OK, so a thing happened. I was entrapped in a chain of events that would probably have rendered a lesser man allergic to freeze-dried food for the rest of his natural life. But it was good – I’m probably over-reacting… I mean I interact with famous people quite regularly on Twitter and sometimes on Facebook, and even less often face to face, what with the various restraining orders and suchlike… But this was something different… Anyway – It happened like this, and you’ll have to pay attention.
I listen to BBC Radio 2 almost every morning on my drive to work… I’m sat in the car for about 90 minutes between 07:15 and 08:45, listening to Chris Evans and his team bang on about stuff… I mean I turn over whenever the sports reports come on obviously, because sports are totally not my bag – But for the most part, you could certainly class me as a listener.
Yesterday (Here’s where is starts get all self-referential and cyclic, so ecoutez-la attentivement.) They played a song from back in the days of my youth, ‘Senses working Overtime’ by the band XTC – Now, this was originally released back in 1982, when I was fourteen. (OK, I’ll give you a hint here, use that information to work out my year of birth… I was 14 in 1982) and it’s great, you should give it a listen, it’s full of angst and 12-string guitars, you’ll love it... I know what kind of stuff you like – Trust me.
So, I got into work and searched for the track on YouTube (Other streaming sites are available) so that I may listen to it whilst reading my emails. I found the song pretty easily, but also found a cover-version by one of my favourite bands of the time… Marillion. Now, Marillion had provided the soundtrack of my own personal 80s journey… And I’d never really heard them play a cover before (Unless you count 1983’s Margaret, which is sort of a cover of the traditional “The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond” but with a modern twist) – Anywho, in the late 80’s the lead singer, Derek ‘Fish’ Dick left due to stress and management pressure. In my opinion at the time, as a petulant teenager, and still today, as a petulant adult, that signalled the band’s demise. A lot of people deny this, but then a lot of people voted for Trump. (As it turned out… I may have been wrong)
The cover of ‘Senses working Overtime’ was by post-Fish Marillion, when the band was fronted by Steve Hogarth… whom I’d never heard of, and I still think looks a bit like a cross between Barry Humphries and Michael Hutchence – If I’m being honest I thought it was quite good, and went in search of other covers by the band. I found several and posted them on Facebook one after the other. Some were better than others, as you would expect – But the defining part of all the covers, and of Marillion in total, was the guitaring of Steve Rothery, who had been one of the founding members of the band, and he’s not too bad as hairy plank-spankers go.
Now, I’ve got a mate called Nathan, who I’ve mentioned on several occasions before… And amongst all of his other odd hobbies, is his seeming need to collect drummers as friends on Facebook – So it wasn’t long before he said to me, “Hey Dandy, let me introduce you to my mate Leon Parr, the sometimes drummer with Marillion and The Steve Rothery Band – Late of Mosque and he knows the Verve.” Well, on any normal day, this would have exploded my kittens, but I played it cool – We had a nice chat and he said that he might be touring next year, and they’d probably end up playing some of the ‘Fish’ era Marillion stuff, so I should probably try and get hold of some tickets for that.
Now, great story right? – Famous people – Professional musicians… Talking to a member of a band whose lyrics I can remember word-for-word despite it being thirty years ago that I last bought an album (it was on vinyl too)
But no, that’s not where it ends… A new person started to comment on my post, a friend of Leon the drummer… He was hugely knowledgeable about Marillion and was seemingly at a lot, if not all, of the venues when these covers were being performed. I didn’t know the gentleman in question but a very quick google search showed that he was a massive Marillion fan and the sometime live guitarist with ‘Edison’s Children’ the band that Marillion’s bassist, Pete Trewavas formed in 2011.
His name was Eric ‘Rick’ Armstrong who oddly knows another Facebook friend of mine, Simon Kregar Jr. - Who lives in the US and paints space-related paintings. He strikes me as a pretty nice guy who’s used to people being starstruck around him. His Dad’s name was Neil, and when I was a mere 1 year old – Neil Armstrong did a pretty cool thing that I really shouldn’t have to explain to you (Unless you didn’t work out that I was born in 1968)
Rick Armstrong talked to me on Facebook… Would any of you like to touch me? There will, of course, be a small charge - Which I may give to some charity or other.