Last week, it was announced that Colin Vearncombe had died after a car accident. He was noted for his hit single Wonderful Life under the stage name Black.
Of all the musicians that died last month, this one had the greatest impact as I’d met him in April last year. He was performing in a pub with Callum Maccoll; no backing band, no gimmicks, just them and their guitars.
The surprise of the evening was when he revealed he’d been asked to write a song for a young solo artist, but her career never took off. Instead, he started performing the song himself at gigs, complete with the chorus hook It would be so cool to be your girl.
He’d also brought along books of his poetry, and I bought one on the night. He seemed a genuinely nice person who was grateful for his fans’ support. Altogether, it was probably the best gig I saw in 2015, and it’s saddening that it’ll never happen again.
It’s well-worn advice never to meet your heroes or you risk being disappointed. I’m telling you the opposite: if you hear a favourite author is coming to town, go and see him or her.
A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of an audience with Iain (M) Banks on two occasions. He was an extrovert who loved taking questions from his fans while ‘threatening’ them that he would keep talking if nobody put up their hand. Regrettably, I couldn’t think of a question to ask him on either occasion, although a friend did.
In fact, go and see any author who’s nearby, whether or not you’re familiar with their work. Without having read their novels, I’ve met Roddy Doyle, Stuart MacBride, Irvine Welsh and most recently Paula Hawkins, plus many more. Out of dozens of writers, I can think of only two authors in whom I was disappointed: one of them simply parroted the contents of his book, while the other showed off with theatrics rather than being herself.
The easiest way to know about upcoming talks and launches is as you might expect: search it online. Or if you’re in or near a major city, there might be a central point of information, such as Literary Dundee where I live.
However you find out, my message is the same. Meet your heroes – while you can.