Blindness

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When I first met Sade, in 1982, I could still make out the faces of the people I dealt with. I could describe her down to the little puckers in the corners of her mouth, her hairline and skin-tone. Despite the gradual worsening of my condition, I had a perfectly adequate visual image, particularly under studio lighting, which I was able to control within my own surroundings.

For the second album in 1985 she chose to do it in a residential recording studio in the middle of a swamp in the Camargue. The accommodation was up a rickety stone staircase a quarter of a mile away from the bizarre house with the studio. There was a swimming pool another quarter of a mile away. She had seen me operating in the Power Plant three years before. She had no idea that I was now virtually blind because it wasn’t something I thought it necessary to keep telling people. What was I going to do? Issue daily bulletins on my gradual decline? So what would happen would be a roadie would leave a flight case at the bottom of a flight of stairs. I would come running down and go headlong over it. The decline was so slow that I hardly noticed. It was just that things gradually became more and more difficult. Sade couldn’t have known that on my own in the South of France I would now be helpless.

The band had transformed from being a young, keen, obedient bunch of nobodies who had never recorded a note of music in their lives, into a bunch of millionaire superstars with several number one hits under their belts. They wanted to have fun and laze around by the pool, drink and drive about the countryside in little jeeps, working crazy hours. As a result I was often stuck for hours in the control room, not knowing where anyone was, physically unable to find my way to the swimming pool, frightened of going back to my room because there was a sheer drop on one side, and on edge from constantly sitting on hornets and hearing stories about sightings of scorpions.

Waking up every morning, opening your eyes and seeing nothing is a miserable beginning to every day when you’ve had eight hours to forget and dream and imagine. When I open my eyes each day I know that, if I am lucky I will stub my toe a few times, bang my head, cut my finger, trap my willy, fall down a flight of stairs and burn myself. If I’m unlucky I’ll break my nose again and end up back in hospital. I shrug that feeling of despair off very quickly. I am determined not to give in to it. I may be a blind man, but I am damned if I am going to be an unhappy one.