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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