I have a really bad habit. Every single weekday lunchtime, with very few exceptions, I head to Starbucks. One particular Starbucks very near where I work. It costs me £2.45 every single day to have a Frappucino (Tall, Coffee, Light) and I settle down at one of the tables and scribble away at what I (ludicrously) call ‘my writings’.
Very, very occasionally, a friend might accompany me. When my friend Hazel and I were in there once last year, the actor Toby Stephens came in. That was pretty cool. Another time I saw Brendan Gleeson in the newsagents next door when I was still drinking Coke and going in there every day too.
Then on Thursday just gone (February 26th 2009), the 15th anniversary of Bill Hicks’ death, I was sat in there, not at my normal table, with my back to pretty much everything. I had my iPod on shuffle to try and stop listening to Rory Gallagher constantly. I was meant to be writing but couldn’t put down Che Guevara’s Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War. I tried and managed to write two paragraphs of a story I haven’t touched in years (Traveling Riverside Blues, which has appeared in this LJ). Then I leaned back and heard a voice.
It was a calm, laidback and slow sort of voice which had a Californian thing going on. I realised in a flash that it could only be one person. One person. I turned my head very slowly, trying to be subtle, and saw that, a foot and a half away, SCOTT GORHAM was sat talking to two young ladies. I turned back to Che and tried to read a bit more. I failed. It was nearly time to go back to work so I resolved to see how busy he was and if it would be appropriate to interrupt.
At this point I should explain: There are maybe three people in the world besides Scott Gorham who I would be that excited to meet. Most of you have been reading this journal long enough to see the Scott icon that Cadey made me and to read my tales of Thin Lizzy concerts and one notable trip to Dublin just for a statue.
Anyway, I refused to actually eavesdrop so I don’t know who the ladies were although I think it might’ve been an informal interview type thing – who the hell knows? So as I’m getting up one of them goes back to the counter or whatever and there’s a lull in the conversation.
"Excuse me, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt," says I. "But I just wanted to tell you that you’re one of my favourite musicians."
Scott smiles, gets up, kisses me on both cheeks and I proceed to tell him the (un)interesting story that I’d sworn to return to my abandoned friend at a Lizzy concert back in 2007 if only I got a plectrum off him, but that when the time came, a taller bloke grabbed it away. Before I could tell him the happy ending – that he appeared to go out of his way to give another to me at the very end of the show – Scott reached into his jeans and pulled out another plectrum.
"I wasn’t actually shilling for that, but thank you very much," I say. Please note that I can’t really remember exactly what he said because I was concentrating so fucking hard on controlling what I was saying. A few more moments of inane crap from me and I excuse myself with a ‘thank you, have a nice day and I’m sorry to disturb you.’
Then, I run away back to work where I have the meltdown I forced myself not to have in front of him. Most people I tell the story to have no idea who he is, but my friend Phil knows not only who he is but why I care (this Phil actually met Philip Lynott at a couple of music parties in the 70s), and one of the house band guys gets actually more excited than me.
It had been a pretty shit day/few days before that, and then that afternoon, everything went right: things arrived that I needed for work, etc etc.
As I walked home that evening I started second-guessing myself: I shoulda said this, I shoulda said that, I should’ve, I could’ve, etc….
But no, I think I said exactly what I needed to. I didn’t want to bring up the sainted Mr Lynott because I actually respect the fuck out of SG independently of Philo, and I didn’t want to reduce him to just his hair or whatever. There are so many things I’d like to have said, like to have asked, but it would’ve become a twelve hour conversation.
I never get the ‘fans’ of people who make a nuisance of themselves, who ask for things they shouldn’t, interrupt when they shouldn’t (celebs being asked for autographs when they’re in toilet cubicles, etc). If you’re a fan, shouldn’t the thing you want most from them be respect? I have no idea what Scott thinks of me, but I did my best to make sure he doesn’t think I’m a rude little twunt. I didn’t ask for an autograph or a photo. I hope I didn’t outstay my welcome in the conversation. I really hope that it made his day a little better – I guess I don’t look like most Thin Lizzy fans – and that he took the whole thing as it was meant: the biggest compliment.
I might be working at a festival later in the year where they’re playing, and if so I hope I get to see him and John Sykes again. If he doesn’t recognise me that’s cool. I have no expectations of him or John beyond their set rocking my socks off. That is the only thing I have a right to expect from them.
Being a fan, I realise, is an incredibly selfish thing. It’s entirely about ‘me’ and ‘I’ and ‘what I did and saw’ or whatever. I’m sure that those few minutes in my Starbucks (which is one of the reasons it means so much to me!) will stay with me forever but he may have already forgotten. That’s OK. For a few moments, I was in the knowing presence of someone I have so much respect, admiration and affection for simply because of how he played guitar and I think I acquitted myself as well as I could.
If there’s a God, I thank him. If not… well seriously, what exactly are the fucking chances of one of my greatest heroes actually coming into my Starbucks during my lunchtime and sitting down close enough for me to hear him? It was his voice I noticed, not his face, because I wasn’t at my usual table and couldn’t see people as they came in.
Seriously, I don’t do starstruck, because most people I’d care to meet are pretty well… dead. I’ve met plenty of musicians and celebs in my time working festivals etc. It was so cool to meet Brendan Gleeson that time because he’s such a great actor, but that’s about it. There really are only about three people who I’d care to meet as much as Scott Gorham: Dylan, Plant. PETER O’TOOLE. Ronnie Drew used to be high on that list but he died last year. Who else that’s alive, really? Maybe Olivia de Havilland, but that would be more about her old co-star…
Incidentally, never has this mood icon, also by Cadey, been more appropriate.