Dr Bone has left the building

‘I don’t have a drinking problem – ‘cept when I can’t get a drink’Tom Waits

Prior to his untimely death in June 2020 Ian Stoddart was widely acknowledged to be one hell of a drummer. Over the years he worked with some top musicians and appeared as part of Johnny Depp’s band in the 2000 Oscar-nominated film Chocolat. In 2005 I met ‘Stoddy’ at a festival in Scotland – I told him that ‘I’m a mate of Bone‘, Stoddy’s face lit up, he shook my hand and said ‘Ah man, I love Bone, he’s my hero’. I knew exactly what he meant because he was something of a hero to me too.

Back in the late 70’s on the Isle of Man I walked into a pub on a Douglas side street called The Dogs Home. It was one of those bars that seemed to attract a certain kind of clientele (lowlifes, drug fiends, all-day drinkers etc). ‘A boisterous little watering hole’ is how The Good Pub Guide might have described The Dogs Home and that’s where I first met Bone and his crew. They certainly looked the part with their wild eyes, long hair and full beards; like a gang of highland warriors dressed in denim and black leather. They might have looked scary but in reality, they were dead friendly, sharp as pins and a great laugh.

As a young man, I fell in love with the Isle of Man and showed up at the TT motorcycle races many times but as far as I was concerned the bike racing was just an excuse for a damn good party. One TT night, after a couple of pints in The Dogs Home Bone dragged me along to see a band who were playing in a nearby pub. There were easily a couple of hundred people in that bar to see what was an average rock covers band, but being TT week, anything loud can draw a crowd.

Now Bone was not the shy and retiring type, so when the band took their beer and fag break Bone took his chance. I clearly recall the sight of Bone, (with a guy he had coerced into playing drums) centre stage belting out the blues as if his life depended on it; the covers band were blown away by a harmonica playing Scot. The crowd roared and when Bone finally made it back to his seat, a crash helmet full of change and pint after pint was delivered to our table.

Bone was not only a solo performer; he was also the singer and lead guitarist in a band called The Haemorrhoids. He must have sensed an opportunity following that solo set because the following year he showed up in the same bar, this time with his band in tow. Throughout the 1980’s The Haemorrhoids became a TT institution, playing to packed houses every night of the week. They had some interesting material – songs such as ‘How Can I love You’ (if you won’t take off your pants), ‘Sucker for your Nipples’ and a tune that was ahead of its time called ‘Tender Trouser Rock’ which was about priests ‘getting their kicks from those choir boys in their smocks’. They played – and this is Bone’s own description – ‘shit rock’ and as if to emphasise the point The Hems always had a toilet on stage with them. During ‘Shithouse Blues’ which, having lifted up his kilt, Bone would perform sitting on the said toilet; as he strained and contorted his way through the song, some minor pyrotechnics would go off just as he dropped a fake log into the bowl. It was crowd-pleasing stuff.

The Haemorrhoids had quite a following back in the day – before he found fame and fortune as the man behind the classic 90’s movie Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh was an aficionado. I’ll let Sandy McNair, Irvine’s friend and author of Carspotting: The Real Adventures of Irvine Welsh, tell you of their experience of being in the company of Bone.  It’s a great book by the way, as well as a highly entertaining read, Carspotting also reveals nuggets that will fascinate Irvine Welsh fans, like the story of guy the character Begbie is based on and the locations of various scenes from Trainspotting. Anyway, over to Sandy…..

Not long after we first met, Bone gave me a bit of a music education. I was all punk this and punk that and although he liked the punk sensibility, he was more into the blues. Over a pint, Bone told me about Robert Johnson and the delta blues guys and he explained that at the time they too had been musical pioneers – the punks of their day. It was a good lesson to learn because it opened my mind to different genres of music and I came to appreciate that although punk rock had blown things wide open in the 1970s, it was all part of a musical legacy which could be traced back to Africa, the slave trade and the cotton fields of the USA.

Bone it has to be said was bold as brass and never paid much heed to authority. One example – pre-smoking ban if he was in a pub and felt like sparking up a spliff, he would just do it and deal with any consequences should they arise. Case in point – In 1995 I went with him and his entourage to see John Mayall and the Bluesbrakers at The Garage in Glasgow. Throughout the gig, they openly rolled and smoked joints as if it was perfectly acceptable behaviour. Drawn by the stench, ‘security’ duly arrived on the scene but made the decision, no doubt based on appearances, to employ a hands-off approach and didn’t intervene. Good gig, good memory.

Once The Haemorrhoids had called it a day Bone set up a recording studio in rural Lanarkshire and over the years he managed to carve out a name for himself as a sound engineer and producer of high repute. ‘Dr Bone’ as he was known in his later years recorded some very notable musicians in ‘The Washoose’; the late great John Martyn being one of them. John recorded tracks from a couple of his later albums there and if you look at the credits on And and Glasgow Walker you’ll see Bone’s name.

A rocker of the old school, Bone was always up for a drink and a laugh but there was much more to him than that. Politically engaged, knowledgeable on subjects as diverse as Celtic history, damp proofing and computer science and always ready to encourage and nurture young talented musicians. I’ve sat in on some marathon Washoose recording sessions and I saw Bone give the same care and attention to a young person starting out on their musical journey as he did to established, experienced musicians. Legend is an overused term these days, but if anyone is a legend in my lifetime, it’s Bone. He once told me that he would be lucky to see 50. He did, he made it to 67 but Bone did not fade away, he did not go quietly into the night. He rocked till he dropped on January 13 2023.

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