I’d like to thank the family for inviting me to pay a tribute to Norman,
and regardless of whatever I manage to say, the most important thing
I and every one of his musician friends wants you to know and take away
in your hearts today is how much we all admired and loved him.
“The most honourable man I’ve ever known” was how Norman described Alan
Taylor and for many years they were an unbeatable double act at Covent
Garden - the 2 Ronnies of the timpani. But it should not be forgotten
that Norman was also much in demand in his own right in the freelance
section of the business, playing with all the major symphony orchestras
and on lots of recording sessions.
By his own admission, although he had played xylophone solos in the
Band of the Royal Marines, he regarded tuned percussion as "instruments
of the devil" and to stare down at the notes of a glockenspiel was like
looking at a row of shiny teeth glaring back, but timpani and snare
were his instruments and to hear and watch him play either was to
a master at work.
Until his final illness, Norman never realised the high regard in which
he was held by his colleagues and was amazed and deeply moved by the
enormous quantity of messages of love and support he received from so
many of them. He would have been equally astounded by the turn out
today so I hope he’s watching.
"Hello Uncle Stephen it's your Uncle Norman here" was his customary
greeting on the phone – Why were we Uncles? Because for some 20 odd
years we endured Raymond Gubbay's Teddy Bears concerts together and
all the male members of the orchestra were referred to as "Uncles".
I was always so grateful for Norman's calm presence and confident
entry on the 2nd snare drum in Bolero and I know there are lots of
people here who know what I’m talking about – Oh the relief when you
finally get to that bit and whoever’s playing it comes in right so
you finally know where you are!
Norman loved big band jazz and Stan Kenton and the BBC Big Band were
particular favourites. He was also no mean jazz drummer himself. Thanks
Norman for taking me so often to the Prince of Orange pub all those
ago to experience the excitement of that fabulous lineup of all your
musical heroes in the Jack Sharpe Big Band.
Norman appreciated the good things in life. At home, Sunday mornings
meant champagne, prawn cocktails were a Norman speciality and oh those
unbelievably boozy barbecues in his Walthamstow garden. His
planned 7 week summer holidays to exotic locations were the envy of all
those less fortunate musicians like myself, who didn't have the benefit
of what he liked to call his "reg'lar employment".
It was in 1991 that he first told me about a Spanish fishing village he
had stumbled across quite by accident a few years before. La Carihuela
is only 15 minutes by cab from Malaga airport and is a pedestrianised
low rise jewel of seafood restaurants and bars tucked away secretly amid
the surrounding high rise towns of the Costa del Sol. Kate and I have
been going there for short breaks regularly ever since, often
with Norman who always seized upon any free periods in the Garden's
scheduleto pop over to Spain, get the shorts on and give the famous
Taylor legs an airing. Needless to say, the recommended number of daily
units were always disregarded whenever we met there. As Norman sadly
never managed a final trip to La Carihuela after his illness was
diagnosed, I made a little pilgrimage last weekend to raise a glass
to him in all our old haunts. All his English and Spanish friends there
have asked me to convey their condolences to Norman's family and friends
and are very much with us in spirit today.
Now I wouldn't want to give the impression that it was anything to do
with the consumption of alcohol that cemented the Hendo/Taylor
or that anyone thought that it did, but for some reason whenever I
at the Garden, Nigel Bates never used to bother with "hello" or "good
evening" in my case, just "Norman's in the Coach" or "Norman's in
Bertorellis" as appropriate – it saved valuable drinking time! How
I'll miss all those before, during and after show sessions with my chum.
So Uncle Norman, thanks for your support and inspiration, for the good
times we shared in Spain, for your steadfast friendship and generosity,
for the sharing of so many good bottles and for always being such good
and cheering company.
Norman Taylor – never to be forgotten as a great musician, great friend
and great enlivener.
[click on BACK to return to the Home page]