And after everything he’s done down the years – good and bad – I still find myself questioning whether the high-pitched one deserves my support.
But however far Hawkins falls he has an incredible knack of picking himself right back up again. And it’s impossible not to like one of the most amiable frontmen in rock.
I remember coming across The Darkness sometime in 2002 and still own the promo copy of Get Your Hands Off My Woman. But I’m not sure why.
You see I just wasn’t convinced that this gang of retro rockers was anything more than a 21st Century Spinal Tap.
They’d begged, borrowed and stolen just about everything that was good about the 70s glam scene and the 80s hair metal movement and moulded it into one ridiculous recipe for what I imagined would be impending disaster.
I loved the style but I just couldn’t buy into the concept. I wanted to embrace some fantastic tunes but the four piece initially came across as feckless frauds.
Even when I watched The Darkness support Def Leppard at Newcastle City Hall some months later they still weren’t doing it for me. Justin looked like he could be a consummate rock performer and yet his stage presence verged on the pantomime.
Right there, right then I was ready to write them off.
But a sweaty gig played out in front of a capacity crowd at Newcastle University changed everything. Here, in their natural environment, Hawkins and co. controlled the crowd, set the tone and created a sublime mood. It was one of the most sensational gigs I’ve ever seen.
From that point onwards I, like thousands of others up and down the country, began to believe in a thing called The Darkness. For a year or so they were simply unstoppable and Justin was the charismatic catalyst.
Then came the fall – even more rapid than the rise. As Justin admitted to rushonrock earlier this year the band just weren’t ready for Arena shows and global domination. The various band members were pulling in different directions and their second album was a shocker. It all fell apart and I wished I’d trusted my instincts. I wondered why I’d ever liked The Darkness at all.
But I did. And I liked Justin. A lot. So imagine my horror when, after reading some frankly disturbing stories about his private life I saw him popping up on some horrible Eurovision show, prostituting his obvious talent in the most disappointing manner possible.
Ok, I thought. I really was right about the man all those years. He is a performer but he’s no rocker. And I never believed I’d speak or talk to him again.
Of course Hawkins is the master of reinvention. And last weekend he was on an X-Factor panel featuring Philip Schofield and some bird out of Coronation Street discussing the pros and cons of this series’ star performers.
Why? Because he’s always been a big personality, always been a big talent and these days he’s even back to doing what he does best – rocking.
And while all those Eurovision nightmares came flooding back I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that this skinny, cheeky, screeching rock star was back on mainstream telly and still wearing a bandana. More importantly he was able to plug one of the best songs you’ll hear all year.
And that’s why I can’t get enough of Justin Hawkins. It’s his songs. Whatever else you might say about the guy he can still write a brilliant tune and I’ve Met Jesus is one of his best yet. Maybe I’m still not fully convinced. But these days I’m halfway there (livin’ on a prayer..).