art-wood - Bobby Ward gig
Art Wood on stage (brother of Ronnie Wood) with Bobby and his band

Back to the 90s: Bobby Ward’s Reflective Dive into Music, Letters, and Analog Connections

The second series of remarkable encounters from the local rock stallwalt Bobby Ward.

In an exclusive interview with BN1 Magazine, Bobby Ward, the frontman of Stonewall Gardens, and the former band Wildkatz, reflects on a time when communication was more personal and the music industry less digital. “This modern world of social media, with its endless platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, is undoubtedly a boon,” he says, “but there’s something undeniably refreshing about the tangible connection of a handwritten letter. It’s a relic of the 90s, a time when we somehow managed without the internet, and the world spun on just fine.”

Bobby fondly recalls receiving a letter from Phil Collins, a testament to a bygone era. He met Collins at Lakers Farm, where Phil lived with his then-wife Jill and daughter Lilly. “Jill’s kindness was pivotal in my meetings with Phil,” Bobby recalls. During one visit, he presented Collins with a video of his original material. The response, detailed in a letter, compared his dancing to that of Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson – a high compliment in Bobby’s eyes.

His solo project, Artful Dodger, caught Collins’ attention, leading to an extensive correspondence with Hit ‘n’ Run Music, Collins’ record label. “Phil went out of his way to help me,” Bobby says, his admiration evident. 

One letter, sent to Peter Waterman of Stock Aitken Waterman and signed by Julie Braconnier, highlights Collins’ belief in Bobby’s potential. “Phil was optimistic about my material being chart-worthy,” Bobby shares, a hint of pride in his voice.

The 90s also brought some regrets, notably Bobby’s failure to trademark ‘Artful Dodger,’ a name later adopted by another artist. But his journey didn’t end there. By the late 90s, Bobby was headlining for audiences of over 50,000 and signed a Sony Production deal with his band, Wildkatz in 2001, produced by the famous Charlie Skarbek, but a disappointing decision after all the promo had started meant a last minute drop and no Australia Rugby World Cup deal. All the songs can be viewed at the Stonewall Gardens site with Wildcatz performing live for the Sony showcase concert at the Eel Pie Twickenham (under videos), featuring the band’s guest the late great Art Wood on stage (brother of Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones). Consequently, the album produced by Charlie Skarbeck also features Jesse Wood on lead guitar (Ronnie Wood’s son).   

Bobby’s career was a whirlwind of high-profile performances, including jam sessions at Eddy Grant’s house in Barbados with artists like Fuzzy Samuels of Crosby Stills & Nash. He chuckles as he recounts the Happy Mondays’ exploits at Blue Wave Studios, where even the Rolling Stones prepared for their ‘Steel Wheels’ tour. Then there were private laughs with Keith Richards (late 90’s). Time spent with Bill Wyman and his wife in France. Laughs with Roger Moore (007) and his wife in St Paul de Vence (2010). Enjoying late nights with Cilla Black together with Paul O’Grady in the Bacou Nightclub (2001). Shaking hands and chatting with Chuck Berry – after jumping on stage with him, the list goes on… 

As he reminisces about sharing stages with iconic acts like The Downliners Sect, Atomic Rooster and a plethora of others, it’s clear that Bobby Ward’s journey through the music landscape is as much a story of personal connections as it is of artistic evolution. In a world dominated by digital interactions, his memories serve as a reminder of the enduring power of a handwritten letter and the unbreakable bonds forged in the heyday of rock ‘n’ roll.

Bobby Ward’s Glimpse into the Thatcher Legacy

In a candid blog post recently shared with BN1 Magazine, Bobby Ward, known as ‘Brighton Bobby’ in the halls of Number 10, recounts his unique friendship with Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark, and his wife Diane. Ward’s connection with the Thatchers began in 1988. He recalls a few years later in 1990, in  a phone call to Mark Thatcher in Dallas Texas, who confided that his mother was taking her departure from Downing Street “really badly”. This revelation prompted Ward to consider carefully what to share about his years in the political inner circle. Opting for discretion out of respect, he chose to recount only a few humorous anecdotes.

One such story involves a telephone call to Number 10, resulting in it being put through to the flat above with the phone being answered by the Prime Minister herself! On the memorable occasion, she explained that she was rather busy due to the first televised Prime Minister’s Questions. Thatcher, ever gracious, informed him of her busy schedule, prompting an apologetic Ward to end the call from his car phone – a novelty at the time.

The friendship with Mark Thatcher spanned several years, with attempts to meet often thwarted by conflicting schedules. Despite this, Ward and the Thatchers maintained a cordial relationship, with no discussions of business – Mark was more interested in Ward’s music career. Ward’s lighthearted nature even led him to tease Mark about his infamous misadventure in the Sahara, which the latter took in good spirit.

A highlight of their friendship was a planned dinner at Stringfellows Hippodrome on December 30, 1988. Ward, arriving at Claridge’s with a bottle of Dom Perignon, was ready for a memorable night with Mark and Dianne. The evening was marked by heavy security, a consequence of Mark Thatcher being under an IRA death threat – a fact unknown to Ward until the following day’s headlines revealed it. This revelation led Ward to reflect on his own experience with a death threat during his music career, understanding Mark’s reticence to discuss the matter.

The friendship, however, slowly faded after Mark and Diane’s divorce. Yet, the memories of those calls to Number 10 and Dallas, the laughter, and the unique experiences they shared remain a testament to the unexpected paths life can take. Ward’s journey from performances at Glastonbury, his career in music, to the heart of British politics is not just a story of friendship but a narrative that intertwines the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll and political history in a most unusual way.

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