BBC 4 have a November 1979 edition of Top of the Pops. It is extraordinary to think it is thirty-five years ago. Of course, my room mate Barry would have said, “what are you watching that for? Let’s turn over and find some decent music.”
Our first encounter had not been promising.
“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”.
It was about this time in 1979 that Fleetwood Mac’s album “Tusk” gained prominence. Barry bought a copy and played and replayed it. It was odd: he used to be indifferent to “Tusk”, the cutting edge piece, but, every time the album 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?”
He should have been an important lesson, not in sartorial elegance or musical taste, which were never learned, but in seeing the depths. It is thirty-odd years since I last saw Barry, there have been many moments since when encounters with people might have been handled differently. Instead of asking where things came from, it has been too often 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.
Thirty-five years later, and the “Sara” moments are still hard to spot – but London looks much nicer.