Thursday, 4 November 2010

The man who put “three too many letters” dies

On the radio tonight, I was surprised to hear of the death of rock musician James Freud. Most famous for writing the 1985 hit singles “Barbados” and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” for new wave band The Models, Freud had a long career in rock music beginning with his hit “Modern Girl” with backing band The Radio Stars through his Models years to less successful projects like Beatfish with Mental As Anything’s Martin Plaza.

It is, however, for his last notable project that I came to remember James Freud in the long run. When Tony Lockett kicked his 1300th goal in May of 1999 to beat Gordon Coventry’s record which had stood since the 1930s, Freud with a band called “The Reserves” wrote a song “One Tony Lockett” to pay tribute. “One Tony Lockett” was played on the radio quite widely but spent only one week in the Top 40 at number thirty-nine.

However, being at the time obsessed with the terrible quality of spin bowling in 1980s cricket and how it allowed teams with no proven ability to play against spin bowling of a quality such as Ashley Mallett shows must have existed before the advent of artificial fertilisers (with resultant lush pitches and outfields) and limited-overs cricket and curtailed boundaries (which made the enterprising buy-at-all-costs slow spinner a liability) to dominate world cricket, led me to think quickly that James Freud had written three too many letters in his song, which should have been titled “One Tony Lock” after the great spinner of the 1950s and 1960s.

There really were in 1999 fewer English spinners comparable to Tony Lock than full forwards comparable to Tony Lockett, as shown by how no English spinner in 1998 had taken even 35 first-class wickets - a figure that in the 1950s was often attained by spinners in a few games. Even in 1984, when the supposedly great West Indian sides were at their peak, the standard of spin has declined alarmingly, especially with Underwood - in his last “top-flight” year - banned for touring South Africa. For years I have insisted that if the West Indian sides of the 1980s had had to face spinners of the calibre of Lock and Jim Laker on pitches like those of the 1950s, it would have been another game entirely from the cricket of the 1980s. I cannot imagine any side of that era, experienced only on plastic pitches protected from rain, having the skill required to last against spinners of the calibre of Laker and Lock - as Ashley Mallett said around the time Lock died in 1995, the West Indies failed when pitches took spin against much poorer spinners.

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