And so my efforts to resurrect some old series that I used to write, but have somehow fallen by the way-side, continues with one of my favourite records ever.
Other than the track that the title of this series is taken from (Billy Bragg’s The Saturday Boy, in case you didn’t know), I can’t think of a song which sits better here, where I feature a song where somebody is infatuated with somebody, but that person is just not interested.
Think back to your teenage years: we’ve all been there, right? I’ve got a list as long as Inspector Gadget’s arms after a long session on the rack, if I’m totally honest. But let’s not open that can of worms again. Not until a few more of them have died, anyway. That’s my plan: out-live them so I can slag them off here.
Today’s song came up on my iPod shuffle the other day, and it led me to seek out what I had written about it when it had featured in this series as it surely must have. Surely.
And I checked. And it hadn’t.
And then I also remembered that back in September 2019, my dearest friend Richie and I went to see this band play at the legendary 100 Club in That London, supporting The Chesterfields, a band who we had both loved way back when we were actually Indie Kids, as opposed to the fatter (me) wrinklier (also me), balder (yup, me too), greyer (ah-ha! both of us! Although, some 40 years on, it’s astonishing how little Richie has changed; I must check his attic for an aging portrait) middle-aged men we now are.
I was going to write about that gig here sometime – there were four acts on the bill, occasional-Blue Aeroplane Rodney Allen, and Japanese duo Da-Nichi making up the quartet of acts, plus Johnny Dee (of The Chesterfield’s Ask Johnny Dee fame) DJ’ing in between acts – but, other than relating an embarrassing moment that I wandered into before the gig had even started, I’ve not got round to it yet. I promised at the time that I would “…get round to writing something about the gig itself at some point, I promise…” and I will, but not now, although I will relate another tale from that night.
Today’s band, The Waltones, had finished their set, The Chesterfields are on, and Richie and I have positioned ourselves three or four rows back from centre stage, as close to the middle as the pillars in the room will allow. We haven’t yet got to the point where dancing has commenced, but it is the point where many men and women of a certain age were staring at the stage, all smiling, as we watched a band that we genuinely never thought we would see perform live again (or, for Richie and I, for the first time). I’ll explain the very sad reason for that – which I wasn’t aware of until that night – another time too.
Anyway, I’m standing there, surveying the crowd and admiring just how loving and ruddy happy everyone looked, feeling like I had found my people and that I finally belonged, when I realise I am standing next to James Knox.
Yes, THE James Knox.
James Knox. Lead singer with The Waltones. Yes, THAT James Knox.
Now. I have written before about how, on the rare occasion that I bump into a celebrity in daytime, normal life, I prefer not to bother them. Catch their eye, give them a knowing smile or nod (so that they know that I know who they are, and I have chosen to leave them be), but ultimately, let them go about their day uninterrupted.
But this is different. I am standing next to someone who has just played at a gig I am currently at. I have thoroughly enjoyed their set. And, of course, they played one of my favourite songs in the world.
The rules are different.
I simply have to say something.
I turn to Richie and whisper in his ear “Look who I’m standing next to!”
Richie looks, and recognises him, but to be fair, I think he may have struggled had he not just watched this bloke sing a bunch of songs.
“Should I say something….?” I continued.
I had been bugging Richie for a good while about how excited I was to see The Waltones live, because of today’s song. He knew how much that song means to me, because I pretty much hadn’t shut up about it since I found out they were one of the support acts that night.
“I think you have to,” Richie responded.
So what to say? I had to think of something, fast, before he moved away from my immediate vicinity. There would be little worse than if, having finally composed something to say, I turned to find he had moved, and then I had to hunt him down to deliver my platitude.
I landed on (something like) this: “Hi. I just wanted to say thank you for playing tonight. I never got to see you first time around, so tonight is an absolute treat. She Looks Right Through Me is one of my favourite records ever, so to finally see you guys play it live is just…”
I ran it through in my mind several times, to make sure it didn’t sound weird or like I’ll be going through his bins later, and satisfied I had the tone right I turned to him and said:
“Hi. I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t say hi. Hi and thanks. Thanks for She Looks Right Through Me. And hi for being here. I love being here. Thank you. For playing tonight. Thank you. And for that record. For both. For the record and for being here. Thank you. Great to see you. Thank you all of you. What a treat!” Pause…then mwah! (the chef’s kiss).
He looks back at me, quizzically.
“Sorry, what did you say?” he asks, like I wasn’t a nutter.
I realise that not only have I not stuck to the plan, I have spoken it at a million miles an hour, and I’ve mumbled it inaudibly like a serial killer.
“I said: I’d be kicking myself forever if I didn’t say hello, but I just wanted to say thank you for playing tonight. I never got to see you first time around, so tonight is an absolute treat. She Looks Right Through Me is one of my favourite records ever, so to finally see you guys play it live is just…”
And I do the chef’s kiss thing.
Thankfully, he heard me this time, smiled, laughed and thanked me.
“I like your t-shirt”, he continued.
Bloody hell, I thought. This has developed into an actual two-way conversation that I was neither expecting nor prepared for.
I looked down. I was wearing this:
I’ve mentioned this t-shirt on these pages before; it’s generally my gig-going t-shirt, and I wear it as a kind of joke about my ever-expanding waistline. Many of you will recognise it as the t-shirt representation of this toy from the 70s:
“My missus told me to wear all black tonight, she says it’s slimming,” he continued.
“Ah, that’s where me and her differ: I say embrace the middle-aged spread!” I breathed out to accentuate it, and patted my belly satisfactorily. “But then again, I wasn’t up on stage tonight, so that’s easy for me to say. You should have married me.”
“Well, it suits you,” he said, laughing.
“Anyway, I won’t bother you any longer,” I concluded, realising I had just said the most psychopathic, stalkerish thing it’s possible to say, even if it was meant in jest, “but, just: cheers.”
And that was it. By the time I had turned to Richie and mouthed “I’m chatting to him!” and turned back, he was gone, probably and quite rightly wanting to return to the safe enclave of his own bandmates. Can’t say I blame him, I would have been struggling to keep the conversation alive for much longer.
Anyway, I first heard today’s tune on a compilation album called Bananas!, which I’ve always wanted to write about, but there really is no point as it was covered much more efficiently than I could ever muster over at Football and Music.
And I was smitten from the moment I heard it, and still love it today as much as I did when I first clapped ears on it. I never tire of hearing it, and I don’t think there’s a greater testament you can pay to a record than that.
You’ll probably hate it now I’ve written all that: