This is a story about obsession.

In 1978 I shared a house with a bunch of people, most of whom were involved in one form of the Arts or another. We had a vinyl record collection in the front room that was an amalgam of everyone’s personal collection. I remember being worried about being able to extract mine from the hive so I spray-painted some tiny stickers with different shades of car paint to create a kind of individualised mosaic pattern, and stuck one of these on every one of my LPs and 12″ singles. Trusting? Not I.

In those days, my tastes were Gang of Four, Pere Ubu, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd, XTC – what they call ‘post punk’ now. Everyone else was into country rock and what I considered hippie music like Traffic or Steely Dan. Music sessions in that room went one way or the other but punk was uber-cool so they couldn’t throw out even a snotty arrogant 18 year old like me. Anyway, they were usually stoned.

After a year or so it was time to move out, and I had a summer in NYC to look forward to. I wasn’t completely down on their collections so I made a C90 mixtape of stuff that I liked. I took it to America and some of it, like Warren Zevon and Randy Newman, seemed to make more sense when listened to there.

But I was in a rush and didn’t have time to make a track list for my cassette.

That didn’t matter, because even a punk could work out that was Emmylou Harris, that was –, and so on.

But there was one track that I didn’t know. It was a scratchy bluesy track that sounded like it was recorded in a Mississippi delta studio sometime during the war. That’s what I assumed at least.

I kept that tape forever (still have it) and listened to it from time to time. It started to bother me that I didn’t know who that blues track was by. I didn’t even like blues, but this was haunting. The Internet was invented, and I posted requests to usenet groups asking blues fans what song this lyric might be from. Never got a reply, or at least any leads.

It took until 2008 before I solved it. Can’t remember how, but I think it might have been someone posting a homemade video to YouTube – literally some sparrows frolicking around while this song played in the background. Pointless but revelatory.

It turned out to be nothing to do with Delta blues, or cold grey Chicago blues, or any other sort of Americana.

It was a track by Tony ‘Duster’ Bennett who was a blues singer and musician from the British blues scene of the late ’60s.  This was the period of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Jimmy Page & Yardbirds, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, etc. What threw me was that this song was only one of two tracks recorded with his then-girlfriend and later wife – Stella Sutton.

Everything else was (sorry) not really worth a second listen, but she adds this lovely haunting harmony to his shuffling blues tune. The song was “Times Like These”.

Unfortunately, like so many of my posts, there’s no happy ending. He died young. He played a gig with Memphis Slim on March 26, 1976, then allegedly fell asleep while driving home and was killed when he crashed into a truck somewhere in Warwickshire. Stella did not perform again after his death, according to her daughter-in-law.

At the time of his death, the New Musical Express headline was “Car Smash Kills Duster”. The Irish blues-rock guitarist Rory Gallagher reportedly broke down in the street and started crying.

I wish I could recommend the whole corpus, but I’m afraid that only this track gets the accolade.

Duster Bennett & Stella Sutton – “Times Like These”

From his album “Smiling Like I’m Happy” (1968). Born 23 September 1946, England, died 26 March 1976, England.