Anthony Wood, free-jazz flame

Anthony Wood, pioneering promoter of improvised music and founder of The Wire, died last month in a tragic motorcycle accident. His friend and former colleague Chrissie Murray pays tribute

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Anthony Wood. Photo courtesy The Camping Biker

The whirlwind that was Anthony Wood came spinning into my world in 1980, when I worked on Musicians Only magazine. In an interview, eminent free-jazz bassist Paul Rogers had enthusiastically claimed – wrongly, as it turned out – that, throughout the 1970s, “Anthony Wood had managed to make money promoting improvised music”.

Two days, later Anthony called me: his high-flying Actual Music presentations were “indisputably sky-high artistic revelations” . . . but they were flat-lining, financially. Part of the reason for this, he said, was the criminal lack of “support” for the sharp end of the music from the jazz press of the day. And he wasn’t wrong.

Undaunted by the knocks he had encountered raising the profile of the music he loved, Anthony embarked on his next adventure. Irked by the scant coverage of free jazz, and the press’s disgraceful disregard for the music’s gifted practitioners, Anthony announced, in 1982, that he was going to launch “a jazz magazine” and laid out an ambitious agenda. 

The first few issues of The Wire were funded via Anthony’s dwindling savings and produced by an enthusiastic team of music-loving friends. Eventually, Anthony’s persistence in finding a backer was rewarded. The Wire (“Jazz, Improvised Music and…”) magazine became formally funded in 1984 with generous support from publishing magnate Naim Attallah: an extraordinary achievement. Unfortunately, Anthony, with no practical editorial experience or real business acumen, struggled to keep such an off-the-wall magazine afloat. 

In 1985, Anthony was to lose The Wire during a brutal boardroom cornering. This cruel experience crushed him: he never fully recovered. He turned away from the music that had fed his dreams and kept a low profile for too many ensuing years.

Anthony, a life-long “hard-core biker”, embraced the freedom of the open road, zapping round the world on a terrifyingly “customised” BMW superbike, his pride and joy. Now in his early 70s, with a new lease of life, Anthony began writing wonderfully absorbing articles for the motorcycle press describing his colourful biking adventures, with exciting plans to create a website for Third Age Bikers like himself.

In August this year, Anthony was poignantly captured on video on The Camping Biker’s You Tube channel. His last assignment was “reporting” on how the UK’s biker cafés had coped with lockdown.

Few people’s lives have burned as brightly as Anthony’s – he seemed fireproof and it’s hard to believe that his flame has so prematurely been snuffed out. Anthony Wood’s place in the music will not be forgotten – he was a visionary, a pioneer on so many levels . . . and he is simply irreplaceable.

Anthony Wood, 7 June 1948 – 15 September 2021

Chrissie Murray (co-founder of The Wire) can be contacted at chrissiemurray@hotmail.com


Chrissie Murray adds (08 October 2021):

Anthony’s funeral will take place on Thursday, 14th October, at 12.15pm, at Charing Crematorium, New Court Wood, Charing, Ashford, Kent TN27 0EB. The non-religous service will be streamed online (still awaiting final viewing details). https://www.charing-crematorium.co.uk/index.php

Family flowers only, please, but if anyone wishes to send a donation in memory of Anthony, his family have chosen two charities…

BBRF – British Biker Relief Foundation who support motorcyclists and their families across the UK after serious and life-changing injuries sustained in a motorcycle road traffic accident.
https://www.bbrf.uk

Soup4Lunch – Hammersmith Community Gardens Association Social Programmes in Sheltered Housing for over 50s and vulnerable adults.
https://hcga.org.uk/projects/soup4lunch/