September 21, 2020

1997-03-19 – The Guardian

1997 03 19 The_Guardian_Wed__Mar_19__1997_

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Pete Townshend tells court
Marchioness victim was
‘a very special musician’

8'5 3 mod icon. a rock
genius and a pinball wiz-
ard. Yesterday Pete Town-
shend gave a slick perfor-
mance in another of his many
guises — Britain's top saxo-
phone expert. writes Alex
The Who's guitarist paid
glowing tribute in the High
Court to Jo Wells, whom he

described as "certainly the
best soprano saxophonist I
have ever heard in pop".

He was giving evidence in
Ms Wells's compensation case
for injuries sustained in the
1989 Marchioness disaster.
She was rescued after spend-
ing three minutes under
water and has not performed
professionally since.

Townshend said he was em-

inently qualified to comment

about saxophones as his
father was a professional
woodwind player and he was
originally taught clarinet.

He had employed Ms Wells
in 1986 and said she could
have had a career at the top of
her profession earning up to
£3,000 a week.

Townshend was accused by
Graham Aldous, representing
the owners of the Marchio—
ness and the dredger. Bow-
belle, of “gilding the lily"
over her abilities to help out a
friend in the industry who

had fallen on hard times. He
added that the star was
known as a man whose state-
ments were “not always tied
to reality“.

He replied: "I may have had
something of a reputation in
the past but I am making this
statement under oath. I am a
mature individual. I am 53
years old. I am aware of what
I am telling you. I didn‘t con-
tribute to my biography
under oath and I don’t spend
my life under oath."

He was not appearing as a
witness out of friendship. “I
hardly knew her. I believe she

was a very special musician
and when I heard she had
been traumatised by a tragic
accident that seemed to me a
great tragedy."

He said he had written 20
hit records with The Who in a
career which began in 1963
and had become a good judge
of musicianship. “Jo really
stuck in my mind. She was
absolutely exceptional both
technicall),v and imagina-
tively. She was the best so-

prano saxophone player I
have ever heard in pop."

Ms Wells. aged 37. who used
to play for Tears For Fears

and the Communards. is dis-
puting the amount of compen- .
sation offered to her by the
buats‘ owners. They have al-
ready settled 123 of 125 other
Claims arising from the tray.-
edy in which 51 died

Richard Cotes. the Bronski
Beat and Communards' key-
board player. said of Ms
Wells: "I have never played
with a more talented

When asked 1! she was a

commercial proposition. he
replied: “Absolutely. I see no
reason why Jo should not
play until her 605 or 705. I

would have thought that at
the very least she could have
continued playing with inter-
national acts."

Mr Cules. of Kettering. “ho
is now a broadcaster and
scriptwriter for Harry En-
field. added: "I never thnught 1

she would have anything but

a glittering musical career."
Ms Wells claims that post

traumatic stress disorder has

turned her into a newotts
wreck. She Is unable to con-

centrate for long enough to
perform and has had tn seek
work as a cleaner.

The ease contin ues.