WILLIAM & DEBORAH HILLYARD

Biographies

William's Tale - University

I left King Edward's in 1968, aged 17, to take up a place reading Physics and Astronomy at London University.  This was located on Campden Hill Road in Kensington.  Here I was far more interested in being on the Entertainments Committee, creating & running the Contemporary Arts Society, playing at the Folk Club and being the college Rag Chairman than I was in pursuing my studies.  I see a pattern developing here! 

As I was unable to get a room in the University residence, they found me a room at a nearby residential hotel, the Hills Hotel, on the corner of Prince's Square and Kensington Gardens Square in Bayswater, not far from Queensway.  The terms included breakfast, that I rarely ate, and dinner, that I ate even more rarely, so the economics did not pan out.  I soon moved around the corner into a rather seedy  apartment in Kensington Gardens Square.  I promise you; this sounds a lot grander than it was!  Following that, my friend Joe and I ended up with a place in Hans Road just to the side of Harrods department store in Knightsbridge.  While attractive from the outside, the interior of the building was somewhat less than salubrious.  Actually, a lot less!  There were also over 80 stairs up to the apartment; another reason for the inexpensive rent.  Great location, though. 

I continued playing guitar, which I started playing when I was ten.  In late 1968, I sold my Futurama III, a lovely red electric, vaguely a copy of a Fender, and bought a Landola acoustic.  This was a beautiful guitar, hand made in Finland which looked similar to the Gibson Hummingbird, but with a bridge like an SJ-200.  Rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck and spruce top, with rosewood fingerboard and bridge.  I only let it go in 2009 when the body split open.  I managed to achieve sufficient expertise to do a few sessions as a "floor singer" in some of the folk clubs.  One place in which I never performed was Les Cousins, on Greek Street in Soho, but it was a regular hang-out.  It was probably the most influential folk and blues club in London, at the time, and the all night sessions were legendary.  It was here that I saw so many of the most prominent people in the contemporary folk world; Davy Graham, John Martyn, Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch etc. 

The late '60s and early '70s were a great time for music of all types in London, and among the many concerts I attended, some of the stand-outs include seeing the Incredible String Band, Donovan, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, being in the middle of the front row at "Mothers" in Birmingham when Pink Floyd recorded part of Ummagumma, the Bonzos, Fairport Convention, the Moody Blues, the Who, Blind Faith (in Hyde Park, June 1969), Pentangle, Spooky Tooth (amazing live) The Edgar Broughton Band doing "Out Demons Out", Colosseum with Dick Heckstall-Smith playing two saxophones simultaneously, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Yes and many more.  Music played an enormous part in my life then, as it does now; both listening and playing. 

I first became seriously interested in high-end hi-fi equipment in the late 1960s, though it was beyond my means.  Nevertheless, I put together my first serious system in 1968/9. 

I loved University, and loved the subjects I was studying.  Unfortunately, even back in the late 1960s, advanced mathematics was becoming a larger and more significant part of theoretical physics and astronomy.  I knew that I did not have the aptitude for this math, so even if I got my degree, there was very little I could do with it!  Certainly, my original plan of becoming a postgraduate and then spending my life in academia, was not going to work.  I also realized that one earned very little in academia unless one wrote books and became a "celebrity".  Unsurprisingly, after my first year, University and I parted company!  Dropping out actually turned out to be a real difficulty, but not for another 27 years when I tried to gain a visa to work in the United States. 
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