper for a drummer. I got the job. It was with The Urge, the singer later became known as John Miles and is now playing with Tina Turner. They were playing seven nights a week. I was earning about £35 a week with the band playing in night clubs, pubs and working mens clubs, and about £3 a week in the shipyard. I used to come in from a gig at about 3am and have to get up for work at 7am. Eventually I got fired for falling asleep at work and became a pro musician at the age of seventeen. I carried on playing the club scene with various bands, including Billy Fury's backing band, until I was about 21. I had served my apprenticeship, but not in the trade which the rest of my school chums had served theirs.
I had become more influenced by "underground" & "progressive" music. That style didn't go well at all in the clubs. We were getting less and less work; the band folded and I worked with a friend of mine - Ted (the 'tatie man) Hooper - who paid me a pound a day for humping bags of spuds. I decided this was the time to head down south to find my fortune.
I bought a copy of the Melody Maker; the ad said "wonder drummer wanted for avante rock group". I rang the number, and a bloke with a bit of a posh accent (with a slight Geordie tinge) answered. It was Bryan Ferry. He seemed happy to hear my own Jarrow twang. We arranged an audition for a few days later. When that day arrived I was in a state of panic. My drum kit was locked in a studio in Denmark Street where I had been doing a session a few days before. Luckily I was staying with a roadiefrom the band Mathews Southern Comfort, who lent me their kit. I made the Audition and landed the job. There were no wages at that time with the band, so I got a job on a building site in Fulham - just me and two hundred Irishmen - to keep the wolf away from the door. I remember turning up our first John Peel session in my work gear! The band was growing bigger every day. Eventually we signed a deal and were getting a small wage; goodbye cement dust; goodbye Irishmen and hello the road to stardom! The rest is history.
In 1980 Roxy Music and I parted the ways due to musical differences. Since then I have played with a lot of people including Gary Moore, Jonathon Perkins and Concrete Blonde; with whom I had my first U.S. gold album, something I never achieved with Roxy Music and which is some of my proudest work.
I have also been exploring my alter ego. I took up sport parachuting for a while, and I served with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for seven years, where I qualified as a weapons instructor and reached the dizzy heights of corporal. I learned to scuba dive and I recently passed my BSAC instructor exams."
In 2001 the call came for The Great Paul Thompson to rejoin the reformed Roxy Music. Since then he has been an ever-present on the Roxy Music drumstool, as well as touring extensively with Bryan Ferry in support of Ferry's 'Frantic' album, upon which Paul also played.