“Une Pause Dans Le Temps”
Malcolm Jones 1952-2013
I had known Malcolm for more than fifteen years, since I first ‘depped’ in his band ‘The Bullfrogs’ (with Ian Anderson) back in 1998. We then played together in the Eagles tribute band, ‘The Spreadeagles’, from 2004 to 2009. The ‘Spreadies’ also included Dave Gillbe, our original French Lessons bass-player.
At the beginning of this year we had a conversation about country-flavoured songs with a railway/railroad theme which was triggered by a track that he had played on his thoughtfully constructed country music show on Secklow Sounds (Milton Keynes internet community radio station). He then sent me an mp3 of a song which he had written, entitled ‘One Last Run’ inspired by his father who had been an engine-driver based at Tyseley in Birmingham during the long-gone age of steam.
Subsequently Malcolm suggested we meet up to discuss something he had in mind. Intrigued, I met him at The Three Locks pub and it transpired that he would like me to collaborate with him on a new project, involving a selection of the superb songs he had written over the years. Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate!
We then started meeting up and running through the songs he had chosen, initially 14, which would comprise a set which we could record and perform. These were songs more suited to an acoustic treatment, therefore not particularly ideal material for ‘The Bullfrogs’ although regulars at ‘The Vaults’ Sunday sessions in Stony Stratford would probably be familiar with most of them.
As luck would have it, we decided that it would be a good idea to record all the tracks as a demo to give to the other members of the band which was to be called ‘The Reverse Cowgirls’ - one of Malcolm’s typically cryptic jokes. He recorded all the songs on one session, with a longish break for lunch at The Globe (which was our wont!). He sang and accompanied himself on his lovely Martin guitar, although eventually the intention was that I should play those parts. That was a somewhat daunting prospect as his precise playing set the barrier very high.
Our first gig - initially as a duo - was scheduled for the beginning of June 2013 and we were both looking forward to it with the anticipation of many more gigs to follow, after the addition of Gemma Shirley on violin and Neil Mercer on mandolin.
On Tuesday May 21st at 8 p.m., I settled down to listen to his programme ‘Secklow Country’ as usual and was surprised to hear that it had been cancelled. Somewhat concerned, I emailed him to see if he was OK, but there was no reply. Then came the bolt from the blue - a message from Roddy Clenaghan telling me that Malcolm had died suddenly and completely unexpectedly from a coronary, in his sleep.
He was a big man, with a huge and generous personality with a list of accomplishments that included being the ‘front-of-house’ manager at The Roundhouse, Assistant Head of FM programming at Capital Radio, the winner of a Sony award in conjunction with Kenny Everett, radio presenter at Secklow Sounds and Town Crier in Stony Stratford. The Malcolm-sized hole in the Milton Keynes music scene will be impossible to fill.
It was a testament to the man that more than 200 people attended his farewell service and the musical celebration that followed it. In deference to Malcolm’s sartorial tastes, most of us wore the most garish and colourful shirts we could find - he would have loved that!
But it won’t end there. The recordings, albeit demos, are of sufficient quality that it is the intention of all involved (his wife Lynne, plus Gemma, Neil and others) to release a CD, with proceeds to charity. We will probably overdub the instruments as Malcolm had intended, but details have yet to be decided.
On the next page, you can listen to some of the songs ‘in the raw’ and you will be able to discover just how good a songwriter and wordsmith he was - but if you’re reading this you probably know that already, of course.
Richard Gleave, June 2013