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Jet Harris

Jet HarrisIt took Jet Harris 30 years of heavy drinking before he finally admitted to being an alcoholic and sought help.

As a young, jobbing musician in Soho in the 1950s, drinking and hanging out in bars was not only part of the social scene, it was part of the job.

In an interview for the BBC One series, Booze, he says: "Everything is done in the pub. I think it's the same now but it certainly was then."

"You don't say I'll meet you in the espresso coffee bar"  real 56k

In 1958 Jet got his big break when he joined Cliff Richard's backing group, the Shadows.

They had an immediate hit with 'Apache'. But although success brought a lavish lifestyle, it also provided more opportunities to drink.

Other members of the group were able to enjoy the occasional drink.

But, for Jet, drink had become a daily part of his life, with the pub at the very centre of it.

He admits: "That's the first thing you think of - are they open. Is the pub open? I could do with a pint...

"You know, 11 o'clock is fine when they open, but then you get even more heavily into it and you want them open at nine."

For Jet, drink had become more than a way to unwind, it had become crucial to his performance.

"You suddenly find you are drinking more"  real 56k

"I'd accepted that drinking was part of the job. Everywhere we went, you know, it was let's have a drink." And he adds: "I can't stress this enough, that it was part of life every day being famous and being a musician the drink was always there."

Jet can now admit that while he thought drinking helped improve his playing, it had in fact become part of his daily routine.

"You just get to the stage with drinking where you automatically have it just to get through the day. It's nothing to do with playing, or you don't play any better. In fact you play worse. I mean I'm playing better now than I did in the 60s."

"Yes I've been merry on stage"  real 56k

Whilst others could see that drink was beginning to become a problem, Jet continued to ignore the truth.

He says: "I was at the point of no return. I mean all my friends said 'Hey, you're knocking it a bit aren't you?'

"'No, I'm not, you know. I'm alright.' But I wasn't. Very sad."

After a drinking binge in Tottenham Court Road with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, he awoke in the car park, trying to make sense of his surroundings.

"I woke up in my car in the car park, and it was six o'clock... But the problem was I didn't know if it was six o'clock in the morning... because it was winter you know. I thought: 'Now is this morning or night?'"

In 1962, Jet shocked the showbiz world by quitting the group. He teamed up with producer Tony Meehan and had a smash hit with Diamonds, which was number one for six weeks.

But just as personal musical success was beginning to take off, Jet suffered his most serious set back.

In 1963, he sustained severe head injuries while travelling in a chauffeur driven limousine which collided with a bus.

Music work dried up and Jet drifted around in a series of temporary jobs including, bus conductor, potato planter, brickie and hospital porter.

When his third marriage ended in 1989, he found himself on the dole and confronting the fact that he was an alcoholic.

His life turned around when he met his current wife Janet at a Hank Marvin concert. The relationship helped him find the strength to give up the drink once and for all.

He received an unusual treatment from psychologist Amadeo Maffi, which has proved popular with Hollywood stars.

Jet talks about the treatment he received  real 56k

The treatment involved a series of half hour 'induction courses'.

"You lay on the bed and he turned some knobs and levers, it was electric and it fitted your body. Then he played various CDs with an English actor's voice telling you sort of little stories.

"You're standing on top of a mountain now and night time is come down and you can just hear the last bird whistling, and you're there. I can't explain it."

In the last couple of years, Jet has also begun a musical comeback. He has played on stage with Hank Marvin in Birmingham and Bruce Welch at the annual fan club bash, Shadowmania.

The experience of playing sober is proving to be strange, but enjoyable.

"I used to be frightened of the stage. I used to have to have a drink to get on that stage. I didn't really like the stage, but now I enjoy getting up there. I enjoy talking to the audience which I didn't before."

"I used to be frightened of the stage"  real 56k

After four clean years Jet feels he is playing the bass better than he did in the 60s and enjoying life more than ever, and he knows who his real friends are.

"I've remembered those people. They're still with me now. Stuck by me for 40 years, you know. And they're as happy as I am for me now because they watched me down and they've watched me come back up."

Now living on the Isle of White with Janet, Jet is again happy and enjoying life. He says: "I live on an island surrounded by wildlife and the sea and I'm really appreciating what I've got - a lovely wife and everything. I just need more work."


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