R.I.P. Jake Brockman, The Fifth Bunnymen

jakedrakebrockmanPhil called me Wednesday to break the news of Jakes Brokman’s passing. I was on my cell phone and at first I didn’t understand who he was talking about. Who? Somone associated with the Bunnymen? Which one? I hung up still not understanding. When I got home, I checked out my twitter feed and when I saw Jake’s name, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Jake Brockman. Jake Brockman. Jake Brockman. I couldn’t believe he died tragically in the same way as his good friend Pete De Freitas did just over 20 years ago – on his motorbike. He’d been motorbiking on The Isle of Man. He was killed after sustaining serious injuries when his black Vintage BSA was in collision with a green Ford Transit converted ambulance on the Kirk Michael to Ballaugh road, at the north Orrisdale loop junction.

In a statement, his wife Sally Mundy said: “Jake was always a classic bike enthusiast, he loved sailing though he was invariably seasick. Music was central to Jake’s life.”

I met Jake several times when the Bunnymen toured in the late 80’s. He was always the friendly guy who would spare a moment for the babbling star-struck American teenager who couldn’t fathom how she managed to get backstage.

jake-sallyIn 1988, when I was 20, I made a pilgrimage to Liverpool to meet the Bunnymen and see their homeland. A clerk at the local record store must have found me amusing. He let me know where to find the Bunnymen’s headquarters, just up the hill and over an ice cream shop. Two years previous I had spent the entire summer transcribing the lyric’s to the Bunnymen’s entire catalog with the help of my new typewriter and a small cassette walkman. My sophomore year at MIT my term project had been designing the layout of a lyric book on a Mac II. When I ran the bell at the Bunnymen’s office that August afternoon, I had my hand colored handbound book of transcribed lyrics in hand.

You can guess who answered the door. Jake. Of course he didn’t remember me, but he cordially invited me in, explaining he was the only one about that afternoon. He cheerfully gave me a tour of the Bunnymen’s office, showing me the rehearsal space, the merch, the guitars, etc. About ten minutes into my private tour Ian arrived. Jake introduced me, but he paid me no real mind. I tried to peaque Ian’s interest by telling him about my lyrics project and I proudly handed over my only copy of “Songs to Learn and Sing.” He and Jake thumbed through it and started to giggle. Not in a disrespectful way, but in an amused wouldn’t-it-be-funny-if-we-were-singing-these-lyrics kind of way. Ian’s interest lasted a mere minute and he was on his way. Jake continued to answer my questions and show me about. He was also kind enough to recommend a pub, as well as a night club that I might like to visit that night. Of course I visited both. Jake made me trip to Liverpool complete, and for that I will forever be grateful.

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My interactions with Jake were brief, but I found a beautiful tribute from a close friend, Bernie Connor, in his weekly podcast. I wanted to share it. Bernie, I couldn’t find any contact info for you, so I hope you don’t mind me including your wonderful tribute here.

my good friend jake brockman has died in the course of his adventures. he was the most beautiful caring and optimistic person i ever met. people like jake gave us all hope, he lit up the world he was put on to live.

i first met jake in 1980, gary dwyer (the teardrop explodes drummer) and myself were tripping on acid and weedling our way round liverpool city centre looking for something to do. we eventually ended up in the zoo records office in chicago buildings, just around the corner from probe. inside we encountered the bills drummond and butt plus this pixie like thing with long straggly hair and a long straggly beard, decked out in an raf greatcoat and sitting on a table cross-legged. this turned out to be jake who cut a rather strange figure in liverpool in 1980 looking like that. realising instantly that me and daddio were tripping our tits off he picked up an acoustic guitar and began serenading us with these very wonderful made-up songs that defused a con fused and psychedelic situation.

that was the beginning of lifelong friendship with this most gentle, caring, loving soul on the planet. not long after his arrival in liverpool he became roadie, keyboard player and general factotum to echo & the bunnymen, completely indispensible and more a part of the band than thge musicians and the music they made. from this lofty position grew his friendship with pete de freitas, they took on the world as a psychedelic dangermouse and penfold, two poshers with a arid thirst for life and all that could offer them. there’s was a world of italian motorcycles, hand-made leather shoes and the finest marijuana avauilable to humans, every moment spent with them was like an eternity on planet whack. a knockabout series of high laughs, startling conversation and to be honest, a dazzling insight to how the other half lives.

enter whittaker.

their adoption of former deaf school drummer, tim whittaker as lysergic guru and artist in residence was a master-stroke. tim brought to the table an earthy lancashire witticism that was desperately needed to prevent them from becoming a modern day jeeves and wooster. this unholy trinity designed the course of my life in my early twenties; music, philosophy, fine art and the concept of the ever changing world were constantly hovering in the air around our heads and the explosion of thought that was contextualized for me by jake and put into a language we could all understand.

i never learned to do anything practical at all, when he used to live round the corner he did everything for me, putting up shelves, building the children’s bunk-beds, hell i even called him once to ask him to change a lightbulb for me. he came and did it, of course he did, that’s what sort of beautiful cat he was, nothing was ever too much. he directed me over the phone on how to change a washer on the bathroom tap, when it was glaringly obvious that i was woefully inept at even that, he came round and did it himself. beautiful.

when pete died in 1989 and when tim died in 1996 jake was a lost but rock solid soul to cling to. he took it all in his stride and in his philosophical way he put our hearts and minds at ease. as i write this, i wish he was here to make us all feel a little more secure, we could certainly do with it. and right here, right now i can’t believe that all three have gone, a chapter in liverpool’s cultural history closed forever. hopefully in the otherworld somewhere the divine thunderbolt corps are rearing for their reunion gig. good luck, chaps.

i can’t really think of anything more magnanimous to say, jake was a good friend, someone i thought would outlive us all by sheer beauty and determination. his spirit and his smiling face will live with me forever, i’m glad it’ll never go away.

he really was a friend of mine and shall miss him for all time. and man, that feels bad.

my love goes out to his wife, sally and everybody who ever came into contact with him, their lives will be better for it.

this week: we lost our co-pilot, navigator and captain of the ship. all at once.

love, man. x x x


We’ll miss you, Jake.

P.S. — I’ve also found several other articles and online tributes to Jake, which I’ve linked below.

Jake and Sally Brockman photo and Jake at sunset photo courtesy of sideburnmag.blogspot.com