Sitting on the pavement outside The Rising Sun pub on Saturday – hold on, please allow me to rephrase that. Sitting in a chair, beside a table on the pavement outside The Rising Sun pub (Best British Style Breakfast in Town – Death by Cholestrol has never been SO MUCH FUN!) on Saturday, my ears beheld (do ears behold? If not, perhaps they should. Or maybe it should be ‘beheared’…) or beheared a familiar sound. It was the zooping bass of the late great John Entwistle, the quickfire thunder of his pre-departed and sorely missed colleague Keith Moon on the drums, those ever-so-distinctive Pete Townsend windmill guitar slashes and the comforting bellow of Roger the thespian trout farmer Daltrey adding the final layer to the opening track of Quadrophenia, ‘The Real Me’. Instantly I was transported back to my 1970’s bedroom (which terrified my wife, as one minute I was there, the next… gone!) and became once more the spotty adolescent caught between pondering on how eternally wise the great rock musicians were and how the meaning of life was truly etched in these grooves and just how fast could I swing my arm around onto my Arbiter Telecaster copy a la Townsend without lacerating my skinny wrist and drenching my Apollo 11 bedspread in my precious lifeblood. Music is like that. You think you have the devil licked and then it creeps up on you and completely knocks you for six emotionally and physically. I know just what John Miles meant when he said ‘music is my first love, and it will be my last. Music of the future, and music of the past’. Hit the nail right on the head (albeit in a bit of a Chris de Burgh/James Blunt way) there Johnny boy.
…and it does creep up in the strangest of places.
Late last year I accompanied a group of people from our HQ in the UK to a remote minefield in Pailin province, former stronghold of the Khmer Rouge. During the course of our visit, a couple of landmines were found by the clearance team. Type 69 bounding fragmentation mines, to be precise. (that makes them sound like some kind of toy… ‘bounding fragmentation’ – I never cease to be amazed at man’s capacity to kill and maim his fellow man in ever more horrific ways couched in the language of reason…yes, this mine does ‘bound’ into the air when you trip it, then proceeds to shred the innards of you and those around you in far from friendly fashion). Demolition charges were set, civilians evacuated and an eerie pre-blast silence had descended over the area. Then, just before the triple whistles that signalled demolition, a very loud and familiar sound drifted across this remote Cambodian field.
‘You skip, the light fandango, turn cartwheels ‘cross the floor…’
‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.
In the middle of nowhere.
Strangely powerful and very, very moving.