Jazz music was not top of my music listening in 1988 when Ed de Vlam joined the Jasmine Minks. The trumpet playing of Derek on songs like Choice and Cry For A Man had some lovely jazziness to them, as did Martin’s Jaco Pastorius-like slinky fretless bass playing on songs such as Think and Everybody’s Got To Grow Up Sometime (the working title for our first full album – later ditched as the song was deemed too soulful for the label). But we had just recorded Another Age, a guitar pop album by any definition. After our frontman, Adam, left, Wattie joined and was our inspiration to keep on going. But he had gone back to Aberdeen and Dave Arnold, who had filled in brilliantly since then, went back full-time to his home group, The Claim, (who, by the way, still sound fantastic today) who we had borrowed him from. We were playing as a four-piece with guitar, bass, organ and drums, but many of our songs worked better with a rhythm guitar and a lead guitar so we sounded a bit empty. Ed came to my knowledge after a friend, Michael, came to see us at a gig in a pub near the Angel Islington and introduced us. Ed was an accomplished musician, able to sing and play guitar with a fluid precision which was rare in the 80’s when musicianship was frowned upon, as if it was not cool to actually play your fucking instrument well!
I quickly struck up a good relationship with Ed and would go round to his house in East London (I later moved in as did Minks roadies Pat and Mark) and jam, teaching him our songs. He had this nice Hi-Fi on an amazing triangular-shaped shelving unit designed by his brother (who would later design a concept vending machine for Durex). His records were not the kind that I knew – jazz and prog rock in particular were not cool to me. But Ed did not understand the meaning of cool – a great asset in my mind. At first I was blown away just by hearing an excellent record player, amplifier and speakers (I’d never heard anything as clear as this in someone’s home before). But gradually I got into the music he played when we stopped jamming and had a cup of tea. Ed would try to teach me extended chords on the guitar, but I was a slow learner and if he changed chords too quickly I was lost. He was a patient tutor and would gallantly hand over lead guitar duties to me if he thought he couldn’t improve on what I came up with (which was rare). Ed was obviously influenced by jazz – he had an attention to detail and a musician’s mind – I worked with emotions and hearing but Ed used all those things plus an in-depth knowledge of notation, rhythm and an abundance of natural talent. I developed a penchant for more expressive chords and took some more guitar lessons and started learning classical guitar – Ed lent me his nylon-strung guitar. (He played the same guitar on the recording of Shiny And Black)
Ed joined The Jasmine Minks and played at loads of our gigs. I was in the middle of writing a new set of songs and we’d introduce them one at a time to our live set. I’d end up writing enough songs for a double album but reduced the number of songs to make Scratch The Surface, our fourth album for Creation Records. In the process of writing the album I’d get Tom and Ed over to my house to listen to the new songs. Ed and Tom were busy adding great rhythm and lead parts. We booked a studio in Walthamstow (it was where the No. 1 hit “Star Trekking” was recorded and the owner, who had written and recorded it, had retired to Spain from the royalties) and we recorded 4 songs with Ed. They sounded good, we sounded like a pretty tight band, having played live a lot so we then booked into Greenhouse studios, just off Old Street in the City for a week to put Scratch The Surface together. Ed showed me a lovely, jazzy pop song – Playing For Keeps, just before we were due to record the album. We included it and, at my suggestion, we put it at the end of the album but left it off the track listing, making it a ‘hidden’ track. Ed had nailed the vocal in the studio, and it was an eye-opener to see how to sing properly and put a range of techniques into one song – dynamics and and an understated, Donald Fagen delivery.
Ed brought more songs to me and we incorporated one into our live set. I thought Ed was going to be a huge star – I just couldn’t see how such a talent could be ignored. He had the kind of voice that stopped people when they heard him, as witnessed in live performances. I had visions of bringing more and more of Ed’s songs into our live set and that our next album would be the best ever. But Ed wanted to move on and took a teaching job in Spain. We missed him badly – personally and musically – he had stuck with us for more than 2 years of playing and recording but The Jasmine Minks name was out of fashion – The Stone Roses came out with an album that was in a similar style to Another Age (to my ears) two years after we recorded it but we’d moved into a Pop-Rock genre, more akin to Big Star (whose name would not be trendy for a few years to come courtesy of the great Teenage Fanclub). Our gig audiences were getting smaller and smaller so Ed cut his losses and moved on. So Ed, wherever you are – we still miss you and I still have your guitar!