There were enough of them to make up an orchestra, a dozen aunts and uncles, Chris, his three siblings and a rabble of cousins. Life was lived outdoors. In the summer the kids lazed on the beach, cooling off in the stubbornly wintry water. In December the family headed north, bracing themselves for the thwack of wind blowing off Ilkley Moor. They warmed up with milky tea, cake and jazz provided by Horace, Chris’s saxophonist grandad. In the midst of this wholesome childhood were Chris’s Aunt Ange and her boyfriend Adrian. She wore kaftans, he wore Hawaiian shirts, they smoked funny cigarettes and lived in London. The trunk of their old Porsche 923 was a nest of circuit boards and wires cushioning Adrian’s guitar. It was a Fender, an American Standard, picked up on Route 66 after a pilgrimage to Sun Studios. Adrian was building synthesisers for the Pet Shop Boys. Chris was intimidated by this towering, taciturn and brilliant figure, he was too shy to play guitar with him but he was a big influence – Chris went on to a take a degree in music production. After he graduated he planned to move to London but before he finished his studies Adrian was diagnosed with cancer. His new partner, Jane, sold his kit on eBay and the Fairlight synths he’d built for the Pet Shop Boys went to the highest bidder. But the Fender wasn’t sold. Adrian had instructed it be given to Chris. And when Chris picked it up, the gauge of the strings, the length of the strap, everything… ‘fitted like an old jumper’.   

20 Mar 2017