Although Tony always brought a fair dose of pub-humour and a down-to-earth approach to all his projects this in no way detracted or hid the serious talent and soul that this young lad from Lancashire possessed. Having recently heard the first ever live Ashton, Gardner & Dyke CD “Let It Roll” it is quite staggering how accomplished Tony was at such an early age pulling off some seriously innovative hard-rock-jazz with a confidence and maturity far beyond his years.
Sadly however Tony’s enormous contribution to the music world seems to have been overlooked by all too many. Perhaps his only failing was in always being true to himself instead of adopting an overblown persona and taking himself too seriously. When Tony did adopt personas in his songs, or did his Cool-thing, it was always done with tongue firmly in cheek and often in a self-effacing manner. Tony could not help but be himself – perhaps a shortfall in the industry of image and ego.
Off stage too, on the few occasions I was privileged to meet him he was one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet. It sometimes seemed that he was more nervous and uncomfortable meeting his fans than his fans were meeting him! Thankfully I spent a long afternoon in the pub with Tony back in 1999 and had the chance to tell him how big an impact his music had had on my life. Not many fans have such an opportunity to thank their heroes in this way and I am so glad that I could. Tony’s reaction was typically modest and shy; he was genuinely flattered and touched. We reminisced through Tony’s works - singing, or at least trying to remember - the words to Paper Head Paper Mind in something of a drunken haze. One memory that lingers from that afternoon was asking him had he ever been to Thailand, my adopted homeland. He said that sadly he hadn’t but I jokingly replied that ‘Yes you have!’ and quoted one of his lyrics “I was in Bangkok on Friday, Barcelona on the 6th” and, as quick as a flash he replied with a smile “Why do I dream these crazy dreams” – another line from the song “Tavelin’ Javelin”. An unbeatable sparring partner! I was also lucky on that afternoon to be able to show him Walid’s WWW page, as there was an Internet machine in Tony’s local. It was Tony’s first visit to his website and he was amazed to see it and see some of his old pictures. It was nice too that some of the regulars in the pub were there to see Tony accessing his website for the first time.
I am also thankful to Jon Lord and Pete York for coming up with the Endangered Species gig. What a great night of celebration it was – well worth the trip from Thailand. One of the funny memories I retain from that night was being in the Gents toilets when Tony came in and joined the communal urinal. Some joker in line asked Tony “Who are you?” to which Tony replied “Tony Braxton”.
When I heard that Tony had passed away, although it was no surprise, I was still very upset. I immediately wanted to play some of his music in memory but for the first couple of days could not bring myself to hear his voice. As a fan of 20 years I will sorely miss him. He was absolutely unique in personality and in his musical style. That is a great loss to me and I’m sure to many others. It is also sad that we have lost one of life’s gentlemen, one of the good guys and a natural character and comedian. Although I tried to tell him back in August 1999 I don’t think I could ever have thanked him enough for the pleasure he has given me over the years. “The Worst of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke”, “Malice in Wonderland”, “Let It Roll” and his other major works stand as testament to his incredible talent. It goes without saying that his music lives on, here in Bangkok, as it does all around the world.
It is comforting to think that Tony’s last few years were good ones: his AG&D albums were re-released by Repertoire, he released a couple of new songs in the Big Red EP and the Big Freedom Dance, started performing again more regularly and was celebrated at the Endangered Species Awards – not to mention his budding art career. Moreover, just these last couple of months he was featured on the BBC, had the long-lost second Paice, Ashton, Lord album released and also the first AG&D live CD. Long overdue recognition which hopefully brought some cheer to his final days.
My thoughts are with Sandra, Indira and his friends during this time of remembrance. I would like to think it is also a time for celebration - because as a friend reminded me, we should not feel too sad, after all, Tony lived his life to the full, and that’s all any of us can ask for on judgment day. Cheers Mr. Giver! And indeed Bollox.