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'Hitchhiker :  a biography of Douglas Adams'

Procol-oriented extracts from MJ Simpson's authoritative book (4)

The most famous Procol Harum fan (and the only one to cross the footlights and perform with the band!) was Douglas Adams, the great British comic writer, technophile and conservationist. 'Beyond the Pale' wholeheartedly recommends Palers to buy MJ Simpson's fine, occasionally controversial, biography of Douglas (not just because we get name-checked!). Click directly on these links to have your copies delivered from Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany or Amazon USA

From ‘Hitchhiker, a biography of Douglas Adams’ by MJ Simpson, Hodder and Stoughton © 2003, pp 277-278
Ironically, having spent years playing down the number's significance, Douglas became a father at 42. His forty-second birthday in March 1994 had been a lavish affair and he had been showered with gifts, so that he barely noticed the piece of paper which David Gilmour handed him. It was only later that Douglas realised that it was a certificate entitling the bearer to perform on stage with Pink Floyd. Douglas was to achieve his great ambition and become - for a brief moment - a rock star.

Pink Floyd featured large in Douglas' [yes, the editor has opted for this irregular form of the possessive throughout the volume] history. The Disaster Area stuntship was an allusion to Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Marvin had performed a snatch of Shine On You Crazy Diamond in one radio episode. Douglas had subsequently befriended drummer Nick Mason and then guitarist Gilmour. His moment of fame came on 28 October 1994 when he played guitar on Brain Damage and Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon at Earl's Court: 'The bit I played was that little guitar figure that any seventeen-year-old guitarist can play. But the difficult thing, I discovered, is not being able to play something like that, but being able to play it slowly enough, and that was pretty neat. It was interesting realising how much of the power and effect of Floyd actually comes from playing very slowly and how difficult to do that is.'

Bizarrely, this was actually the second time that Douglas had shared a stage with Pink Floyd. On 5 July 1975 Graham Chapman added a comedy element to the second Knebworth Rock Festival and Douglas was one of several friends persuaded to support him, dressed as Python 'Gumbies'. (According to Chryssie Lytton Cobold's account, Knebworth Rock Festivals, Chapman, 'was given a hard time by the punters and eventually shouted off the stage'.)

Several months before the concert, Douglas had suggested the title for the band's new album. That happened on 16 February 1994 after a talk by Douglas to raise money for the Environmental Investigation Agency; a group of his friends, including Mason and Gilmour, went for dinner afterwards and it transpired that the record label needed an album title the following morning, with the band still undecided. Douglas' favourite track was High Hopes which, having heard it on an unlabelled DAT, he thought was called The Division Bell - and he suggested that as the title. In return Gilmour donated £10,000 to the EIA.

Douglas met another of his musical heroes, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, through his friend Paul 'Wix' Wickens, a top session musician who was Paul McCartney's keyboard player. Though he never actually played guitar with Procol Harum, Douglas did introduce them occasionally and recited a spoken part of one song at the band's thirtieth anniversary concert on 19 July 1997.

Douglas' other musical accomplishments were more modest: he played rhythm guitar on the TV theme single and he composed some music for the Starship Titanic CD-ROM. However, he did; retain serious musical ambitions and had plans to record an album with the help of producer Glyn Johns: 'It will basically be something very similar to Sergeant Pepper, I should think,' he announced in 1994.

From that early boxy guitar, Douglas had amassed what was confidently believed to be the largest collection of left-handed guitars in the world. Accounts of exactly how many vary; twenty-seven is a widely believed figure but in a letter to Scott Jennings, owner of Route 66 Guitars in Hollywood, Jane Belson mentioned moving back to London, 'with three cats and thirty-five guitars in toW15’

BtP's page about Douglas Adams

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