Diary Of A Busker Day 290 Saturday September 29th Greenwich Market, London (outside The Coach And Horses public house, Time: 1:35-3:03pm, 4:35-6:03pm).
I’m back outside the same pub I was outside in January last year, just after I started this whole busking thing – again at the invitation of Gary, who’s asked me to play for a bit at the nearby Ben Oakley Gallery before the screening (world premier, actually) of his and Loren Scott’s Total Thrive Production of ‘Ringo And The Idol Of Justice’ a proper length feature film. Preceeding the film, they’re showing some shorts they’ve made over the last few years, one of which – Attack Of The Mutant Potatoids – I’m actually IN, as a presidential aide! Once again, Gary’s got permission from the relevent sources for me to occupy the same spot as before.
Having arrived via a series of trains, I walk to the small gallery – about a twenty second walk from the pub. Gary’s there – he says he’ll go out and get me something to eat before I set up…he returns with a rather splendid, super-hot spicy sausage-in-a-roll, which makes me hiccup! – “That’ll set you up for the day, King, then I’ll take you over to the pub and introduce you to the guy behind the bar.” Having done all that, I set up and start tuning up – I keep forgetting I’ve brought TWO guitars up – my psychedelic double-neck and trusty Epiphone. Up until the last minute, I was just going to bring the double-neck but then I got paranoid and thought “What if it sounds rubbish?! – I’ll be stuck with it!” – sixty miles from home, so I decided to cram the Epiphone in the same gigbag as the double-neck. It weighs a ton!To add to the weight, I also brought along my bigger busking amp and a microphone and stand, thinking I might do some original songs – an idea I dispensed with pretty sharpish. It just wasn’t the place for an eight minute song about a balloon.
I opened with Albatross, after which a man contributed and told me about when he saw Peter Green back in the Sixties – “…and he used to swear onstage! Well, we’d never heard anyone swear onstage – we were only young, we couldn’t believe it! Then, a few years ago my son went to see him and he said ‘My dad saw you way back’ and Peter Green said ‘Yeah, I remember your dad, how is he?’ and, you know, he couldn’t have remembered me – we never met!” My man reckons this was because of all the drugs he took (P. Green, not my man!) years before.
After an hour and a quarter a young guy comes up and compliments me on the fingerstyle playing…in fact, over some two minutes, he sort of over-compliments me to the extent I think ‘I wonder if he’s a musician and he wants to busk here’…and I was right! There’s two others stading nearby with their instrument cases. Actually, I don’t mind – I need a break and Fran and young Michael have turned up, along with Des who used to run one of my old haunts, The East Dulwich Tavern. Fran wants to buy me some lunch at the pie and mash place opposite the gallery. So I say to the guys wth the cases that they might as well do a set here for an hour or so, then I can finish with another hour and a half – that’ll take me to six o’clock – the time I’m booked up til.
So after a visit to the gallery and a great lunch of pie, mash and green liquor sauce – just like the old days, we walk back…and the guys who took over are really good – a fiddle, guitar and mandolin – no amps, sounds just right for this sort of setting: lots of people, drinking, etc… The people at the tables outside really like it. I think they should keep playing! At 4:15, they keep their word and announce their last song…at the end they say goodbye but people want them to play on. The guy I spoke to earlier looks at me – I say “Yeah, go on – play another one.” They may as well – they’re really popular! At the end, we have a chat and I get their names – Jay Northen(?) on six-string acoustic guitar – a painted one, sponsered by Coca-Cola he said. I took a photo of it – nice, although not quite as impressive as mine, I have to say. Then there was Roy Hobbs – mandolin and James Gavin – fiddle, who’d clearly had a rigourous work-out – the ground was covered with broken bow-hairs. Collectively, they are The Badlands Orchestra. Actually, that wasn’t all of them – in the middle of their set, while I was ‘lunching’, they were joined by two more – an accordionist and another one, whose instrument I can’t remember. By the look of all the money in the guitar case, it looks like they’ve done well – there was a £10 note along with some serious coinage. Even spliting it between them, they’ve each made more than me, easily! I’m not surprised – they’re more fun! Good luck to them, I say. As they’re going off – I think they were going to play at someone’s house later – they say they’ve left me a little present in my bucket. Great! – must be some ‘rental’ money…I don’t see any notes in there, though. I think they might have put a couple of pound coins in.
I start the second session with my Epiphone then, feeling somewhat more brave than when I started, move on to the double-neck. Gary comes to see how I’m getting on. I think it’s OK – there was about £18 from the first spot – the usual rate. I don’t think Gary thinks alot of my very clever mid-song-switching-in-between-necks – “It’s not necessary, King! Totally unecessary! Only YOU would tell the difference!” Yep, he’s probably right. I pack up just after six o’clock…and get the first of three pints of Guinness couple of people have ordered for me – one from a man who was sitting at the table right next to me when I started and the other two from some weird, posh woman who also bought not one, but two cds during the second set. She was about 60, said she was – like me, from Winchester (I don’t know how she knew that – I never told her!) and kept coming up to me. The first time, she said she wanted to book me for a party she was giving in a few weeks time and also for something else about a year from now. But half an hour later, she comes up again and says “Maybe just the one next year – I think we should put a bit of a distance between us”(!) Whatever that’s supposed to mean! What a bizarre thing to say! And when Gary came over again and played a bit on my guitar, she started writing something in a notebook, looking at us, writing in the book, looking, writing… Weird people. The only other weird person was at the start – a man at a table in front who was scowling and muttering at me. I was fearing he was going to be there the whole time but he left after a few minutes. He returned a few times, walking past me, still scowling and muttering rubbish. Par for the course, as they say.
I took my Guinness over to the gallery and at Gary’s request, set up near the door to do a few numbers to get some passers-by attention – they might hear the music and maybe like to come in to see the film. Why not – it’s free! I also remembered I’d brought my Prisoner TV series style white-jacket-with-black-piping, so I dug that out of my case. It looked quite good, especially when worn with a striped T-shirt – very Prisoner-esque, very authentic. In fact there was only one thing needed to complete the picture – namely, to play my newly worked out Prisoner theme on my double-neck…while Gary filmed me…turning the guitar around to reveal my hand-painted Prisoner ‘penny-farthing’ bicycle. By the next morning, Gary had edited it and put it up on youtube, which is pretty clever, in my book.
That done, the screening with the shorts (Shatner’s Pants, Hats For Cats, The Gypsy’s Hand and the one with me -‘Potatoids’) – all of it brilliant. In The Gypsy’s Hand, there was an old Romanian peasant woman speaking but instead of having her speaking Romanian with English subtitles, they’d got her speaking English with Romanian subtitles. Ha! Kwaff – who did alot of the voices in the main feature – turned up later, sporting a beard – never seen him with one before.
After the film, there was some serious ‘relaxation’ back outside the pub…I chatted to fellow Jacques Brel admirer and fellow fingerstyle player (who ISN’T bothered by Focal Dystonia), Joe Wilkes, about Jacques Brel for a bit…then came home – a somewhat lengthy affair involving a Docklands Light Railway train to Canary Wharf, underground train to Waterloo, train (last one) to Basingstoke and finally a rather cold bus to Winchester, arriving at 3:10am…in the morning. But a good day. I didn’t make loads but it’s always good to get out of town, see Gary, see Loren…see Fran, Michael, folks from the old days…have a pint of Guinness, or three…and a short, or two. And I didn’t pay any train fare – due to some vouchers a train company sent me as compensation for a botched journey a couple of months ago.
Earnings: £41.68 + 2 cds