I was back on the south coast the other week, for a gig at the lovely Under Ground Theatre in Eastbourne, to be followed (had the weather held up, which it didn’t) by a day at the Eastbourne tennis tournament. So I took the opportunity while I was in the area to revisit some of my open mic haunts from when I’d lived down there. Which was how I came to be at the Brunswick in Hove on a Monday evening.
I’d booked a slot ahead of time and had arrived at 8-ish, chatted with some of my old open mic pals, and was sitting at a table enjoying a beer when a young chap named Max got up to sing. Immediately he reminded me of a talented Oxford-based musician who plays at the famed Catweazle Club in Oxford – the way he moved his head (that was similarly sparse in the hair department), his delivery, the way he seemed to be gearing up to let rip (though, unlike the Oxford chap, he never did really give it some and thump the heck out of the poor guitar!). So it was firmly in my mind to tell him that when I got a chance to go over to his table later in the evening, and recommend that he pay a visit to Catweazle one Thursday evening to see his doppelganger in action.
Before I could do so, it was my turn to get up and sing a couple of songs, which I did, and then returned to my table… at which point Max came rushing over to me and said, ‘Are you Mandy Woods?’ I couldn’t deny that I was, so I said yes, at which he practically shouted, ‘Wow! This is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me! I can’t believe it!’ I was a bit gobsmacked myself at his reaction, which I couldn’t quite understand… until he explained, and then I was even more gobsmacked – on several counts!
‘You and I sat on a settee together at the Catweazle Club in Oxford three years ago,’ he said. ‘We chatted for ages before the show started…’
I couldn’t believe that here was this chap, who I’d been about to mention Catweazle to, now telling me that we’d actually met there three years ago! But I began to recall the evening, and him, and our in-depth conversation. He was a student at Oxford Brookes back then and I think I must have been bestowing my crone-like pearls of wisdom upon him about songwriting or whatever. Anyway, back to his story:
‘I played in the first half, and then it turned out that you were weren’t going to be playing until the second half, and so when I had to leave in the interval because a group of friends were waiting for me, I was gutted that I wasn’t going to hear you after all, and never thought I’d ever get to meet you again – and now here you are, somewhere completely different, and I wasn’t even going to come along this evening as I was so tired after work today!’
It was an amazing coincidence, I agreed, and I thought that was the end of his story – but it wasn’t, oh no, it wasn’t at all!
‘Anyway, after I’d left Catweazle that evening without hearing you play, but after our long chat, I felt so guilt-ridden that I wrote a song about you – called “The Night I Abandoned Mandy”!’
It was my turn to be slightly overwhelmed – that someone – and virtually a complete stranger at that – would write a song about me!
‘I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not my best song by my standards,’ he went on, ‘but it was written from the heart.’
We would have talked more, but the next act was on by then, so he went back to his table and I decided that because I’d found out that the Neptune’s open mic was also on that night, I’d go along there too, as I used to host that one when it was only monthly and it’s very dear to my heart, as are the lovely regulars there. So I told Max I was going, as I thought he looked like he wanted to talk a bit more – and he asked if he could come along as well. So he did – and guess what he sang there as his first song? Yes, ‘The Night I Abandoned Mandy’ – my song!! And for all his protestations about its quality or lack of, I found it to be a lovely, quirky, sweet song – and it was about me! Someone writing about me – now there’s a novel turning of the tables!
Here’s Max’s (and my!) song: