Tom Szakaly - Keyboards

 

 

Tom was born in Rochdale, Lancashire. With both his parents being Hungarian it always struck him as interesting that ELP's opening track on their first album was based on a piece by a Hungarian composer. Coincidentally, Rochdale is just six miles from the town of Todmorden, at the foot of the West Pennines - where Keith Emerson was born.... could it be something in the water..?

He started piano lessons at the age of six and continued until the age of seventeen when his mother stopped paying for them because he'd left school. Anyway, by then Tom had grown tired of his piano teacher, who had given him a good grounding but he had already been diversifying. Experimenting at home with styles such as 12 bar, Boogie and Jazz... as well as working out his favourite ELP tracks, he was thinking along the lines of going 'electronic' anyway.

His first job gave him a background in electronics and by the age of nineteen he had already built his first synthesiser from a kit. It was the ETI - Transcendent 2000. Eventually, financed by his job as a television repairman, a Crumar electronic piano was also obtained to supplement the synth.

Then in 1979, working for a new employer Tom heard that one of his colleagues was selling a Hammond organ. This was quickly acquired and together with his arsenal of instruments - Hammond, Electronic Piano and Synth - he joined his first band at the request of an old school chum and guitarist Tony Hallsworth. The band was named 'Blinder'. Among the covers they played were also suggestions from Tom - unsurprisingly tracks like 'Peter Gunn', 'Tiger in the Spotlight' and 'America'. (This band also played an excellent rendition of Elton John's 'Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding') Blinder was a five-piece and lasted a couple of years. In their time they did some studio recording and a few live and 'rehearsal' recordings also exist. After the split Tom and Tony set about forming a new band.

They decided to call upon the services of Leslie Piszkalo for the percussion side of things. Lez was also at the same school as Tom and Tony years earlier. The new band they named 'Shanghai' and built up a very loyal following over the years playing a mixture of covers and (mainly) their own compositions. 'Shanghai' seemed to have an appetite for bassists and vocalists but the three main members - Tom, Tony and Lez saw the band through for the full five years of its existence. Tony was (and still is) a guitarist heavily into (at that time...and probably still...) a band called Deep Purple. This meant that Tom had to learn material by another one of the great keyboard players of that era. Not that he minded though! Tracks such as 'Lazy', 'Highway Star' and 'Smoke on the Water' were rehearsed and played to enthusiastic audiences. The band were regularly featured in the local press with gig reviews, write ups and photographs, which Tom still has pasted into scrapbooks. The highlight for 'Shanghai' fans was the time they supported 'Here and Now' - formerly 'Gong' - at the Lancashire University in Preston.

As far as ELP tracks were concerned, Shanghai's showstopper was always 'Fanfare for the Common Man' although they also covered 'Tiger in a Spotlight'. This was when Tom started to develop his 'Emerson Stage Antics', building up his collection of daggers at the same time - admittedly not Hitler Youth daggers like Mr. Emerson's - but quite impressive all the same. Tom however always wanted to do more - possibly even a full ELP set... maybe someday...!?

In 1987 when Shanghai split, Tom got together with the bands vocalist - Adey McDermott who Tom knew could also knock out a rhythm or two as Adey was always jumping onto the drums during Shanghai rehearsal coffee-breaks. This was with the aim of putting together the ELP tribute band Tom had been dreaming of. Their first bassist didn't measure up but even so, a couple of live videos do exist with him - and eventually bassistMark Conroy was drafted in and the band - Noddy's Puncture was ready. This first version of the band developed a very healthy following over the years with fans regularly travelling hundreds of miles to attend their gigs. It must be said that the high point for this first line-up has got to be when the band played at the 1995 ELP Convention in Birmingham.

For a complete history of the band please see the Biography page...

Tom has been an ardent ELP fan ever since hearing his first from them which was "Pictures At An Exhibition". He was fourteen at the time and couldn't believe what he'd just listened to. Here is one story which may be worth mentioning and one that Tom will never forget...

One of the greatest "ELP moments" for him was when the band returned to Europe after the American leg of the Black Moon tour in '92. ELP were due to play the Manchester Apollo on Sunday night. On the Friday night leading up, Tom got a phone call from Keith calling from the Hague, Holland where he'd just played at the Congresgebouw ... rendering his L100 useless in the process. He was asking if Tom knew of anyone who could take a look at it on Sunday..? Tom promised to try to help but if all else failed he offered Emo the use of his own Hammond (it did after all take regular beatings) Keith thanked Tom for the offer saying that if he did use it, he would "look after it" - (Yeah Right ...!) and added that anything he broke he'd pay for..

Upon reflection any knife wounds or broken keys caused by the hands of the man who started it all would have been most welcome. Indeed Tom would have expected it..!

There were however a few more highlighted moments to follow...

In 2005 Keith Emerson actually came along to one of the Noddy's gigs at his local pub The Six Bells - he got on stage and joined in. Fortunately this gig was being recorded and was subsequently released on CD with Mr.Emerson's permission...!!

In 2009 Tom was asked by Keith if he could find a Hammond L100 for him to use (or "trash" as he put it...) on his guest appearance with Spinal Tap at the Wembley Arena.

And in 2010, when ELP reformed to headline the High Voltage festival in London, Tom's Hammond L100 was once again used for the 'Rondo' encore.

Special moments indeed - and the very same Hammond L100 is still being used by Noddy's Puncture to keep that ELP flag flying high...!

 

 

Tom Uses