Clapton was there. So too Santana. I seem to remember exchanging a few words with Keith Richards. It had been hard enough to carry out even the most basic of functions, let alone exchange pleasantries. Bereavement. Of all the words in the celebrant’s speech, bereavement was the word that stuck. Lodging itself inside my brain like a tumour. Bereaved. On my own. No longer one of a pair. A pairing that had lasted 23 years, through the booze, the drugs, the groupies. Neither side innocent. Both irrevocably changed by experience and wracked with regret and remorse. And then, for the last ten of those years, a smoother, calmer existence as if we had finally tired of pushing each other’s buttons.
Bereavement. Bereft . Yes. I was bereft. My own personal fog. I wanted to hide under the duvet, sink into its safety, surround myself in the soft cloud which still smelt of him. But duty is duty, even in our world. I’d ordered the new black Bruce Oldfield suit, organised my make-up artist and dutifully posed for the paps as I arrived at the crematorium. Then the Dorchester’s funeral tea. Now and then the fog had parted. I remember the crying onlookers, the police holding them back as we entered with the coffin.
If only. If only. I should have been there. Was I punishing myself for refusing to attend the concert? Had I been there, might things have been different? Would I have spotted the signs, recognised his laboured breathing, spotted the pallor beneath the make-up? But long ago I’d had my fill of the concerts; the clamour; the hype; the histrionics; the adulation. Never again I had said.
Never again would I hear him play. Never again would he play.