A reader writes: Sir, I have the honour of acting as my university's public orator, an office in which I have celebrated the achievements of many luminaries from the worlds of academe, industry, politics and the arts. This term, however, I have to deliver the eulogy for a Mister Garfield 'Gaz' Thruster, a former student of the university (BA failed, 1977), who is to receive an honorary MPhil for his achievements with Deep Throat, a "heavy metallic" musical group about which I am afraid to say I am entirely ignorant. Truth to tell, being largely a Puccini man, I have no idea how to approach this task. Can you assist me?
Dr Dai Llemmer replies: The secret of the good honorary degree oration, as you know, is to describe the recipient's life as if it had been one long and compelling case for the academic recognition they are about to receive, throwing in the odd bon mot from Shakespeare ("If music be the food of love...") or relevant Latin tag ( ubi fumus ibi aquis ?) on the way.
Now, with Mr Thruster this does initially, I agree, look to be rather a tall order, but a little research suggests that he may be more interesting than the bald details of his musical career suggest. His three years with the thump-metal trio Todger (whose magnum opus Also Sprach Gary Thruster is still fondly remembered by West Midlands heavy rock aficionados) was the beginning of a career that spanned work with The Dwarf Lords of Droitwich, Sylvia's Brothers and Claatweasel (the Play Away house band) before he formed Deep Throat (whose minor hit, Stuff Your Education , White Boy , you might note, was actually recorded while he was allegedly studying for his BA).
There are no obvious Puccini connections, I'm afraid, but he did once appear on Top of the Pops dressed as a cello-playing canary in 1984 when the novelty record The Verdi Song reached number 84 in the charts. Could you perhaps make something of that?
Gaz's finest hour, of course, came rather later in his career, when Come Up and See Me (Make me Lunch) , the otherwise forgettable (better not say that!) B-side of Todger's Fistful of Grits single, was used on the soundtrack of the movie Muswell Hill , making him a multimillionaire overnight: a fact that may well have brought him to the attention of your vice-chancellor.
Indeed, I'm told that the hot gossip around the Chablis cooler at the Russell Group awayday at Vinopolis last summer was that we might expect a Thruster Research Institute for Performative Excellence to spring up on a campus near you sometime next year.
Of course, you could always check the details with Gaz himself. His personal website says that he is currently touring tractor fairs in the west country with Ooh Aria: A Worzels' Opera . There are, apparently, a limited number of tickets available for most dates, so you might like to pop in one night and check it out for further inspiration.