THAT SINKING FEELING
Born in Shawlands, Glasgow, his parents were Arthur, a sales rep for Fry’s and Cadbury’s Chocolate Company, and Noreen Hackwood. He was the youngest of five children.
His father played organ at St Ninian’s Episcopal Church in Pollokshields and Colin sang in the church choir. His mother was an accomplished pianist.
After attending grammar school (where he formed his first band, called ‘Up’), Colin did a music degree at Glasgow University. He played the saxophone, the flute and piano – all to a very good level, and played in various pub bands, such as ‘Dog Eat Dog’. One of these bands became the renowned Glasgow soul and funk band, Cado Belle. They had a record contract and toured the UK extensively. They once appeared on the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’.
But his music teacher at university warned Colin he would never be a great musician unless he learned to relax whilst performing. In order to do so, he took up the Alexander Technique for posture and movement and he was to become a great advocate of it.
Then Cado Belle split up. In his disappointment he moved to Dublin where he became friendly with a singer called Johnny Logan. Colin played in various bands across Ireland.
Cado Belle’s vocalist, Maggie Reilly, later became famous for singing the vocals on Mike Oldfield’s hit single ‘Moonshadow’.
Another member, Alan Derby, later played with both Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton.
Very shortly afterwards, Colin moved to Totnes in Devon. But he had not been forgotten in Glasgow. Film director Bill Forsyth contacted him, asking him to write the score for his new movie. Forsyth came down to Totnes with a video of the film but was shocked to find that not only did Colin not have a video recorder, he didn’t even have a television.
Instead, they drove to Dartington College where Colin was working at the time, and watched the scoreless film on a big screen. Colin wrote a beautiful jazz-funk score (with added melodies) and played a memorable saxophone solo on it. That film became Forsyth’s breakthrough movie – ‘That Sinking Feeling’. It established Forsyth’s reputation whilst not being very successful in cinemas.
Also in 1980, Johnny Logan asked him to play saxophone on the Irish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘What’s Another Year?’ He did – and they won. It was something Colin was very proud of. It also got to Number One in the British charts and they were invited to play on ‘Top of the Pops’. But this coincided with Colin’s wedding day, so he declined. The person playing sax on the programme is a ‘ringer’.
Colin married Anna Slater and they had two daughters, Nuala and Layla.
The following year, Forsyth was back – and Colin wrote the score for the more commercially successful ‘Gregory’s Girl’. But because ‘That Sinking Feeling’ hadn’t been much of a success in cinemas, when Forsyth offered Colin a percentage of the profits as payment, he chose to take a £75 cheque. ‘Gregory’s Girl’ was a massive hit. Colin said later, “It’s best not to regret the decisions we make in life.”
Colin preferred the quiet life to stardom and started to grow beans, which he sold in the local market.
Colin and Anna’s marriage fell apart and ended in divorce.
He was asked to play on an album recorded by famous folk singer, John Martyn, and accepted the offer; he appeared on stage at Glastonbury with Martyn in 1986.
Colin moved to Bristol. He fell in love with his Alexander Technique teacher Julia Green, and they were soon married, having two daughters, Ailsa and Merryn. He also became a teacher of the technique himself.
He became Assistant Director of the Bristol Alexander School, before moving with Julia to the small Welsh village of Hendre in Monmouthshire, where they bought a converted forge.
He loved living a quiet and reserved ‘alternative’ lifestyle. He had a lovely moment when he unexpectedly met Maggie Reilly at the wedding of a mutual friend. Tina Turner also visited their home.
In Hendre, Colin wrote a community opera about the aviator and car designer Charles Royce – with whom he was obsessed. It was performed on the centenary of Royce’s death.
Colin also formed a Celtic jazz group, ‘Sensorium’, and played keyboards in the Nuadha Quartet (who had just released their first album when he died).
Sensorium appeared at the Glasgow Jazz Festival where he played the theme from ‘Gregory’s Girl’.
At the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, in Danny Boyle’s celebration of British cultural achievement, the theme to ‘Gregory’s Girl’ was also played.
Just before his death, Colin was experimenting with playing Latin music – ever willing to learn.
He wrote an autobiography entitled ‘Earworm’. It didn’t sell very many copies and hasn’t had a single Amazon review. However, in a music magazine it was described as, “A wonderful and philosophical evocation of a distinctive and memorable musical life.”
Colin died of cancer.
Two of his daughters, Ailsa and Merryn, are now professional musicians themselves.
At his funeral, Colin was described as a man of, “Great personal integrity, humanity and charm – a man who preferred to practice and teach to being in the limelight.”
Maggie Reilly said, “Colin was a gentle, beautiful soul who saw the best in everyone. I will miss him always.”
RIP – Remembered Irish Performance