Obituary: Pierre Perrone. music writer

Born 11 October, 1957 in Marseille, France. Died 27 February, 2016 in Hove, Sussex, aged 58.

Pierre Perrone, music writer, friend to the stars and master of the art of air drumming. Picture: Contributed

Pierre Perrone was unique as a music writer, one who never had trouble getting to meet the pop and rock stars he wrote about, from The Who and the Stones to Tina Turner and Kylie Minogue (right). Such was his reputation and encyclopaedic knowledge of music that the stars wanted to hang out and be photographed with him. Although he was based mostly in London and occasionally in his native France, he worked for several years in Scotland, as a music writer and French teacher and translator, beginning a lifelong love of this country.

For much of the 1980s, he lived with his French girlfriend Francoise in Peebles and drove the A72 every day to teach French at Borders College (for further education) in Galashiels while Francoise taught her language at Peebles High School. Pierre wrote about music for Scottish and UK publications and broadcast for several radio stations, including BBC Radio Scotland and Radio Monte Carlo. After he moved south, he would return to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival every year and to hook up with old friends including radio presenter Billy Sloan and the Glaswegian Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr.

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Perrone and Kerr had first met in Paris during an early Simple Minds tour before the band were famous. After the writer had interviewed Kerr, “we would often disappear to some very late night ‘hole’ to then begin the longest discussions about the thing that made our young lives feel so overwhelmingly exciting. That thing was rock’n’roll,” Kerr said after his friend’s death.

“The thing I connected with most, above my admiration for him as a writer, was his ever-present enthusiasm ... despite his illness he still made it to gigs, interviews, press conferences. His courage over the last years was genuinely inspirational to me. Pierre will be missed. No doubt about it.”

While in Peebles, Perrone also did translations for the Collins French-English dictionary and became known to newsagents in the Borders town as a “mad collector” of music magazines. He also spoke good Italian and reasonable Spanish and German.

Although as a music writer he was fairly paid, he would probably have done it for nothing, purely for the love of music. In fact, it was more of an obsession. There is no Guinness Book record for the music fan who has attended the most gigs but Perrone could probably claim it. He would go to gigs during the day, night or wee hours. Before being stricken with cancer in 2014, he had interviewed each of the Stones individually, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Kylie and Coldplay, as well as actors such as George Clooney and Clint Eastwood and music-loving sports stars including John McEnroe, Lawrence Dallaglio and Pelé.

His favourite musician, interviewee and friend was The Who’s Pete Townshend.

So wide was his scope that he called himself “a frog of all trades”

A big bear of a man, in recent years he was known for his well-crafted obituaries of music stars in the Independent.

His byline at the bottom of a piece made it a must-read for music fans and stars alike who admired both his erudition and his flair with words. To him, obituaries were far from death notices, nor were they eulogies; they were a celebration of someone’s life. Perrone’s obituaries editor at the Independent, Chris Maume, who was also a good friend, described him as “immensely generous of spirit; he was always a workaholic and could be relied upon to provide pieces written with joie de vivre and an eye for the telling detail”.

The Independent’s arts editor, David Lister, added: “He somehow had boundless energy even during his long, debilitating illness. So often an e-mail would arrive saying: ‘I’ve got chemo this morning but don’t worry, I’ll make it to the O2 tonight.”

The Rolling Stones top PR man, Bernard Doherty, recalled seeing Perrone next to the stage at Wembley: “He would ‘air drum’ through the whole tune, his arms doing the snare, hi-hat and tom-toms in perfect time to Charlie Watts. I thought this was a one-off, but he would do this at all the gigs I PR’d – Tina Turner , Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, AC/DC, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel – there he was, tub-thumping the air.”

After moving from Scotland to London in 1986, Perrone worked for 20 years for Paul Raymond’s men’s magazines, editing Men Only and the French-language Club Pour Hommes from an office in Soho.

One friend from that time, Doreen, recalled his “getting off the bus, radio 
cassette player in his pocket, earpiece stuck in his ear, happily twanging his air guitar as he dodged through the traffic.” He worked late in Soho partly because he was a workaholic but also so that he could go straight to a rock gig, pretty much every night.

Pierre Charles Perrone was born in the French port city of Marseille on 11 October 1957 to Raymond Perrone, a civil servant and amateur singer and poet, and his wife Lydie, an accountant. He fell in love with music when his father took him to see Pink Floyd perform with the Ballet National de Marseille in The Pink Floyd Ballet by renowned French choreographer Roland Petit.

After a break to do his compulsory military service in Clermont Ferrand – “he did everything he could to be declared unfit,” according to his then girlfriend Francoise – he graduated in English from the University of Aix-en-Provence on France’s Cote d’Azur. And then he came to Scotland to join Francoise, who had landed a job at Peebles High School.

Fast forward to 2000 when Perrone got on a double-decker No. 9 London bus after a Who concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Emma Irvine, an Australian-born English lassie of Scots origin, recalled: “He followed my bottom up the stairs of the bus, sat beside me and bombarded me with question after question about The Who. He told me later that if I’d given the wrong answers, he wouldn’t have asked me out.”

He did, though, as they succumbed to a mutual love at first sight. They became partners and finally married on 15 May last year in a hospital intensive care unit in Brighton. A tumour had been found in Perrone’s neck and it quickly spread. Pierre Perrone is survived by his wife Em and his sister Mireille.