A place to bury strangers were shit. Their whole 'we're the loudest Jesus and Mary Chain covers band' shtick didn't wash. Me and Davo ditched three songs in, got expensive snacks upstairs. Weak gig. But that isn't the reason I'm writing. Last tube creaked into Waterloo for 12.30. Train to Lewisham came in at one. Get into Lewisham at twenty past one.
Waiting for the N136, I see a man, a little black guy, five foot seven, skinny, doing high kicks towards the bus stop. About thirty yards away. He's wearing an olive army jacket, blue trousers, some kind of Adidas deck shoe. Has a rough scraggly beard. He's carrying a can of White Ace. 69p of white cider magic. Take no notice.
He walks up to the near side of the stop where I am, and aims a couple of high kicks near where I'm standing. Then he flips one for the side of my head, and I block it. I like to challenge myself, he says to me. Again a kick. Block. He walks up to the far end of the bus stop, bums a light from some guy. Comes back.
The devil is behind you, he says. If I look around, he's going to tag me. When I don't look, he tries anyway. Soft connect to the shoulder. No strength in it. The devil is behind you. I'm thinking he's schizophrenic, off his meds, with the cider making him hyper. He keeps trying to hit me. Enough. Enough I say, and he still tries, this weedy little fellow. 'Enough' again, looking him in the eye. And he stops, becomes calmer.
What are you listening to, he says. He grabs for an earphone; I hand it to him, and we listen to 'The sweat descends' by Les Savy Fav. We're half a yard apart now, me with the right headphone, him with the left. It's good he says. I'm shaking a bit, partly through adrenaline, partly because he's got a hand in his pocket, and I'm thinking maybe there's a knife in there. He would have pulled it by now. I hand him the other headphone for when the chorus comes in.
I get both headphones back, and he asks me the name of the band. Les Savy Fav. Talking fast, I give him their brief history, tell him the ULU story. You're cool, he says. What do you listen to, I say. Reggae, he says. Dillinger? He mishears me, thinks I said ganja, but we clear that up inside a minute. He doesn't listen to Dillinger, but knows of him. Good music is good music, he says.
"What medicines you take?"
Maybe he senses a kindred cracked spirit, or just figures I've taken some shit and not gotten angry. He can talk to me. Either way, I lie and say I still smoke cigarettes. It's a medicine, he says. Drink? A little, I say. He offers me some White Ace. I don't drink that stuff, I say, risking umbrage. I hold myself back from saying 'It hasn't even seen an apple'. He puts the can on the floor, hops on the bus I'm getting on.
He prowls the top deck, but doesn't talk to anyone. He gets off at Lewisham, and starts making faces at the bus, cursing it, dancing with his arms making a 'push away' motion. I wave goodbye weakly, the motion of acquaintances parting. A big wave of sadness hits me as the bus pulls away. That guy was all of 25 and he's totally gone.
So, anyway, I'm posting 'The Sweat Descends' as a song to save your life. And some other stuff that isn't really related at all.
1. The Widow - Thurston Moore
(great guitar instrumental from a hard to find compilation)
2. Screen - Brad
(Saw Shawn Smith, the singer of Brad in the week. He is my hero, and he signed my stuff)
3. The Sweat Descends - Les Savy Fav
(An incredible track. Even the clinically insane recommend it)
4. Pretty Mary K - Elliott Smith
(The best track from what I still rate as his best album, Figure 8)
5. Teenage Dream - T- Rex
(This is the glamour of Glam Rock was all about. A Marc Bolan mini-opera)
6. Forever Free - W.A.S.P
("I ride all alone, I can't see.. the road to nowhere anymore". I've got to stop, I'm tearing up)
7. The Lonely One - Wilco
(A maudlin classic from 'Being There'. Lyrically, close to perfection)