Scottish singer/songwriter and lead singer of Marmalade

Born: September 5, 1945;

Died: December 31, 2018

DEAN Ford, who has died aged 73, was a Scottish singer, songwriter and musician who was the lead singer of the Glasgow-founded pop group Marmalade from 1966 until 1975. During this time the band became the first Scottish group to get to number one in the UK charts with their 1968 cover of the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (they performed on Top of the Pops in kilts), and achieved international fame with the top ten US hit Reflections of My Life.

The latter song – one of a number Ford co-wrote with his bandmate William ‘Junior’ Campbell – is a gorgeous, elegiac track, much of whose power came from Ford’s distinctive, hair-raising vocal tone and its electrifying blend of fearfulness and cautious optimism. When he sings “the world is a bad place, a bad place / a terrible place to live / but I don’t wanna die”, the listener might feel for a moment as though they really are experiencing a deathbed confessional. For many in the States, the song was evocative of the Vietnam era.

In international terms The Marmalade as they were originally known were a one-hit wonder, but in the UK they had seven top ten hits while Ford was in the band, from the twee beat-pop of Lovin’ Things and Baby Make It Soon before their signing as Decca labelmates to the Rolling Stones in 1969, to the more mature, folk-rock influenced Rainbow, Cousin Norman and Radancer afterwards, a period which fused soul, down-home roots and vinyl-lover’s psychedelia.

During the first half of the 1970s, The Marmalade (now rechristened Marmalade) floundered, shedding original members amid commercial stagnation and the bold but doomed decision to stop playing original hits in their set, until only Ford was left. He essentially called a halt to Marmalade by 1975, although original bassist Graham Knight and long-serving drummer reconvened with new players as Absolute Marmalade later that year. After a decade of largely unsuccessful singles they transitioned into the nostalgia market, although since Knight’s departure in 2010 no original members are involved.

In 1975 Ford released a self-titled solo album produced by sometime Beatles and Pink Floyd engineer Alan Parsons, but it was not a success and he was dropped by his label. His last significant musical contribution of the era was a guest vocal on Pyramid, the 1978 third album by Parsons’ band The Alan Parsons Project. When he moved to Los Angeles, a combination of relative anonymity and the destructive alcoholism he was undergoing forced him out of the music business completely.

In the States he delivered pizza and flowers, until a chance meeting with an old friend inspired him to seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous in 1986. In 1989 he became a limousine driver, a job he held for 12 years, and he told stories of having Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and members of U2 in the back of his car.

He took bar gigs and returned to music in later life singing Dancing in the Rain alongside the Sensational Alex Harvey Band for 2003’s A Tribute to Frankie Miller album. He also recorded tracks including The Glasgow Road with former Badfinger guitarist Joe Tansin in 2012, and self-released the albums Feel My Heartbeat and This Scottish Heart, the latter in 2018.

Born Thomas McAleese to parents Thomas and Elizabeth in Airdrie in 1945, Ford formed his first group the Tonebeats aged 13 and was with the Monarchs when he was invited to join Glasgow’s locally successful Gaylords. Formerly know as Tommy Scott and the Gaylords, they asked that he change his name to something which would work well in the band’s name; he chose Dean Ford, inspired by Dean Martin and Tennessee Ernie Ford, but never legally changed from his birth name.

After moving to London the Gaylords also changed their name to The Marmalade and were signed to CBS Records in 1966, who released their biggest hit. Two years later Ford was married for the only time, a five-year union which gave him a daughter, Tracy.