- Entertainment and Media
A Tale of Lady Stardust
An account of the life and death of my wonderful wife, Rio Fraser, at the age of 37
It's a cold, cruel November morning...late November...24th...to be
precise. The snow didn't fall overnight...as had been expected...but
the cars were covered in frost in the street outside my window. This
was no ordinary day for me to return to work...as I had said goodbye to
my beloved wife just two days prior. The weeks leading up to her
funeral had been filled with planning, organising and just coasting
along on auto-pilot really. There had been a certainty that she was
gone...but there had also been much uncertainty about the future and
about what was coming next. Since the cremation service there has been
a numbness in my heart and a hole in my mind. It's like I've had part
of my mind removed. So...back to work....my first proper shave since
30th October...when she was taken into hospital..where she died four
days later on the 4th November. I ironed a shirt...in silence. Next to
the iron I found a huge unopened bottle of Lactulose Solution...one of
Rio's last prescription items.
Mrs Rio Fraser 10-15 mls to be taken at night. It means nothing now...like so many other reminders of Rio scattered around the house. A bunch of keys on the work-top...with her Ramones key-fob...keys not needed now. Her redundant cashpoint and debit cards...never to be used again. Her little black and white purse...with £3.75 in it.
As I write my account of how I am coping and how I am feeling about the whole situation and the circumstances behind Rio's death at such a young age...the story will unfold...and although there will be some harrowing details I also want to make this a tribute...and a celebration of the wonderful aspects of her life. I am far from a skilful academic...I am purely writing from the heart with an intent to keep my wife's name and character alive...to show how...despite many terrible setbacks someone can have in their life...they can turn it around and help others...and they can actually become inspirational to others.
I am planning a somewhat pot-pourri approach...in that..there will be scatterings of poetry...anecdotes and tales of things that took place along our story...contributions from friends and fellow musicians who had close contact with Rio...and just whatever I see fit to put in.
My motives are many..but they are clear:
To pay tribute to Rio.
To offer my humble experience of losing a loved one...to anyone who might find themselves in such a situation.
To actually give myself some therapeutic focus at a time when I could so easily drown under the thrashing tide of raw emotion.
To show that not everything can be taken at face value.
Thanks for sticking with me....I shall rewind for the next section...and explain the unusual...but rather delightful...way in which we met.
Way To Go Rock Star, You're the King of Gore
We found each other on the music forums of MySpace as 2006 turned into 2007....specifically on the 'punk' and 'alternative' forums. We had both signed up to MySpace at around the same time...so we were 'newbies' together. It's quite common within the online communities of forums and messageboards that you have to serve a time as a 'newbie'...it's almost like an apprenticeship you need to serve before the elder statesmen and women will interact with you. It's ok...it's like life really...you don't go into a strange pub and expect to leap straight into the lion's den. So...we began to notice eachother's posts and we checked eachother's profiles out.
We had the usual mutual 'likes' in our list of favourite bands...Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Ramones etc....it would be a surprise if we didn't have those common adorations...but we were delighted to find that we both had...at the top of our lists...the most tremendously missed singer...the right honorable Mister Ian Dury. I have found that the majority of music-lover's 'likes' on sites like MySpace and FaceBook and ReverbNation do not include Ian Dury and the Blockheads...but when you talk about Ian Dury...there's seldom a bad word said about him. The response is always warm....good old Ian...he was a geezer etc. To Rio and myself he was the ultimate songwriting genius...and it could only be the icing on the cake that he had, what we would consider to be, the 'best backing band in the business'.
Rio's first memorable comment to me personally on the forums was in response to some garbage I was rambling on about...about how I'd been on the forums...and on MySpace...for the whole night...and about how I was ready to collapse...bleeding from tiredness...across the keyboard. Rio wrote: "Way to go rock star, you're the king of gore" It made me laugh...and it inspired a song of the same name. It was a bonus that Rio actually enjoyed my music that I had uploaded to my profile...under the name of Unlucky Fried Kitten. I had specifically signed up to MySpace to help promote my music in the first place...so things were looking rosy. We soon gained many wonderful and colourful friends on MySpace...mainly within the 'alternative' forum. A lot of those friends are still with me today...and were there for Rio up until her passing away. We made some fantastic, loving friends online...and we made some equally incredible friends in our everyday life together.
Rio began contributing to the development of Unlucky Fried Kitten...in the way of inspiration...encouragement...teaching me to use animation programs...even teaching me to use the damn computer properly. She gave me great advice...whilst working in record company promotions as well as being a trained psychologist in the USA...where she resided. We soon decided that she should come over for a visit in the summer of 2007...we began making plans and arranging flights and times...but it soon became an agreement that she would come over here...for good...to live with me. Our friends on MySpace charted our romance with various threads and features...and it became rather a magical story. It's clearly more common now...that people meet online...on FaceBook and such sites...but back then it was quite unusual.....especially as we had not joined up with the intention of finding a partner. She called me her King of Gore....I called her my Illustrated Marionette (it's a tattoo thing)
Rio came to England in the summer of 2007....exchanging the colourful heatwaves of Los Angeles for the blustery monochrome that was Maidstone...county town of Kent.
We married in June 2008...at the Archbishop's Palace.
Poetrio In Motion
Rio flew over from the USA in August 2007. I wrote the following poem for her...but I made her promise to read it on the plane journey over. She duly printed it off...and done just that.
It's a lengthy poem....you don't have to read it...but there's a twist to it...which I shall reveal shortly. I didn't reveal the twist to Rio...until she was off the plane...and in the limousine from Gatwick Airport to Maidstone.
POETRIO IN MOTION
Because of all the passion that you stir inside my heart
And because of all the goodness that you send
Because you're mine and you make me shine
You'll never be surpassed
I finally found my lover and my friend
Love for me was never much of an option
Or if it was..it was never really true
Virtue shines above you like a halo
Every time i think of loving you
You came along when i had lost all prospect
Overseas and overland you flew
Up above the fluffy clouds of romance
After all the bad things i've been through
Nobody has ever in my life-time
Dropped such magic stardust on my soul
I pray i'll never lose my baby Rio
No-one can deflect me from my goal
Everyone around can see i'm happy
Visibly ecstatic all the time
Everybody knows about my baby
Rio..you're the reason to my rhyme
Will you marry me if i should ask you?
And will you always be there when i fall?
Not forgetting i'll return the favour
Tenderly...whenever you should call
Utopia for us is shared devotion
Take my hand, my love, my heart goes with it
Once upon a time..i fell for you
Please forgive me when i feel down-hearted
And i'll forgive you when you may feel low
Rio...you're my reason to exist now.
Take my hand....together we will grow.
It's Rio Day
And i am jumping for joy
My heart it beats like a mechanical toy
Leaping around like an excited young boy
Over the hedgerows splashing in with the koi
So far so good in with the koi
This Rio Day has got me jumping for joy
When Rio Day comes i'm gonna leap in the air
It may be crazy but this "crazy" don't care
Take me to Heaven cos my Rio is there
Help me baby cos i'm walking on air
Over the picket fence as high as i dare
Up to the rooftops like a maniac bear
Take me to someplace the people don't care.
Yes i love my little Rio I swear
Open Sesame to love in mid-air
Up so high i'm like a millionaire
Yes, my Rio is a wonderful thing
Out of nowhere she'll be wearing my ring
Under the moonlight we will dance we will sing
Rio can never know the joy she will bring
Falsetto..she's getting me high
Octavio..i'm her kind of guy
Rock ballads and a reggae refrain
Every time i hear my babe Rio's name
Verse, chorus, she's making me sing
E sharp, F Sharp..everything
Rio baby ya making me cry
Accept it baby..ya captured this guy
No solution cos there's nothing to change
Do ya love me..do you think it's strange?
Even cynics now will gasp at our tale
Vibrations of our love never fail
Every day for the rest of my life
Rio baby..will you be my wife?
And the twist...ah...just that the first letters of each line spell out another little message. Well....I always liked to keep her amused...even if it was as soppy as a lorry-load of cute kittens.
Baby I love you and I never want us to part.
I am lost without you.
Yours forever and ever.
Of course....the message seems more poignant than ever now. x
Reasons To Be Guilty
Back to the present day....because I have to come back and face the harsh reality from time to time. Friends and family...people around me...have been saying how strong I have been. I feel so fortunate to have had so many people caring for me...and looking out for me...but, at the same time, giving me some space. Sometimes I think I've been strong myself...but there have been frequent stages of weakness. I'm not saying anything new to anybody who's been through such a time of loss in their life...but it is new to me... I have to say how unprepared I was for it all. There are many times when I have felt guilty...and it can come on so suddenly...when I'm least expecting it. It can be big things or it can be the little things. Here are a few examples:
* We had just recently upgraded our television package to include the box enabling you to record all your favourite shows. Rio had been badgering me for a year or so to get it. We finally upgraded....she installed it...I'm useless with things like that. When she had passed on I had to learn to use it...after a while...and I found she had set the box to record the whole series of her favourite show Law and Order SVU....the whole series of her beloved Family Guy show...and the whole series of The Apprentice...the last one being for me. I had to sit there and delete her shows...some that had recorded whilst she was in hospital...and beyond. It's crazy...I felt so bad...but what could I do?
* The £3.75 that I mentioned earlier still sits in her black and white purse in the kitchen. What do I do with that? It would make me feel so cheap just scooping it from the purse...putting it in my pocket...and spending it on something I'll just forget about. It also makes me start wondering what Rio would have spent it on? A sandwich at the train station? A bottle of WKD Red at the pub? A coffee at one of her favourite swanky coffee-bars? (she loved her exotically-flavoured coffee) I'll think of something fitting to spend it on...I'm sure...but for now...it sits there...over a month after she slipped away.
* Her clothes...the mundane ones I mean...socks, vests etc. They have to go...they are no use to anyone and she's not coming back. I haven't started to clear her room and her cupboards yet...but the few things I found downstairs were tough to deal with. An old pair of sock-slippers...the big woolly ones you wear around the house. Throwing them away was heart-wrenching...like consigning Rio's life to the bin...again.
* Cooking food...preparing dinner. We used to look out for each other on that score. I can't even do that for her now. Things in the cupboard remind me of her...the Berry-Laden Cereals, the Digestive Biscuits, the boxes of candy sweets. I am constantly reminded of her...but surely that's how it should be. The alternative is to forget her. I often ask myself...at times like this...how Rio would be dealing with it if our positions were switched? I wouldn't want her to be drowning in despair...but I wouldn't want her to forget me. So...it's a dilemma...but I know that I have to find a middle ground.
* A note on the bathroom door. I'd forgotten all about this message Rio had sellotaped to the bathroom door when she had first come to live here. It is more than a note...it is on A4 paper...just the words I Love You and I'd grown so used to it being there. I suddenly saw it again for it's significance...just yesterday. It's going to stay there now.
Rio clearly had the most difficult and complicated medical history. I am not able to repeat it in detail, but there is a strong relationship to her past and particularly childhood pain. We talked about these issues...Rio and myself...but we didn't focus ferociously on these points because the whole aim was for Rio to move on...and to wave goodbye to the demons of the past. Our new life...from the day that she came over here...and from the day we married...was for us. We didn't want to stay in the negative. We had hoped it was going to be easier than it turned out to be...but her other health issues deteriorated during her time in England. One health issue that I can mention is that...since the age of 12... when she was involved in a serious RTA...she had experienced musculoskeletal symptoms, including chronic and persistent pain. After a prolonged period of drug abuse, in America, which she personally weaned herself off, she had to regularly take opiod analgesics for chronic spinal pain. Her symptoms were severe and she had a number of associated problems of specific back pain, widespread joint stiffness which worsened in cold weather, peripheral oedema associated to her past drug misuse, persistent anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, insomnia, lethargy, fatigue syndrome and various stomach ailments. That is all rather skimming the surface...and I mention it because it shows how strong she was of spirit to fight these things and to go out and make such an impact in spite of these things. She was always out and about...doing her bit...and the only clue to her feeling the way she did..was the fact that she would often nod off...on site...if we had stayed out too long.
Rio soon joined me in my Unlucky Fried Kitten escapades and she became adept at setting up gigs...booking shows...conducting band interviews (with other bands)...and filming local shows in Medway and Maidstone. The whole FaceBook revolution was at it's peak...and I was suddenly back in contact with musicians I'd not seen since the 80's. I was also meeting all the associated musicians who were around at the same time...but whom I didn't necessarily break bread with at the time. It was almost like Rio and I were meeting new friends together...people with the same interests as us...musicians...photographers...film-makers...writers. It was a wonderful time for us as we began to get involved in all the shows. We began to play at regular Tribute Nights at The Barge in Gillingham. These shows were originally set up by Bob Collins (ex-guitarist of Medway psychedelic/indie band The Dentists) before the baton was handed over to the Medway Eyes group (a collective set up by Phil and Lisa Dillon...and for all creatives in and around the Medway Towns) Rio became a regular videographer at these events which were raising money for Oxjam. She enjoyed it immensely...or...to put it better...she was absolutely in her element. These nights were fantastic...and visionary...with all manner of local bands and singers getting together to perform a few songs chosen from whatever the theme was for that night. Bowie night....70's night...1967 night...The Thatcher Years...to name a few.
Unlucky Fried Kitten...as a band...had what I always called a 'revolving door' policy...meaning that we (ufk) used different musicians for different times and different events. Maybe that's a face-saving way of saying you had to be strong...or mad...to stick with Unlucky Fried Kitten. We were going out as a duo..as a trio...and as a four-piece. Rio was always at the helm...steering the ship...filming the carnage...and making the sandwiches. She was also getting more involved in the recording...and offering up some backing vocals in the studio.
Rio had many pet bands and beloved artistes. Her favourite singer-songwriter was Ian Dury...of course. Her favourite USA band was undoubtedly the Ramones...but she loved many others. She liked a lot of the USA bands (she called the Ramones her 'boys') but she had a great adulation for British bands. She loved The Who, The Kinks, Cockney Rebel, The Smiths, Morrissey etc...and she was an enthusiastic admirer of David Bowie. Her new moniker was bestowed upon her at a UFK gig in the Zebra Bar, Maidstone, when our great friend and visionary photographer...Phil Dillon...had a moment of illumination and hoiked Rio outside for a photograph outside the multi-story car-park across the road from the venue. That very brief twinkling moment gave Rio two precious things. It gave her her favourite photograph of herself...and it gave her the name...Lady Stardust.
I can see why she considered it to be her favourite photograph...because it is a beautiful capture...almost an internment of feeling...set within a scene of unreserved earthliness..but I often wonder...in retrospect...if she saw something more in it. It's like she is lost in her thoughts...no calculation for the camera. It's like she was taking a moment to reflect her pains....but....ten minutes later she would be back in that venue...geeing everybody up. Half an hour later she would be conducting her legendary 'After The Storm' interview with the band.
Lady Stardust x
Rio was feeling ill on the Friday night. I came home from work at
around 9.30pm to find her collapsed on the kitchen floor. I got her to
the settee and settled her down with a mug of tea. She scoffed at my
suggestion that she should go to the hospital...saying she was 'ok now'
and just needed to rest. We watched television...just crashed out and
relaxed for the evening....and we retired quite late. Rio was in her
own room. I had made a special room for her a few months before...to
give her a retreat...some space for her for when she was in pain.
At 4 am she became audibly and visibly...very ill. I called the paramedics and they came and took her from our house...for the very last time. The next few days were a blur....with Rio on a life-support machine. On the Wednesday morning I was told that all hope had gone. Multiple-organ failure. They had to turn her machine off. I had no decision to make with reference to turning the machine off...they had to do it regardless. I had a quite different decision to make. Did I want to sit with her as they carried out the 'shut-down' or did I want to leave the doctors and nurses to it...to carry out their task. It was a tough choice because, on the one hand, I wanted to be with my wife as she passed over to the other side...but on the other...I had to struggle with the fact that I was going to watch as my wife died. I'd never seen anyone die before....let alone someone so close that it felt she was a part of me. I chose to be with her.
I was left alone with my Rio...as they watched their monitors in a
separate room....then....after about 10 minutes...the nurse returned to
tell me that it was all over. It was...without doubt...the hardest
moment of my life. It was the moment I will never forget. The moment I
wanted to scream 'no....start the machines up again'. The moment I saw
my smart,intelligent, valuable, treasured, beautiful wife pass into the
next world. The moment that will be slashed across my soul
forever...until my own dying day. The moment I became a widower.
I tried to console myself with the knowledge that her pain was over...and that her passing had been peaceful and impassive. I held her hand and spoke to her as she went....telling her that I would be strong for her and that I would make her as proud of me as I was of her.
The Cherry Tree
The Cherry Tree Public House became our spiritual home. Not that we didn't use other establishments...pubs and live music being our complimentary bed-fellows.
We were at the Cherry Tree for Rio's first night in the UK. The smoking ban had just kicked in and we were stood outside..being battered by the shrieking wind rampaging over from the far reaches of the coast.. 'Well, Rio' I said 'How do you feel right now? Now that you really understand that you've traded the heatwave of Los Angeles for the blustery arena of Maidstone?'
Rio was happy. We were both pleased to be starting on our romantic adventure of music, love and devout friendship.
We spent many nights in The Cherry Tree and it soon became our base for Unlucky Fried Kitten operations. We prepared, created and designed a vast majority of our little UFK videos in the side bar of The Cherry Tree. We filmed there too. At this point I should point out that there are no delusions of grandeur here. We were no match for Quentin Tarantino and we certainly produced nothing to rival Citizen Kane in the grand scheme of film-making.
Our UFK videos had elements of puerility and a boldness of simplicity...but that was fine for us. There's a lot to be said for boldness and for just getting on and doing things...especially when you're looking for a way to get your songs into the public domain. Rio and I had such fun making our films and we were asked to make films for some of our friend's bands too. Our efforts for other bands included The Rubber Bubber Bears, Cenet Rox, Porlie Eidolon, Clinker, Star Belgrade ,The Strookas, Chris Sammon and the Volume Brothers...and others.
It was fitting that we had our wedding reception party at the Cherry Tree....in June 2008. Rio made up a 4-cd playlist for the evening and we partied along with our friends to the sounds of The Ramones, The Kinks, Bowie, Bolan, The Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, the Pistols, the Clash, Sparks, Cockney Rebel, Ian Dury and all those other bands and singers that were crammed into our spiritual jukebox. Some of us picked up our instruments and took to the stage and we rounded off the evening in rumbustious and raucous fashion. We had great fun....Justin and Rupert (both occasional UFK collaborators) on guitar....myself on foghorn vocals...and Rio snapping away on camera phone.
It was also fitting that we held Rio's wake at the pub.....29 months after our wedding. Two memorable evenings at the Cherry Tree....divided by the provocation of emotion from opposite ends of the scale. Most of the guests at our wedding party were at Rio's wake...plus a whole lot more whom we had befriended over our recent years together.
We played the same kind of music at the wake as we had played at the wedding...gratefully enabled by the digital download jukebox. There were a lot of tears that night...that's for sure...but we were blessed with many great memories...from lots of wonderful friends. I don't know how it came about that Rio and I had such lovely, sparkling friends. Perhaps you attract more settled and mature people as a couple? Maybe there's an age thing..as we were both maturing ourselves? Probably, though, it's a testament to Rio's unwavering kindness and willingness to attach herself emotionally to others...especially to those in need. It pleases me to recount the story of the day..on 12th October 2008...my birthday...when Rio and I were battle-topping our way through the streets of Camden. We turned a corner and there was a man begging in an alleyway. It wasn't the warmest of days. Rio had her black bomber-jacket on...the type with the orange lining...you know...the ones the bouncers wear. She'd only had it for a fortnight...cost her £65...but she took it off and gave it to the homeless man. 'Just give him a few pounds, Rio' I said. 'Nah' she replied 'he needs it more than me' I'd never have done anything like that...but perhaps I will now. Rio changed me in that way...and sometimes it manifests itself in such small ...hardly noticeable ways...but they are still there. One small example...I often put my change in a charity-box when I've bought something in a shop. It might only be 10p...but I have to agree with Tesco...every little helps. Rio would've had that catchphrase if Tesco hadn't hogged it. I'm glad she changed me...and I acknowledged that in a song I recorded last year...with the line 'I Love You...You Changed Me...You Turned Me Into Someone New'
Back to the friends...whatever the reason for having nice friends...the guests and well-wishers at Rio's funeral and at the wake were an absolute credit to Rio's memory. She will have been so rightfully proud of each and every one of them.
In between our wedding and Rio's wake we played some UFK gigs at the Cherry Tree...of course..and those gigs hold great memories for me.
Our last show there was on 23rd October....less than two weeks before Rio passed on. She had set the gig up...she took charge of that kind of thing...booked our great friend, Andy White, to share the bill...and she had worked so hard on the promo for that. We had a choice for the date...23rd..or 30th. Rio...astute as ever...pointed out that everybody would be out scaring people for Halloween on the 30th...so we decided to scare people ourselves on the 23rd. We had a fantastic night with lots of amazing UFK friends...my co-hort from the olden days of punk...Nick Hughes...on guitar....myself on vocals...and special guest Sam Crassweller on 12-string bass. UFK went heavy-metal for the evening. We recruited our friend, Porlie Eidolon, to film the Motorhead-esque Unlucky Fried Kitten that night...giving Rio a break to indulge in her socialising.
If we had chosen 30th October for the show...it would not have gone ahead...for that is when Rio was placed on life-support. I'm pleased she got to enjoy the show....though it also leaves me with very sad memories...knowing that we were 'getting on with the workings of life' not knowing that these were to be her last notable days.
I received some lovely cards from friends and well-wishers after the loss of Rio. Here are the words on one of them...from someone I didn't know....but which is linked to our UFK gig at the Cherry Tree.
'Dear Andy, I was shocked to hear that Rio had passed away. I met her at your recent gig in the Cherry Tree a few weeks ago. I went outside with a group of friends and Rio asked if I was ok as it was cold out and she offered me her leather jacket. I did not know her well but she was kind and thoughtful that night and I am deeply saddened to hear of her passing. Our sympathies are with you at this time...we will be thinking of you with fond memories of Rio. Take care..Maria.'
It was signed by the whole family...a family I have never met...a touching reminder of how Rio connected with other people. She is still my hero <3
The Mack Danger Show
The Mack Danger Show (a tribute to Rio)
Soylent Radio is a show that goes out from the USA. Mack Danger has a show that goes out on Soylent Radio. It is a 4-hour show that runs between 2am and 6am on a Monday morning....UK time, that is. That's the technical bit out of the way. Mack runs a great show. He has always been my favourite dj...but I guess he would laugh at that...cos he's so much more than a dj. He's also a very fine musician, engineer and sound-track creator. But, as Ronnie Corbett would say, I digress. Rio and I would often listen to the show and we were proud to have our UFK songs played on his show...alongside such bands as Nine Inch Nails, The Ramones, Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. Even so... I was incredibly surprised and extremely happy to hear that Mack Danger was planning to devote a 'tribute show' to Rio. If I'm being honest...I didn't expect it to come to fruition...not because I doubted Mack's integrity...but cos I know how tough it is to put these things together...tributes, I mean. It's tough for me to put this tribute book together, if I'm honest, because I feel I can never do Rio the justice she deserves. I'm sure she forgives me for my little jumbled-up effort, though.
Mack might play a handful of songs for Rio. To use a great internet
term...OMG...he went 10 steps further.
So...on the 14th November...my baby Rio....was given the most fantastic tribute show on the Mack Danger Show. Apart from playing songs from all her favourite bands and singers the show was peppered with beautiful anecdotes and stories from Mack, his right-hand man Cheddar, and from all the people in the affiliated chat-room. Mack told me...later...that the chat-room was alive with comments, remarks and references to Rio.Our great friend in Australia, Nigel Leitch, aka Industrialist Art-Rocker Pizt, was on fine form and in full flow in the chat room during the show...and Mack read a poem on air...one that Pizt had written for Rio. I heard the whole show...four hours of it....it was extremely moving...and a kind thing to do.
To all the people who are interested....here's the playlist from that show. I will also say that I am so grateful to Mack Danger and his right-hand man, Cheddar. They made an amazing tribute to my wife.
Kick Out The Jams....MC5
Every Day Is Like Sunday....Morrissey
Grey Clouds....The Orb with Alan Parker
California Sun....The Ramones
I Just Want To Have Something To Do....The Ramones
Blitzkrieg Bop....The Ramones
Pretty Vacant....Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Ziggy Stardust....David Bowie
Moonage Daydream....David Bowie
A Town Called Malice....The Jam
All Day and All of the Night....The Kinks
Think Visual....The Kinks
I Don't Mind....The Buzzcocks
What Difference Does It Make?....The Smiths
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out....The Smiths
Cascade....Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Seventies....Unlucky Fried Kitten
Emo Plasticine (instrumental mix)....Unlucky Fried Kitten
News of the World....Unlucky Fried Kitten
What A Waste....Ian Dury & the Blockheads
This Is What We Find....Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Dancing With Myself....Billy Idol
God Save The Queen....The Sex Pistols
Ruby Red....Marc Almond
Tears Run Rings....Marc Almond
Rock 'n' Roll....The Velvet Underground
Who Loves The Sun....The Velvet Underground
Shake Appeal....Iggy Pop & the Stooges
Seven and Seven Is....Alice Cooper
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles....The Cockney Rejects
Lady Stardust....David Bowie
Sweet Thing....David Bowie
I'm Partial To Your Abracadabra....Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Rock 'n' Roll Nigger....Patti Smith
The Blood....The Cure
In-between Days....The Cure
Eye Teeth....Mack Danger
Oh Bondage, Up Yours....X-Ray Spex
The 80's....Killing Joke
London Calling....The Clash
Faster....The Manic Street Preachers
Sex Dwarf....Soft Cell
Nights In White Satin....The Dickies
The KKK Took My Baby Away....The Ramones
Monkey Gone To Heaven....The Pixies
Right Where It belongs....Nine Inch Nails
I would love to think that Rio was listening to the show from above. She would have approved wholeheartedly of the songs and she would have been grateful for the sentiment.
Mack Danger has since sent me a hard copy of the entire show. It is a treasured memento of Rio. Not many people get a 4-hour show made in their honour, Baby. You're right up there with the best xxx
Thinking Of The Days
People tell me I'm strong. I'm grateful for the faith shown in me and I'm sorry to disappoint by not living up to the billing....but I'm not so strong. I try to be...but I am overcome by waves of emotion on a regular basis...daily..if the truth be told. As with the reasons to be guilty... It's quite often the little things that bring out the emotion. On the other side of the coin...it's the little things that also give me the fondest memories. I find myself 'taking stock' quite a lot..looking at what we had and what we had done. To explain....people say things like 'your time together may have been short...but you had some great days together' and that's when I think 'ok, so what DID we do together?' Today... I'm thinking of our days out.....and I'm finding that it's not primarily the big days that stick with me...and make me smile. Not even the euphoric moments. Quite often it's the conversation on a car journey or the plans we made over coffee on a rain-laden Monday morning. We made lots of plans.....schematics...as Rio called them...and those times we spent brainstorming are such missed times.
The big days were great...don't get me wrong...seeing Morrissey, The Blockheads, The Only Ones, The Wombats, The Pigeon Detectives, Goldfrapp....and more... But seeing friends in local bands was just as crucial to our mutual love of rock and roll. Seeing The Soundcasters, The Lovedays, Bob Collins, Andy White, Reavsey, The Claim, Esther Kane, Ben Jones. Solo, Didi Bergman, Lupen Crook, The Flowing, Wheels, Slap Alice, The Flowing and many more were just as terrific.
I hanker for the mundane times. One time Rio was stranded at Borough Green Railway Station due to a succession of cancelled trains. I drove the half-hour journey to collect her and we headed back towards Maidstone with a sandwich from the Co-Op and a cigarette. I'd love to be able to do that kind if journey with Rio again. I'd do it every night if I could... to have her here again. When people talk about 'journeys' in life...those little ones are often the most important.
There have been points during this grieving period when I've been tough on myself....feeling we didn't have enough Days together...but after taking stock I know that we had a great mix of big days out and little days out. Apart from seeing our favourite bands and our friends...we did have our own days out. Taking stock helped me to see that we did have some great times...even if some of the times were simple.
We had favourite places...and cherished instances:
Loose Brooks...in the Loose Valley on the outskirts of Maidstone where we had lunch in The Chequers and made a small film for a song, The Prisoner.
Bluebell Hill Picnic Area...where the views are fantastic, and there are several seats from which to admire the view. We liked to take time to think about the brave crew of the Kent Air Ambulance, who were tragically killed when it crashed near here in 1998. (the site features a memorial to the crew)
Mickey's Diner...also on Bluebell Hill...our favourite 'restaurant' where we would discuss our little projects over a carvery...a pudding...and a tall Pepsi....surrounded by pictures of American and British Film and TV stars. I always wanted The Fonz to walk in and bash the JukeBox...but it never happened.
Camden Lock...and Camden Market...Rio said it reminded her of some of the shopping areas in Los Angeles.
Maidstone.....Brenchley Gardens...the bandstand...where we played a gig for the Time To Change Roadshow...to raise awareness for mental health issues in September 2009. A windy Wednesday afternoon...but a treasured memory nonetheless.
Maidstone...trips along the riverside and walks around the Archbishop's Palace...filming for Baby Blue on the Millennium Bridge.
The Radio 1 Big Day Out at Mote Park...and other...less frenetic...afternoons spent writing and playing songs in that sprawling greenery.
Days at Teston Locks...another wonderfully peaceful part of the edges of Maidstone...helping the boats negotiate the waterways.
Nights at The White Horse on London Road, Maidstone, where we would watch the open mic nights with Ben Jones.
Watching our favourite tribute band, The Blox, at various venues around Kent.
A day at Squarehead Studio in Newington with James, Lee, James , myself and Rio...where we recorded 4 songs...funded by Rio...as a birthday present to UFK. Rio had such fun filming...and pitching in enthusiastically and wholeheartedly with the backing vocals.
The Maidstone River Festival...2010. Nick and I played in the morning...as Unlucky Fried Kitten...and were whisked off across to Rochester for Nick's wedding to Sally...for which I was 'best man'...making it a hugely significant day for UFK. Gig in the morning...with Rio filming...Wedding in the afternoon.
These times and days and memories will have little interest to anyone else...but it's times like these that helped cement our friendship and, of course, helped to support the constant of our love.
Our happiest times were the Christmas periods spent with family at my sister's house...with my mum and dad..and various close members of the family. Rio was a part of our family...and still is...to this day.
Tracey Is A Punk Rocker
It was always my intention to include a chapter about Rio's favourite band...The Ramones... in her tribute book. There's no point in me regaling you with all the intricate and salient details about the band, specifically. You can just go to Wiki if you need to know more about them. I'm just here to acknowledge Rio's love of the band...though anyone who's been a part of Rio's world will know all about that already. Everyone knows The Ramones. Even my dad knows The Ramones...he would actually play Beat On The Brat and Judy Is A Punk...on his beloved accordion. I have some lovely pictures to accompany this section...snippets of Ramones memorabilia...of which Rio was so very proud. She went through so much in her life...God bless her...and she faced chaotic times at various stages of her time....but she always hung onto her Ramones prizes. No Rottweiler fierce enough to wrench these treasures from her grasp.
After she passed away I found some of Rio's friends from way back...or they found me. They have been kind and supportive and I gained some valuable insights into her earlier years from them. I've heard some funny little stories of her youth...and I shared some of her later stories back. This is the time for me to pass the baton to Krei, a childhood friend of Rio's, who has shared this amazing and most beautiful account of her time with Rio (or Tracey...as she was then) I felt it should take pride of place in this Ramones chapter.....so....with first-hand experience and with beautiful descriptive recollection....Krei.:
I’m a childhood friend of Rio’s in the US. She was in my life for about
20 years, between the ages of 5 and 25. We were best friends growing
up. I have a lot of memories of her, most not committed to writing.
Andy had asked me to share some memories of attending a Ramones concert
with Rio for the first time. We were both age 14 at the time, and she
was going by her birth name, Tracey. She changed her name to Rio around
the time she was in LA. I never knew her by that name. I’ll just say
that I was punished by my parents for two months afterwards.
We grew up together in the suburbs of Miami at the time of the cartels and the drug wars and the cocaine cowboys and Miami Vice style crime waves. This was the era of the random violent crackhead carjacking you at gunpoint and you would go into the bathroom of a club and people would be snorting mounds of cocaine easily worth more than what most people earn in a week. This was the time before South Beach was cleaned up into a brightly lit pastel colored tourist mecca. There were sex workers and drug dealers walking the streets along with for some reason lots and lots of orange robed Hare Krishnas offering yoghurt balls. You could hear Celia Cruz blasting from the nearby Cuban bakery singing songs for her Santeria God Shango, and the hot thick air carried the scent of fresh croquetas. There were drunk people pissing in alleyways. There was this crazy guy who would walk up and down Washington Avenue with a wooden cross made of two pieces of plywood on roller skate wheels wearing a loincloth and screaming through a megaphone that the end of days was near.
Where we lived was safe, apartment buildings, strip shopping centers, row houses, every square inch of nature controlled and anesthetized. Miami lacks safe and reliable public transportation and the local driving age is 16. In retrospect, 37 year old me can see Washington Avenue circa 1987 as a less than ideal place to have two suburban fourteen-year old girls go without adult supervision. In our limited life experience all of this was terribly exciting.
I am still amazed watching the videos Andy posted of Rio to hear her speaking in a heavy British accent kind of like Madonna after she married Guy Ritchie. Her youth was very American. Barbie dolls, Saturday morning cartoons, and MTV back when it played new wave music and spending weekends playing Q-Bert, Dragon’s Lair, Munch Mobile, and Ms. Pac-Man with actual quarters at the mall video arcade. Roller skating everywhere as a primary mode of transportation, going swimming and pretending to be space dolphin mermaid aliens, being super excited to get to go to the water slide park one or two times a year. We were forced to take ballet lessons against our will trying to force these arbitrary aspects of femininity into us. I hated these (and grew up to be a leftist pagan gender-queer pansexual and still cringe at the thought of those awful pink tutus). Tracey liked gymnastics.
Tracey always really loved music. We watched a lot of MTV with all the new wave music and stuff growing up. I was not allowed to watch TV at my house because it would turn my brain into oatmeal, so I used to sneak it at Tracey’s house. I think I liked the new wave stuff because it reinforced the concept of gender fluidity in a very gender binary world around me, and the little queer tomboi kid in me resonated.
A funny story about our early corruption via music is that Tracey and I
used to also be friends with this girl named Lori who was
conservative Jewish and had 8 German Shepherds in her house. Her
parents were both doctors and worked all day. She had a fundamentalist
Christian housekeeper from Barbados named Dorothy who used to walk
around with a bible under her arm chanting verses who would supervise
us. They had a big screen TV, and in the early Reagan/Thatcher years
this was a very big deal. I had used my birthday money to buy my first
ever LP, Auto-American by Blondie. The three of us used to make up
plays to the songs and try to act out the song “Rapture” about the man
from mars eating bars, cars, and guitars. We went to Lori’s house after
school one or two times a week.
At the age of 9 or so, I was completely obsessed with “Sweet-Dreams” era Annie Lennox with her shocking red crew cut and men’s suits. I was convinced that when I grew up that I would be her husband. I don’t know how we convinced Lori to do this, but somehow we decided to make a play of me marrying Annie Lennox and Lori was going to be Annie Lennox so we cut off all of her hair except a little bit and tried to turn it orange with food coloring. Then we had her go into her father’s closet and get a dress shirt and a black tie so that she could dress like her. It was pretty awesome. Tracey and I put on her father’s ties too and I put toilet paper on my head to make a bridal veil. Tracey was playing the robot judge to marry us by wearing a cardboard box with arms cut out with the word “judge” on it inscribed with crayons. We had stolen Dorothy’s bible. We picked gardenias from Lori’s garden and threw the petals all over the hallway to make a wedding. In our nine-year old brains this was completely appropriate.
Our super wonderful cross dressing lesbian Annie Lennox robot judge wedding play was interrupted by Lori 's mother coming home and having a meltdown. My mom and Tracey’s mom Ronnie were immediately called to come pick us up. Lori's mother explained that the evil music was making us into deviants and compromising her daughter’s virginity and that Tracey and I needed to go to psychiatrists if we had any chance of growing up to be normal God-fearing women. We were not allowed to play with Lori anymore. The next day, her parents took her out of public school and enrolled her in Yeshiva. Neither of us ever saw Lori after that. There Tracey and I were at 9 years old, already outcasts because of our music. We never became normal God-fearing women, and Annie Lennox is most definitely to blame.
As early puberty onset hit, Tracey would get completely obsessed with bands. One at a time and all other music that was not that band sucked. Obsessive. She would write down and analyze every syllable of every lyric from the cassette tape liner notes and this would be the topic of hours and hours of conversation. She loved Duran Duran and at one point every square inch of her bedroom wall was covered with Duran Duran posters.
Embarassingly, she dumped them for Wham!, had a weird obsession with a completely terrible 80’s American band called The Hooters, and finally by age 12 or so, we had befriended some older skate punks and discovered goth and hardcore music. I was obsessed with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Nina Hagen and Strawberry Switchblade and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and she was all about Bauhaus, the Dead Kennedys, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols. On the cool side, when Tracey and I were 12 we decided to write a “song” for Jello Biafra to perform with the Dead Kennedys about the conformity of middle school and sang it into a cassette tape and sent it to him (it was awful) and he was nice enough to write us back personally. She kept that letter for a long time.
On American late night cable TV there was this show called Night Flight on the USA network that played a lot of punk music and cult movies like Forbidden Planet , Suburbia, and Repo Man. The 1970s Ramones movie Rock and Roll High School was always on. She knew every word to the movie, and often entertained fantasies of being Riff Randal. She would record it on her betamax machine and watch the tapes over and over. She loved Joey Ramone.
Towards the end of his life, Joey Ramone became a regular guest on an American financial show on the MSNBC network and I had a meeting (as an adult) in the same building and shared an elevator with him once. He was really nice. I wished that Tracey could have gotten to meet him. Hopefully she has in the punk rock badlands of the otherworlds.
Anyway, one day when we were 14 we got the news that the Ramones would
be playing in concert in Miami Beach. This was very exciting news,
except that we were 14, had no money, and no car. I was dating a 16
year old Columbian boy named Boris whose very very tall and pimply
friend Laurence had a sister who’s car he could borrow. It was a scary
dilapidated 1970s killer bee colored black and yellow Camaro that
billowed black smoke and the seatbelts were fashioned out of duct tape.
It only played AM radio and was stuck on a salsa music station. Somehow
we convinced our parents to let us go and Boris and Laurence to pay for
our concert tickets. I had to be home by 12:30 so that I did not get
On the day of the concert, we learned that Laurence was a terrible driver and that the Camaro was a terrifying death trap. Undeterred, with many wrong turns, we miraculously made it to South Beach. After spending close to an hour trying to park, we learned that Laurence did not know how to parallel park. We got out of the car and a crack addict parked the car for us for $2.
As we walked to the Cameo Theater where the concert was the man with the wooden cross on wheels strapped to his back with the megaphone made a noble effort to save our souls. Undeterred, we soldiered on. Outside the venue was an assortment of Miami’s finest punks and freaks in doc martens and leather jackets and we knew that we had found our kindred spirits. Boris had a fake ID and decided to buy everybody cheap whiskey at the show. We definitely felt like little kids playing grown-up, but we did not care, we were so excited. I can’t remember who the opening act was, some hardcore band from Jacksonville. Finally after what seemed like hours the Ramones took the stage. It was March 29, 1987.
Tracey and I talked the boys into heading into the mosh pit with us. We ended up getting bruised beyond recognition. It was awesome. The show was great. I ended up being carried by the pit when “Teenage Lobotomy” went on. The Ramones were wearing their trademark leather jackets and skinny jeans and moppy Ramone hairdos. We danced and sang along and had a fantastic time. It was wonderful. Tracey was grinning from ear to ear. There were some amazing shows that Tracey and I went to together at the Cameo in the late 80s, Dead Kennedys, The Damned, Front 242, Skinny Puppy, the Sugarcubes (where I got to meet and creep out Bjork with my fanatical schoolgirl crush), Sonic Youth, SWA, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Mudhoney, Big Audio Dynamite, Public Image LTD, The Swans, and so on, but the Ramones was our first show at the Cameo and will always be a special memory for me.
On the way home, the Camaro gave out and we ended up taking turns pushing it half a mile to a gas station. It needed a new battery. It took another hour until we managed to obtain that. We dropped Tracey home first, and when I finally got home it was 2 a.m., 90 minutes past my curfew. My parents were sitting by the door lecturing about how they thought that I was dead in a ditch somewhere raped by gypsies. I was grounded for two months after that. It was worth it, because Tracey and I had gotten to see the Ramones live for the first time.
I found a setlist on the internet of the show. I have seen the Ramones play a few times, so I am not completely sure how accurate this is as it was nearly 24 years ago.
Ramones concert March 29, 1987 Cameo Theater, Miami Beach FL
• Eat That Rat
• Teenage Lobotomy
• Psycho Therapy
• Blitzkrieg Bop
• Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?
• Freak Of Nature
• Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
• Rock 'N' Roll High School
• I Wanna Be Sedated
• The KKK Took My Baby Away
• Crummy Stuff
• Weasel Face
• Love Kills
• Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
• Glad To See You Go
• I Don't Care
• Too Tough To Die
• Mama's Boy
• Animal Boy
• Wart Hog
• Surfin' Bird
(The Trashmen cover)
• Cretin Hop
• I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
I am extremely grateful for Krei's account. I asked her if she wanted to write a bit about Tracey...and in particular in reference to the show....Tracey's first time seeing The Ramones...and she exceeded all expectations with an illumination of Tracey's character that quite literally had me in tears.
Rio's absolute passion for music shines through in this...and in many other accounts. I can quite honestly say that I've never met anyone with such a vast knowledge of pop and rock culture. I recall times when a band or singer's name has cropped up in odd little conversations and I've thought 'Ha...she won't even have heard of them' and then it's turned out that she knew more about them than I did. Having said that....I did introduce her to Sparks. When I played Sparks....my favourite band.....to Rio....her exact words where 'How on Earth did these guys pass me by?' Her bewilderment was exacerbated by the fact Sparks are a Los Angeles band....where Rio had lived for many years...right up until she came to live with me. (So....I'm claiming the victory for Sparks...if you're watching, baby xxx)
HOW WE WROTE THE 70'S
SpaceHoppers, Raleigh Choppers and Stylophones. The Seventies.
Whilst it has not been my intention to focus too much on the Unlucky Fried Kitten aspect of our time together it has been plainly unavoidable because UFK not only brought us together...it remained a constant throughout our somewhat preordained story. We worked on all aspects of UFK together...and we had immense fun along the way. The last song we constructed together...in our unconventional way...is called The Seventies and it holds nice memories for me. I remember the evening well. August 17th...at the bar in The Cherry Tree...brainstorming.
'OK Rio...let's write a song about the 70's.....Killing Joke already got the 80's'
'Way to go Andy...SpaceHoppers for the win!!!'
We made a list...kindly assisted by various drinkers at the bar....SpaceHoppers, Raleigh Choppers, Stylophones, Etch-A-Sketches, Tank-Tops, Monkey-Boots, Ziggy Stardust, Oxford Bags etc. (take the shame that person who suggested the Rubiks Cube...and a few other wrong-decade items) Once we had amassed a formidable collection of 70's personalia we went home and I built the song...and we recorded it at 1 o'clock in the morning (sorry neighbours) with Rio doing the thumbs-up and cider-pouring as the recording cogs whirred. Oddly enough...the finished song didn't feature a nod to the SpaceHopper...nor to the Raleigh Chopper...I think we missed a rhyming trick or two there.
Rio encouraged me resolutely with the new songs...but every so often she would give extra praise if she felt we had unearthed a gem. We both felt The Seventies was a success...in UFK terms...so when the call came from Medway Eyes...for us to choose a UFK track to go on a new compilation album...we duo-nanimously chose The Seventies. The 'ME2' album is the second compilation album to spring from the Medway Eyes group. No prizes for guessing the title of the first album...but send your answers on a postcard anyway. Here...Phil Dillon and Lisa Dillon explain a little about Medway Eyes...which is a project that Rio enjoyed being a small part of:
(this section is coming v. soon)
Glenn Prangnell...the man behind Groovy Uncle productions...himself a singer-songwriter featured on both the albums...heard the song...and suggested to us that it would make a great subject for a video. We were happy to agree...and Rio was very excited about the prospect of being in a video after much time spent pointing the camera at other people. She loved Glenn's previous work with other local and not so local bands and we were all eager to get the venture under way. The song starts with me singing 'Everybody's Telling Me To Go To Bed...I Don't Wanna Go To Bed'. Glenn suggested the idea of having me sat on the floor reading my Look-In magazine...with Rio towering above me...wagging a scolding finger...exhorting me to 'go to bed'. Rio loved the idea...and I came home from work one day to find her rehearsing the scene with one of our giant teddy-bears. (What? We all have giant teddy-bears...don't we?).
This was typical of my wife. She always wanted to get things right...even if it did mean replacing me with a tatty ragamuffin tubster teddy-bear with brains of fluff and wonky ears.(Yes,I know what you're thinking...don't even say it!) Rio...sadly...never did get the chance to play the part of 'scolding 70's mother' and the project was put on hold.
I met Glenn at the premiere of his film The Lovedays- The Key To the Trapdoor (chronicling power-pop and rock band The Lovedays' adventures on Merseyside...playing at The Cavern during the International Pop Overthrow Festival). We had a chat...and we both agreed that it would be a fitting tribute and testament to Rio if we went ahead and made the film...dedicating it to her memory.
Unlucky Fried Kitten- The Seventies
Keyboards...Andy export/Rio Fraser
Filming and directing...Glenn Prangnell
Venue...The Cherry Tree...of course.
There ya go Baby. That one's for you. Love you...my 70's girl <3xxx
We didn't expect Rio's move to England to be amazingly easy. Of course not. She was giving up her homeland...she had to put a lot of things in place and she had to leave a lot of things behind. We didn't expect it to be so difficult though...that I have to say. She had taken the sensible precaution of organising her medication into dosage-sized bottles and this was done professionally and with full documentation and ratification from the medical authorities. That didn't stop the fascists at LA X ripping her luggage apart and literally kicking her out and leaving her on her butt (see...I can do Americanisms) on the sidewalk outside the airport. Here's my diary entry of the day. It sums up our situation:
21st August 2007
Rio's big day for flying....and what a day for the butterflies. I had 2 crates delivered this morning. Rio obviously had a bigger delivery of the delicate-winged beauties because her change...and her risk...is clearly larger than my risk. Our waiting will soon be over. Have I ever had such an anticipation in my life? I don't think so. Our musical connections are vast. People who know me have said that if ever there's a girl for me it's Rio. (after seeing her pics...talking to her on the phone...and seeing how our union has formed over the past few months)
This is no 'crucial event' This is 'apprehension on overload'.
We only 'met' a few months back but here we are on the brink of spending the rest of our days together. Compatibility is assured...ha ha...music really can bring people together. We have even laughed about the fact that I am 45 and she is 33. I'm the 45 rpm single. (probably Everybody's Happy Nowadays by the Buzzcocks) She's the 33 rpm album (probably The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie).
So we found each other online...is it really so strange? (thank you Morrissey). I say it's not so strange. We have talked in extreme depth through the wires and through the waves of the telephone and the Internet. We have duo-handedly revived the concept of snail-mail.
People...friends...haven't scoffed. My friends have been wonderful.
They will soon be Rio's friends. Some people don't understand though.
Here's what I say. Would it have been more acceptable had I met Rio in
a nightclub...dated once or twice...and continued our relationship
based on a few pissed-up meetings in Amadeus...and on a couple of
inebriated trysts under the glare of a Peugeot 504 dashboard down by
the river? Get my drift? Having said that...I do understand the
doubters. What I don't understand....right now....is how the pigs at LA
X didn't let her on the plane tonight. Fuck. I got a call late on to
say she's been banned from the flight. Rio is out on the
sidewalk...with nowhere to go...having given up her home. I am over
here...with no way of helping her. What if they refuse her flight
tomorrow? What if we never get to meet?
So....that was my diary entry. Rio had obviously given up her apartment as she had assumed she was on her way out of the States. Fortunately her ex-landlady, Janet, was fond of Rio...and was kind enough to collect her from the airport and put her up for the night with her family. We were so grateful to Janet for that. It's a lesson, too, that it's really best to leave people on good terms...even if you think you'll never see that person again. As it happened...Rio had already given some of her excess possessions....including her beloved Apple-Mac...to Janet's little girl.
Rio flew over the next day. In the plane. Her arms weren't that strong.
As I had to work at the time of her arrival...I co-erced my
friends...Dave and Maggy...to pick her up from Gatwick. There's a very
funny Rio-Story to come from that collection. Here's Dave..to explain.
(Dave's story coming soon)
And so... Our colourful journey was resumed. Yeah...I hate to use that X-Factor riddled 'journey' shit.... But it does fit...like one of Rio's thread-laden mittens. I won't bore you with all the details...I have done that enough...but I'll just say that we weren't prepared for the hoops we had to jump through. Visas...Visas Visas. Money Money Money (thanks Abba). Permits and applications and affidavits and promissory notes and shit. Blah Blah Blah. ( thanks Iggy Pop)
A prominent member of parliament told us that 90% of couples in such a situation actually split up before the final visas are done.
We persevered...at great cost...and...ironically...Rio had just gained
her right to work permit for the UK in the month leading up to her
death. She had also passed her UK Citzenship Test in October. She was
utterly happy about that...and she was also very proud of herself. She
had also started a blog....LA2UK...outlining the procedures and
pitfalls that others would be facing when moving from America to
England. I get so sad for Rio. She just wanted to do the right
thing.....but she was ill. I worried a lot about her when she was on
her London journeys for her voluntary counselling work. She done the
work to gain experience in the UK field of addiction and behaviour
counselling and to learn about the English approach to psychology.
(having been trained and at work as a psychologist in the US.)
I worried because of her obvious frailty and because she did have a habit of zedding out on occasions. Mostly it was at home...which was ok...worst case scenario a spilled mug of tea on the Chesterton. ( like we have a Chesterton) but I always fretted about her racing around the underground in the rush-hour. She was often....in the nicest possible way...in her own little world...and she was always bogged down by extra coats, scarves, gloves, berets, belts, buckles and iPods. She was a walking mound of clothes really.
The first time I saw her zed out was during a shopping expedition to Asda, in Walderslade. I was talking 'fruit n fibre' to her in the breakfast cereal aisle....I turned round and she was gone. No...not vanished....she was frozen...like some colourful iconic punk figurine. An old punk couple...about my age...stared in bemusement as they walked round her. I shrugged. Rio told me later that when things got bad...like it did then...it felt like her bones had turned to glass and the pain was intense...which put her in some standby mode. I saw it a handful of times after that...including the night she was taken into hospital...when she had crashed like a sack of pomegranates to the kitchen floor.
Whenever I expressed my fears for her...be it my concern for her vulnerability in the maelstrom of the capital...or my concerns that she should be in hospital...she would wave my words away. 'I survived for years in Los Angeles, Miami and Berlin' she would say. 'I can handle London' How sad to know that...after all those places...it was Maidstone that got her in the end.
My fears were very much manifested in the profoundly shattering dream I had one night in mid 2010. I'm not saying it was any kind of premonition or anything. It was probably a reflection of my worries...and it certainly left me in deep shock.
We were standing in front of a muddy tidal section of the Thames on the
south shore at Butler's Wharf Pier, in the heart of London, gazing upon
the discarded items in the mud....mattresses, ovens, a scooter and some
traffic cones. To the left of us was a listing barge with Port of
London Authority stamped on the side. To the right were some old spice
warehouses....in dilapidated state. Rio smiled as she whispered 'here I
am stuck in the middle with you' She was so happy. She decided to take
a walk across the mudflats. She had the playful look of an excited
child venturing out onto a frozen lake...whilst I just saw the danger.
I yelled at her to come back. I told her it was too dangerous. 'It's
fine' she said 'stop being an old fusspot'
Suddenly....in one awful split-second...she shot down into the mud....like it was quicksand. My grief was immediate...even in my dream.
I knew that there was nothing I could do...that she was gone forever. I was completely distraught...and helpless.
I thought back to that dream often over a succession of months. I always shook my head...with an 'if only she had listened to me' sentiment. I pictured her happy, smiling, trusting face on that moment that she vanished forever. When she disappeared for real on 3rd November 2010 I had exactly the same emotion of instant loss. I knew then, as I knew in the dream, that she was never coming back. At least, though, I held her hand as she went. My massive wish is that it gave her some comfort and support during her final moments.
I'm always here for you, baby xxx
A Dollshouse for Rio
It just remains for me to wind the story down and to hand the reader over to some tributes and recollections. Some wonderful stories came to light after Rio had said goodbye to this life. No doubt some of those anecdotes will feature in this tribute section that I have called Rio's Dollshouse. Rio and I created the UFK Dollshouse together and it is completely fitting that she has her own Dollshouse now. A place she can visit from above....where she can read the poetry posted up in the library, where she can watch the videos played across the silver screen of the cinema, where she can play the songs uploaded to the jukebox in her music-room.
Music.... The defining word of Rio's life.
Thank you to everyone who reads this little story of Lady Stardust...a tale of a well-meaning girl who sadly lost her way. My words are not clever. She just deserves more than I could possibly give her now.
The Rio Dollshouse is open for anyone who might wish to pay tribute to her...or to anyone who just might want to say goodbye. No need to join up and leave a comment. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will copy and paste your messages and put them into her Dollshouse. I already have a lot lined up here...to put in. Feel free to add...or....just have a read of her tale.
My own final thought....Rio lives on in music...and music lives on in Rio.
Thank you everyone...for just letting me share a part of her world with you.
(This simple tribute....which says it all....came from Medway Eyes)
4th November 2010
It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend, fellow artist, mentor and catalyst Rio Fraser.
Rio was a fighter, a fierce intelligence, a force of nature and an inspiration.
Our love and thoughts go out to her husband Andy and to all those who loved her at this difficult time.
There are no more words.
from Iris Adams
One Day When My Life Is Done My Spirit Will fly Over The Sun
The Moon And The Stars Up Above
But i will always be around those I have loved
Remember me as a Familiar Face
Not one who had to leave before the end of the Race
Above all, to those I have loved, remember me for the smiles we gave
And the love in our hearts that will always stay xxxxx
from Nigel Leitch
I'm so proud of you
by Nigel Leitch on Friday, 05 November 2010 at 20:17
I never knew this could hurt so much
All I can do is hold your hand and cry
And through the pain floods a happiness
Rio, Soulmates never die.
i lay you down to sleep my girl
on a bed the colour of snow
I don't remember you asking
Rio, I don't want you to go
I look upon your precious eyes
and the warmth inside your heart
i wish you'd wake up for me
cause this is tearing me apart
People keep telling me
that you're gone and you're just a memory
but you never went away
I see your smile every day
And every forlorn tear falling hard
In a sterile room, magnified by the clock
if ever I meet that man named God
I'm gonna kick him in the c**k
and I just can't stop crying
the world it stopped for you
everybody wishes for an angel
and Rio, my wish came true
I'm so proud of you
WILD CHILD a song from Reavsey
Oh, now go, it’s time to leave
The sweetest soul, it’s time to grieve
Like a star, you will live on
You shine, so bright though now you are gone
And you will always walk amongst us here my child
Your memory will be preserved and you wild child
Are gone, but not forgotten...
You came from afar, to be
With the best thing you had, and he
Would give you his love, and care
Together always, a pair
And the people grew to love you near and far
You shined out oh so bright just like a star
You will, not be forgotten
And now you sleep
But there will always be a place to keep
Where you will play and smile just like a child
The wildest sweetest street smart kid, wild child
And he will hold a place for you I know
And he will never ever let you go
Rio was my friend and her husband is my friend. I know she was amazing caring person .. rip Rio i miss u so much xxx
DIDN'T KNOW YOU RIO BUT REST IN PEACE MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY AT THIS SAD TIME .... XXXX LOVE DEB AND FAMILY
My deepest sympathies go to Rio's loved ones. Though I only knew her briefly, I found her to be an intelligent, witty, and kind person. Nothing can match the positive difference she made in the people's lives she touched. That's her true measure.
I would like to say that my thoughts are with her husband and family and those people who actually knew her and loved her. She will be greatly missed.
I just wanted to say to all of the family how very very sad i am for your
loss. I am ***** and ***'s daughter and know that this woman was a very
helpful and friendly but so very ill woman.RIP RIO xx
To my best friend: I love you with all my heart,and one day I will see you again!!
I love you and miss you so much!!
R.I.P My beautiful friend
from Paul R
As her husband says, she was a very caring and beautiful person. She would help anyone. She paid heavily for a moment of weakness. She will be missed by many many people. She was much loved and respected. I will always remember her with great fondness.
from anonymous, Kent
My thoughts go out to the family of this woman.
To those relatives and friends of this lady I am so sorry for your loss, it sounds as if she had made great inroads into turning her life around and helping others and I hope you can take some comfort from that.
She was every bit as wonderful as her husband says she was. I will miss her hugely. She helped others. She valued everyone.
copied from Kent Online
My wife was an absolute angel who wanted to help other people. It was
her only ambition. I'll leave you with an example of how much she would
go out of her way for others. She had a new jacket...a black bomber
jacket..the type with the orange lining. She had only had it for a
fortnight...it cost her £65. We were walking through London and we saw
a man begging in the street...it was a cold day...and Rio took her
jacket off and gave it to the man...saying..."You need this more than I
Ask yourself....how many people would do that? I wouldn't!!!! Though maybe I would now.
what a sad story i feel for the family she has left behind
I am truly heartbroken to hear of Tracey's death (known in the UK as
Rio) as she was the most incredibly kind person I ever met. I know only
too well of the extraordinary mental and physical anguishes that Tracey
went through in her life, pains and suffering that would have finished
most people off, but which made her decide, with a passion, to help
My heart goes out to her family...her true family, I mean, the one that she found when she moved to England. Sleep well Tracey xx
from Alex Vazquez
I am extremely saddened by the news of Rio's passing. I know her as Tracey and remember how full of life she always was and how she always made everyone smile and took the time to know people as individuals...Tracey will always live on in my thoughts and in my heart and will never be forgotten. May she rest in peace...from Alex in Aventura, Florida, USA
from K (in Kent Online, November 2010)
If Andy is reading this, I am a childhood friend of Rio's in the US and just heard of her passing tonight. Thank you for coming into her life and loving her and bringing her happiness and a loving home. She was a really wonderful person and a beautiful soul who overcame some difficult situations. I am so deeply sorry. I wish that things had been different and that I could have known you and known her in her final years.
my heartfelt sympaphy 2 all ur family and friends rio r.i.p sweetheart xx
Rio was a smart, funny, caring and loving friend to all who knew her. She helped many people to conquer the demons that drove them to addiction. She used her own tragic past into helping others. She was my dearest friend, and she will always live in my heart.
Its just so sad. I'm still reeling. Much love to Andy. x
Two beautiful people, wishing you all the best Andy. I miss you Rio. xxx
Rio was a lovely lady and will be missed by many. Such a sad thing to happen. Wishing Andy all the strength in the world to get through this difficult time. Rio was clever, wise and funny too, as well as kind, caring and great company. She was a one off. I will miss her.
my heart goes out to this poor lady and her family.
from CC...a loyal MySpace friend...from the beginning
I just finished reading the Tribute. Well done Andy, beautifully written
I still feel beat up inside over the loss of such a lovely friend, but you did a fitting tribute to Rio's very unique beauty. Your love for each other and your compelling story is still very inspiring. You were both so very brave to get together as you did.
from Jeanne Fraser
I get very emotional every time i read it, and it is a lovely tribute to a lovely caring Daughter-in-Law. ♥ ♥ ♥
from Wendy Ellis Foster
I have just read Andy's account, it is awesome, Rio sounds like an amazing person who made an impact on so many people's lives x x x
from Yvette Leake
What a fantastic tribute Andrew very very moving, obviously I didn't know her but now wish I did :-) xxxxxx
from George Lucas
I really hope as many people as possible get to read this Andy as it's beautifully written and a great reminder of how very cool the story of you two was :)
from Reavsey Reavey
It's just great Andy. In time when memories fade there will always be a great tribute to Rio here. You make many acquaintances in life but few friends, she was a mate of mine for sure. I miss our chats and her quirky little ways a load. She was a one off for sure and I mean that in a unique sort of way...very special. Such a sad business. It's a great tribute.
from Vera Bronselaer
Andy, just finished reading this amazing story, Rio is one of those people you wished you would have met but sadly enough didn't. The world would look much better with more people like her!
from The Farmer's Wife ( a fellow hubber)
Just read 'A Tale of Lady Stardust' - Its heartfelt and so sad, I'm so sorry for your loss. Lost a brother young myself, the pain never goes away but its lovely you can honour Rio wlth a written tribute. Oh and I thought the black and white shot of her was beautiful.
from Graeme Grant
Forever in our hearts.x
from Eve Pssyche Buggs
fantastic,respect to you andy,its hard to think about your loss,let alone write such a great piece and share it with us.thanku...xxxx
from Samuel Paul Jacques
from Justin Lewis
I just finished reading Andy's tribute to Rio . I have never read a
better tribute for anyone ever. Extremely moving and honest tribute.
Thank you Andy.
from The C90's (myspace)
I had just started to post in the forums before Rio passed on and I never actually got the chance to read her posts, but I still want to offer my deepest condolences to Andy. His tribute is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.
I was amazed at the response to her falling ill in this forum. I could clearly see that a lot of people really cared for her- really loved her and I'm sure she was very proud to have such great friends. I know it probably doesn't mean a lot, but I am really truly sorry for her passing and I was touched at the support people were offering.
from Carl (Mack Daniels)
I started reading Andy's tribute before it was finished. I was amazed,
and was also flattered and honored of the mention of the radio tribute
we did for her.
However, since it has been finished, a few changes were made here and there, and the way Andy wrapped it up... moved me in a very deep way.
Rio was special to so many people here. In fact, there was once a time that, (and I know I'm not alone in this) this forum was so busy and there was a very close-knit group here that, I'd wake up and before checking email, Myspace messages or friend requests.. I'd come here first to see what was going on. I remember a very rough period I went through, and though I had tried talking to a few people here about things, Rio was THE ONE who took the time to actually listen, give advice, and be a friend.
That was another thing I admired about her: regardless what she was dealing with, she would put herself aside to help someone else. Also her courage to take such a huge leap after meeting Andy, and making the relocation to the UK. That would be rough on anyone, and while it was no picnic for her - she took that leap right into Andy's arms. It was like a true-life fairy tale that sadly, ended tragically.
I admire Andy for staying as strong as he has, and for moving on with life just as Rio would have wanted him to. There are people who touch me in different ways (ok, for those with your mind in the gutter, I didn't mean THAT way.) Some encourage me and lift me up when I am at my lowest, and others show me how to overcome, while others show me there is more to life than we understand. And then, there are some people that, for various reasons, become personal heroes to me. With all that Andy has endured, he has not only encouraged me, but has also become one of my personal heroes.
I built up a solid friendship with Rio. I went through a tough time
roughly 3-4 years ago, and the only person to listen, and be a friend
She was the most perfect lady. her whole personality was like a beautiful poem, I admire Andy for staying so strong throughout this, I admire you all for lifting Andy up. Mostly, I still admire the wonder that Rio was.
Miss you greatly, love you more.
RIP Rio x x
from Amy Forsblom
I look back at the times Rio and I had together, and smile.
I moved to England in November 2006, to spend my life with my beautiful husband, Graeme Grant. I found it very exciting but extremely hard at times, when I had first moved over, as I did not know anyone here in Maidstone. Graeme is a very sociable person and has many friends, so, after he had attended the wedding of Andy and Rio, he told me about Rio,a person who he thought I would really like and get along very well with.
I met Rio for the first time in the autumn of 2008 and since then on she has been my best friend in England and has always been there for me. I have some great memories of the times we spent together and they often entailed Tesco's takeaway coffee and muffins (Rio loved her blueberry muffins and her cat Ollie always tried to charm us into giving her muffins too).
One day we had decided that a walk into Maidstone would do us good, so we left her place and headed to town, with a stop off at Tesco to pick up our regular order of takeaway coffee and muffins. We spent the day in town looking around and shopping and we had a really great time together.
We decided to walk down Gabriel's Hill in town where there were loads of school kids waiting for their buses home. When we walked passed they all stared and laughed and shouted out the word emos. Of course, Rio and I took no notice of this stupid remark and kept on walking, ignoring these brats, who were unhappy about not getting a reaction from us. They decided to shout out the word lesbians instead, at which we chuckled and turned to face each other and kissed right in front of them.
It all went very quiet and we found this highly amusing. We have laughed many times at the memories of that day. This is just one of many great memories that I have from our time spent together.
I always knew that Rio was, and is, an amazing person, so it was an honour to have had her in my life. The one thing that I will always keep with me is that it never did matter if Rio and I did not see each other from one week to the next. It would still be as if we had only just met up yesterday. She will be forever in our hearts, as Graeme said!!
from Georgie Palmer
My Tribute to Lady Stardust.
It was a rather chilly evening at the White Horse on London Road, there was a Live Band on and it was tipping it down outside. At this point the smoking ban was well in force so I, like many others, were subjected to the elements to feed our habits.
It was here that my Brother introduced me to Rio, and we hit it off straight away. She leant me her jacket as I was freezing, no was not an answer Rio would accept. We were talking well into the night about various bands and hot topics in Psychology. This was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Most nights we were up talking on Facebook, putting the world to rights or going into depth on many different topics. Rio would help me with assignments or clear things up for me if I were unsure, giving me pointers and nudges in the right direction. I am so grateful for this.
I know Rio is somewhere rocking out to a bit of Ian Dury, having the time of her life. I will always remember her for the smile on her face, even when she was in the most horrendous pain or was having a shit day. She never let it show. I admired this in Rio.
Rest in peace lady, you are missed
from Reavsey ( a true friend)
It was the night of the Claim's return to Medway at the Royal Function Rooms in Rochester if my memory serves me right. I was feeling a bit under the weather, as usual, but Rio managed to turn up to film. She had 5 teeth out at the dentist that day and I couldn't believe she had managed to make it and film as well! She struggled desperately, the poor love, almost collapsing a couple of times, and she struggled to speak and stand. She carried on like a trooper until the bitter end. I would have been tucked up in bed if it were me... but she was made of sterner stuff was Rio.
Yes...she had 5 teeth pulled that day. I said to her...stay at home, baby, you are in agony. She would have none of that sympathy and she certainly didn't want our advice (to stay at home and rest) She was out there...with her little cam-corder. She was a star. Thanks for reminding me of that. xxx
from Chris Gare
Only met Rio the once one xmas but she sounds like a really good person. All you can do with the money in the purse is give it to someone that needs it like she did with her jacket. Only read up to the Cherry Tree bit as need to get some sleep but that's a very good tribute. As you said its bad when people die young but then it sounds like she did a lot with her life.
froms Joolz Ellis
Wow. What can i say? I have just read your tribute to Rio. Although I never met her, you have been a good friend of mine for some time. Thankyou for sharing all of your stories and feelings. I feel I know her and I'm sad we had never met. What a beautiful tribute to an astonishingly wonderful person. Love you andy.xxx
from Alexis (in the States)
from Steve Power
Hope those amps go all the way up to 11 upstairs Rio x
from Nick Hughes
from Mair Pix
from Anna Oates
from Ben Jones
You had such an impact in such a short time, all those people who
turned out to bid you farewell, and all those who couldn't be there but
were there in spirit will never forget the light you brought into our
lives. You will live on in Andys great big heart. I'm proud to have been your friend xx
from Isla Fraser
Rest in Peace xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
from Jackie Emerton
from Simon Hopewell
from Bob O'Brien
from Ian Wilkinson
from Isla Fraser
and a cure was not to be
so he put his arms around you
...“Come to Me”
With tearful eyes we watched you
and saw you pass away
and although we love you dearly
we could not make you stay.
A Golden heart stopped beating
hard working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us
he only takes the best
I hope you are at peace Rio, we will miss you at our Christmas table,
I know you loved it so much, we had already been talking about this years celebration, we will keep a space for you in case you can still drop by
from Sharon Thomas Cooper
from Garry Jenkins
from Ben Jones
from Slap Alice (Hannah)
from Stephen Piper
from Brian Graves
from Lisa Dillon
from Ashleigh Gill
The world is a lot less a shiny place without her and I regret not attending the wedding or meeting up with her immensely. I always told myself there was plenty of time to meet up and I was tragically wrong. I miss her. I miss talking to her and sharing the jokes we shared.
...........she may be gone but shes always with you,in your heart,your memories,all around you.........darling,my heart is truly breaking for you............xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
from Nicci Holdstock
I wasn't one of those fortunate to know Rio very well, but in the short time I did know her, I learned what a wonderful person she was.
I met Andy quite a few years ago, in The Royal Albion, where I worked behind the bar. I was an amateur drinker back then. Andy, however, was already a professional. There was never a dull moment to be had and I miss the great times I had there.
Due to lifestyle changes (me becoming responsible and having children) I lost touch with Andy for several years. Thanks to technology and a social networking site called 'Facebook' I got back in touch. It was then that I discovered that Andy had met and married Rio and had also formed a new band, 'Unlucky Fried Kitten'.
Andy was doing a charity gig in Brenchley Gardens and having just moved back to Maidstone I decided to take the kids along after school to watch. It was at this gig that I met Rio, and could tell that Andy had met his perfect match........xx
from Cinnamon Dianne Morgan
♥♥♥ I miss you Rio.
from Steve Darvill
Bless her.... xxxx
from Tiffany Wratten
Wot a lovely lady xx
from Steve Power
Fantastic Andy. Rio will always have a place in our hearts. Even though I never met her.Throughout her posts on here and Myspace she still seemed to ooze warmth and kindness. A difficult thing to do through a keyboard. A genuine lady. Hope you're holding up ok mate. We're all here for you x
from Willie Tharp
I read half of it. I'll read the rest later (off to work) I'm loving it Andy. It's inspiring.
from Michelle Holman
Andy-beautiful. Very poignant, many of the emotions are shared, mainly by my dad who lost his wife of forty years 1 month before Rio was cruelly taken from you. I'm so sorry...xxx
from David Vernon
Hey Andy. I amazed at how strong you've been coping with your loss. You're an inspiration to everyone. :)
from Dee Langridge
I read this before breakfast this morning..made me a bit late for the school run but it was worth it. A lovely lovely tale xxxx
from Andrea Jones
Wow Andy - I'm speechless. So sorry for your loss
NOTE FROM ANDY (AUTHOR)
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