'Tis better to be born lucky than to be born rich. That's what my grandfather reckoned. 'If you are born lucky,' he used to say, 'there's a good chance that you will end up both happy and rich – well, rich enough anyway. ' Titch Titchborne was certainly born lucky.
Oh, he got better with time, but in the early days he was almost beyond bad. It was just his good luck that he happened to be hanging out with Mike Pelorus and Danny Smith when they decided to form the band. As Titch told the story, he and Mike were drinking coffee in the Cosy Corner Coffee Bar when Mike asked him if he could play bass.
'Well, yes, sort of,' Titch had told him. 'You know . . .
just the basic stuff. ' By basic stuff, Titch meant a few three-chord riffs in the key of A and a few more in the key of G. Mike had said that 'basic stuff' was all they needed. 'And anyway, you look like a bass player.
' And, yes, Titch certainly did look the part back then. He was lucky that he was a tall skinny kid with an angelic face, big hands, and a shock of reddish-blonde hair that fell in soft unruly curls. It also helped that he had sort of 'inherited' his older brother's Fender Jazzmaster bass when Malcolm Titchborne had decided to renounce rock and roll and enter the priesthood.
But perhaps Titch's greatest stroke of luck had come when the band was recording its first album, The Sound of Distant Plunder. Mike and Danny had been in the control room with their producer, Pete Bateman, and the sound engineer. And while Titch waited for them to sort out whatever it was that they were sorting out, he had started trying to work out the bass line to Caravan, the 1936 Juan Tizol composition made famous by Duke Ellington.
Titch got nowhere near it. But he did stumble across a catchy little riff that just came to him from out of nowhere. Talking about it later, Titch recalled that Mike had come rushing back into the studio saying: 'Oh, yeah. Jeez, I really like that.
That's really cool. We've got to do that one, man. What's it called?' 'Umm . .
Camel Dance?' And the rest, as they say, is history. Camel Dance was the first and last hit that Titch 'wrote'. But, thanks to its initial success and the fact that it was recorded by more than 20 other artists and used in no fewer than three successful movies, it allowed him to buy Bledley Manor and a lifetime's supply of very good single malt Scotch, Titch's recreational drug of choice.
But most of his time was spent being a regular on shows like Never Mind the Buzzcocks and tinkering with his collection of vintage motorbikes. The one area of Titch's life in which his luck was a little less reliable was women. As a good-looking guy – and a minor rock god – he had no difficulty in attracting attractive women.
He even married a couple of them. But none of his relationships lasted very long. His first wife, Monica, was the lead singer in a band that promised a lot but never quite delivered. I got to know Titch and Monica when they were my upstairs neighbours in Notting Hill.
I never quite understood how they came to be married. They seemed to spend all of their time arguing. Hardly a day went by when I didn't hear Monica reading the riot act at the top of her voice or giving Titch his latest 'absolutely-final' ultimatum. Eventually Titch moved out.
. . . .