The very first time I met Spike Milligan, he brought a very old “reel to reel” audio tape round to my house in Eastbourne.

“This is a tape recording of my father singing in Australia – but his voice sounds as though his b***s have been caught in a rat trap …… can you sort it out?” he asked.

Over the years, I took on a number challenges like this and I came to rescue many other old tapes for him – most of them of impromptu musical performances and personal family recordings.

We visited each other many times over the years (Spike lived quite near to me in Rye, Sussex).

Despite Spike’s reputation for sometimes being “difficult”, he and I got on extremely well together and enjoyed many long conversations about families, politics, religion and life in general.

As a composer and musician, I was constantly on the look out for inspirational subjects.

I delved into Spike’s poetry and found some wonderful gems and asked him if I could set some to music. He readily agreed and I set to work.

As each piece was finished, I would visit Spike to obtain his approval and play some of the themes on his old Broadwood grand piano in his house at Rye.

A year later,  I completed twelve compositions – a mixture of serious and lighter pieces to compliment his poetry.

We discussed the idea of a theatrical performance with a small orchestra playing my music while Spike read the poems live on stage as an integral part of the compositions.

Spike was very keen on this idea. He said that when he had originally written the poems, he had no inkling that anyone might want to set them to music one day. He and I rehearsed – and the performance took place in 1996 at The Congress Theatre in Eastbourne.

All the recordings on this tribute album are from the rehearsal cues recorded live at Spike’s house and have been re-mixed with the original music.

This album  has a very intimate feel and it includes some previously unheard recorded anecdotes and jokes.

I feel that I have had the great privilege of knowing this man and I still retain the feeling of respect and affection that I had for him back then.

Paul Neville – 2013