Friday, April 29, 2005
Don't Call Me Scarface
With a departmental meeting scheduled for this afternoon it was probably just as well lunch in the pub was cancelled. Dave was working from home and Tom spent the afternoon swigging champers at Musselborough Racecourse. I was prepared to go to Clark's myself just, if not just to relax me before the three hour meeting called for today, but in the end I couldn't be bothered.
I wrote more Hunting Jack in the morning taking the issue count to 72 and the overall completion status to 90%. This issue in particular, is where I start to divulge myself and allow the fantasy and powers of being a fiction writer to really take over. The story is still there; unplanned from how I wanted to handle it, but the characters I have used are very interesting and it provides an integral part to the conclusion of the story.
After lunch we had the big meeting. A department re-org is in the offing as suspected, and do you know, I think it might just work out to be a good thing. For the first time in a long time there may actually be opportunities opening up where I would feel comfortable to move into.
Obviously I don't want it to cut any more into my writing time, but things may be about to get better, although I will, as ever, tread with caution.
I wasn't due to meet my pal Rob until about 5.30pm in the Black Bull on Grassmarket so I left work and toddled up myself at about half past four. On the way, I passed the venue for the gig we were going to later and I decided to stop off in Finnegan's Wake, which is next door.
The pub was more or less empty so I ordered a pint and sat on a stool by the wall. The sound check next door was underway and it could be heard reverberating through the rafters. Rob sent me a text to say he was going to be an hour or so late so I got out my notebook and started to write.
While the bar slowly filled up with students, office workers and couples, I wrote four new poems based on the things and people I saw around me.
Rob arrived later and we sank a few beers and caught up with each other's lives. We nipped round to the ATM on Grassmarket and on the way back, stopped into The Last Drop for a quick half. I left my mark on the blackboard inside the toilet, penning a wee nutty logo above the trough for the punters to wonder over while they urinated.
We arrived in the Liquid Rooms for the gig and was pleasantly surprised to see the venue already at bursting point. It holds about 300 people on two levels and it appeared the management hadn't expected such a turn out for this concert judging by the lack of bar staff.
Already on stage DJ'ing was Mr. Jerry Dammers, playing a variety of powerful Jamaican reggae records at full blast. Jerry Dammers was the man behind The Specials. He was the driving force behind one of the most influential bands of the post-punk era in Great Britain in the late 70's and 1980's. Without him, there would never have been a 2-Tone record label, which although small, quickly became an institution and gave a voice to the millions of disaffected youths of the Thatcher era.
I couldn't help thinking what a crime it is he still refuses to get back together with The Specials to create more music and tour, in preference to playing Reggae records to a crowd who consider him to be a legend in life. It is beneath him, though he did get the crowd jumping with a mixture of Jamaican reggae and British ska.
He had to be asked to leave the stage after he overran and he could be seen pleading with the stage manager to let him play one more. He did, and set us up with a reggae classic of the 60's, later covered by his own band in the 80's called A Message To You Rudi.
The crowd swayed and the walls heaved with the sweat of a few hundred skinheads, rude boys and girls and a few other interested neutrals. A tall Rastafarian gentleman walked onto the darkened stage and into the spotlight over the microphone. In strong Patois, he introduced the star of the evening, the man we had all come to see (Dammers excepted), the King of Reggae, one of the first star's from Jamaica's musical history - Prince Buster.
He came on stage to a wondrous reception dressed in black trousers, black leather coat, black shades and black trilby. He told us of his delight at playing in Scotland for the very first time in his long and illustrious career. We've all heard that line before, but something told me it might not just be a crowd-pleasing statement this time. For Prince Buster's birth surname is Campbell.
In between some of the best songs ever to come out Kingston, Prince Buster told of his battle with American R&B artists when he was first starting out. He wasn't on any political agenda, but was refused entry to the US on one occasion because of the threat the musical fat-cats thought he posed. He ended up going elsewhere and cemented himself in the musical Hall of Fame by the time he was thirty. He just wouldn't go away, and how lucky we are he never once thought about giving up.
The power of Reggae should never be underestimated. It has the ability to get hardened sceptics tapping their feet and racists wishing they had a connection. And this is the beauty of it; it doesn't matter if you are black, white, Chinese or anything, Reggae reaches out and touches the hearts from all classes, cultures, sexes, religions, colours and creeds. There is no difference; everyone who listens to reggae is reggae.
And while I watched Prince Buster sing with passion through songs like Rough Rider, Madness, Al Capone and Too Hot, and dance with fervour to the "masterpiece" that is One Step Beyond, I thought to myself how lucky I am to be here in the presence of one of the world's greatest musical heroes.
A superb encore of Enjoy Yourself summed up the night and a sentiment I think everyone can learn from.