Monaco, and God bless Phil

12 August 2015

Well, we’re back on the air, and as regular readers will be pleased to know, broadcasting from the relaxed and
air conditioned tranquillity that is the conductor’s room at the Sporting Club in sunny Monaco in the three hour
break which elapses between having much too much to eat at the evening buffet in the staff canteen and the waving
of the baton to get the Orchestra to entertain the botoxed masses with show tunes later on. It’s nicer this year,
too. Not only does the in-room wi-fi mean that your jaded scribe can get the BBC iPlayer on the laptop, and can
therefore stay abreast of the week’s goings on in Ambridge, but also the staff canteen has been moved out of the
bowels of the building, where it used to lurk beneath a confusing system of spiral staircases and concrete
corridors, which gave a welcome Dr Strangelove like frissance of riding out a nuclear holocaust above , to a
smashing new location right at the top above the main restaurant. Now we have fabulous 1960’s plate glass windows
through which we can see the 1960’s concrete sculpted ornamental gardens, and beyond those the whole Monte Carlo
Bay. It is genuinely quite beautiful, and all the 1960’s style groovy concrete chairs, ornamental spheres,
stylised statues verdant greenery and sunshine give it the the look of one of those artists’ impressions of
“Runcorn In The Future” we used to see circa 1971. Mind you, even the more adventurous illustrators couldn’t have
forseen the current fashion for recreational maritime hardware. These yachts are the size of frigates, and big
ones at that. Some are so big that they can’t even get near the marina, let alone in it, and so they have hatches
in the side through which small sub-yachts emerge to allow the Russian Gazillionaires access to the fleshpots on
the quay. The fourth letter of the Cyrillic alphabet, similar to ours is De, or Д. It looks a lot like Д-day out
there now.

However, another postcard from Monaco is not the function of this essay. I last posted on the eve of my fiftieth
birthday, back in March. Around two weeks after that, I had an email from my webman Phil, who said he’d gone to
the doctors with terrible backache, only to find out that he had cancer of the spine, and two weeks after that he
was dead. This was, and still is, horrible. I first met Phil back in 1999 when Clark Tracey put me in touch with
him, as we were all aware that the Internet was coming, and that it was likely to change the world and our
business along with it. Phil had all the answers. He sorted out my first website, bits of which survive here.
http://plong.co.uk/index2.htm. Not only did he sort out the whole computer malarkey, which back then was a
complete dark art, he researched the subject matter and with his considerable skills as a designer carefully
built up a look for the site that was carried onto the CDs. His bag was rock, through and through, but he was a
big enough man to really get inside the nitty-gritty of whatever I threw at him. For the Peggy Duke and Benny
album we put out, I wanted a cover which replicated the feel of an early 1970’s jazz reissue on mfp. This is
because so many of my earliest vinyl purchases looked like that- you know, a nice pastel blue cover with “Stan
Getz” written across the top in orange Goodies writing and a small inset picture of Stan in his later years
framed in a series of orange and gold rectangles, despite the fact that the original was put out in the fifties.
I explained this to Phil, and he came up with the very groovy plum coloured design which you can see elsewhere on
the site. For the Gillespiana album, he came up with artwork and layout which mimics the Verve ten-inch albums of
the late 1940’s. The current website is all his work. I am particularly fond of the little pictures that move
about on the ensemble demo page here- http://www.plong.co.uk/recording3.htm. It galls me a bit that the site is
going to have to change as time rolls on, because I will need it to do different things to support the work I end
up doing, but Phil’s vision of a site is that it should always grow and evolve. Always lightning quick to post a
Plog, or update the gig list, or to berate me for asking for modification to a page that would have turned out to
be vulgar, or which would simply have crashed the whole internet as we know it (though I’d still like the
animatronic trampolining bikini-clad Sue Lawley to welcome new visitors to the site), Phil’s sudden disappearance
to the other side has left me and the many other musicians who relied on him to remove the impenetrable
complexity of the Internetwork from our shoulders in order that we could get on with the harsh business of trying
to knock a few tunes out in exchange for money.

And here’s the thing- the last thing Phil did for me was to layout the cover design for the Tattooed Bride album
for the Echoes Of Ellington. Phil was a firm believer in supporting the arts, and told me so from time to time.
His support came in a very direct and practical way – in all the years I knew him, despite many many
interjections from me, Phil never wanted to be paid. He was a huge human being, and will be missed by all of us
he helped.

He didn’t want a credit, by the way, for laying out album covers, so he’ll probably be cross with me for writing
nice things about him here. I’ll find out sooner or later.

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