It’s not unusual for retirees to have eccentric hobbies, but Bournemouth, England’s Derek and Wilf are probably the only two old age pensioners who spend their free time dissecting rock and pop lyrics and sending garrulous letters to the offending songwriters. No one is safe from their scrutiny, not Gary Numan, Squeeze’s Chris Difford, Toyah Wilcox, Suggs, Alice Cooper, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Daevid Allen, Men Without Hats, Suzi Quatro, Sparks, Dave Stewart, Sting, the singer from A Flock of Seagalls or even Captain Sensible. Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond have also been cleverly targeted.
Their letter writing campaign began at a DJ’ed wedding, where they started criticizing the songs being played. Their questions involve taking whimsical or deadly earnest lyrics to their logical conclusions and wondering the imponderable like why hungry like a wolf in particular? Why not a penguin? Or a raven? Why would someone choose to live in a box voluntarily? How does someone extract the milk of human kindness, let alone deliver it? To their surprise, the musicians started responding.
Here’s an example. Derek’s bust-a-gut funny letter to Rick Wakeman imploring him to play at his grandson’s school fundraiser so they they won’t be forced to go with the “Dick Fakeman” tribute act instead
Dear Rick Wakeman
As a fellow parent, I hope that you can be of assistance
Regretfully I must confide that my grandson’s school has been lagging behind somewhat in the department of GCSE pass grades, according to the official Ofsted statistics. Upon close scrutiny of said cavillous data, a vast chasm of success between certain subjects included in the field of the humanities was unveiled. In order to rectify this situation it has been decided that the Secondary Modern should meld an area in which they excel with one that requires improvement, in order to perhaps subliminally spur the deficient pupils into favourable academia. They will therefore be staging a special event ‘going for the one’ area of the curriculum that the students are most adept at, Music, and combining it with History, where they are clearly floundering. This unique affair will be billed and promoted as ‘Pastonbury’.
As the original artists have not as yet come back to us we have implemented a contingency plan by putting down 10% refundable deposits on tribute artists Phony M (Rasputin), NO.M.D (Joan of Arc and possibly Enola Gay) and West London’s foremost piano / vocal ‘soundalike’ Feltham John, who will be performing ‘Candle In The Wind’ twice (covering off Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana for no additional fee) before travelling back in time for a pre-booked engagement at Isleworth Royal British Legion.
We wonder if you would be willing to help out by coming along in the afternoon and doing your King Arthur after the tombola. As the event is pencilled in for mid-May there is unfortunately little chance of the playground freezing over in deference to The Empire Pool recitals, so we would be having you indoors, although you should be put on notice that the parquet flooring, not unlike the aforementioned auditorium’s performance surface, can be particularly treacherous when newly waxed, especially when negotiated in socks.
One of the Heads of Year, Ms. Braithwaite, who is a keen enthusiast of ‘progressive rock’, mooted that as you would be here anyway you may as well play ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ in its entirety. However, although she was thanked for her pro-active suggestion, which was duly minuted, the Board of Governors voted to the contrary on the grounds that sadly they only had use of the Main Hall until 8pm, at which time it would have to be vacated in order to make way for the caretaker, and also that, being an instrumental piece, the children may become fidgety if sat cross-legged for such a long period. Furthermore, the organisers had not the resources to stage a slide-show or ‘power point presentation’ with the facility to depict an image of each ecclesiastical revisionist spouse in order to distinguish one set of your ‘moog stylings’ and going up and down the keyboard as fast as possible from another. It was therefore instead decided that they would ‘go with’ the remnants of Hermans Hermits, as a far less convoluted if admittedly factually inaccurate reference to said morbidly rotund tyrannical Tudor patriarch.
As they are somewhat restricted in terms of budget, it has been proposed that your fuel costs to and from Bournemouth would be fully re-imbursed upon provision of valid receipts, and in order to save your back you will not be expected to bring your ‘banks’ of synthesisers, ‘mellowtrons’, electrical harpsichords and other such
paraphernalia. You will instead be provided with two nearly new Bontempi organs temporarily borrowed by the gym mistress, Miss Mallard, from the stockroom of the local Sue Ryder shop on Wimbourne Road where she volunteers two hours of her time of a Saturday. This is an additional bonus for the co-ordinators as stage space is at a premium (although thankfully, not vertically, given that the vaulted ceiling would provide ample room for your pointy hat)
Sadly, Mr Balakrishnan, whose daughter Neeta often brings authentic homemade dishes in to school to share amongst her classmates and her tutors, will not be in attendance as he will be away visiting relatives in Tamil Nadu. He would have been delighted to have provided you with bindi bhaji, stuffed paratha and Bombay aloo (of a fashion familiar to those inadvertently ordered by yourself on the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour and consumed during a lengthy ‘percussive interlude’) , but as a compromise we will be happy to send the school captain out to go and get a 60 piece Indian platter from the Iceland on Christchurch Road, which will be balanced ‘close to the edge’ of the instruments during your recital.
My wife, Jean, is something of a wizard seamstress and, as a token of thanks for your time, has acquiesced to run up a cape to add to your probably already varied and vast wardrobe, free of charge. The kaleidoscopic dolman would be adapted from last term’s Year 10 production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’s backdrop, and she has asked me to enquire after your collar and chest measurements, as well as your height, so that she can ensure a perfect fit
We anxiously await your response Sir and sincerely hope that it is one of acceptance, in order that we may not be forced to resort to Dick Fakeman .
For Wakeman’s considered response, I direct you to their website.
Some of their greatest hits:
The pensioner amigos’ conceit as completely clueless old guys is slightly questionable, since they’re still in the upper range of prime baby boomer years. Come on, they could have been at, if not Woodstock, then at least the very first Isle of Wight festival. Honestly, they’re almost peers of Rick Wakeman’s (he’s 65). To the bewilderment of their wives, Olive and Jean, the two gentlemen have developed a cult following and receive ongoing invitations to concerts and backstage guest lists all the time. Jean began her own side project, Philpottery, making clay fridge magnets based on some of the rock stars her husband has corresponded with, among them Nine Inch Snails, Axolotl Rose, Pete Dogherty, and Piggy Pop. It can only be a matter of time before a book deal beckons.
Derek also amusingly made iconic album covers over into much more polite versions for NME along with some politically correct and eco-friendly rockers:
The animated adventures of Wilf Turnbull: “Dear Gary Numan…”: