Wednesday, July 29, 2009
'Son, won't you play me a melody..'
Ok, so after my missive yesterday about not being able talk to some of the subway musicians because I can't speak their language, I come across one that I can't talk to because he never seems to stop playing!
This kid was playing on the platform at 14th Street and it was just constant - one song into the next: boom, boom, boom. I finally managed to snatch a quick exchange with him as I was putting a dollar in his suitcase. A suitcase? Buskers are usually content with a paper bag or an upturned hat. But man, he was filling it...
He told me his name was Jason and he was twelve years old. He said he'd been playing piano for four years. And then that was it, he was into whatever the next piece was. As my train pulled in someone - I'm guessing his father or an uncle - appeared from nowhere to fan him briefly with a baseball cap, but then he was off playing again. Time's a wastin'..!
Come to think of it, when I asked him how long he'd been playing and he said "four years," he could have meant this session. I honestly have no way of knowing.
Because of a minor string crisis today (ie not having enough of them), both the Little Martin and the Yamaha were out of service, so I had to use what I consider my 'sunday go to meetin' guitar, a Martin D1 that I bought at Matt Umanov's store in Bleecker Street five years ago.
Here's a picture of me trying it out in their soundproof room before buying it. I went back and forth for a while, since I couldn't really afford it, but eventually she hooked me. By the way, there's a nice piece today on I Heart Guitar by Joe Matera about the history of the Martin brand.
So today I figured, why not go back to play near where the D1 and I "became involved", as it were...
While the Bleecker Street station serves one of the coolest parts of Manhattan, below ground the platforms and the station itself definitely live up to their first syllable. It also has the loudest and most incoherent platform PA I've come across so far. And that's saying something.
But since it was the first day out dancing with the D1, it turned out to be a couple of other firsts too. I ended up making more money today than any other single day. There was a total of $9.02 in the case, making the running tally for these guys $75.56.
It was also the longest I'd played in one set, at just over two hours, and the most songs - 23 - not including three or four repeats for platform noise.
I had a good time today. The people were cool and good-natured; one woman gave me some tissues to wipe my face, since the humidity was stifling, and there were lots of nods and smiles. In fact, I got maybe the best compliment so far - or at least I hope it was. As I was playing "People Get Ready" a huge, tattooed guy went past and just said: "That's the shit right there, man!"
Shattered Cross - Stuart Adamson
Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
People Get Ready - Curtis Mayfield
Galway Girl - Steve Earle
Little Sister - Ry Cooder
May You Never - John Martyn
Marriage Made In Hollywood - Paul Brady
The Times They Are A-Changin' - Bob Dylan
Secret Garden - Bruce Springsteen
The Boys Of Summer - Don Henley
Drift Away - Dobie Gray
Peace Love And Understanding - Elvis Costello
The Promised Land - Bruce Springsteen
Roxanne - Sting
Sweet Life - Catie Curtis
Leap Of Faith - Bruce Springsteen
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay
Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen
Walking In Memphis - Marc Cohn
Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - U2
Into The Mystic - Van Morrison
Lawyers Guns And Money - Warren Zevon
Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits
And there was another first for BuskerCam today; for the first time you can hear people actually putting money in the case, and at one point me saying "thank you". Also, bear in mind this was the 19th song of 23 I played today, and my voice is pretty much gone, but here y'go...
Yes, that is a huge gaping hole in the ceiling above my head. When today's torrential downpour started at about three o'clock, it was clearly time to move.
And here's how it should sound. A great song and a great version by its writer on the same tour last year when we caught him at the Highline Ballroom in New York. You have to love his comments at the start about playing live... Enjoy!