Nicko was born Michael henry McBrain in Hackney East London on the 5th of June 1952. Nicky was a childhood nickname, which his parents bestowed on him in honour of Nicholas, the somewhat battered teddy bear he insisted on carting around. Most kids wanted a bicycle," he says. "But all I ever wanted was a drum set."
As far as inspiration goes, Nicko insists "It
was all Joe Morello's fault. I first Joe playing in
1961, when Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five' was number six in the charts. My father had an old black and white TV. I can remember it was bath night. We had to heat the water in a copper kettle, and it took forever. On the TV comes this great BBC show with Brubeck live. Joe Morello did this solo, and I could not believe what I was hearing. I shouted, 'Thats what I want to dol' I was ten years old
"I went out in the kitchen and started playing everything in sight with me mum's knives and forks. My parents went spare: 'What do you think you're doing!' I asked my dad who the man was on the telly, and he told me it was Joe Morello. I said, 'I want to be as good as him one day'. It took many years, but I finally met Joe at the Frankfurt Music Fair in 1992. We made friends and we got on famously.
Nicko spent months driving his mother mad playing pots and pans. He then went on a pilgrimage to his local music store to ogle the glittery drum kits. He also built a vast collection of catalogues. When he was eleven and a half, his parents finally gave in and bought him his first kit for Christmas. It was a John Grey 'Broadway' outfit, with a 20" bass drum, a 10" single head tom, a snare drum and a splash cymbal, with no hi-hat or floor tom. He played this kit "for ages" and gradually built it up, adding Super Zyn cymbals. Now he was all set for his first gig.
"My mum used to make me go ballroom dancing on Saturday mornings. My chums at school were Tony Baxtet who played guitar and Michael Davidson, who was a singer. We had this ten-watt Selmer amplifier for the guitars and the vocals. So we went to the dance school, and they said they'd give us a chocolate bar if we'd perform for the boys and girls..We did The Shadows'Apache', and I could never play that properly! I put my bass drum on this parquet floor, and as soon as I hit the pedal, it skated across the floor I learnt to use a carpet after that!
"It was so funny, my first ever performance. But we got more and more serious, and eventually, I joined another band"
The young Nicko taught himself to play and ran home from school each day to practise. He was allowed to play until 5.3Opm, when his mum shouted, 'Okay, that's enough of that noise. Now pack it up!' He played along to records, and his father who was a singer and trumpet player encouraged him to play with brushes as well as sticks, and to learn all styles of music.
"I learned how to play 'Thke Five' but never performed it with a band," didn't really want to be a jazz drummer, although my father was a big Benny Goodman fan, so I heard guys like Gene Krupa, I really wanted to be Ringo Starr! I had a picture of Ringo playing a hi-hat with a big smile on his face. I used to stare at that picture and think, 'I'm going to be a famous drummer one day. That's what I want to