Jim Sullivan (1941–2012)

The legendary session guitarist Jim Sullivan, known to fans of Space:1999 as the sitar player performing to the crew of Moonbase Alpha in The Troubled Spirit, died on 2nd October at the age of 71. Jim was known for being able to play in a wide variety of styles and was one of the most sought after session guitarists of the sixties and seventies, averaging three sessions a day and playing on over one thousand UK chart entries. He can be heard on such legendary recordings as John Barry’s original recording of The James Bond Theme, alongside lead guitarist Vic Flick, and is credited with devising the theme’s ‘walking step’ introduction. Both Flick and Sullivan were also regularly called upon by AP Films/Century 21 composer Barry Gray for session work.

A naturally talented guitarist, Jim took up the guitar at the age of 14 and progressed so rapidly that he had turned professional within two years, joining Marty Wilde’s backing band The Wildcats. He was a pioneer in terms of technique, being an early user of the Fuzzbox and audio feedback which were soon widely used by other players. As can be seen by his Space:1999 guest appearance, Jim also mastered the sitar, taking advantage of the Sixties’ wave of interest in Indian music and releasing his own album in 1967 featuring the instrument, Sitar Beat. Subsequently he spent a happy five years as guitarist in Tom Jones’ backing band.

In 1975 Jim set up his own record label, producing hit artists such as Labi Siffre and Chas & Dave, and in 1978 he joined the German orchestral pop bandleader James Last’s orchestra, where he stayed for nine years. His performing career was brought to an end by health issues – he suffered from heart problems and diabetes – though Jim subsequently composed music for films and advertising jingles as well as playing in The Big Jim Sullivan Band.

Originally published in FAB 73.