Volumes could be written about Mr. Terence Ruffle. Never a dull person, Terry made an impression wherever he appeared…
It wasn’t always a welcome impression, but it’s impossible for such a showman to be himself-and to be what he wanted to be-and not rub someone up the wrong way. He was willing to be friendly with anyone, but if he detected unpleasant vibes, he would reciprocate. I don’t believe he was ever vindictive-it wasn’t in his nature.
If I could sum up my view of Terry in a couple of sentences, I would have to say that he was always at the centre of every situation he found himself in, and that, upset a few delicate sensibilities as he did, he was never boring.
I once wrote a blog post about my best friend, which was in fact he. We weren’t always the best of friends though, and in recent years fell out of contact. Most of what I’m writing here relates to the earlier part of our lives, up to about the age of thirty. He may have mellowed somewhat after that, once he realized he wasn’t going to be a rock star after all. Living here on the other side of the Atlantic, and being married and “responsible”, I don’t know quite what he became.
However, when we were together, we had many huge laughs, intense fun thrashing out those tunes, and lots of cerebral conversations. His mental energy always ensured this, and brought out the best of me in that regard-and most likely the worst also. Not only that, but he was one of those people who can make you feel totally appreciated and welcome. He would look people in the face (unless he knew they didn’t like him), he would take an interest in them, and make them feel like he really wanted to be with them. I couldn’t ask for anything more in a friend, but there was more.
Optimist that he was, Terry was rarely under a cloud, and when he was, it was normally because he’d lost a girlfriend, lost a family member, or lost a band. Spending time with Terry was always enough to blow any blues away: the fun and the optimism were infectious. I’ve known perhaps three people who could make me laugh uncontrollably: Terry is the undisputed champion. There were times when I literally couldn’t breathe for laughing, and the beauty of it was that I was able to make him laugh too. He laughed easily-an invaluable trait.
He was capable of being a deeply caring person. Some who knew him might find that a provocative statement, because, being incurably sanguine and confident, he was prone to insensitivity. He really didn’t mean to irritate or be utterly self centred or at times narcissistic: it was just part of his natural persona. But when he did think things through-how others felt and what they might be going through- he was touched to the core. He would freely express concern, and if the situation presented itself, he would act to alleviate the problem.
Strangely, even Terry’s selfishness was food for amusement and laughter. If he dispatched himself to the “offy” to get a little something to drink for everyone, it came as no surprise to all awaiting his return, despite the disgust and frustration, if it took him literally hours. Indeed, he might not have come back at all. We knew what he was like, we compensated for his distracted nature, and we had a chuckle that he could be so totally self-absorbed.
He would, however, freely admit that he was the consummate hedonist. In fact, I’d say that this was his raison d’étre for a large portion of his life. It was this attitude in him which made him so much fun to be around, and yet also, at times, so irritating and obnoxious. I know I’m not speaking ill of the dead here: I believe Terry would read this and laugh, and most likely agree with most of what I’m saying. He would probably even be flattered.
I knew Terry from Junior school: he was in my class. At age ten, the rest of us thought he looked a little odd (though we probably looked just as odd). He had a patch over his lazy eye. He rolled his head a little, and when he ran, it wagged from side to side. By the time he was thirteen, he was already working at looking like a rock star, and did it pretty well. I remember seeing him on his easy-rider bicycle, wearing a stars and stipes t-shirt, and holding an LP, most likely of Jimmy Hendrix or Woodstock.
At sixteen his hair was over his shoulders, as mine was, and he had taken to wearing shades even in dull conditions. By the time he was eighteen he’d adopted a new wave look, and then not long after that, sported a flat-top, which was eventually bleached-and a leather jacket. He told me, around that time, that if he didn’t “make it” (as a rock star) by the time he was thirty, he would give up. There was no lack of trying with Terry.
In Terry’s zeal to try all things illicit, he never, to my knowledge, touched LSD. He wanted to protect his brain, which was his second favourite organ…
I had jammed with Terry and friends of ours (Mark Robbins, Paddy Mulville, Bob Mardon and others) from the time we were fifteen-he on his Telecaster and me on bass. We successfully and frequently attracted the attention of irate neighbours or the policeman they had dispatched in order to stop the hideous noise emanating from our practice room.
So much could be written on the subject of Terence and bands, including those I was in with him. He really did have considerable potential, which desperately needed some professional coaching and direction. I think his best performances were with the very talented Carl Seager and The Flying Heroes, of which I was a proud part for a while, and also with Paul Sullivan and various incarnations of The Accidents.
The most fun I ever had playing with Terence was in the Surf Rats. Our intention, as per Terry’s direction (of course) was to play the instrumentals as fast as we possibly could. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but with the line-up we had, it actually worked very well. There were moments when we were playing that were so sublime I could not possibly describe the feelings and emotions I had. “Oh euphoria-you know it’s so good for ya…” and Terry’s love of pleasure, and his aim that all those with him felt the same way, made the sensation of euphoria possible-a talent very few of us have. All I can say is, Thanks, Terry, for providing me with so much fun, laughter and great music.
How to choose an anecdote out of the thousands which could be told? They are all so rich. Terry and I left the pub one evening (how many anecdotes involving this bloke could begin with that sentence!) and determined to visit someone who lived on a nearby barge. This entailed, obviously, stepping a short distance from the quayside onto the side of the barge. I went first, but my foot slipped off the side of the barge, and I fell between the concrete and the boat. Luckily for me, I did in that moment manage to grab on to both sides on my way down, otherwise I would have been at least waist deep in good old Maldon mud and water, in the darkness. Perhaps I would have fallen in all the way: probably not a good idea in my condition.
So there I dangled helplessly, between the devil and the deep blue sea, gasping for breath and wondering what was going to happen next. And what was Terry doing? Those of you who knew him can answer the question: he was laughing hysterically. Once he’d regained a degree of sanity, he grabbed my arm, and impressively, lifted me out of the miry clay.
It seems unnatural to have to say goodbye…to the best friend I ever had. Bye, Terry, mate. I did love you.
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