Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Story time with a difference


"We find Fang"

On 6th November Bryan, Penni and I went down to Archway Library. No, not an overdue book from Bryan's childhood in North London - we were going to see Fang, a musician we had played with many years ago (see Aardvark & No Money) and had lost touch with for over 25 years. Through the wonders of the internet we had been told he would be performing at the Library.

So, the three of us arranged a floor spot to this one off event and travelled down. We saw Fang outside the library, still the same in many ways - a mass of hair and beard (but white now instead of red) and wearing camos, that remained unchanged. He looked much older (well, we all are) and has health problems, but he was unmistakable. I'm not sure if he recognised us at first - let's face it Bryan has a lot less hair and I have a lot more weight since the last time he saw us.

We went in and the library was open - people browsing books, on the internet. But 'Story Time' corner, the children's section, was cleared of tables and chairs and, on its raised dias, was a small PA system - two mics and speakers. The area in front of the Story Time section was cleared of tables and rows of bright yellow plastic chairs were lined up expectantly.

We were met by Ruth who had told us how to find Fang and had done a 'performance art' piece with him previously. There were other musicians there and soon the Story Time crew were ready for performance! Our drummer from many years ago was also there - we had caught up with Tony for the first time in years at the Thriplow Daffodil Festival a while back (isn't it funny where you run into people?). He'd brought his 16 year old son to watch the show too.

As the time came for the show to start, someone yelled 'Bryan, can you go on first?' and Bryan, Penni and I performed a song and a tune. Penni sang a traditional Highland song in Gaelic and Bryan played some fast tunes. I accompanied on bass and a bit of backing vocals, and the audience seemed to enjoy.

We were followed by a young trio. An extremely enthusiastic electric guitar playing American girl, a young guy on acoustic guitar and a chap on bongos. He didn't realise bongos go between the legs and they kept slipping off his lap! They were 100% enthusiastic, even if tuning and timing weren't their strong points.

They were followed by two women (one guitar, the other played recorder and both sang) who did a Manfred Man song and another equally pleasant, well performed (and calm) song. Then came a man who had stood quietly a the edge all evening, dressed in great coat and scarf.

He took off his scarf and coat to reveal a gold suit and bow tie! He looked very 'London Palladium'. He asked for two volunteers from the audience to sing backing vocals and two young ladies came and obliged. He then launched into Abba's song about falling in love with a Star Ship Trooper but did advise us first that he had never actually heard the song as he went deaf in 1975.

He then proceeded to amuse us highly - he could not really sing nor play the guitar well (I guess due to his deafness) but he certainly knew how to entertain! And the girls were also naturals at comic timing. It was such fun - the whole audience laughed and enjoyed his performance terrifically. He enjoyed himself too - we were laughing with him, not at him.

The Librarian Herself came up afterwards and sang some traditional songs and then, at last, Fang came on to perform. He creaked up the little step to Story Time, overseen by The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Charlie's Cat etc (huge colourful murals) and sat carefully down. He took out his instrument - ukelele - and started to sing A Black Sabbath song. He followed this with 'Anarchy in the UK' to the tune of 'Constant Craving'. Highly successfully of course! As soon as he sang, the 'old' Fang reappeared. He was still there. An extremely talented musician and wonderful singer (and songwriter).

And that was it. 9.15 and it was all over. The event wasn't excactly organised - no running order or MC - but Fang said 'I want to see more of them' and pointed at us. We obliged of course, but insisted Fang sing with us. The Librarian, two girl singers and enthusiastic American joined us too - (the latter on bongos on the floor where they could not slip and slide). The three girls stood at the back and provided extra vocals and 'dance', whilst Penni and Fang sang, with Bryan and I accompanying. We did a further three songs (you can see a snippet on Youtube - poor quality though).

After we had finished another of the Librarian's got up and sang a soul song, unaccompanied. It had been a real mix - but it had been good to see Fang again. Sad to see him in poor health, but everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Sometimes it may be better to keep the old memories and not go looking to dig them up, at other times looking at the past can be good, especially in light of how things change.

I don't want to 'go back' or turn back the clock (though I'd love to lose a few stone, that's quite possible without the aid of a time machine). But I am very glad we saw Fang again, I heard his wonderful voice again, and to think back on some of the very good times we had 'in the old days'. Hmm... perhaps I should be sitting up in that Story Time place now, a book in hand, children at my knee... but then again
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