Thursday, 26 August 2010

How Del Shannon can be punk

We were in local pub, on a quiet Tuesday evening. We had gone to support a friend who was playing pretty early at an open mike/bring a guitar kind of a night. He played his set to a mixture of all day drinker old men, those who's post work drink had run late and those whose night time drink had started early. And , of course, us.

After his beguiling little set, we gave him a good back patting and bought him a congratulatory Guinness(partly for a good set, mostly for his sheer bravery. It must be lonely up there with just a guitar for company) and settled down next to the pub cat to watch the rest of the people playing.

Quietly, we watched and politely applauded a succession of 'earthy' singer/songwritery females (You know the sort, you would probably never listen to her CD in the house, but theres something about the mix of her voice and a few pints in a dusty pub thats just special) and older guys with beards and a passion for the blues.

Later in the night, a guy came on. Now, i hate to be disparaging to young musicians, i really do. But you know kind of kids who are punk rock but get a lift in their mums Volvo? He could play -that's for sure- and he had a nice mix of 'quirky' covers to sit next to those by Foo Fighters and all that. But there was something a bit fake about the way he only flicked his hair to the right of the stage(where the girls were) and the Americanised accent of his between song 'banter' that left me cold. And I'm sure he got that Stooges t-shirt from Top man.

What happened next restored my faith in music once again. In crashed three people. Very young and clearly very late. There was a boy, maybe 16, who was trying his very best to hide behind his fringe, wearing a t-shirt that had what looked suspiciously like a gravy stain. With him was a flowery girl of a similar age who wore a velvet jacket, an ankle lenth skirt, DM's and look of absolute politeness. Completing the trio was another girl of around the same age. She was clearly the leader, and obviously really quite pissed. She crashed around the small group of people in front of the stage like Ophelia, slurringly asking if anyone had left handed guitar as she had 'forgotten' hers. Being a nice chap, i pointed out that my friend (the guy we had come to see at the top of this page)had one, would she like to borrow that one?

After looks that could be best described as filthy and a lengthy talking to about how guitars can be someones 'children', the trio hit the stage to ignorance and the hum of the 9:30pm chatter of the British pub. Flowery girl, stood to the left, with an Argos guitar starter set strapped to her. To the right was the boy who self consciously banged at a wooden box with hole carved into it, which served as a drum. In the middle, of course, was the leader girl with my mates guitar(he didn't take his eyes off the guitar all night)and gutfull of attitude.

"Right" the leader would shout "1-2-3-4..." and songs would less start than blur into some sort of mutual recognition and get a bit louder. More often than not, Leader would forget the words. Or the chords. Or both. Without fail, the songs would fall apart at the end, each person stopping at a different time. its sounded like a polite car crash. The pair at the side looked at each other forlornly. Is this what it had come to? All this is practise and dreaming? People drank their pints. Some laughing. The Punk Boy sneered on.

"As I walk along,I wonder what went wrong..." Leader started to sing "With our love, a love that was so strong."
Somehow, the two guitars gelled. A smile started to grow on Flowery girls young mouth. The boy pushed his hair back as he happily hit away at the drum. It was happening.
"I'm a-walkin' in the rain,Tears are fallin' and I feel the pain..."
People started talking a little more quietly, heads started to suddenly turn and face the stage.
"Wishin' you were here by me, To end this misery, And I wonder..."

And then it happened.

As if by some pre-arranged signal the whole pub, to man, and including the bar staff started to bellow out"I WAH-WAH-WAH-WAH-WONDER!" along with the band. Everyone looked at each other, grinning. The band stopped, put down their guitars and hugged. This is it. THIS IS IT!

And i guess that's what it is to me as well. That's what punk is. That's what MUSIC is. Not sitting alone in a bedroom playing the same chords to perfection again and again and again. Its three chords and a dream. Its playing to local drunks not Wembley. Its people patting your back and buying you a pint not gold discs.

See this? This is my movie, and this is my Hollywood.


  1. Good work. Although she did break my guitar a little. Thankfully I believe she is the only other left handed drunk open mic performer (than myself of course).

  2. This is beautiful! Thanks, Shaun.

  3. Lovely Shaun. Lovely! Just what I needed to read today.