“Flares! You don’t really wear flares, do you?”
“And where did you get that jacket? Rob, come and look at this jacket! The collar is so wide it could fly”.
There was general laughter. The flares were quietly phased out; the tartan patterned bomber jacket was replaced with a black leather one.
He came from Camberley in Surrey and regarded himself as arbiter of all fashion matters. Not only was he an authority on how to dress, but on most other matters as well. There was the day he came in when BBC Radio 1 was playing.
“You’re not really listening to that, are you? Nobody listens to Radio 1 in London. Why would you want to listen to Radio 1?”
“Um, well, in Somerset, you see, there is no alternative. There’s not any stations except the BBC”.
“But you’re not in Somerset now, you’re in London. Let’s put Capital on and have some proper music”.
It was his radio, so he could choose to play whatever he liked. He would reel off the names of bands and from where they had come in the capital and the suburbs. There was nothing worthwhile from outside of London; only the Americans could compete.
Mention of Ritchie Blackmore, a Somerset man, who had played with Deep Purple and by then was with Rainbow caused him great hilarity. Throwing himself back on his bed with his feet in the air, he exclaimed, “Rainbow? Rainbow! You’re a dinosaur if you listen to stuff like that”.
He came to mind listening to Fleetwood Mac. They played ‘Tusk’, the title track from their 1979 album and then the much more balladic ‘Sara’. It was odd: he used to be indifferent to ‘Tusk’, the cutting edge piece, but, every time it was played, he was captivated by the gentler tones of ‘Sara’. Beneath the brash exterior there was another person inside.
Of course, when you are nineteen years old, you don’t ask, “What’s the deal with this track? What’s going on when you stop to listen every time it’s played?” Thirty years later, it would probably be even harder to ask such a question. The reasons for playing stuff multiply greatly over the years.
He should have been an important lesson, not in sartorial elegance or musical taste, which were never learned, but in seeing the depths. There were many moments since when arrogance and even aggression have been met with like responses. Instead of asking where things came from, it was easier to meet fire with fire. There must have been many times when there were people who had their own moments equivalent to him listening to “Sara”, moments when the outward impression changed to something much softer and gentler. Too often, the moments were missed. The noise of the onslaught had deafened any sensitivity to whispered weaknesses.
He would have enjoyed last night’s concert. As ‘Tusk was followed by ‘Sara’ he would have slipped back thirty years. Perhaps this time round he would have explained.