The lighter side of Peter
Peter Thomson passed away on 28 March 2001 when he was just forty years old, leaving behind an all-too-brief legacy of recorded music released by his band Secession during his lifetime.
By necessity, much time has been devoted to Peter’s darker side – his struggles with mental illness and alcoholism, his depression and his often difficult, irascible temperament. What is rarely acknowledged is his enthusiasm for songwriting and technology, his lighter side and his wicked sense of humour.
His wife, Margaret, whom he married in 1993, here takes a look back at some of those lighter moments from her life with Peter.
“Peter took his songwriting really seriously. He was still working on ideas and writing songs right up until he died, even though he was suffering really badly. Throughout all of his difficulties he had a studio in a part of our house where he’d set up all his equipment – his Emulator II, his Yamaha DX7, his Roland 909 and his guitars. He was always in the studio, always writing.
“He was delighted when the NME wrote that Secession’s album ‘A Dark Enchantment’ was better at sounding like New Order than New Order did. Peter said he would have been happy to retire from the music business there and then when he read that.
“Peter was really proud to be one of the few musicians to own an Emulator, and that’s really what gave ‘A Dark Enchantment’ its distinctive sound. The only other band in Scotland with an Emulator was Blue Nile. There was a time where Peter had to go to their rescue in Edinburgh when they couldn’t work out how to program theirs. ‘It helps if you turn it on,’ was the first thing Peter had to say to them.
“His songwriting was really inspired by films. He cried in the cinema when the Michael character died at the end of ‘The Godfather Part III’. For Peter it was the end of an era. He knew it was coming, but it still affected him.
“He worked on a song that never got finished called ‘Disco Vampire’, which was inspired by the nightclub scene in the original ‘Fright Night’, where Amanda Bearse is dancing with Chris Sarandon’s vampire character and he’s trying to lure her outside. Peter just couldn’t believe what he was seeing. ‘Why would you want to wear that jumper to a disco?’ He couldn’t stop laughing. ‘Disco Vampire’ was written in a matter of minutes. It was so effortless for him: something came into his head, he went off running to his studio, turned on the keyboard, put down a few things, and the song was pretty much written.
“Peter suffered from depression most of his adult life but when he was in a good place he was hilarious. He always insisted that a U2 album would never ever be allowed on our turntable at home. One day, while Peter was up a ladder scraping the ceiling I slipped on ‘Zooropa’. He swung round in horror and I pleaded with him to let it run. He jumped down from the ladder after the third or fourth track, lifted up the cover said ‘That isn’t U2 – that’s Brian Eno.’ That was the only reasoning for allowing it to stay on the turntable. He loved Eno.
“I remember another time where he sat me down to teach me how to play chess. He methodically told me what every piece was, their positions, their moves – he literally took hours showing me that, and I nodded and listened to all of it. I checkmated him in seven moves on our first game. He went ‘Yep, you seem to have the gist of it.’
“He set the board up again. I enquired about the moves that the knight could make once more, just to double check I got his instructions right. I checkmated him again. It was only then that the penny dropped that I was my school’s champion chess player. You can imagine the grudge matches that took place over the years after that.
“Peter always had a Zippo lighter on him and he’d absolutely hate the non-smoking rules we have today. However, there was one time when Peter tried to give up smoking by getting patches. After about six hours he told me that the patches had ran out . I told him that was impossible because they’d given him enough for a week. He burst open his shirt and he had every single one of them all stuck to his chest. It was funny at the time. I do miss him. We did have some laughs.”
Interview: Mat Smith