Hugh Hopper biography roundup of 2022 part 4

Final part of the 2022 story about research for ‘Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening’, to be published by Jazz in Britain

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It was whilst in Canterbury itself at the start of October (starting a separate project, details of which I will share soon…) that I got a message from Steve Hillage clearing up another of my queries about the Steam Radio Tapes sessions on which both himself and Hugh played.

Meanwhile, on the Glass bandcamp website and the Phil Miller Legacy site, one of the most important Canterbury releases for years, namely the Canterburied in Seattle recordings, was appearing (a second even longer set of recordings would follow later in October), important for showcasing largely unreleased live collaborations and guest appearances at the Progman Festivals of 2002 and 2003 by the likes of Richard Sinclair, Phil Miller, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Fred Baker etc etc, and of course Hugh Hopper. Hugh appears extensively on the second set at in an all star pop band, and in the first memorably playing with Hughscore on ‘Was A Friend’, as well as a cut down version of Softworks performing ‘Ratlift’, but in truth these releases are just wonderful audio documents of latter day Canterbury music in action…

On my return from Canterbury I received some in depth thoughts from Matt Howarth, the American comic artist – Matt told me the story about how he had interviewed Hugh for his Sonic Curiosity  website in 2001 and this had led, at least in part, to the ‘Stolen Hour’ CD-R release on Burning Shed – the second of Hugh’s fabulous Noughties jazzloops albums both of which have been remastered and will be released in March 2023 –

There was also an email in my intray from drummer Laurie Allan, who I’d contacted about his various musical connections with Hugh, an exchange which was friendly enough but with little further detail..

Driving back from a second trip to Canterbury I’d started listening in depth to Caravan’s ‘All Over You Too’, which features a cameo appearance from Hugh on ‘Ride’. I’d already spoken a little to both Pye and Julian Gordon Hastings about this a while ago, but it struck me that Doug Boyle, whose imprint is all over the reworkings of classic Caravan material here, might have some thoughts – and indeed he did!

Doug Boyle – taken from Doug’s Facebook site, pic Carolyn Longstaff

Whilst in Canterbury, we saw the Jack Hues septet perform a mixture of originals and covers as part of their set for the Canterbury festival – after the Delta Sax Quartet performance in York, the second time I’d heard ‘Facelift’ performed live in 2022 – review here

Jack Hues singing ‘Sea Song’

On the same trip I spent 2 or 3 hours in the company of Brian Hopper in a sunlit back street of Hastings – a chance to catch up chat for the first time since the Phil Miller memorial concert in 2019.

Brian Hopper (left) pictured in Hastings

I woke up one morning in November to the most unexpected birthday treat, an email from near namesake Phil Howard, a drummer so elusive that he appeared to have disappeared off the face of the earth for the last 47 years. Phil gave me a few cryptic and pointed comments about the music business before disappearing back into the ether again!

Shortly after this, I got the lowdown from American multi-instrumentalist and composer Dave Willey on his ‘Immeasurable Currents’ album – Hugh made contributions to 4 of the tracks on this album having been blown away by Dave’s ‘Hamster Theatre’ band at Progman in 2002, although the CD would only see the light of day in the years after Hugh’s death. Immeasurable Currents is still available here:

In the very early 1990s, when I was first in touch with Hugh Hopper, he passed on an A4 sheet (long since lost) of people I should contact in the early stages to help with development of the Facelift fanzine. One name on there was Steve Lake, who I recognized immediately as being the Melody Maker journalist who wrote a lot of seminal articles on Canterbury scene artists in the mid Seventies. I never pursued this particular line of enquiry at the time, but tracked Steve down via ECM records in November, sent him a series of questions and then sat back in amazement as I received, over the next few weeks, a set of beautifully considered and written responses, alongside scans of correspondence which shuttled between Hugh and Steve during the 70s, 80s and 90s. A real coup!

An important initial contact at the start of research in 2020 was Tim Bowness – Tim, in his capacity as Burning Shed co-supremo, was responsible for the release of various CD-Rs involving Hugh (including Jazzloops and The Stolen Hour), but also performed live with Hugh at at least one of the Burning Shed showcases in Norwich, as well as including Hugh as a collaborator on his solo album ‘My Hotel Year’. We talked about all this and more during an extensive interview in mid November. One further bit of news right at the end of the year was the news that Jazzloops and The Stolen Hour would be re-released on Cherry Red Records in March 2023 at budget price.

Tim Bowness

At the end of November I had a lovely exchange of emails with Herm Mew, who I’ve met over the years a number of times as she often travelled with husband Phil Miller to gigs. Herm had already agreed to let me publish a wonderful painting she did of Short Wave in the garden at home, with Hugh in the foreground, but we talked in a bit more detail about the interweaving of her life with that of Hugh and others both in Canterbury growing up, but also in the late Sixties in London through to Hugh and Phil’s musical interactions. Herm is instrumental of course, in the Phil Miller Legacy project which amongst other things has posted many recordings which involved both Hugh and Phil here

And to round the year off, probably the most famous interviewee yet: thanks to a few connections facilitated by Pam Windo, I got the chance to speak to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason – the context being mainly, once again, Gary Windo’s ‘Steam Radio Tapes’ sessions – we spoke largely about the use of the embryonic Britannia Row Studios to host these.

Nick Mason

Where will 2023 take us? It feels like the vast majority of interviews for the book are now done, although in theory there could be as many as a further 50 people I’d like to speak to! There are inevitably some avenues for research which won’t go any further but I continue to be amazed at how generous Hugh’s collaborators, be they fellow musicians, record label owners, friends etc etc are with their time and thoughts, even though I am often asking about things which happened in excess of 50 years ago. Please keep looking at the Facelift Facebook page for more updates in 2023 and put a few pennies by for when the book eventually comes along!

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