Barclay James Harvest

Mel Pritchard

Tributes to Mel

I have had precious little contact with Mel over the last quarter of a century - the occasional meeting, nothing more - so my recollection has to be based on the pre-1979 years. Then I saw him as someone keen to taste everything this world could offer, and having an impish wit (he once said that he found my arrangements "a bit too floral"). For me the musical legacy centres around his work in the late sixties/early seventies, particularly on BJH Live and, perhaps, "Poor Wages".

Vita fugax


Mel on stage with the Gaļa Band, Zürich 2004 [photo: Steve Butler] I just wanted to send you this picture.

Steve Butler and myself were backstage waiting to join the finale of Art On Ice when we noticed this familiar looking character had worked his way onto the stage and was jamming with the Gaļa Band percussionist. Butty took this shot.

We have developed a very close bond over the last two and a half years. I dont really know why this should happen. We are all 'battle hardened' musicians who at our age should perhaps be cynical and bored with it all. Yet we have had so much fun. Nothing to do with re-creating anything ....just a band of musicians touring and playing good music. And Mel was such an important part of it all.

I know he had been through some difficult times in recent years and I can't speak for the 'classic' Barclay James Harvest ... only the band I have been involved with since Revolution Days ... but I can tell you that in our last days together Mel was happy and 'up' and looking forward to the future and we miss him dearly.

Michael Byron-Hehir

It has been my privilege to share a stage and much of my life with Mel for the last two years. He was an extraordinary man: intelligent, witty and hugely talented. We are devastated by his loss, and I know that I speak for the rest of band when I say, “nothing will be quite the same again.”

Steve Butler

I was privileged to play drums alongside Mel in Barclay James Harvest in 2003/2004 and last saw him checking out of the hotel on Sunday morning. I can't believe the news. Mel was one of the warmest, funniest , cheekiest people I have ever met and he made it very easy for me to play with him, as he had no ego attached to his talent. I will always remember him in the dressing room in Zurich in the last week of his life laughing till the tears rolled down his cheeks.That was Mel: laughing and making everybody else laugh with him. A lovely, lovely man and the band and indeed the world will be poorer without him.

Roy Martin

The world of music has lost one of the most underated drummers of all time. Keeping everything together wasn't easy sometimes, but when the chemistry worked shivers ran down my spine. Thanks MEL WE WON'T FORGET.

Ian Southerington

I first came across Barclay James Harvest in early '72 whilst listening to, I think, Alan Freeman's rock show - I remember hearing "Mocking Bird" and I was instantly converted!! I went straight down to the local record shop and bought "Once Again", noticed "And Other Short Stories" hadrecently come out so grabbed that too! Those albums were worn out pretty quickly! There was something so essentially English about them - their music filled my head with images of the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, dry-stone walls, and other typically English things like cricket on long summer days etc. This might sound sacrilegious seeing as they weren't from Yorkshire, but, to a southerner like myself, who had only ventured "oop north" a couple of times on school geological field trips, Lancashire, Yorkshire etc all blended into one landscape and vision. It was only later, on joining some of Yorkshire's finest, Saxon, that I really came to appreciate and understand the different areas.

It was Mel's drumming that floored me - this period was probably one of the most formative times of my playing career. I had been drumming from the age of eight but I was now deadly serious about learning the instrument as well as I could. Mel's style was different somehow to nearly every other drummer I had heard - here was someone who really played from the heart as well as having a unique style. I can honestly say that Mel, together with Barrie Wilson from Procul Harum, who also had his own wonderful style of playing - actually, they were in my opinion, very similar in some ways - both of them caused many hours of practising, blisters, swear words, not to mention endless hours of "Air Drumming" when listening to their respective bands, both at home and round my friends' houses!!

As soon as a Barclay James album came out, I had to have it, to see what Mel was up to. What new tricks could I learn?? The intro and outro drum patterns on "Crazy City" still excite me - they sound so easy but, believe me, they're not - and I defy anyone to come up with something as good and effective!! - and in keeping with the track.

In 1975, a friend of mine bought me a very special birthday present - on the actual day, we went along the coast and saw BJH at Hastings Pier Pavilion - brilliant!! I can still see it now!

Fast forward to 1985 - We, (Saxon), had decided to base ourselves in Munchen, Germany, for three and a half months in order to record "Innocence Is No Excuse", our first album for EMI. The Sugar Shack was the happening club in Munich at the time - all the musos hung out there - bands playing that night in Munich would turn up after the show. Once the day's work was over, and everyone's ears had had enough, Saxon would pile down there as a whole. Guess who strolled in one night? - Mel!!! We introduced ourselves, got on like a house on fire, and basically, either met down the Shack every night, went to dinner, or both!!! We actually ended up with our own reserved stools at the bar!! Mel was great company, and he really made that stay memorable. We promised to keep in touch but what with the inevitable schedules of touring/recording for both bands, we lost contact. Mel had moved back to the UK and we telephoned each other sporadically but, generally, I was never here when he was home and vice versa.

Now to 2005 - I was online to check out when Asia were playing London and noticed Les' BJH were playing on the bill - I just thought I must surprise Mel and left it at that - then, the next day, I was again online, looking at a brilliant site on mellotrons, saw a link to the BJH site, clicked on it, and to my horror, saw the words Mel Pritchard 1948-2004 - I remember saying aloud..."Oh no, not Mel". I was choked - still am, if truth be known. Although we weren't great lifetime friends so to speak, we were, for that three and a half months, "Drummers-In-Arms", and good buddies. I can honestly say that Mel's death has hit me more than any other musician's has - he was there when I was learning my trade, he was a big influence, and now he's gone and, in the words of so many, I'm gutted!!

Thanks for everything Mel - for your playing and, as I said at the beginning of this piece, you'll always remind me of hot '70's summers, sore hands, and a lot more.
RIP my friend,

Nigel Glockler

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