Perhaps I could just share with you the simple fact that Spike was wonderful to work with - for me, at least. Others I know
found him too anarchic and unpredictable. Actors who liked to know what was coming were in a constant state of panic. Others,
more able to ride the rollercoaster of Spike's inventiveness, gloried in his amazing ability to get everyone, especially the
audience, on the wrong foot and keep them there. All night.
Being pretty much unknown except in the corridors of folk, and in South Africa where I began my song writing career, I
was very much the junior partner, and some twenty years younger. Spike could easily have squashed me like a bug - and show
business is full of people who would do exactly that if a colleague was getting too much attention. Spike did the opposite.
He was truly generous on stage and liked me to be in the best possible light. He was generous off stage too. Again and
again he would invite backstage staff to dine with him after the show where he would hold court and have the whole restaurant
He did not suffer fools gladly and could not bear to be kept waiting.
When interviewed he would react instantly to any whiff of pomposity or self-importance, in particular with television
people, and cut them down to size. To a policemen passing by the stand in Cambridge where we were promoting our LP one morning:
"Does your mother know you are out here dressed up like that?" Or leaning into frame beside a live TV newscaster:
"Don't believe a word of it, folks, its all lies!" It was anarchy of the best kind: debunking and exposing hidden
vanities, half-truths, or nervous subservience.
He did suffer from depression, as everyone knows. It was swapped for mania when the show was rolling and then the next
morning he was anxious again, and often paranoid.
The great achievement of Spike was to turn this mental angst into gold: he literally created his own sanity through his
He could not bear inactivity. I don't think he knew how to relax. He had to keep skating otherwise he would fall through
the ice. Into what slough of despond only he could know. But he knew that I knew, because I could hide nothing from him. He
often showed that he knew what I was feeling before I knew myself.
He had feelers, instincts, antennae that winkled out everyone's truth in seconds. If the word genius means anything I
think it is essentially about speed. The genius gets there quicker than anyone else and in Spike's case his wit always caught
you off balance. As you fell this way and that you laughed with the giddiness of it all.
What is not often celebrated was his kindness, his sensitivity, his compassion.
Jeremy Taylor is currently appearing in UK folk clubs and lecturing in UK schools on the subject of South Africa.
Visit Jeremys website