Composers and fans mourn the passing of Ben Daglish
Developers and musicians pay tribute to the retro gaming musician and iconoclast
Ben Daglish had passion – for playing music live, for teaching children about music and for the C64’s sound chip. His wife Sarah announced Ben’s death on 1 October 2018, he died after a battle with lung cancer. The retro scene has lost an amazing raconteur, a superb performer and a great showman.
Ben learnt several instruments at school and performed as percussionist in the Sheffield Schools Orchestra.
Ben won his school a BBC Micro in an essay contest, and was among the first to use it – meeting young programmer Tony Crowther. “I have known Ben for many years, we met when he was 15. He is probably the most likeable musician I have ever known, he could play any musical instrument and keep you fascinated for hours. His passing is a great loss, but his legacy will live on, with such memorable pieces of music as Trap, William Wobbler, and Kettle. These are just some of my games Ben worked on, that I am forever grateful. Ratt and Benn forever.” When Tony needed music for Commodore 64 game Percy The Potty Pigeon, Ben typed in the notes for Chopin’s Funeral March and a career started.
“We worked on Auf Wiedersehen Monty and had a real blast,” Rob Hubbard remembers. “I’ve known him for over 30 years and we always got on really well. I recently thought about doing some kind of project with him, but kept putting it off. He was a very gifted, naturally talented musician and a one-off character. His music will always survive and new people will get to know it. We all loved Ben and he will be missed by all.” In the Nineties, Ben bemoaned the “suits” starting to dominate the games industry. He returned to work on live music, with bands Loscoe State Opera and Cold Flame.
Composer Matt Gray looks back. “Ben wrote some of the finest game soundtracks in history. As a teenager I compiled a mixtape of my favourite SID tracks and amongst that was some of Ben’s greatest work including The Last Ninja and my personal favourite Trap, which displayed a great understanding of what makes an epic piece of music work. I lost count of how many times I listened to that tape.” Matt finally met Ben at some recent retro events. “You wouldn’t have known Ben was ill. He found his way through the trauma of cancer with the same joviality he did through life. He was positive about so many aspects of life and never willing to see anything but good in people. I know he was devoted to his family. I know he lived and breathed music. And he did it all rather well.”
Jarle Olsen of Fastloaders says, “Ben and I shared the stage for our Ninja Musicology release concert. When performing with us he pretty much just felt the music rather than thinking
about it, just went with the flow and played his heart out. He was quite a character, born to be on stage and affected the audience with his charisma. The first time I met Ben he stood there watching me playing one of his songs, he told me that he tried to make the most impossible music to play and I just showed up playing every note! It was inspirational knowing him and I am proud of what we achieved together, adding to his musical legacy that will always carry on.”
Ben was part of the Back In Time concerts, as performer and compere. Off-stage he was always happy to talk to fans and reminisce about his music. Mark Knight (TDK) performed alongside Ben with Stuck In D’80s. “I didn’t meet Ben until Back in Time Live 2001, he became a good personal friend of mine. The guy was awesome. He is probably the best all-round musician I had ever met, being able to pick up virtually any instrument and get a half-decent sound out of it straight away, and as a frontman I’ve never known better. I consider myself very lucky to have performed with someone whom I could communicate with simply through eye contact and facial expression – very rare, and also a very satisfying thing to experience. Outside of performing he was a very engaging person. He had an immense wealth of knowledge. We were discussing starting a TV theme covers band. He already had the name – ‘Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy’, which really summed Ben up. Ben was the most alive person I have ever met, even when he was dying. I’m proud that he considered me a friend, and I will sorely miss him.”
Chris Abbott of C64 Audio says, “Working with Ben has been one of the privileges of my life. From an admirer in front of a TV screen to working with him on definitive orchestral versions of his best-known pieces. Ben was a showman, but his eye for detail and knowledge of music was encyclopaedic. He knew what he wanted, and was honest about what was crap, but he was creatively generous, a great teacher and a joy to be around. I like to think he’ll turn up in spirit wherever a SID is played with spirit and passion. That would be very Ben indeed.” The 8-Bit Symphony concert in June 2019 will feature orchestral arrangements of 8-bit music (including Ben’s) and act as a fitting tribute to the man and his music.
He was a very gifted, naturally talented musician and a one-off character Rob Hubbard
Chris Abbott and Ben take their bow after Back In Time Brighton, 2015.
Photo by MarkHardistyBen gave a music workshop at Brinsworth during Games Britannia, Comprehensive 2011
Back In Time 2005. The Avenue club in Manchester,Stuck In D’80s rocking
Photo by Mark HardistyPeter Harrap, Ben Daglish, Shaun Hollingworth and Tony Crowther at Games Britannia, 2012,
Ben Daglish performing at Brighton’s Back In Time event in 2015.
Ben performing with Jarle Olsen of Fastloaders, Camden 2016.
[Amstrad CPC] Switchblade was elevated by Ben’s magnificent soundtrack.