IN 2008 the photographer Ged Murray collected hundreds of photos of parties he’d been at in South Manchester over three or four decades, and put them in a book. It is the best single archive of the post-war generation I know. Anywhere. It is spiral-bound, big and compendious. 

He called it Dead & Alive. Traffic between the conditions of his binary title is strictly one way. One of the cast of thousands, who appears in Murray’s album seven times, has, sadly, just passed from the one to the other. Stuart “Jammer” James died of lung cancer at his home in Manchester at 10am on Saturday 4 July. He was sixty-three. His funeral took place on Thursday 22 at Manchester Crematorium. It was a rock n’ roll affair. 

He twinkled, and his high cheeks that always seemed full of bubbles, hoisted a sly smile, “Left over from the Chemicals’ rider.”

The headliner arrived in the customary stretch limo’. His support was in a rolled-gold tour bus, gleaming alloys and shellac-black glass. They are the Chemical Brothers. Stuart had been their tour manager for 20 years. His coffin was a flight case fully labelled: Fragile, Rapid Despatch, Stuart James on Tour. 

The chapel was full, pews lined with many of the extant cast of Ged Murray’s Spotlight, solid Manchester. I hadn’t left home that morning expecting to hear Todd Rundgren in church. But I’m told later at the after show - more usually called the wake - that for Stuart, great tour manager, record producer, sound engineer and music fan, “Todd was God”. 

Bruce Mitchell, Vini Reilly’s collaborator and percussionist in Durutti Column since 1978, delivers the eulogy, at the lectern, seated on a stool. He has known and loved Stuart for years, and visited him often whilst he was living in Brussels. Bruce knew his sobs weren’t far away, so chose to deliver his words over a gentle Durutti track, For Belgian Friends.   


He tells of the night the Smiths pulled a gig in Spain, ten minutes before show time. How Stuart got the band out of the venue and went back to the tour bus, only for irate fans to turn it over, with him inside. He resigned the next day, which prompted from Morrissey the most grovelling of hand-written apologies. Bruce has the evidence. Later, at the wake the Chemical Brothers’ manager Alex Nightingale will offer him lots of money for it. Bruce will not part. 

Requiem Again by Durutti Column is the next music we hear. It is as though Vini’s entire composition and playing evolved for this. In the Old Chapel at Manchester Crematorium, with a flight case ready to roll, the high, unmistakable notes fill the space mournfully, with dignity. Vini is amongst the mourners, no longer able to play so well these days, following a series of strokes. I’m behind him, seeing him pick along in imitative movements of those once powerful taloned fingers. Sometimes a peerless recording vindicates performance. Stuart had a hand in re-mastering Requiem Again, a palimpsest of his own creation. 

Stuart James takes controlStuart James takes control

Stuart based himself in Brussels for a few years. He was away on tour when me and my partner, Simone, went for the first time, but emailed a bespoke itinerary. On later visits we’d meet Stuart in Mort Subite for beers and plates of diced cheese and ham. And then to the Vincent for fillet and oysters. Simone and I will be back in Brussels in November. You may guess what we’ll be doing. 

We went to Stuart’s Brussels flat one night. I don’t remember what he played, but we left late and taxied to Place Ste Catherine to ride the Ferris wheel. Once on-board Stuart opened a bag I hadn’t even noticed and produced four flute glasses and a bottle of the champagne with the orange label. Seeing how impressed I was by his bounty, he twinkled, and his high cheeks that always seemed full of bubbles, hoisted a sly smile, “Left over from the Chemicals’ rider”, he said, and popped the cork. 

The wake is back in Didsbury, on Lapwing Lane, close to Swing Out Sister’s Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell’s house. Stuart and his partner Liss have lived on their top floor through Stuart’s long illness. He died here, with Liss and his sister Lou beside him. Corinne and Andy have been a support through it all. This afternoon, despite great sadness, Corinne is radiant with celebration as she calls forth memories of Stuart from his friends, and a well-turned impersonation from Alex Nightingale. “Ladies and gentlemen, friends and relatives, replenish your glasses and make your way to the auditorium. This dressing room is now under my control.”  

If, on your travels, you find yourself in another departure lounge, or railway stop in the middle of an unfamiliar continent, or the check-out in some replica hotel, and you spot a stack of labelled flight cases. Fragile, Rapid Despatch, stop and greet the man who is with them. “Excuse me, are you with a band?” “Yes I am.” “Did you, by any chance, know Stuart James?” And watch closely as across a minute gap, the face before you opens and unfolds a broad smile, “Jammer? Oh yes I knew Jammer all right. He was a very special gentleman."