Last week I launched a Facebook group dedicated to the memory of Alice Ormsby-Gore (1952-95). Alice was the youngest daughter of the fifth Lord Harlech, David Ormsby-Gore who served as British Ambassador to Washington in the early 1960s and a close friend of John F. Kennedy. She came into my awareness initially through my knowledge of the life of Marc Bolan, especially from 2015 when I was drawn into researching his musical life in more detail. For a brief period from mid-1969 to 1971 Alice was a friend of Marc’s wife June Child, and was a partner for Eric Clapton until 1974. Alice, Marc and June were captured together in a delightful group of photos taken in 1969 by Marc’s friend and official Tyrannosaurus Rex photographer Peter Sanders. (You can see these images on the FB group page). Music was very important to Alice on many levels. In 2019 I found myself pulled deeper into Alice’s own story which is almost unbearably tragic. From that came a desire to at least remember that life in some form. By the end of 2019 I had a rough 15,000 word biography sketch which I’ve used to update and expand her wikipedia page. I hope the new FB group will provide a place where people can place memories or further information.
I noted the death of former Cream bassist Jack Bruce a few days ago. I met him twice – once for an interview and once informally at a Gibson guitar launch in London. I enjoyed our conversations. I was never a particular fan of Cream, though I like Disraeli Gears and seeing the film of their farewell gig when I was a teenager was memorable. If I think of Jack Bruce the first line of music that comes to mind is the opening of ‘Badge’, a wonderful song that achieves a lot in less than three minutes. Swans in the park …
Someone else connected with swans is Marc Bolan, whose first big hit was ‘Ride A White Swan’. I’ve been compiling some information about him and some new research. I hope to get at least a couple of magazine articles from this and possibly a book. It is sad that so many people involved in his story are no longer with us. It is such a pity that his wife June did not write a rock wife memoir because she would have had many insights. I discovered this morning that June had a hand in putting Eric Clapton into John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and she also worked for a time with the management company who handled Pink Floyd in their early days.
I duly bought the remastered double CDs of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy. The casual listener is unlikely to be impressed with the alternate mixes which are on the companion discs, but being familiar with the music I think they are good and at times exciting in their raw state. Led Zep ought to be heard raw and not too polished. The stand-out is probably the alternate mix of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (note, alternate mix, not a different take) which was surprisingly affecting.
A number of interesting secondhand CDs have come my way recently, which I’m slowly working my through. They include Shostakovich 5 and 9 (do yourself a favour and listen to the slow mvt of no.5), a disc of Bohemian string music by Martinu, Dvorak and Janacek, Dvorak’s Quintets for strings, Schnittke piano concertos, Nielsen 4 & 5, an obscure Canadian disc of string music including Vaughan Williams and Elgar, and some Villa-Lobos string quartets.
November will see the 40th anniversary of the death of English singer-songwriter Nick Drake. His sister has prepared a new biography and there may be a few new recordings emerging.
I should mention I’m now on Facebook. And Songs and Solos should now be out in all good bookshops.