Simon Napier-Bell

a brief lifeline

Born on April 22nd at Ealing Common, London, during a storm. Later in the year, Hitler starts another one.
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Dressed for winter
My mother takes me and my elder sister, Susan, to Devon to escape the bombing. (not that I remember)
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A nanny, even in war time
Back to London (still don't remember).
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Later used in a press release as a 'baby pic' for David Sylvian
My younger brother, Nick, born, and christened. On the way back from the church my father gives me a piggyback. I bang my nose on a lamp-post and get an unstoppable nose bleed. (My earliest memory).
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Bathing with my sister Susan
Back to Devon.I go for a walk and don’t come back for eight hours. Everyone panics. ‘Weren’t you hungry?’ my mother asks when I’m finally found. ‘No,’ I tell her. ‘Lady give me gooseberry.’ (But I don't remember)
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With Susan again
Sent to a local school where I’m the best reader and writer in the class but get punished (hit on the hand with a ruler) for making my full-stops too big. (This I remember)
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Sitting in my pedal car
Back to London. Doodle-bugs, nights in the air-raid shelter in our garden, searchlights on Ealing Common.
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On holiday in Brixham
The war's over. I’m sent to a posh private school (St Michaels, Montpelier Road, Ealing), and I’m given a bike for my birthday. Freedom! When I’m not at school, I ride off alone, all over the place, 8 hours a day.
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The dog was called Mike
Money problems in the family. I’m moved to North Ealing primary school in Pitshanger Lane where I quickly learn that my name is not ‘Nay-pier Bell’ - it’s ‘Nye-pier Bell’.
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A 'Nye' or a 'Nay'
Difficult to say
Finances improve and I’m sent to Durston House (posh boys’ school in Ealing) where I get beaten and bullied till I manage to lose the ‘Nye’ and get back the ‘Nay’.
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I can't believe
I agreed to do that
We move to Ruislip, an hour’s journey to school by tube. A friend and I find a box of 200 cigarettes on the tube and split them. I stash mine in a drawer by my bed. But my mother finds them. Big trouble!
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Off to school
I go to Grammar School and have to work at getting my accent right again (it has to be ‘Nye-pier’ once more). My brother is given a cornet for Christmas but gives up trying to play it after a week. I commandeer it.
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With Nick, my brother
The Festival of Britain. My father takes me and I fall in love with it. Go back again and again alone. Especially to Battersea Park where I sit endlessly listening to the trad jazz bands that play on the bandstands. I decide I will become a famous jazz musician. I go to Paris to stay with a French family
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My first passport picture
Grammar School gets worse and worse, so I’m sent to Public School instead. Bryanston, in Dorset. Another quick name change - in just a matter of weeks I’m ‘Nay-pier’ again.
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With Philip Adey in the school photo
I form a school jazz band and bring the wrath of the headmaster on my head. ‘Jazz will not make Napier-Bell a good citizen’ the headmaster writes in my end-of-term report.
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Second year at Bryanston
My jazz tastes move from ‘trad’ to ‘modern’. In the school holidays I discover the seedy clubs in Soho where it’s played.
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It looks better than it sounds
The mutual dislike between me and the headmaster reaches its peak. I'm now the eldest boy in the school not to be some sort of prefect or monitor.
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School photo
I leave school prematurely and start working as a semi-pro musician. All I want to do is go to America, but I’ll have to wait till I’m 18, then I’ll go at once. (“Oh yes – I’m sure you will,” my mother says sarcastically.)
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The family - Sam,
Susan, Mollie,Nick & me
I sell my record collection to pay the fare and on the morning of my 18 th birthday I tell my parents “Tonight I’m leaving for Canada”. I go by New York and spend the next evening in Birdland listening to Duke Ellington.
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Off to Canada

I work in a dockside Tavern in Montreal. A real shit-hole, but at least I’m a professional musician, and in North America.
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In Canada

Bored of it. Being a musician isn’t for me. I’ve realised I’m gay. Jazz musicians, it seems, are 100% straight. So I hitch-hike round the USA visiting every state.
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1st decent car
a Triumph TR2
in Vancouver

Back to London for my 21st birthday. Instead of presents I raise £200 from family and friends and leave for Spain. I want to be a writer but I’m not sure what I should write about. So I go back to London.
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In Spain

I become an assistant film editor, working on documentary films. I start to make good money. I meet my first boy friend. We share a one room flat in Putney.
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Passport photo
He causes me lots of problems. I diffuse them by adding two more people to our household - my brother and a girl who smokes a pipe. We move to a bigger flat. I’m now making good money in the film industry.
I ditch my boyfriend and move to another new flat. I work on feature films and start a company selling film-stock to cutting-rooms. I get involved with an Israeli girl (a mistake) and a lad from Liverpool (less of one).
I work on ‘What’s New Pussycat’ with director Clive Donner and composer Burt Bacharach. I move to Bressenden Place, overlooking Buckingham Palace and watch the Queen feeding her flamingos.
Looking moody
I buy a Ford Thunderbird convertible and am very flash round London clubs – both the ‘in’ clubs and the ‘gay’ ones. I meet Vicki Wickham who books the acts for 'Ready Steady Go'. She suggests I get into the music-business. "How do I do that?" I ask. "I'll think about it" she tells me. Meanwhile I take her advice and find a small pop act to manage, 'Diane & NIcky'.
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With Brian Somerville
(the Beatles' publicist)
Vicki Wickham calls and tells me, "The Yardbirds are looking for a new manager." Very soon, that new manager turns out to be me. Then Vicki and I write the lyrics for 'You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ and Dusty Springfield gets it to No.1. Suddenly I'm big in the music-biz (but know bugger-all about it!).
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No-one to blame
for this shot but myself
The Yardbirds ditch me. Not surprising really. I’m engrossed in managing John’s Children and Marc Bolan. Not to mention being drunk, disorderly and degenerate in all the best clubs every night of the week, usually with Vicki and the American stars she books each week for Ready Steady Go.
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Start producing records with Ray Singer. We go on trips to the States and Europe and make lots of money. We produce Peter Sarstedt, then his brother, Robin, then his other brother, Rick (Eden Kane).
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With Ray Singer (our company was Rocking Horse Productions)
Still working with Ray, we produce the Scaffold (with Paul McCartney’s brother Mike), Forever More (later, The Average White Band) and make a ridiculously fun concept album in Morocco.
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Taken by my mother
on my 30th birthday
Time to retire. (I’m bored of being ‘rich & famous’). I build a house for myself in the South of Spain, but living there bores me even more, so I set off for a bit of world travel.
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Passport photo
Find myself in Australia and produce albums with Oz singer – Alison McCallum - then with Bobbi Marchini. I discover John Paul Young (Love Is In The Air) and make his first single, Pasadena, a song by Vanda & Young (The Easybeats).
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Singapore zoo
Travel around the Far East and fall totally in love with all of it. Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia. In England I meet Allan Soh, a Singaporean, with whom I will live for the next fifteen years.
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At Borobodur, Indonesia
Go to Spain and meet Junior, a Spanish pop star. We write a song together and I produce a single of it with him – ‘Perdoname’. Then go back to Australia for some more recording.
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In Morocco
on holiday with Allan
Back to Spain to see what’s happened to the single I wrote with Junior. It’s number one, so I decide to manage him and co-write his album. I take Allan to Spain with me and we rent an apartment in Madrid.
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With Allan at Wisley
Give up Spain and travel all over the world with Allan, then we move to Paris before I head back to Australia for six weeks to produce a strange album with my strange friend Larry Asmore, a film composer. It is the Sydney symphony orchestra with Sydney's best rock rhythm section. Handel's Water Music becomes 'Heavy Water', etc
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With Tim Gee in Paris
In London I take on the management of a new group, Japan. Allan learns hairdressing and we rent a flat in South Audley Street. Mostly, though, we live in Paris and I go to London just three days a week. Larry Ashmore and I repeat our Australia experiment, this time putting the Coldstream Guards together with a rock rhythm section that includes Jeff Beck.
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The flat in Paris
with James Fisher
(hungover on Sunday morning)
Japan are a struggle. I sign them with Hansa, a German company setting up in London. But there’s no instant success. We make an album with Ray Singer producing. I also have a punk rock group – London.
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With Jack Wolfe's dog

Still no success for Japan in the UK. But in Japan (the country) they take off and we do a nation-wide tour there. Allan goes back to Singapore where I finance a salon for him.
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With 'Japan' in Radio
Luxembourg's studio in London

Japan record ‘Life In Tokyo’ with disco-king Georgio Moroder. They start to make inroads in the UK. Allan Soh starts building a name by using chopsticks for perming and weaving.
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Misbehaving in Thailand
Allan’s Singapore salon is a success. People fly there from America and Australia to have their hair done with his chopstick techniques. And in London, Japan make a great album - Gentlemen Take Polaroids.
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Misbehaving again
Allan’s Singapore salon is buzzing and Japan are beginning to happen. Flitting between the two I suddenly remember I’d always meant to be a writer. So I write my first book ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me'.
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With Sam, and LIza the dog
Japan have their first hit with ‘Ghosts’ and do a sold-out tour of UK. I get a house in Bryanston Square. Allan moves to London and opens a salon in Knightsbridge. I meet Donavon and he moves in. Big tension!!
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Christmas at Bryanston Square
Japan break up. I meet Jazz Summers and we start managing Wham! together. They get a number one single and a number one album but then get into litigation with their record company.
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Keeping fit
Wham! settle their litigation and I spend the year going backwards and forwards to China, trying to set up a gig for them in Beijing.
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With Wham!
Wham! play a concert in Beijing in April. Do an American stadium tour in the autumn. Sell a million copies of ‘Last Christmas’ in December (but only get to Number Two).
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Signing the contract
for the Canton concert
Jazz and I sell our management company. One of the new shareholders is connected with Sun City. George announces he wants to break up Wham! and go solo. We stop managing him
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With Jazz Summers
at the Bel Age Hotel, LA
I take on a new duo, Blue Mercedes, who get a number one dance hit in the States. And a new boyfriend, Alec, who's brilliant, beautiful and argumentative. He's studying to be a lawyer and every meal becomes an intellectual challenge.
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With Alec in Acapulco
I get a tax demand for five million pounds. Time to get down to some hard work. I take on new artists for management – film star Rupert Everett, Australian group Wa Wa Nee, Boney M, German star CC Catch.
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With Bertice Redding at the Ritz
Donavon and I organise the Asian Music Awards – a sort of Asian Eurovision. I whiz endlessly round the world with CC Catch and Boney M trying to make the money needed to pay the Inland Revenue.
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The family
Looks impossible. Tired at the end of the year, I holiday in Thailand with James Fisher (who runs ASCAP in London) and Irving David (my lawyer). In Pattaya I meet Yo, who is still my boyfriend seventeen years later.
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Christmas lunch with Irving David and
James Fisher
in Thailand
My companies go bust. After a Christmas trip to Thailand to consider things, I come back to the UK and also go bust personally. I move in with Allan who is now living in a flat in Redcliffe Gardens.
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With Yo
I form a new management company with Sir Harry Cowell. We take on seventies superstar rockers Asia, and eighties supergroup Ultravox.
With Triss Penna and Sir Harry
Asia tour in America and Japan. Every time I can, I head back to Thailand, and Yo. But it’s boring being broke. Life on a shoe-string is not my style, yet it has its moments...
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Romanee Conti '72!
Out of bankruptcy, I can make money again. (“Not a moment too soon”, says Yo, who never meant to fall for someone penniless). I link up with James Palumbo at Ministry to help him set up in Thailand and Japan.
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With Anthony Cooper
of Have A Nice Day Ltd
Bored with the music-biz I remember I always meant to be a writer. I try writing a novel and spend the whole year on it. As for money – thank goodness for song royalties from ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’.
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Yo's birthday
in London
The novel's disastrous. Everyone who reads it says the same: 'Throw it away! Go back to management!' I throw it away and go back to Yo. I bring him to Europe for a holiday – better than slaving over a hot computer.
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Annual exes get-together - Allan, Alex, Donavon, me, Yo
Another book? It’s inevitable - I don’t give up that easy. But this time not a novel. Literary agent Julian Alexander suggests a history of the music business. ‘Yes', I say. 'I should be able to knock that off in a couple of months.'
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Allan's 50th at Bluebird,
Vicki, Irving, Allan, me, Yo
Julian does a deal for me and gets a good advance. I head back to Thailand where Yo and I greedily eat it all up and go on holiday again, this time to America. More fun than writing!!
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At Sir Harry's
40th birthday
Time to get on with the book. Yo moves to London where I finally get serious about writing.Yo tours charity shops coming home with endless warm clothes he’ll never need once we go back to Thailand.
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New Year's Eve
dinner in Pattaya
Tom Foley, Allan, Duncan Millar, Me,
Yo, Jerome Walton
The book’s nearly finished. Yo applies for UK residence (same-sex relationship) and does a course in Interior Design. I start managing a Russian girl – Alsou – a huge star in Russia. I manage to get her to 2nd in Eurovision.
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Captain Napier-Bell
off the coast of Gibraltar
The book gets good reviews. Yo gets his resident’s permit. I give up on Alsou and we head back to Thailand. We buy a substantial-size flat which allows Yo to experiment with interior design - lavish minimalism.
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At the Lido, Paris,
Me, Yo, Anna, Donavon
Back to Russia to manage Smash!! - two boy singers. One is an actor, playing Romeo at the Pushkin theatre. (Imagine Andrew Ridgeley playing at the Royal Shakespeare at the same time as Wham! were having hits)
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With Philip Adey in Bangkok
Smash!! get ‘10 out of 10’ from all eight judges at Russia’s principal music festival - a guaranteed stepping stone to being Russia’s biggest pop act. But there are tensions brewing in the group.
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At 'In The City'
Finally, Smash!! are too much trouble to bother with. Rather than manage anyone else I get down to serious writing and by the end of the year a new book is finished. Yo and I celebrate with a holiday.
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High in Hawaii
'I'm Coming To Take You To Lunch' published March 2005. Start working with new rock group Brothermandude. I also start this website.
With Tim Gee at Poole harbour
Brothermandude finish their album, release it in the USA and tour there. I travel around a lot - go to a few literary festivals, give a few talks, and as always eat lots of good meals. In London Yo and I have our 'civil ceremony' and in Thailand we're building a new house and I get very lazy about writing. Perhaps next year will be the year for a new book. Who knows?
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At lunch on the beach at Jontienn
The new house is finished and we move in. No excuse now for not writing, but then two months in hospital. Not so good. But by May I'm back to perfect and spend the rest of the year travelling - Asia, seaching for singing talent, and in Australia and Europe on holiday with Yo.
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Yo and me with Don and Anna at their wedding
Starts with a short holiday in Chiang Mai. All over S.E.Asia, India, Japan searching out & signing talent. And a mad fortnight in Beijing with some crazy Dutch guys who could out-drink even me and who put on a charity concert for the earthquake fund in the Great Hall of the People. From Septemeber on, I stopped updating the front-page of the website everyday. Freedom!
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With Ron Franklin on his 65th birthday in Chiang Mai
A freezing cold lecture trip to the UK in January is followed with work on a film project with scriptwriter by Pat Gilbert and producer Orian Williams. In Spetember I start working with Simon Adriaan (one of the Dutch crazies from Beijing last year), building a new music company in Holland, which means going to Amsterdam one week a month.
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Simon Adriaan persuades me to take this daft picture with him
Another freezing cold January trip to London and Holland, then on to Cannes for Midem. Film project coming along. Dutch company fizzles out mid-year. They run out of money. Never mind - settle down to write a new book. And Yo and I go off for a few holidays - like Beijing in June. Bloody hell - my feet hurt - Tianamen Square, Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace - it's walk, walk, walk.
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In Beijing with Yo for his birthday
After the New year, Simon White comes to stay at last - been promising for years. Give up on the book - writing is just too damned boring - sitting alone in front of the computer all day. This year can be a business year, I'll leave the literary stuff till later. Take up managing Brett Neal -brilliant contemporary artist. So I move into the world of art instead of the world of pop. Well at leat with art you can touch it and feel it - not like those silly copyrights.
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Early in the year Simon White comes to stay with us in Thailand
Sir Harry and I get together again after a pause of over ten years. The project is twofold - his new company Papa Entertainments, a British PLC, and an idea I have for a rock show - the greatest rock musicians still around all combining into one group and playing all the greatest rock hits of the last forty years, and we'll call it Raiding the Rock Vault. We spend the whole year on it and finally put on a one-off presentation at the Aztec Theatre in LA. Great response, but can we actually get it up and running?
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With Sir Harry - happy to be working together again
Raiding the Rock Vault opens at the Las Vegas Hilton (where Elvis used to do his shows), now known no longer a Hilton, known simply as the 'LVH'. Brilliant show, brilliant response. In Europe I set up a new company with Dutchman Bjorn de Water, Snap-B Music, to manage artists and music rights, and to offer consultancy.
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With Bjorn de Water at the Brussels Hilton
At last I've finished the book I've been working on for three years - Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay, a history of the business of popular music. Massive tome, far too much work. Launch party in June, publication date start of August. At the same time Rock Vault has been voted Number One Show in Vegas by Tripadvisor for three months running. Seems like a good year.
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With Jazz Summers at the launch party of my new book
Busy, busy year. Paperback of Ta-Ra-Ra launched in June, in the summer I directed a TV documentary for Frank Sintra's 100th, and for the BBC I made a programme about rock managers - Music Moguls. In Las Vegas, Raiding the Rock Vault rocks on. Next year we'll open Raiding the Country Vault in Branson, Missouri.
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With Sir Harry and all the cast onstage at the end of Rock Vault's 500th performance
Directed two more films this year - 27 Club, about mental health in the mnusic business, and 50 Years Legal, to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homsexuality, in which I interviewed just about every gay British celebrity. Both films for release next year.
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David Hockney
for 50 Years Legal
50 Years Legal released and received well. Raiding the Rock Vault had its 1000th show in Vegas, and Raiding the Coutry Vault had its 300th show in Branson, Missouri. Yo and I had our 28th year together.
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With Yo in Hanoi celebrating
New Year
A mixed year including recording a book for Audible, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me. I chose to do it at home where the only place the accoustics were good enough was in the clothes closet with the aircon turned off. A very sweaty couple of weeks.
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This is the
PR picture
not the closet
Worked on documentary about George Michael for release in 2020. Interviews with Stevie Wonder, Rufus Wainwright, Stephen Fry, Sananda Maitreya and many others. Amazing just how much George was loved and respected.
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With Rufus
in Belfast
The year is still in progress and Yo and I are in lockdown for Covid-19 at home in Thailand. Not quite as bad as it sounds - we have a pool and nice weather, and I'm doing music consultancy, working on film treatments and writing songs.
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lunch with
Yo at home