Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Graham Caldicott R.I.P.

     Graham Caldicott  was a larger than life figure with a unique, gothic imagination and a personality that easily won (and lost!) him many friends. I first met him at Caludon Castle Comprehensive School in Coventry. We were twelve. He lived round the corner to me and for many years we walked to and from school together. Later we cycled there together. Initially it was a love of bikes, cars, football, rock music poetry and the Arts that bound us together. We rapidly found we had many many more common tastes than that, and a shared oddball sense of humour. We became best friends. Not inseparable-but very close. 

We played in the same football team, the same Subbuteo League and acted in the same Theatre productions. Each year he and I fought it out for whom came top in English. If we hadn't been two giggly, disruptive, noisy, long-haired reprobates sitting together we would definitely have monopolised the School Prizes for English. But many of the teachers either disliked us or misunderstood us, so neither of us ever won anything.

Whilst at school we formed our own language, and the separate alter egos of Pletlogarsi and Lappinook. We invented our own mythical world of Galunia together, and along with another Graham, Graham Manley, we became “The Timewashed Mind “- a poetry performance trio. We traded records, clothes, subbuteo players, Scalextric cars and model railways engines. We started writing collaboratively, and recorded some of the hysterically funny results on reel-to-reel machines. He wrote some of the best poetry and creative writing I had ever seen, and was also a truly gifted mimic and actor. He began a diary-”The Memoirs-” and I copied him. I write my own version, still. It will be a sad entry today.

Graham left school after “O” levels, and began a trial work period at Rootes where his Grandad was an influential manager. But things didn't work out and he was allowed back into Caludon's Sixth Form to study for A Levels. Where he did Art and English. Neither of us were allowed to do a third A level because we had mucked about so much during Vth Form. Instead we were forced to write a thesis. Graham's was his first work of creative genius. It was about the historic Car Marques of Coventry. He started researching it very conscientiously, but eventually got bored, and made up biographies of mythical firms. At least 50% of what he finally submitted was Fiction. Nobody ever questioned it, so well was it written.To earn a bit of spare cash we ran a car-washing business together. Hilarious and quite lucrative. We also sold Golden Goal tickets together at Highfield Road.

Unfortunately, just as he was accepted into the Sixth Form at Caludon Castle, his parents relocated to Gillingham. However I persuaded my mum and dad to take him in,as a lodger and for a madcap year or so he lived with us at Morris Avenue. It was crazy. We shared a bedroom, which was a great preparation for student living a year later. The actor Ron Cook was part of our close circle of friends, and along with several other gifted people we took a strong interest in Literature and theatre. Ron delights in reminding me that that particular Sixth Form, with all its actors, poets, writers and painters, was considered by the teachers to be of the finest ever cohorts the school had produced.

During this time most people got to know Graham as “'Garsi,” his chosen nickname. When we left school, though most of us ended up studying in London, we lost contact a little. I still saw him occasionally-he was at The Drama Centre in Chalk Farm-and he came over to our South London College occasionally to see bands there. When I got married, and moved back from Coventry to London, I found he had done the same. We eventually hooked back up together.

We both continued to meet socially and to go to football matches together. Eventually he became a founder member of Black Parrot Seaside, when it was in its pomp as a Rock Band. He was there at the band's first ever gig and shared many triumphs with us. We shared vocals-either in choruses, or in taking alternate verses as in “Sleep Town.” We co-wrote many songs together. He's second from the left in this picture.

    When he wasn't rehearsing with us he was beginning to be drawn into a crowd which weren't entirely good for him. Probably best to draw a veil over that particular time. He had picked up some bad habits and some addictions. This meant that at times he was charming, funny, generous and charismatic. But at others he could be unreliable, rude, erratic, and infuriating. (Later I realised he was seriously ill). About 1978 the Rock Band split up, and drifted into Folk, which was never truly his thing. We continued rehearsing and performing, and still included some of his songs in our set-but he never returned.
    Our working environments, lifestyles and work hours had become very different. Gradually we drifted apart again. I moved away from Coventry in 1987 and never saw or heard from him again. So I was delighted to hear from a third party much later, that he had finally got to grips with some of his problems. Because if he hadn't, it was evident to me, and to most who knew him, that if he didn't, he would have died very young. He evidently got himself together, found religion, and got a work ethic sorted out at last. Last I'd heard he was settled and making a real effort to make things right with his family.
     His contribution to Black Parrot Seaside was massive. He wrote most of “I am a Vacuum Cleaner,” which got us airplay on Radio One! Though not performing at all by that time, he was credited on the 1978 vinyl album featuring it. When we released a CD in 2008 ,”Vacuum Cleaner” was still featured in our set, and so again-he got a credit. We still occasionally do “Dirty Gertie” and “The Blueland Boy,” wonderful songs which were Garsi's only attempts at writing to a folk genre. He and I co-wrote “Ordinary” which featured in the Rock set list. He took lead vocals on “Nails” and “Mr Unusual,” both of which he wrote. He joined me on vocals in “Brutus,” “Small, Maladjusted and Mean,” and “Failure.” Recordings of all these songs still exist, but they are scratchy, mono, versions of what in all modesty were good tunes. Personally, I'd like to resurrect a few of them-but we shall see. For now, Graham Stuart Caldicott, a.k.a. Garsi, Pletlogarsi, White Prince Roosy, Fylo Paloon, rest and sleep easy, my brother.

Graham's on the far right in this promotional shot taken at Hawkesbury.