Oldham Street

January 27, 2008

The first gig poster I saw was for a band called Desolation Angels.  I felt at home straight away. 

 

 *

 

At the Piccadilly end, walking past Fred Done’s bookmakers as a man strides across the road, dragging a tiny Yorkshire Terrier in his wake.  The dog is shitting as it is dragged, leaving little clumps of poo and disgusted women in its wake.  “It shouldn’t be allowed”, one of them says. 

 

 

*

Back room of The Castle, a duo on the stage, older fellas, middle-thirties if a day.  I remember hearing the little mistakes in the songs, especially from the bald electric guitarist. 

 

“This one’s from our album”, said the singer, with pride.  Our little group were six of the nine people in the audience and we weren’t there to see them.  Just to have a drink.

 

I wondered what his songs were about, what stories he wanted to tell. 

 

There was something very right about the scene.  The irrelevance of the group, the faded old room, the wrong end of Oldham Street.  I tried to imagine being that old and playing gigs to no one.  What passion kept him going? 

 

She suddenly asked me, “is there any chance that it could happen again, do you think?””No.” I said, meaning it. “No.  We need to go back to being friends.”   

 

 

*

 

Sitting on the street next to a kid a little younger than me, two or three years younger, giving him a cigarette. 

 

“I feel like a tramp”, he said.

 

“You’re not a tramp.  You’re better than that.” I said.

 

“I sell The Big Issue”, he said.

 

“Exactly.  You try to earn money, you don’t beg”.  

 

Of course he begged. 

 

He was a good-looking young lad who could have been anything he wanted.   He wanted to take drugs and sit around in parks with people who packed up and went home at the end of the day and left him there.  He was lost, he would squat, he would stay alive day to day.  Days and days and days stumbling by.

 

Acres of time.  Decisions that consign months, years, to waste.  How to recover when you’re older?

*

 

Singing at the Night and Day, singing to 20 people, if that, then getting home and being told by a friend that my singing was absolutely terrible. 

 

That night, I sat, I drank, I smoked, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.  I was terrible.

 

I knew I was struggling, but to be actually told I was bad, for the first time.

 

I remembered the heat of the stage, the lights.

 

 

*

 

The Night & Day, again.  Talking to a friend and realising that it was all she would ever be, a friend.  As much as I wanted it to, nothing would ever happen between us, the moment was gone.

 

I Am Kloot started to soundcheck behind the screen.  The music expressed everything, the static, the emptiness.  Another Oldham Street bard sang of loneliness.  Another-not-quite couple drank and couldn’t bridge the space between them.  Another day ticked by.

 

 

*

 

Wandering into Oxfam Original and talking to the fashionista behind the counter, in my blue workman’s jacket, with my dull grey spectacles and lank hair.  Talking to him about my band. 

 

What the fuck did he care?  We were never going to be the next Libertines.  We had absolutely not clue one about what it took.  We were the wrong side of 24 and had no style, we had no look.  It didn’t matter if we could play our instruments well, because that’s not rock’n’roll.

 

*

 

People wash up from all over the country and play their guitars, sell second hand CDs, buy cheap jackets from Affleck’s and look at the teeny Goths, wondering why.  Go home and write poems, sit uselessly alone and dream.  Complain to well-meaning, well-adjusted people who ply them with alcohol, because it seems to help.  Keep booking gigs, keep writing, keep drawing, keep being told that practise can’t be until next week now, it’s Sharon’s birthday / I’m working late. 

 

To them, it is not futile.  Driven, alone, they go on and on and on.

 

 

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