Monday, 20 May 2013

Do You Remember?

My memory is terrible, I think I've told you that before (HA HA HA!!! BRILLIANT!). In fact, for me to remember anything, it pretty much has to be right in front of me. Practically in my face, preferably, because not only is my memory bad but I'm also not very observant. Put it this way, a bird did a massive shit on me last week and I didn't notice. I've no idea how long animal faeces had been on my coat when I finally spotted it. Incredible, really. I mean, who doesn't notice when a flying animal has shat on them? I've no idea. Oh, hang on. I've remembered: me.  

I forget everything. Names, faces, Mum's birthday, where I live (really). Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe I was on stage talking about the actor Michael Legge from Angela's Ashes when I forgot his name. That's how bad my memory is and, you know, how thick I am. Being unobservant means I don't always take things in so I forget them easily. But when I'm reminded...something weird happens. I can see a photo of the past (I think that's the only thing that has ever been photographed) or see a film I saw as a child or go to a place I haven't been to in years and my memory just wakes up and everything floods into my head. Tastes, smells, textures and temperatures come speeding from the past and seem to just take over my entire body. Maybe everyone get's these memory sensory overloads when something opens a memory file in their dusty head hard drive but I like to think I'm the only one. I am special. Probably the most obvious thing to waken my memory is music. I don't listen to too much music from my youth but there are certain songs that will seemingly appear out of nowhere and transport me back to being a teenager. When I was a teenager, I loved Marillion.

You know how you love your kids? That's how I loved Marillion. Fish-era Marillion. Fish-era Marillion from 1982 to 1985, to be precise. They released one more album with Fish after that but my tastes were changing and, clearly, so were Marillion's. I liked indie, jangly, depressing music and they wanted to crack America. But for those few years, they were the greatest thing that ever happened. If you don't get prog-rock then there's no way I can convince you how brilliantly melodic, clever, experimental, theatrical, dark and utterly daft that it is. I mean, prog-rock isn't cool, is it? Radiohead, Animal Collective, The Mars Volta...those bands were never cool and they'd all be nothing if it wasn't for Genesis and Pink Floyd (note I didn't say Muse, another modern prog-rock band, because they really have never been cool. Bless). On Friday night I went to see Fish, a solo artist since '88, and as soon as I heard his voice...that memory sensory overload shouted "BUNDLE!" and leapt all over me.

When I say I loved Marillion, I mean they were all I talked about, read about, watched and listened to. I bought every single. In every format. 7", 12", picture disc. And every album on vinyl, picture disc and cassette. I couldn't get enough of lengthy widdly-widdly keyboard solos and "bad stuff is going to happen" guitar riffs and beautiful lyrics about being completely lost. When I was 16 and heard Fish singing about fucking in the flickering shadows of candlelight with a Berlin prostitute who fell in love with him, I just knew what he meant. I mean, I didn't at all but I really wanted to. Fish was just everything that I wanted to be: anti-establishment, anti-war, a poet, a fighter, a lover and tall. Growing up, the only other non-Northern Irish band singing about Northern Ireland was Boney M. And the only other band singing about how alone I am and how much I'd love a girlfriend was...well, there were loads but none as good as Marillion.

Fish was already on stage when I got to the venue. He was performing his forthcoming album, A Feast of Consequences, and I could hear his voice as I walked up the stairs to the hall. I've known that voice for ages. Immediately, I could see the six foot tall posters in my 80's bedroom. One of a scary man hiding behind a mask (the cover of Market Square Heroes, Marillion's first single) and one of a scary man tearing his face in two (the cover of He Knows, You Know). I remembered going out of my mind with joy when they got on Top of the Pops for the first time. GARDEN PARTY IS ON TOP OF THE POPS! I don't think I saw much of it because of all the jumping I was doing. I remembered the crappy paper that The Web, Marillion's fan club newsletter, was printed on. I remembered my Marillion coat. I HAD A MARILLION COAT! I remembered running after Fish in Belfast, drawing the Marillion logo on everything and tracing my hand over their autographs on their 1986 calendar. And I remembered how excited that brilliant music made me feel. Going to Zepplin Records in Newtownards and buying the record the day it came out and studying it. Every note, every drum beat, every lyric. Then trying to draw the record's cover art in my school sketch pad. The artwork almost as important to me as the music. Twisted, frightening, depressing images that suited me perfectly. I'm still proud of my school report after I handed my sketch pad in at the end of 5th year: "It's clear that Michael is possessed by the devil".

After the new album, Fish performed the classics. Assassing, Fugazi, Freaks. Songs clearly loved by everyone in that room, none more than me. And when he sang White eyes were not dry. What an exciting time 1985 was when my favourite band became popstars. A number 2 hit single that EVERYONE knew, a number 1 million selling album and finally the band themselves got the chance to perform live in front of me. A friend asked me recently what my favourite gigs were but my memory failed. I couldn't really think of any. Well, I've remembered. Marillion at Maysfield Leisure centre, Belfast in September 1985. Of course, it's the best gig ever. Script For a Jester's Tear, Chelsea Monday, The Web, all of Misplaced Childhood in one go and Forgotten Sons IN BELFAST. I had a job interview the next day and all I talked about was the previous night's gig. I didn't get the job (bloody Bon Jovi fan). I even remembered the moment during that gig when I became the biggest, most contemptable cunt in the whole world. During Steve Rothery's guitar solo in Forgotten Sons I shouted "Tell it like it is, Steve". I actually want to punch me for that right now. "Tell. It. Like. It is. Steve". Fucking, fucking cunt.

Not all memories are good, I suppose. But clearly this gig had given me a rush of pure joy. I even talked to complete strangers, something I NEVER do, just because they were wearing t-shirts of Marillion's 1986 festival gig in Milton Keynes, "Welcome to the Garden Party". I went to that. It was the same day as Wham!'s The Final gig in Wembley and I remembered us all throwing as much shit as we could at their fan's buses as they past ours. It's the closest I will ever come to being in Bad News.

I had a couple of drinks with Fish afterwards (yeah, we're BFF's, OK? Get over it. Whatever) and even the sound of his speaking voice sparks a billion memories with me. His between song banter, him telling a fan off for shouting out Marillion song titles during his first solo tour in 1990, him being locked out of the venue in Belfast in '85 and booming "Open the fucking door". And it reminded me of the time I heard he'd left Marillion. I was listening to Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show and the news broke that Fish was going solo and Marillion would go ahead with a new singer. I ran downstairs and told my parents, like they'd be genuinely concerned, and my Dad said something that has meant that it would be stupid for me to ever become a father. "Well, now you have two favourite bands". See? I could never be that clever or nice a Dad.

Fish is a very warm, welcoming and engaging man. Charming. But what he doesn't realise is that being in his company is overwhelming. He wrote everything that was important to me as a teenager, his first solo album is an underrated classic and his last album, 13th Star, is utterly beautiful. I sort of forget how brilliant he is but that's because my memory is bad. But at least now I know how to improve my memory. Simply all I need to remember anything is a rock concert filled with songs I love and to spend some time with my teenage idol who I love and who makes me want to be on my best behaviour.

Afterwards, I remembered that that bird shit was still on my coat.

My blog is available on Facebook, Blogger and Tumblr. It's daily Monday to Friday. Some blogs will be long, some very short. If you're too lazy to read my blog it's also available as a podcast at or you can subscribe to it on iTunes. All formats are free. That means if I'm doing a gig near you, please come and support it. I give you free stuff. That's fair, right?

This blog is also available on Kindle. It costs 99p a month and I do not recommend it at all. It looks nice though. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Fool and the Gang.

The older I get the more aware I am of my own immortality. You see, I know that you're going to die but I'm also aware that my luck is so bad that I bet I will live forever. You're lucky. This upsetting blip between oblivions will be over for you in decades but I'm just going to get older and older and survive long enough to see how worse the human race will become. I will see people I love die (my family, friends, Richard Osman) while I just get older and sicker but every cloud has a silver lining. Being immortal means that I can continue to do what I do best: telling dicks that they're dicks. I hope that knowledge will bring some comfort to you on your death bed. You will be long gone and I will still be around, hobbling on crutches and throwing up vomit and blood on to my surgical gown, telling dicks that they're dicks.

You see, there's a reason why I like to tell dicks that they're dicks. When I was younger, I wouldn't have said anything to a dick because I was just too scared. It wasn't always easy growing up in my part of Northern Ireland when you're Catholic and a bit of an annoying twat. I got beaten up a few times for no other reason than I was a different religion to them and I was a bit of an annoying twat. Even at school I got bullied and beaten up simply for being Catholic and a bit of an annoying twat. Harsh, considering I went to a Catholic school. But that's how Northern Ireland is and everything that you think you've read in the newspapers is true. There is 24 hour violence everywhere and the whole country is constantly on fire. 75% of Northern Irish people die every day. That's almost everyone. 

But I'm older now and I feel sad for the younger Michael Legge. He occasionally had to take a small amount of shit and, as a result, I am now standing up for him.

Last night I was walking down a street in Lewisham when I saw a large group of youths skating along towards me. There were about 10 of them, they all looked to be somewhere between 18 and 20 years old and they were all going pretty fast on roller skates. Thanks to cars being half-parked on the pavement, there wasn't much room for them and me to pass one another but if I just took one step in to my right, they could pass easily and I was more than happy to do that until the one at the front shouted "Get the fuck out of the way".

Now, I was going to get out of the way but I was NEVER going to get THE FUCK out of the way. 

He said "Get the fuck out of the way again" and I just kept walking towards him and blocking their way. They skated off the pavement and onto the road. Brilliant. He was rude, I stood my ground and they all skated off. A small victory but it's the little things that count, dear reader. We can't have gangs of young people swearing at us and thinking they can get away with it. Especially if they they get back on the pavement, skate up behind you and start shouting right into your face. Oh.

To be fair, I knew that there was a chance that they'd be upset that I hadn't moved. I know it's best to just keep quiet when confronted by horrible people but why should I take any shit from them when they've been rude, aggressive and...they're on roller skates.

That's IT. I know I'm immortal and I've got a chip on my shoulder but the reason I didn't get out of their way is because I just can't take a gang seriously if they're on roller skates. It looks pathetic. But, I had to agree with myself, this whole thing is very me: I'm getting confronted by a gang! A really crap gang! And, as a result, I just couldn't keep my big mouth shut.

"What the fuck is your problem?", one of the youths enquired.

"It's not me that has a problem. I'm not on roller skates".

"You saw us coming. Are you blind?"

"I'm not blind. I saw your roller skates".

"I'll kick your fucking arse".

"What? In roller skates?"

This went on for ages (or 10 seconds) while others generally told me to fuck off while occasionally calling me "white boy". That's when I really got scared. I'm surrounded by not very convincing street-toughs in sleeveless t-shirts and roller skates. What shitty 80's movie am I in? Hang on....Am I Andrew McCarthy? Fuck! I don't want to be Andrew McCarthy. I CAN'T be Andrew McCarthy. I'm not going to turn up at the soda bar with a slightly bloodied nose and my tie even more slightly askew. I want to be the cool 80's guy. The one that gangs actually respect because he doesn't take shit and he always has a funny quip to put them down with. All I need is a quip. Something cool. I just need the right line at the right time and I'll practically be part of the gang. We'll fist-bump and we'll realise that, yeah, we're from different sides of the tracks but deep down we respect one another. All I need to do is be cool.

The gang shouted fuck off at me several times but I was going that way anyway so it didn't seem threatening. You can't TELL someone to fuck off if they're leaving. So I stood there just staring at them, waiting for my moment. It's going to happen. My cool guy 80's movie moment. And when one of the gang said "You come back here and you're dead" I knew my moment had come. Time for a quip. Time for a put down. Time to be cool.

"Yeah, right, National Express".

That was my line. My cool 80's movie line. I said it and now just had to wait for their acceptance as a proper 80's cool movie guy. They looked baffled.

"Oh", I said. "I meant Starlight Express".

More "fuck off"'s were directed at me and I agreed that it was probably time for me to go. I had been given the perfect moment and I fucked it up. Typical. I turned up at the soda bar with a bloodied nose and an askew tie after giving myself the beating I clearly deserved. I am Andrew fucking McCarthy.

But never let it be said that I am a coward. I'm sure any gang reading this will think twice about being rude or aggressive ever again. I don't think anyone really wants the awkwardness of a middle aged man basically calling you a bus.

My blog is available on Facebook, Blogger and Tumblr. It's daily Monday to Friday. Some blogs will be long, some very short. If you're too lazy to read my blog it's also available as a podcast at or you can subscribe to it on iTunes. All formats are free. That means if I'm doing a gig near you, please come and support it. I give you free stuff. That's fair, right?

This blog is also available on Kindle. It costs 99p a month and I do not recommend it at all. It looks nice though.