Off the cuff one afternoon while messing around in the office, I emailed someone I admired very much, Celia Ford Drummond, who had once gone by the name of Celia Humphris. She had been the lead singer of the UK folk rock group, Trees, back in the early 1970s. When the band dissolved she became an actress and voice over artist. She was even the voice of the London underground and rail lines up and down the country. To this day I believe her voice can be heard on some platforms across the UK saying "Mind the gap."
Anyway, I had interviewed Celia for Hound Dawg Magazine, my free PDF on the arts, in 2010. Trees were one of my favourite bands and she was a personal favourite singer. We had stayed in touch in the two years that followed, and once I had these new tracks together, I emailed her in early to mid 2012. Feeling brave, I asked if she'd be interested in hearing a song or two. I added, somewhat sheepishly, that if she liked them she might even fancy providing some vocals to them. She said she'd give them a listen, but that she didn't do much singing these days. I expected, quite naturally, a no. A day or so later she got back to me and said she liked them and would gladly provide some backing vocals. I was blown away.
The first one we did was called All Day Long, written about a strange man that lived near us who went out and performed weird hand signals to his mother, who he could see looking out at him from the window - despite the fact she had been dead for years. We nicknamed him Spike, due to his resemblance to Spike Milligan. I was happy with the song itself, but when Celia sent me back her vocals, the song took on a new life. In all honesty, I actually cried when I heard what she'd done. She had recorded four voices, all harmonising, all beautiful, all mystical. Anyone who likes Trees will know that Celia really knew how to play with her voice and was a truly fantastic singer. Hearing her tones isolated from any music, then mixing them on the headphones on my PC, I could hear the power of her voice, the way she could move it and bend it.
Once I mixed her four takes into the track, I sent it back to Celia. At first she was surprised, because she hadn't intended me to use all four, as they were just different takes. But it had been a happy accident and we both agreed that it sounded good... which is the understatement of the year. (I still get shivers listening to her vocals on that song.)
After that she did two more for me, Meet Our May and Say Goodbye. I decided to call this new weird project Dodson and Fogg, after the two solicitors in Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers. I also got the late Judy Dyble on to do a spot of guest vocals (eerily enough the voice of a ghost on a song called Weather Changes) and Hawkwind legend Nik Turner even sent me across some far out flute playing to put on a track or two. Even though other people were on the album, it was Celia who impressed me the most. I couldn't quite believe I was sharing audio space with the voice of Trees, who had hauntingly sung about the Garden of Jane Delawney and Polly On the Shore four decades before on those two iconic, mythical albums. It was one of those "pinch me" moments.
Celia enjoyed doing the vocals so much, and was so pleasantly surprised that feedback was as good as it was, that she said she'd be up for more collaborations in the future. Over the next few years she contributed to a lot of songs, and everything she did was astounding to me. She's on quite a few Dodson and Fogg albums, and her work on In A Strange Slumber and Derring Do is especially special to me. In about 2016 we stopped collaborating as much. Her voice became more tired, and she found she had less time to record vocals due to other commitments. When she told me her health was failing her, I naturally assumed, given her positivity, that she was going to be OK. Sadly, she passed away in early 2021. I was genuinely devastated. I never met her in person, but we emailed a lot, shared jokes, checked on each other's families, and most importantly of all, got creative together. And the music we collaborated on means the world to me. The last bit of work she did was for my art film, A Full House of Empty Rooms, a bit of narration for the start and the end. But it's the music I will remember most of all, and the magical qualities of her immortal voice. I feel blessed I decided to email her that day, out of the blue, and asked her if she'd like to do a spot of singing. Thank God I did.