RIP, Caroline Crawley


I knew Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle who were Shelleyan Orphan through my brother Jeremy. They were making a video for their single "Cavalry of Clouds." I painted for pop videos and fashion shoots. They'd found this little unsigned drawing by the lesser known Pre-Raphaelites Simeon Solomon in a flea market and wanted me to paint something like that on an easel in the video.

They liked Nick Drake, that kind of thing, the early '70s folk and strings but their sound was steeped in a greater sweetness, a far off wistfulness. Like some new elderflower liquor based on an old recipe. Music and politics had taken a dark turn in the late '80s and the journalists were curious but suspicious. But for artists, musicians and fashion designers who knew them they represented a golden numinous away from all that.

Caroline's voice lifted them into a high cloud. There was nothing else like it in pop. Apart from it's sheer beauty as an instrument she created this intimacy. Watching her live she was a little shy, you found yourself leaning in a bit. She didn't embody the song or deliver it she seemed to be turning it over in her fingers like something very precious that if you came over here you'd see it from her angle.

British bands are very good at evoking a whole world in an album. The Clash or Black Sabbath, another place that you could go to. Clothes, new ways of talking, hair. Their first record Helleborine was for the kids that didn't want to go to the disco after the pub but went to the graveyard instead and drank hard cider in black and lace.

They took me on tour a couple of times in Northern Europe. I painted to one side, big Romantic images; we'd go out on the streets of Brussels giddy just mucking, about then drove to the next town sleeping off the wine in the van. I was on The Tube with them, the '80s best indie pop show but eventually the record company decided to sharpen it up and they didn't ask me back. (The author can be seen painting on the UK televsion show The Tube in the video at the top.) The band became more professional, touring with The Cure and I didn't see them much after that.

I see her now though in long wreaths of bronze hair leaning slightly back, turning this marvelous sound in the air. The music reminding me of something in the past that I have loved and is now gone. Not mourning but sweetly reminiscing like the autumn sun setting. - Millree Hughes 

Mr. Hughes was born in North Wales in 1960, son of an Anglican priest. He began making art on the computer in 1998 in NYC.