John Gardner at Home

Memories from Josh Getzler

For John.

I began a band playing rock and roll with two mates in the basement of New College around 2016. It soon became clear that we needed a proficient bass player, and there were rumours that John had been a keen rocker in his misspent Scottish youth, and more to the point had a nice Fender bass guitar collecting dust in a corner of his office. I bumped into John with Audra one winter’s day in Botley Road and told him to come and audition. “We’re going to make you a star”! The way Audra looked at him expectantly, I knew we’d get him. John came and played, and was instantly hooked. We became madly devoted band members, meeting regularly with Jan and myself on guitars, John on bass, Ewan singing, Rob on drums, and Bill on keyboard. A new band room was created at St Hugh’s and stocked with equipment begged borrowed and bought. A week without at least one band rehearsal seemed like a lost chance.

John changed the band and all of us who played in it. We still played the punk, funk, and rock and roll of our youth, but John brought us a softer and more feminine spirit, taking us deeper into 60s soul and the music of love, longing, pain and exultation. He studied this intricate music with a sharp eye, and would prepare transcripts, charts and samples for us, and push us along to better results every practice. His own playing developed at an exponential pace, and it often seemed that his fingers, ears and mind took fire. He could etch in a beautiful soulful foundation on that short-scale Fender bass, or rock hard, or dance with a lilt. We often emerged from playing together feeling wondrously happy at what we had just discovered. We played sets at Wadham College and at All Souls College together, the latter for John’s birthday, and were on the brink of recording and seeking professional gigs around Oxford. John kept it up as long as he could even when he realised his body was not quite right.

John was immensely proud and pleased of our musical progress. We’re glad to have had those two strong years of comradeship with John in our garage soul band. It leaves an ache of longing that we cannot play with him again in this world.

Joshua Getzler

27 Aug 2019