Sometime in the '70's I went to Manchester to study Psychology. Oh yeah I was a smart kid, yet as soon as I arrived there and began to mix with the other folk from all over the UK, and perhaps especially London, I slowly and painfully began to realise quite how naive this wee workin' class lad really was.
In my own home town I kinda was cool, guess I still am really, but in Manchester COOL was spelt with a different kinda capital letter.
It just seemed that whatever revelations and insights I had had, justabout everyone else had had three for my one, and the smart bastards had understood it where I had just reeled, being bowled over in the knowledge that it was new, at least for me and that just about no-one I talked to could make sense of it.
Later, I think it was during my Manchester period, someone introduced me to the concept of alienation in terms that actually made sense, to me. They used other words, too -- Anomie, Angst, oh and lotsa other stuff which mostly went right over my wee head. Something was happening though. Life was changing and almost anything seemed possible. Just being me, though, I really wasn't sure what was possible or what I wanted, though I did carry around with me some dreams that my world was valid in and of itself and that some sorta egalitarian/utopia was a possibility though I really couldn't have told myself, never mind anyone else, what how where when or whatever it was or could be. Just had, and have this sense that I, the individual, if I could be true to that could and would somehow achieve the freedom to be a part of a real true and sharing collective.
So the Buzzcocks had been to Manchester, the Pistols had been, all the new wave "punk bands" had been, but mostly it just seemed that we had lost heavy music and gained an obsession with blank disco. Not unlike the occasional superficiality of current pop versions of rave culture, punk had and was already a commodity and not an occurrence. These are my impressions and not in any way an attempt to crit or diss anyone else who felt/feels otherwise about that period. Yet my personal experience was of a rather souless town, where sexual immediacy seemed to take precedence over just about any or all of the apparent "higher" motives. Mind you to "score" it helped then, as perhaps now, if one was able to pay lip service to Pee Cee dialogue, at least pre-copulation. The end, it appeared, justified the means, and everyone was pretty pleased by the results. We occasionally soul-searched about the dire possibility of catching herpes, though.
Then a lover played the Horses album to me. Jesus. I couldn't have been more surprised. This was, and perhaps still is, raw sex. Yet it wasn't, and isn't, titillating in the usual "ooh baybee..." sorta way. It was also far beyond my musical understanding. I just thought "they must have been really wrecked and fucking around" and maybe they were. Yet, in some ways I have been following threads initiated by this album ever since. Hmm, even then I could only go wow.
Then came Radio Ethiopia. The best I could do was to get quietly or noisily stoned and hope that the suggestion of Rasta cool would hold at bay any possible question about what or why this was such special music. The bluff generally worked 'cos it woulda been very uncool for anyone else to admit that they didn't get it. Well mostly, though I reckon a few folk saw through mah veil, and of course I always awkwardly felt that just about everyone would.
Oh there's more... My coolest pals, from London of course, introduced me to a bootleg which had some live Patti on it and that was even freer and even more challenging for me. I just couldn't comparmentalise this stuff. "The boy looked at Johnny..." "Smooth Stone Beyond" oh my reichian armour was just falling down... and I hadn't even heard of it.
So years later Patti is coming to Glasgow.. and I am really scared to go and see her. I tell everyone that it's cause I fear bein let down and having the myth exploded, but I kinda know that maybe I'm scared its gonna rock my boat yet again.
"Aint that baby beautiful..."
So, on the night of the concert my wife buys two tickets, and thats it. We are going, and no way out.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.... things start late and the place is a third empty.
Eventually Patti and the band come on and instead of a number starting she... reads "piss factory" from a wee book. Y'know I was special too.. and I just hadta get outa that PISS FACTORY too where they shoved your face in.. no matter what I just hadta get out. But now as the reading begins to flow.. I'm faced with the facts again. Hmmm.
There's lotsa stuff I don't recognise yet, but I will. There's lotsa stuff that I do.
Somehow this doesn't feel like a concert in a big concert hall. This is like I/we are at home with her/them... don't quite know whose home ... but this is a very personal thing for just about all of us.... oh there are a few jumpin' band numbers .. but this is a very special night, personal to every one. The magic is all around us but we can't see the seams or ripples.
At one point Lenny plays one of his numbers and Patti goes off stage, not for the first time (oh yeah we think it's her boy's birthday) but she's sworn to secrecy so she ca'nt quite say, yeah she wanders off.... next thing she's sitting in the aisle, on the steps, real close to me. If I spoke she would hear me, but she just seems too real and too right to treat like a "rock star" d'yer know the magic is complete and she's just one of us.
The usherette moves her off the steps where she sits chatting to some guy, 'cos itsa fire hazard. Y'know I don't think many people even knew she was there, and I think the wee lassie that moved her just reckoned she was just another old hippy at the concert, 'cos she wasn't in the least respectful to her...
Oh the night rolled on .. then we left after two encores... by then we had realised what a special night it was/had been ... yet mostly while it happened it was just so right and so real... not like a performance, though the stagecraft was supreme, more a meeting of close friends.
Very special night.
Copyright © Ian Galbraith