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Legendary music writer Peter Makowski has died, aged 65

Peter Makowski
(Image credit: Brad Merrett)

Classic Rock writer Peter Makowski has died at the age of 65. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer. 

Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi are among those to pay tribute, with Page commenting that Makowski should "be praised for his enormous, upbeat and positive contribution to musical journalism. I will miss Pete."

Peter Makowski was one of the first music writers to take hard rock and heavy metal seriously. He joined Sounds music weekly aged 15 as a messenger boy but his taste for the rock music of that time – disdained by the paper's more conservative critics – meant that he was soon given albums to review. 

When no-one at the paper wanted to review Deep Purple's Made In Japan, Makowski did the honours. The following week the phone rang in the Sounds office. It was Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. "Thanks for the review," said Blackmore. "How would you like to come on tour with us in Europe?"

It was the first of many stories he filed for the paper, including probably the greatest ever piece on Lynyrd Skynyrd  – with Makowski lucky to escape with his life after a brush with speed-crazed bikers with guns – and profiles of all the biggest bands of the day: Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Rush and more.

As well as writing, Makowski had a side gig as a press officer for the likes of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Motörhead, the New York Dolls and more. (In fact, Pete was their press officer when NY Dolls drummer Billy Murcia tragically died in London in 1972.)

Polish

(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

When punk hit, Makowski was there in the thick of it, championing the Sex Pistols, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, The Only Ones and Blondie, and playing guitar for the Snivelling Shits with fellow writer and troublemaker Giovanni Dadomo. (The band originally only lasted for two singles but re-formed in 2018, playing five gigs including the Rebellion Festival.)

Sounds Editor Geoff Barton introduced Makowski to photographer Ross Halfin with the words, “You’ll be bad for each other.” But what was bad for their livers and septums was great for rock fans, creating a partnership that spanned three decades, the two men travelling all over the world, filing legend-creating stories on bands like Aerosmith, Rainbow and UFO, and co-authoring a photobook called Powerage.

Their Sounds cover story on Canadian band Anvil changed that band's lives and was the focus of the award-winning 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Classic Rock reunited Makowski and Halfin with the band on the movie's release.

Anvil

Peter Makowski (right) reunited with Anvil in 2008 (Image credit: Ross Halfin)
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The two men also worked on many stories for Classic Rock in the 00-10s, handing in front cover features on the likes of Jimmy Page, Aerosmith, the Scorpions, ZZ Top – new interviews that regularly included a flashback to an encounter in the 70s, when Pete first met those artists at their peak and in their cups.  

"Ross and Pete were an amazing double act," says former Classic Rock Editor In Chief Scott Rowley. "You knew they'd bring back the story. The two of them would hang out with bands every hour of the day – because they loved it – and, and Pete would always come back with 'late night stories'. He'd call me up and tell this extra anecdote and then I'd twist Pete's arm to include it in the piece. Sometimes it caused trouble – but, y'know, that's rock'n'roll."

Polish

Ross Halfin and Peter Makowski: "They were an amazing double act." (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

His Kerrang! pseudonym, Toots Daley, hinted at Makowski's appetite for excess (Lemmy once grabbed him by the throat and pinned him against the wall. "Are you still on that shit?" growled the Motörhead man), but in his later years Makowski sobered up and worked in rehab centres and with drug addicts. It gave him great empathy and insight when it came to hanging out with troubled stars like Scott Weiland. 

"Pete was one of the first journalists that I went on the road with," says Halfin. "Particularly in America. Being slightly older than me, he had experience of America – good and bad.

"But when he cleaned up his act – and he's been clean for the last 30 years – you couldn't touch him as a journalist."

The two men worked again recently. Halfin has been working on a Rainbow book and reached out to Makowski to write a chapter. "He didn't want to do it at first," says Halfin. "I told him: 'Look, no-one writes about Blackmore better than you'. And he gave me a really great piece. Maybe it'll be a fitting epitaph."

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The drummer for the reunited Snivelling Shits was writer and PR James Sherry. He first met Pete in the late 80s when they were both working at Metal Hammer. "He’d sit on my desk and regale me with stories from the glory days of punk," says James. "We became friends again in the early 2000s by which time I’d become a fan of The Snivelling Shits. Pete was always full of madcap ideas and before long he’d swept me up in a Snivelling Shits reunion. 

"We played a handful of brilliantly chaotic gigs, that culminated in an appearance in the Opera House at the 2019 Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. It was a gloriously unhinged and frenzied performance that was in the true spirit of the band. We planned to do more. Then the pandemic happened and Pete got stranded in Thailand where he remained for most of lockdown. We got together in July of this year and he was his usual self, full of ideas and fun. I can’t believe he’s been taken so quick. I’m really going to miss his energy and enthusiasm for everything. It was impossible not to get swept up in it. One of rock n’ roll’s great characters has gone. RIP Pete."

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Scott Rowley

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc (Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Louder, Guitarist, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar etc). He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock for 10 years and Editor of Total Guitar for 4 years.