HE WAS a hard-working student who spent all day writing "cheesy" songs on his computer.
He wore his hair in a Jarvis Cocker bowl cut and bought his shirts from Oxfam.
More Austin Powers than Freddie Mercury in his dress-sense, no-one at Huddersfield Technical College imagined that Justin Hawkins would be a rock superstar.
But his band The Darkness have been the music phenomenon of the year.
Everyone's talking about this 28-year-old from Lowestoft - and it seems he learned his craft in Huddersfield.
In 1995, at 20, he came to the Tech to do a two-year National Diploma in music technology.
And tutors remember him as an exceptionally talented pupil - individual and outlandish. But a heavy metal icon? No way!
Justin lived in Fartown for a time, as well as Sowerby Bridge, and performed in a local Black Sabbath/Deep Purple tribute band that toured pubs and working men's clubs.
Programme manager Rick Cocker, who was Justin's tutor, remembers: "He was dead ordinary really. He loved to produce cheesy music, he was into electronic pop, never metal.
"We were one of the first colleges to offer this kind of course."
Music technology lecturer Charlie Griffiths adds: "He dressed a bit like Austin Powers, or Mike Flowers, the spoof 60s singer.
"He'd wear brown jackets with big lapels and he had a Jarvis Cocker hairdo."
It wasn't until he took part in an end-of-year concert that his metal leanings came to the fore.
Justin donned a long black wig to sing in his now-trademark falsetto for the fun gig.
Charlie remembers: "He was just like Ian Gillan from Deep Purple! It was outrageous!"
During the course, Justin learned how to produce music on his computer and even wrote and recorded a rock opera, echoing The Who's Tommy, with dialogue in computerised voices.
Tutors are now desperately looking for copies of it.
Rick says Justin gained distinctions in various modules including one in self-management and development.
Music business Sarah Hutton also played a part in Justin's rise to stardom - by showing him a video of the classic 80s spoof rock documentary Spinal Tap.
Charlie says: "Sarah inflicts this film as a Christmas treat on all her students and says that all rock bands base themselves on it!"
Justin went to work at London-based music firm Zomba in the holidays, writing music for radio and TV adverts, taking a full-time job after finishing the course at Huddersfield.
Zomba, which also employed Justin's brother Dan, is now the group's publishing company.
Charlie didn't even recognise Justin when he saw The Darkness on TV.
He says: "I saw them on Later With Jools Holland with this amazing singer who jumped on to the top of a grand piano, then leapt to the ground as the song ended.
" I thought they were brilliant.
"Then three days later, in college, someone said to me: "Did you see Justin?" I couldn't believe it."
Rick says: "Justin was a good student, a pleasant fellow, he should pop in and see us sometime."
* Did you know Justin Hawkins when he was in Huddersfield? Call Jenny Parkin on 01484 437769.
REVIEW: Nothing's too silly for these model monsters of metal
TITLE: The Darkness; VENUE: The Leeds Metropolitan University
IN the world of The Darkness, there's no such thing as an over-egged pudding.
The campest of prancing, the widdliest of guitar solos, that elaborate falsetto singing - nothing is outlawed as just too silly.
Convinced? You wouldn't be the only one. Top pundits have been flagging them up as the very future of rock, the band to finally resurrect the sheer, tingling excitement of heavy metal that was deeply unfashionable for so long.
But as you adopt a strutting air guitar stance, stick your tongue out, lean back and shake your hair, your rational side whispers "emperor's new clothes" and wonders, well, are they actually for real? Which of course is all part of the intrigue.
It hardly matters. Everyone adores them, regardless. You can practically feel the goodwill overload of the whole nation, spurring them on to world domination - from little kids to students to dads who spent their youth listening to Thin Lizzy and AC/DC. The mass-market of America, uninspired by the likes of Robbie Williams, is already falling in love with The Darkness, and a much bigger arena tour of the UK is also on the cards.
Leeds greeted their spangled heroes with grinning faces. And anyway, where's the law that says rock gods have to be soul-searching miserablists?
Opener Black Shuck - about Lowestoft's resident mysterious big cat - is a corker, with much screeching and clunking guitars.
So are the anthemic Get Your Hands Off My Woman and Love On The Rocks With No Ice. But other stuff is a bit two-dimensional - the likes of Friday Night is the sort of boringly breezy fodder no-one would listen to twice if it was on a Def Leppard B-side from 1987.
But this wasn't any old gig - and entertainment value outweighed the mere nuts and bolts of the tracks. Justin is too much of a showman to simply sing.
Halfway through, he changed into a pink and white candystripe catsuit, upping the audience participation with some Freddie Mercury-style "repeat after me" singing, and even giving a Radiohead song a jaunty metal makeover.
His costume for the grand finale was Vegas-era Elvis meets Jayne Torvill. As he hopped on to the shoulders of a security chap for a deserved lap of honour around the hall, wielding that axe all the way, the masses gleefully reached out to touch their messiah.
Monsters of rock or not, who cares? Don't fight it, feel it. Let The Darkness rule . . .