I always thought I should write books. Recently two people whose opinions I respect said no, you’re much better not doing that. Someone else wants me to write lyrics. I always thought I should play the guitar too. Tonight, after not the best few days I’ve ever had, I picked up my old saxophone. And no, that’s not me being rock n roll. It was made in 1924, even older than me. A bit.
I haven’t played the saxophone for months. It must be at least three months. I got it years ago, a really nice Christmas present and stopped playing it when I had four top crowns done. They grind your teeth off down to the gum and put bionic titanium ones on top of them. Now I can bite through steel hawsers. Obviously, I’m down to about ten of those a day. Just socially, you know. I could give it up any time I wanted, but I like the taste.
So the odd thing was that not having played the sax for a while, once the reed was behaving itself it was fine. The reed is literally that, a thin strip of er, reed. You clamp it to the mouthpiece and blow through it. The whole sound depends on the reed vibrating and that depends on how hard you blow and how wet the reed is. They misbehave. They wear out. If they’re too dry they don’t make the right sound and if they get too wet they don’t either.
But when they do, when they do you just know it. You can feel it. And it felt good.
A bit of Eagles (New Kid In Town and yes, you can on a tenor sax), a rip through Dexy’s Burn It Down I really enjoyed playing. I didn’t play Kate Bush’s Saxophone Song, nor Steely Dan’s Deacon Blue. But I did play a bit of Ronnie Lane. When I was about nineteen I went up to Sheffield to see a friend of mine at university there. You know her. Fictionally, she became Liz in Not Your Heart Away. Before I had to run for the train we found Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance album. Maybe that year, maybe the year before, she tracked him down on his farm where his touring outfit, The Passing Show was based, as much as a passing show is based anywhere. I still have that record. The album folded open to show a picture of the band. Try that with a CD. You can see it at the top here.
I make mistakes. I’ve been wrong about lots of things; what to say, what to do. But there are some things I seem to do quite well and it makes me pause when I find they maybe aren’t the things I think I should do. My sax playing needs some work. But it plays better than the guitar. John Coltrane still doesn’t have anything to worry about, and nor does the guy playing sax for Ronnie. The guys in the picture don’t look rich and they weren’t. But they look as if they’ve found what they want to do and they’re doing it, as best they can. I want to get that feeling back. I always wanted to be in that picture. I would have given anything back then to have been in that band. But Ronnie died of Multiple Sclerosis in 1997. And besides, the past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.