end of play, for Lol Coxhill

Late one night in March of this year I was sitting in an eerie hotel within Tokyo’s Haneda airport being interrogated for a Japanese magazine (see http://onbanjidai.blogspot.co.uk/). The subject of the interview was music and comedy and despite my fear of flying and the knowledge that I was about to board a plane I started talking about “Murder In the Air”, a track by Lol Coxhill and David Bedford. If my memory is correct, I first heard the duo perform this gem of refracted kitsch on John Peel’s radio show in the early 1970s. One of my interlocutors, Minoru Hatanaka, a man who is endlessly well-informed on all things British and experimental, had never heard of it. Perhaps it’s just as well; what would a Japanese person make of this gently absurdist parody of a drawing room melodrama of the 1930s? Even the Noh drama is less opaque.

But as an autonomous piece it had all manner of connective tissues stretched thin enough to touch the edges of trad parodists like The Alberts (for more on this subject see Bruce Lacey’s current show at Camden Arts Centre), the fashion of the time for reviving vernacular musics of the Victorian and Edwardian era as an experimental stance, a comedy legacy that included The Goon Show, Julian and Sandy on Round the Horne, Monty Python, Music Hall monologues, sub-Noel Coward theatricals and Vivian Stanshall, an infernal symbiosis through which the most effete and ephemeral comedies of manners came to represent all that was sick in the British class system and so served as bayonet practice, often by chaps who had undergone National Service and become radicalized (or at least well-equipped for a life of heroic silliness) in the process.

I’d planned lunch today with Rosemin Keshvani, curator of the current Flat Time House exhibition – Better Books: Art, Anarchy and Apostasy – featuring artists who performed or showed work at Better Books in the 1960s, Bruce Lacy, the late John Latham, the late Bob Cobbing, the late Jeff Nuttall, the late Jeff Keen, the late Steve Dwoskin, the late the late the late, and so all of this comes to mind out of early morning thoughts about Bruce Lacey and why it is that these scarecrow figures of the British arts are dragged back from their wasteland exile at the very last moment to perform duties as romantic legends for those too cautious to live anywhere near the same precipice. My questions were interrupted by a text from Steve Beresford: “Lol died last night”. After a certain age you become accustomed to the passing of legends, the chiming of a clock that fades into inaudibility, yet I felt bereft and tearful, not only because I counted Lol as a strange sort of friend and had played with him on and off since 1971, but because he was a person whose way of living, presence, being, conversation, wit and music enriched and challenged your own existence.

In a way I could never get over my awe of him, having seen him for the first time on Ready Steady Go in 1965, a hipster-shaded baldhead tenor player backing up Rufus Thomas’s TV performance of “Walking the Dog” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acX8d_oLxxU). I was crazy about Thomas at that time and so never quite recovered from the impact of Lol’s evident charisma. He was also a member of Kevin Ayres’ post Soft Machine group, The Whole World, along with Bedford and Mike Oldfield. I heard them live twice in 1970 (a Hyde Park Free concert with Robert Wyatt on drums, and then at The Marquee club); the memory that sticks is from the Marquee, Bedford playing organ wearing a huge pair of industrial gloves. Then in 1971 Lol turned up as an invited musician to the free improvisation workshops John Stevens was running for young acolytes like Paul Burwell, Herman Hauge, Ye Min and myself at Ealing College. Immediately there was the sense that he was actively interested and open to engagement in what others were doing, never mind their relative youth and the fact that they didn’t know the changes to “All the Things You Are” in Bflat.

Two things about that. Lol could be an extraordinarily generous person. There were those he believed to be “duff”, dismissed with pithy anecdote and an underplayed chuckle, and then there were those he genuinely liked and admired, often awkward, marginal figures like Colin Wood or Dave Holland (the pianist) who lacked his breadth of experience but who gained his respect through the tenacity with which they maintained their awkwardness and marginality. He actively sought out tricky situations. To me, this is the measure of an improviser: a player who moves beyond their comfort zone, chips away at their own aesthetic and tics, risks foolishness and failure and yet builds operational spaces in every situation, no matter how rote or ridiculous. The rest are just stylists. I say this knowing that Lol was never graced with the status of true improviser by the commissars of the game; his sidelines were his centre, his rambling ways the shadowing of his bald soprano, its convolutions and folds, its serpentine unfoldings in the inaudible dark. He was dogged by eccentricity, busking, the look of him, his clothes, his baldness, his comedic turn yet never shied away from the heavy responsibility of lightening proceedings. Some people would release an album by three of the greatest improvising soprano players – Evan Parker, Steve Lacy and Lol Coxhill – under a title like Straight Horn Colossi; no doubt at Lol’s suggestion it was called Three Blokes.

Lol absolutely loved music, and so his raptures could shine equally onto Roland Alphonso or the San Lucas Band of Guatemala, onto frogs or sealions, onto the most sublime tenor players in jazz and the most incompetent shambolic amateur punk bands. He backed or sat in (these odd positional terms) with Joe Harriott and Jimi Hendrix, The Damned and Judy Collins; a collaborator in projects and groups so diverse that the list would be improbable were it not Lol. In the early 1980s I worked as writer and interviewer on Jeremy Marre’s Channel 4 music series, Chasing Rainbows. In Whitley Bay we recorded a wonderful violin duo called Minzi and Mina, two elderly ladies who played deliriously marathon Saturday night sets of yesteryear hits, shakily approximate but spirited, to a lively hotel crowd. Lol loved them when he heard a recording and it made me tearful again to open the gatefold of his Frog Dance LP this afternoon to find this letter: “Hello David . . . hope you like some of it as much as I like Minzi and Mina, cheers! Lol”.

One of the reasons we all loved Minzi and Mina was because they seemed to be the belatedly discovered template for our Brighton beach ensemble, The Promenaders (Lol, Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, Paul Burwell, Terry Day, Max Eastley and myself). Formed in adversity for beach entertainment, as a reaction to poor organization, the group went on to play its peculiar repertoire many times. Did we support Machito at The Venue or am I dreaming? I know we played at Walter Zimmermann’s Beginner Studio in Cologne and had Coventry art students waltzing around to “The Dambuster’s March” as if the Battle of Britain still raged overhead. As with “Murder In the Air”, the group was a descendant of some odd British spirit of self-subversion, a determination to look ridiculous in order to pass through enemy lines. Being of a certain age, we played a Light Programme selection (Google it, I suggest) in a mode, or in the mood, of studied imprecision but without Lol’s inventive fluency there would have been less than half the laughs. For a C4 television appearance matching tight, white, nylon polo necks and cheap medallions were acquired from a shop in Brixton, along with subsequent skin rashes to the neck and a preponderance of man boobs. I suspect that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer may have studied our appearance with keen interest.

The last time I played with Lol was in a quintet – the three Recedents, Mike Cooper, Roger Turner and Lol – supplemented by Rhodri Davies and myself (coincidentally, perhaps, a full set of recedents). Some anticipation had attached itself to this gig, as if the association of Rhodri and myself with so-called ‘New London Silence’ would reduce the five of us to static automata in a curiosity shop, instruments on our laps and waiting for the man with the key. As it transpired the music exemplified the open work, that wonderfully tensile balance of kinetic urgency and reactive restraint that has been a constant in British improvisation since its origins. Lol had played far less than usual yet afterwards he seemed to be perspiring. “It’s hard work not doing much,” was what I remember him saying, the familiar dry delivery ensuring that you knew he was joking and not joking. He was incessantly self-deprecating but he knew he was good; he was shy but would stand out in the biggest crowd. I remember his quick gait, light on the feet for a big man, and his impersonation of Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now: “The horror, the horror”. In the early 1980s there was hope that he could play Dr Moreau alongside Diamanda Galas in an improvised opera devised by Alterations but it never happened so Charles Laughton’s reputation was saved. He was a remarkable man. In 1976 I took a trip to Amsterdam with Nestor Figueras. On the overnight ferry we bumped into Lol. As usual when traveling he didn’t carry much more than a soprano case. After some hours of drinking with us in the bleaching bright lights of a nautical bar he announced a wish to retire for the night, lay down on the floor on his back and immediately fell asleep. Quite why that seems to sum up his path through life as a unique being I am not sure but it does.

About davidtoop

Ricocheting as a 1960s teenager between blues guitarist, art school dropout, Super 8 film loops and psychedelic light shows, David Toop has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This practice encompasses improvised music performance (using hybrid assemblages of electric guitars, aerophones, bone conduction, lo-fi archival recordings, paper, sound masking, water, autonomous and vibrant objects), writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera (Star-shaped Biscuit, performed in 2012). It includes eight acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016, a Guardian music book of the year, shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize), Flutter Echo (2019) and Inflamed Invisible (2019). Briefly a member of David Cunningham’s pop project The Flying Lizards (his guitar can be heard sampled on “Water” by The Roots), he has released fifteen solo albums, from New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments on Brian Eno’s Obscure label (1975) and Sound Body on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label (2006) to Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016) and Apparition Paintings (2020) on Lawrence English’s ROOM40 label. His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism and ritual - released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows (2016) - were called by The Wire a “tsunami of weirdness” while Entities Inertias Faint Beings was described in Pitchfork as “an album about using sound to find one’s own bearings . . . again and again, understated wisps of melody, harmony, and rhythm surface briefly and disappear just as quickly, sending out ripples that supercharge every corner of this lovely, engrossing album.” In the early 1970s he performed with sound poet Bob Cobbing, butoh dancer Mitsutaka Ishii and drummer Paul Burwell, along with key figures in improvisation, including Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Georgie Born, Hugh Davies, John Stevens, Lol Coxhill, Frank Perry and John Zorn. In recent years he has returned to collaborative performance, working with many artists and musicians including Rie Nakajima, Akio Suzuki, Max Eastley, Tania Caroline Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Henry Grimes, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Alasdair Roberts, Thurston Moore, Jennifer Allum, Miya Masaoka, Extended Organ (with Paul McCarthy and Tom Recchion), Ryuichi Sakamoto and a revived Alterations, the iconoclastic improvising quartet with Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day first formed in 1977. He has also made many collaborative records, including Buried Dreams and Doll Creature with Max Eastley, Breath Taking with Akio Suzuki, Skin Tones with Ken Ikeda, Garden of Shadows and Light with Ryuichi Sakamoto and co-productions (with Steve Beresford) for Frank Chickens, the 49 Americans and Ivor Cutler. Major sound art exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London (2000) and Playing John Cage at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (2005-6). In 2008, a DVD of the Belgian film – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Portrait of David Toop Through His Records Collection – was released by Sub Rosa, and in 2017 his autobiography – Flutter Echo: Living Within Sound – was published by Du Books in Japan. His most recent records are Dirty Songs Play Dirty Songs (Audika, 2017), Suttle Sculpture (Paul Burwell and David Toop live, 1977, Sub Rosa, 2018), John Cage: Electronic Music for Piano with Tania Chen, Thurston Moore and Jon Leidecker (Omnivore, 2018), Apparition Paintings (ROOM40, 2020), Field Recordings and Fox Spirits (ROOM40, 2020), Until the Night Melts Away (with Sharon Gal and John Butcher, Shrike, 2021) and Garden of Shadows and Light (with Ryuichi Sakamoto, 33-33, 2021). He is Professor Emeritus at London College of Communication.
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50 Responses to end of play, for Lol Coxhill

  1. Jon W says:

    I’m sad to hear this news. I’d never claim to have known Lol well, but just want to add this short story to David’s tribute. As part of the Collusion/Alterations scene of the early 80s, Lol had a studio space at the old Diorama building/arts centre next to Regents Park. I’d been in touch with David, Steve Beresford and David Cunningham over the General Strike project, which was Touch’s first “artists only” release. Lol let it be known that he’d be happy to contribute a piece to the next Touch project (which turned out to be Land’s End, 1984). He asked me to meet him at the Diorama, and under careful auspices and introductions, he picked up his sax and blew for 30 seconds and said “Something like that”. A short time afterwards he sent us a 1/4 inch tape. It was one of the most spontaneous and generous contributions we ever had. Evan Parker did something similar, 12 years later.

    Lol was also deeply involved in my colleague at the RCA – Len Massey’s – amazing evenings in the drawing studio for over 10 years. He was a giver.

    • davidtoop says:

      Thanks Jon. He was indeed a giver.

      • len massey says:

        Lol was one of my heroes, he played amazing music in amazing situations. He also was a real good human being – a wonderful person and a great teacher as well as a brilliant musician. There was one occasion when we were playing together at the RCA Drawing Studio when he had stopped playing for around 20 minutes, I asked him if he was ok and his reply was,”Yes I’m fine, I am listening”. All those that were there at the Esemplastic Tuesdays at he RCA Drawing Studio were touched by FREEDOM and LOVE and ART. We played for around three hours most nights with some amazing musicians and poets – our students were inspired, wonderful improvisations, real ART!!! As for me it still amazes me that the great Lol Coxhill was so friendly to me and my son Liam (who was the photographer at the ET gigs. One of Liam’s memories of these times is of Lol shaking his hand after our usual few pints post gig and saying this hand that has given you crisps is the same hand that shook the hand of JIMI HENDRIX!!! That is another story… Another hero of mine is Kevin Ayers – last LP I got was “The Radio Sessions” , a double
        wonderful record with some amazing Lol contributions. Also Lol’s “….. OH REALLY?
        LP is astonishing as is Lady june’s Lingustic Leprosy. All the recordings with Verian
        Weston. Lol was brilliant. All Lol’s gigs at RCA were recorded as well as the gig at the Spitz and the Birdyak gig at RCA. What was Lol’s connection with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey and RCA?

  2. As one of those Coventry art students you mentioned, and witness to the debut in Brighton, I’ve been thinking of the Promenaders a lot since I heard this sad news. I must dig out the LP again, and give it a spin.
    I’ve been groping around for adjectives, regarding the quality Lol’s playing (and for that matter, the quality of his presence) and I keep coming back to “Puckish” – which doesn’t seem quite right for such a big guy, but there it is, nevertheless.

  3. enthusemarc says:

    As one of those Coventry art students you mentioned, and witness to the debut in Brighton, I’ve been thinking of the Promenaders a lot since I heard this sad news. I must dig out the LP again, and give it a spin.
    I’ve been groping around for adjectives, regarding the quality Lol’s playing (and for that matter, the quality of his presence) and I keep coming back to “Puckish” – which doesn’t seem quite right for such a big guy, but there it is, nevertheless.
    (apologies if this comment shows twice – there was a login hiccup just now)

  4. Richard Lee says:

    Privileged to have heard Lol woodshedding under Hungerford Bridge. Think I was coming back from a Soft Machine gig at QEH. (Though it could have been Tyrannosaurus Rex which would explain his need to clear the air with his forensic soprano).
    Still enjoy his Peel inspired “Ear Of Beholder”, “Shooting At The Moon” and especially his delightful duo with Phil Miller “Miller/Coxhill”.
    RIP Lol but hope you’re making a heck of a racket under whichever bridge you’re haunting.

  5. Judy Dyble says:

    I was part of a strange collaboration with Lol, Steve and Phil Miller sometime in the early 70’s. The set list was changeable and incomprehensible and often included the song Stout-Hearted Men from the 1940 film New Moon. It always ended in chaos as did almost everything else. But I learned to listen from playing with those three. They and especially Lol opened my ears to the beauty and tangledness of free improvisation music. Plus I have never forgotten one of his jokes, which always made me giggle although Lol insisted it lost in the translation. Translation from what I never did discover. RIP Lol..

    • davidtoop says:

      I remember, Judy, though I don’t remember “Stout Hearted Men”! I think we should know the joke.

      • mike c ooper says:

        As I sat reading Judy’s post about the joke I thought to myself I wonder if its the one about ‘do you have a light’ – lo and behold it was. I used to repeat that joke to people to see if they were as uncomprehending as I was when he told it to me. He always used to laugh to himself before he got to the end as well.

  6. Judy Dyble says:

    I will try although it was quite a visual one.
    Two men were walking down the street. One says to the other ‘Have you got a light?’ The second man pats himself up and down checking pockets and says (in a weird accent of Lol’s own making) ‘Oh! How I am thin!’

    As Lol said it does lose in the translation… Sorry :-). But it still makes me giggle..

    • davidtoop says:

      See what you mean but it made me laugh too because Lol had a presence to him, a sort of inner humour that’s a great gift (or so it seems from the outside), like a good comedian who can just stand still to make you laugh. He could have been a very famous person like Frankie Howerd but then he also had this questing spirit that wouldn’t be tamed or diverted. Thanks for the joke, Judy, it makes perfect sense (sort of).

  7. roger says:

    I met Lol for a few hours in 1978 when we were supporting him at a solo gig at the Unversity of Warwick. At the end of the gig we’d decided to play together as a finale. This final set consisted of 2 altos, Lol on Soprano and myself of DBass recorded on an old Philips cassette player. This recording only surfaced recently and perhaps that’s where it should have stayed.

    Although we only met for a few hours he was happy to play with us and he played as though we’d played together often. Much missed.
    The Hector Brisset Allstars featuring Lol Coxhill

  8. I got to play with Lol a few times. I think the last time was a much-too-big-band at the Red Rose at a Back In Your Town gig. The music was indifferent at best, but you could hear him carving his way through the pointless huffing, puffing and scraping with sharp, quizzical melodies, likae a one man Greek chorus commenting on the miserable proceedings. A saxophonist friend of mine used to describe his playing as ‘sarcastic’, but i think ‘puckish’ is the best description I’ve heard. I remember his delight at being able to use his newly acquired Old Person’s Railcard on a trip to a gig in Brighton, and a beautifully offhand solo delivered as we set up for a recording session. He was one of the three or four players I can think of who are immediately recognisable on the soprano saxophone. Bless him.

  9. Fergus Kelly says:

    If I remember rightly, that Land’s End tape Jon mentioned was my introduction to solo Lol (being a bit younger than the present company). I did have a copy of the Lol Coxhill/Morgan Fisher LP, “Slow Music”, but this was my first time to hear him unaccompanied. Utterly individual and highly memorable. I listened to Lands End (and other Touch compilations) so much over the last 30 years, that I could hum Lol’s entire improvisation now – it’s entered my bloodstream. So, thanks Jon, and thanks Lol, of course.

  10. Jesse says:

    thanks for this, david, lovely.

  11. Rupert says:

    So pleased that I went to see Lol when he played last year down here at University College Falmouth. I’ve seen him every so often since the early 1980s, and had the pleasure of promoting him in Exeter. He was fun, warmhearted and generous – to musicians who wanted to play with him [he often did], promoters, and those who wanted to tape his concerts. Sad news.
    [Good to find your blog David]

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  14. Sandy Kindness says:

    His music was unique and irreplaceable, but I’ll also find it hard to forget his openness as a human being too. Over a pint he would become anecdotal, and many of his reminiscences, of a gig where nobody listened but he made 5 figures out of it, of Ivor Cutler, Rufus Thomas and other individuals, all that I found fascinating.

  15. Stephen Drennan says:

    Hello David, thanks for such an excellent and beautiful piece on Lol. I had the pleasure of seeing him a couple of times in recent years, at Safehouse in Brighton; sadly he was forced to cancel a performance there with Steve Beresford last year due to ill-health. I first came across him properly aged 14, around ’77, on Radio 3 when Jazz Today aired something from his new Diverse L.P., which was astonishing – though I’d heard him on Peel playing with The Damned, and that Johnny Rondo Trio 7″, and knew his name from my prized Virgin catalogue full of photos of sleeves of desirable albums I couldn’t yet afford. I was wondering if you had any insight into his less known-about session work, as I have the discographical book The Sound Of Squirrel Meals, which to me seems incomplete; I once heard that he worked with The Foundations, for instance, playing on one or more of their hits – but haven’t managed to unearth concrete proof. The better-documented session work seems to be in the rock arena – Kevin Ayers, Mike Oldfield, the aforementioned Damned’s second L.P., John Kongos’ two hits, one of which I had as a kid on K-tel before I even knew of Lol. I hadn’t known until I read The Independent’s obituary that he worked with Keith Hudson, but it’d be very interesting to know more of the wide range of work he was involved in.

    • davidtoop says:

      Thank you Stephen. I don’t have the book you mention but Lol’s session work will need an extraordinary researcher to uncover it all. Keith Hudson is very possible. Lol was closely connected to Vic Keary at Chalk Farm Studios (the main reggae studio in the late 1960s). Vic released one of Lol’s albums on his Mushroom label, recorded at least one other and probably roped Lol into sessions. From my own experience of hanging out there, recording and even living there for a bit I know that a wide range of reggae artists and producers used to show up for sessions – Dandy Livingston, Jimmy Cliff and Leslie Kong among them. Everybody has a different Lol Coxhill!

      • Stephen Drennan says:

        The Independent obituary mentioned Keith Hudson – seems Lol went under the pseudonym “Robert Zipper” for that, and is apparently in evidence 2 mins 50 into the track Civilisation : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyVnPcf4FA8&feature=youtu.be. Yes, everybody has a different Lol; he was so wide-ranging : The Damned, Tommy Cooper, Keith Hudson, Welfare State, Rufus Thomas, Mike Oldfield… it seems more surprising that he *didn’t* work with certain artists, e.g. The Slits.

      • mike c ooper says:

        Barbara Schwarz wrote ‘The Sound Of Squirrel Meals’ in collaboration with Lol over many years. A labour of love on her part. Copies can be got from Barbara if you get in touch with her – bschwarz@mindless.com

  16. George Burt says:

    Thank you David for such a fine piece about Lol. We played with him a number of times over the years, most recently in the Sage last year. He was ill then, but his playing was as fine as I’ve ever heard it, despite all our fussing and worrying. You’ve got it right about everybody’s Lol being different… Mine was quiet, serious and funny all at once… Thanks again.
    -George Burt

  17. paddy fletcher says:

    Lol’s contribution to theatrical events shouldn’t be forgotten either. I remember doing a wandering street theatre piece with Incubus Theatre in Welwyn once and being disturbed by an apparently demented character trailing us around at a distance. That was Lol, out-weirding us effortlessly.

    He also played beautiful soprano sax on the recorded soundtrack to Incubus’ Old Testament Floorshow.

    I was hoping to see him again at a recent Tribute to the late Ian Hinchliffe, but alas he was too ill to attend.

    Anyway, thanks for the lovely tribute.

  18. John Kieffer says:

    Really excellent piece – thank you David.

    Strangely, I was In Brighton a few weeks ago reuniting with Richard Cupidi after over 15 years and both Lol and also now sadly departed Jeff Keen came up in conversation. Lol (with your good self and many other extraordinary artists) was all over the festival in 1979 that we put together with Roger Ely, Neil Butler and others. (Yep – as you know we were the “poor organisation” which I think if anything is being rather kind….) As well as the Promenaders, I remember an extraordinary solo performance from Lol before Louis Moholo’s Spirits Rejoice, and a hilarious trip to the then very shabby Booth Bird Museum.

    Richard and I were both bemoaning the lack of documentation from the festival and from this time in general. All we have between us is the grant application and a tattered poster. I did come across this online though: http://www.scribd.com/doc/19844549/Festival-79-Brighton

    I think Lol had probably worked with over half the artists in the festival.

    • davidtoop says:

      Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude about the organisation, John 🙂 I just remember that things weren’t working out for some reason and we all decided to get on with whatever was to hand, which was a strange collection of musicians, hot weather and Brighton beach, plus Lol and Steve’s ability to play an endless stream of recognisable melodies. But festivals tend to be tidy affairs these days (mud notwithstanding) and it’s a positive aspect to ‘poor organisation’ that a working band should emerge so spontaneously and then develop into something rather wonderful and quite long-lived. Thanks for your comment.

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  20. I didn’t know Lol but he did jump on stage to play a sax solo with a band I was in during a Bath Arts Workshop festival in the early 70’s and he contributed an intro on soprano sax to a site-specific show by Horse + Bamboo in Leicester Marina in 1981. I think he had just popped by to say hello to Bob Frith and got talked into playing.

    Back in those days he seemed to be everywhere.- I remember him performing in a city centre laundrette with the juggler Lyn Thomas during a very wet Manchester Festival as well as an indoor show by IOU down the road.

    He even played at my school ( Frome Grammar ) in a duo with Mike Westbrook. Playing a sax solo in a beret and military fatigues whilst Westbrook ( or whoever it was ) waved a plastic corrugated pipe in the air above his head. It was way over the heads of every one there but intensely memorable as well.. He must have been a friend of the music teacher – I can think of no other reason why he would be on stage. Normally we just had the local police brass band. .

  21. Walter Rovere says:

    I was lucky enough to hear Lol perform live on quite a few occasions, from 1987 to 2010: from the Recedents in Pisa to The Melody Four in Modena, Before My Time (original quartet) in Karlsruhe, the Dedication Orchestra in London, a duo with Olaf Rup and playing for children in the town square of Poschiavo (CH), and in the several occasions he played in Bologna for the AngelicA festival of which I am a collaborator, solo and with The Inimitable Trio, Before My Time (revised quintet), Standard Conversions quartet, and again with the Recedents, in may 2010.
    In 2003 in Poschiavo I asked him for an interview. I had interviewed a few (apparently) menacing characters in the past – such as Laibach and Diamanda Galàs – but meeting a man whose sharp sense of humour was legendary (albeit I guess sometimes annoyingly so, as far as he was concerned), was a slightly awkward, intimidating experience.
    Were his always polite but sometimes monosyllabic answers an implicit comment on the lack of imagination of my questions?
    Was he in his mind, behind his Buster-Keaton-like mask, recalling the sardonic account of getting interviewed by a music journalist he had written for an old issue of Collusion? (The Artists Manipulation of the Media, no. 2/1982).
    Slightly unsatisfied, and busy with a first-time curatorial work for a festival, I foolishly ended up not submitting the interview to the publisher (he was right in his view of music journalists, after all!).
    But then, he was actually wonderful: upon hearing I had been a contributor of the long-defunct musiche magazine, an artisanal venture that had produced 18 issues in 9 years, and for which he had even posed as model for a promo postcard (reading issue no. 7 that had him on cover), he asked me to send him all the back issues I had of it to complete his collection (I had a few in my vault that even the publisher didn’t have anymore), even though the mag was only in italian…
    Of course I would have sent them for free, but being a record collector I couldn’t resist asking if he had a spare copy of The Promenaders LP to trade in, to replace my battered one… he sent back a huge package with two additional LPs and a few cds (I’d like to mention the little known but great Susanna Ferrar cd featuring him and Evan Parker), and, sure enough, the Promenaders LP came warmly inscribed by Loxhawn Rondeaux!
    The last time he came to play at AngelicA was on may 15, 2010 with Mike Cooper and Roger Turner, and by then his health was already a cause of concern. He had requested a wheelchair to be carried around, although I think to remember in the end he didn’t use it. He played sparsely but beautifully (at one point he even packed up his horns and walked off backstage, but returned briefly later… just a gag, we wondered?). At the end of the encore, he fell onstage on his knees, but he hadn’t lost an inch of his legendary sense of humour – as I’m glad you can see yourselves here:

    He was a true original.

    • davidtoop says:

      Thank you Walter, I’m very happy that this has become a small site of memory, an oral history of Lol which gives some measure of his incredible contribution to music and to the lives of those who listen.

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  23. Jean says:

    So many memories, so many unique stories, as pearls creating that incredible piece that Lol’s life is. So much learnt from this amazing musician and beautiful person.

  24. Lol was a one off. I ventured above ground against the direct orders of my mum. Aged 16, recently returned from Australia and commuting to school from Turnpike Lane to Hampstead I dared to get off at Leicester Square one day and wander the West End. On a corner of Shaftesbury Avenue was the lyrical wailing of a soprano saxophone. I don’t know how, but later I realised that this was Lol. Maybe it was the Kevin Ayes and The Whole World gig in the QEH playing David Bedford Blake piece, but… fast forward a few years and I’d book Lol for gigs in York for the York Musicians Co-op. I made a line drawing of him for the poster – I can’t draw, but I was inspired by his impending visit to give it a go. He came back to St Pauls Square in Holgate afterwards and played ‘Bird’ Omnibook solos on my C Melody with all our jaws hitting the floor. He was a VERY good saxophone player. I’ve missed the funeral, I only heard tonight on The Late Junction that he’s gone now. We walked up Tottenham Court Road once and he wasn’t bitter when he said it, but quite matter of fact that he’d been omitted from Graham Colliers book on British jazz and I brushed it off saying it didn’t matter (we were in the thick of Free Jazz remember!?). I’m very pleased to see, Lol has mattered to so many people, especially because of his love of music and his original and unique engagement in musical activities but most of all he was so generous in his spirit. Thanks Lol. Thanks.

    BTW Dave – nice blog.

  25. David Pepperell says:

    Living out here in the Antipodes I only just heard about Lol’s death – so sad. I had an early warning talking to Veryan Weston when he played in Melbourne recently. I asked him about all the recordings he made with Lol and he mentioned that Lol was sick and wasn’t expected to last. Regrettably that has come true. I loved his music, his playing and his humour and will miss him despite never having had the good fortune to meet him or see him play. I always bought all his records that I could find and still listen to them with great pleasure. Thanks for your lovely piece about him. I don’t know anyone here who really cares/cared about him.

    • Brian Beecham says:

      Hi David (P). [You won’t know me but I’ve bought a number of treasured records from your various outlets over the years.] Just wanted to reassure you that there are other antipodeans who valued Lol’s unique contribution on records (from Coxhill/Miller into the 21st century) and, by all accounts (notwithstanding that everyone’s Lol is different), as the very best kind of individualist.
      I’m adding my very belated thanks for your lovely piece, David T, and to everyone for their affectionate comments.

      • David N. Pepperell says:

        Dear Brian. Thanks you very much for your kind words. I hope you bought your Lol Coxhill LP’s from me! I’m glad I’m not alone in Oz in my enormous affection and admiration for Lol.

  26. Does anyone remember Lol’s cameo in an ITV cop show in the 1980s trying to give (the also unfortunately late) Don Henderson a sax lesson? Is that on You-Tube, I wonder?

  27. Neil Castle says:

    Lol (George) and I joined the RAF together. We travelled from Aylesbury to Cheddington on 4th January 1951 then on to RAF Padgate for initial training (square bashing) I believe he coined the phrase ‘pop music’ in our billet. He certainly needed practice but cheered us no end. I have a couple of photos of him in uniform if his children would like them.

  28. UlrikeCoxhill-Scholz says:

    hi Dave, I only just came across all this – thank you. Was probably in too much of a state at the time. Can you contact Neil Castle, or does he read me here anyway? I’m Lol’s wife/widow, and I would very much love to see those photos! love, Ulrike x

  29. davidtoop says:

    Hello Ulrike, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this. I’m not sure how to contact Neil Castle but will see if I can figure it out. Very best, David

    • Ulrike Coxhill-Scholz says:

      thanks David- let me know! U.x
      (you can reply to my email, which I entered below? getting muddled with too many message systems!

  30. Pingback: Décimo aniversario de la muerte de Lol Coxhill - Minimalismore

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