Photo by Laura King

Mike Reinstein

Singer, songwriter, guitarist


About Mike

Highlands Hospital, North London, 1960. A seven year old Mike is having his tonsils out.

"Is there something you'd like," says his mother, "to cheer you up a bit?"

"Dynamite by Cliff Richard and Please Mr Custer by Ted Lune. And I'll have a rifle, if you're buying."

When he was eight, he wanted to play like Hank Marvin and did the tennis racket thing in front of a mirror, inexplicably playing along to Apache in the nude. On The David Frost Show he saw Julie Felix singing Going To The Zoo. He liked the acoustic guitar and the voice but mostly he liked Julie. Around this time Mike also discovered a live Peter Paul and Mary album. He memorised all the songs and chat. "The song asks nine questions," one of them said, "the answers to which may determine what will happen to us in the next generation…Ladies and gentlemen, Blowing In The Wind."

And then in 1965, of course, he wanted to be Bob Dylan. So Mike got a guitar and a teacher: Miss Percy. She was kind, elderly and a bit deaf and charged six shillings a lesson. They began with classical pieces but Mike wanted to play My Generation so they warbled their way through it at the dining room table. Eventually he took the guitar to parties and sang to the guests whether they wanted to hear Daydream or not. Once, half way through, Mike was nearly hit by a brick, thrown through the window by a recently ejected gate-crasher (or possibly a fan of John Sebastian's).

His teenage years were split into factions. The lines were drawn roughly like this: on one side there were the mods and skinheads who liked soul, reggae and pop and on the other were the hairies who went for prog rock, guitar solos and concepts. Mike didn't belong to either camp – there seemed to be no identifiable coiffure that associated itself with Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson. He was a one boy faction…

His first performances beyond the sitting rooms at parties were at Trent Park Teacher Training College in the early seventies. There, Mike co-founded Doris, a six-piece acoustic band that had an imaginative agent who accepted any gig as long as it paid. Thus did Doris become a reggae band, a Victorian duo and Doris and the Morris Men.

The group split after college but Mike continued to write songs and perform. During the day he delivered false teeth and decorated short-life properties whilst listening to Elvis Costello, Otis Redding and Bonnie Raitt on his Walkman. A spell of freelancing as a reviewer for Melody Maker and City Limits was a sad and often sadistic detour.

The teaching certificate, in the end, was a useful fall-back when Robbie Robertson failed to call. Supply teaching, at first, was the plan: a no-ties day job, then write and gig in the evenings. It didn't work out as Mike was easily wilted by the work. Then a full-time post as a teacher at a Special Needs School triggered a creative burst of song writing for children. This led to The Tommy Tomato Songbook (see elsewhere on the site) and a continuing love of composing songs for kids. The follow-up, The Blewdle, was released in the summer 2012.

Mike is married to the novelist Reina James and lives in Sussex.

And then, in 2010, he started to do floor spots at the Hove Folk Club. Robb Johnson, who runs the club, suggested that Mike might like to record an album for his label, Irregular Records.

More To Be Revealed was released 2012. A Long March Home in 2015 and Acts of Love in 2018. All CDs are on the Irregular Records label.

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