John Bamford was one of the main reasons why I became so embroiled in this reviewing malarkey. In my early days at Hi-Fi Choice he was a mentor and a guide through the maze of techno babble. He was also the man who opened my ears to the full glory of prog rock and Frank Zappa in particular.
John was born in South Wales but as his father was a manager in the NHS he moved around the country and spent most of his youth in Chester and Clitheroe. At school he became a chorister whilst honing his skills on the guitar, which he applied as lead guitarist in ‘Grimpen Mire’, a band he formed with school friends to plough the prog furrow. John was a big fan of Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and many more, working on a farm in his summer holidays to save up for records and concerts. He was particularly fond of Frank Zappa’s repertoire and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the man and his music. It was in John’s fabulous Putney basement with the giant Townshend Sir Galahad line array speakersthat I became aware of Zappa’s remarkable oeuvre and developed considerable enthusiasm for his work.
John first joined the hi-fi reviewing fraternity when he got a job on Hi-Fi Answers in 1982. Under the tutelage of Editor Keith Howard he learned writing and editing skills and got to play with an Aladdin’s cave of shiny kit. It was the perfect job, but jumping ship to further his career, he became editor of Hi-Fi Choice in 1988 – shortly after the title had been relaunched as an A4 monthly magazine. There he worked with many of the best writers of the time including the late Alvin Gold, Paul Messenger, Richard Black and Barry Fox, alongside myself and Dan Houston on the staff.
John became very interested in the development of the Pioneer A400 integrated amplifier and in 1992 left publishing to work for the Japanese company, which clearly had taken a more audiophile footing. John was one of the first people to demonstrate high resolution digital audio in the UK using a Pioneer DAT recorder to play 24-bit/96kHz recordings. It was a revelatory step at the time and paved the way for DVD-Audio and SACD, the formats which preceded high res streaming today.
He stayed at Pioneer for 14 years until plasma TVs were becoming the company’s main area of interest, joining Meridian Audio in Huntingdon before returning to his roots and becoming first a staff writer and latterly a freelance contributor to Hi-Fi News & Record Review. John used his enthusiasm for audio engineering and a deep technical knowledge to explain tech to the non-technical more effectively than any of his peers. He was also a brilliant raconteur and would regale the lucky few who joined him in the basement with anecdotes about all manner of subjects, but primarily those related to music and musicians. Three years ago, before and during the early stages of cancer he was putting together a series of video interviews with some of the more interesting characters in the industry. It’s very sad that this work was never published because John was a natural in front of the camera.
John is survived by his wife Dee and children Joshua and Cassandra. He was a well loved and respected man throughout his life and he will be dearly missed.