This eulogy was delivered by The Spirit at his funeral at Possill Park Chapel on Saturday the 15th of June 2019.

Eulogy for Jake Black

The first time I saw Jake I was 26 years old and hanging about with a bunch of queer anarchists in a tower block on the outskirts of Brixton. He was this skinny Scottish bloke in a Burberry cap, who lived in another flat up the stair. If I’m honest, I didn’t take much notice of him, but that might’ve been because I couldn’t understand a bloody word he was saying. He seemed nice enough; just another Chav – as we used to called them – looking to score.

A year later I bumped into him at a party in the railway in Brixton. He was very friendly, even if I still couldn’t understand a word. And it confused me that he seemed to keep breaking into french modernist poetry. I wondered if he might be schizophrenic. He asked me what I was up to. I told him I was on my arse, looking for a room. His eyes lit up, and after a brief discussion we shook hands on thirty quid a week.

It worked out pretty well for the first month or so. It was a two story, two bedroom flat with a nice big living room which he shared with his cat, Ice Cube, named after his favourite rapper. I didn’t see much of him to be honest – he was either out and about or holed up in his ‘scratch’ as he called it, reading paperbacks and listing to John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk. It was a paint-spattered boombox that sat on the shelf above his bed, next to his bottles of mysterious blue liquid.

He seemed impressed when I showed him how to fiddle the budget electricity meter with the switch from an electric lighter, and I was impressed by his tape collection, and his tales of hanging out with Orange Juice, and editing their fan club magazine with his teenage sweetheart Kirsty.

It was okay. He was pretty chilled out – a bit feral, but then so was I. Yeah, pretty good for a month or two. Until I got behind on the rent.

At this point you could say I saw another side of the man. He proceeded to describe, in intricate, excruciating detail exactly what he was going to do to me if i didn’t come up with the money. A pair of pliers was involved, and it culminated with him throwing me out the ‘Windy’. A threat made more convincing by the fact we were living on the nineteenth floor. I think at that point I got a real sense of where he came from.
I remember waking up in the morning to a dreadful Steve Earl cover by some band he said he was in. Alabama something. ‘He’ll never get anywhere with that’ I thought to myself…’and he’s far too old to be in a pop band.’

We had to move out pretty soon after that. He hadn’t paid any rent for at least three years, and there was some issue about theft of electricity. I met him in the Prince Albert a week later, to give him the rest of what I owed him. I apologised profusely for being late, and he apologised for going all Possil on my Ass. He seemed depressed.
‘I’m just an auld cunt’ he said. He was 35 years old.

Four years later, we’re on the main stage at Glastonbury, playing that Steve Earle cover to 5,000 people. Two years after that, we’re in Hollywood, playing on the Jay Leno Show, and Jake’s hobnobbing with Kevin Spacey in the green room, in double breasted suit and wraparound shades. Funny old world…

Over the next twenty years, I had the privilege of sharing stages with Jake all over the world, and getting to know this most original, funny and brilliant of men. I was supposed to be the posh, educated one, but Jake’s knowledge of literature, film, music and politics put me in the shade. In time, I learnt to understand at least 70 per cent of what he said, and it was worth it. Rarely have I met a man with such charisma, wit, and what used to be called ‘range’. One minute he would be expounding the merits of an obscure classic of Italian New Wave cinema, the next regaling you with his pitch perfect Bill Burroughs impression:

“Smash the control images… Smash the control machine…”

By the end, we had bonded, and I’m proud to say we were fast friends. There was an immense sense of freedom with Jake. He was a citizen of the world; in his own words he could ’talk to anybody’. This was demonstrated when he stayed with my Mum in Istanbul. Not speaking a word of Turkish, he befriended a room full of Turkish Football fans, scoring two sought-after tickets to see the Legendary Fenerbache football club. He had that kind of charisma. He was Present. He was Alive. He was there…he was Heavy.

And he got around. He was a hep cat. He was solid gold.

Our relationship wasn’t easy in the early days… if you crossed him, he could assassinate your character with merciless precision, at great volume. But as the years went by he attained a depth of sensitivity and wisdom. Some people get worse as the years go on. Jackie just got better and better. He evolved.

After gigs, while the rest of us were getting coked up in the back of the bus, Jake would be reclining in front of the big screen in the downstairs lounge, watching Werckmeister Harmonies by Bella Tarr with a nice glass of Pinot Noir. Hanging out with Jake, at those moments, was pure sanctuary.

He just had this extraordinary breadth of character – He could be deadly serious, and gloriously silly. He could be viciously cruel, and beautifully kind. He was intensely melancholy, and wonderfully joyful.

He was so High you couldn’t get over him

So wide, you couldn’t get around him

So low, you couldn’t get under him

The mighty Jake.

Goodbye mate.