Clinton Walker is a music writer and was a long-time music ‘lifer’ with Simon Holmes.
I was genuinely shocked and saddened when I learnt of Simon Holmes’ death the other day. Sometimes you wonder if you’ve a right to speak at times like this, and I have on this occasion, and then other times I think it’s a crime not to. I mean, I didn’t know Simon deeply personally. I did know him for a long time. And in that long time, when we crossed paths on so many occasions, he struck me always as a sweet, generous guy, and like me, a pure music tragic, or ‘lifer’ to use the term I like best that I noticed someone else just used on this page too. I have no idea whatever darker currents may have run through his deep personal life, that wasn’t the level on which we related. We related through music – which brings up the philosophy of music all of us lifers have, which is naturally not unrelated to any philosophy of life we may have generally – and that was the level on which we related. Through a lifetime of gigs, and in record shops – and that is my lifetime, after all, and was largely his too and doubtless also that of many of you reading this as well. Probably starting behind the counter at Phantom, and at the Palace Hotel in the late 80s, when the Hummingbirds were exploding onto the scene and the silly little band I had called the Killer Sheep played with them a few times. Gotta say, everybody loved the ‘Birds, but not me! Well, I thought they were good, they had some great songs and they played them really well in that mode they were in, it’s just that that mode or genre was never one of my great favourites. But like other bands in styles I can’t generally stomach, they were so good as to rise above my appalling prejudices – and this is precisely the sort of discussion I used to love having with Simon, which he always enjoyed too – and so yeah, it’s easy for me to say, the Hummingbirds were a great band.
Into the 90s I saw a bit of Simon through the Half-a-Cow shop, when I was briefly running Kill City Books just a bit further along Glebe Point Rd, and then after that at Enthusiasms. Enthusiasms was a great shop, exactly my kind of shop, where you could find almost anything, unrestricted by genre or prejudices, and I bought a lot of records there. I’ll never forget – well, I sort of do! – this bit of a dictum Simon had on records, just as some of the other writers here remember their favourite Holmesian aphorisms. He said something like, it wasn’t, There’s no such thing as a bad record, because that’s not true, it was more like, Every record’s got a listener somewhere. And that is true. And wise and funny, which Simon was. Phlegmatic, sort of, but with more warmth. As I said I didn’t know Simon much more deeply than that, I didn’t know his family short of meeting Milo a couple of times and what a nice boy he seemed to be, but I do know – some of the lights in Simon’s life – he loved his family and his kids, and I know that he loved music, all sorts of music, and that he loved the extended family he had in music, especially the fellow lifers with whom he made music, with what had to have a been a bottomless pit of patience. Music that will now seem that little bit more precious (precious in the good way, of course, in being valuable, rather than twee); music through which Simon’s special light will shine on.