Diary Of A Busker Day 165 Monday October 10th Winchester High Street (1. corner of Marks And Spencer, Time: 1:48-2:30pm, 2. opposite Vodafone, Time: 3:10-5:28pm).
I return to the High Street after almost a week of convalescing – after I had cut my left hand forefinger while washing a soup tin lid. At The Buttercross there’s a Dave Hun (or Kum) playing an amplified banjo – one instrument there is no need to amplify. He’s selling cds for a tenner each: CELTIC AND BLUEGRASS BANJO MUSIC – with an emphasis on the Celtic, I would add.
I set up further down – there seems to be no other buskers about, but just as I’m about to sit down and play, I hear someone playing Romance de Espana on a very “tinny” sounding guitar. I look around, there’s a guy practically right across from me, sitting on a stool, with loads of stuff around him – bike, open guitar case, amplifier. Where did he come from? He finishes his song – one of MY numbers! I go across, “When did you get here? – I never saw you!” “Oh, I’ve been here for an hour, I just went across to the shop (bakery) for a minute.” How I missed seeing a bicycle and amp and everything, I don’t know.
So, I’m down at Marks And Spencer. I see the “sad” man – this time without his son – usually perched on his shoulders. He’s in a cheerful mood, sas it’s good to see me again and says I’m one of the best buskers around. “You mean today?” I say. “No – ever! Your persona…everything.” I don’t understand the persona bit – certainly no one’s said that before, but I thank him all the same. He’s come out at the right time – I was feeling low – I’d had one donation in twenty minutes and was thinking of packing up. He’s noticed my absence and asks where I’ve been. I tell him about my injury. “I know what you mean”, he says, “I used to work at the Post Office – it’s amazing what a paper cut can do.” He asks my name. “Marvin, what’s yours?” – I’ve always wanted to know, ever since the first time I met him, back at the beginning of the year when he said my Third Man had cheered him up. Back then, when I asked his name, he said “It doesn’t matter”, as he walked off. Now he tells me, “It’s Nick.”
Two of my old man regulars come by – one after the other. The first one says, “I bought that DVD (of a guitar tuition) o lend you last week but you weren’t here!” Wow – someone else who’s noticed my absence. I tell him of my injury. He ignores what I say and looking at the paltry contents of my bucket, says “When I come back, I want to see that full!” “Yeah, so do I!” I shout, something I don’t nornally do. Next – an old man I see most days, but don’t know his name. He really likes my “sound”. He used to play, “but I got (a condition which has affected his vision – I can’t remember the name)…I had to get a special book, with big notes in it. Just age – I’ll be playing a harp soon!” “No! – you’re on your feet, you haven’t got a walking stick – you’re alright!” I say. “Well I think they’ll be getting my harp ready – I’ll tell David “I want a GUITAR, not a HARP!” .” he laughs. Well, all I can say is I hope I can laugh at it when I get to his age. “…yes, I had a Ramirez (very expensive Spanish guitar), about ten years ago. Paid £1000 for it.” “Wow. They’re the best though.” I say. “Yeah – be worth abut £5000 now.”
…I play my new arrangement of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to a small boy in a buggy. He doesn’t react. I play it three more times – he doesn’t react. “I think he’s tired”, say his mother…I’ve taped a sign on my bucket, saying AVAILABLE FOR WEDDINGS, PARTIES, CLUBS, RESTAURANTS, ETC. A guy walks by and says what I knew someone was going to say: “You haven’t put BAR MITZVAHS on it!”
Janet, girlfriend of the late Shadows bassman – Jet Harris, drops by to give me a pamphlet. She’s started up a Jet Harris Memorial Fund to raise money for research into Cancer. There’s a good photo of Jet Harris (MBE) in action in the studio, on the front. “That’s Jet at Abbey Road, in 1961.” says Janet. In colour, too. (Like Jet, I’ve been to Abbey Road Studios, too – twice. The first time -to record – when I was a young guy in an up and coming pop group, and secondly, more than twenty years later, to do a gig dressed as a Beatle – that’s progress. But I don’t tell Janet any of this – today is about Jet)…
Session two takes place where I was going to play before the busker that was there all along started up again. Actually, during my first session I had several people come up to say they preferred MY playing – they’d just come down the road and heard the other guy. I reckon the other guy’s sound was too harsh – he should have turned down his treble and turned up his bass – you need to keep it mellow out here, especially if you’re playing the Spanish stuff, in my learned opinion.
…a young guy – a singer/guitarist I sold an album to last week at the local open-mic night (The Railway Inn) comes up, “I like your album – it’s weird.” “Oh, weird?” “Yeah, weird…but cool.” “Weird but cool? OK, that’s good enough for me.” Again I attempt Twinkle Twinkle Lttle Star – for another child in a buggy, and agin – no responce, apart from a lady walking by who informs me “that was written by Mozart.” “Really? I didn’t know that.” “Or variations on that”, she says. I suppose he wrote that before he cowded every passage with thousands of notes.
As I’m playing a new set addition – a simple arrangement of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love, Ragtime Phillip appears. He’s missed me, too, he says. I relate the tale of my accident with the sharp soup tin lid. “Stupid guitarist, aren’t you?” “Yep, I won’t do that again.” Phillip likes my Elvis number but would like to play something himself – can he borrow my guitar? He’s never asked to do this before. Since he’s always been friendly and complimentary and I haven’t seen him for awhile, I’ll allow him. He plays a it of Killing Me Softly With His Song. A nice, simple arrangement. I might look into that one…
Otto – one of the friendlier local Drongos – a Scotsman by accent, plonks himself against the wall next to me. “Hey! Pley some Chuck Berry, will ye. Pley it!” “I don’t do any, apart from a riff (I play a Chuck Berry intro riff – Johnny B. Goode, let’s say). “Yeah! Yeah! Pley it!” “I just did!” “Yeah! Pley Hendrix – Hey Joe!” I fumble around for the verse chords, “That’s all, Otto – I don’t really do any Jimi Hendrix…well, apart from (I remember and play the weird intro chord to Purple Haze), apart from that.” “What? D’ye do any Metallica? – pley it!” “No! No Metallica!” His mate turns up, “Is he in your face, mate?” Then, to Otto, “Come on mate, don’t hassle him.” “Am I in yer face?” says Otto. “No, your alright, Otto.” I don’t mind him. I feel sorry for him – he’s in a right state sometimes, but he’s never aggresive and he usually knows when he’s outstayed his welcome, as it were, and he’ll get up and walk off. I suddenly remember he likes Apache. “Here you go, Otto. I know you like this…”