It all began with a tweet. I had just started to write about music and I decided to tweet a young writer, a certain @danlucas86, because I’d read his reviews on Louder than War and Drowned in Sound and I wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed them. They were unlike anything I had ever seen: intelligent, funny, sophisticated sarcastic, gloriously geekish, entertaining, full of obscure Simpson’s references, and often full-on Malcolm Tucker in tone. There was simply nobody else around writing about music in this way and I wanted to tell him that.
He replied to me instantly and a Twitter conversation soon ensued that ended up with me tweeting him a review I’d written. As reviews editor at Louder than War, he decided to upload it to the site that same day, saying how much he really enjoyed it. Now, for those of you that know Dan, if I tell you this review was of Elbow, or “Elbore” as Dan often termed them, that was a really nice thing for him to do. Nicer still was the fact he asked me to send him more of my writing shortly after: he was the very first person to show an interest in my work. He uploaded every single piece of my writing onto the website over the next few days whilst guiding, editing and advising me on how to make my writing better. I was touched beyond words by his kindness, interest and championing of me, a nobody blogger simply having a go at writing. I wrote my first piece for the Guardian about three years later – that was entirely down to Dan Lucas and the advice he gave me from that day on. Without him, I’d have never found a voice. Dan’s work was all about a strong voice: his character and personality shone through everything he ever wrote.
A week or so later, Dan found himself in Manchester and asked me if I would like to meet to talk about music and writing. “I’m marginally funnier in person than on Twitter”, he said. “Which is like being a slightly taller Danny De Vito.” He’d not yet seen a picture of me as I had a stupid guitar picture as an avatar, nor did he know that I didn’t really mind Oasis or The Stone Roses all that much. He did know, however, that I was a massive geek on Tom Waits, Radiohead, The Simpsons, REM, and Bruce Springsteen. I was an Eels super-fan and an ELO enthusiast. All of this somehow contributed to why he asked me to meet: he had met a fellow geek and geeks, as we know, can be hard to find – good ones, anyhow.
I turned an embarrassed shade of violet when I finally met him on 16th November at 5pm. He was bloody handsome, this Dan Lucas, and I felt suddenly and painfully aware that my hair was sticking up in places it shouldn’t, that my eyeliner was probably smudged from the rain. He was wearing a 1950’s jazz style grey hat, a smart suit with a Radiohead t-shirt and some battered old converse; I was hopelessly floored when he started talking to me and I started to stare at my converse. I had planned to come across as my nerdish, well informed musical writer self who knew her thing – instead I stuttered, stumbled and realised I couldn’t stop staring at him or listening to him: I was entirely disarmed. How utterly unexpected was this Dan Lucas? Where had this guy come from? What on earth was he doing to me?
In the first hour of meeting him, it will come as no surprise to those of you who knew Dan that we talked about The Simpsons, cricket, REM, Radiohead, Eels, Arrested Development and Weezer. He was impressed I knew all the lyrics to ‘Do the Bartman’ but I was more impressed he seemed able to recount any single quote from seasons 4-9 of the Simpsons perfectly. In our first hour together, he opened up – only momentarily – about his love of cricket and I felt that I was in the presence of some kind of genius. “I’ll stop talking now – I’ve just heard myself and I sound incredibly boring,” he said. I told him to stop being ridiculous and to tell me more about Fire in Babylon. To listen to Dan talk about something he loved was an absolute joy – his mind darted from stat to stat, anecdote to anecdote with effortless, intelligent grace. The child-like grin on his face when he told me about Curtly Ambrose meant I wanted to know all about Curtly Ambrose too. He started to explain the Duckworth Lewis method to me.
Drinks turned to dinner and kisses and dancing and loud singalongs in the street. We sang Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’, Toto’s ‘Africa’ and Prefab Sprouts ‘The King of Rock n Roll.’ A Canadian told us off for singing South Park’s ‘Blame Canada’ but Dan just encouraged me to sing it louder, so I did. It was an actual perfect first date that wasn’t meant to be a date. When my train pulled off, he ran after it at top speed, waving, losing his hat and glasses in the process but still running after it like a massive idiot anyway shouting that he loved me. I got asked to shut up on the train because I shouted it back at the top of my voice too.
Getting to know Dan over our first year together was an absolute joy. We re-watched all our favourite films and gushed about them afterwards over wine in Gordon’s, his favourite bar. We swapped jazz records and waxed lyrical for hours on sunny days about Miles Davies and George Gershwin. He bought me an original Gershwin vinyl weeks after meeting and wrote about me in an ‘In Rainbows’ retrospective he put together, where I suddenly became this metaphor in his work – I mean, fuck. Can you imagine how that makes a person feel? He bought me an E. E. Cummings poetry book too and wrote the same note as in Hannah and Her Sisters, inscribing it to me. Where the hell do you begin? Nobody had ever treated me with as much care and consideration and thoughtfulness as Dan. I was absolutely stunned, head-over-heels in love and stunned. There was nobody like Dan. He wanted to be generous to everyone - he did similar things for friends and family because he wanted everyone to feel his love.
It was about date three when Dan first revealed his gloriously fierce views on the world to me, so often seen in his reviews. Unaware at this point about the true extent of his hatred towards Manchester music, I brought up Oasis and The Stone Roses. “What do you mean, you bought ‘What’s the Story?’” he said to me, a look of abject fear in his eyes. “Oasis should be put down a sewer and then shat on some more so they really are in no doubt about just how much like a stinking pile of festering shit they really are.”
Naturally, Dan said this with a straight face and total, unwavering belief in every word he said. Zero fence sitting. He continued with a two-hour tirade about Ian Brown, or “Danny Dyer’s grandad”, as he liked to call him. He told me Coldplay make elevator music just after he’d spent a whole hour musing about what on earth the point of Snow Patrol was. He said he thought anyone who attended a musical was a sociopath and that Jason Statham was the only person who could save the James Bond franchise now. He rang me after date three, worrying that his views had been too much. “'Whatever' isn’t bad, I suppose, and not all Manchester music is terrible. The Bee Gees were genuinely the best band to come out of Manchester.” Dan Lucas’s humour was just glorious.
Dan started to write much more seriously in 2012. His output at Louder than War and Drowned in Sound increased, so too did his adventures into sports writing, getting his work published on sporting blogs all across the UK. He started to write for my blog too, whilst also showing me how to write better, taking the time to read my pieces and come up with better similes and metaphors and Simpson’s jokes than I ever could – than anybody ever could. He had total and unwavering belief in what he wanted to do: he would become a writer and no crummy two-bit job would get in the way. He would write, and he would do this for a living and he would do it the hard way, the proper way. In 2013, I told him to send his sports writing to The Guardian because it was quite, quite brilliant. He initially refused, saying it wasn’t good at all and preceded to delete all his attempts and pitches. Dan was a sensitive soul and not confident in his abilities – even through all his readers and those closest to him absolutely were. When I threatened to play The Stone Roses on loop to him if he didn’t send his work in, he finally caved. He started work on the Guardian liveblog a week later. He also managed to secure work at The Telegraph, travelling all over the country to report on rugby matches, and Guerrilla Cricket, where his skills as a talented radio broadcaster came to light. He wrote prolifically for Under the Radar magazine and always delighted when his copy dropped on the doormat, proudly showing me his work in print. More recently, he branched out into covering women’s tennis at the WTA and live music and news features for Gigwise. He even sort of won a BAFTA for his coverage of the Channel 4 Winter Olympics (google Dan Lucas, BAFTA and look for his hilarious tweets).
Over our time together, we did it all. We wandered the streets of Montmartre at night many a time, drinking in bars that we’d seen in movies and pretending we were in those movies. We danced for 3 hours in Coventry to Bruce Springsteen when he played the whole of Born To Run in full. We got stranded in Coventry when we missed the last train after the gig and suffered an 8-mile walk through the night until we paid £180 for a taxi to get us home. We partied all over London and Manchester until the small hours dancing to The National. We blagged backstage passes to gigs and waved like dorks at our heroes. We met Hodor from Game of Thrones on a flight to Pisa and expressed our love for him by shouting "HODOR!" We ran on stage at the London Palladium and got chased off by security. We went to Berlin and hated it (“it’s basically just Longsight this place, but with worse scenery” – Dan Lucas); we went to Italy and got lost for hours on the streets of Florence, drinking wine and eating ice cream. We took the piss out of the pretentious art in Tate Modern, we swam in the sea in Devon and we watched Sideways at least once every six months. We fought over chess games, discussed Game of Thrones fan theories into the early hours, watched cricket in Northampton on sunny days, screamed in support of the Northampton Saints especially when they beat Leicester. He introduced me to a band called Wilco. We stared at our shoes at My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain and sang Karma Police at the top of our voice at a Radiohead gig. We started a band and sounded appalling but continued to have a go anyway. We cooked spicy food and Dan ate chills so hot they weren't even on the Scoville scale. We argued over him being Northampton’s only Manchester City fan. We wrote a film script involving Jason Statham fighting terrorists at London Zoo – Dan sent it to Jason Statham’s agent and we still await a reply.
Dan did everything in his life to the full and he did it with style. He did everything with passion, knowledge and complete and utter conviction. When he went below the line, he threw himself in with total disregard and he argued his point passionately – it didn’t matter what that point was, he argued it passionately because it mattered to him that people could see just how passionate it was to him. He was an unashamed geek – he had an encyclopedic knowledge of Game of Thrones, cricket, rugby, The Simpsons, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development…and anyone who dared to challenge him swiftly found out they had made, to quote Arrested Development, “a huge mistake.” He was also wildly mischievous and fun – so much fun. You haven’t lived if you haven’t shouted Arrested Development quotes with Dan Lucas into the ether at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Dan was also a sweet, gentle and sensitive man. He loved animals and visiting zoos and wildlife sanctuaries and donating to charitable causes for animals. He loved his childhood toys, which he kept, Andy from Toy Story style, safely in his room and would still do their idiosyncratic voices to me every day like a boy of eight, just because it was fun to do so. He could tell you anything about dinosaurs and Jurassic Park was his favourite film. Our yearly visit to the Natural History Museum involved Dan doing his very best impression of Jeff Goldblum. He loved championing new bands he really liked and he loved helping others and always giving time to others whenever he could. He loved his family, his friends and he even, bafflingly, loved me. I always felt so lucky and honoured that someone like Dan chose me.
There is an unimaginable void in all our lives; that of his colleagues, his readers, his closest friends and family, his online circle of friends. There was simply nobody like The Dan Lucas. To honour him, learn quotes from The Simpsons. Read Game of Thrones and remember every single plot line and character intricacy. Go to a cricket match and grin like a child. Watch Fire in Babylon. Watch YouTube videos of Curtly Ambrose. Sing ‘See my vest…’. Scream at the rugby whilst drinking Guinness. Drink wine at Gordons until you can’t remember who you are. Be funny. Play your guitar and sing badly. Do a shit pub crawl around Northampton. Don’t take life too seriously. Follow your dreams and absolutely, categorically, do not listen to anyone who tells you not to. Watch a dumb 80’s action movie and do your best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression with total, unwavering conviction. Watch all episodes of 24 back to back with a box of shit lager. Shout DENTAL PLAN! at your dentist receptionist and watch their glorious confusion. Listen to Radiohead, Wilco, Bruce Springsteen, REM and sing them at the very top of your voices at least once every day. Shout BOOOURNSSS to a colleague at work and judge them if they don’t shout back. Live life to the full and never be afraid to geek out about it. Watch your favourite movie over and over. Shout “neeeerrrrrrddddddddd!” at university students then run off. Get excited when C list celebrities like Paul Ross tweet you. Light an A-lister’s cigarette for them. Argue with your girlfriend when you tell her that you lit Marion Cottilard’s cigarette (we made up eventually). Play George Gershwin at 1 in the morning and get shouted at by your neighbours. Get tickets to see Stuart Lee and laugh until your stomach hurts…
…Sing ‘Monorail, Monorail’ to strangers in the street. Tell someone you love them every single day. Make a jacket that says: ‘Mr Plough’. Book a shit break away to Berlin and tweet to the German national tourism board that Sauerkraut is shit. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Shout at people below the line if they’re rude and fight your corner like a boss. Don’t sit on any fences. Stand up for your beliefs and geek the hell out of others. Care for others. Stroke a cute dog on a tube, take a picture of it and post it up on Instagram. Use a Malcolm Tuckerism at least once a day, remembering that 'omnishambles' is a particularly good choice. Help others when they need it because it’s a dick move not to. Recite Ozymandias in a Walter White voice because it’s really, really fun. Give a shit. Don’t buy anything from John Lewis, ever. Know your stuff. Avoid plays at all costs. Take an immediate distrust to anyone who goes to a musical because they’re probably a sociopath. Argue with fans who are angry at you for writing a negative review of their favourite band. Be proud to tell people what you know. Learn to play guitar and play it loudly. Fight your corner. Take delight in writing vicious complaints to train companies. Support a football team no one else in your hometown does. Shout at people who stand on the left on the underground. Find your Simpson’s hero and interview them, correct them if you need to. Talk about the greatness of Eels over wine for hours and talk to your friends and loved ones every single day…because if you do just a bit of this, then you will see just a little bit of what it was like to be my Dan Lucas.
RIP Dan Lucas: 1986 - 2017