I arrived at Liverpool street at 5pm rush hour, as I walked towards the gate along the platform I could feel the energy rising as I got closer, I have lived and worked here for over 30 years now, during my Busking & Network years I’ve experienced its energy in the tunnels below and through the streets above at exactly this times, I braced myself.
We’d been away up in the mountains for 4 months with a gentle stop of at the Blacks Mansion in Tulle France to take a deep breath before the plunge. I was coming home to London primarily for the unveiling of the Roxy Plaque on Neal street on the 25th that my Friend Jane Palm-Gold had been organizing. The Roxy was the very first Punk club and where Punk as a movement was “forged” I couldn’t miss it could I?
On the other side of the barrier were people running this way and that, nothing really prepares you. The ticket machine snatched my ticket, beeped and with a dull clang I was trust forward. It really is quite daunting until you’re in paddling away, nobody sees you, your just a shape, everybody dashing past, a rushing a wild current that flowed around other people stood motionless staring upwards at the arrivals and departures board, they could have been trees for all anybody noticed.
With the season cut short in the Alps it meant we would have a few unplanned weeks in the diary, I had a few legalities to sort In London and Orsi the same in Hungary, but the Roxy plaque unveiling and it was Jane’s moment!
Orsi had said “You can’t miss it”
So I’d had an idea, I hadn’t played my guitar in all the time we’d been in the chalet, and been rusty all last year, so I thought I’d go back to see Jane and the launch and busk whilst I was there. My dear friend Mikheil who’s living in the flat whilst we’re away helped me, he’s a seasoned busker a veteran and the most exquisite saxophone player you will ever hear.
I really was looking forward to it, I knew I had a lot of work to do and during the years at the Network my guitar and song writing had taken a back seat and I have always pined for it. Two weeks wouldn’t really be long enough but each pitch was two hours and so two pitches a day would be a good start.
Mikheil had chap have a look at my 30 watt busking amp, had fitted a new battery, and loaned me a 50 watt one I could experiment with, he even had me a little shopping trolley ready to carry my gear, so I was ready as soon I touched down. Excellent. Bless Mikheil, they broke the mold after he was made.
First day back Jane text me. “You’re back, Jordan’ is in conversation with John Robb at the 100 club Friday”
John is an old friend & peer from Blackpool and Jordan, is a Heroine of mine. I was thrilled. To me as a 15-year-old punk rocker in Blackpool when I first saw pictures of her she was just the most exotic exciting amazing thing-woman I had ever seen. Mind you I think she was the most amazing thing England or the world at that time had ever seen.
Jordan really was the for-runner, the trail blazer for punk rock, she was literally the very first, looking and dressing like that back in 1974-5 way before there was even the title ‘new wave’ or ‘punk’ she was and still is quite remarkable. You have to remind yourself of the times in the UK or around the world at that time, it was dull, stale, flares, bad hair styles it was hippy gone bad, dull and boring, there had been bowie of course but this came out of something else.
Any punk girl or any of that style owes her a debt, Westwood and Seditionaries’ too. I used to sit and look at pictures of her for hours, I wouldn’t say it was love but I was certainly mesmerized and absolutely awed by her. I still am. I remember seeing her on the “So It Goes” with the Sex pistols on Granada TV. A light went on that has never been dimmed since. So we had to go.
That night at the 100 club she’d said “Nothing contrived is a happy affair”
It was so good to see her talking and a great reminder of what it meant and what it was. She told stories of the how her own style evolved, the Sex Pistols, 1975 London, Adam & The Ants, of her and Sid Vicious riding horses through Hyde park, that must have been quite a sight. How they’d interview people who came to buy clothes in seditionaries’
“Do you realize what your buying and what your getting yourself into”
Some people didn’t get it and so they wouldn’t sell to them and others who couldn’t afford it they’d give little gifts. It was a great evening and a good interview by John. Truth be told I was that 15 year old kid again sat there on the edge of my seat just smiling.
John saw me trying to slink off later and said “If you don’t go and say hello I’m never going to let you forget it”
So I went up to her afterwards, she signed my book I’d brought with me, I just instinctively gave her a big hug and said in her ear
“Thank you for being amazing”
She put six kisses in my book, I was over the moon, floated out of the 100 club onto oxford street with Jane and Nick Brown and then home, light as a feather.
One of my first stops was the SAGB (The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain) for a reading, I’d not been there for a long time, it had pivotal in my life when I returned from the USA that first time. Many things opened for me there, instincts and my impressions confirmed. It was where I was first trained in many of the things I now take as matter of fact. Where I first realized what healing was and what it could be
It had moved from Belgrave square to just around the back of Victoria station. I miss the old place, a real Hogwarts where the walls themselves were steeped in that wonderful atmosphere, the years of practicing mediums clairvoyance & trance seemed to have permeated the bricks of the building itself, a great and peculiarly British thing
I had a reading with Pauline Mason, I got a message for the 3rd time. Initially I hadn’t quite believed it, but now over a few years and from three different clairvoyants. Lets just say I will carry on playing my guitar. Good to hear from my Mum & Dad too. Nice confirmations, you don’t die, there are other dimensions.
I had of course been over to the Eden/Phil Pooke healing Centre where I worked practiced and learnt all I could over the 13 years there. Great to see the gang and do a few sessions, it’s all so matter of fact returning there. I called in to see Carol who runs the center a few days later too, it was her and Phil who opened their doors and made it all possible for me. Carol is dear to me. Also called up to see Anita and Marge two of the regular older ladies who we’ve come to know and love over the years and have become our adopted grandmothers, had a lovely evening with them and ended up doing healing on all of their 7 dogs. Marge watched closely observing their little expressions changing as they blissed out. I left there that evening loved up and blissed out too
I’d also met up with Stuart from the Underclass to see how the Entrance Hypnosis recordings launch had gone, Stu is a quiet genius; Donna & Andrew from Vanilla Black too, funny and irreverent as always, and always supportive. Shams & the Family their little girl Sara is a year old now, Shibbir had come over for some healing and I’d even managed to meet with Pete from Time Out, who i’d come to like very much and Sandy had come down from Whitby to spent a day together at the British museum was this Ramasses II made by hand? Sandy touched and so was I.
So busking, I played Leicester Sq pitch 2 on the day of the London marathon. It was so good. I’d played the day before at Kings cross pitch 2 and Leicester Sq pitch 1, it just didn’t happen, made a few quid but way lower than expected. I have long been frustrated with the sound of my guitar. It’s a Yamaha 420 and has a wonderful full warmth to it, but looses it when ever I plug her into an amp. So I was just tiddling about, turned the mid range off and up’d the bass a little and though not ideal sounded really rocky.
I’d had to walk a long way due to a few errands in the west end up and down Tottenham Ct Rd. I’d fought my way through the crowds out to see the Marathon from the Embankment to Covent Garden and up through seven dials. I was so tired. So I’d sat outside Leicester Square tube with a little time to spare, had a coffee, I sat there and opened up and did a little bit of absent healing for a friends father. I felt much better
The guy I swapped over the pitch with at 2pm, I knew from years ago, was good to see him. He’d said it hadn’t been great, I’d thought it was going to be like the day before, lots of smiles but nothing going in the pot. But after he’d left I just opened up, all barrels and rocked the place.
There are two pitches at Leicester Square and pitch 2 where I was is notoriously hard work, but I lit up. My fingers had begun to toughen up so the chords rang beautifully. I played the haunting “Lye Down Lye Down” to start, just looped it round, played it through twice. I realized that something was with me, so I tried the rocking “Shades Of Blue” it hit the spot, so then the rhythmical rocking “Some of Them” someone dropped a £5 note in the case, the light got brighter, then somebody else dropped another one in the case. A runner came off the end of the escalator limping and obviously blistered, I just quipped over the mic
“Oh mate; that looks sore.. well done”
I hadn’t said it for the hook, I’d meant it. A minute or two later a lady from their group came back up the tunnel and dropped me another £5 note in the case. I was so touched and switched to full beam. “One More Time” I’d forgotten just how much it makes people smile, I can play it over and around, drop in and out, sing it like Elvis, ham it up and just play with all the girls passing by, such a fun song.
I played “Did I ever tell you” & “London Time” too just to have a breather and then a song I’d written for my Dad “On a Day Like Today” I’d half remembered it the day before and had twiddled with it that morning at the kitchen table. I’d written it as an acoustic picking song, but played with chords, it absolutely rocks
Now a thing all buskers know is that all Italians think they can sing and if you get a group of them and your singing they will 9 times out of 10 join in, well; not really join in, just sing over you. A big group of them had all gathered standing around to my right, must have been 30 or more, must have been some sort of college trip. A couple of them checking out my chords and my fingers and then they just started singing something on the lines of
“Oi Oi Oi laaaaah la laaa”
So I just hooked into them, played the song too their rhythm and sang with them and the whole place erupted, everyone was singing and as they disappeared up and out of view, it seemed as if the whole of Leicester Square Underground was singing and laughing and smiling. I was in my element. I have really missed playing and performing. It was fantastic day. 3 hours straight through not a breather and I made more there than I did all the previous day.
I played every day and I began to get into my stride again, wrists loosening, voice strengthening, words and arrangements coming back. People did double takes, came and said “beautiful song” or “great voice” busking is instant, its just you right there, like it or you don’t. I worked hard, it was a very positive experience.
I noticed too that the underground staff are much more friendly to me/buskers these days. A few stations used to have a real hostility towards buskers particularly Oxford Circus, Green Park and London Bridge. I was once lifetime banned from Oxford Circus because I had a cold. I kid you not. Bank/Monument station staff were warm helpful and friendly, St Paul’s, Piccadilly, Tottenham Ct Rd too and at Leicester Square as I went to sign in.
I’d said “Hello mate, just come to sign in”
“Oh hello” he’d said “You know what to do, you ok?
I said “Yeah great and you, how’s your day?”
“Oh, living the dream” he said dryly “ Just another day in paradise”
It was very funny from where I was looking, his outline from behind looking out from the circular control room in the center of the station concourse right onto the Piccadilly line escalators with the crowds flowing by, brilliant.
“Have a good one” he called after me, which would have been unheard of a year or so ago.
Mikheil recons that it is because virtually all the staff are new and are just used to buskers being there, where as the old guard were used to moving buskers on before it became legal
When I first got my license I’d called home to tell my Mum and Dad. My mum called out to my Dad whilst I was still on the phone
“Fred ….! Fred !! Our Michaels begging”
Its a remarkable thing stood there looking out into London connecting with people close up, there are so many different responses, it’s instant karma.
I have also loved playing Bank number 1 on the 10pm-12pm as it’s easy to get back to Limehouse from there. It’s in a wide-open space in the connecting tunnel between the central line down onto the Northern line so there’s a lot of traffic. I stuck to my winners, rocking, up beat, and bouncing. People who entered the hall just started to dance, one guy jumped down onto his hands and walked on them, feet in the air all the way to the steps down to the northern line, people were howling, and the first thing to go into the pot was a £10 from an Indian lady, I was sure I was being encouraged by my invisible friends
Piccadilly Circus, every busker knows if you get the pitch it’s show time, the most lucrative pitch on the underground. I had 2pm -4pm the escalators are one down and two up from the Piccadilly line, so plenty of time there for people to see you, its like playing to a moving Amphitheatre and I played my ass off
Then there is the Tottenham court road pitch 1 which has the best acoustics in town, if it ever happens that I record again that is what I want to sound like.It’s wonderful. It was an early pitch 8am – 10am. It takes about 2 minutes for people to walk along the tunnel towards you, your playing right at them so by the time they’ve got to you, if you have it, you have them
The amp I am using isn’t the best so I played the picking songs to make the most of the acoustics and opened up my throat, in that way I can sing for hours. In The Fits I would last 40 minutes and the next day my throat would bleed, to tour again would have been problematical, but like this I have wings. It felt like I was touching on something beautiful down there. I hadn’t enjoyed Kings Cross too much. Some pitches suit different instruments. Mikheil loves South Ken and Kings Cross, saxophone territory but then again he’s a magician.
London is multi multi cultural I had been feeling so happy, when i got on a tube one night, i looked to my right and there were this amazing african couple. I smiled at them, then said
“You guys look great”
He’d said “Beautiful”
I’d said “Yeah Beautiful”
They just cracked up laughing he jumped up and asked to take a photo of them, I took the opportunity. London is fabulous if your up for it.
Its not all smiles of course there is a lot of hostility and unhappiness out there. You know as a busker that you are just something to project it onto, so I try not to rise or fall too or for it, people will come up and say “your shit” grimace in your face, put their fingers in their ears or look at you with fury in their eyes. There have been people who i’m sure are thinking they’d like to kill me. All those emotions flowing past, the full spectrum of human feelings flashing by in a minute, it is remarkable if you are looking, nowhere else will you get a better platform to look and watch, the busker is invisible simple because playing music there is perceived as not to be watching, but this one sure is. It’s incredible.
I remembered how it can grind you down too, the constant lifting the gear moving in amongst and through the multitudes, can be draining. For a few days there at Kings cross, I was a flat battery. But it lifted and I’m dusted down now and returning to polished again. Great stuff
Then there was the Roxy Plaque unveiling day, my real reason for returning to London early. I’d been popping over to see Jane and Chris setting up at the gallery on Neal street. It was looking great, Jane was hyped up and buzzing around, super-charged, Chris laid back and easy going as always getting it all mounted, the photos were great, all the early bands The Damned The Clash Penetration Adam & the Ants, the Slits, Generation X, Chelsea, X-Ray Spex, Jordan of course and all the early punks. Jane had done such a great job pulling it all together. She’d worked hard during our time away, walked a tight rope getting permission from all the photographers, Andrew Czezowski & Susan Carrington the people who’d actually started the club and the 7 Dials trust, it had eventually all come together beautifully.
I’d wanted to play one last time so on that Tuesday Morning I’d gone to see if Tottenham Ct Rd 8am-10pm the pitch was free. I’d woken up at 4.30am with too much going round my head, all the insurance, road Tax and van stuff had been dragging on, but finally got it sorted later that day, there was a lot to get ready too if I was planning to drive across Europe to Budapest the very next day.
I dragged the trolley and the guitar through the rush hour on the central line that morning and arrived there bang on 8am, exhausted, it proved to be a good gamble though as the pitch was free, nobody came. But I was really tired, it took around the first hour for me to get into the swing. But i stuck at it and once I had my mojo back up and with me I was off again and was glad I’d made the effort. Then a quick stop on the way home to get all the coins changed up, it was a very healthy productive time, my fingers were feeling better now, solid.
I rushed home to get changed and back out for the opening and only just made it on time. The gallery was already busy, there was gold rope across the front of the door. Jane waved me straight in and stamped my hand with a gold star. It’s these little things that count. I love Jane. x
“What do you need doing babe” I asked.
She asked me to go and get the Vox amp and mic I’d picked up from Regent sound the other day, so that was that I was sound man and rodie. Just then it just so happened that Jordan came in the door, I was again star struck but managed to put a bridal on my energy, just about reigned myself in and asked her if I could have a picture with her. She is so matter of fact and down to earth, and there she was and there was I, it continued like that, a wonderful day, a complete success.
Everyone then seemed to gravitate up the road. A pretty big crowd had gathered too, it turned out that it was mainly all the women stars there as many of the male Punk Stars had found excuses, some had played silly games behind the scenes, so it was the women who had come forward and helped it be done, Gaye Advert, Tessa from the Slits, Pauline Penetration and of course Jordan. Jane was in there too of course with Andrew and Susan who’d started it all. Just fantastic, it was all smiles, I was proud of them all
I’d put the Vox amp down in front of the Speedo shop’s window, it kept feeding back as David Beder from the 7 Dials trust began speaking, people were calling from the back that they couldn’t hear, so I stepped up and in and altered the settings then lifted the little 30 watt box up over the heads of the crowd whilst the ceremony was done. It was so funny, there I was stood next to all the greats, me in my black suit and hat grinning. It felt like I’d sneaked into the picture, it was such fun. I’m still laughing about it now.
Then once the plaque was unveiled everyone went back to the exhibition to chat and have a few drinks, whilst a DJ Jeffrey Munday a top geezer himself pumped out the classics, I met lots of great people too and after all these years I finally had chance to have a very light chat with Jordan and guess what, we talked about animal healing, these days she is a Veterinary Nurse and breeds Siamese cats. I’ve done a lot of work with animals of course, I learnt healing it initially from the Horses. But all that aside I was just happy to be there. As we were talking people kept coming up to us to take our picture and after about the 4th one I looked at her and said
“We’re doing well aren’t we”
“Yeah” she laughed. I’m sure she was thinking who is this guy. Great fun.
Jane looked a little frazzled at times so I sat her on my knee right there in the middle of it all, put my hand on her back and let the energy flow, she lifted and the storm passed. She looked great her huge hat with its cock feathers, she’d done well. It was a great day.
Later that night a little high, I met with Mikheil down at the Captain Kid on the riverside at Wapping, my favorite pub. I still hadn’t packed but had pilled things up on the bedroom table i thought i’d need. I was literally falling asleep when we got home later, but still I woke again at 5.30am ready to blast off. So back to France to stay with Ian & Francis at the Black mansions for a few days, I have a some rust to sort on Pearl and then off across Europe to who knows where for a few weeks ultimately to go meet Orsi in Budapest. Here goes