So, after charging the batteries (I discovered the 6 ‘C’ batteries would need to be charged for 12.5 hours, which was a bit of a shock and meant I couldn’t start the next morning as planned, as they’d still be being juiced up), I decided that George Street, the pedestrian precinct in Hove, just over the main road from me, would be a good place to start – specifically in front of Pets’ Corner, as I’ve got to know the women who work there quit well through buying Silva & Chilli’s food there and having chit-chats with them every now and then. So yesterday afternoon I went down there to ask the manager if she’d mind if I set up outside the next morning. After reading aloud from the rules that say buskers must move on to another pitch after an hour, she seemed quite excited at the prospect – and I came home full of fervour for my new-found career on the streets.
The next morning I put the fully charged batteries into the amp - and nothing happened. No red light came on, no sound, nothing. I nearly became despondent very quickly, but jiggled the batteries round a bit in a vain effort to get them out, and hey jingo, the light came on and the amp worked! Next came the reverb unit. I did the same jiggling trick with the batteries – and the same thing happened: nothing. So I did it again – and this time… still nothing! Blaming the rechargeable batteries, I nipped down to the Saver’s shop and bought a pack of 12 disposable ones, absolutely sure that four of them would do the trick straight away. But no. Nothing. Not a glimmer of a light. Nowt.
At that point serene Mandy gave way to monster Mandy, and I ripped the brand new batteries out of the non-functioning unit and polished off a quick but furious email to the German supplier demanding a FULL refund, and saying that I was ‘NOT happy!!!!’ I wouldn’t be able to go busking today after all – not unless I could get to the GAK shop in the Lanes and buy an alternative reverb unit there, banking on a full refund from the supplier of the duff pedal.
So I loaded the amp on my back, slung the guitar in its case over my shoulder, and set off for the bus stop to go into town to see what they had at GAK in the way of cheap guitar reverb effect pedals. I’d given up being a purist by now, only wanting the very best vocal reverb unit. Now I’d take anything, as long as it was cheap, amplified my voice a bit and made it a tad less ‘dry’ (technical term, love…)
It was a HOT day today, and by the time I’d negotiated my way to the bus stop with an amp and guitar on my back, found somewhere to stand on the packed bus, and then walked from Churchill Square to GAK, I was sweatin’ like a peee-ig. The chap I spoke to there was helpful but said he’d have to order the reverb pedal in that I wanted to try, and it wouldn’t be in for another several hours.
Doh!!! What would I do in the intervening time? Wander the hot and crowded streets of the Lanes laden down by my musical clobber? Go into a pricey tea room and have a decadent cup of something, wasting ever more money when I should be saving it? Or try a spot of acoustic busking in the much more pleasant and less crowded Pavilion Gardens? I chose the latter, and soon found myself, armed with only an unplugged guitar, launching in to the Trisha Yearwood song ‘River of You’ – always a good show starter – to a bemused-looking group of teenage girls. They walked away sharpish. Things didn’t improve with the next song – ‘Country Roads Take Me Home’… nor the next one… nor the next one. Even though I’d primed my guitar case with all the loose change I had in my pocket, after maybe five songs my throat felt parched and I’d made not a penny…
I’d got halfway through ‘Indian Summer’, which I’d already decided would be my swan song for the morning, when a chap in a white shirt, black tie and khaki baseball cap came by, armed with battery amp and instrument, and stood watching me. I no longer felt totally alone in the midst of all those tourists – here was another one, like me, after their loose change. So I told him that was my last song and he was welcome to have my pitch. As I came to the end of the song, the dear man came over and deposited 50 pence in my case – the only money I made today from busking! I wonder if that 50p does the rounds of all the buskers’ cases and hats, as I was very tempted myself to give some change to a young couple busking just off North Street as I passed them on my way to GAK. I didn’t today as I needed the change to prime my own case, but I will tomorrow, as I feel like one of the busking community now! Anyway, I thanked him overly profusely for his generosity as his partner, identically clad, came along and I left them setting up their amps and mics, having proved to myself that such equipment is vital if one is to be taken seriously as a busker these days.
By now I felt parched and tired and a bit grumpy (if you can imagine that??) and managed to painfully kick my bunion with my other foot as I staggered up North Street to the bus stop that seemed a very long way off. At that point, feeling like I would be paying out a fortune in bus fares just to get hold of a functioning reverb unit, I happened to hear a woman trying to give away ‘free bus travel for a day’. Everyone was walking past her briskly as though she was, well, a busker. But not me. I went up to her and asked her if she meant it – and indeed she did! The Brighton and Hove Bus Company, to apologise for the disrupted service caused by road works along North Street, was giving away a day of free bus travel – together with a Bagelman cream cheese special bagel and a coupon for a cup of Small Batch coffee! I gushed to her that was the best thing that had happened to me all day (yes, even better than the 50p donated to my guitar case by my fellow busker), and hobbled round to Bagelman to claim my free coffee.
Gulping down the last of the very nice coffee, I clambered onto a number 49 bus and finally made it home, saving my free bus travel for tomorrow, when I will go back to the music shop to try out the reverb pedal. And, all being well, I will then proceed to some shady but busy part of the city centre to set up my amp, mic and reverb pedal, and watch my guitar case steadily fill up with pound coins as I stun the crowds with sixty minutes of reverberantly rousing renditions…
To be continued…