Colin Tully had no idea when he composed the soundtrack for a little independent Scottish movie back in 1980 that it would still be listened to more than 40 years later and would even figure in a celebration of British culture at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics.
That is why he accepted a cheque for £750 rather than a deal that might have given him a percentage of the profits of Bill Forsyth’s breakout hit comedy Gregory’s Girl, which was so successful that it ran for three years in the Dominion in Edinburgh.
A saxophonist, flautist and keyboard player, Tully had been a member of the highly rated Glasgow soul band Cado Belle and he played saxophone on Johnny Logan’s 1980 Eurovision Song Contest winner and UK Number One hit What’s Another Year.
But he was living modestly in Devon with his new wife when Bill Forsyth sought him out to compose the music for Gregory’s Girl. Forsyth headed south with an early VHS copy the film, but it turned out that Tully did not have a television set, let alone a video player.
Tully’s playful, jazzy score certainly contributed to the film’s lasting success and Tully went on to record with the legendary John Martyn and played with him at Glastonbury in 1986.
But Tully preferred the quiet life to celebrity status, growing and selling beans in Devon, playing with local groups and teaching music and the Alexander Technique, which is all about improving health, and music, through posture.
Shortly before his death from cancer, Tully self-published his memoirs Earworm: Eurovision and Gregory’s Girl, Before and After – One Man’s Musical Journey Through Life. It is far from the best-sellers’ lists and has not a single review on Amazon.
The youngest of five children, Colin Robert Norman Tully was born in Shawlands, Glasgow, in 1954. His father was a salesman with Cadbury’s and organist at St Ninian’s Episcopal in Pollokshields, where Tully sang in the choir.
While at Hutcheson’s fee-paying school, he formed his first group, called Up. He took a music degree at Glasgow University, while continuing to play on the pub scene in bands that eventually evolved into Cado Belle, who signed a record deal with the independent Anchor Records label, which also had Ace and The Adverts on the roster.
Cado Belle released one well-received album entitled Cado Belle in 1976 and they appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test. But Anchor folded a couple of years later and the members of Cado Belle went their separate ways.
Tully had spells in Dublin and Devon, while vocalist Maggie Reilly enjoyed chart success with Mike Oldfield on Moonlight Shadow and pursued a career as a solo artist.
Tully played with several bands in Ireland and it was there that he came to the attention of soon-to-be Eurovision legend Johnny Logan.
Tully might have managed to complete the double of Whistle Test and Top of the Pops, but the TOTP date for What’s Another Year clashed with his wedding and they had to get a stand-in.
He had already worked with the Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth on his first micro-budget feature film That Sinking Feeling, a comedy in which bored Glasgow teenagers hatch a heist plan, involving the theft of sinks. It was well received by critics and got Forsyth noticed in the business, but it made little impact in cinemas.
Gregory’s Girl was another wistful comedy, with John Gordon Sinclair as a gawky teenager, part of a hopeless school football team whose fortunes are revived when they allow a girl to start playing for them, a character portrayed by Dee Hepburn.
It has a delightful sense of humour, sometimes observational, sometimes surreal, and an innocent little not-quite romance. After his experience on That Sinking Feeling, Tully was not holding out high hopes for it and took the cash up front. “It is best not to regret the decisions we make in life,” he said philosophically.
Tully also lived for a while in Bristol and latterly in the village of The Hendre in Monmouthshire.
He returned to Glasgow with his group Sensorium in 2012 to play at the Jazz Festival, performing music from Gregory’s Girl.
Latterly he lived with his second wife in a converted forge in The Hendre on the estate of Charles Rolls, one of the founders of Rolls-Royce.
Tully became very interested in Rolls, who tragically became the first Briton killed in a plane crash, aged just 32. His plane broke up in mid-air at a flying display. Tully was inspired to write a musical about him – Charlie Rolls: The Musical, which was performed locally to commemorate the centenary of his death.
Tully is survived by his second wife Julia and by his four daughters, two from each marriage.
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