Sunday 30 November 2014

A Guardian Angel Comes To Call

I was exhausted. Frazzled after a breakneck drive to Berlin I had an afternoon radio interview to do and followed by a solo record store appearance. I played seven songs and signed a lot of autographs - I felt like Johnny Leyton on that TV show where he mimes to Johnny Remember Me.
Later on we were setting up the equipment in the Crystal Club when an apparition walked in, a beautiful older man with silver hair and an anorak. I was staring at him, thinking how I knew him from somewhere, then I realised it was Captain Sensible. He'd beamed down from another planet like some strange guardian angel to make sure I was all right.
Actually he was making a guest appearance with a band who were playing in the venue next door. He stuck around for our soundcheck, then lovingly carried my guitar down to the dressing room for me and made us all a cup of tea. It was like having a celebrity valet. He showed me to a grubby off-white vinyl sofa, bought me a cup of tea, sat down and asked me how I was. He admired my guitar, I gave it to him to play and he caressed its curves, complimented the patina and remarked that it was ageing beautifully. We talked about the importance, now that we're both grandfathers, of maintaining a certain amount of onstage dignity (which in his case means keeping his clothes on for the duration of the set).
Then he was gone, off next door to do his gig.
During the show I mentioned how he'd appeared and made us all a cup of tea, how Amy was disappointed because she's spilled her Special Captain Sensible Cup Of Tea, and what a lift it had given me to see him, in the middle of a tour, thousands of miles from home, in a strange land with the mid-tour blues...and so on. I didn't think we'd be seeing each other again because his show exactly coincided with our own.
We finished the set, encore and everything, and were just about to leave the stage when there was a commotion and the Captain was in amongst us, red beret and wraparound shades and all, making a speech about how great I was. I couldn't be doing with that.
'You'll have to give us a song now you're here - let's do Happy Talk!'
For a long time Happy Talk was the Captain's bete noire. A novelty hit that turned him from a borderline clown into a full time joke for a while. A shame because he's an intelligent man and a hugely talented musician. Not that I'd ever tell him that of course. He's recovered from all that now and always seems quite reconciled with the Happy Talk part of the story.
We completely butchered the song and it was magnificent. Someone said it sounded us though we were all playing different songs but it made perfect sense to me. It even had a modulation, or key change (from A to G), due in part (I like to think) to my quick insertion of a mindless progression of jazz chords. Barry had a handle on it, which I found slightly disturbing, and so did Amy - she played the organ like a cabaret hack on a cruise liner. When they start doing punk cruises we'll be first in line for a job.
It was a one-off, I don't think we'll be doing it again. It cheered me up no end though. Some of the audience looked puzzled -I suddenly realised that half of them didn't know who he was, and the other half thought he was a lookalike.
I should have taken photos but I was busy, and everyone else seems to be taking them, though the Germans aren't the shutterbugs that the American's are. Everywhere we play in America big men stand next to me while other big men take our photo, me looking slightly bemused, big man of the moment looking either pleased as punch or super cool. Sometimes they check the photo and get their big man mate to take another, but it's never because I don't look good - and I generally don't - it's all about them, they have to look just right.
Shutterbug... I like this word.
And the German version - Schutterbug.

02 STRASBOURG, La Popartiserie

05 LEON, SPAIN, Purple Weekend Festival – THE LEN BRIGHT COMBO
06 LEON, SPAIN, Purple Weekend Festival – WRECKLESS ERIC solo
10 HULL, New Adelphi TICKETS
14 BRIGHTON, Prince Albert