AN iconic songwriter has been united with an old music shop sign after the Gazette teamed up with Blur fans and the store’s former owner to make his wish come true.

Back in May Damon Albarn expressed an interest in acquiring a sign adorning the front of the long-closed Axe Music shop, in High Street, Colchester.

The legendary musician, 55, had noticed the decades-old blue and white signage after taking a stroll ahead of band’s historic homecoming show at Colchester Arts Centre.

Axe Music, which was run by Alan Gray, 77, who moved the business out of the city centre back in 2000, was frequented by Damon when he was a young musician.

Gazette: Old friends - Damon Albarn with Alan Gray, the former Axe Music shop ownerOld friends - Damon Albarn with Alan Gray, the former Axe Music shop owner (Image: Newsquest)

The former Stanway School student, also the mastermind behind Gorillaz, had purchased some of his earliest instruments at the shop, including his first synthesizer.

Following the efforts of the Gazette, lifelong fans of the band and shop owner Alan, Damon is now the proud owner of a piece of Colchester history.

After Blur’s triumphant Wembley Stadium gigs and the release of new album The Ballad of Darren, the sign was delivered in person at his London recording studio.

Alan, who was taken aback by the visit and has recieved a donation from Damon for his church clock fundraiser, said: “I was really quite surprised at how much of a deep feeling person he is and I felt like we had a lot in common.

"When we came out, it was like 'what have we just been through?' 

"I found him to be such a nice and interesting bloke and he went to so much trouble - it was quite amazing and it really was a one-off day.

"I am so pleased he has got the sign and it has gone to a really good place."

Gazette: Star - Damon with Jason Chamberlain, David Garlick, Kelly Clark and Alan GrayStar - Damon with Jason Chamberlain, David Garlick, Kelly Clark and Alan Gray (Image: Newsquest)

David Garlick, a devoted Blur and Damon fan who helped to retrieve the music shop sign, was left over the moon after meeting his hero.

He said: “Words cannot describe what has happened - it’s been emotional.

“They say don’t meet your heroes but I just did and I can honestly say Mr Albarn is a beautiful human being.

“A passionate musician, a connoisseur of many things, humble, and a super cuddler. I will never forget, Damon Albarn.”

How Gazette reporter George King went about uniting Damon Albarn with the Axe Music shop sign

“CAN I reserve the old Axe Music sign?,” Blur frontman Damon Albarn asked me during an exclusive Q&A before their Colchester Arts Centre gig two months ago.

“I would like to buy that and [The Gazette] are obviously hooked up and have influence [in Colchester]... it is where I bought my first synthesizer.”

Slightly flummoxed by the request, not least given it had come from such a legendary musician, I jokingly reassured him I would, of course, make it happen.

Within seconds of promising the award-laden hitmaker his piece of childhood, I convinced myself the possibility of acquiring the sign was a pipe dream.

But the following day, I thought to myself: What if? What if I could actually retrieve this sign and gift it to the Damon Albarn? A cultural icon who means so much to so many.

Gazette: Success - David Garlick (left) and a fellow helper with the Axe Music shop sign after it had been

As is the case whenever a buzzing bee starts pinging around my bonnet, the seed had been planted and whether I would embark on this journey was no longer a question.

From that moment on, obtaining this sentimental slice of Colchester music shop history became a primary – if not slightly obsessive - focus.

Following a few Google searches I rather quickly managed to track down Alan Gray, the now 77-year-old former owner of Axe Music.

Alan fondly recalled the numerous times when a young Damon would visit his store to purchase some of his very first instruments.

Little did he know the global star and revered songwriter he would go onto become.

With not much, if any, convincing, Alan soon agreed to assist me in my quite frankly bizarre quest to come good on my promise and soon started hitting the phones.

Gazette: Historic - Blur performing at Colchester Arts Centre Image: Phoebe FoxHistoric - Blur performing at Colchester Arts Centre Image: Phoebe Fox (Image: Phoebe Fox)

Before long, the former business owner and keen musician (who, by the way, really is a magnificent soul), had been given the greenlight to reclaim his old shop’s sign.

After enlisting the help of relatives and lifelong Blur fan, David Garlick, we managed to safely dismantle and remove the Axe Music sign from the store’s facade.

During the weeks which followed, emails were exchanged and arrangements were made in relation to how the sign would make its way into Damon’s hand.

Much to our delight, Damon agreed to us meeting him in person to complete the exchange and to conclude the most magical of tales with the most remarkable of endings.

Huddled in a campervan, with the precious sign securely in our grasp, we embarked on a pilgrimage of sorts to the former Colchester schoolboy’s London studio.

As we entered and made our way up the staircase, a nervous silence and sense of trepidation washed over us. But we needn’t have worried.

Over the next 40 minutes or so, after presenting him with the sign he had set his eye one some two months prior, Damon was gracious, thankful, warm and welcoming.

Gazette: Closed - Axe Music used to be open in the High StreetClosed - Axe Music used to be open in the High Street (Image: Newsquest)

He happily spoke with Alan, David, van driver Jason Chamberlain, fan Kelly Clark and I as if he had all the time in the world, despite having an important gig in the evening.

Damon was accommodating in every sense of word and the experience could not have played out more perfectly – he put us at ease from his first hand shake to his final hug.

Never meet your heroes, the old saying goes, but I am so, so glad we did.

Somewhat stunned and in a dreamlike state, we left the studio with a combination of huge grins and disbelieving looks sprawled across our faces.

What at first seemed like an utter impossibility had just became a reality. See, it really, really, really can happen.