Tim Locke
(13th October 1955 - 1st November 2010)
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Tim Locke, on the right holding the microphone, interviewing VdGG in 1975
I was at school with Tim but first got to know him well during a school holiday in Austria in the summer of 1971. We travelled by train down through France on my 16th birthday. We were put into groups, not entirely in an arbitrary manner, but there was some randomness to the selection process. There were six of us and Tim was undoubtedly Leader. Not in any kind of authoritarian way, but because he was just so much more mature than the rest of us and way ahead of the game when it came to music, girls and life. A friendship began during that holiday that lasted until November 1st 2010 albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Because Tim went mad.
He was heavily into music and I remember him buying a Kraftwerk album in Austria. According to my friend Phil, another member of our group, we had to chip in to help buy it because Tim didn't have enough cash. It was the album with the traffic cone on the front, possibly Kraftwerk's first.

In that summer of 1971 Tim was still only 15 years old yet was already running an "underground" disco at The Chequers pub in Wellingborough, the town in Northamptonshire where we lived. Upstairs actually, in a room at the back accessed by an external staircase. The disco was called "Insane Root" and took place on a Tuesday evening. I didn't attend on a regular basis until later because my parents wouldn't allow it but many friends went along. Tim had a wonderful relationship with his parents who basically allowed him the freedom to go where his spirit took him. Quite amazing really looking back on it. He put on bands as well but the only one that I can recall was Principal Edwards Magic Theatre who lived locally in Kettering. Tim himself played piano and saxophone and was in a couple of local amateur bands.

Tim was the school hippy and not the most popular schoolboy amongst the staff at Wellingborough Grammar School. Associating with him was not seen as desirable, and certainly not by my parents. He was not the sort of person that parents understood although he was very intelligent and well spoken. I was privileged to become a member of Tim's inner sanctum along with a handful of other underground music lovers. Music was important to us but the coolest thing was to be seen strolling in the school grounds in a long black ex-army greatcoat with a copy of ELP's Pictures At An Exhibition LP under your arm. Or maybe Pawn Hearts.

In October 1972 we held a party at my house whilst my parents were away for the weekend. I was just expecting a few friends and girlfriends to show up but word had gotten around and the house was inundated. We had taken the precaution of removing most of the furniture and all of the nick-nacks from downstairs (thank god) but some damage was done. It's difficult to hide the smell of 50 people smoking cigarettes and other substances plus there were some cigarette burns on the window sills and carpets. I was in deep poo but had no regrets because it was The Party Of The Century! We'd set up the hi-fi in one corner of the lounge and Tim brought along a few records. Amongst them was 68-71 by Van der Graaf Generator. I'd actually not heard any of their music at that time and they'd even played in Wellingborough the previous year at "The Rock". Tim and other friends had gone to that gig but unfortunately I wasn't allowed out. I was completely blown away by that album and in particular the track Necromancer. The hi-fi in question was my first set-up and consisted of a Leak Stereo 70 amp and Garrard AP76 turntable with big speaker cabinets built by me and my Dad. It was nice and loud.

I made a point of listening to all the VdGG albums after that, except of course The Aerosol Grey Machine which no-one knew anything about, and probably borrowed them from Tim and other friends for taping. We were also big Genesis fans and I think that Foxtrot came out around then. Our time in the 6th form was pretty good and me having become the proud owner of a G-reg Singer Chamois car we got into the habit of heading to Tim's after school each evening. Tim was an only child living with his parents in a fairly large house and had his own "den" where we'd listen to music and smoke. Oh, and occasionally drink (but probably not straight after school).

Around this time Tim also had use of a car; a vintage 1929 Humber that Ted, his Dad, had renovated. It wasn't the most reliable of beasts but certainly drew much attention. We never had any money in those days and I remember Tim calling round in the Humber one evening to go out to a country pub for a drink. We had enough money between us for ten fags and half a pint of bitter, which we shared.

Sometime during our last year at school Tim and I went together for interviews at Surrey University as we were both interested in doing a degree in Hotel and Catering Management. What a day. The actual interviews were dispensed with fairly quickly and Tim being Tim, we were soon ensconced in the female halls of residence cross-legged on the floor smoking pot with a group of girls. Tim just wandered into these situations. We had to get the train home via London and Tim sensed an opportunity. He always seemed to know what was going on and despite having very few opportunities to visit London, knew the names and locations of all the music clubs. So instead of going straight home (as I'm sure my parents would have expected) we found ourselves in Wardour Street! That evening we saw the band Nimbus at The Marquee and got the last train back to Wellingborough where we arrived at about 1am. It was too late to call home for a lift so we walked. In my case it was about a mile from the station to my home and I arrived frozen to the bone. It was very cold that winter's night and still in my coat, I snuggled up to the radiator in the dining room to warm up and immediately fell asleep. My parents found me there in the morning and no doubt had something to say about the lateness of my return which would have undoubtedly been blamed on Tim. Everything that I did that they didn't approve of was blamed on Tim.

We all left school in the summer of 1973 and along with two other friends (including Koot, the artist who painted The Book cover picture), Tim and I went on holiday to St Ives, Cornwall. At that time St Ives was a hippy haven and the coolest place in England to hang out. Every step of the way we were trying to see bands. We saw Status Quo at the Flamingo Club in Redruth on the way down and the band Man. We even spent a night in a barn on the farm that hosts the Glastonbury festival which had only started a couple of years previously. Tim was at the original festival of course and also went to the Weeley festival in 1971. We didn't have much in the way of music with us as neither car had a cassette player, but Tim did take along his small reel to reel tape recorder. We only had one tape with us and that was of Peter Hammill's Fool's Mate that we had recorded for the trip. There was room for one extra track on the end of the tape and we had added David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust.

The first festival that I attended was Reading in 1973. Genesis headlined on the Sunday night. A group of us went, including Tim and my girlfriend Lynne. We had had a great time in St Ives and I wanted to return so Lynne and I hatched a cunning plan. Her parents had refused to let her go on holiday with me as they didn't approve of me and my hippy friends and feared that their daughter would be led astray. So we headed to Reading for the day and then just continued on to Cornwall after the festival ended. With hindsight I can now see that this plan was probably not a brilliant one! Their daughter having gone missing, Lynne's parents called the police. We re-visited St Ives each summer for a few years after that and on one occasion Tim went in the Humber but I do seem to recall reliability issues and him having to be rescued by Ted.

Neither of us ended up going to Surrey University. I went to Brighton Polytechnic and Tim went to N.E. London Polytechnic to do a BA General degree. During our first term at college we had the opportunity to see Peter Hammill at the Commonwealth Institute in London. I travelled up from Brighton (not too far) and met up with Tim and Twinx, another friend from home studying at NELP. Twinx (real name Alan) was another member of our little group of ex-WGS friends from Wellingborough. By this time I had become rather obsessed with VdGG and Mr Hammill and it really was quite strange seeing PH live for the first time. I had been unable to imagine what it would be like. How would someone with a voice like that actually be? We were all knocked out by the gig. Brilliant.

I think that it was during this period that Tim was with his girlfriend Lesley. This turned into a fairly long-term relationship which sadly for him, ended. I don't think that he ever quite got over Lesley.

I didn't get on too well at Brighton Poly and "dropped out". Hotel and Catering wasn't for me. After two years in Brighton I joined my friends in London and began a course at N.E. London Polytechnic. Thus Tim and I were both living in London when VdGG reformed in 1975. Tim was social secretary at the Poly, a natural position for him as it involved booking all the bands and organising social events. He also wrote for NEPAM the college magazine and fancied interviewing VdGG. He set up an interview and I went along and took some photographs. The interview is documented on this website and mentioned in The Book. That was a great day and one never to be forgotten. I even went out and bought an electronic flashgun for the occasion as I thought that the use of flashbulbs would look rather unprofessional. Tim went on to do a course in journalism at the London School of Printing and interviewed Peter Hammill a couple of times over the next few years.

Tim's student days were not over because sometime in the seventies he did an MA in Philosophy at Warwick University for a year. Following this he got a job with Radio Trent in Nottingham. He had his own show: "Locke Rock". This turned out to be quite useful because he was able to gain free access to gigs. I remember going along with him to see The Tourists in Northampton. They were Annie Lennox's first band and we went backstage after the show and Tim interviewed the group, including Ms Lennox. Unfortunately he had been more interested in getting into the show than doing the interview and had failed to do much research into The Tourists. He made various gaffes; got band members names wrong and also the name of their LP. The edited interview was aired on his show though. He didn't just do the rock show, he was a journalist at the station as well and I seem to recall that he sometimes read the news. On one occasion he came to the seismic crew that I was working on and interviewed my boss in a radio car.

Whilst he was in Nottingham I was working in Stafford and we arranged to meet up for a beer at a pub half way between. Looking at the map, the town that suited our purpose was Ashby-de-la-Zouch. I found a phonebook and picked a pub at random, informing Tim of the address by phone. Neither of us knew the town so it was a little hit or miss but I found the road without too much difficulty. But there was no pub! I couldn't believe it. I drove up and down a couple of times and eventually passed Tim doing exactly the same thing. The pub didn't exist.

On January 15th 1978, Tim, myself and another friend from home, Nick Huckle (see Nick's Page) travelled to London to see VdGG. We didn't know it at the time, but this would turn out to be the last time that we would see them live as they split up a few months later (until 2005 that is...). This was the first of two gigs at the Marquee that were recorded for the album Vital although, as mentioned in The Book, only material from the second night was used. Tim took along his small reel to reel tape recorder but failed to get it past the doorman.

So far so good, but things were about to change. It must have been around 1979 that things started to go wrong for Tim. I can't recall exact details because over the following years there were many such "attacks" but he had a breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital in Northampton. Many years later his condition would be diagnosed as "Schizo Affective Disorder" which manifests itself in various forms but there was usually a fair amount of paranoia and he would become seriously delusional. He could be extremely loopy and impossible to have a normal conversation with. He was put on drugs early on and would go for long periods without showing any signs of his illness. Around 1980 he got a prestigious job as a journalist with the Central Office of Information (COI) in London, the government's propaganda department. Tim got on really well as a civil servant at the COI and began a prolonged period of stability (and relative sanity).

So, guess what? In 1981 after several years working abroad, I decided to return to college to get myself qualified as a land surveyor. Tim and I were back in London. We went to a few gigs in the 80s: PH at Hammersmith Odeon and Sadlers Wells to name a couple. I think that I can skip through most of the remainder of the 80s as Tim was in a reasonable state for most of it but then came a big shock: Sylvia, his mother, died of lung cancer in early 1989. As I've said before, the Locke's were a very close family and Sylvia was a lovely lady, but like Tim, she smoked like a chimney. Ted and Tim didn't take Sylvia's death at all well and I'm firmly of the belief that what happened next was as a direct result of losing Sylvia. Later in 1989, Tim got married.

The marriage was most unfortunate and I can't really go into details here but suffice to say it took Tim several years to extricate himself from that situation and he ended up the poorer for it, both financially and emotionally. From then on his life became a downhill spiral. At some point in the early 90s, the COI retired him on medical grounds. He'd started to have more and more bouts of lunacy for want of a better word and eventually they let him go. Being a civil servant though, he did get a disability pension.

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L-R: Myself, Tim and Phil in France 1999
He moved back to Wellingborough with his father and didn't do a great deal from then on. He did have jobs but they didn't last for long and they weren't in any way suited to his level of intelligence. He had his good moments though and life wasn't entirely without pleasure. He enjoyed a few holidays in places such as France, Greece and Thailand. By this time he was taking a cocktail of prescribed drugs and still smoked 60 fags a day. He was determined to smoke and was a member of FOREST. We had many arguments about smoking. He even started an online dating agency for smokers but with limited success. He was constantly short of money but couldn't see the connection between being skint and spending large amounts of money on cigarettes.
I saw him regularly as I'd moved back to Northamptonshire myself in the mid-eighties. He enjoyed a pint and we had regular get-togethers with a few friends. He also helped out when I started this website. Being an experienced interviewer and record reviewer, I used his talents to the full. In May 2001, Tim interviewed Dave Jackson, who was in Wellingborough for a Soundbeam workshop. Flushed with the success of that interview, Tim and I travelled to Cheshire to meet Hugh Banton at his home. There are many contributions from Tim scattered around this website.

In 2003 Ted, his Dad, died. The two of them had occupied the family home for many years without, seemingly, having done any washing up. Or hoovering. The place was in a right old state, and in the same street as the local MP as well! Unfortunately for Tim, Ted had done a deal with a housing association in order to provide himself with a pension and this meant that the house had to be sold on his death. This left poor Tim homeless and in even deeper financial straits. The solicitors seemed to be the only ones to benefit from the estate. The council ended up housing Tim and he lived in council flats until his death.

I've painted a pretty gloomy picture and I find it very sad that Tim lost that spark of his youth but he did have good times as well as bad and always had a sense of humour. He managed to remain independent to the end which was no mean feat considering the state that he sometimes got in.
I owe Tim a huge debt of gratitude. His influence on me in my formative years was profound and I most certainly wouldn't be the person that I am if I hadn't known him. Or a Van der Graaf Generator fan!

Timothy James Locke died of a brain haemorrhage on November 1st 2010, seemingly unrelated to his mental health issues.

Phil Smart - 14th March 2011 (updated 21st March 2011)


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