It's kind of a long story, and it starts before Kelly knew she was terminally ill. Few people know all of it so far, but I feel you ought to. Kelly wanted to write this book for her fans, and if you are on this page, you're probably one of us.
Kelly was working on her memoirs a couple of years before she was declared terminally ill, but she definitely started the whole process because of cancer. She may have been in remission, and feeling like she had been given a second chance at life when she started. I recall times when I’d visit them in Streatham and Jax and I would be watching TV, while Kel was tapping away at the computer behind us.
I will always remember how loud the fan on her computer was.
When Kelly got the news that this time her cancer was terminal, she became incredibly driven to get her memoirs finished. It must have been in the summer of 2006 that Kelly first gave me a floppy disk containing her work so far. I was completely blown away. She hadn’t shown it to anyone else. Kel was under no illusions that it was anywhere near finished.
She wanted me to tell her if I thought it was interesting enough to become something that her fans would want. I did.
In 2007, Kelly went into the hospice. She started to worry that she might not have enough material down on paper yet. Kel was only supposed to be staying there to get her pain under control and thought she could continue when she got back home. But as the weeks went by, and the pain medication went up, it slowly began to dawn on all of us that she just might not be going home. She couldn’t type or write anymore. So we decided we’d just talk about everything else that she could think of that she wanted to put in the book. I would record our conversations, and transcribe them – verbatim – in order to finish the story.
Those parts of the book are not the witty, well-constructed, engrossing pieces of prose like the chapters Kel physically wrote, spending hours or weeks mulling over, editing, re-editing and reconstructing. But they do fill in some of the gaps, and they are Kelly’s words.
Working on the book that way, under those conditions, presented us with yet another dilemma – Kelly had now forgotten some details of the tales she wanted to tell. So, she asked me to check some facts with family members, fellow musicians and some of the many friends she had collected over the years.
Then, Kelly had lost the ability to speak. It was about three weeks before she died - there were three of us in the room with her, and we were talking about the book - and while we were all discussing this project that meant so much to her, she was becoming agitated.
After much guesswork, we figured out that she was not convinced that there was enough there for a book, or that it just wouldn’t get out to the fans.
So I took her face in my hands, looked into her beautiful, fading eyes, and said ‘We absolutely have enough, Kel. I promise we’ve got this.’ A single tear rolled out, she closed her eyes, and she never opened them again.
I’m not exaggerating, adding anything, or being dramatic in any way - that’s exactly what happened. It was one of the most poignant moments of my whole, entire life - one I'll never forget.
It was over a year before I could even bring myself to listen to the recordings we had made. Then I spent a few years visiting everyone Kelly had asked me to talk to – or meeting them on the Internet if they were too far away.
I went to see her dad – Poppa J – he wasn’t ready to write his contribution to the book at the time. Be gave me every single photograph of Kelly that he had. He had been a keen photographer when Kelly was young.
I spoke to quite a few people that Kelly had not mentioned, as I wanted to make the book as extensive as was possible. Some made promises they failed to keep. When I felt like I finally had enough, I had no money. But I had a plan.
It was the time of e-books, and I figured if I’d publish the first book electronically, it’d surely raise enough to get a ‘proper’ print.
I had to do all the proofreading, editing, design and layout myself. Not a problem with my graphic design and editorial background. The difficulty was in making sure that the formatting was perfect, or the publisher would reject it. And I mean perfect. I have never had so much rejection in my life.
Guess how many pictures I could fit in the same publication as Kelly’s words? 32. Yep. That’s how it was back then. Ridiculous. So, because I wanted as many pictures as possible, I had to publish it as two volumes, with more to come.
And it still took ages to get it right. On the 28th of July 2012, a book celebrating Kelly’s life was launched into the ether. A book that Kelly started and we, her friends, family, and colleagues finished. Well, sort of finished. It will never be finished because there will always be more to say. But it was roughly rounded out.
Out it went, and in the first year, we sold 43 copies. Sad face. I really hoped it would do better than that. A stranger to the ways of Facebook promotion, I posted it on there. A few times. I was hoping that the Facebook fairies would take care of Kel’s book. But they were off that day.
Since publishing, the book has sold a total of 107 copies, and the picture book has sold 33. I now know that they have been pirated a lot (duh). Still, I feel immensely grateful for the wonderful feedback we had for the book.
In 2017, thinking of Kel’s upcoming 60th birthday, I began work on another picture book. This time, I was less accepting of the limitations imposed on the project by the publisher. Enough of this!
It was time to start thinking of ways to get that long-overdue hardback edition underway.