Back in my cafe in Shepherd’s Market after a hopeless succession of interviewing charisma-less singers and talentless guitarists in the music papers, just when I had almost given up on the idea of finding someone in an ad I found Neal X through the back pages of Melody Maker, the very same place that I’d found Billy Idol when I was just getting started. When Neal came to the Mews for an interview, he had blonde hair and the right look and he could actually play the odd Thunder’s lick. The belief was paying off I told myself. He was a nice middle-class boy but most importantly for the vision I had, he was thin and he had good hair.

The name change from Neal Whitmore to Neal X came later, when journalist Chris Salewitcz, writing one of the first pieces about the band and not knowing the guitarist’s full name, typed a temporary X and that was it. The fact that Neal was working as a dustman at the time did not put me off because he’d emptied the bins at Headley Grange where Zeppelin had recorded. I saw that as a sign. He was perfect and we put him up in the spare room at the Mews, leaving his bins behind him for ever. Pretty soon, in traditional Rock guitarist fashion, he found a girlfriend who he could move in with and Neal X was born....

Calmly I explained to him the coffee bar plan. After all, I’d been in Generation X and he thought I must know what I was doing as he sat listening, hanging on to my every word.


“So you just walk the streets looking for a star... You know a Star when you see one don't you?... It’s the hair, the look, the cheekbones.. it’s the attitude... easier to teach someone to play than to teach them Charisma”