Thursday, 8 December 2011

ON THE RUN

It began simply enough: a meeting at the Rugger-Bugger's school with yet another master whose moist-eared youth and soapy demeanour practically had me trashing his office for Champagne. This at 8.15am. There was a time when only constables had this effect on me.  I must be losing it.  His enthusiasm for Freddie Mercury bought him time.  The meeting was inconclusive, as school meetings tend to be.  I never know why I bothered, and the teachers rarely seem to have a clue.

No amount of bribery nor persuasion was going to get Saffy and the R-B to the 02 for Paul McCartney ... only for Olly Murs, and that's not until February.  With loaded heart, alone, I hit the long road to the Greenwich Peninsular (a euphemism?), losing my front number plate to a White Van Man who at least got out after backing into my Porsche (it thinks it's a Porsche) and attempted to screw it back in.  This is a man thing.  He was quite charming.  Thought of offering him my other Macca ticket, but you know, only fleetingly.  Common sense kicked in.  It sometimes does.

She was up there in the gods somewhere, the Welsh Honey.  I knew that, because she was tweeting me. I waved wildly at 20-odd thousand people, just in case she saw me.  I knew I'd never find her - at gigs, it's other people who find YOU. Talking of which, then who should rock up, and right in my ear, but Dave Stark, Tony Moore and crew. Couldn't have made that up, it was extraordinary.
There is no such thing as coincidence, Tony and I agreed. These are the ways of the universe.  Reminding us that it's there.

With Stella McCartney right behind us, and her brood of bruisers screaming 'Grandad!' at Paul throughout, I was not thrown, to the right, by lovely Lady Martin, nor to the left, by stiffly beautiful Victoria Beckham, nor even in between, by Ronnie Wood, with his melted-in-the-microwave looks: a rock-n-roll Horrid Henry on a perma-quest for mischief.  He's insane. I was cool with it until he took to the stage with his old rival for a bit of a searing blast. Wow. Ronnie rocks, but remains the new boy.  He'll never be a Rolling Stone, not until Keith dies. 

As for Macca.  His band is sensational, he played all the hits, paid homage to John and George (but not Ringo - ??) has lost none of it.  Highlights?  Maybe I'm Amazed:  in my humble opinion, the finest song he ever wrote.  Here Today, the conversation he never got to have with Paul.  Something. Blackbird. Yesterday. The Long And Winding Road... all the way to the the Beatles' farewell, during the second encore, the line last on Abbey Road: the final album they recorded together (Let It Be was the last they released, but it had been recorded earlier).

'And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make'. 

This featured the only drum solo Ringo ever performed as a Beatle. How I wish they'd brought him on, Monday night, to do it. According to Geoff Emerick, who engineered the album, the guitar solos are in the order Paul, George and John. Paul wanted to go first, and John last.  Ain't life. 

Paul's suit was in homage to original Beatles style, stitched by Stella no doubt, its jacket blind-buttoned and with a black velvet mandarin collar, flash-lined with shocking pink silk.  He dropped the jacket to reveal the braces, still wears the trousers too short.  Black Chelsea boots, what else.  He doesn't look almost 70.

The voice still soars, rips at your heart strings, draws out the insecurities of gone-wrong youth.  I grew up on McCartney, post-Beatles.  'Band On The Run' was the first album I ever bought.  I remember carting it to parties in its sticky plastic cover.  I knew every word.

I still know every word, and I wept the next day as I sat over coffee at the kitchen table turning the programme pages. 
'It's only an old rocker, Mum', said R-B. 
'She's not crying again', snorted Saff.
'Why does it matter that much, Mum?' asked The Eldest.  'It was only a gig'.
It wasn't, though.

The thing is, music was different then.  We consumed it very differently when I was a teenager. There wasn't so much of it, for a start. The artists we worshipped were young, and doing it for the first time. Breaking that ground.  There was Radio 1, and Top Of The Pops, and Whistle Test. We had record players in our bedrooms.  We waited, and saved up birthday money and Christmas money for albums which took forever to emerge. We played them over and over.  We didn't just know the names of the bands, and the lyrics:  we knew the producer, the sound engineer, the backing vocalists, where the album was recorded.  Where they'd rehearsed. We pored over, soaked up and absorbed these details as if life depended on it. Maybe it did.  I get a bit itchy when I hear the term 'the soundtrack of our lives'.  It's a cheapener.  Everything else out there was the soundtrack.  The music we dedicated ourselves to, which we explored, the bands we chose to follow, were no less than our identity.  They spoke volumes more about us than clothes. 

I don't want to sound like a washed-up hag.  But music was life and death for many of us born in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  We didn't take it for granted.  For some of us, it became our living.  Some of us danced in the aisles at the New York Paramount. Kissed the Spiders goodbye at the Odeon in 1973.  Some of us were lucky enough to work in the music business, as managers, journalists, producers, promoters, publicists.  Some of us even learned how to play, could tell an Alembic Explorer from a Hamer 8-string, or were backing singers, or dancers, or would have been groupies, for the hell of it.  Most of us only got that close in our dreams.

As Paul said and sang the other night, in so many words, rock music wasn't just music.  It was civil rights. Equal rights... and it was live. Every drop of it.

Kids will remind parents that we are only young at heart. Single, married, divorced, widowed, with or without kids, even grandkids, we're getting on.

Who cares.  Elasticated waistbands are anathema. I can take or leave the Soaps. Actually, leave, thanks. I am not ready for a honey-blonde bob, nor a Volvo estate, nor a cruise. Kicking and screaming, ladies. My eventual geriatric fantasy is a groovy kind of love in a rock and roll nursing home, with album-cover artwork and jukeboxes in every personalised psychadelic suite. Who's counting?  In our memories, why shouldn't we be Linda McCartney meets Patti Boyd-Clapton meets Stevie Nicks?  Ok, Joplin. 

Want to know what I do when I'm home alone?  I play Hendrix, on vinyl, until the walls thrum. I fantasise about Ian Hunter and Ian Dury, about Ziggy and Bruce.  I still think about all the girls I used to know who slept with Mick Jagger.  I still lust secretly after Jon Bon Jovi.  I go to live gigs as often as I can.  Does this make me a sad old has-been rock chick?  I don't care.  So my hair's long, my eyes are smudged, my denim is as tight as I get, some nights.  I feel great, and thank you for the music. Same as it ever was. 

The old record business was a great place to live. It's not the same now, but then it wouldn't be.  But like the idols of my youth whom I could never let go, I still love it.  I still thrive on the legend, the scandal, the gossip, the intrigue, the who's-had-who.  I still relish the thin line between outrageous fact and frivolous fantasy.  Whatever my reflection is telling me in the morning, I still want to have fun at night.

The media is not speaking to the likes of me.  Forget the Shepherd's pie mags. Why is none of it nourishing my soul?  Might have to start my own, at this rate ...

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