THE LOST JOCKEY
(named after a painting by Magritte – why? – I can’t for the life of me remember) was a beast. At first it was a small beast: John Wesley Barker, Charlie Seaward, Jeremy Birchall and me. John and I were in thrall to American minimalism, particularly that of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and we had lured Charlie and Jeremy in to share our obsession.
Our first performance, at the Air Gallery, Roseberry Avenue, London in 1977, surrounded by an exhibition of panoramic photo-collages by Vaughan Grylls (an idea that eventually found its way into the hands of David Hockney) was a manifestation of our obsession. It included Steve Reich’s Four Organs
and Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion, possibly the first performances of these pieces in Blighty. I provided a piece called, for some reason, Traditional Values, with section titles such as Spacious Hallways, Desirable Bathrooms etc. This was hard-core rigorous minimalism, but there was already a gonzo aspect to the band: lacking music stands, we had idiotically decided to prop up the music on paint pots balanced on the keyboards. We played the first chord of Four Organs and the entire edifice collapsed. Inauspicious start. Perhaps we should have abandoned the project at that moment.
The band rapidly grew to thirty players, partly because the existing members were so flattered when anyone wanted to join. The make-up of the band was consequently pretty random – it included, for instance, one violist and three sax players. Tough for the violist. We somehow managed to rehearse in my squat in Warren St., using two adjoining rooms, a deeply unsatisfactory system which resulted in half the band only having the vaguest idea of what the other half was doing.
Accompanied by a cumbersome phalanx of pianos, we played concerts in London at the Africa Centre (beautiful venue), didn’t necessarily recognize all the players who turned up, and gave riotous, exuberant, sometimes approximate performances around Britain. At its worst The Lost Jockey was a nightmare; at its best it was glorious. The band was swimming in composers: Glyn Perrin, John Lunn, David Owen, Ross Lorraine, Andrew Poppy, Shaun Tozer, John Wesley Barker, Simon Limbrick, Charlie Seaward and me. We gave up on Reich and Glass and played only our own music - a curious anarchic minimalism, for ever thrashing away at its own limits. David wrote two extraordinary and original pieces for the band, Recession Beat and Lean To, harmonically strange and rhythmically complex, taking no prisoners, much more influenced by the music of Louis Andriessen than that of the American minimalists. Lean To contained an epic bar, a hundred quavers long; I still remember the exhilaration of playing it – or was it the exhilaration of getting to other end?
There were two albums, both untitled, the second produced by John Leckie at Abbey Road, and a 12-inch EP Professor Slack. I contributed a raft of pieces, including Hoovering The Beach and Buzz Buzz Buzz Went The Honeybee, as well as playing the piano.
At its bulkiest, The Lost Jockey was
Charlie Seaward (flute), Roger Heaton, Jim Rae, Bob McKay, Rory Allam (clarinets), Andy Blake, Martin Ashwell (saxes), Simon Limbrick, Rick Bamford (percussion), Alan Belk, Jeremy Birchall, Mary Weigold, Sue Bickley, Frances Lynch, Elise Lorraine (voices), David Owen, Andrew Poppy, Schaun Tozer, Lucy Wilson, Glyn Perrin, OG (keyboards), Margaret Roseberry, Stephen Jones, Ross Lorraine, Eliet Mackrell (violins), Julia Eisner, Marina Acherson (violas), Tony Elmsley, Ingrid Perrin, Caroline Verney (cellos), John Lunn (bass), John Wesley Barker (flute, saxes, baton).