In 1997, following a negative review of Tom Chant’s Touch (Matchless), three big cheeses in London Improv – Eddie Prevost, Evan Parker and Martin Davidson – decided that the Ben Watson by-line must be banished forever. This was Tom’s big break, and it upset their plans if anyone pointed out the record wasn’t much cop (since then, all three musicians have agreed in private that I was basically right). Derek Bailey was highly amused, and congratulated me on outraging no less than three eminences with a single short review. Shortly thereafter, Evan Parker was raging in a reader’s letter against another “erroneous” critic, and said something along the lines of “the problem is that, if – God forbid – Ben Watson should be run over by a bus, there’s going to be another idiot ready to replace him”. Derek pointed this out to me, raised an eyebrow and said “that’s a threat, you know, and not so veiled …”. Derek responded to this letter (and some other things) in “The Ballad of Big Bad Ben”. It’s from Chats (Incus), a fantastic CD-R with lots of Derek’s inimitable spoken-word.


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