John Sicolo was a local legend and much, much more. He was an international treasure.
The tributes pouring in on social network sites (more than 3,000 people signed up to his Facebook memorial page in less than 24 hours - and his passing was recorded as the most ‘tweeted’ about subject yesterday) pay testament to a man who was loved, respected and admired by thousands.
Newport TJs might not have been a particularly unusual place compared to the rest of the UK live music circuit, but the huge character that was John Sicolo made it unique in many ways. His legendary hospitality (he would frequently put visiting bands up for the night in his own house and he would always cook them a hearty dinner) is still talked about across the globe. Therapy?, Green Day, The Lemonheads and thousands more have all benefitted from his genial hospitality. And they don’t forget. Laurie Lindeen, singer with Minneapolis band Zuzu’s Petals, wrote on his tribute page on Facebook today: “Such a lovely, generous authentic human being. In his home was my first conscious lesson of seeing what a family could be. Now he’s joined back with his beloved, may he rest in peace.”
When more and more local bands started to form around the influence of so many American, Canadian, Japanese and European punk and alternative groups, John was right there supporting in every way possible. I promoted several band nights in TJs and John never charged me a penny for hire of the club or its facilities. And when I set up a fanzine (Frug!) and record label, John was right there with encouragement, practical help and a financial buffer. The compilation LP I released in 1994, ‘I Was A Teenage Gwent Boy’, was dedicated to him and his late partner Trilby Tucker (the T in TJs). Right now, I’m thankful that John turned up at the photo session for that record. His face is on the sleeve, in record collections the world over, for ever.
John was a great friend, a fantastic raconteur, a really excellent cook and just the kind of inspiration that a young ambitious buck could wish for. He was much loved by all the bands he saw along the way and helped propel to success: 60ft Dolls, Catatonia, Skindred, Rocket From The Crypt and many, many more. He was much more than a club owner: he was a kindred spirit, a guiding light in many respects and a willing participant in the still largely unheralded artform that was our rock’n’roll. He was very quick to recognise the value of our uncompromised ambitions and dreams, and he dived in with as much help as he could offer.
Personally, I will never forget his welcoming call whenever I would walk into TJs (“Andy Bastard!”), or the frequent dead arms (John liked to greet regular visitors with a playful punch). There are so many good times associated with John locked away in my memory that I am guaranteed many happy future years of recollection and remembrance.
When the work that we young folk of Newport did in the early to mid 1990s is finally given the recognition it deserves, John’s part in that process will truly be recognised. For now, the world will have to catch up with the 3,000+ (and growing) participants to his tribute page. We know. We know.
Whatever happens to TJs in the future, it’s what went on inside the walls that counts the most. I sincerely hope that John’s legendary frame will one day be commemorated with a big, big bronze statue and placed somewhere prominent in the city. Great writer though WH Davies might have been, I think it’s time Newport celebrated a more modern cultural icon.
I really did think he would outlive us all. This is a devastating time and my heart goes out to John’s family.
Tara John. You rock!