Record Duggie Chop's into, right this moment:

Record Duggie Chop's into, right at this moment: Muswell Hillbillies - The Kinks (1971)

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Friday, 20 November 2009

Me and Marc Almond

[It's dawn. One week later. Me and Duggie Chop are back by the river.

Our bikes are next to us, laying in the tufty grass and Duggie is attempting to light a camping stove in the wind. He fancies frying up some sausages.]

"I'm not sure about the bangers, Duggie," I say, "they'll just attract stray dogs, like that Irish Wolfhound who came over a couple of years ago, when you were trying to cook up some chicken soup, remember?"

"Yeah," says Duggie, "Janine gave me 'River Cottage Cookbook' for Christmas."

"And you spent months experimenting on the camping stove," I say.

"And that Wolfhound came over and gobbled up me fish!"

[Duggie remembers the day well, it was about the only time we'd caught any fish worth eating.]

But he gets the bangers on anyway, and as they start to fizz and pop, I notice someone with a familiar face walking by.

[And you know that feeling when you see someone who you think you know, but you're not quite sure what part of your life they come from. Well, I had that feeling, then.]

"Hi," I say, waving.

The man stops and lifts his hand and starts to walk over.

He's dressed in tight black clothing, and although he has a clear and blemish-free complexion, he could easily be 50. He's got the tattoo of a bird on his neck.

My word, it's Marc Almond!

Duggie's busy flipping his porkers and doesn't notice.

"Doing a bit of fishing, eh?" says Marc.

"Yes," I say, "I'm sorry for waving and calling out, I thought I knew you."

"I'd like to say it happens all the time but, you know, that moment passed ages ago! Ha!" says Marc, flicking his head towards the river or the distance or somewhere.

[And when I'm in this kind of situation, my brain freezes. I know Marc Almond's music pretty well.]

"In fact I was only listening to 'Jacques' the other day," I say.

[Was that a thought inside my head or did I just say it?]

"Jacques?" says Marc, "oh my, that was a labour of love. I'd been on a roll, you know with the Gene Pitney stuff and all..."

"Something's gotten hold of my heart!" I sing, badly. [loving music doesn't always mean you can sing in tune.]

"...yes," says Marc, rather politely, I think, "when you have a bit of success, they kind of believe in you. At least for 5 minutes. It doesn't last."

"I loved 'The Lockman' (L'Eclusier) and The Bulls (Les Toros), was fantastic. As good as Scott Walker did Brel to my ears."

"Thanks," says Marc. "You know, someone came up to me once and thought that 'Les Toros' was the guy who wrote it, wanted to know where to get more of his stuff. Can you believe it?"

I nod, just like a fill-in shot from a TV news interview. And it feels like that, too.

"The record came together over a period of a couple of years, and what a time that was. The '80s. Such freedom!"

Marc's shaking his head. He looks sad, all of a sudden.

"You ok?" I say.

"It's just the passing of time. Oh, you know. I'm on my way to the 'Torpid Emancipator'. I've not been there for years. Bet it's all video games and t-shirts now. Amazing it hasn't closed down."

I can't quite believe that Marc Almond is a regular at the 'Torpid Emancipator': record shop, studio and way of life.

And, he explains: "I used to record backing vocals there and I'm doing some today, for an album of George Michael covers. It's renowned for backing vocals, you know, 'the Torpid one'" says Marc.

"Yes, Me and Duggie - Duggie Chop over there frying-up some sausages - we used to go down there all the time. Then we hit our 40s and..."

"Don't go there, love, I know only too well," he says, getting up to go.

"Why don't you stay and have a banger?" I say, "Duggie will have done more than enough, eyes bigger than his belly that boy."

"Oh no," says Marc, rolling his eyes to the clouds, "I'm a vegan. Didn't you know!"

And he leaves, saying: "Look out for the new CD, it'll be ready for the summer." He disappears rapidly, enveloped in smoke and fumes from Duggie's friying bangers.

Duggie yawns and says: "The thing about this flamin' camping stove, is it takes so long to cook anything on it. Do you think they're still pink?"

"I was just talking to Marc Almond," I say, "He was just passing by on his way to record some backing vox at 'the Torpid one,'" I say.

"What are you on about?"

"Marc Almond," I say.

"I know what you said, but I don't know what you're on about," says Duggie.

He looks thoughtful and says: "All I remember about Marc Almond, apart from 'Soft Cell' and 'Tainted Love', was when we were students."

He stabs a fork in a banger, the fat spurts out, he continues: "You were running around our flat in your underpants, with the sleeve from 'The Stars We Are" on your head, like a dunce's hat."

"The Stars We Are?" I say.

"Yeah, the one with Gene Pitney on it," says Duggie and chomps on a sausage, burning his tongue in the process."

"You doing any onions to go with them?" I say.

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