Alan Gowen memorial – 100 Club, 8 June 1981

Within three weeks of Alan Gowen’s untimely passing, his musician friends held a memorial concert for him at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street. Sadly, no recording of the event has surfaced, or is even known to exist, so to reconstruct what exactly was played and by whom, we are left with the participants’ increasingly distant memories and various pieces of evidence.

Here is the ad which appeared in the press to advertise the concert :


I have been unable to find a review of the evening from any music periodical. The closest to a contemporary source describing what happened is this excerpt from an interview with Phil Miller by Pascal Bussy, made in the spring of 1982 for the French magazine Notes. Phil remembered the proceedings thus :


A precious piece of evidence is provided by photographs taken throughout the evening by Tim Gravestock, some of whose work (from this and other concerts) was later used for the cover of Before A Word Is Said and D.S. Al Coda. There are photos in both colour and black & white and, assuming they are arranged chronologically, the set by Richard Sinclair, Nigel Morris, Phil Miller and Elton Dean would appear to have begun the evening (contrary to Phil’s recollection).


Next, we have Rapid Eye Movement, on this occasion performing instrumentally as a trio – Dave Stewart, Rick Biddulph and Pip Pyle. Jakko Jakszyk, it would seem, was present, but remembers not being keen to perform as he had never known Alan Gowen personally. Coincidentally, it also happened to be Jakko’s birthday. What was played by REM is anyone’s guess, although “Matching Green” is a likely candidate. (A version of this recently appeared on the Bruford box set.) [Update from Rick : “I can confirm REM did Matching Green – for which I needed my Copicat, and I remember getting offstage with difficulty in the crowded conditions after playing, with it balanced precariously on my pedalboard; funny what stays in the mind – and it’s possible that that was preceded by the Dave/Pip duet/jam/battle that was usually in the set, to get things going. If we did any more, a further possibility from the set at that time given Jakko’s absence from the proceedings, could be an instrumental clatter known as 12/8, keys and bass carrying the melody line.”]


Next in Tim’s photos, and the last batch that are in colour, is the set by National Health. When I interviewed Phil in 2000, he more or less nailed down what the band had played that night.

We did “TNTFX”, we did “Above and Below”… “Shining Water”, we did that one that night, with Dave playing the keyboard parts… One other one, I can’t remember, of Alan’s, right now. That was one off the album, but I think we did four or five of Alan’s pieces, with Dave on keyboards. It sounded really good. Very well received, as it should be.

The fourth piece Phil was unable to remember may have been “Reflexes In The Margin”, as this is one piece by Alan Gowen that Phil later performed with In Cahoots ca. 1985.


What happened after National Health’s set is not entirely clear. The only line-ups which appears in Tim’s black & white shots are more National Health and one which includes Elton Dean, Phil Miller and Hugh Hopper (Phil’s first time playing with either of them outside of a jamming situation, pre-dating Elton and Hugh’s membership of Phil’s band In Cahoots).


Who the drummer would have been for this is unclear (and sadly none of them are available to ask), although Pip Pyle is the likeliest candidate based on Phil’s 1982 memory that Hugh and Pip played together that evening. What they played is also unknown, although we have a clue with the score on Elton’s music stand. Here it is, cropped and reversed :


A little detective work has enabled me to determine that this is “Petit 3’s”, Alan Gowen’s contribution to the s/t Soft Heap album from 1978. Here is a fragment of the master score for that :


The quartet described above by Phil – Jimmy Hastings, Phil Lee, Jeff Clyne and Trevor Tomkins – sadly went unphotographed, and may well have ended what would have been a superb evening of music. Then again, they might have played before National Health as per Phil Miller’s recollection but for some reason Tim didn’t photograph them.

3 thoughts on “Alan Gowen memorial – 100 Club, 8 June 1981

  1. Tim Gravestock’s brother Chris contibuted some interesting memories of the evening, which he also attended, on the Facebook British Jazz discussion group. Here is the relevant passage : “My recollection is that the first band on were Hatfields, followed by National Health and then three quarters of Rapid Eye Movement and then things got jazzier/looser. I’m fairly sure Hugh and Elton played Seven for Lee, but I’m not sure who else played on that. Trevor Tomkins was there and Mike Travis. I’m also sure there was a piano player there too. I don’t recall it being Keith Tippett or Steve Miller, but it could have been. Tim might have other photos – he took a lot of slides that night – and these might shed some further light.”


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