Not many people can boast they shared a flat with Paul Simon, opened for The Rolling Stones, met John Lennon and was co-producer on a film with Yoko Ono, all before they were 22 years old.

Singer/songwriter Al Stewart, who had an international hit in 1976 with Year of The Cat, says that he was in the right place at the right time.

“I spent a year with Yoko Ono. We toured India making recordings and I got a cheque signed by John Lennon because I invested in her movie. It was a signed artefact but I chose to eat, so I cashed it,” said Al.

The singer/songwriter also made a single in 1966 called The Elf, which was based on Lord Of The Rings. Jimmy Page, who went on to found the international rock band Led Zeppelin, was the session guitarist on the track.

“We hit it off immediately and talked about amps and guitars. He said he was thinking about forming a band and was looking for a bass player. All I said was ‘I wish you luck’. I missed out on a lot of things,” said Al.

“I could have had a different life if I’d joined the band.”

Al was heavily influenced by the folk gods of the time such as Bob Dylan.

“And Paul Simon, who I could hear in the next room,” said Al, who shared a flat with Paul and his musical partner Art Garfunkel for a few months in the 1960s.

But it was at one of the first concerts by electric guitar legend Jimi Hendrix in 1967 that decided Al’s musical direction.

“I played electric guitar at the time but 10 minutes into the concert I thought ‘I can’t play like that’ and I sold it. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t look like a pop star, so it was a philosophical decision to become a lyricist.”

But he’d known from the age of 13, that he wanted a career in music.

“My parents took me to see a Duane Eddie concert at Colston Hall in Bristol. Three men came on stage wheeling in a thing that looked like a fridge. It was a huge amp and when he started playing the whole building shook. It knocked the breath out of me and all I could think was ‘I want that’!”

Al has just released his latest album called Sparks of Ancient Light on EMI.

It is a musical history tour reflecting his passion for stories from the past, starting with a track about Lord Salisbury, who was British prime minister from 1895 to 1902.

The track Elvis Behind The Wheel is based on a story about Elvis driving to California in 1964.

“He looked up in the sky and saw a cloud in the shape of Josef Stalin’s face which then changed into the face of Jesus Christ,” said Al.

Strange but, allegedly, true!

al stewart Devizes Corn Exchange charity gig May 20, Tickets: £20 01249 760 538 Al Stewart is touring the UK throughout May and dropping in to a charity concert at Devizes Corn Exchange to catch up with his pal Gabby Young, pictured, a Calne singer who bravely fought back against thyroid cancer.

An Acoustic Evening With Al Stewart is in aid of Youth Action Wiltshire. Gabby is opening the evening, accompanied by Stephen Ellis from London group Revere. Gabby and Stephen opened for Al during his mini North West US Tour last September. They are also appearing with Al during this tour.

Gabby has just finished recording her debut album, And Other Animals.

She has played at Glastonbury Festival and this year is at The Wiltshire Jazz Festival and Marlborough International Jazz Festival.