(John Bentley with friend -- at Crystal Palace zoo? circa '81)
Future trips down to Crystal Palace occurred on a bus through South London, through Catford and Lewisham. . . maybe even through Brixton, though I knew the southern line on the Tube went there so why take a bus?
Anyone who’s been to London knows how cool those double decker buses are -- and what nerves of steel the busdrivers possess. I loved everything about them, from the fares to the windows, to the upstairs seats -- even the color of them, screaming bloody red. Nice!
John Bentley’s house was small, with a little backyard and a little parking area in front. The kitchen was big enough for a table for two, so I guess it was an eat-in kitchen (EIK). The one-floor house also had one bedroom, a lounge or sitting room, and I think that was it. Not much cooking happened on-site, except lots of toast and tea, eggs, soups. Take-out was pretty much a standard, with Indian generally the ethnic food of preference.
John’s most-frequent friends who came by were Bob Suffolk, another musician and some kind of journeyman something-or-other, and John’s ex-girlfriend, Janet. A small, quiet, good natured, dark haired girl with a thick strong unibrow, she was fondly nicknamed “Salmon Janet Evening.” I loved her smile and serious, thoughtful outlook.
When she said “John,” it came out sounding like a caress. . . the way that only an English accent from the mouth of a loving human can sound. The way that words end on an upwards inflection always make them sound vulnerable, yet charming. Sentence endings so often sounded like question marks to me. I started to really understand why Shakespeare could use something like iambic pentameter and get away with it. . . spoken English really can have a lovely singsong meter to it. . .
Which was why I was still partially, irrevocably in love with that little island with the small-scale bell clear skies and the many limitations. . . like money, hope, and opportunity. Unemployment was riding high in ol’ Blighty, and so many people secretly “on the dole” turned to illegal or non-furthering pursuits (like daily drug us). Sigh.
Then John’s friends, Paul and Simone, burst through John’s door one evening, buoyant in spirit, bearing spirits: “We’re recording at Abbey Road -- and want you to produce!” Simone, a beautiful young mulatto woman, was looking to jumpstart her singing career with some pop songs. Upbeat as usual, John nodded, eyes twinkling, and said, “Err, so what’s the repertoire?”
Once that was established, I was asked to come along to the session and help with background vocal harmonies, as I knew those ABBA parts better than almost anybody (and yes, we did love ABBA -- the Eurovision song contest, right??).
And if nothing else, we sure respected success -- along with well-crafted pop music.