20th Ocober 2010
Meeting Bryan Ferry
So, Bryan Ferry's new album, Olympia, is to be released next Monday. Although possibly I'm not as big a fan as I once was, I'm still looking forward to the album, particularly having heard what I've heard. I think the album will be notable for more than having Kate Moss on the cover, of which there has already been much press.
Ferry can be accused of being originally responsible for capturing my imagination and inspiring me to want to be a songwriter. I think it was the romanticism of both his solo records and with Roxy Music, coupled with teenage lust and heartache (who knew that would last so long?!) that flipped the switch. I remember even now, writing my first lyric on the train after attending an interview to go to university. (And ever since, it's been noted, my priorities have been suspect).
Some years later, I was still young and foolish. Young and foolish enough to think Ferry might actually be interested in one of my songs. I knew he lived somewhere not far from where I was living at the time, so one sunny September Friday afternoon I decided to do some detective work in Sussex. I remember it clearly, particularly all the trees starting to look autumnal. Eventually, having spoken to some locals, I found the house that I'd read so much about. It seemed a magical moment, the point where for me, reality met fantasy. I lacked the chutzpah to walk through the open gates to the house to post the demo-tape directly but put it in a letter-box down the road (to be fair, I also didn't want to infringe anyone's privacy). And that was it. It was a long shot and I didn't expect to hear any more but I was pleased to have done what I had. It felt quite a special afternoon somehow.
The following week the demo-tape and covering letter were returned. I was surprised. If I were to get anything back at all I hadn't expected the response to be that quick. Would this be some turning point in my life? Could Bryan Ferry actually be writing back to say he liked one of my songs and that he wanted to record it? Had the package come back so quickly because he really liked one of my songs and wanted to record it as soon as possible? Err, no... seemingly the package had just been returned without any attention to its contents whatsoever or even with a response. I was a stunned. That was it, all those hopes all evaporated in a moment. I chastised myself for being so foolish. But then I noticed there was some handwriting in what seemed like blunt pencil on the back of my covering letter. It was from Ferry himself saying thanks for the interest but that he wasn't looking for songs at that point. WOW! I'd just received a hand-written note from this artist who'd inspired me. It kind of went some way in compensating for not having the prospect of some overnight success and becoming a millionaire (kind of).
Some years later, I actually got to meet Ferry in person. Bizarrely, it was on the stairs just outside the green room at the Hammersmith Apollo after one of his shows. I think I was looking for the toilets and going down the stairs as Ferry, having changed from performing, was coming up to join Antony Price and Nick de Ville (Roxy allumini) who were already inside. It was probably the best introduction possible, as it didn't allow me to be embarassing, fawning and over-effusive. I just shook his hand and said "Hi Bryan, great show!" He was gracious, very cool, (what did you expect?) seemed to genuinely appreciate the comment and said thanks. And that was that.
Well not quite. I returned to the party, chatted to the people I knew. It seemed surreal that Ferry was only a few yards away doing the same. As the evening came to an end, it turned out that he, I and a few others were the last to leave and I ended up with him and Audrey Wheeler (one of the backing singers) just inside the side entrance to the Apollo whilst they waited for their lift to go to the Atlantic Bar to meet some others for something to eat. And do you know what? They invited me. Yes, you read that right. THEY INVITED ME! And do you also know what? I declined. I was a teacher at the time, conscious I had to get back home and I was worried that my car in the nearby car park would be impounded etc if I was late. Yes folks, that's how rock and roll I am. Anyway, before we said our goodbyes, Audrey was kind enough to take the picture above (I know Ferry doesn't look happy but there isn't a gun at his head, he always looks like that!)
So, why is any of this starstruckness relevant to these pages? Well, one of the songs I submitted to Ferry all those years ago is actually on At The Water's Edge. If you can guess which one, and submit your entry below (only one entry per email address please), then you have the chance of winning a free CD copy of At The Water's Edge and a £15 voucher from Amazon with which you can either buy the deluxe version of Ferry's critcally-acclaimed new album, Olympia, or anything else you should wish to choose. The winning entry will be chosen at random on the 11th December 2010 from all the correct entries submitted. (The judges decision is final, etc, etc.) Good Luck!
The competition is now closed. The answer? Love You To Death