Diary Of A Busker Day 290 Saturday September 29th 2012 London, In front of The Coach And Horses public house, Greenwich Indoor Market, 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 busking, and again at the invitation of Gary, who’s asked me to play 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 full length feature film. Phew! Preceding 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 relevant sources for me to occupy the same spot as before.
Having arrived via a series of trains, I walk to the small gallery which is about a twenty second walk from the pub. Gary’s there and 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.’ After the sausage, I set up and start tuning up. I keep forgetting I’ve brought TWO guitars up; the double-neck and the 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, and it weighs a ton; no, more than a ton; the double-neck weighs a ton on it’s own. As if that isn’t enough to cart around, 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. Greenwich Market just isn’t the place for an eight minute song about a balloon.
I open with Albatross, after which, a man contributes 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, that is) 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 that I’m thinking he’s a musician and he wants to busk here…and I was right. There are two others standing nearby with their instrument cases. Actually, I don’t mind as 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 (the EDT to the patrons), and they want to buy me some lunch at the pie and mash place opposite the gallery. So I say to the guys with 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, my finishing time.
So after a visit to the gallery and a great lunch of pie, mash and green liquor sauce – like the old days, we walk back, and the guys who took over are really good; a fiddle, guitar and mandolin and no amps. It sounds just right for this sort of setting, which is; lots of people and lots of drinking. 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 and at the end they say goodbye but people want them to play on. The guy I spoke to earlier looks at me so 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 a painted six-string acoustic guitar sponsered by Coca-Cola, allegedly. I took a photo of it; nice, although not quite as impressive as my psychedelic wonder, I have to say. Then there was The Badlands Orchestra; Roy Hobbs – mandolin and James Gavin – fiddle, who’d clearly had a rigorous work-out; the ground was covered with broken bow-hairs. 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 splitting it between them, they’ve each easily made more than me. 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! – maybe 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 a lot of my very clever mid-song-switching-in-between-necks – ‘It’s not necessary, King! Totally unnecessary! Only YOU would tell the difference!’ He’s probably right. I pack up just after six o’clock…and get the first of three pints of Guinness a 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 you, 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. Bloody weird London people!
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 attention from passers-by; they might hear the music and maybe like to come in to see Gary’s 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 Village-resident; very authentic. In fact there was only one thing needed to complete the picture, namely, to play my newly worked out Prisoner theme on the double-neck while Gary filmed me, turning the guitar around at the end, 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.
Anyway, with the performance done, the screening began, with the shorts; Shatner’s Pants, Hats For Cats, The Gypsy’s Hand and the one with me -Potatoids, all very entertaining.
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 to top it all off, a rather cold bus to Winchester, arriving at 3:10 in the bloody morning. But a good day. I didn’t make loads but it’s always good to get out of town and see Gary, Loren, Fran, Michael, folks from the old days, have a pint of Guinness…or three…and a scotch…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