GTR and Right Said Fred Bassist Phil Spalding Dead at 65
Phil Spalding, journeyman bassist and former member of prog supergroup GTR and Mike Oldfield’s band, died Monday at the age of 65.
Several of Spalding’s musical associates paid tribute to him on social media. “I’m sad to hear of the death of Phil Spalding,” former Genesis and GTR guitarist Steve Hackett tweeted. “He was a lovely guy and a great bass player in GTR. He was also at school with my brother John.”
Born on Nov. 19, 1957, in London, Spalding enjoyed a successful stint as a child model before pursuing a music career in his late teens, teaming up with Gillan and short-lived Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Bernie Torme. From 1980 to 1983 he played with Toyah, the new wave band fronted by Toyah Willcox.
In 1985 Spalding joined GTR alongside Hackett, Yes’ Steve Howe, singer Max Bacon and drummer Jonathan Mover. Despite being panned by some critics, the band’s 1986 self-titled debut reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the Top 20 single “When the Heart Rules the Mind.”
Following the dissolution of GTR in 1987, Spalding began working with Oldfield, the British guitarist and songwriter of Tubular Bells. In the 1990s and 2000s, he worked with a slew of rock and pop stars, playing on albums by Ray Charles, Elton John, Queen’s Roger Taylor, Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue. Spalding even lent his talents to Up, the debut album by pop group Right Said Fred, which featured the chart-topping smash “I’m Too Sexy.”
Outside of music, Spalding also worked to raise awareness of hepatitis C and started patient support groups for people affected by the disease, as he previously had been.
“Richard and I are extremely saddened to read about bass player Phil Spalding,” Right Said Fred tweeted. “We’ve known Phil since 1991 when he played bass on ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and also our debut album Up. Later we worked with Phil on a HEP C documentary and campaign, ‘Not Too Sexy to Get Tested.’ RIP.”
Spalding stayed active late into his career, joining the Who at a handful of intimate acoustic shows in Kingston, London, in 2020.
“Very sad indeed to hear of the passing of Phil Spalding," the Who wrote on Facebook. “Phil joined us on bass for our acoustic shows at Pryzm in Kingston-upon-Thames in February 2020. Our sincere condolences to his family at this very sad time.”
Spalding marveled at his wide-ranging career in an interview with UK Music Reviews. “I saw Freddie Mercury in action when [Queen] were making the video for ‘A Kind Of Magic’; I was working in the studio next door with GTR at the time,” he said. "I can remember Freddie saying to me, 'I must know what the bass is doing, darling.' ... For me to be able to say this to you in an interview, I am sitting here thinking just how very fortunate I have been during my career, to have been exposed to the true greats of our business.”
Watch GTR Perform 'When the Heart Rules the Mind'