Saturday, 5 September 2009

The album what I wrote

Terry Durham was born in the West Yorkshire village of East Ardsley in 1936. As a child he felt repressed by the drabness of his surroundings and began to paint as a way of bringing colour into his life. At the age of 12 he painted a portrait of the then prime minister Clement Atlee, and got back a letter of thanks and his picture in the local paper. A soon as he was old enough he left Yorkshire and drifted around the country, living the beatnik dream, painting when he could, no ties, no plans, taking it as it came. Finding himself in London just before it started swinging, Terry started studying painting in earnest, but also began writing lyrics and poems and performing the same at various happenings across the capitol. In 1969, he recorded his only album as a solo artist, ‘The Crystal Telephone’.

With music by John Colman and accompaniment by avant gardist for hire Evan Parker and a thirty piece orchestra, ‘The Crystal Telephone’ is a wonderful album that provides a variety of musical settings for Terry’s poetry as recited by him in his gentle, earnest voice (it has been remarked that Terry sounds like Ernie Wise: not surprising as Wise was brought up in East Ardsley too). The arrangements run the gamut: bossa nova, blues, brass band, free jazz, and Terry’s poems are equally varied, taking in the North, love, life, and occasionally surreal imagery that is indebted to Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan. A hipper version of the records that Sir John Betjeman would later make with Jim Parker, ‘The Crystal Telephone’ is very much a period piece, but no less entertaining and charming because of it.

The album was not a success, but Terry didn’t really care about that anyway. He later turned up as part of the group Storyteller who released a couple of pleasant folk albums in the early 1970’s, but his main focus was always on painting and he returned to it full time once his interest in music waned. Still active today, Terry has travelled the world and settled in Spain. His masterpiece album is pretty hard to find these days (unless you’re Ben Hatton), but was reissued on CD a few years ago.

Two tracks from the LP: the keening title track, where Terry actually croons rather than recites and ‘Stills From A Late Night Movie’ where he chucks in an avalanche of disconnected imagery to a driving jazz accompaniment.

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