Memories of Jon Lee.

Jon was one of the closest friends I have ever had and I still miss him very badly.
I can't believe that over ten years have passed since his death.

Although his circumstances had meant that in the later years of his life we had seen less of eachother, when we did get together it always as if not a day had passed.

I first met Jon way back in 1981, when we were in St. Julian’s School, in Newport together. I already knew his brother Andy, who was older than me, whilst Jon was two school years behind me, though only sixteen months younger.

I remember the first jam we ever had together in January 1982 when Jon’s Dad Norman had to come down from the house to the garage and tell us to turn the deafening row down. After that we used to go back to Jon’s house in the lunch hour and play.

When Jon formed 'Exxit' later in 1982 (with Fraser Trewick, Nick Bell and Dave Strawbridge), he brought his kit down to ‘The Den’ (the infamous middle room at my Mum and Dad’s house) and they rehearsed there along with my band of the time 'Masque'. Then, in May, we both did our first gig on the same day, with 'Exxit' first up and 'Masque' second on a six-band open-air festival bill, in Cwmbran.

We didn’t actually play in a band together at that time, but my main early memory of playing with Jon was that when neither 'Exxit', or 'Masque' were rehearsing, we would get together in ‘The Den’, Jon on drums and me on bass and jam 'Stranglers’ songs, usually with Mike Cole ('60Ft Dolls') on guitar.

Through the rest of 1982 and 1983, Jon’s bands played with us on virtually every gig we ever did as 'Masque' - firstly 'Exxit', then 'Absolute Beginners' and lastly 'Second Image'.

By the time Jon was drumming for 'New Image', I was playing with Tim Chapman in 'Apple Pie'. I knew that Jon shared my opinion that Tim’s voice was something special, as we’d discussed it on several occasions.
I remember the first serious conversation I had with Jon about joining Tim and I to form a band, in September 1984 after we played with 'New Image' in Newport’s 'Stow Hill Labour Club'. It was 'Apple Pie’s sixth gig since our debut night only two weeks before and we were going down really well. Although he didn’t sing himself, Jon loved the three part harmonies that Tim, Paul Bale and I were singing and liked the idea of drumming behind us.

By the end of the year Jon had made up his mind and in January 1985 formed 'Mad Hatter' with Tim and I. Paul had gone on to play with 'Clovis', but with bassist Richi Glover being such a great harmony singer, we retained the three-part harmonies Jon loved.

Over the next seven years I went on to play with Jon in three full-time and three makeshift bands. The details of 'Mad Hatter', 'Ritzi' and 'The Average Cab Band' and of 'Dale And His Butties', 'The Des Richards Band' and 'Dimmy And The Danglers' are all detailed elsewhere on this site, in the FAQ regarding live experience.

During those years and the years afterwards I have many fond memories of Jon;
Him phoning me so often that my Mum, or my Auntie would pick up the phone and say “Hi Jon” before he even had chance to speak;
Him being so loud behind the kit that people would regularly complain, so he would grin and hit the skins even harder;
Him deliberately putting a reverse beat in for a bar or two, just to see if we could stay with him;
When his bouncing drum stool went through the floorboards of ‘The Den’ in my parents’ house;
When my Dad, having ‘had a few’ toppled off the chair next to Jon’s kit, knocking over Jon’s hi-hats and Jon, looking over towards me, continued drumming on his head;
When our van broke down at the top of the Neath valley and after Jon had observed a sheep’s ‘séance’, we ('Ritzi') spent the night in a chicken shed;
At 'Queen’s final gig at 'Knebworth' in 1986, when Jon dropped to the floor and fought through a seemingly impossible crowd to get served at the bar in what seemed like seconds;
Watching gigs by 'The Stranglers' and 'The Dickies' and jumping around like two childish lunatics;
Him coming to watch me dep with a band ('Short Storey') whilst pretending to be still in school (I was 19) and making fun of me all night long on the night of his 18th birthday;
Him regularly complaining in various curry houses that his meal contained coriander (to which he was allergic), despite having asked for it to be prepared without;
Him never coming to see me without bringing a Cadbury’s Cream Egg for my daughter Harriet;
Him sitting in my house one Christmas Eve and letting Harrie plaster him with hair decorations, lipstick and make up;
Him calling me on his mobile, from a Spanish beach, during a quiet hour on a hectic 'Feeder' European tour, just to see how I was, as he knew that I had some things to sort out;
I could go on and on.

After Jon went off to London in search of stardom with Grant Nicholas, I obviously started seeing a lot less of him, though we would still see each other whenever he came home.
The first time I ever saw Jon and Grant play together was with 'Raindancer' (the forerunner to 'Feeder'), at 'The Rock Garden', in London’s Covent Garden, in April 1991, as a four-piece (with Simon Blight and John Canham).

It was whilst Jon was living in London, working with 'Raindancer', that we were forced to replace him in 'The Average Cab Band' because of his regular unavailability.
Soon afterwards, on the night of an 'ACB' gig in a packed 'Sam’s Bar', in Cardiff, Jon was on his way back to Newport, in the car with Chris ‘Dange’ Daniels (tour manager of 'Terris', 'Halo', 'Rachel Stamp' etc).
Jon’s replacement Keith ‘Chongo’ Williams was supposed to be playing the gig, but at the last minute was unexpectedly unable to perform (he didn’t turn up!!), although his kit was already set.
A call to Dange’s mobile let Jon know what had happened and they rushed to Cardiff as fast as the heavy fog would allow, finally arriving about half an hour after the show was supposed to have begun.
Jon literally walked through the door, fought his way to the stage, took off his jacket, called for somebody to get him a drink, sat down, casually counted the first song in
and rocked the place!

Between 1992 and 1995 Jon and Grant had various bass players and on two different occasions Jon asked me to go up to London and join them as bassist. My situation meant that even if I had wanted to, it would have been totally impossible and it was never taken any further.
As things turned out I doubt very much if it could have worked with Grant Nicholas and I in the same band, but Jon was never concerned by that reality – “You know the job is yours if you want it”.

Shortly after the second time Jon asked me about joining the band, they found Japanese bassist Taka Hirose and the rest of course is history.
Do I regret turning the chance down? No, not one bit.

The first time I saw Jon and Grant play with Taka as 'Feeder' was in July 1996, at 'Clwb Ifor Bach', in Cardiff.

One of the most comical scenes I can remember at a 'Feeder' gig occurred in December 1996, when 'Feeder' played at 'The Newport Centre', whilst touring in support of 'Terrorvision'.
After the 'Feeder' set, I watched the start of 'Terrorvision', then went up and sat in the bar with Jon, his Mum & Dad and various others.
We were soon joined by Mike Cole (then the bassist for '60 Ft Dolls') and Richi Glover (then the bassist for 'Dub War'), both of whom Jon and I had played in bands with in the past.
I ended up sat at a table with Jon, Mike and Richi, with a huge queue of fans lining up to grab the three ‘rock stars’ autographs. It was hysterical as one after another they came to the table, got three autographs, ignored me and walked away. Jon could hardly sign for laughing and got great mileage out of it for ages afterwards.
This of course was just the start of the rise in 'Feeder’s popularity.

During the summer of 1998 I was playing in Great Yarmouth, playing with 'That’ll Be The Day' and spotted a busker in the town centre singing a familiar song.
It was 'Feeder’s ‘High’, which hadn’t long been released and I remember feeling a buzz at that moment, just to hear one of Jon’s band's songs being given such treatment, as a nationally used ‘busking cover’.

By December 1998, 'Feeder' were touring with 'The Stereophonics', including another 'Newport Centre' appearance and they continued to grow more popular during 1999, with the release of the ‘Top Ten’ album ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ and their first ‘Top Twenty’ single. All Jon’s years of struggling trying to ‘make it big’ were beginning to pay off.

On New Years Eve 1999, I went with Jon and Tatiana (then his fiancée, but to become his wife) to Cardiff’s 'Millennium Stadium', as 'Feeder' were playing at the 'Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Manic Millennium’ concert.
At the end of their set, Jon fulfilled an ambition by drop kicking a rugby ball in the National Stadium (even though it was from the stage into the crowd, not exactly wearing a Welsh jersey).
We then watched part of 'The Manics' set before leaving the stadium early to get to my car and get home before midnight, so that Jon and Tat could see the millennium in with the rest of their family.

On the way to the car, we met some guys who wanted to get into the 70,000 odd sell out gig, but had no tickets. As Tat, my daughter Harrie and I all had complimentary tickets (which had not had the stubs torn) and guest passes, Jon decided to try and sell the them to these guys and give the cash to Harrie.
I suppose the chance of some lunatic approaching you in the street and trying to hard-sell you not only cheap tickets for a sell out show, but also guest passes is a bit remote and not surprisingly, they were very wary about the authenticity of the tickets and passes. Even after Jon had given them drumsticks and signed them, the guys were still stalling and I had to literally drag Jon away to get him back to the car.
Harrie never did get the cash, but we did eventually make it home with minutes to spare.

'Feeder’s third album ‘Echo Park’ was produced by Gil Norton ('Foo Fighters', 'Terrorvision', 'Del Amitri', 'James', 'Dashboard Confessional' etc) and in August 2000 Jon called me to say he was home and asked if my wife Anna and I could meet him and Gil for a drink, as Gil was in the area doing some pre-production with 'Terris'.
The night that followed was a scream as we went to a 'Varispeed' gig in Newport’s 'Le Pub', then on to 'TJ’s' and later for a very drunken curry.
It was great to see that Jon, whilst having the greatest respect for Gil, treated him exactly as he would anybody else, making fun of him and winding him up and that in return Gil was completely the same. It was like being out in a bunch of four school kids rather than with my wife and the clichéd, but genuine ‘successful rock producer and drummer’.

A few weeks later Jon came down to play me the rough mix of ‘Echo Park’ and it was obvious that Jon’s respect for Gil was well founded, as even the rough mix sounded more likely to be commercially successful than any of 'Feeder’s previous self-produced material.

In October 2000, Anna and I went to Miami for Jon and Tat’s wedding.
A few nights before the big day, we were invited to Tat’s parents house for a wine and cheese party.
Halfway through the night Richi Glover arrived and as over the years he had developed a bit of a reputation for ‘putting his foot in it’ Jon asked me to keep an eye on him. I’m not sure what he expected me to do, but in any case Richi’s behaviour was impeccable (it was Anna and I who ended up drunk, in the swimming pool at the end of the night, keeping everyone waiting when the taxis arrived).
After a while Jon came over to us with tears in his eyes. He could hardly speak for laughing and was just pointing at Richi. Rich was sat quietly at a table, surrounded by people, holding court and obviously doing fine as they all had huge smiles on their faces. When Jon finally got his breath back, in between fits of laughter he told us that they were Tat’s relatives from Brazil and went off on another laughing fit. We were still none the wiser until he recovered again to explain that not one of them could speak a word of English.
It’s one of the pictures I remember most about the whole trip, seeing Jon in such a state over something Richi had done. It was just like being kids again.

Having spoken to Jon many times during the build up to the release of the ‘Buck Rogers’ single, in January 2001, I knew that the best he was hoping for that week was a chart position of #5. When the chart counted down on Sunday afternoon and ‘B.R.’ was indeed #5, Jon was on the phone to me within less than five minutes he was so pleased.
It was a great moment to know that he’d made it into the ‘Top Five’.

A few months later, the week that the ‘Echo Park’ album was released, Jon called me from Sweden. At the halfway point in the week, sales had the album at #1 in the album chart and Jon was obviously really excited by the prospect of a #1 album. At the same time he was realistic enough to know that Saturday afternoon sales can make a huge difference by the end of the week.
When the chart came out on Sunday I was really pleased that ‘Echo Park’ had equalled ‘Buck Rogers’ and entered the chart at #5. It was a fantastic achievement, though after knowing where they stood a few days before there was still a touch of disappointment for Jon.

I saw Jon play with 'Feeder' many times and as he always made sure I was on the guest-list, never paid for a 'Feeder' ticket once. The last time I ever saw him play with 'Feeder' was at the 2001 Reading festival.

I last spoke to Jon on Christmas Day 2001, less than two weeks before he died. Our conversation ended when another call came in from his Mum.
I let him go and we said we’d speak in the New Year.
Sadly we never spoke again.

After his death, Jon's parents Pat & Norman gave me his two guitars, one acoustic and one electric. Though dusty, battered and scratched and presumably hardly ever played (except probably as drums) I’ll always treasure them.

I’m still in touch with Jon’s brother Andy, his Dad Norman and his wife Tatiana's family in Miami. I am also godfather to Jon’s children Cameron and Isabella.


Ever since I had known him Jon had always loved to have the last laugh.
When we had played together, Jon had always joked about the fact that as we performed I always had my tongue hanging out. In return I regularly pointed out that he always had his mouth open.
During our days playing together in 'Ritzi', we had jokingly covered 'Dr. Hook’s ‘Cover Of The Rolling Stone’. This had led Jon and I to joke at each other that if we ever did get our faces on the cover of 'Rolling Stone' magazine, or anywhere else for that matter, I would have my tongue hanging out and he would have his mouth open.

As 'Feeder' went on to enjoy so much success, photos of Jon with his mouth open had since been published widely, much to my amusement.
However, having taken a much lower profiled route through my musical career, photos of me with my tongue out had never been published anywhere.

After Jon’s death, I was one of the eight bearers at his funeral and as the tragedy had created such a great deal of media attention, there were many TV cameras and photographers present.
The following week, as the funeral was reported in the music press, The 'NME' ran a colour photograph of Jon’s coffin being carried from the church, clearly showing the eight bearers.
As terrible a time as it was for everybody, there was still one aspect of the photo that made me think of Jon and smile to myself.
On the far side of the coffin were Jon’s brother Andy, 'Feeder’s bassist Taka Hirose, 'Feeder’s sound engineer Magnus and 'Feeder’s manager Matt Page.
On the camera side were Jon’s cousin Alex, Jon’s drum technician Andrew Mountain, 'Feeder’s front man Grant Nicholas and myself –
with my tongue hanging out!

Nice one Jon – last laugh again!

Nick Brown - Guitar Tuition, Newport, South Wales.