“Love, there was so much love, enough to last a hundred years.
Laughs, we had so many laughs, how come they turned into tears?”
I wasn’t sure it was common knowledge when I got the sad message from Iain ‘Tempo’ Templeton’s sister Claire on Monday evening that we’d lost him, a day which ended with equally awful but more widely received news regarding the wonderful Terry Hall. And then came more grim news yesterday concerning Martin Duffy, of Felt, Primal Scream and Charlatans fame, barely a few months my senior. All that on the back of losing – over the last couple of months alone – his namesake, Brian Duffy, aka Stranglers legend Jet Black, and the hugely inspirational Wilko Johnson, rock’n’roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis, and evergreen singer-songwriter Christine McVie.
Regarding Terry. so many truly lovely words have already been posted about him by so many of you on that front, and for me he was an integral part of my musical journey, key to so many winning combinations around my formative years, an early love for The Specials’ debut LP (one that never waned) leading to having my eyes opened by what he did with Lynval Golding and Neville Staple in Fun Boy Three while Jerry Dammers continued to carve out his own direction with the original concept, neither option any less enlightening. Then there was a further step forward with The Colourfield, followed by Terry, Blair & Anouchka … and I’ve barely touched the first decade there. Often hard-hitting, but with plenty of moments of pop mastery en route.
In fact, talking of great songwriters, he came up in my most recent Ian Broudie interview a few weeks ago, the pair having co-written the Lightning Seeds’ return to form, ‘Emily Smiles’, 28 years after bringing us the wondrous ‘Lucky You’. Ian said at the time, ‘Terry’s just one of the greatest talents I’ve had the pleasure of working with. We started working together when I produced a couple of things for him. It’s been lovely seeing his career re-blossom with The Specials. Then there was The Fun Boy Three, and … he’s done so many things that have been great. I think he’s brilliant.”
No arguments there. Sadly, I never got to chat to Terry, but I at least got to share some priceless stories with many of his old tourmates, not least former bandmates Neville Staple and Roddy Radiation, expressing my love for all they brought us.
As for Tempo, I studied for my Master’s with his older sister, just over a decade ago, yet somehow – not being the mouthy kind – she never mentioned him. I knew her by her married name, and it just never came up – his amazing, rich history in the fledgling La’s, and of course Shack, as well as Michael Head and the Strands. But it certainly wasn’t from any sense on her part of anything less that pride in his amazing talent. And when she finally introduced me to him a few years down the line, there was an instant bond, from a truly loveable guy as well as a great musical talent. He was fragile, I could tell, but also so funny, so passionate, and so talented, as the many unpublished songs he put my way confirmed. Lockdown projects, really, from this true one-off.
I’ve double-checked with Claire that it’s okay to share her initial message to me, one simply reading, ‘I wanted to let you know that my lovely brother died today. He succumbed to the alcoholism that dominated his life since lockdown. I’m so grateful for the interview you did with him and how you made him feel. That was wonderful. He was a complex human being but a brilliant drummer. I’m so very sad but also feeling a sense of relief that he’s no longer plagued by those demons.’
I’d been so absorbed elsewhere that I hadn’t realised I’d not ‘seen him’ online for a fair while. And I should have thought more of him lately … not least in a year when Shack lynchpin Michael Head was (quite rightly) getting so much positive traction for his latest LP. I so loved the music Tempo sent me … even if the accompanying video was a bit in the face. But I guess that was him … at least the public persona. Hopefully, someone will now step up in the right circles and give the recordings I heard (and I gather many more have followed, his positivity shining on through) the true acclaim and wider reception they require.
Until then, Terry, Iain, Martin, I salute you with this Blair Bronwen Booth/Terry Hall classic single from 1990, one that resonates to this day …
“The rain is falling, and I’ve tried calling,
But I just can’t get through to say I’m missing … missing you.”
And for my feature/interview with Ian ‘Tempo’ Templeton, from February 2021, head here.