“THERE was no plan to do it at all,” says Phil Rickman, creator of the Merrily Watkins novels, about a completely unexpected twist in the life of one of his characters.
Lol Robinson, shy, reclusive and, like his first major influence, Nick Drake, unable to face a live audience, has released an album, Songs from Lucy’s Cottage, with Hazey Jane II. Lol Robinson, says Phil, was never meant to be a permanent character. “He just kind of happened. I had read about Nick Drake (singer-songwriter who died in 1972 at the age of 26) and wondered what he would have been like if he had lived, if he had gone through the mental health system. Lol was only meant to be in one book.”
The CD is a collaboration with Glasgow-based musician (and big Merrily Watkins/Lol Robinson fan), Allan Watson. “Allan had been emailing about the books for a while, then just before Christmas I got an email from him, suggesting that he ‘could maybe finish some of those Lol Robinson songs’.
“I was surprised to discover that there were 10 – incomplete – songs in the books. I just write bits of his lyrics as occasion demands.
“Allan then sent me two songs he’d done and I was really impressed. I thought, we’ve got an album here so I sat down and wrote some more lyrics, and between us we had 10 complete songs. So Lol lives.
“We then had to decide what to do with it. Fortunately, I have collected people who somehow got involved with the books, and now with the CD – designers Bev Craven and John Mason and Terry Smith – and Allan brought John Gilmour Smith on board.”
Phil then put up £1,000 to get 500 copies of the CD produced, having calculated that selling 100 copies at £10 would recoup the costs, a target that’s already been reached, with initial reactions proving extremely positive: “I just played it for the first time and got goosebumps all down my spine! Lol sounds just like I imagined and the whole thing is spectacular. Wow!” wrote one fan on Phil’s website.
A live appearance by Lol Robinson may prove challenging, but the band responsible for bringing his music to life will be appearing in the flesh at the launch of Merrily’s Borders, a new book exploring the landscape of the Merrily Watkins books, at Kinnersley Castle on August 2.
It will be the first time that Phil and Allan meet face-to-face and Phil is apprehensive about his role as ‘third guitar’ – “I haven’t played live since I was 12, and I never imagined I would,” he explains, adding that “admission will be free, obviously.”
“This is more exciting to me than finishing a book – my lyrics are on a CD!”
Hazey Jane II will appear at Kinnersley Castle on Sunday, August 2, from 2pm to 5pm, at the official launch of Merrily’s Borders, published by Logaston Press.