Morgan Fisher Miniatures

M1-6 Pete Challis & Phil Diplock

M1-6 My Way

Pete Challis is a genial musician and artist who used to live but a few minutes’ walk from my home studio in Notting Hill. With his friend Phil Diplock (RIP – see below) they put together this strange synthesized mockney take on a Sinatra classic. The extraordinary thing is that on Miniatures 1 there are not one, but two Sinatra classics. Both uncalled-for (by me, that is). The odds against this happening are colossal. Or as Oscar Wilde wrote in “The Importance of Being Earnest” – “Losing one parent is a misfortune, but losing both parents is plain carelessness.” It was my carelessness and lack of quality control that allowed such a situation to happen, and I apologise profoundly for it.

Actually, not. I had, since 1956 (when I was 6) been a fan of Frank’s brilliant Nelson Riddle-arranged album “Songs for Swinging Lovers.” The scintillating big band arrangements grabbed my imagination, and still do. It was also the first ever number one album in the UK, so I guess my parents got caught up in the rampant British enthusiasm for this jewel of an LP.

As for “My Way,” in 1985 when I moved to Japan, it was about the only English-language song available in most karaoke bars (the other was “Yesterday”) so I found myself having to grit my teeth and sing it (not easy, that) to the best of my abilities, though if the mood took me I would give it a bit of the Sid Vicious treatment. No-one seemed to notice. (Interestingly, the strings on Sid Vicious’s version were arranged by Penguin Cafe Orchestra leader, the late and much-missed Simon Jeffes, who appeared on both Miniatures albums.)

I met Sid once at the famed Speakeasy Club in Soho, where he was grabbing girls at random by the scruff of the neck demanding that they buy him a drink. They seemed to like it. Between grabs I had a chance to exchange a few words with him and he asked me what instrument I played. “Piano,” I replied. “That’s not very violent, is it?” he insisted. “You haven’t heard me play, mate,” I quipped.

OK, enough digressing (although if there ever was an album that merited digression, it is this one). Pete and Phil seem to have kept a pretty low musical profile since the 80’s, so there is not a great deal more I can say about them. Pete now lives in Tuscany amid natural splendour and tranquillity. He did once paint a picture of yours truly and my doppelgänger from a photograph I sent him of me sitting in a WWII submarine (it was in Tampa, Florida, and was open to tourists. I had holidayed there soon after Miniatures 1 was released, on a £10 ticket provided by Freddie Laker Airlines).  I recently asked him what became of the painting and he kindly sent me this photo of it (click to enlarge):

I like the inclusion of the lovely old school clock (both painted and real). Pete added this note: you can of course do whatever you want with the picture – it no longer exists – I dumped all of my art work when coming here – the weight of history got too much.

Which reminded me that on leaving the UK to live in India, (then Belgium, then the US, and now Japan) I sold my apartment and handed over my entire tape archive to Pete – all my demos, masters, Miniatures recordings used and unused – the whole shebang – to erase and record new music over, to his heart’s content. None of the recordings exist any more, as far as I know. Yes, I’m afraid the weight of history was already bearing down on me at the tender age of 32 and I needed to cut free and head for new pastures. Apologies to those who might have been hoping for some bonus Miniatures tracks, out-takes, etc. – they’re gorn. Most of my possessions and instruments including rarities such as a VCS3 and a Clavioline also went for a song.

I guess “My Way” is appropriate indeed: “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

But then again,

Too few to mention.

(PS – Phil Diplock passed away on May 12, 2011. Sincere condolences to all his family and friends. Pete Challis has placed a memorial song for him on youtube.)

Next up – another very British, and very beautiful, approach to Sinatra…

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  1. it always breaks my heart when i hear these stories about art being destroyed. things that were once filled with meaning and purpose dissolved in the stream of time. but then on the othere hand, do we really need all those extras, bonus tracks, remixes and whatnot? or is it maybe better to just let things be mysterious and unavailable?

    you left us an awesome monument of an album, that inspired not just me, but many atists and musicians from all around the world. let it stand and speak for itself.

    • Tony Duggan-Smith
    • August 1st, 2016 11:51am

    I knew Phil at the Canterbury College of Art in the early seventies where we were both in fine arts and I was amazed at his guitar playing and consumption of comic books. On a whim I just began a search to find out what he was up to and sadly learned of his passing some years ago. I just wanted to leave a note that he made an impact on me with his playing and I am glad that he obviously shared his creativity with many others long after we had all packed it in at Art School. Here’s to you Phil wherever you may be!

    • morganf
    • June 12th, 2012 11:48am

    RIP, Pete.

    I regret to say that on June 9, 2012, Pete Challis’ son Ben wrote to me to inform me that Pete had passed away. He was sleeping for the last few days in the hospital in Villetta in Tuscany, Italy, and slipped away peacefully last Saturday morning.

    From Ben: “The funeral has been arranged for Monday 11th June 11:00am at Diecimo’s chapel. All are welcome. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered in the mountains above Diecimo as per his wishes.”

    In my emails with Pete in the last year or so it seemed he was very happy in the idyllic surroundings of Diecimo. I am very happy for him that he could spend time in a place he loved for the final stage of his all-too short life.

    When I was working on Miniatures and other projects back in 1979/80 I was too busy to make friends with many neighbours. Pete was the Miniatures artist that lived closest to me, just a 10-minute walk away, around Ladbroke Grove. So we met quite often, at my place or his, or some cafe, for a quiet chat and a few jokes. He was a kind and friendly man, with a quiet but funny wit and a penchant for playing with technology, all of which are delightfully apparent in his modest miniature.

    I’m very glad I knew Pete. I send my deepest condolences to his son Ben and all his family and friends.

    He did it his way.

  2. Wavelength on Resonance 104.4fm Friday 12.08.11 at 15:00pm (repeats at 22:30 following Tuesday), will play side one of a cassette “Electric Music by Pete Challis” from a performance at the Nigel Greenwood Gallery 1978.

    • morganf
    • August 9th, 2011 9:39pm

    Following Phil Diplock’s passing on May 12, 2011 (once again, my sincere condolences to all his family and friends), Pete Challis has placed a memorial song for him on youtube at this link:

    Morgan Fisher

    • pete challis
    • December 25th, 2010 9:41am

    glad to be of service
    buon natale e buon anno a tutti

      • T Diplock
      • May 27th, 2011 12:57am

      Ok, so this is kind of weird, but Phil Diplock has very sadly just passed away. We have been discussing music to be played at his funeral service and, given how irreverant he was, we had (only half-jokingly) suggested Sinatra’s “My Way”.

      We did not even know about the existence of this recording until today. What an extraordinary find!! Thank you for sharing.

        • morganf
        • May 27th, 2011 2:05am

        My condolences. RIP Phil. A bit of irreverence at a funeral is always a good thing (George Melly!) so please feel free to play this version of “My Way.”
        Has Phil’s musical colleague Pete Challis been informed? I could let him know if you wish. Perhaps he will read these posts anyway.
        Many thanks, and all the best to you and the Diplock family and friends.

    • morganf
    • December 25th, 2010 9:33am

    No pity, my friend – it gave me a chance to write to everyone – which was nice (as they used to say on the Fast Show).

    As some song goes – “Regrets, I’ve had a few…

    But then again,

    Too few to mention.”

    Felice natale!

    • pete challis
    • December 25th, 2010 8:19am

    thanks for that takes me way back to a previous life….was great finding my track near to the wonderful robert wyatt. pity you missed me out on the updates though – ah well

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