Death is Not the End – the conspiracy surrounding the deaths of John Bauldie and Matthew Harding

John Bauldie

I NEVER thought for one minute that a life-long obsession with music legend Bob Dylan would collide head on with my 30 year career as an investigative journalist.

But it has done… in the most unexpected way imaginable.

It is a story of a common love, friendship, a sudden and tragic death and an ongoing murder conspiracy.

A conspiracy which may touch the highest levels of British society.

My love and obsession with Bob Dylan has now spanned more than 40 years.

But it was back in 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

And with it an equally unexpected friendship.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mother bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. And while meandering through the appendices I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to the magazine instantly.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

John was an ebullient personality, sometimes sounding dour with his native Lancashire drawl, but always enthused by anything to do with Bob Dylan and his hometown football team Bolton Wanderers.

And as a fellow journalist, we automatically had a lot in common.

John was one of the world’s foremost authorities on Dylan’s music. He wrote several key books on him as well as – since 1981 – editing and publishing the superb Telegraph.

Yet there was nobody less like the stereotyped “anorak” than John.

A former lecturer in English literature he was a dapper and cultured man, who brought a well-rounded intelligence to his quest.

His vocation was to amass the data and win for his hero the serious appraisal due to an outstanding 20th century performer.

He only met Dylan once, and that was by accident.

Following a US tour, he was passing the singer’s tour bus when Dylan sauntered out.

The two men held a brief and genial conversation, in the course of which John won a much prized endorsement for his magazine.

“The Telegraph?” Bob murmured. “I seen a few issues of that. It’s pretty interesting.”

That was all the recognition that John required.

Then in 1987 – coinciding with our first contact – he left his teaching days behind him and joined the small team at the newly-launched Q magazine, as a sub-editor.

Meanwhile, I quickly became a regular contributor to The Telegraph and would often engage in long telephone conversations with John at his home in Romford, swapping his immense knowledge of Dylan with my suggestions for magazine lay-out, typography and style.

He seemed like a god to me and was always the first person I turned to for tickets to Dylan gigs – usually after he broke the news of the great man’s next tour.

John loved to travel with his longstanding partner, Penny Garner, and would invariably plan his year around Dylan’s interminable tour itineraries.

And he always cut a memorable figure at those gigs. You’d spot him, immaculately turned-out in his camel-hair coat as he shared his insights and a few drinks with fellow fans.

And it was wholly due to John that I joined him on a flight to Brussels in the summer of 1989 to follow Bob Dylan around Europe, and witness Dylan’s greatest gig at the Statenhal in Den Haag.

When I moved to Scotland in late 1990 to begin a full-time job as a newspaper editor, our telephone conversations became less frequent, but we still had time to meet for a chat before Dylan’s gigs at Glasgow’s SECC in February 1991.

And my quarterly copy of The Telegraph still arrived promptly every three months.

So, it was in total shock and disbelief when I discovered that John, aged just 47, had been killed in seemingly freak helicopter crash in Cheshire.

It was the same crash which killed Chelsea multi-millionaire vice chairman Matthew Harding and three other people on 22 October 1996.

Harding had given John a lift in his private helicopter to watch his love Bolton Wanderers, defeat Chelsea in a Coca-Cola cup tie at Burnden Park.

Ironically it was their mutual love of Bob Dylan which first brought John and Matthew Harding together.

Some months later I wrote to John’s widow Penny, expressing my condolences and deep sadness at John’s death.

Penny replied almost immediately and I have treasured her hand written letter for the past 20 years.

And there my grief and memory of John Bauldie should have remained.

But, last month my investigative senses were stimulated by a chance conversation with another Dylan fanatic at record fair in my local town.

He told me that Penny had died homeless and destitute a few years after John’s tragic death, and both their deaths were not as they might seem.

On arriving home I quickly found online a copy of the official report into the helicopter crash which took John’s life.

The report, dated November 1997, said that the pilot of the twin-engined French Aerospatiale AS 355F1 Squirrel had neither the qualifications nor experience to control the aircraft after it got into difficulties.

Michael Goss, 38, had gone off route on the night of the crash and headed for an area of high ground which a weather forecaster had advised him to avoid.

The report said that after taking off from Bolton after the match, the flight had to operate below an overcast cloud layer which was below the minimum safe en-route altitude.

But, 20 years later there are now allegations that Matthew Harding and his fellow passengers died, not because of an incompetent helicopter pilot, but because of their knowledge of police and local council corruption in property development schemes within the London Borough of Havering.

And it was the friendship between Harding, John Bauldie and his partner Penny, which now may explain the conspiracy surrounding their deaths.

Penny Garner was a Biology lecturer at Havering College of Further and Higher Education – not far from her and John’s home in Romford.

She prepared her students for their A-levels and future careers in Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Industry.

During the mid 1990s Penny witnessed criminal issues at the college, created in a failed attempt to close the college for property development.

She struggled with these issues not least due to the wayward management of a faculty head who failed to deal with staff who had purchased a machine gun with live ammunition on college premises.

The machine gun was fired on college grounds with a resulting flood of calls to Havering police.

The college had a large number of students from Irish backgrounds and with the Northern Ireland troubles still flaring many feared there might be links to IRA terrorism.

But witnesses later swore that a Conservative councillor encouraged the sale of the machine gun at the college, via a third party intermediary resident in Lake Rise, Romford.

The gun was later resold, by a science technician in Penny’s faculty, who was encouraged by a well-known local Tory activist involved in the property development plans.

Allegations soon surfaced that the firearms sales, random assaults and thefts were part of a dirty tricks campaign by local Conservative activists and councillors in attempt to close the college.

There were further allegations that their friends in the local police had full knowledge of this campaign.

Penny made John aware of these events.

John and his editorship of The Telegraph was already being investigated without just cause in an attempt to find “dirt” against those opposing the closure of the college for property development.

The corruption involved was such that the attempt to close the college was stopped for fear of official enquiries into the conduct of the Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Parties and associates in Havering Borough Police station.

Shortly before his death, John told Matthew Harding about the events at the college. Matthew Harding took a keen interest to find out more and promised to look into the matter.

Harding also had a political axe to grind as he disliked the Conservative Party and recently donated funds to Tony Blair and New Labour.

But the conspiracy gets deeper…

Just two years ago it came to light that murdered BBC Crimewatch host Jill Dando had been probing the death of Matthew Harding and his four friends.

Ms Dando was gunned down on her doorstep in Fulham, south-west London, in April 1999. The killer has yet to be caught, but much evidence points to police, MI5 and political corruption at the highest level.

“Jill told me she was investigating the death of her friend Matthew Harding and money laundering claims,” said a BBC colleague.

“She was killed after ignoring two warnings to back off.”

The source claims Harding first told a friend, Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin, about his fears about corruption and money laundering over property developments.

But Ms Guerin was then murdered in 1996 while working on a drugs inquiry in Dublin.

A panicked Harding then repeated his concerns to BBC journalist Ms Dando.

He died just four months later.

The source added: “Jill told me she had begun investigating Matthew’s death and the concerns he had shared with her.

“Somebody tried to warn her off but she persisted in her inquiries.”

The conspiracy remains unsolved, but as someone once said: “This can of worms only opens from the inside”.

Watch this space!

Journey Through Dark Heat – Part 3 (1983-1988)

EBP_B465-30_Bob Dylan14

Standing on the waters casting your bread

While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing

Distant ships sailing into the mist

You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing

Freedom just around the corner for you

But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?

 

I SIT here under a blue May sky ruminating about Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday, his longevity, his timeless brilliance and the many wonderful musicians we have lost this past year… and realise it is time once again to continue my own personal journey through dark heat.

Time is an ocean, so let’s travel on…

As the long hot summer of 1983 ventured into autumn, word was coming from across the Atlantic that Dylan was jettisoning much of his gospel baggage and venturing down a new road – once again.

Certainly his so-called Musical Retrospective Tour of 1981 – which concluded in Lakeland on 21 November gave early indications of this variation of his journey.

So after taking a two year rest from the road, and with Dire Straits guitarist and producer Mark Knopfler at his side, on 27 October 1983, Bob delivered his 22nd studio album and his most accessibly commercial release to date: Infidels.

Infidels is still regarded as the first secular record Bob Dylan had recorded since Street Legal, filled with songs that are evocative in their imagery and direct in their approach.

Indeed, upon its release the album was immediately heralded as a return from born-again proselytizing, and began Dylan’s journey back toward mainstream music making — it would have surely been a stand-out all-time classic, but for some last-minute tinkering.

Two key songs were left on the cutting room floor as Dylan continued editing and re-recording Infidels, long after Knopfler had left to pursue his own separate musical interests.

The out-take Blind Willie McTell later gained a talismanic import among fans before finally appearing on 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

The sessions also included Foot of Pride, a perfectly executed Dylan put-down about those trapped in ego. And the bouncing Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart was subsequently re-drafted for 1985’s Empire Burlesque.

In their place went Union Sundown, a much lesser effort, Sweetheart Like You, a wayward song of misogynism , License to Kill, and the now-expected album-closing paean to a lover, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight.

Weaker than what may have been possible if he had included the outtakes, but still mesmerising – Dylan’s own flawed genius. Each tracks had a sleek approach that updated his sound without dismantling its foundational wit.

Credit there goes to Knopfler, and an all-star cast that included Mick Taylor, Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar — the latter of whom gave Jokerman its groove.

In manner and tone, that track connected back to the promise of Dylan’s mid-1970s work, and gave us the first concrete hint at the third-act successes to come beginning with 1989’s Oh Mercy.

But looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight it is baffling that any critic can call Infidels a return to “secular recording” for Bob Dylan.

After three straight Christian albums, the record was certainly more broad in its horizons, at least when compared to its predecessor, Shot of Love or the second Born-Again album Saved, but its attitude is still as straightforward and uncompromising as Slow Train Coming.

But his lyricism here is more deliciously complex than on the three predecessors; a glance at Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight may suggest that it’s a simple song about sex, but it’s not, it’s much deeper and much more creative than that.

Jokerman boasts a reggae influence and Dylan’s alluring attempt to try and reveal false prophets, as he does elsewhere when he clearly states that sometimes Satan disguises himself as a Man of Peace.

The driving Neighborhood Bully pays homage to the rocking Shot of Love, but with a much more complex political message, unlike the straightforward social statements of License To Kill and Union Sundown. The second track Sweetheart Like You may have a clichéd title, but the content within is bursting with originality and mystery, much like I and I.

The different spiritual elements that make up Infidels would put many other artists in a creative whirl, but here Bob Dylan handles them all with integrity and delivers one of his most effective stand-alone albums.

At home this new album was played to exhaustion during the winter of 1983, punctuated only by the news that Bob would be doing a Europe only tour during the summer of 1984.

It would be a stadium tour and my first chance to see him live since that halcyon gig at Earls Court six years earlier.

On 21 May, 1984 in the low key city of Brno in Czechoslovakia, Dylan set-out on a 27 date tour, playing some of the biggest and best known European music venues including Ullevi Stadion in Gothenburg, Sweden, St James Park in Newcastle, Wembley Stadium and Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland.

And so on Saturday 7 July, on a beautiful summer’s day, armed with two tickets and iconic T shirts, I drove with my kid sister Fiona, from our home in rural Herefordshire to the bustle and excitement of north London and Wembley Stadium.

What a day and what a concert it was to be.

It was Dylan’s biggest concert in England since the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and appearing before 72,000 people at London’s open-air Wembley Stadium on the evening of July 7th, turned it into one of the highlights of his performing career.

And I was there… standing near the front with my 17 year-old sister perched on my shoulders for much of the gig.

The show was Dylan’s penultimate appearance of the tour, and as he seemed positively relaxed, cheerfully greeting such old friends and musical colleagues as Mick Jagger, Mark Knopfler, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton.

But when Dylan danced out onstage later that evening, wearing a black frock coat and sporting dark sun glasses and a shock of wild, curly hair, he looked like nothing less than a holy man possessed.

And from the moment he and his band (ex-Faces’ keyboard player Ian McLagan, ex-Stone the Crows drummer Colin Allen, bassist Greg Sutton and  former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor) broke into an electrifying Highway 61, it was clear that Dylan was once again rockin’.

Moreover, his voice – full of passionate declamations and dramatic vocal leaps, and displaying an emotional palette that ranged from proud anger to unabashed tenderness – immediately brought his audience back to the days of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

During his two-and-a-half-hour performance, Dylan sang twenty-five songs.

The first part of the concert included sensational renditions of three tracks from his Infidels album: Jokerman, I and I and License to Kill.

But Dylan and the band were most impressive in the way they gave new life to his older songs, turning Just like a Woman into a rollicking waltz, Simple Twist of Fate into a sensual rock samba, Every Grain of Sand into a haunted Basement Tapes meditation and Maggie’s Farm – with the rhythmic riff of Obviously Five Believers – into a sardonic and fierce protest song – now obliquely directed at then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He also performed three acoustic numbers: a gentle version of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, a folk- and bluegrass-tinged rendition of Tangled Up in Blue and a searing reinterpretation of It’s Alright, Ma.

With only his guitar and harmonica, the 43 year-old Dylan somehow made the vast spaces of Wembley Stadium shrink into what seemed like an intimate circle around a campfire, as the crowd accompanied him in the refrains to each of these songs.

The audience continued to sing along when Dylan brought the band back to conclude the first part of the concert with an ecstatic version of Like a Rolling Stone.

For his encore, Dylan did three more acoustic numbers: Mr Tambourine Man, Girl From the North Country and It Ain’t Me Babe.

Then, thinking it was all over Fiona and I made our way to the exits, when suddenly from out of the wings, the band re-emerged, along with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Chrissie Hynde, and the entire entourage proceeded to give a stunning performance of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.

As if that wasn’t enough, Van Morrison joined everyone onstage and sang a soulful, unsurpassable version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, with Chrissie Hynde and Dylan providing backup vocals.

After receiving a thunderous ovation, Morrison left the stage, and the remaining musicians launched into high-powered performances of Tombstone Blues, the irrepressible Senor, The Times They are A-Changin’ and, finally, Blowin’ in the Wind.

Thousands of people danced, and matches were lit. A half moon appeared, and the summer stars twinkled in the sky above.

Speaking strictly for me, I could have died then and there in a pure bliss I would never find again.

In the words of my other muse, David Bowie that day was captured thus:

The Children of the summer’s end

Gathered in the dampened grass

We played Our songs and felt the London sky

Resting on our hands

It was God’s land

It was ragged and naive

It was Heaven

 

But this was Bob, back to his very best… a best we would not see live again for many years.

 

We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex

It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects

When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty

Somebody’s got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me

 

So go on, boys, and play your hands, life is a pantomime

The ringleaders from the county seat say you don’t have all that much time

And the girl with me behind the shades, she ain’t my property

One of us has got to hit the road, I guess it must be up to me

 

And if we never meet again, baby, remember me

How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody

And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you, free

No one else could play that tune, you know it was up to me

A surprise live album Real Live was released in the winter of 1984 which documented Dylan’s European  summer.

Six songs from the album were recorded from that Wembley performance, two songs were recorded at St James Park on July 5 and another two from Slane Castle, Ireland.

Although I have since acquired a wonderful bootleg CD of the entire Wembley gig, Real Live was to remain for many years my only tangible record of that wonderful day in July 1984.

Back home, the next four years were to be punctuated by a new Dylan album almost every year: the commercially quirky Empire Burlesque (1985), the curate’s egg of Knocked Out Loaded (1986), the live video with Tom Petty Hard to Handle (1986), the movie soundtrack Hearts of Fire (1987) the forgettable Down in the Groove (1988) and the live Dylan and the Dead (1989).

But while Dylan was being profligate in his recording and commercial releases, one thing appeared clear during the late 1980s, the quality of his work was suffering, and creativity had exited stage left.

But it was during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the magnificent book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to this gem instantly.

And so began the opening up of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me. A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £2 a time!

Enthused and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy called Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 10 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown recording jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied between crackly and poor to just amazing and clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

 

Look out across the fields, see me returning

Smoke is in your eye, you draw a smile

From the fireplace where my letters to you are burning

You’ve had time to think about it for a while

 

Well, I’ve walked two hundred miles, now look me over

It’s the end of the chase and the moon is high

It won’t matter who loves who

You’ll love me or I’ll love you

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

I can see through your walls and I know you’re hurting

Sorrow covers you up like a cape

Only yesterday I know that you’ve been flirting

With disaster that you managed to escape

 

I can’t provide for you no easy answers

Who are you that I should have to lie?

You’ll know all about it, love

It’ll fit you like a glove

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

The late 1980s may have been a washout for Dylan’s creativity, but for me it was a New Morning and a herald of a new dawn.

The combined miracles of The Traveling Wilburys, Oh Mercy, following my hero around Europe, and meeting him face to face was just around the corner.

But that is a story for the next episode of this personal journey through dark heat.

To be continued…

Brief Encounter #3

Mel SmithMel Smith

MY encounter with the portly and incredibly funny Mel Smith was brief and eternally memorable.

For those who don’t know me, one of my lifelong passions – indeed an obsession – is the music of a certain Robert Allen Zimmerman, known to the world as Bob Dylan.

I have followed Mr Dylan to gigs across the UK and Europe, and as age catches up with me and my hearing fades I truly believe the voice of the legend just gets better and better.

Anyway I digress.

It is February 1990 and I have tickets for three successive nights of a six night Bob Dylan residency at the Hammersmith Apollo in London.

On the first night at the Apollo I manage to brush shoulders with former England fast bowler Bob Willis and the late and great Dylanologist John Bauldie in the theatre bar. I also manage to get my car locked in a multi-storey car park and have to pay the attendant £10 to free it for me.

So when the second night arrives – and to save any repetition of the car park fiasco of the previous evening – I decide to beat the rush and leave during Bob’s second encore. On this evening that song is a delightful solo of Dark is a Dungeon.

I catch just the first two verses on the alleyway to the stairs before leaving quietly and quickly.

I arrive at the swing doors of the Apollo in an empty foyer and am set to leave into the cold winter night. I fumble in my leather jacket pocket for my car keys when suddenly I am almost knocked over by a bustling and puffing man also making a fast exit from the gig.

I look up to see the smiling and slightly red face of Mr Smith.

“Oops, sorry mate,” he says as he pushes through the doors.

He turns briefly and adds: “Sorry I am in a rush”, before disappearing into the night.

I guess there were two concert goers that night who missed the full beauty of Bob’s Dark is a Dungeon… Mel and me!