Elaine di Falco
Hugh Hopper

By Elaine di Falco
June 14, 2009

It has been a difficult week. The last time I saw Hugh was at BajaProg in 2004 when I played with Glass and Richard Sinclair. It was wonderful as always to see him. I had tried in recent months to get a hold of him. I sent a Christmas card, but never heard back. I tried to call on his birthday but found I didn't have the current number. Too much time had passed. I was out of the loop.

When I heard last Sunday that he had passed my heart sank. I thought about Christine and Rosa. I hoped they were holding as strong as can be expected. I thought about all his friends and colleagues.

I had known for a long time that though Hugh might not have been a frequently active part of my life, the parts of my life that did involve him meant a great deal to me. Some of the following details are a little foggy; others are vivid. It's been years, but this is the story of how he touched my life.

In 1993, maybe '94, Hugh sent a letter to Fred Chalenor; it read, "Fred, Musiche Magazine accuses you of playing fuzz bass. Could this be true?". It was penned in all capital letters on a rather small piece of paper. Fred was elated. Hugh was one of Fred's bass heroes. I had never heard of him. I missed that boat. I was born in 1970, and my exposure to that world of music hadn't happened yet.

Shortly afterwards, a series of letters and music charts started darting back and forth through the post between these two bass enthusiasts. Fred asked for the music for Sliding Dogs so we could play it in our band. Then Fred wrote a song called The Hugest Hopper which was released on this obscure compilation of Portland bands that I can't even remember the name of. Then, one day a package filled with numerous bits of music arrived from Hugh inviting us to do with it what we wanted. This turned into the Caveman Hughscore album released on Tim Kerr Records.

I remember preparing for this. Fred and I had just fallen in love, and since we now lived together we practiced this music constantly, and diligently. I very much enjoyed climbing inside a whole new set of compositions that all had a distinct voice that was familiar to the world of Hugh Hopper fans, but completely new to me. His pieces had well thought out layers of two or three voices of these oddly interlocking parts. It was also the same time I had started to learn the accordion. It was a vibrant time in my life.

Finally, preparations were made to fly Hugh out to record with us. I seem to remember that he hadnít been to Oregon since he toured with Hendrix in '68. In the days preceding his arrival I remember thinking to myself that it would very easy for me to be extremely nervous and wound up, but then I thought of the fact that, until recently, I had never heard of him. I decided to not allow myself to go that route. I just wanted to have fun.

We picked him up at the airport, and Fred and Henry met him with a cordial handshake. I felt it would be okay to just go ahead and give him a hug and set the tone right away. I'll never forget how warmly he responded. He gave me a very tight squeeze and went, "Arrrrggghh!" I liked him immediately.

Working with him in the studio was so much fun. He was so open minded and willing to try anything. We all felt so comfortable around him, like a kindred spirit in music. He was open to anything we wanted to do. The only thing that seemed to fall short for him was the fact that I didn't sing on more songs. He wanted more voice, so Henry stepped up to record his poems. During his stay we took him to Bagby Hot Springs up in the mountains. It was beautiful and there was some snow in the pine forest. We were able to hike for a while to get there. It was wonderful.

For the next project, Fred and I had moved to Seattle. Hugh had sent us material to start tinkering with and then one day we got a letter or a call from Hugh, I donít remember which, but he revealed that he was turning 50. He also said he met a beautiful woman in France, and that she was pregnant. He also said he was about to have an angioplasty. This was an awful lot in one fell swoop. Fred and I were shocked at the radi

I started thinking about how nervous I would be to have heart surgery. I imagined what it must be like for him to face the reality of that. I took one of the bits of music he wrote and added a bridge, lyrics, and gave it a form. Then I recorded a demo version for Hugh and sent it to him as a gift. That song was Lullaby, from HighSpotParadox. I put the recording in a big box with a bunch of toys and funny oddities. I also got the record label to send him flowers. I wanted the song to serve as a token of support and love; for him to have as a focus when he's to face that moment when he has to go under the knife. I realized very consciously at that time that I had great affection and love for Hugh. I cared about him. I realized then how bummed I would be if anything ever happened to him.

I remember the night Hugh arrived in Seattle to record HighSpotParadox. Fred had a gig with Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash at the OK Hotel. Hugh and I walked in and I remember Hugh mentioning something about Lullaby. I said to him with my arms outstretched, "It's a proclamation of love!". He smiled as we took our seat for the show.

It was during that trip that he experienced his first earthquake. We were sitting in the living room of Eyvind Kang's house socializing. Hugh was sitting in the corner in a lazy-boy chair. The earthquake hit and the look on his face was priceless. He was totally stunned. I wish I could remember what he thought it was at first. It was 5.3.

He stayed at the King's Inn in downtown Seattle. When we dropped him off there he said, "King's Inn, Queen's out!". Forever after, when I would pass that place I would always run that through my head and think of Hugh and chuckle.

For Delta Flora I had the tremendous honor of bringing the basic tracks recorded in Seattle with me to England. I stayed with Hugh and Christine and Rosa for the last week of September of 1997. That was such a wonderful experience. We ate fresh fish from the market in Whitestable everyday. At the local flea market I bought a tea cozy knitted by the same woman who made the cozy that Hugh and Christine had. To this day, that is a very precious thing to me. It looks like a little house. Hugh and I walked around Whitestable one day running errands and we spent some time in a little art gallery. I bought a print of one of the artists. It's a beautiful ocean scenario. It has always hung in my bathroom. Hugh, Christine, Rosa and I also drove out to Dover one day and hung out on the coast. I have pictures somewhere of this. They took me to the house where Hugh's grandmother was born; the house where everybody hung out during the early 60's. I can't remember if it was Wyatt's place or what, but it's written about in Wrong Movements. They also showed me the primary school where they all went together. I have pictures from this day. I need to find them, copy them and send them to Christine. I might have done so after I got back, but just in case.

Hugh and Christine had a very beautiful life there. Rosa was so cute. She would call Hugh, "Daddy-O", Christine was "Mommy-O", and everybody else was "Baby-O". She had a towel or baby blanket she would chew on and called it her "Fa-Fa". She was very beautiful. I can only imagine what kind of amazing young woman she must be now.

Another important point from this trip was that Christine taught me how to knit. I can't tell you how big of a deal it was to me that not only did I learn to knit, but that it was her who taught me. She was very gracious and sweet to me while I was there.

Fred and I were touring with the Walkabouts in 1999 and we passed through England. Hugh and family met us in London and ate at some restaurant together. I have photos of this up in my living room right now. I've created a little Hugh shrine. Rosa is sucking on her fa-fa in her mother's arms. So cute.

We finally got to take a stage with Hugh for the second and last time at the Progman Cometh Festival in 2002. (The first time was in Portland at Music Millennium. We went on a few hours after the actress who played Marcia Brady had given a presentation. I remember there were big pastel paper flowers on the wall behind us. How perfect!) It was great to see Hugh, and wonderful to work with him again. He had given us new material for a 4th Hughscore album, some of which we performed at this show. I remember hanging with him and Phil Miller and a few others in his hotel room, just hanging out talking about whatever. Not a bad day for me. I have some photos of me having breakfast with them in the hotel dining area up on my MySpace page. I remember really liking Phil Miller a lot. Freddy Baker and Richard Sinclair. They were all such warm people. It was hard to understand Freddy Baker sometimes because his accent is so damn thick, but what I could figure out was great. Had anyone been conceited or arrogant it would have ruined the experience for me. These people all truly love music. That's why theyíre there.

All this makes me so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to play music with Hugh, and meet these amazing and kind people. I'm so honored.

So when I heard the news, several things went through my mind. All that I have relayed here in my memories of him have been running through my mind. I've been listening to Hughscore, and all the other Hugh Hopper albums I have. One comforting thought I keep returning to is the fact that Hugh did what he wanted in his life, even if it was cut off too early. He played music with as many people as he could all over the world. He had a beautiful loving family. He wrote a ton of great music. His spirit is always so fresh and open. You can hear it in every project he did. He wasn't afraid to reinvent himself. This is a powerful example of how to live a life.

This week has been very strange, indeed. I've been chanting diligently everyday. I wrote these lyrics to help me focus and lead my mind visually into the chant:

Forty-nine rainbows
Divided daily into twos
Leaving one
All one
More than the Earth, moon and sun
Universal language
Into every molecule
Infinite measure
Om Mani Padme Hum

Rest in peace, Hugh. I love you.

© Elaine di Falco 2009

CloudsandClocks.net | June 14, 2009