People often ask me why I spend so much time 'hanging around with old rockers.' Well. It's in the eye of the beholder, right? Youthful beauty, zipless sex, plastic surgery and fake news have their place in a heartless world. True friendship, love and loyalty can sometimes seem pointless in our shakily selfish age. But I have always found those qualities in abundance in the music industry.
Last night's gig at the Charing Cross Theatre being a case in point. We were there to celebrate folk legend Julie Felix's eightieth birthday. Yes, eighty. The die-hard troubadour was marching for peace, equality and women's rights before most of us were born. She was hosting her own acclaimed, star-studded shows on BBC television while many of us were still in nappies. She hung with George Harrison; told Macca that 'Strawberry Fields' was 'ok, I s'pose' when he played her the first acetate; lent a young Canadian poet her father's Mexican guitar on the Greek island of Hydra so that he could write the songs that would turn him into Leonard Cohen; became the female Bob Dylan and recorded many of his songs - a whole album's worth, at one point. And she invested in her friends, with the love and loyalty that would glue them together for a lifetime, forming bonds that would never be torn.
They were there in force last night, lending their talent and exuberance to an occasion that will long dwell in the memory. Madeline Bell, seventy-five on acid, she of Blue Mink fame, who sang the BVs on the Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'. Her take on Billie Holiday's 'God Bless the Child That's Got His Own' shook the venue harder than the tube trains rumbling through Embankment station, and the tribute she sang with Julie to their lamented buddy Dusty Springfield, featuring Carole King's 'Goin' Back', was breathtaking. John Paul Jones, seventy-two, legendary bassist, mandolin and keyboard star with Led Zeppelin, accompanied Julie on her own songs unrehearsed, in his usual smiley and unassuming way. And John Cameron, who once worked with Cilla, Donovan and Hot Chocolate, who rearranged Led Zep's 'Whole Lotta Love' as the theme tune for 'Top of the Pops', who was musical director of Julie's many TV series, scored movies the likes of 'A Touch of Class' with Glenda Jackson, and arranged/conducted the Boubil/Schonberg concept album that became 'Les Miserables', winning him countless awards, is seventy-four ... Bass player Charley Foskett and an array of saucer-eyed backing singers seemed mere newborns.
But the oldies are spring chickens in the scheme. It is their secret. So feel young, reading this. Do as these guys did, and are still doing, even at an age when they don't need the money and no longer have anything to prove. Take charge of your one precious life. Don't wish for it, work for it. Hang with real people, honest people, and hang on, for all time, to the best. They don't grow on trees. They will all too soon be gone, though 'never gone from spirit', as Julie urges us to believe. Remembering her words makes me wish, so wish, for one last laugh, one more crack at the mischief, with 'the Unforgottens': Jim Diamond, Roger Scott, David Bowie, Rob Lee, Nick Gordon, Freddie Mercury and Nick Fitzherbert.Happy birthday, Miss Tambourine Man. Forever Young. See you at your Ninetieth.