There was a moment last week when, instead of working, I spent a minute searching the internet, as writer's often do. It's that or having a look at twitter or facebook maybe. Easily distracted, writers. I put in the first of two or three names, people I look for every now and then. People who were important to me once but who I've lost touch with. One is now a doctor in British Columbia, I search to see if there are any pictures of him rather than just the 'rate your doctor' listings. I then happened upon a photograph of my niece at a fancy party in London, and then her website. Finally, aware that I was wasting time, I put the final name in, the name of a friend who unfortunately shared the same name as a relatively well-known actor, comedian, director so that whenever I'd searched before there were just too many pages to plough through. If I had thought, and remembered that my friend had been in an indie band in the mid eighties that did pretty well, John Peel was a fan, I might have found him earlier, but instead I found him too late.
The search engine found him for the first time in ten years of looking. It was an obituary. An obituary written for The Guardian less than a month ago. I held my breath as I clicked on the link hoping that it was someone else with the same name but I knew it wasn't, I'd seen the reference to the band he'd been in. I lost touch with him a long time ago, almost thirty years, but I'd always expected to catch up with him sometime. I'd found other people, lots of them unexpectedly through social networking sites. In the last couple of years I've renewed contact with lots of old friends and I just thought that one day soon he'd pop up. Now I'm too late, and just too late which makes it more difficult somehow, though I have learnt from the writer of the tribute that he died unexpectedly, telling few people of his diagnosis.
My head these last few days has been full of memories, of bands we were in together, saw together, listened to on my sister's old record player. He'd asked me, out of the blue, to front a band he was putting together. We were both 17 and went to different schools but a friend of mine who went to his school suggested me. God knows why, I had no confidence, I'd only ever sung in the church choir and I seemed to be incapable of remembering the words to any song. In the few gigs that we did I had to have the lyrics written in a jotter sitting on a music stand by the microphone. This was the punk/new wave era so this rig up looked like an arty affectation rather than a necessity. The other three band members were excellent musicians so I suppose I was able to get away with it, warbling incoherently at the front was the style of the time after all.
I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I will not get a chance to laugh over these early gigs with my friend, to find out how life has treated him because instead death has caught up with him first. I just have this overwhelming need to write about it, to somehow make up for this loss by conjuring him up again with words.