To The Messages
I'm already finding out more of his interesting past, including some of the things he did and the people he knew. The messages of support and commiseration have been very kind and helpful!
In the longer term, I'd love to build up a fuller picture of him, as seen through the eyes of those of you who knew him recently and in the distant past! So I'd be very grateful if you could send me any thoughts, comments, memories etc that I can pull together and keep for the future. I'd also like to publish them here on the site, so please tell me if they're not for public viewing!
A special thank you for all those that have sent messages: I have received many, and I'm endeavouring to put more quotes from those replies here.
In particular, thank you to Sharon Chevin at The Publicity Connection for featuring Alan on her web-site; and for being so helpful in getting him into Music Week (19th Jan, page 2)! This also extends to Keith Barker for getting in touch, and David Martin for his patience!...
Whether or not you made it on 29th January, please send us anything you know, on or about Alan; short or long, your contribution will be valued.
Please send your thoughts on any of these (and other) areas to: email@example.com.
Don't forget to tell us who you are and when you knew Alan (and if you mind us publishing some or all of your message).
1) General Messages
Anything you want to say would be appreciated, especially if you can't make it on 29th
2) Big Al's Quirky Comments
Any remembered strange behaviour, speech or quote
3) Sizer's Shaggy-dog Stories
Any longer dedications or epic tales
4) Miscellaneous Sizer
Any other thoughts
From Clive James
In showbusiness you get used to meeting people who have less to offer than they think. Alan was one of those people who had much more. I don't think he ever understood his gift for delighting an audience. In Footlights I was lucky enough to get my name as director on one of the most successful sketches we ever did. It was called Slow Motion Wrestling. There were three people in it, but I always remember four: Rob Buckman, Jonathan James-Moore, Dai Davies and Alan. The reason for the false memory was that the sketch had two different casts at various times. Jonathan was very funny in the role of the heavy, but there was a limit to how high he could lift Rob with one hand. As far as I recall, it was always, and only, Alan who had the mighty strength to punch Rob slowly in the stomach, very slowly hoist him shoulder high, and infinitely slowly turn to the audience and smile with satisfaction. It was the smile that did it. The audience, already falling out of their seats, would roll around and howl.
Alan had a combination of athletic precision and true modesty that dominated the stage. His paradox was that he didn't really feel that he deserved to be the centre of attention --- the exact reverse of the misplaced self-confidence that drives most entertainers to hog the spotlight. He made me uncomfortable sometimes because I thought that he had me pegged for an egomanicac. There was a Walker Brothers send-up that he did with Pete Atkin. The song, with music by Pete and wickedly funny lyrics by Barry Brown, was called "It's My Father You Were After". Somehow I got my name as director on that one as well, but Alan was well aware that I knew next to nothing about the Walker Brothers. He had a way of raising his eyebrow during rehearsals that made me feel as if I were about to be arrested for fraud. All I contributed to the sketch was the idea that the Brothers, after advancing to the front of the stage, should pause for a long time before launching into the vocal. Alan, solemnly pouting with pretended self-regard, had the audience diving into the aisles before he had even lifted the microphone to his mouth. With charm like that he could have done anything, but the terrible truth about being a performer is that you have to want it more than life. He preferred to live, which makes his untimely death all the harder to take. Like many of his more ambitious friends, I was counting on him to go on being out there somewhere, proving to us all that life doesn't have to be like this, that there really is such a thing as a normal existence, with time to spare -- with time to be yourself.
From David Martin
Still Sunday mornings, with crisp serge uniform and cold fingers on his cornet. Evenings after school at his comfortable family home in the residential streets off Cherry Hinton Road.
Shambling lope with vacant frown which, with a flick of his head would fix on you; the reflex rise of a hand to extend a finger to push the Hank Marvin specs up and get you into focus, to address you with a scowl or a frown, a drawing in of the chin and sudden giggle of devilment as he looked you up and down before pronouncing some fiendish greeting.
From gangly, apparently unathletic, bookish, absent-minded, slightly directionless youth, to sensitive caring renegade. Black leather jacket and jeans, worn well on a tall, lean frame.
From languishing in a backwater "form" rugby group, just out there to comply with the partaking of games rule, to fleet footed wing three quarter in the 2nd team then to the first team, all in a matter of weeks when someone saw that if you could get the ball to him, you would score; hysterical sight of him throwing the ball in at the line-outs or tottering along on the wing, with eyes screwed up hard and head back, shrieking for the ball, but not being able to see when it was coming to him, or who to throw it to when he had it or; fearsome tackler in defence.
Weaving with hunched shoulders over hockey stick and ball, in the black shirt of the first team, concentrating hard and deceiving defending halves. Squash and tennis too; and running like the wind at 440. Suddenly from unassuming and gangly youth to lean, muscular athlete.
Pints in The Rock, pints in The Criterion or The Spread. Late ambling home on a frosty winter night, Girls, books, kicking against the pr*cks, my first BLT at 4 a.m. in his kitchen.
Unassuming modest genius on a guitar; a distinctive signature of fast and melodic riffs in his breaks; fast wrists, strong, long, bony fingers. Micky Baker's jazz chords effortlessly.
Hollerin' Blues - with Barney and Rado; and occasionally gigs with me and others.
Parties at houses, which unlike many of us, he was always invited to by an attractive girl and he rarely crashed. La Bamba in our cups, laughing and deriding ourselves. Perfidia, Trambone et al with great panache. Classical pieces in more sombre moments so early in the morning. Ambling home in the chill dawn, tired but content.
Archetypal undergraduate, immersed in his modern languages in a great room in Downing. Comfortable, trendy and bookish all at once. Good times climbing in and out of Cats and Downing.
I saw him again, once, many years later, in London. He was, to use his words, on a nostalgia trip, and seemed to be working his way through a list of old mates. He didn’t say he was, but I felt it. I never saw him again, although I did try to contact him a few times; but he was more celebrated and illustrious than me, and probably too immersed in experiencing life intensely in some other mode. He did leave me with a lasting sense of companionship, fun, exhilaration with the physical and the metaphysical all at once; and a couple of Clapton albums he brought me from Polydor that night in London.
As Clive James has said, I was happy just knowing he was out there somewhere, but I always hoped that I would see him again one day. Sadly, not now.
From Stuart Barlow
I had known Alan since 1989 through playing squash. We were both members of Richmond Town Squash Club. My diary for that year showed we played twice - Alan winning both times 3-0. What a start to a friendship that was to last 15 years.
Over time we started playing a regular weekly game with a small element of socialising afterwards! Wednesday nights became squash nights. Although our squash didn't improve we became very good friends. Alan was competitive on the court which lead to some interesting games. In the heat of "the battle" the sight of a squash racket hurtling from one of us was not unusual - this being an art we had both mastered. Retiring to the bar we then had the rugby and football worlds to sort out. Alan starting get a soft spot for Arsenal - [Cornwall's] influence !
With Alan nothing was too much trouble if you needed help. Lift somewhere/computer not working: "I will be round shortly!". Alan was a very good friend, and will be sadly missed.
From Ivan Scanlon-Carling
Natasha Woodcock had put [Nick's] Dad and I back in touch after many many years, shortly before his untimely death.
I was in a band with Alan, Geoff Pike, Bob "Rado" Close, Alan "Barney" Barnes and "er um" on drums, back in the late sixties, and having left for America in search of fame and fortune shortly thereafter, had lost touch with all of them.
I heard via a friend that Alan was A&R'ing for someone in the UK but nothing else from any of the others. Having returned to the UK in the mid nineties, I slowly got back in touch with my old musician chums, one of whom was Chris Woodcock, father of Natasha, with whom Alan worked. As is the way of these things, he also found my brother Brian`s website on the history of Cambridge Bands and contacted Brian, who forwarded the letter, just signed "Alan", to me. Through some kind of wierd muso telepathy, I knew it was Alan & wrote back asking if it were really him which sure enough it was (confused?).
With the typical lack of appropriateness generally shown by "the fates", Alan was in the middle of an exceptionally busy period in his life at this time and despite brief emails back and forth we never managed to meet up before I received the stunning news of his death.
So, strangely, I am left with only my memories of the young man I knew forty odd years ago as a genial, witty companion and a sympathetic, sensitive player.
Can`t believe I got so close after all these years, but if [Nick] should hear from Geoff or any of the others I would love to hear from them.
Goodbye Alan. Way too soon.
From Nigel Noble
[Bursar of The Lady Elleanor Holles School, where Nigel and Alan worked]
Very soon after my arrival at the school, I had the pleasure of lunching with Alan one day. It was soon apparent that opposite me sat a man with considerable experience of life and that his interests went far and wide.
As I got to know him better, I came to appreciate his intelligence, wit and wonderful smile. He also had a way with words. "Do you really mean that?" he once asked me in a moment of mirth, before proceeding to take me on a verbal roundabout, underpinned at all times by an engaging but querying smile!
One of the first projects I was asked to undertake at the school was to organise the installation of digital equipment into the language laboratory. Alan at the time was the technician in the Modern Languages Department. His capacity to assimilate the technology and master all the nuances of the system was impressive to say the least. No matter the problem he had a ready and effective solution. Moving over to the new technology was not easy but without Alan's presence and commitment it would have been infinitely more difficult.
His performance is this role soon led to him taking on a wider position as ICT Technician. When in the spring of 2000 it was decided to install a large and sophisticated computer network at the school, I had the pleasure of again working with Alan. He was very much a self-learner with computer systems and his capacity to absorb knowledge was prodigious. In a very short space of time he became a key member of the project team and we shared many amusing times over the summer holiday period as the system was installed.
The results of his commitment in that year and those that followed are there for all to see. In the first autumn term with the network up and running, Alan seemed to be everywhere at once attending to the myriad, niggling problems that emerged. With his tool bag, positive attitude and ready smile, he endeared himself to staff and pupils alike. Hours of work were of no concern to Alan. He got the job done.
He also greatly enjoyed taking hardware to bits. His work area in the server room, when visible, was evidence of his ability to have several computers in bits, all at the same time, all in the same place and in no particular sense of order. However, the testament to his ability is that once returned to their owner, they all worked!
Alan had his own inimitable way of working - no one could change that - but he was totally committed to the school. We miss his presence, his smile, his sense of fun, his character, and his ability. He has left his mark and it will remain so for a long time.
It was good to know you Alan, albeit for far too short a time.
From David Ward
Alan and his family attended the Cambridge Salvation Army Citadel in Tenison Road, Alan starring as Solo Cornet in the Junior Band and, although I cannot claim it as a true memory, no doubt showing many of the Senior Members how to make the instrument sing. The family lived in Argyle Street and I well recall being invited round for Sunday lunch and tea both there and latterly to the house in Flamsteed Road where the "odd" cornet/trombone duet was played to the chagrin of Alan's sisters and brother. I suspect that for Alan as for many of us the "Army" proved too intensive and restrictive as the years passed but it set up a bond which prevailed as our paths crossed over the years.
In 1957 Alan joined the Perse School at its then very new buildings in Hills Road where as a third former I was enjoined to make him feel welcome. No need! Natural comminicators and leaders, however modest, need no introductions. I probably bumped into Alan but a handful of times in his early days, but later was aware of his presence as he mounted the stage to collect prizes for his varied and numerous academic and sporting achievements.
By the mid-sixties Alan had become a star winger in the Old Persean Rugby Club whose halcyon days of carrying all before them relied in no small part on Alan's ability first to locate the ball (even then his eyesight gave him excuses no other players could have conjured up), then to receive it; and if he took the ball without a man he was off, his speed over the ground after an initial short period of wheel spin and his outside swerve leaving all opposition trailing in his wake. He never really learned to pass except, after touching down for a try, to the full back who would be taking the conversion kick.
On a number of occasions Alan and I sought each others company for the journey to and from away matches. A journey back from the West Norfolk club (whose ground nestled under the sea wall and proudly sported an oak tree in the mid-field area) saw Alan trying to teach me to sing a descant to his lead in a wide repertoire of songs, not all learned in his Salvation Army days I wager. Close your eyes and it was Elvis trembling or Frank crooning. Put a guitar - or a sax or a trumpet - in his way and the entertainment flowed provided you had the patience for Alan to overcome his natural reluctance to take the stage.
Alan the chef used his skills to no mean affect when entertaining hosts of Old Perseans to lunch in Twickenham on International match days. Chille con carne and beef casserole accompanied by mountains of rice appeared without limit or apparent effort.
In recent years our meetings became all too infrequent but the memories of a man of such modest talent and warmth remain vividly clear and precious.
God bless all who loved and were loved by Alan.
From Jessica Goold
Having met Alan on the dance floor at the St Margarets Residents Association bashes at the Turk's Head, we became friends, then Newly Single Neighbours when he moved over Way Out West to where I had moved to Twickenham TW2. He would tease me that we'd both come down in the world - TW2 was distinctly downmarket compared with the gentility of St Margarets, TW1!
Alan soon became a support, a help, a buddy and a chaperone for us local gals - me, Jan, Sarah and Naomi, or collectively "The Blondes" as he loved to call us.
Our fraternal male chum, he was always there for us, to care and help. From fixing a burst pipe (tool-box always to hand) to mending a broken heart (a pint for him and a glass of red wine for us at The Prince Blucher usually did the trick) Alan was Our Man.
Indeed, you'd think he'd have held back on the generous gestures he frequently made, when time after time, a short Saturday morning favour would turn into a weekend-dominating mini-drama:-
- the "two trips should do it" house-moving of me to Richmond which turned into 6 trips, the car breaking down, a 13-hour day, and Alan putting his back out.
- Alan doing himself a mischief when optimistically thinking he could vault over the back fence to get in the back-door after friend and neighbour Jan had locked herself out.
- Finding himself with a flatful of friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends when he rashly offered to host a "Night at the Cinema" when Titanic had sold out at the Odeon. (His enormous, delicious, spontaneously rustled-up vat of chilli & rice was far more spectacular then the movie.)
- Emotional support when we lost the Rugby was key, and I'd keep an ear to the radio and my bike at the ready just in case my company was needed for drowning of sorrows at the local. Mind you, Alan always made the rugby a celebration whatever the outcome.
- He claimed that my (questionable) skills as a seamstress had saved the day (and his embarrassment) when his Grand Entrance at our 70's party was put on Eleventh-hour hold as I nipped back to my flat on my bike, slung my sewing machine on the back, peddled back furiously (all in my full-length purple satin disco-diva evening gown) and hastily inserted a panel of material (flowery chintz was all we could fine) into the derriere of the trousers of his Fab and Groovy crushed blue velvet suit, a genuine Carnaby Street creation which had made it's sole (soul?!) outing as his Wedding Suit! Despite his regular squash-playing, he'd put on just a few pounds since then.
We will all miss Alan, but have happy, touching memories of a great companion and a dear and generous friend.
From Philip "Pip" Williams
The 70's were a fantastic time when singles actually sold and record companies actually used to listen to the tapes that hopefuls sent in!
[Nick's] dad was one of the best A&R people to have graced our industry.
I mean, he really did love music.
David Walker introduced me to Alan when I was a fledgling producer, and we worked on many projects together. Indeed, I owe so much to Al for taking a chance on me and giving me some great projects in the early days- helping me to learn the ropes, and later, in the Polydor years, we continued to work on some great projects.
The vibe in the RCA Curzon Street office way back was wonderful. Great producers were always in and out, music was always playing and there was an under-running theme that seems to have been lost with the new technology that now swamps everything. Music lives and breathes, and Alan had a huge passion for great players making music together. He also had a wicked and subtle sense of humour!
I am profoundly saddened at his passing.
Of course I will be there on the 29th to toast the man and celebrate his life.
My deepest sympathies are with [Nick], Nicki and of course his partner Ann, whom I've never had the pleasure of meeting.
God bless Al - thanks are not enough.
From Jerry Boys
I've known Alan on and off since about 1971, can't remember which year exactly. I first met him through a project with an Irish band called The Johnstons and their crazy producer who I think nearly sent Alan mad. Our paths then crossed over the next 12 years or so on several occassions including such projects as Level42 and Bagatelle.
I always felt him to be a kindred spirit particularly regarding his sense of humour and healthy dis-regard for the norms of the music business. He was always more interested in music than fashion. I also remember him for his honest no bullsh*t opinions about things. If you played him a new act you were trying to get signed you knew you would get a quick honest opinion.
When to my surprise Alan "left" the music business I was really surprised and unfortunately I failed to stay in touch. I was extremely pleasantly surprised when he re-made contact a few years ago and to both our surprises we found we shared a love of Cornwall amongst our other common interests. When Dorothy and I finally met up with Ann and Alan it was of course in a pub where we both proceeded to bore the pants off Ann and Dorothy talking about the music business. Alan still had the sense of humour and honest opinions and to top it all the 4 of us also got on really well. Dorothy and I really felt we had made some new friends in Cornwall.
The 4 of us continued to meet up once or twice a year and have a good laugh together and on one occasion we met [Nick] as well. Dorothy and I are hoping to spend most of our time in Cornwall soon and he will be sorely missed.
From Mik Moore
I knew Al at Downing College.
We shared a love of music (and T staircase I think). I had a guitar and he helped me out with a few chords and stuff. I still have the Beatles "You Won't See Me" written out in Al's hand with the chords which he taught me and which I still use when I play this song. To me he was a music guru. I was learning but he really knew how to play. I wrote songs and he, along with his mate Pete Atkin, were ruthless critics of anything not original; I don't think I liked hearing their comments but I had to admit they knew what they were talking about. We lost touch after Cambridge but I never forgot him, his ironic perspective on Cambridge gown society from someone who came from the town; and I'll pull out "You Won't See Me" one more time, give it a good bash, and remember Al.
From Mark King
I would like to express how lucky I was to have known [Nick's] Dad many years ago when he was in A&R at Polydor Records.
The success that Level42 enjoyed was due in no small part to Alan who signed us to the label in 1980 and guided us through our first five albums, including signing me for a solo deal that enabled me to buy a house and start my family. I'll always be very grateful to him.
I have been keeping a belt buckle which [Nick's] Dad loaned me for a video shoot way back. Several times he asked me for it's return , which I fully intended to do but somehow never got around to it. It says Arizona in turquoise and has proved to be something of a good luck charm for me. I know it meant something to [Nick's] Dad and would like to send it to [Nick] if [he] can let me have a return postal address.
All the best to you,
Ps. I also remember your Dad showing me your first baby photo's - I hope you've grown some hair since then!
From Kate Sinfield
I work at Cannons Health Club in Richmond where Alan played squash, and I grew to know him quite well over the past 4 years. He would always come up to the bar after a game, sometimes before as well, for a chat over a pint or three before going home to feed Nick!
He would tell me all his fantastic stories about when he was at Cambridge, his weekends in Cornwall, what Nick was up to, and tales of his rugby playing days, which he knew I was always interested in as I play rugby for Harlequin Ladies. I always enjoyed his weekly updates on the wedding and the new puppies in Cornwall.
Alan was such a great man, and is very sorely missed by many members and staff at Cannons Richmond. It was always a pleasure to work whenever he was in the club, and his sense of humour along with tales of derring-do made the evenings go by all that much quicker.
From Rodney Burbeck
I had the privilege of giving Alan his first job in the music business -- back in the early 1970s when I was editing a newly-launched magazine called Music Business Weekly (MBW), published by IPC Magazines at 161 Fleet Street. Alan joined us as a journalist and sub editor and immediately cheered us all up with his wicked (in the 21st century meaning of the word) sense of humour and unshakeable good nature.
Although launched by the legendary Jack Hutton and Peter Wilkinson (respectively editor and advertisement director of the MelodyMaker, and later publishers of Sounds), MBW was struggling in the shadow of our competitor, the well-established Music Week, and I seem to recall Alan affectionately dubbing us 'Music Business Weakly'. We were eventually scuppered by the protracted postal strike of 1971 and all made redundant, but I had the good fortune to be hired by RCA Records (as it then was) to be PR Manager, and Alan joined me at their Curzon Street offices as my assistant.
RCA's roster in those days included Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Jack Jones, David Bowie, Middle of the Road, The Sweet, Ray Davies, Bonnie Tyler, John Denver, Lou Reed, and many more lesser-known and unknowns who were destined the stay that way, despite our best efforts... PR involves being nice to all and sundry - the artists, their managers and agents, journalists and media people, and of course Alan excelled at this -- but his heart lay in the music rather than the 'spin' (a word only associated with tops in those days), and he rapidly earned promotion into the A&R (artists and repertoire) department.
Life being what it is, like many of us in 'the business' I sadly lost touch with Alan after he quit the music industry for new challenges, but even after 30 years or more I can recall that twinkle behind the glasses and mischievous grin. Everyone who spoke at the tribute event at Twickenham yesterday recalled Alan's exceptional kindness and good humour and I sincerely echo those sentiments, and especially Nicki's comment in the website eulogy that he was a man you felt lucky to know. If there is an afterlife, and with Alan's apparent wizardry with computers, let's hope there's a Google up there and he can read these messages and know how much he was appreciated and will be missed.
From Dennis Munday
It was a big shock to hear the sad news of Alan's death. I now live in Italy but I will try and make the tribute event.
I am really lost for words, my commiserations, it must be a great loss to you and the family.
From Mike Vernon
Have heard via Bernie Williams the sad news of Alan's untimely death. My wife and I will be journeying to the UK on 28th and will do our very best to shuffle our plans so that we can attend the memorial service the following day.
When I think back I owe Alan an enormous debt of gratitude. Through his association with David Walker (also sadly, no longer with us) I was introduced to Alan, firstly at RCA and then at Polydor. He helped to sign Olympic Runners (I was Producer and member of that outfit) and then Level42 whilst at Polydor. I worked on two albums with that band - some of the most exciting months of my production career. Alan was one of the most honest and likeable of all the A&R men around at the time. He was also always approachable. I have very fond memories of our association and various collaborations. His decision to leave the business all those years ago was, at the time, something of a surprise. His tragic death is nothing less than a terrible shock! I know he will be missed by many.
Until the 29th.
From Mauren and David Mathews
I've know Alan since he joined LEH in the Modern Languages Dept when I was working in the General Office. He very soon became involved in the Technology side of LEH when we, as a department, relied upon him immensely during the many changes/updates to the various systems we have worked on.
During my period as School Secretary Alan helped me enormously with many computer related problems. He had an amazing quick brain and I would often have to remind him that we were not all so fortunate. He would give you the Alan look, the smile and then proceed to go at the rate us slower-brained people could handle.
Alan was very generous of his time. He has helped our family enormously with the computer packages we have purchased. Our son with purchasing a computer specifically related to music handware/software, our daughter with her laptop and the specific packages she needed as a new teacher and sorting out the few hiccups on our home computer. We were always very grateful for his help and expert advice.
Above all Alan was a very kind and extremely witty human being who is missed dreadfully. We send our deepest sympathy to you both and to the rest of your family and close friends. We look forward to meeting you on Saturday [at the Tribute].
From Philip Ward
I was so sorry to hear of [Nick's] father's accident.
My thoughts are with [him] and [his] family. The loss of Alan has been a severe shock to all at [The Lady Elleanor Holles School]. He is sadly [missed].
From John & Maggie Goodwin
We first met Alan when he and Nicki were living next door to John's sister in Beaconsfield Road, Twickenham.
Over time we became good friends and began to understand at least some of Alan's rapid but dry humour! The family were great friends and neighbours to Sue and Derek and many parties were combined by simply removing the fence panels between the gardens and sharing companionship
Perhaps an example that could be followed in other parts of the world?
These were very happy days for Alan, Nicki and Nick and these are the memories they will treasure most. Our thoughts and love go out to Nicki and Nick at this tragic time.
From George McManus
I worked with Alan at Polydor and just got these details from former MD at the company Jimmy Devlin.
May I pass on my sympathy to his wife and family.
I will come to the memorial event Twickenham on January 29th and will make myself known to you.
I remember Alan talking about the Olympic Runners and how he tried to sign Spandau Ballet at the time.
I remember how he told me off in the lift for having stupid sign made up to "I am not a tour promoter” as I was head of marketing at the time and everybody including Alan was after me for money.
Last time I saw him was at David Walkers office where he was doing what he always said he wanted to - restore furniture.
Again my sympathies to all the family especially Mrs Sizer.