Musician, Chris Norman, a founder member and
original lead singer of Bradford band Smokie,
attended Bradford College in 1967.
“I left St Bede’s early at 15 because I had just had
enough of school. I had a couple of indifferent
jobs over the next 2 years and decided to go to
college and get my ‘O’ Levels. I started college in
September 1967 but only stayed about 3 months.
It was a good idea at the time but I dropped out
when I realised that if was going to make it in the
music business I didn’t need ‘O’ Levels.
We had most of our classes in an annexe off Manningham Lane. It was an old Victorian building but once a week we went into town to Westbrook for student debates. I remember it was quite good fun but I was really more into the image of being a student, than actually doing any studying, though I had always been good at school. I just liked saying I was a student, wearing a scarf and going to cool student things like Rag Day.
About 3 or 4 kids played guitar and someone brought theirs in to college. They were all into folk music and playing things like Michael Row the Boat Ashore while I was into American stuff like Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie. They all though I was ‘The Guy.’ Someone said ‘Why don’t we do a Chris Norman folk workshop on Tuesday lunchtimes?’ Posters went up and people came but I only went to the first and couldn’t be bothered with it after that. But the funny thing was, a while after I left college a lad told me it was still going on without me. I don’t know how long for. Maybe there’s still a bunch of them playing in a forgotten cupboard somewhere!”
By 1968 Chris and his friends had turned professional and gained a recording contract, though the band went through numerous name changes before having their first chart success as Smokie in 1975. With hits such as If You Think You Know How to Love Me; Something’s Been Making Me Blue; Wild Angels and Living Next Door To Alice they became an international success, selling millions of records and touring extensively.
In 1982 Chris released a solo album and Smokie later disbanded. In 1986 Chris rejoined his former bandmates to play a charity show in aid of the Bradford City Fire relief fund and toured Germany and Australia with them before finally leaving to concentrate on his own projects. Chris still enjoys a busy and hugely successful solo career in Europe.
Smokie’s current lead singer, Mike Craft, also attended Bradford College.
Photograph supplied by Chris Norman