Diary Of A Busker Day 232

Diary Of A Busker Day 232 Sunday May 13th 2012 Winchester High Street Corner of Marks & Spencers, Time: 3:33-5:40pm
A few feet in front of The Buttercross and facing down the High Street is Tony, Winchester’s premier sax player. As I walk by I think I wouldn’t mind a photo of him for my album. I stop, get my camera out and walk back a few paces but when I raise my camera so I can look through the viewfinder, Tony sees me, stops playing and says, loudly, that he doesn’t want me to take a picture. I ask him why not. He says it again – he doesn’t want me to take a picture. He comes over to me – ‘I don’t want you to take a photo, OK?’ ‘OK…is there any reason?’ He doesn’t say, just, ‘I don’t want you to take a photo,’ for the third time. Fair enough.
I end up down at Marks & Spencer…Anthony stops by for 10 minutes. After not stopping for a few months, he’s started again to stop and ask about the guitar. I give him a copy of the photo I took of him the other day, with the King Alfred statue in the distance. He likes it, ‘Yes, that’s not bad, not bad at all.’ He’s ‘still struggling’ with the guitar. The trouble is he wants to learn how to play the fingerstyle way, with the chords, bass notes and melody all at once. He has a book of piano arrangements with the two clefs, for left and right hand and some guitar chord diagrams above. ‘So how do I play the melody?’ I have to explain that the chord diagrams don’t tell you how to incorporate the melody, they’re just so you can strum along on the guitar. ‘They’re just the CHORDS, not the melody?’ ‘Yeah. For the melody, you need a book of fingerstyle arrangements. You’ve just got a piano arrangement book with the guitar chords. So you can play the chords and SING the melody, if you want.’ No – he isn’t going to do that – ‘I want to PLAY the melody, like YOU do.’ I explain, ‘But the thing is, I’ve been doing this for years. You need to learn some chords, strum some chords.’ ‘Strum?’ ‘Yeah, strum. Play ALL the strings…strum.’ ‘Not just the ones with the black dots on the chord diagrams?’ ‘No! They’re just the fretted notes. On the guitar you have to CREATE the note, if it’s not an open string. With the piano, the note’s already there, in front of you, so you just have to press it, right? The guitar is different. Those dots tell you where you put your finger. Then you strum ALL the strings, right?’ I’m losing patience, which I always feel bad about later. Any musical instrument is difficult to learn, especially if you’re used to playing another one which is completely different.
At about 5 o’clock, I see Tony walking down towards me…he comes up, puts a coin in the bucket and asks why I wanted to take his picture. I tell him it’s for my photo album. ‘Really?’ ‘Yeah, really.’ ‘Not for any paper or anything like that?’ ‘What? No…what do you mean?’ As I’m saying this, it suddenly dawns on me, about the letter I wrote to The Hampshire Chronicle last year, where I moaned about the loudness of saxophone buskers and their backing tracks. They gave it the title “This saxophony cacophany.” Oh dear, I’m embarrassed, but I can’t get out of it because Tony knows it wrote it. I don’t know how he knows my name. I’m pretty lucky, though – he’s alright about it – ‘All people have to do is come up and say if they think it’s too loud. Hey, I’ll turn down a bit.’ He talks about some seriously loud buskers like the South American pan pipe lot who sometimes play near where we are now. Apparently, the Debenhams people came out to complain to them. They were out here playing for hours. Anyway, back to the embarrassing subject of my letter, Tony says, ‘Do you know how I found out?’ ‘No.’ ‘Frank told me.’ ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, Frank came into Sainsbury’s (where Tony works) and said, “Did you see what Marvin wrote about you?” and showed it to me and that’s how I found out, so don’t trust anybody.’ Well, the lousy rotten so-and-so. Frank’s the FIRST person to moan to ME about Tony and other loud buskers who use backing tracks. The dirty sonofabitch. ‘Anyway,’ says Tony, ‘is Frank a musician?’ Haha! ‘Frank?…well, he plays his accordion!’ ‘Yeah, but is he a MUSICIAN? I mean…is there any melody? I can’t even hear a melody!’ This makes me laugh, again, ‘I know what you mean, it all sounds the same. I get people coming up to ME and saying stuff like, “What song is he playing – that guy on the accordion?” I’ve got no idea. I keep thinking maybe the reeds or whatever it is are worn out on the upper register, where you play the melody, on the keyboard bit.’ ‘Because he’s always going on about chords – diminished and whatever, I think he must know all about this but I can’t work it out. I even went up to him once and said, “Sorry, what is that you’re playing?” because I couldn’t work it out – where was the melody.’ I laugh again, ‘I know. It all sounds the same, and he’s there playing for hours!’ ‘Yes, and he gets to someplace really early, like when he plays near the fountain, because I set up there sometimes, but sometimes I get there and he’s already there. And he’s been there since ten o’clock, he says. I mean, you know, people don’t want to hear all that so early in the morning, I think.’ ‘No, I agree.’ ‘You know, I don’t play that early – not before eleven. It’s too early! It’s too loud for people…I know!’ Tony’s a nice bloke, and he DID give me a coin and I DO feel very embarrassed. Anyway, we shake hands…I’m glad he didn’t beat me up!
Near the end, when there’s not many about to hear any mistakes, I debut a new song, my arrangement of George Harrison’s 1968 Beatles’ White Album song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I’ve practised it a lot at home but it now needs to be broken in, out here. I disfigure it somewhat, with a few mistakes, but at least one person recognises it; a woman comes up and says, ‘I haven’t heard you play that before, is it a new song?…well I know it’s not NEW. It’s one of my favourite songs.’ I’m pleased to inform her that, ‘Yeah, this is the first time I’ve played it.’
Earnings: £24.67

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