‘I’m just a lad from Leicester whose parents sent him to piano lessons’
Writer Lee Marlow had been working on a big Jon Lord feature for us. He interviewed him last Monday, handed the feature in yesterday morning – and then found out about Lord’s death at the end of the day. Here he gives a personal response to the ‘Peter Ustinov of rock’.
“Hellooo old son,” he said when – finally – he picked up the phone on Monday night. “How the devil are you?”
He was born in Leicester, Jon Lord, but he didn’t have the trademark clipped vowels of someone from the East Midlands’ biggest city. He had the arresting boom of someone who had trodden the boards, which, of course, he had before he climbed behind that Hammond organ and thrilled millions of people all over the world with his brilliance, his originality and his musical dexterity.
It had taken what had seemed like an age to get to this point. Dates had been arranged and then cancelled. Times were pencilled in and then rubbed out. Phone calls were made, but calls went unanswered. It was excruciating. Yet, you know, this was Jon Lord. And he was suffering from cancer. What do you do? I tell you what you do. You swallow your indignation and you hang on. Because it’s Jon Lord. Finally, it happened.
“Sorry about all that,” he said. “When you rang the other afternoon, I was asleep.” He doesn’t make a habit of napping in the day, he said. But it had been a tough day after another tough day.
He apologised again and hoped I understood. I did. I felt bad for nearly waking him up.
They say that you should never meet your heroes; that they’ll only disappoint you with their egos and their arrogance and their unshakable sense that everything – including you, especially you, writer boy –revolves around them.
But, really, that’s just bollocks. Because for every rock star, football player, author and politician who is like that – and there’s few, believe me – there’s Jon Lord. Jon Lord was a gent.