I grew up in a house that was awash with riches; not that I appreciated them at the time. At any road all the exposure must of ingrained its mark on me, for when I was a pup I recall asking my old man if he would get the Sherlock Holmes instrument for me. He pondered on my prerequisite for a while before ascertaining a solution for my demand; I had asked him to get me a Saxophone, (because Sherlock Holmes’s pipe looked like one)! We never used to receive any of the things we asked for usually; no fancy computers or any of the stuff that the other kids got, but if we asked for something like this our old man would do his darndest to get it. Well he obliged and one day we set off for Bangor to go and visit a man named Rustle (he was the one)! He was the one who had a collection of saxophones besides other paraphernalia, and his house was wonderful; it was crammed with all sorts of things like ‘fog horns’ and this that and the other. For me it was like some treasure cove and I just stood there in awe; I don’t know if my recollection is spot-on but I’m pretty sure that Rustle was vested in Safari gear!
We procured the Saxophone and it was mine! It had an old beat up case – now I had to figure out how to play it; I do not recall if this was instantaneous or if the urge caught me at a later date but whatever I started to play somehow.
When I was thirteen I received lessons in school from some dry bitch whose (big thick yellow moustache) name escapes me for obvious reasons now. Well I used to turn up to her lessons freshly laced with the smell of stale cigarette smoke and play those boring tunes that they try to teach you when you begin to play. At this point I had been playing along to my old man’s jazz records with artists like Cannonball Adderley, Rahssan Roland Kirk (Roland Kirk) and John Coltrane. So her attempts to get me to play ‘Oats Peas Beans and Farley Grow’ were wasted on deaf ears, and so in the process of trying to play these ‘turn-offs’ I used to stray off the script improvising what I thought was a passion filled jazz type improve. Her face was an encapsulation of disdain (sad bitch), and so I used to stick to the script.
One day the old bag music teacher turned up no more, and in her place was an old gent whose name escapes me as well now, but not because I just forget the shit people’s names; no on the contrary I just forget things sometimes, because I’m slightly fallible. Well this guy was cool and he played along with you on the saxophone. His saxophone was a nice one and when he played spit bubbles appeared around the corner of his mouth. My Saxophone had a bunch of elastic bands wrapped around it because the spring mechanisms had broken. He told me that I reminded him of a guy that used to play in a band with him; they had played here and there - in places such as Butlins and the like; I respected him for this; well at least he had been around and was not a dreary bastard like the other one! Ha!
We had a recital to give in the school assembly one day and news had reached the music teacher that I was good on the saxophone and so she decided to give me a forefront saxophone driven recital piece. The piece we were to play was ‘Abide with me’. It was a hymn and the rest of our class were to play it on the glockenspiels whilst the teacher accompanied us on the piano.
We were given sufficient time to practice it, and so I did, every day after school. I spiced it up putting little jazz runs in here and there and playing it this way and that. I was totally comfortable with it. Well days and weeks passed and I did not notice that the day was upon us, until I was cutely informed by someone that tomorrow was the day that we were to give our recital.
No problems then; well not for me anyhow! The headmaster gave his usual shitty speech about some current affairs and things that were going on in relation to the school and the mandatory religious offerings that had to be thrown in. Well finally it was our turn to go on (yes)! We walked on from the side-wings of the stage to our respective positions; the rest of the bunch sat at desks where their glockenspiel’s had been placed and the music teacher sat at the piano. Me well I was front and almost centre.
I looked out in front of me and the assembly room never looked this way to me before and before me sat a sea of people that I knew, the hardy lads, the sexy girls, the funny ones, the geeks and all the in-between. She struck up the chords on the old grand piano and everyone started up on the glockenspiels. I waited until my part kicked inn counting the beats off, ‘O.K here I go’; eyes pierced me expectantly.
I can only describe the following sound that ensued as follows; an evil spirit had accosted my body and used it to express the sound of its tormented soul; funnelling it through my bloody saxophone! “Go away evil spirit and fuck off dry mouth”. My heart pumped like a thing that pumps a lot; O.K it was like the thrust of a horny frog. Out pour the hideous sounds again! It was music, yes - it was it was freestyle jazz, but then again not even I knew that I could get this kind of sound out of the god damned thing! On and on I go in what seemed to be an age; trying to regain my skills, but it was no good though the laughter and tittering from my comrades was destroying me. My heart pounded!
Wait a minute I had an idea that would regain my prestigious status as a musician and so I stopped. At this point everybody else did as well, a barrage of laughter kept on coming from my comrades. I turned around and said this “can we go from the start?” The bitch was trying not to grin, and so she put her head down and I turned to face my comrades. At this point I think I would have preferred some jeering instead of the raft of laughter that kept on coming.
They struck up on the piano and glockenspiels again. I had to hold it together but all self-reasoning had gone and only fear; adrenalin and that evil spirit that had come to possess me remained. This time it was worse; I mean the noises were worse; try donkeys shitting barbed wire out continuously! That is the only description that even comes a little close to the out of worldly shit fuck noise that kept coming. TIME DID NOT ELAPSE ETERNALLY! Knees were being slapped and the odd tear of joy had come to my comrades eyes helping their quests for camaraderie.
Finally oh finally as if the day would never come; emancipation arrived and we all proceeded to make our way off the stage. When I arrived at the wings of the stage; the chemistry teacher was there to congratulate me on my performance; he patted me on my back whilst he battled with the fits of laughter that were making his body vibrate and he uttered these words, “well done Matthew, it’s the first time that is always the hardest”. What a twat!
For about two to three weeks after this debacle when I strolled around the school yard I encountered the odd bunch of comrades here and there pointing in my direction making donkey noises ” Aw-EE, Aw-EE”. I put my head down and carried on, well that’s all I could do; well it was the best start that I could get! At least I knew what it was like and not what it was supposed to be like, and so:- “head down and carry on”! I adopted this as my mantra.