The news hit, punctured and exploded inside me, both immediately and then spreading in some slow-motion expansion, like the most efficient of harpoons: needle sharp, then the grenade going off and the cruel barbs blown apart making sure it can’t fall out but can continue to do aggressive damage.
Jon Lord has died. One of my long-time music heroes.
As soon as I hear the news I start to hope it may be wrong. Sure, the websites were saying he had cancer, but I read that he was improving, had been in the studio …
But no, alas, the news is only too true.
It is part of my nature that I am, without having ever met the man, somehow deeply connected to him. From the moment, I suppose, I heard the booming, brave sounds of the keyboards he played on the still-thrilling Made in Japan. I was on my way to drunkenness at a biker’s party, beer was free and leather warriors were drinking Jack Daniels from bottles. Somebody had thrown up on a Norton Commando and tension was high, but in the background was the intro to Lazy: slow and perfect. I sat on the floor and for the next half hour was bewitched by the versatility and daring and was truly hooked.
I would see Deep Purple in many guises, and Lord playing with Paice, Ashton and Lord, Whitesnake and most recently in a concert of his own music at Lichfield Cathedral where he was magnanimous, articulate, full of sparkling humour and happy with life. Once I missed college lectures to see a concert in Leicester, having to deal with the subsequent issues with the principal, but missing the gig was never a choice!
YouTube and the proliferation of web presences perhaps makes us believe we know people in a very intimate way – and perhaps we do – and this may well have been the case with Lord.
But, how to deal with the grief? It was too, too real. I like to think that I am a doer: actions not words – give me something to do, I like to think and I can do it, or at least make progress. But in this moment, for the rest of the week – I am not at home… and I can do nothing. And someone has died, his family are trying to deal with it. The people he actually knew too. I am building friendships with people, trying to see and understand Sicily (and it is beautiful – if hot!).
The churches we visit, fantastically decorated in a rainbow of styles and Catholic excess and Moorish patterning, mosaics of the most intricate craftsmanship and stone and I think, for what it is worth in a fleeting way of the man and his music. Always alongside me, reminding me of where and what I have been, but never stagnant, always developing in the way that I hope I am. But not a chance to light a candle – can you imagine? Yes indeed the opportunity to put money into “electric candle” offertory boxes, which will light the filament for a certain time. But this does not seem appropriate. I am thinking of a living flame (it just now occurs to me, and I smile, the Burn album cover) in memory.
I could, alternatively post something on a social network. How simple an act this is these days, but would it, could it truly represent the depth of feeling? I actually think not and am a little ashamed at how glibly I may have done this in the past, though I sincerely hope not.
There is a musician at the hotel pool that night, but the nearest he will get to Deep Purple is smiling broadly and repeating the name “Ritchie Blackmore” and playing a version of “Will I See You in Heaven?” (kind of ironic eh?)
At home I might just dig out music and play it, but I am not at home, and here there are things to see, smiles to wear, culture and humour to be shared.
Finally we are in a church and I am glancing in the hymn book (lyrics only). It contains the Kyrie Eielson and I am reminded that Lord composed a piece where he set this in an atmospheric “mountain musicscape” – but, for the life of me I cannot recall the title of the piece.
With the help of my friend I am able to get a candle, and set a flame to it and together we stand for a moment, looking.
Two days ago, back home, I searched YouTube and found a piece from a concert in Russia (bootlegged I think); When a Blind Man Cries opened with a classic solo from the man himself. Some crowd pleasing local tune (as he was wont to do), some boogie-woogie piano, riffs interpolated and some distinctive pure-Lord music.
I am not ashamed to say that I sat and simply wept and in doing so felt consoled.