Peter Janes obituary

Other lives: Musician who released two singles in the 1960s before becoming a postman

My friend Peter Janes, who has died aged 75, was part of London’s vibrant folk and pop scene in the 1960s and released two singles in the later part of that decade, both of which were produced by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam).

Cat and Peter met in 1963 through their respective elder brothers, who were rag trade colleagues in London. It was Peter who taught Cat the classic 12-bar blues, and they began singing together on the folk circuit, both eventually securing record contracts. However, although Cat went on to have a long recording career, Peter left the business in 1968, keeping up his interest in music on a strictly amateur basis.

He was born Peter Horgan in Canada, but from the age of two grew up in Chingford in Essex with his mother, Barbara, who worked in the BBC’s pay department. A self-taught musician, he was a keen amateur initially, but soon began to earn a living through playing, and travelled widely – at one point appearing live on Greek television with Vangelis and Demis Roussos in front of a viewing audience of two million people.

Emperors And Armies, the first single released by Peter Janes, in 1967
Emperors and Armies, the first single released by Peter Janes, in 1967 Photograph: from family/Unknown

His first single, in 1967, featured two self-penned songs, Emperors and Armies on the A-side and the wistful Go Home Ulla on the reverse, with Cat producing. They were both recorded at Olympic Studios in London, where Peter said the session musicians “just wanted to take the money and run”. But the end product was excellent, and in spite of having tonsilitis, Peter gave a great vocal. He had intended to record under the name Peter James (James being his middle name), but when the single came out, his new surname had been misspelled to “Janes” – and he had to stick with it.

His second single, released in 1968, was Do You Believe (Love Is Built on a Dream), on which Peter played acoustic guitar and Cat obliged with accompaniment on the mellotron. Both the A-side and the B-side, For the Sake of Time were well received by the critics but the release did not trouble the UK charts.

A third single, featuring The Rain (written by Cat) and Baby Where Are You Going (co-written with Cat), was recorded but never saw the light of day.

Although he had been able to make a living with his musical activities for a period, Peter’s playing then became a hobby as he switched to working first at an electricity wholesalers and then as a postman until retirement. His last gig was in 1993, after which he left London for a quieter existence in Stanton in Suffolk, where he lived a reclusive and solitary life. His death came after many years of ill health.

He is survived by his brothers, Gerry and Ricky, and his niece, Lesley.

George Brown

The GuardianTramp

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