In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;
Funny old year 2011, I can’t remember a single day when I actually got the date right. It all got off to a disturbing start with the sudden death of Trish Keenan. She was an old mate, a formidable creative force and at only 42 died from swine flu. She never came out of an induced coma. A lot of people in my little musical world were extraordinarily upset, rocked to the very core in fact. I played wistful folk, film music and strange electronics at her wake and felt very privileged to have even met her.
As the year progressed and Spring sprung, a few of my daft projects came to fruition and some would say even “bloomed”. A radio documentary dedicated to the history and purpose of library music was commissioned and made for Radio 4. They even let me write and narrate it, which at any other time has been “not allowed”. I cried in my office when it played out on air, overcome by a peculiar sense of happiness and closure.
A five year fight to get a book about Sainsbury’s Own Label packaging was finally won; the book has now made it into print and I find myself wondering what other daft dreams I can turn into some kind of reality.
By April another sudden and unexpected death, that of a old, entertaining acquaintance. I realized, as his funeral procession of bikers roared off out of Croydon cemetery that I was going to more funerals than weddings, and that that unfortunately, will be the future.
By the middle of the year it had already become interesting musically. I dared to issue an album of buffet car announcements. These were all badly recorded by one passenger on the Sheffield to London train in 2007. It seemed to be the perfect recording for vinyl, fitting in nicely with the whole history of trains and wax, and it also meant I could get the classic British Rail logo on a big record sleeve. The album sold out in a week making me fall even more in love with the record buying public. Over the rest of the year I also gave life to the music from Fingerbobs, to a girl’s choir from Hastings, to some adverts and jingles by Barry Gray and even the soundtrack to a micro budget film about British morris dancing. And the good news is that it has been another 12 months when good old vinyl has made another comeback, with sales in the UK actually increasing on those of 2010.
My own musical tastes have wandered slightly, with an interest in public domain recordings taking me into the late 1950s and digging up artist like Carole Crevelling, Frank Hunter and Paul Smith who, in my opinion, all need to be heard by more people. I’ve been lucky to keep playing records out loud this year, with my soundtrack show on Resonance FM going from strength to strength, spots across many countrywide stations becoming regular and my conceptual “themed” sets being requested for festivals, peculiar events and odd nights in. I was asked to play at the Port Elliot Festival which was a total joy, and led to the confirmation that Cornwall is the perfect place to spend ages with your wife and kids.
This year has also made me realize that after working for myself for 15 years it’s actually quite a good way for me to get by. In the last few minutes I worked out that I’ve probably drunk more this year than any other, with a small habit involving Majestic Wine Warehouse being of no real health benefit at all.
A handful of other teeny tiny Trunk triumphs this year would include interviewing Dangermouse on the Culture show and then getting a shower of emails and texts commenting on my choice of knitwear.
My on-going enthusiasm for very old clothing in 2011 has been helped along by my growing obsession with military wristwatches. By this I mean timepieces worn by Spitfire pilots, clearance divers and submariners between 1939 and 1970. Any free “time” I’ve had this year has been spent learning, investigating and trading in these addictive and beautiful little things.
In fact it has been a joy to keep learning about all sorts this year. And strangely enough my quest for knowledge has, in 2011, led inadvertently to teaching. Requests have come in this year for me to lecture at universities and colleges. I go, I drink coffee, they ask me to talk about my various activities, I drink more coffee and then talk non-stop for two hours. Whether anyone listens or not is by the by, but the idea of telling students to get out there and try to do exactly what they really want to do is thrilling.
And then as the year closed there was another sudden death, that of jazz man Michael Garrick. He was a fine pianist, innovator and tireless teacher of all things modern and art like. And over the years had become an artist on my label. His memorial was last week in Berkhamstead and included unbelievable performances from Cleo Laine, Nigel Kennedy and even Garrick’s grandchildren.
On the way home (having stopped off at Majestic in Berkhampstead) I thought about one of the most memorable 45 minutes of 2011, listening to Danny Baker on Desert Island Discs. He’d just got the all clear from cancer and was firing on all cylinders, playing tracks by Bernard Cribbins and expanding on his attitude to life and money. It was a magical and inspiring few moments of radio that will stay with me for the rest of my little life.