"The Luftwaffe destroyed the Shambles, where the oldest pubs of Manchester stood, and where we swilled our fivepenny pints and I earned free ones by playing the piano."
But his Father advised: "The Pianist was usually despised, especially by the casual pub-singers he had to accompany. He would ask them what key they proposed singing in and they would reply: 'We've only got one bloody key to our 'ouse.'"
Burgess joined the Army Education Corps, as part of his National Service, in the 1940s. He acted as the musical director for 54th Division Entertainment Section of the British Army, arranging popular songs and jazz standards and other genres for his fellow troops to play.
"I learned how to score for that strange stringless combination. I wrote a march. I wrote a retreat number for flutes and drums."
During his time in Gibraltar, he also found a thirty-stave manuscript paper 'gathering dust in a quartermaster's store' and filled it with his Sonata for Violoncello and Piano.
The guitar was also a focus of Burgess's compositional talents although not of the type that Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Marr have worked their magic on. In the Burgess Foundation, this side of his musical output is represented by an 'English Guitar', "an attractive example of this precursor to the modern guitar made between 1775 and 1820." Burgess's Quatuor pour Guitares was completed in 1986.
Shakespeare was both a literary and musical theme for Burgess. He set Shakespeare's sonnets to music and wrote about the love life of The Bard of Avon in Nothing Like the Sun (1964).
Burgess also took on arguably an even greater poetry-music challenge by setting T.S. Eliot's modernist poem in five sections, The Waste Land (1922). He even composed a musical play of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922). Blooms of Dublin was broadcast on BBC radio in 1982.
Concert performances of Burgess's music have been somewhat sporadic although they have put him in distinguished company. In September 2013 at Bridgewater Hall, the BBC Philharmonic performed A Manchester Overture in a programme which included Brahms and Elgar.