Back in the day when I was a young hack at the Evening News there was an office band who got together and played at various functions and parties – sounding pretty good to my untutored ears.
Lucy Allsopp (daughter of legendary Daily Express man and later Napier journalism lecturer, Bill Allsopp) was on lead vocals and brought plenty of glamour (as well as her extensive collection of hats!) to the band as the front woman. Now, of course, Lucy is better known as the Daily Record’s design guru.
Laid back smoothie David Thompson was the unlikely sticksman (aren’t drummers supposed to be dangerously wild? He was the epitome of easy charm). I don’t know if Dave -now a familiar face on the BBCs Politics Show – still plays the drums at all, but I was always quietly impressed by the fact he was totally self-taught.
On bass was photographer Rod Sibbald, who at that time was picture editor at the Evening News – a position he went on to hold at both The Independent, as well as title of Group Picture Editor for The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times. He’s a consultant based in the Borders now.
Lead guitar was played (extravagantly) by John Knighton, the chief sub. With his glasses and ‘tache I always thought him an unlikely axeman – but he used to annoy the other band members by noodling wildly at a volume which drowned them out. John later moved to his native north-east of England and worked on papers in Sunderland, Hartlepool and Newcastle.
Finally my dear old pal Barbie Dutter – who was with me right through college and through our first four years together at the Evening News – was the queen of the keyboards (thank to her classical piano training). Barbie eventually moved on to become a respected journalist with the Daily Telegraph and emigrated down under to become the paper’s Australia correspondent.
But while its nice to reminisce about former colleagues, their unexpected musical talents and their whereabouts now, the real reason for this is to introduce the name of the band – New York Psychobabble. Magic.
That name came courtesy of an unlikely contributor – Brian Horne, who is now known to every newspaper and media outlet in Britain as the man who covers the High Court in Edinburgh. Brian works with United Court Services reporting faithfully on the biggest, most gruesome and most shocking cases in the country. In short, it means that when it comes to Scots Law and the media, he is one of the safest pair of hands there is (along with John Robertson at The Scotsman and Gordon McIlwraith at the Daily Record).
But back in the late 80s and early 90s, Brian was the plain old Sheriff Court Reporter with the Evening News, He was also something of a union firebrand. It was a period of upheaval and uncertainty for newspapers (isn’t it always?) with the advent of what we then called “new technology”, but would now laughingly describe as rudimentary desk top publishing.
Everyone was gloomily predicting the end of journalists and journalism as we know it (sound familiar?) and as a result our union – the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) – was busy. Brian was active and I believe might even have been Father of the Chapel (FOC) at one point and was certainly an offiicial of some sort in our branch.
He also had a very distinctive Geordie accent, a style of oratory which was colourful and delivery that was … forthright. Which meant that when Brian went on a monolouge during a chapel meeting, it was loud, unsparing and often, dare I say it, uncomfortable. As a gallus 19 or 20 year old I usually didn’t know whether to wince or to titter at some of his outbursts (neither reaction was really quite right for a union meeting).
And so it was that at one particular gathering we found Brian railing against management madness – and taking painful umbrage at the use of terms like “natural wasteage”, “necessary efficiencies” and “out of the box thinking”. Beard bristling fiercely and eyes bulging ever so slightly our man let rip, condemning the whole shebang as a “load of pretentious New York psychobabble”.
Thus, the Brian Horne legend was secured – and the office band was named.
I’ve not seen Brian for a couple of years (apart from when I see him from afar as he yomps across the city complete with hiking books and rucksack), but I’d be willing to bet that he’s not changed at all and that he’s still that seething ball of righteous energy.
Which meant I was aghast when I heard this week that he’s now taken up YOGA – turning up at early morning sessions at a city gym. Now Brian was always a fit and healthy specimen, so here’s hoping he’s just dabbling with the physical benefits offered by meditation (though my suspicion is that it’s a fear of Tena Lady problems that drive women to Yoga in such numbers).
Because the thought of Brian Horne – doyen of reporting murder and mayhem and former union firebrand – as a figure of zen-like yogic calm, just disnae sit right!