Paul Wakely : An obituary

A guest post by Chas C

Once in a while, you get knocked back. Thankfully not too often, but nothing knocks you back like the death of an old friend.

Back in the 60s we were bessy mates. Paul Wakely was the nearest thing to the brother I never had and we were pretty much inseparable. One of the seminal moments on my life was when I broke a leg in a motorcycle accident. Ironically this was when I was driving over to Paul’s place to pick him up because his bike had broken down. So it was your fault, Paul, that I ended up in hospital and married the wrong woman!

Paul was larger than life and had a wicked sense of humour. He delighted in buying beat up old Ford Pops and running them into the ground. I remember one night driving along a road in Wimbledon and criticising his driving. He pulled the steering wheel off the column and handed it to me. “You drive then” he said as we continued along the road without a steering wheel!

And then there was the night he misjudged the braking as we pulled up outside our local and ran into the front of a Rolls Royce owned by Oliver Reed. He went in to apologise. Ollie just said “Must have shaken you up dear boy! Let me buy a drink” and they spend the rest of the evening chatting and drinking by the bar.

There were lots of incidents that bring a smile to my face when I think back. Inevitably, we drifted apart in the early seventies. I got married, Paul started a business which is still going strong. Boys are not like girls. My daughter still meets old school friends though she now in her 40s. Girls keep in touch. Boys just drift apart.

I spent many years wondering what happened to the guy then with the advent of the Internet I started tracking down old friends from way back. I failed with Paul but eventually found him in Ireland after a search that lasted about 5 years. I emailed him, he phoned me from the pub one night and we chatted so long that the batteries ran out on the phone The years melted away.

Back in the late 60s when we were still messing around in schoolboy bands, a group of us got together and recorded a tape of a song written by Paul. The opening line was “I went down to the Chelsea drugstore” which if you are a Stones fan – and Paul was a massive Stones fan and did some work with them went he left school – might sound familiar. It’s a line from “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and it’s not the only familiar line. Paul told me that Mick Jagger hijacked the lyrics and that he sued him. The out of court settlement apparently paid for a flat in Guildford and Jag. Having read Keith Richards’ autobiography it seems it would not have been the only occasion this happened so I’ve no reason to doubt the story is true. I was there when it was written, after all!

Paul sent me some lyrics to another song he wrote. He said he had a tape somewhere of it but never managed to find it, so I just took the lyrics and wrote the tune. It’s on my ‘Old Friends’ album and is called ‘Every Step Different’. I sent Paul a copy and got a simple response : “Spot on old sport!” I’m glad he liked it!

And now I feel guilty. I had no idea he was ill and after we linked up he wanted me to come over to Ireland and visit. I never got around to it and now I’ll never get the chance. I’m told it’s called ‘survivor guilt’ but it weighs heavy on me.

Anyhow, my thoughts go out to his family and now I’m going to pour a glass of something and listen to two songs I mentioned while toasting the memory of a dear old friend. Have a listen yourself and think of my friend.

Every Step Different by Paul Wakely

You Can’t Always Get What You Want by – well who knows?…

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5 responses to “Paul Wakely : An obituary

  1. My condolences, Chas.

    If it's any comfort, remember that unlike us, Music is immortal.

  2. “Boys are not like girls. My daughter still meets old school friends though she now in her 40s. Girls keep in touch. Boys just drift apart”.
    True. But we don't forget. A moving tribute
    David J. aka Gildas The Monk

  3. I suppose Mr D, you and most folk here, are reaching an age when our mates are starting to drop off the great conveyor of life. Like you, I've lost a few good friends.

  4. Same here:- and it STILL takes me by surprise…

  5. I was invited to a 60th birthday party a couple of years ago and thought it would be nice to reform the old band. The keyboard player died of a brain hemorrhage, the rhythm player died in a hang glider accident, and I gave up after that.