Tuesday, September 21st, 2021
Back in 1968 when the world was in an upheaval of riots and protests, Terry Jones and myself sat down to write songs for a lovely man we’d met called Barry Booth. Barry had been the pianist for the Royal Household Cavalry. As it had proved impossible to fit a piano on a horse he’d had plenty of time to himself, and after his national service ended he began to build a career arranging and accompanying big touring acts.
One of them was the matchless Roy Orbison. Barry encouraged us to write something which he could play to the great man and we would all be millionaires. I’d just married and our first child was on the way and I could have used a million. Or even a hundred. Which is how I came to write The Last Time I Saw You Was Tomorrow. Barry played it to Orbison in his hotel room, but Orbison didn’t see its potential. The potential to ruin his career.
But Barry wasn’t put off. He asked us to write more songs which he himself would sing. The result was an album for Pye Records called Diversions. Nobody was interested apart from John Peel who played He’s Very Good With His Hands on his legendary radio show. This boosted sales to around 200.
Terry and I went back to writing jokes and forgot all about Diversions. Until recently, when Barry had some CD’s made and I realised how good some of those old songs sounded. Quirky, pre-Pythonic lyrics delivered by Barry with musicianship of great delicacy and feeling.
Terry died in 2020 and Barry just over a year later. If you have any curiosity about their work then do try and listen to a copy of Diversions. The album, of sad and surreal ( and funny ) songs shows that good things live on. And it makes me realise just how much I miss my two fellow Diverters.