“Sod Latvian heavy metal!” said this guy. He was standing on top a piano beneath the stairs at this stinking city-centre club in Riga.
Why stinking? For some reason there was a girl – fit, blonde, bit zitty – frying up a huge basket of chips right next to the stage.
Every now and then a cloud of fat-drenched steam engulfed the lead singer, making him shake his head wildly - a disharmonious Paul ‘Macca’ McCartney. He was a shouter, screaming in front of his incongruous Crass-inspired band of hippified long-hairs [purple prose alert, Duggie!]
“It’s the punk rooo-awk what we love!” continued the piano man. He actually said rock like that: rooo-awk, punching the air in time with his words.
“You’re not getting me alive!” blurted the lead singer for no apparent reason: “Punk is f**cked!” [come on! Gotta ‘bleep’ it - kids read this!] They launched into a rendition of ‘Punk is Dead’ from The Feeding of the Five Thousand [that’s the first Crass album from 1978 – true anarchy in the UK, not a fashion statement…]
The Latvians were confusing punk with heavy metal – or vice versa. I was just confused.
Behind the stage-side chip stall, sat a guy selling candy floss. Big pink whirls of spun sugar on a stick. Hmmm, could do with some of that. Need the energy.
Put me in mind of the jazzers of the past: kept playing all night drinking sugared water to keep going. Knackered their teeth, but at least their vibe was intact.
I gestured to the candy floss man and I thought, just for that moment: “I love everything in this god-almighty world, God knows I do!” Then I realised I was only quoting Donovan’s ‘Candy Man’.
I remember meeting Donovan [note to Donovan’s lawyers: this is a work of fiction…will that get me off the hook?] at a festival back in he ‘80s. Seemed like his career looked like it was on the skids. Maybe he was just past it. But I was a total fan.
Managed to catch the great man, stage side. He was wearing an ‘ethnic’ knitted hat and a hand made waistcoat [what? Nothing else, Duggie? – no, Steve, he had other stuff on, I was just trying to keep the prose clean and unclogged… ok, Dug, get on with it!]
“What are you doing in Hounslow?” I asked him.
“Being. Just being. How about you?” said Donovan.
“Being?” I said.
“Oh! You too! Good.” He said, and strummed a pure fresh chord on his really cool resonator guitar.
“No, I meant to ask the question. Being?” I said, realising that I wasn’t making myself clear.
“That’s a question. Being? Like ‘To be or not to be.’ It’s very deep.” Said Donovan. He really is pretty cool.
“Gets to the heart. Of where we. Are.” continued Donovan, looking at a passing aeroplane, way up above us, “He’s not going to Heathrow. Being. Somewhere else? Or here.” [this part used his spoken punctuation – not my fault…]
At this point I picked up a large T-shirt on Don’s merchandise stall. “How much?”
“Ten quid, man” said this long-bearded man, sitting to the side of mine and Don’s conversation. He was reading a thick paperback and smoking a pipe.
Donovan smiled and walked onto the stage. The sun shone.
So, that was the ‘80s, Hounslow free-festival.
“Just a single stick? Hey!” a sweet-smelling hand was waving up and down in front of my face… “Hmmm? No, yes, I’m a large,” In my mind I was still ordering a Donovan t-shirt from that hippy.
“A large what?” said the candy-floss man.
“Oh, ah. Yes. Sorry.” I said, “just the one.”
And I disappeared behind that pink cloud of sugar and sat down, while the band started to thrash out another late ‘70s punk cover and the guy on the piano did a handstand.
[Hmmm. Sweet! love Steve.]