• Kate Clarke

The Full Neil Diamond

I dreamed about Terry again.

He was sitting in my mum's sunny kitchen, singing us Neil Diamond songs. I heard the whole of Signs, note-perfect from beginning to end, with none of the trickery or the frustrating distortion dreams can sometimes offer up.

Terry was one of the few men I knew who was very happy to admit to being a Neil Diamond fan. With all that melodrama and unashamed romanticism Neil was designed for the ladies, wasn't he? The first conversation Terry and I had, after one of his gigs at The Bell, Waltham St Lawrence, included quite a bit of chat about Neil. We talked about his Brooklyn Roads. We both thought it was a masterpiece. Later, I realised Terry had mirrored the song in one of his 'Reading songs', Hidden Histories - about his own childhood home. Some listeners heard Cash in the simple refrains and broad brushstrokes of Terry's Big Road, but he had Neil's Beautiful Noise in his head when he wrote and recorded that one.

Singers like Neil get reassessed by the taste-makers every decade or so. Is he acceptable at the moment? I wouldn't know. But here at KTelTowers Neil's Bang Records catalogue was beyond reproach, as was much of his Uni Records work too. Of course, anyone who, in his early years, styled himself so meticulously upon The Everly Brothers, from the peak of his swept-back hair to the tip of his shiny Chelsea boots, was a brother as far as Terry was concerned. But then, Terry wasn't averse to 1970s Neil in his full, star-spangled regalia, either. After all, he and I both frequently went toe-to-toe with any fool who dismissed Elvis in his Vegas years. We watched Aloha From Hawaii together several times a year, and always with a sense of reverence and awe.

Frequently, after a gig or during a recording session, if Terry had turned in a particularly dramatic performance, or lingered over a romantic line he would ask me: "Was that a bit too much?" I would reply: "You went the full Neil Diamond. It was perfect."

He was always happy with that response.

Sometimes, my answer would simply be: "Bacon", meaning: "You are an old ham."

He enjoyed that answer too.

Neil Diamond, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Bert Burns.

Photo: fineprinthereos.com

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