Steve Irwin, Animal Lover and Croc Hunter 1962 – 2006

Somewhat shocked and rather saddened at the death, in what seems to have been a very rare accident (especially given what he did for a living… ) of Steve Irwin,  The Crocodile Hunter.

We used to watch his shows regularly on Cable TV in Hong Kong and his infectious enthusiasm appealed greatly to the kids.

A statement on the Austrlia Zoo website says simply:

At 11am today, the 4th September 2006, Steve Irwin was fatally wounded by a stingray barb to his heart whilst filming a sequence on Batt Reef off Port Douglas for his daughter’s new TV series.
Emergency services were called from Cairns Rescue Base and met Croc One, Steve’s rescue vessel at Low Isle on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Croc One crew performed constant CPR during the thirty minute dash to Low Isle, but the medical staff pronounced Steve dead at approx. 12 noon.

His producer and closest friend, John Stainton said on Croc One today,
“The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest Dads on the planet. He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. Crocs Rule!”

Top of the Pops 1964-2006

There was a time when TOTP was pretty cheesy and something you wouldn’t really be seen dead watching.   That was about 2 months after it was really cool to watch it and you’d never miss a show.  Fact is we all went through that phase at some time growing up.  The actual years vary for us all and are not relevant.

Highlights for me where Wham!, with Young Guns, Blondie’s first appearance singing Rip Her to Shreds and the somewhat awkward times when either the Sex Pistols, or Frankie Goes to Hollywood were No.1 and they couldn’t play them……

Sadly now it seems that with the advent of so many other avenues to access music and music video, viewing figures have tumbled to just over 1 million from a peak of 15 million in it’s heyday.

The first programme opened with the Rolling Stones, who mimed I Wanna Be Your Man, then Number 13 in the “hit parade”. The final show, to be screened on BBC2 on Sunday, will feature black-and-white footage of the same band performing their 1965 hit This Could Be The Last Time.

I think it is all rather well summed up by The Rezillos with their biggest hit, Top of the Pops.

“Does it matter what is shown
Just as long as everyone knows
What is selling what to buy
The stock market for your hi fi
Take the money – leave the box
Everybody’s on Top Of The Pops”

Irony indeed.

Goodbye you Crazy Diamond: Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett, the eccentric guitarist who, with Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright founded Pink Floyd, died earlier this week at his home in Cambridge.

Setting a standards early on as one of Rock fame’s greatest casualties, he left the band towards the end of an early US tour, after one album and only 3 years after they had begun.

Unable to cope with drink, drugs and fame he became almost catatonic on stage and increasingly reclusive, quitting to live a quite life in anonymity with his mother.

Syd was replaced by David Gilmour who ensured he continued to receive royalties, reputed to amount to over four million pounds a year.   The last time the band saw him was when he turned up unannouced at a studio while they were recording the album, Wish You Were Here.   Track 1, Shine On You Crazy Diamond was a tribute to Syd.

When Pink Floyd reformed last year for Live8, Dave Gilmour dedicated Wish You Were Here to people no longer with us and, in particular to Syd.

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

A statement from Pink Floyd said: “The band are naturally very upset and sad to learn of Syd’s death. He was the guiding light of the early band line-up and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire.”

Pink Floyd are one of the most recognisable names in modern music and for the last 32 years have had at least one album in the US charts.

Billy Preston, Musician 1946-2006

Sorry to hear of the death of Billy Preston, who many of you may remember only for his duet with Syreeta, ‘With you I’m born again’.  He did a great deal more and was the only musician ever to share a performer’s credit with the Beatles. …. from the Telegraph:


Billy Preston, who died at Scottsdale, Arizona, on June 5 aged 59, played keyboards alongside almost every major name in pop music; he was most closely associated with the Beatles, and performed on their records Let It Be, the White Album and Abbey Road, but was also a regular sideman with the Rolling Stones, playing on five of their albums and touring with them several times.

Preston’s colossal Afro hairdo was a regular fixture on stage beside figures as diverse as Ringo Starr, Elton John and Mahalia Jackson, and he was perhaps the most highly-regarded session keyboard player of his generation.

He was no slouch as a songwriter either, writing You Are So Beautiful for Joe Cocker, who secured an American Top 10 hit with the song, nor as a performer, teaming up with Stevie Wonder’s ex-wife Syreeta on the ballad With You I’m Born Again.

William Everett Preston was born in Houston, Texas, on September 9 1946 but, after his parents divorced, grew up in Los Angeles, where his mother played the organ at a Baptist church.

By the age of three Billy had begun playing the piano, and by 10 had accompanied the great Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

He was spotted by a film producer and in 1958 played the young WC Handy in the film St Louis Blues (Nat King Cole played him as an adult).

During this time young Billy became devoted to Ray Charles, who gave him some lessons, and began to work backing Sam Cooke (for whose SAR label he recorded) and Little Richard.

He made his first overseas trip to play with the pair on a tour of Britain and then encountered the Beatles at the Star Club in Hamburg in 1962.

That year he released his first album, Gospel in my Soul; soon afterwards, he joined the house band for the American television show Shindig, where he worked again with Ray Charles.

He toured with Charles around America and Europe, providing the catchy driving organ riffs on such popular tracks as Billy’s Bag. He also played on the Everly Brothers’ album Beat’n’Soul, before releasing his first charting record, the instrumental The Most Exciting Organ Ever (1965), which was quickly followed by Early Hits of 1965 and The Apple of Their Eye.

In 1967 Billy’s Bag became a hit in Britain, and Preston relocated to take advantage of his popularity here, while continuing to work with Charles’s revue.

In 1969 George Harrison brought in Preston to work on the recording sessions for Let It Be, and he played on the single Get Back: his contribution was sufficiently valued for him to receive billing on the record – the only musician ever to share a performer’s credit with the Beatles.

Harrison later suggested that without Preston’s influence on the other members of the Beatles, who were violently at odds during the recording of the album, it might never have been completed.

The sessions on which Preston worked were being filmed for a documentary, and he featured in the finished product, Let It Be, which was released in 1970.

It was chiefly noted for the “farewell” concert which the group played on the roof of the Apple building, their company headquarters in Savile Row.

Preston contributed to the Beatles’ next album Abbey Road and signed to the Apple label, and Harrison produced two albums for him.

The first, That’s the Way God Planned It (1969) resulted in a number 11 single with its title track, while the second, Encouraging Words, released the following year, included the first version of Harrison’s song My Sweet Lord.

Preston continued his association with Harrison by playing at the guitarist’s charity concert in aid of Bangladesh, alongside such performers as Eric Clapton, and in 1970 played both on Harrison’s record All Things Must Pass and the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band project. The next year he worked for the first time with the Stones, on Sticky Fingers. He also opened concerts for Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.

But by this stage the Beatles’ relations with each other had broken down, and in the process the Apple label began to fall apart. Preston decided instead to sign with A&M, which had been set up by the trumpeter Herb Alpert.

There he had a successful run of hit singles, including Outa-Space, which reached number 2, the chart-topper Will It Go Round in Circles (co-written with Bruce Fisher) and Space Race, from the album Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music.

In 1974 Nothing from Nothing was another number 1, and Cocker’s cover of You Are So Beautiful became a hit. Preston continued to tour with the Stones, and also played as a sideman with Sly and the Family Stone, while turning out a series of solo albums on A&M. As if to demonstrate his versatility, he recorded and appeared with Sammy Davis Jr and played on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks.

He fell out with Mick Jagger, whose reputation for being careful with money was already well established, in the late 1970s, after a dispute over fees for touring, but he finished the decade with the romantic duet With You I’m Born Again, which he performed with Syreeta, and which was drawn from the film Fastbreak. On the back of its success, they recorded an album in 1981, the first of several records on Tamla Motown.

During the 1980s Preston experimented with Gospel and Hi-NRG, but much of his time was spent indulging in cocaine and alcohol, which had been a problem for several years. After 1986’s You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down, he recorded little until the early 1990s.

In 1991 he was charged with a morals violation and soon afterwards accused of assault with a deadly weapon.

This jolted him back into work of a sort (he appeared on a Ringo Starr album that year), but in 1997 he received a three-year jail term after breaking the terms of his probation by testing positive for drugs.

He also faced bankruptcy and further charges when he confessed to a series of insurance scams, including an attempt to burn down his own house.

Jail, he later maintained, “was a great lesson, an awakening. I needed to reflect, to get rid of some of the dead weight around me.

You take the bitter with the sweet and I have to say it was my faith that kept me going. I had nothing else to fall back on.”

In 1997 he returned to touring with the Rolling Stones and played on Bridges to Babylon; he also began to pop up regularly on American television shows. In 1975 he had been the first ever musical guest star on Saturday Night Live, and he made a number of appearances in – mostly indifferent – movies, such as the disastrous Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) and Blues Brothers 2000, an ill-advised sequel to the successful Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi comedy.

In 2003 Preston returned to the concert stage in a performance in memory of George Harrison, which was subsequently released on video, and earlier this year he worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their latest album Stadium Arcadium and with Neil Diamond on his record 12 Songs. He also worked with Steve Winwood and played again alongside Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr.

Billy Preston’s drug and drinking problems took their toll on his health, and he suffered from kidney failure towards the end of his life.

In 2002 he underwent a kidney transplant, but the operation was not a success, and he was reliant on dialysis thereafter. His condition deteriorated, and the last months of his life were spent in a coma.

He was unmarried.

Wilson Pickett – Soul singer

Wilson Pickett, the soul singer best known for the hits Mustang Sally and In the Midnight Hour, has died of a heart attack, aged 64.

Pickett had been suffering from health problems for the past year and died in a hospital yesterday near his home in Virginia.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, the same year that his career was revived as a result of several of his songs being featured in the Alan Parker film The Commitments. Pickett, who is survived by his fiancée and four children, will be buried beside his mother Lena in Louisville, Kentucky.


One of the most popular black singers of the ’60s, Wilson Pickett helped introduce the aggressive style of rhythmic style of soul music. Aided immeasurably by the excellent studio bands backing him at the Stax Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, and The Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals Alabama, Pickett scored a series of R&B and pop hits on Atlantic Records between 1963 and 1972 that included “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Funky Broadway.”

Raised in Prattville, Alabama, Wilson Pickett moved to Detroit, Michigan at the age of sixteen and made his professional debut as the lead singer of The Violinaires in the late ’50s. From 1961 to 1963 he was in The Falcons, writing and singing their 1962 hit “I Found Love.” Pickett then went solo and signed with Lloyd Price’s Double L Records, where he wrote and recorded “If You Love Me” and “It’s Too Late.”

In 1964, Pickett signed with Atlantic Records and did his early recordings in the Stax studio in Memphis, Tennessee with Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper of The MGs. Cropper co-authored three of his early hits, “In the Midnight Hour” and “Don’t Fight It”.   (Cropper, with friend Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn is part of the band in The Blues Brothers). from his debut album The Exciting Wilson Pickett that established him as a major soul star. The album also included “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” “She’s So Good to Me,” and “Land of a 1,000 Dances,” (covered by The Revillos in the early ‘80’s)  all recorded at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals.

I think I’ll be watching The Commitments again over the weekend.

Keith Duckworth Engineer 1933 – 2005

Keith Duckworth, who died on Sunday aged 72, was the outstanding racing engine designer of his generation.

Cosworth Engineering, the company he founded with his fellow engineer Mike Costin in 1958, produced a staggeringly successful series of Ford-based and Ford-sponsored engines. From 1960 to 1983 it not only won a record 155 World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races but dominated international Formula 2, Formula 3 and Formula Junior. It won the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race, and added multiple victories in American Indianapolis-style speedway racing.

A new 3-litre Formula 1 class was planned for 1966, and Colin Chapman of Lotus asked his former employee if he felt ready to tackle a Grand Prix engine design. Chapman talked Ford into footing the bill, and their sponsorship famously became “the best £100,000 Ford ever spent”.

Duckworth produced first a Ford-based four-cylinder 1600cc Formula 2 engine, from which he developed the three-litre V8 Cosworth-Ford DFV unit. Used by Jim Clark’s new Lotus 49, it won the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix upon its debut. Looking at the new car, one rival engine designer admitted: “We knew then the game was up.” Overnight, Duckworth’s design had set entirely new standards in Formula 1 power and ingenuity.

An outspoken and direct man, when sent for training as a navigator, Duckworth made waves by contradicting his astro-navigation tutor. “I don’t compromise easily,” he later admitted. “I simply won’t accept theories that are wrong. I can spot bullshit at 100 yards, and I have to say so.”

He was an inspirational figure and a dynamic teacher. “Duckworthisms” became renowned throughout the racing and engineering worlds. These included: “It is better to be un-informed than ill-informed”; “a genius can make for a penny what a good engineer can only make for 10p”; and “very few straight answers are ever possible: the decisive man is a simple-minded man”. He based job interviews on the principle that “young fools go on to become old fools”.

Along with men such as Colin Chapman and John Cooper, Keith Duckworth and his Cosworth brand have been synonymous with performance for over 40 years – a legacy that looks set to continue.