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My best teacher

When we started talking in his class he would bite his lip - and that's when you knew you had to watch it

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and I went to a primary school like any other over there - very strict. You had to be smart, and you got punished when you stepped out of line. Then, when I was 11, we moved to London and I went to a secondary modern in Streatham, near Crystal Palace. It was so long ago I don't even remember the name of it.

When I was 14, we moved from that part of the world to West Hampstead, and my mother - who was my greatest inspiration - sent me to Warwick House private school, which was Jewish but had other religions. That was the major move in my life because secondary moderns didn't encourage you to have any ambitions at all beyond being a manual worker. They made out that you didn't have the brain power. Everyone in Streatham wanted to be a bus driver or a plumber, but when I went to the private school, everyone wanted to be doctors, lawyers and accountants. There was a completely different mindset about what you could achieve in your life, and how you could better yourself.

I liked Latin for some reason, and it is the Latin teacher from Warwick House who sticks in my mind. He was a very big guy, probably in his mid-30s, and he looked like a Roman warrior. He was from Athens and his name actually was Mr Athens. I'll always remember him because he was a lovely teacher but he had a terrible temper. When we started talking in class he would bite his lip - and that's when you knew you had to watch it. Then he was right behind you, before you knew it, twisting your ear.

He was a great teacher, though. Latin can be very dull, but he encouraged you and made lessons very interesting. He got you involved and made you feel good if you got things right. It was over 30 years ago but I can still remember how pleasant he was. He got me motivated to do well, but I still lacked direction at that age.

I wanted to be an engineer even though I had no feel for it, and then I went to business school but I didn't want to be a businessman. Even though I enjoyed music and danced in clubs, I never saw myself as a music maker until I was 20. It was a friend of mine, Tony Wilson, who was the big influence in my music.

I would go tenpin bowling with Tony, and I used to have these melodies in my head and these words would come out in the car. At that stage, the only experience I'd had singing was in the school choir but, being a songwriter, he recognised how catchy my melodies were. He said: "Why don't you come and write songs with me?"I was amazed. I didn't think I could do it but that's basically how I came into it, and from there we went on to co-found Hot Chocolate. Tony left the band in 1976 to go solo in America, but unfortunately it didn't work out for him and I think he ended up in Trinidad, where he was born.

I haven't seen him since 1976 because we fell out, unfortunately - it was one of those things about different music directions.

I never saw myself becoming a pop star, but that was my destiny. I had all these ambitions that were way above me and I was never comfortable. I was always searching so I would pluck these things out of the air that I wanted to be, but I was never really interested enough in what I was studying to make it in those areas. Eventually I discovered my real ability - and that was writing songs.

Singer Errol Brown was talking to John Guy


1948 Born in Jamaica

1959 Moves to London

1963 Warwick House school, West Hampstead

1967 Sits A-levels

1969 Lead singer of Hot Chocolate, which he co-founds with Tony Wilson

1970 Debut single, 'Love is Life', reaches number 6 in UK charts. String of hits follows including 'Emma', 'It Started with a Kiss' and 'Everyone's a Winner'

1981 Performs at Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding reception

1985 Leaves Hot Chocolate

1990 Relaunches his career with solo UK tour

1997 The 1975 hit, 'You Sexy Thing', is revived in the film The Full Monty

2001 Tours to promote his album, Still Sexy

2002 New single due out

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