Michael Praetorius ✒ with more from the busking life.
Is that a National? he
asks in Muso-speak. (Translation: What on earth are you doing with a guitar
Beautiful machine. You're doing ok. he says, graciously. (You're shite, and a wonderful instrument is wasted on you.)
Sounds a little out, he adds, helpfully. (You can't even tune it.)
He sits down beside me.
What's the action like? he asks. (I'm going to show you how it's done.)
Here it comes.
Let me take it for a moment, he says. (I'm definitely going to show you how it's done.)
No thanks, I say.
He doesn't busk ... He 'gigs'.
Pubs? I ask
No, no, he says. The Empire.
That's a pub, I say. They're quiet for you, are they?
You’ve an attitude, he says. (I'm a real musician, show some respect.)
Actually, he adds casually, I was going to play a little Bach. (I'm no ordinary muso - I can play classical as well as Gary Moore.]
Your loss, he says, leaving, you just missed out on a good contact. (I’m Simon Cowell.)
Musos ... eh? They play in pubs, where no-one listens after the first drink; they move in tiny little circles of fellow musos, patting each other on the back; they self-produce Cds which only their friends 'buy'; they could have been, they would have been, they should have been ...
Many of them 'write their own stuff’, granting us a profound and mature take on: lost love; the plight of children in war; conservation of the planet's resources; and other crucial issues, all beyond your ken, but no problem to a muso when he employs the old creative, richly intuitive focus. If we are especially lucky, they've written several songs presenting an original and astute perspective on the recent 'troubles', and revealing that we'd be stupid to restart the fighting.
How shall I presume to accuse this host of criminally underestimated Wally Whytons, Roger Whittakers and potential Aerosmith lead guitarists?
As he walks off to fortune and fame I have a go with a rudimentary version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Parisienne Walkways is, of course, beyond me.
Subterranean Understatement Blues
A young American couple stopped to ask if there was a Macdonald’s nearby.
Just around the next corner, I said..
The girl said, Awesome ...
I don’t see anyone laughing, JT
Great stuff ... ! You like Dylan then? asked a man on Saturday as I played a final chord.
That was Hurdy-Gurdy Man, I replied
Ah, he said, awful eejit, Donovan.
But, consider this:
Moving in silent desperation,
keeping an eye on the Holy Land.
A hypothetical destination -
say, who is this walking man?
Well, the leaves have come to turning,
and the goose has gone to fly;
and bridges are for burning,
so don't you let that yearning pass you by -
walking man walks.
Any other man stops and talks,
but the walking man walks.
Well, the frost is on the pumpkin,
and the hay is in the barn;
Pappy's come to rambling on,
stumbling around drunk down on the farm.
And the walking man walks,
doesn't know nothing at all.
Any other man stops and talks,
but the walking man walks on by.
Most everybody's got seed to sow;
it ain't always easy for a weed to grow.
So he don't hoe the row for no one,
for sure he's always missing,
and something ain't never quite right.
Ah, but who would want to listen
to you kissing his existence good night?
He's the walking man, born to walk.
Walk on, walking man.
Walking man, walk on by.
So long, walking man ...
Written (about his father) and recorded by James Taylor, there has never been a plainer, more eloquent distillation of the existential condition and dilemma; of the stranger in a strange land. Unrivalled, even by the standards of Sartre or Camus. And, as for 'Walk on, walking man ...' well, if that thought had occurred to Marcus Aurelius, he could have stopped Meditating right there.
JT's early, wonderfully bleak and joyless albums showed him to be a man well acquainted with the implacable, giddy pointlessness of everything. Tragically though, he later found some nincompoop reason for being here and became happy for, leaving me no further on than the Nobel Laureate, and that awful eejit, Donovan ...
Monaghan wanker doesn’t travel well
A girl from Norwich fussed over Miss Lotte Lenya (my dog). She'd been way out west the day before, to the Seamus Heaney Centre. She paused reverentially.
She noted my lack of worshipful affirmation. She said, Sometimes
it's as if you take an awful lot of your great things for granted over
Oh dear. Was there a hint of Anglo condescension there ... ?!? The spirit, if not the gift for overreach and mismanagement, of Robert Emmet awoke in me. But I held myself in check.
I’m more of a Patrick Kavanagh man, I said.
Patrick Kavanagh? said she ... I haven't heard that name ...
How to lose woke 'friends' on Facebook
Mind you, my relationship with James Taylor was strained, even in his heyday. He wrote this in 1976:
Every day I wake up just the same,
waiting for something new;
every night I have myself to blame
for the dreams that haven't come true ....
Back then I was the same as I am now. I can't sing, I'm not pretty, and my legs are thin. I'm less than mediocre on guitar. I've always been useless in bed. In company I'm tedious, dull, inanely repetitive. I'm about as funny, or interesting, as getting the dentist's needle. I've achieved fuck-all. I'm unrelentingly lazy, selfish, cowardly, and a stone overweight.
But consider me first hearing JT sing that verse. It implies some kind of white, fascist, bullying, elitist, bigoted, middle-aged-man's notion of personal responsibility for one's life. In other words, he was saying that if I'm a twat it's largely because I've made myself one ... ! I was horrified. That's a heavy cross for me to bear - considering the absolute twat I've made out of myself, if he's right.
Hard to believe, but JT's view was the kind of terrorist opinion holding sway then. And so, you can imagine my relief, dear reader, at the recent revolution that has taken place in our thinking on the whole question of who's to bless and who's to blame for everything. A repulsive, conniving, deceitful and dreary no-mark I may be, but I'm proud to inform you that all the data and research now confirm it is nothing to do with me after all, but rather the fault of my parents, the priests at St Colman's College, Borderline Personality Disorder, people not coming to my door to offer lucrative opportunities requiring no effort, Bezos and the rest of that crowd wasting money on spaceships, and, if I'd been English or Welsh, Brussels.
Jenny Diver, Sukey Tawdry, old Lucy Brown and ...
An upfront lad, representing - I dare say - the Plain People of Ireland, bellowed at me in passing, Ya shouldn’t have that fuckin' dog here, ya should be dependin’ on your fuckin' music, ya greedy bastard ... !!
These people who don't have dogs, eh? Hanging's too good for them really, although, on the other hand, it's the only language they'd understand.
Mind you, not a pumped-up Staffie or carnaptious, yappy, fluffy little bark box.
No, a real man needs a dog that signals his quiet but undoubted masculinity, turbocharged babe-pulling power, discreet but Herculean sexual prowess, and militant atheism.
In other words, a field-type Cocker Spaniel. Naturally, I have one myself ... Miss Lotte Lenya.
⏩Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast ... when he can get a pitch.