Lin Browne: The Dig Magazine Interview

Lin Browne

The Dig Magazine Interview
with Paul Kitchen

In November of 1996, a couple of months after the debut of the Duncan Browne Tribute site, I received a short little email from Lin Browne requesting a copy of anything that I might publish about her late husband, Duncan. Since then we have communicated regularly, and the idea of a short interview via email presented itself. The interview was completed in February 1997.

Prior to meeting Duncan, Ms. Browne worked for a few years as an actress and a model. She later worked as Assistant to the Head of Casting at Granada Television in London. She currently lives with her Persian cat Fifi, and swears that she is kind to children. As you will hear, Ms. Browne has a lot to share about her late husband.

Hi Lin. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about Duncan. Why don’t we start in the beginning. How did you and Duncan meet?

Lin: We met in 1984 when Duncan was writing the theme & incidental music for the TV series “TRAVELLING MAN” for Granada Television (currently being shown here again on Satellite).

What were you doing at Granada TV at the time?

Lin: I was working as Assistant to the Head of Casting at Granada TV.

In my mind, Duncan made his two best albums in 1978 & 1979 with ‘The Wild Places’ & ‘Streets of Fire’. It was also the only time in his career that he made back to back albums. What happened to stop his momentum, and ultimately redirect his attention to film in 1984?

Lin: In 1984 he didn’t have a record deal. He’d been writing music for theatre productions and was offered the “Travelling Man” TV series and from then on work for television just kept on rolling in.

From 1984 on, he was writing music for film and television – oh, and radio (a couple of his themes for the BBC World Service are still being transmitted every day – one is a news theme). He wanted to work on another album but he was too busy doing TV work. He continued writing songs when he had time and was planning to record a Spanish guitar album of his own compositions.

Is there a complete list of all of Duncan’s soundtrack work available?

Lin: I expect so … via his publisher, Eaton Music, I guess. I can let you have a CV, but there’s loads of work I don’t know about, when he played on other peoples’ albums (before I knew him). He did some session work early in his career but never really enjoyed it, so later on he guested only on albums for friends … e.g. Nic Potter, Colin Blunstone, etc.

‘Metro’, the album Duncan made with Peter Godwin & Sean Lyons in 1976 was a critical success. What prompted his departure?

Lin: The advent of punk music. And his working relationship with Godwin, although very productive, was never totally satisfactory.

Did he stay in contact with Peter Godwin after the breakup? Rumour has it there was a little ill will there.

Lin: Not really. A bit.

Who were Duncan’s musical cohorts during the years ‘84 till ‘93?

Lin: Nick Magnus, Nic Potter, Colin Blunstone, Sebastian Graham-Jones, Barry Husband, Simon Philips, John Giblin, Florian Pilkington-Mikhsa (of “Curved Air”) and others I can’t remember off the top of my head. Oh, and he kept in touch with Andrew Loog-Oldham & Patrick Lacey, his past managers, but not with Micky Most, who gave him his first record deal.

Can you tell us about Duncan’s relationship with Colin Blunstone?

Lin: They shared a flat together in the early days and kept in touch over the years. They formed a band called CAMINO around 1986 (???). The band was only at the demo-recording stage when Colin got another solo deal which he wanted to concentrate on. (Two of those demos are on SONGS OF LOVE & WAR, the ones Colin sings.)

Was Duncan writing and demoing songs during these years?

Lin: Yes. And playing a lot of classical stuff on his Spanish guitar.

Did Duncan put music on the back burner once he became a father?

Lin: No, never. Music was his life.

Was ‘Songs of Love & War’ the record Duncan wanted to make?

Lin: Probably not . SONGS OF LOVE & WAR was a tribute to Duncan from me, Magnus, Sebastian & Eaton Music, made possible by some technical wizardry by Magnus and a lot of hard work by John Boughtwood at Eaton Music.

Duncan had wanted to use that name for his next album so I decided we should go ahead and use it. He was writing and demoing songs towards releasing an album, but in reality few of the songs were complete when he died. He probably would not have been pleased with the finished result because he was such a perfectionist.

When did Duncan fall ill, and what was the nature of his illness?

Lin: 1988. Bowel Cancer. Then cancer metastasized in his liver a few years later.

I’ve heard that you have been involved with efforts for continuing cancer research.

I recently appeared with the footballer Bobby Moore’s wife on a television documentary programme about bowel cancer, to raise public awareness about the disease. I found it quite difficult to do, and it made me very sad because they played Duncan’s composition of “SALVE ME”, a piece he wrote for the soprano Isobel Buchanan, throughout the programme.

The liner notes to ‘Songs of Love & War’ refer to Duncan’s instructions. Was there a point when he realized he could no longer contribute to the album?

Lin: He wasn’t seriously working on the album because no deal was in place. He was busy writing for television up until a few weeks before he died. The album at that time was still very much a ‘future project’.

How did Duncan feel about his career. Had he achieved what he wanted. If not, what were his ambitions?

Lin: After he’d died, I found a piece of paper on which he’d written “things to do before extermination”. I think he’d managed about 2 of the items on it!!

You’ve spoken to me about Duncan’s beloved Spanish guitar, and the haunting acoustic pieces he composed. How much of Duncan’s music remains unreleased?

Lin: Bits & bobs. Classical stuff mainly, some songs.

Are there plans for a career spanning retrospective, hopefully with some of his unreleased material?

Lin: Not to my knowledge. Although a special limited edition of SONGS OF LOVE & WAR is about to be re-released in Japan with an additional 2 previously unreleased songs on it.

Who owns the rights to his material. Are you in charge of CD licensing and future reissues?

Lin: I think I have the copyright. But Duncan’s publisher, Mandy Oates of Eaton Music handles everything for me – she’s a good friend.

What do you think Duncan might think of his new-found Internet presence?

Lin: He was terribly old-fashioned in many ways and might have hated the Internet – but who knows, he was totally unpredictable.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us about Duncan, and his place in music history?

Lin: He was a unique and incredibly creative person, his terms of reference were immense and diffuse. He was a complex and often difficult person, but he was never dull and never predictable. He filled my life with love and music.

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