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Not just Billy Idol’s guitarist

Guitarist John Goodsall used to play sold out arenas around the world. Now he’s playing to Freeborn County residents at the Freeborn County Fair and the Big Island Barbecue.

Goodsall started playing guitar as a 7-year-old, and he was skipping school to tour around the United Kingdom by 15. He soon performed on television with groups like The Alan Brown Set.

Goodsall formed the band Brand X with Phil Collins as the original drummer. He also played in Atomic Rooster and The Fire Merchants.

Goodsall played guitar for Billy Idol’s album “Rebel Yell” and recorded tracks like “Rebel Yell” and “Eyes without a Face,” even though Idol credited his live band in the album cover.

Goodsall recorded a demo with Peter Gabriel after Gabriel left Genesis, and toured with him in England. He also performed and recorded with people like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Bryan Adams and Toni Basil.

Goodsall has lived in Albert Lea since 2004, and he said he even likes the snow as a change of pace.

“It’s a slower pace out here. You get a little more time to reflect,” Goodsall said.

How did Goodsall end up in Albert Lea? Mental illness, he joked.

While living with his girlfriend, Janet Keithley, in California, Goodsall said 24 years of living on the West Coast and the living expenses there became too much.

Keithley, an artist, frequently talked to Goodsall about moving to Albert Lea, her mother’s hometown where she owned a house.

“It took me a while to come around. Something ticked me off one day. I said let’s go. Let’s go check it out — can’t be any worse,” he said.

Since moving to Albert Lea in 2004, Goodsall now writes music more often, and Keithley is more involved with her art.

“That was getting difficult to do out there. You’re constantly trying to survive, and everybody I know out there is like that, even the rich guys. Even the rich guys, they live on the beach, but they never go walk on it,” Goodsall.

After the move, Goodsall said lost work as a studio musician before he found Red Star Recording. At first, studio owner Larry Shaunce didn’t believe who was contacting him.

“He found me on the Internet somehow and then emailed me. At first I thought it was a joke or something,” Shaunce said.

Goodsall will fly to studio for work on a bigger project, like a full album, but he records most of his work at Red Star.

From the studio on Skylark Lane, Goodsall records with Shaunce a few times each month, and can contribute to projects around the world through the internet. From Shaunce’s studio, Goodsall recently recorded for projects in Cincinnati, Ohio, and France.

Each morning Goodsall spends time on the computer promoting upcoming shows and keeping in touch with people to generate more work. In the afternoons, he’ll practice or work on a gig, though he said he doesn’t practice as much anymore since he’s been playing for nearly 50 years.


Molesey to California

Goodsall was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Molesey in the United Kingdom, which he said is near Hampton Court Palace, a palace of Henry VIII. Goodsall said bands like The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Who were also from around that area.

Age: 56

Livelihood: studio guitarist

Address: Sheridan Avenue

Family: girlfriend, Janet Keithley; daughters, Germaine and Natasha

Interesting fact: His favorite guitar is a black 1974 Fender Stratocaster with a maple neck he bought in 1975. The guitar has humbucking pickups that were handmade by Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender, founder of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Goodsall got the hum bucker from Brand X’s guitar technician, who worked as Fender’s personal assistant.

Goodsall decided to move to California when he was on tour. He was in a friends Jacuzzi one February, and he decided he didn’t want to move back to the cold temperatures of the United Kingdom.

When living in California, Goodsall lived comfortably by playing for commercials, demos and a few movies.

The amount of work was diminishing in California by the time he decided to move. Part of the reason was students graduating from guitar colleges. These students took much of the work from studio musicians like Goodsall. While musicians like Goodsall worked for union prices, the students were much cheaper, he said.

“All the main bread-and-butter work that kept you going is gone now to the kids,” Goodsall said.

Producers could also sample music using keyboards to sound like a guitar, and this took away from Goodsall’s work on television commercials.

With the stable income from session work diminishing, Goodsall said many musicians shifted their focus back to their own music. In 1997, Goodsall reformed Brand X for two albums and a tour. Brand X and other similar groups also played a lot of shows at clubs in California.

“It was more fun, but it was less money,” Goodsall said.

One of the last tours Goodsall did before the move was a tour with Brand X.

“The fat times were over. Now we were struggling musicians,” he added.


Albert Lea

Goodsall performed three shows in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last year, but he said he’s currently trying to perform more live shows.

He recently played at the Freeborn County Fair. Goodsall will perform an acoustic set at Big Island Barbecue Saturday, and some friends will play with him as well. Goodsall is only playing at the Green Mill Thursday.

To keep the momentum of the tours going, Goodsall said he may look more around the area to places like the Twin Cities.

Fusion and progressive rock bands frequently contact Goodsall asking when he’ll release a new album in that style. These groups ask if Goodsall will reform a group like Brand X, but Goodsall said he plans to form a band and record an album of some of the songs he’s recently written.

After likely releasing that album independently, Goodsall hopes that could generate enough interest for a tour.

Goodsall joked about starting a blog where he’d share memories of touring antics. Roadies were the key source of such antics, Goodsall said. One such memory was of an Atomic Rooster show in Portugal where a roadie set fire to an amplifier with a bottle of lighter fluid. Goodsall and the rest of the band smashed their instruments, and the antics made the front page of the Lisbon Times with a picture of Goodsall looking at the burning speakers.

It got to the point where very few travel agents would work with the bands, and Goodsall that was one reason the tours fizzled out.

“A lot of great memories, though. If I had to do it, I’d do it all over again,” Goodsall said.