The ‘Man Left in Space’ is finally written, 59 minutes of music all present and correct and I now commence the not inconsiderable task of turning the demos into something approaching finished performances. This requires the help of my wonderful guest musicians in some areas, and as with the previous album I’m thrilled at the sheer musicianship of what is coming back. The guest list currently stands at Nick D’Virgilio, Lee Abraham, Steve Dunn, Simon Rogers, Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton and Dave Ware. There are more to come too. More updates will be appearing regularly as mixing gathers momentum.
During the summer I lost two beacons of my childhood. The first Jon Lord, was my singular inspiration for learning to play the keyboard, and for 27 or so years was credited in my world at least, as the defining keyboard player in rock music. There are few sounds more emotive to me than a Hammond B3 being wound up through a Leslie speaker. Jon turned the Hammond into a performance art beyond music, into an adrenaline provoking realm that is akin to the aural delights of an Italian V8 being caned on a mountain pass. In an opposing vein, his deft touch braking the Leslie and lowering the swell pedal into a barely audible pure tone, in tracks such as ‘You Keep on Moving’, could bring tears to a grown man.
The second was Neil Armstrong. My dad recently informed me I’d missed sharing the same christian name by a whisker and it was probably for the best. He always seemed a constant in my childhood even though he shunned the attention his obvious achievement was destined to produce. The scary thing about Neil’s passing in August, was that I’d spent the previous 2 months reading his autobiography as part of my research and part inspiration for ‘The Man Left in Space’.
Despite having a healthy interest in the technical and engineering aspects of the achievement, I think it was the human response to it that fascinated me the most. It was this theme that was central to the album, ‘what price for achievement?’ When I heard the news I was already halfway through Michael Collins ‘Carrying the Fire’ which proved similarly enlightening about Neil and the negative effects it had on the remaining member of the famous trio, Buzz Aldrin.
They say death comes in threes and sadly this month we lost my dad’s sister, who again was a central character in the story of my childhood. So for the second time in 3 years I find myself being asked to read at a family member’s funeral. The first occasion had such a profound effect on me that I ended up writing an entire album about it, ‘When Age Has Done It’s Duty’ was the result. The preparations for the second one are already starting to reveal those forgotten family secrets. I knew my late grandmother was something of an amateur poet, but until this evening, I’d not realised the extent of her talent. It’s one of her poems about life in a small village (Hinkshay in Shropshire), during the first world war, that I will be reading at the funeral of her daughter (my Auntie Glen) next week.
It’s sad that extended families only seem to get together at funerals but I somehow think I’ll be taking the opportunity to talk to those last remaining living links to the past, and being inspired to tell their stories in words and music.
‘When Age Has Done Its Duty, what remains is memory.’