Rest in peace Dean Ford, who has died in the last few days. He was lead singer of Marmalade, the first Scottish band to reach the top of the UK charts. Their cover of the Beatles song “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” was #1 exactly 50 years ago, in the first week of 1969.
In the days before we heard of Ford’s death we were playing my favourite Marmalade song, “Reflections of my life”, often. It was co-written by Dean Ford and Junior Walker, entered the charts at the end of 1969 and reached #3. It features on a compilation CD that I dug out on New Year’s Eve to play while driving around West London. We were playing it on New Year’s Day when we drove into town, and my wife and I sang along, as usual. We always accompany the following lines with particular enthusiasm: “The world is a bad place / A bad place / A terrible place to live / Oh, but I don’t want to die”. On 2 January my wife and daughter played the song while out and about, and discussed these lines, about the world being a bad place, and the singer not wanting to die.
The following morning (Thursday 3 January) they heard Ken Bruce, on his Radio 2 show, announce the death of Dean Ford. My daughter was more upset about this than most 12-year-olds would have been, the news coming within 24 hours of a discussion with her mother about death and the singer. Something similar happened just over a year ago, when our local branch of Carluccio’s was still open. She asked about the name of the restaurant. My wife told her about the chef Antonio Carluccio, who founded the chain, and how well-known he was. My daughter asked if he was still alive. He was. The next day we heard that Carluccio had died. The same thought occurred to both her and my wife on Thursday morning: within 24 hours of discussing someone they learnt that the person was dead.
As we have subsequently learnt, Dean Ford died on 31 December, so he was no longer alive when my wife and daughter were discussing his lyrics. He died on the same day that I dug out the CD to play his song again, but it doesn’t count as much of a coincidence. The song has been on my mind often in the last 20 years. On Christmas Day my brother and I were discussing how good it is: the lyrics, the whole feel of the recording, the guitar solo with the tape looped backwards at one point, as in T Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer”.
For the next 27 days you can hear Ken Bruce’s brief tribute here, at 1:44:00, followed by the song. He remembers how Dean Ford and the Gaylords, as they were originally called, were the biggest thing in Glasgow before they moved to London and changed their name to Marmalade. He describes Ford as one of the greatest frontmen and vocalists of the time. You can see for yourself on this clip, a great performance of a great song. Feel free to sing along. “The world is a bad place …”