I’ve never felt more like singing the (solo) blues
28 January 2016
I am feeling a little bit jilted.
An important relationship has recently come to an end. Already I find I am missing the old familiar things we did – our meetings once or twice a week, our plans, our outings, the way things changed between us over time. It has been a couple of weeks since the break-up, but I still catch myself thinking of our future together before I remember that we no longer have one.
Last week, in the traditional way, I sent a letter – an email somehow seemed too flip, too light-hearted. Maybe, I wrote, we could get together now and then – nothing serious, no pressure, just for nostalgia’s sake.
The reply was impeccably polite but read very much like a firm, final kiss-off.
So now it is time to face up to it. We’re finished, through. It’s over. From now on, I’ll be on my own or – a faintly exhausting thought right now – I’ll have to start all over again with someone new.
Either way, playing my guitar won’t be quite the same without Derek Hewitson.
The end was all very civilised. Something Happened, the trio Derek and I, with our singer Tracey Baldwin, played had worked hard in November and December, performing a Christmas show. We met early in the New Year to discuss the next venture. It was then that Derek made his announcement. He and I had been performing together since 2008. Now he wanted to stop before what had always been fun began to feel like work.
No slow fade. No farewell gig. Retirement.
So the three of us played a few songs for old times’ sake, and then split. Handshakes and kisses all round.
With rehearsal time on my hands, I have been thinking about the odd business of musical partnership. For it to survive, so many things have to be in place that it’s a sort of miracle that any groups survive.
There has to be musical compatibility. Derek and I met, bizarrely, through a sort of musical internet dating site, almost entirely populated by young bands looking for a drummer or guitarist.
By some extraordinary miracle – each of us was looking through the site with a sense of utter futility – we made contact. At our first, slightly nervous meeting, we discovered that. while we had little else in common, we liked the same music – odd stuff from the 1920s, songs by Jimmy Rodgers and Cole Porter, mad western swing songs from the 1940s, Ry Cooder, Gillian Welch. When we started playing together, everything else began to fall into place.
For me, it has been an adventure. Derek has a wide musical knowledge and is a brilliant guitarist and so, not only did I learn new songs but playing them with him, I began to improve. We set up Something Happened. We put on shows, including an exploration of how political correctness changes with every decade or so, which late became a two-part documentary on Radio 4. A couple of year ago, Tracey joined and added to the fun.
When I started writing my own songs, Derek was often there – as in the video made by brilliant son Xan to accompany my song ‘Sad Old Bastards With Guitars’. He, Tracey and I travelled about, performing rather odd musical shows about class, romance and Christmas.
So this is just a sad little line in the internet sand to mark a moment of change, the end of a musical journey. I should probably be pleased that it ended without a crash, and I’m certainly grateful for the past seven or so years, but right now I’m missing the peculiar songs he introduced me to, his great picking and the style and laughter he brought to his music.