Composer, keyboardist and Mike Oldfield Collaborator David Bedford Passes
I was sad to hear of the passing of David Bedford, the English composer who had a deep engagement with progressive rock in the early 1970s. It actually started a little earlier in Kevin Ayers and The Whole World, a rollicking post-psychedelic, pre-progressive rock, musically insane band that also included a very young Mike Oldfield. Oldfield went on to compose his magnum opus, Tubular Bells and Bedford went along, arranging The Orchestral Tubular Bells.
At a time when Virgin Records was exploring music’s outer reaches, they signed Bedford as a solo artist and his first work for the label was the expansive and explosive orchestral work, Star’s End, one of two sources for the name of the radio show Star’s End. (The other is the original source, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy). This was at a time when, if you wanted a symphonic sound, you weren’t going to get it with a synthesizer, but needed an actual orchestra. The album included Mike Oldfield on electric guitar. He would guest on more of Bedford’s recordings including his impressionistic reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1975 followed by The Odyssey and Instructions For Angels.
The Odyssey really captured my imagination. It was an electronic keyboard foray that also included Mike Ratledge from The Soft Machine. I remember including it in my Top Ten that year in the Philadelphia Drummer. In fact, it may have been #1. Bedford albums were always in heavy rotation on WXPN’s Diaspar show and I continued to play him on Echoes occasionally.
I was able to interview Bedford in the mid-1980s for Totally Wired. He lived in a modest row home in the outskirts of London and had only one keyboard in his den where he composed. He had that English ability to be self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating at the same time, although his humility usually won out. He was already in his late 40s and had the look of a man much older.
He has continued to compose and perform, working in films and arranging for the likes of Elvis Costello and Roy Harper. He continued composing up until the end, moving between electronic and orchestral worlds, pop and classical and wherever else he wanted to land.
David Bedford was an artist between worlds, born into the classical tradition but constantly leaving those constraints behind. He was as likely to play free jazz with the late-Lol Coxhill as wax avant-garde with 80 voices and 27 plastic twirlers on “Some Bright Stars for Queen’s College.” He could write lyrical tone poems to angels and sci-fi epics for Rigel 9. Now he’s traveled to one of the mythical lands he loved to employ for musical inspiration.
Like too many artists from his generation, including Bert Jansch who passed today, David Bedofrd died from lung cancer, likely due to smoking. He was 74.
Although Mike Oldfield was the star, David Bedford shined the light.
There’s a very good obituary in the Guardian.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))
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