A busy and emotional week of music and memories as 1969 book launches in Aylesbury and London - Kris Needs column

Last week was the busiest of what's been a very busy year. It was also the most emotional as I launched my memoir, Just A Shot Away:1969 Revisited with two events; the first here in Aylesbury at Vinyl On Wednesdays before the big bash in London two nights later.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 11:40 am
Kris addressing the audience at the 1969 book launch in Walthamstow

It was emotional because I started the book in February 2018, encouraged by my soul mate Helen as an account of how I remembered that pivotal year happening at the time, including seeing Hendrix, the birth of Friars, my Stones obsession leading to meeting Keith Richards; basically, the fabulous start of my whole life! Things took an awful turn that June when Helen lost the secret battle she'd been fighting with cancer and I ended up moving back to Aylesbury with my mum - into the same bedroom I'd actually experienced 1969 in!

When I returned to the book, its memories and musical ramblings took a different hue, coloured by strange grief, appreciation of life, Helen's everlasting memory and, maybe surreally, becoming very close to Marianne Faithfull. I've known her for 40 years but now we spoke to daily for months. She was my lifeline, along with Helen's fabulous dog Jack.

The book's now so long it's been split into two parts! Despite having none to sign yet, I tried to explain everything at V.O.W. to a lovely crowd of valued friends, finishing with the story behind 'Windmill', Helen's eulogy recorded with Welsh space-rockers Sendelica, written and sung by my singing partner Wonder, who'd come from the US again.

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Kris Needs reading from the 1969 book at the launch

In keeping with the 'Aylesbury Night' theme, part two was devoted to local sax-playing hero Lol Coxhill, who I first met at Aylesbury Arts Workshop in September 1969. Our guest speaker was local sax player Mark Browne, who played with Lol and delighted in illustrating his talk with some of his furthest out free jazz excursions, along with his recordings with Kevin Ayers and the Whole World and some great anecdotes. We were overjoyed to welcome Lol's daughter Maddie, who I hadn't seen since we went to Aylesbury College together nearly 50 years ago!

Two nights later, the London book launch took place at Walthamstow's amazing Rock 'n' Roll Book Club, where Sendelica played, along with Pinhdar from Milan (who'd given Jack to Helen 15 years earlier!) Wonder singing 'Windmill' with Sendelica was impossibly beautiful.

Next month, V.O.W. celebrates its first anniversary by paying tribute to Primal Scream, who I DJ'd and recorded with in the 90s before writing The Scream: The Myths, Music & Misbehaviour of Primal Scream (recently published by Endeavour on Kindle!).

This Saturday, I'm honoured to be MCing at Rocking Ray's Memorial Gig/Jam at the Queen's Head, which will see tributes to our much-missed friend, sets by local bands and climax with the reunion of Revolver, his old band!

When it comes, I'm dedicating part two of the '69 memoir to Ray, along with Helen. X