Tug-of-love with Joan Armatrading
One of the by-products of the priorities which my mother had instilled in me, was that I have never paid much mind to the specifics of sexuality in other people. I’m always the last person to notice if someone is gay.
Joan Armatrading was in Hair in the West End. The star of the show was a girl called Helen Chap’pelle, a beautiful and talked about singer of the time. I met Helen at a recording session where I was playing guitar and I fell helplessly in love. She was going out with Peter Gabriel’s cousin Bob, but she was sharing a flat in West Hampstead with Joan. As long as she wasn’t living with Bob Gabriel, I reasoned, I was in with a chance.
I started to pursue her like a love-sick boy in an Italian movie. She was friendly, but stand-offish, coming to see me regularly in my flat in Bayswater before going to the theatre. Thinking I was being clever, I was trying to use Joan to make my case for me. Joan seemed to be very obliging, promising to pass on messages and make my case for me. All the time I was puzzled by how badly the relationship was going. Helen seemed to like me, so how come she wasn’t responding to the messages I was sending through Joan? I assumed the problem must be Bob, although whenever I confronted Helen she kept saying “It’s not just that”. Then she left town for a while.
For six months I pined hopelessly, until I heard she was back in London doing a show called Let My People Come; not living with Joan or Bob. This was wonderful news.
I went to the theatre, waiting for the show to finish, clutching a big bunch of flowers. Helen came out, arm in arm with Joan – and still the penny didn’t drop! She brushed me aside, telling me to leave her alone. As they made their way down Regent Street I followed, still clutching the flowers. Every so often Helen would turn and try to shoo me away, but I kept going, bleating all the time, “What did I do? What did I do?’
Eventually I gave up and decided to try another tack. I had a couple of friends who had been in ‘Hair’ with them and I asked them if Helen was still going out with Bob.
‘Oh no,’ I was told. ‘Joan put paid to that. She frightens off everyone sooner or later.’
And still I didn’t get it.
Helen had, meanwhile, fallen head over heels in love with Dave, the bass player in the show she had been touring. Four months later she told me she had moved in with him and life was great.
‘Where does that leave me?’ I asked.
‘Well, really,’ she smiled. ‘You were never that serious, were you?’
As we talked over the past I finally concluded that Joan MUST HAVE been waging a complete disinformation campaign against me, painting an utterly false picture of me. I also concluded that this was some kind of sexual jealousy.
I wasn’t about to give up just because there was a new rival on the scene. Still madly in love, I machiavellianly decided to befriend Dave so that I could still be close to the object of all my desires. The trouble was Dave’s a really great guy and I grew to like him for his own sake. They became engaged and Helen asked me to give her away, since her father was dead.
So, there I was, walking down the aisle of Kingston Parish Church with the woman I had loved more than any other on my arm: she in a bridal gown, me peeling off at the altar to watch her marry someone else.