The death of Lenny Sharples, lead guitarist with 1970s progressive rock band, The Topographic Sentinel, was announced on the band's website last night.
Sharples, main creative force within the group, has been widely recognised as having single-handedly created the 10-volume concept album, something almost seen as short-form and passé nowadays in prog circles, when he penned the seminal work Piper at the Gates of Vesuvius in 1972.
Born, Leonard Sharp-Phipps, in Virginia Water Surrey, the only son of a multi-millionaire business magnate, he became interested in music at Harrow School, where along with some chums he formed what would ultimately become the first line-up of 'Sentinel'. Much to his father's annoyance he turned his back on the world of business, choosing instead to try and earn a precarious living on the road. The two healed the rift some years later when the guitarist bought his parents a small island paradise in The Indian Ocean, out royalties earned from the band's second album Bastions of the Hinterland
Their drummer, Gav Wheatcroft, speaking earlier to DJ Bob Harris recalled, “Len was an amazing guy. We're gonna miss him terribly. And you know when I think back in these coming days and weeks, I'll always picture the gig in Earls Court when we were touring the album A Biblical Travesty in '78 and dear old Len, bless him, nearly got simultaneously drowned and electrocuted when the Red Sea malfunctioned and flooded the whole stage. What a night, man. Like...whoosh! We made the bloody BBC main news!"
Sharples was regarded as an innovator and leaves behind the legacy of prog's now ubiquitous Lenocaster The first quintuple-neck guitar; still in production by Fender to this day and comprising of six-string electric and acoustic, four and six string bass and five-string banjo necks. Ironically it was mocked by the punk rock fraternity and singled out as the symbol of 'all that was wrong and bloated about the prog movement’ when they rode the new wave of change which saw prog almost swept away into total oblivion in the late 70s.
Later years saw Sharples somewhat marginalised but nevertheless always earning a good living, particularly in Japan, and thanks to phenomenal sales when at the band's peak, his estate is thought still to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
He is survived by his 10th wife, Chantal, and their two-year-old son, Frodo Baggins Sharples.