From Tragedy to Lucky Escapes: Rock’s Lockerbie Bombing Stories
On Dec. 21, 1988, the worst terrorist airline attack of the 20th century took place when a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 exploded in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 people on the ground.
Among the 270 fatalities was former Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and Be Bop Deluxe bassist Paul Jeffreys, who’d just married Rachel Jones. The British couple was flying to the U.S. for their honeymoon. He appeared on Cockney Rebel’s first two albums in 1973 and 1974, before moving on to Be Bop Deluxe for a year and then joining a number of other bands.
“I still think of him from time to time. A terrible shame,” said Be Bop Deluxe leader Bill Nelson on Jeffreys' memorial website. “I remember odd things, such as Paul turning his bass guitar volume virtually off at one gig because he wasn't confident that he knew his part!”
Venue owner Terry Murphy recalled a conversation with Jeffreys while he was a member of the Warm Jets. “I said, Why don't you smile when you’re onstage?," he recalled. "He replied, 'I am not a comedian; I don't want to be laughed at. I am serious about my music.’ And before i could say anything, he said, 'And there's a laugh for you.’ And he actually smiled.”
Watch Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Perform 'Mr. Soft'
Sex Pistols singer John Lydon was scheduled to be on Flight 103, but his wife inadvertently prevented it. "We only missed the flight because Nora hadn't packed in time. We had a big row and then took the next flight out," he recalled. “The minute we realized what happened, we just looked at each other and almost collapsed."
Similarly, the Four Tops were also on the passenger list. Abdul "Duke" Fakir explained in 2016 that the producer of the BBC music show Top of the Pops had been responsible for them missing the plane. “We had two shows to do," he recalled. "The producer didn't want us to play them at the same time. He wouldn't have it. I was glad, so, so glad, that we didn't do it in one session."
Jeffreys is not the only musician to have died in an aircraft over the years. Here are other tragedies.