By Margaret Chrystall
MAYBE it’s no surprise that Classic Rock Show’s James Cole ended up in music – after all, Nils Lofgren gave him his first guitar lesson.
But music’s not the whole story with James who, when not touring with the show for six months, races in the British Touring Car Championship.
"It’s cool that I can make the two work with each other – and long may it continue, " says James, who on Tuesday announced another season with Subaru.
He agrees both halves of his life are high-adrenalin – and that he tries to be careful not to injure his all-important guitar-playing hands.
"There have been a few issues in the past where I’ve hurt my back and it hasn’t been great, but you just have to get on with it. And it comes with the territory."
The cars came later, but music has been with James all his life.
"My dad is a music promoter – everyone from Tom Paxton to Nils Lofgren and Bob Dylan and lots in between.
"I started playing piano when I was six and then moved on to guitar and went to LIPA – the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and did a music degree."
And James is in it for the long haul.
"Most things in life, you get to an age where it’s not that feasible to continue.
"But music hasn’t got a shelf life, you could do it forever. Ur’s something that will never leave me."
It’s not everyone who can be inspired by hands-on lessons from a legend, of course.
"Nils gave me my first guitar lesson!" laughed James.
"And he has been very, very encouraging.
"I would probably say Nils and Tom Paxton are the two people who are the reason I play guitar."
This year the Classic Rock Show 20 Greatest Guitar Riffs show of the past two years has been replaced by the A-Z of Rock from A for AC/DC and Aerosmith through to Z for Zeppelin and ZZ Top. There’s everyone from Eric Clapton, The Eagles, ELO to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, Queen and The Who in between.
But what’s not new is the "note-for-note precision" the show always promises to deliver.
"Freebird has a fantastic dual guitar solo. Me and the other guitarist who plays it love doing that," said James
"But this year we’ve included some of the older Fleetwood Mac stuff and we’re doing Oh Well, the Peter Green song.
"I get just as much of a kick out of doing that – it’s so difficult to play that right.
"I don’t even know if we have yet!
"You can play all the right notes, but it doesn’t mean you’re playing the song.
"It’s about getting the feel for the song.
"Each song has its own challenges – so you have to be a bit of a chameleon with this show."
The team doesn’t change the setlist gig to gig.
"It takes a lot of time to make these songs sound as detailed as possible, so to try and change those mid-tour is impossible," James revealed.
"But the Classic Rock Show has become well known for performing certain songs perfectly – or as close to the album as possible – and there are certain songs that if we didn’t play it would be an issue!
"We understand that, so we try and keep those in.
"We have so many discussions of what we can add and what we can change and new songs that can be put in.
"But it’s always ‘OK, if we add that in, what do we take out?’.
"Then we can’t find anything we want to take out!
"So if we could, we’d have a four-hour show!"
The Classic Rock Show: The A-Z of Rock is at Eden Court on Saturday, February 11.