Sunday, 9 June 2013

My walk on part in the war (well, one of them)

Suitably chastened by John for Going Gently, I'm finally getting round to another post.  Nothing earth shattering has happened here - still no sign of anything approaching Summer, for starters.  Have had a couple of lovely days out over the bank holidays, including a day at the Weald and Downland Museum.  That dovetails into the most interesting thing that happened to me lately, bumping into the matinee idol of the historical scene, Peter Ginn (Tales from the Green Valley, Victorian/Edwardian & Wartime Farm) as I walked to the station after work.  Having talked about my interest in Dig for Victory and Land Settlement, and my collection of books relating to the subject, then shared our mutual admiration for the butter made at Acton Scott, I asked him if any other projects were in the pipeline.  Turns out the next series will cover one of my other favourite eras of history - medieval, with particular emphasis on the influence of monastic agricultural practices on the farming population as a whole.  It was filmed at the Weald & Downland, and will probably be broadcast in October.  Sod's law that last year we didn't venture down to Sussex due to not wanting to park in a quagmire - we could have seen the team in progress.

This past April, one of my absolute musical heroes died.  Scott Miller is hardly known in this country.  His first band, Game Theory, never played here, though I had the good fortune to be on holiday in Boston one year when they played there, and his second, The Loud Family, only managed one brief visit to the UK.  Yet those who have heard him music are inclined to revere his - fantastic songwriter with a marvellous turn of phrase, musically or lyrically.  After taking a decade out, he was planning to record a new Loud Family record this Summer, which makes the loss more keenly felt by those who knew him or his music.

I was lucky enough to interview Scott Miller on the only London date of the Loud Family tour, though the article was never published as the magazine it was for went bust shortly after.  I hope I still have a typed copy of it stored away should anyone ever want to read my memoirs.

I've been recalling a few tales to the temp we've had at work for the past month.  Whatever his work rate, it's been wonderful to be in the same office as someone who has heard of some of my favourite acts, let alone discovering on his last day that not only has he heard of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, but Mantra Slider is his favourite track.  Then, when I was talking about how Golden Earring didn't just suddenly appear in the 70's, but had been part of a massive scene in the 60's, he piped up "Q65 were Dutch too, weren't they?"  As you can imagine, my gob was well and truly smacked by that one.

So good luck William in your future postings, and hope you keep earning enough to subsidise your future musical endeavours.

One of the anecdotes I shared with him was my brief connection to the career of another music legend who died recently.  Albeit a music legend whose fame came without uttering or playing a note.

My first job out of sixth form college in 1979 was with a small music management company.  Somehow or other they had secured the rights to release the full recording of the original Radio series of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on vinyl.  This meant various meetings in the two room Covent Garden erie that served as an office, many with Douglas Adams, who at the time viewed publicity not as oxygen but as irritating at best, stifling at worst.  Anyway, the series had a fanbase that included many notable people, including some at record sleeve designers Hipgnosis, who agreed to design the cover.  As it was a double album, this meant a gatefold sleeve.  So one day everyone gathered to discuss the final design for the sleeve.  The front and back were sorted out, the inside of the gatefold gradually agreed upon, except for a blank space in the top left corner.  Silence, pencil chewing and head scratching from all parties, then I innocently piped up that there should be some kind of representation of an entry in the actual book.  This was siezed upon, and Adams scurried away to create an "entry".  This was then delivered to me, and I was sent to a telex agency near Leicester Square (something I imagine has long ceased to exist) to type up snippets, and as a teaser for the album, send them to various music publications and other such companies.  The printouts of these messages then had to be taken to the Hipgnosis office in Denmark Street for them to be pasted up onto the last remaining blank space of the artwork.

So there you have it.  When Storm Thorgerson, designer of so many iconic record sleeves, ran out of ideas, who did he turn to?  Me.

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