I walked up the steps of the home in Camden Sq., North London, put my key within the door and stepped inside. Andrew, one in all Amy Winehouse’s safety guys, was within the hallway on the telephone. He gestured to me to remain the place I used to be.
It had been two days since I’d walked out. Amy and I had been greatest mates since she was 12 and I used to be 13.
Camden Sq. was the most recent of numerous properties we’d lived in collectively since Amy was 18.
After years of trauma, of attempting to avoid wasting Amy, I used to be operating out of concepts, too. (Pictured, Amy Winehouse in Live performance, Belgrade, Serbia)
All Amy ever needed was normality. She all the time used to say: ‘Fame is like terminal most cancers – I wouldn’t want it on anybody.’ (Pictured, Amy Winehouse and Tyler James in Mustique at Basil’s Bar)
I used to be the one buddy she had left by then, the one individual round her on a regular basis who wasn’t paid to be round her. Everybody else in her life had bailed out. Nevertheless a lot they beloved her, they couldn’t take care of her.
After years of trauma, of attempting to avoid wasting Amy, I used to be operating out of concepts, too. So now, each time she relapsed, I’d go to my mum’s in Essex for 2, three, 4 days. Then Amy would ring. ‘You all proper, darlin’?’
The day earlier than, she’d known as me at lunchtime. I might inform she’d solely had a few drinks. I walked to the sphere on the finish of the street and we talked. She promised she’d cease ingesting the next day and I believed her.
She rang me once more that evening, possibly 11 o’clock, very drunk, chatting nonsense.
I fell asleep on my mum’s sofa. Round 2.30am she rang once more and I didn’t reply. It was pointless – she wouldn’t even keep in mind it. I went again to sleep.
I wasn’t nervous once I reached our house at Camden Sq. on Saturday, July 23, 2011, and noticed Andrew within the corridor – not even when the ambulance arrived proper after me. I believed every little thing can be prefer it all the time was: we’d carry her into the automotive, take her to a clinic, give it every week of withdrawal and he or she’d be superb.
I went into the kitchen and made her a cup of tea.
Then a second ambulance arrived. One thing’s not proper. I ran up the steps. Andrew was already blocking the doorway to Amy’s bed room. I used to be nonetheless attempting to interrupt by when the paramedic walked out from behind him. ‘I’m sorry, mate, however she’s lengthy gone. She isn’t even heat any extra.’
‘What? What? What?!’
After this efficiency, by which she appeared to slur the lyrics to her best-known hits, she cancelled the remainder of her European tour
I went clean. Numb. Sick. Dizzy. I fell down. I received again up and ran down the steps. I ran outdoors and collapsed on the steps outdoors the entrance door.
My Amy. My lady. She was gone.
I used to be sobbing, I used to be misplaced. I’d by no means thought it might all go this fallacious, particularly not now.
I do know everybody thought it was all the time an inevitable decline, that she was simply one other self-destructive f***-up. However the fact was that each one she’d talked about for months was sobriety and the longer term. She had been getting higher. She went three weeks with out a drink, 4 days again on it, three weeks off once more. Daily she was sober she was rebuilding herself – within the health club, even writing music once more. She hadn’t touched exhausting medicine, regardless of what the tabloids stated, for 3 years.
It was almost 5 years since her edgy second album, Again To Black, and her break up from her messed-up, druggy hustler boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil had made her a famous person. Along with her immediately recognisable beehive and tattoos, my buddy had change into a world icon.
After which it had all gone loopy. Blake returned and exhausting medicine entered her life with a vengeance. The world witnessed the chaos of her life by the pages of the newspapers, and I’d seen all of it at first hand. However by the summer time of 2010, all that was properly prior to now.
For some time, to maintain Amy out of bother, her father Mitch had moved her to a rented mansion in a suburban space simply outdoors North London. I moved in too, and her household have been actually happy we have been residing collectively once more. They knew I’d deal with her.
She had began to replicate on her life in a means she’d by no means achieved earlier than. ‘I can’t imagine all this has occurred to me,’ she stated.
She began laughing. ‘I imply, what the f***? I was a crackhead!’
‘I do know, Ame, belief me I do know!’
It was like she genuinely had no reminiscence of a few of it.
She would have a look at photos of herself on the web and say: ‘My God, what was I on?’
She undoubtedly wasn’t nervous about relapsing to exhausting medicine. However she nonetheless didn’t wish to hand over on alcohol. Inevitably, she couldn’t steer clear of London.
I vividly keep in mind the day we moved into that lovely white townhouse in Camden Sq. with a studio and a health club downstairs, and a classic jukebox filled with Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties vinyl singles. She was kissing and hugging it, her tiny arms barely reaching midway spherical it.
This was her new begin. It had all turned out fairly good.
My friendship with Amy blossomed immediately. We have been each depressed, anxious, insecure
For these first days, Amy was enthusiastic about writing once more. Not being ‘Amy Winehouse’, simply being a songwriter. It wasn’t all the time good. Which is why we nonetheless had safety guards, Andrew and Neville, to guard Amy from herself.
After we first received to Camden, Amy relapsed possibly each 5 weeks for 3 days. There would often be a motive, an outdoor set off. Possibly her dad had come spherical, or her supervisor. The strain.
Individuals say crack and heroin ruined Amy’s voice. It wasn’t ruined now. Her voice was spectacular, higher than it had ever been. She’d sing outdated jazz requirements like she used to years in the past.
More often than not, individuals by no means actually heard Amy sing at her greatest as a result of she was an addict and a multitude. However when she was as wholesome as she was now, she was technically good, her voice filled with uncooked emotion. She was having fun with it once more, in spite of everything these years.
I Heard her sing earlier than I heard her converse – it was love at first hear. She was 12 after we met however appeared about 9 – barely 5ft with lengthy darkish hair, a bit Jewish lady from North London – however she sang like a 40-year-old jazz veteran who drank three bottles of whisky and smoked 50 Marlboro Reds a day. Her voice was one thing else, like Nina Simone or Dinah Washington.
It was 1996 at Sylvia Younger’s Theatre Faculty. I used to be born a yr earlier than Amy in Canning City, a typical working-class space in East London. A variety of my household have been gangsters. They owned East Finish pubs and a few of them have been in jail. My maternal grandad was a hitman for the Krays.
My friendship with Amy blossomed immediately. We have been each depressed, anxious, insecure.
The largest gap in Amy was her lacking father, Mitch. Her mother and father break up up when she was 9; her dad cheated on her mum, Janis, with a girl he knew at work. Amy and her brother Alex used to name her ‘Daddy’s work spouse’.
Most individuals at theatre faculties like to indicate off. Amy simply wasn’t like that. She was by no means happy-go-lucky – she was difficult, solitary and reclusive, like me.
She was additionally ridiculously good. She’d sit by herself doing sudoku and phrase puzzles.
Amy was placed on antidepressants at 14. I don’t know in the event that they helped her or not. All I do know is that she was taught at a younger age that chemical compounds have been the way you repair your head.
She began ingesting when she was 12, and he or she smoked weed for the entire time that I knew her. Then got here fame.
Amy by no means needed to be well-known. She needed to be a jazz singer.
Greater than the rest, she needed a household, to be a spouse and have youngsters.
All Amy ever needed was normality. She all the time used to say: ‘Fame is like terminal most cancers – I wouldn’t want it on anybody.’ However her album Again To Black grew to become No 1 in 19 international locations.
Though the exhausting medicine have been behind her, by the point that Amy moved again to London she had an issue with alcohol, however she was nonetheless in denial.
In the course of the interval of lower than a yr that we lived in Camden Sq., Amy relapsed possibly seven or eight instances. She would drink bottles of vodka simply to hunt unconsciousness, then move out on the couch. When somebody reaches this stage of alcoholism they flip into any person else. Actually any person else. Like they’re possessed by an precise demon.
I known as this individual The Different Amy. I hated that individual.
She’d have me up all evening. She’d come down the steps and kick my bed room door open. It may very well be three within the morning, I’m asleep and he or she’d be screaming my identify.
Amy Winehouse performs in the course of the present on the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007 on the Olympiahalle
You may’t inform an addict what to do. In the end they’ll solely assist themselves. Amy would by no means go to rehab as a result of there was no a part of her that thought she was an alcoholic.
Her music Rehab haunted her; it adopted her round. It outlined her in some methods.
There’s a clinic in Central London that isn’t rehab however a non-public hospital, which can be rather a lot like a lodge. It has a spa. A health club. There’s room service, like a five-star lodge. Good menu, good drinks, you possibly can order alcohol. Most individuals are there for cosmetic surgery.
Amy went there many instances for alcohol withdrawal – she turned it into her model of rehab.
Within the first few days of brutal withdrawal it might by no means have crossed her thoughts to have a drink – and naturally they wouldn’t have given her one. However she was in there for thus lengthy generally that by the top of her keep she handled it like a lodge, like she was on vacation in hospital. Generally we’d go to a pub in Camden, she’d get drunk – and return to hospital.
Barbara Windsor lived close to the clinic. Amy had met her by her dad they usually actually received on. So we’d slip out the facet and go to Barbara’s for an hour or so. It was like popping spherical to your auntie’s in East London.
Barbara was an old-school, been-there-done-that character.
The American jazz legend Tony Bennett beloved Amy, too; he known as her a ‘as soon as in a lifetime expertise’.
She hadn’t been in a recording studio for a very long time however he was doing a covers album, Duets II, and approached her document label, Island: would Amy sing with him?
She had a really particular preliminary response. ‘Oh my God, my dad will likely be furious. He’s gonna hate me, I’m doing it!’
That’s how tousled their relationship had change into. Tony Bennett was one in all her dad’s all-time heroes and he or she needed to make him jealous.
In addition to co-managing Amy, Mitch had launched his personal album and his TV appearances have been actually winding up Amy. ‘Why’s my dad all the time on TV? Why’s he speaking about my addictions when he doesn’t speak to me about my addictions? You ducked out of my life, Dad. And now you’re off together with your album, attempting to be a famous person.’
I’m certain Mitch would have thought that wasn’t truthful – he had tried to speak to her over time.
After we received to Abbey Street for the Tony Bennett session, Amy was extremely nervous and the organisers have been terrified of her, circling round her on eggshells. That occurred rather a lot – individuals all the time thought she was the unstable headcase they’d examine within the papers years in the past. Even when she was as sober, wholesome and immaculate as she was that day.
We went downstairs and Amy met Tony Bennett. She went right into a vocal sales space by herself and began singing. It was ropey. She knew it was ropey and began punching herself within the head. Correctly punching herself within the head, shifting her mouth away from the mic, muttering, ‘F***, f***, for f***’s sake, Amy!’ With all people watching.
She apologised to Tony: ‘I don’t wish to waste your time.’
He reassured her: ‘It’s OK, Amy, we now have all day.’
We took a break and went upstairs. ‘I can’t do that except I’ve a drink.’
She realised she’d get nothing from me or her safety guards, so she turned to her Island Information reserving agent Raye Cosbert. I might hear her shouting and giving him a tough time, and impulsively there was a glass of wine in her hand.
I appeared on in despair. We’d simply spent three weeks holding her sober. We knew what was coming.
After the glass of wine, she went again downstairs and he or she was calm. Her voice was lovely now. This was correct old-school jazz, no angle like there’s in a lot of Amy’s music. Singing with this pretty, dignified outdated man, a musical big, a duet that received a Grammy in 2012. Everybody within the room was smiling.
I additionally felt unhappy. I hadn’t seen her do the ‘Amy Winehouse’ factor for thus lengthy and this efficiency to me was a lie as a result of it wouldn’t have occurred with out a glass of wine.
Within the automotive house to Camden, I attempted to swerve the inevitable.
‘Ame, do not forget that movie you needed to observe? Let’s watch that and get a Nando’s…’
No. She insisted on going to her favorite pub. There, she did what she often did – stand across the jukebox, drink in hand.
By the point we received house, she was blind drunk, crashing by the home, shouting: ‘Get me a bottle of wine!’ The Different Amy was again, taking pleasure in ruining your life. Absolutely the antithesis of the insecure lady who was too frightened to go to the studio and do what ought to’ve been probably the most pure factor on this planet for her: sing.
It was turning into clear that this was how issues can be any further. She completely believed she couldn’t be any good with out ingesting. However we’d additionally reached the stage the place alcohol was not an possibility for her if she needed to remain alive.
She knew it. The medical doctors knew it. All people knew it.
Not lengthy after the Tony Bennett session, when Amy had been on the couch for days ingesting, a couple of of us agreed to stage an intervention.
All of them got here spherical within the morning: Mitch, her brother Alex and his fiancee Riva, and a girl and a person from the Priory in Highgate – an actual rehab.
Amy was on the couch, awake-ish. She appeared round, and from the look she minimize me I’m shocked I didn’t drop useless on the spot. She checked out us once more and half-slurred.
‘Are you ’avin’ a bubble?’ – bubble tub, rhyming slang for giggle.
All people needed to say how a lot they beloved her. Her brother cried, her dad had a bit cry.
It didn’t transfer Amy one bit. The entire state of affairs was a farce to her.
I began laying it on: ‘There’s medical doctors’ letters saying you’re gonna die. This could’t keep on!’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Oh Tyler, move me the vodka.’ The bottle was on the opposite facet of the room. I walked over, picked it up and fired it simply above her head. It smashed on the wall, glass and vodka in all places. I sat on the opposite couch by the window and began crying. I didn’t cry in entrance of her a lot and that stirred one thing in her, too. ‘Tyler, don’t be upset. Come ’ere, come ’ere…’
I went over to her couch. ‘Ame, will you please simply go, for me? What hurt can it do? You’re going to need to go to hospital anyway.’
She checked out me. ‘All proper then.’
I by no means believed the Priory would type out Amy’s issues. You may’t clear up something in every week. However when she got here out, she appeared just like the life had been sucked out of her. There was no emotion, nothing, prefer it had taken a significant piece of her.
I feel she appeared so flat as a result of she’d lastly been to rehab. That music once more, haunting her.
Nonetheless, after the Priory, she was sober and wholesome once more for weeks. However now a 12-date European tour was imminent, which she’d lengthy had reservations about. She wanted the cash, she was instructed. However she undoubtedly didn’t wish to do it.
‘I’m sick of singing these songs I wrote 5 years in the past,’ she instructed me on the best way to the tour rehearsal on the 100 Membership on Oxford Avenue. ‘Why can’t they anticipate me to jot down one other album so I’ve truly received one thing to say? Individuals have to be so bored of Rehab – I do know I’m.’
The subsequent day she began ingesting, a full-blown relapse, and he or she drank for 5 days. Daily administration got here spherical, and on daily basis they’d inform me I wanted to get her to cease ingesting.
The day of the present, the boys picked Amy up off the couch, as a result of they have been instructed to, and put her within the automotive. She was barely aware.
I sat subsequent to her, considering, ‘That is so fallacious.’
She was so delirious and weak, the boys had to assist her on to the aircraft, arms round her, guiding her up the steps.
We received to the Hyatt Lodge in Belgrade. Amy had no concept the place she was. She wasn’t simply in a nasty means – sick, shaky, withdrawing – she was principally semi-unconscious, the results of 5 days’ strong ingesting.
For eight hours, each hour, I used to be getting calls from administration. ‘Is she all proper?’
I saved saying, ‘No, she’s fully unconscious. There’s no means she will do a gig tonight.’
Her stylist Naomi got here in with the brand new assistant from administration they usually helped her into her garments. Amy picked up her eyeliner, missed her eye and swiped an enormous black tick on her brow.
All of us took a cab to the outside marquee dressing room. I needed to go to the bathroom and once I got here again Amy had downed a glass of wine. I understand how it should have occurred – she would have been satisfied she wanted one to carry out and argued with Raye till she received it.
If I had been there I might’ve stepped in, since you can not drink on Librium, the treatment Amy was taking to stop alcoholic seizures.
Raye held her by the hand and helped her up the metal steps behind the stage. I used to be standing within the wings like I all the time did. This time I used to be crying, dreading what may occur subsequent. The present was terrible. It was almost 5 years since Again To Black, and right here she was propped up on a stage attempting to sing Rehab, which she couldn’t stand any extra. She couldn’t sing, she was stumbling forwards and backwards, fell backwards into her backing singers. The gang have been booing, drunk, yobby.
A sick lady was thrown in on the deep finish and everybody watched her drown in entrance of their eyes. That footage went all around the world and made Amy appear to be nothing however a multitude. I hated everybody for it. Six days earlier than, she had been completely regular.
We flew to Istanbul, the place Amy was enjoying subsequent. She was completely confused. She stated: ‘I believed the gig was in Poland. Have I received to do a soundcheck?’ I instructed her once more: ‘You’ve achieved the gig already darlin’. We’ve simply flown right here from Serbia. We went there first.’
‘Actually? Was it any good?’
She was like a baby who’d been deserted in a world she didn’t recognise. I lastly received her to mattress and locked the door. When she awakened the following morning, her thoughts was clearing and all the nice ideas have been coming again. ‘T, I wish to go house. I wish to get sober. I wish to get wholesome. I wish to placed on half a stone. F*** the tour.’
Amy cancelled the tour. And after a couple of days off in Istanbul, she was glowing once more. Completely wholesome, lovely Amy, who might replenish herself like no different. I believed, ‘We’re going house, she desires to get properly, every little thing’s candy.’
For the earlier three months, she’d been taking steps in the direction of getting her independence again. In the direction of the day when she wouldn’t reside with two safety males. In the direction of getting again to the individual she was when she first left house, when she first received her independence, when she was so alive.
She needed to jot down within the studio – not essentially one other album, simply music as remedy. And in the event that they’d simply left her to try this, in a yr’s time possibly she would’ve written that subsequent album. No person made her write Again To Black – she simply lived her life.
She was severe about establishing a publishing firm for songwriters. Raye, from Island Information, got here spherical to speak concerning the concept however he didn’t suppose it was an excellent funding. She took it very personally, she was upset.
‘They’re all the time spending cash on s*** I don’t wish to do and now they’re telling me I’ve received no cash to do what I wish to do?’
By this level I might barely hear what she was saying as a result of I sensed she’d had a drink.
I went downstairs and once I got here again up, Amy was very casually ingesting a glass of wine.
I checked out her, horrified. ‘Ame?’
‘Yeah? It’s solely a glass of wine.’
I misplaced it. I walked out of the home and didn’t come again for hours. After I did, I went straight to my room, packed my bag. I rolled my case all the way down to the pub on the nook. Sitting there, on a bench, I had a sense that if I simply left I might remorse it.
I went again to the home. I might hear her music blaring – The Specials’ Ghost City. I might hear her in her bed room, singing alongside.
I went upstairs. I slammed her laptop computer lid down. Turning Amy’s music off was extra highly effective than punching her within the face. I’d had sufficient. As I used to be standing there, simply taking a look at her as a result of I beloved her and adored her little bones greater than anyone else on this planet, I stated every little thing I wanted to say. And he or she let me say it.
‘It’s higher to be alive being Amy than to die attempting to be “Amy Winehouse”. F*** “Amy Winehouse”. It’s a personality – f*** that persona!’
‘T, I’m not going anyplace.’
‘Except you cease ingesting proper now, I’m going.’
‘Properly, f*** off then.’
‘Properly, f*** you.’
After which I left, realizing I’d see her once more in a couple of days.
I went to my mum’s and the next day she rang.
‘You all proper darlin’?’
She promised she’d cease ingesting the next day and I believed her. The next day, I went house – the final day of Amy’s life.
© Tyler James, 2021
Abridged extract from My Amy, by Tyler James, which is printed by Macmillan on June 10 priced £18.99. To pre-order a duplicate for £16.90 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or name 020 3308 9193 earlier than June 20. Free UK supply on orders over £20.