Friday, April 01, 2011

Exile on Friar St.

As a feminist, I've no time for practical jokers. Messing with a chap's mind is what women are for.

I don't like to generalise, but pranksters are all social inadequates. When not humiliating pensioners or decent, upstanding purchasers of pornography, they "research" serial killers or nod slowly as they read UKIP election pamphlets. I've dismissed them in a previous post.

I enjoy spontaneous fun at other people's expense, but distrust these failed, bearded minor public school bullies. Humour, like sudden wealth, should be effortless and leave the innocent unharmed.

I once skewered that Golden Section while lunching down the Tethered Goat many years ago. The third pint of Champion's Speckled Johnson was in prospect as a work colleague stomped in and stumped up.

"Cheers," I greeted him.

"Bloody Keith!" he snapped through a head of hoppy spume.

He referred to another colleague and quintessential English type - the Gentleman of Science. I wrote recently against the English cult of DIY, and Keith represented the Fellowship of the Computer Tinkerer.

Our company was run by alumni of Leeds University English Dept thanks to the sort of conspiracy that would keep Independent letter writers busy for a summer. They had to put someone in charge of adapting software to our recondite needs. They could of course have hired an IT specialist.

On the other hand, there was a genial, muttering sort somewhere in the editorial team who could be seen playing steering-wheels with a copy of Home Computer down by the ornamental pond.

"Fetch Keith!" commanded The Director.

On the plus side, we saved money and didn't have to tolerate some t-shirted tubster droning on about rams and other such computer nonsense. On the down side we had to use Keith's macros.

Keith's oblique approach to streamlining the business involved the keyboard equivalent of the Monty Python title sequence, complete with brass band effects. I ought to mention that Keith, when not destroying our ability to type peace unto nation, played one of the ugly duckling instruments in a wind band.

Trumpets and cornets are noble instruments, and what lady can resist the virile lunge of the trombone? But Keith parped and trilled away on a piece of plumbing that looked as if it had been designed to gather rain water in an Edwardian garden.

Anyway, my lunchtime partner had just spent an hour with other monitor martyrs watching Keith chuckle at crabbed glyphs on a white board while their fingers fused over his suggested strokes.

"Useless, cardie-clad cockring!" grunted my neighbour, who went on to describe how Keith's preferred musical instrument could best be uncoiled and used on its owner, first as a marital aid and then as a stake.

Then I had an epiphany. "Hidden depths has old Keith, y'know," I drawled.


"Yup. He was in the Rolling Stones."


"Well, the band before they became the Stones. They were a skiffle outfit then, with the late, great Deryck Guyler on washboard. Keith played his euphoricum. Those were the glory days, when the skirl of skiffle stirred the air waves. Lonnie Donegan had made 'The Cumberland Gap' an anthem for groomed youth and not just an euphemism for Egyptian practices.

"There was nothing to hold Keith back. A US tour beckoned, with the promise of the Appalachian high life and all the snaggle-toothed groupies you could twang your banjo at.

"But it was not to be. The rest of the band had decided to rip off the blues, and besides there were more than creative tensions - Keith Richards didn't like the fact that our hero, being a Reading boy, was a little too close to Marianne Faithfull.

"''Ere, there's ownly room for one Keef in this band, ow right!' declared Jagger one turbid autumn day, and our lad packed his duffel bag and hitched back up the Thames.

"He doesn't talk about it, but that random-haired wreck has a nobility others can only dream of - for he stepped aside from the life and the woman he loved to make way for History."

"What about Deryck Guyler?" asked my chastened audience.

"The blues thing was his idea, I gather. The skiffle crowd never forgave him, like when Dylan went electric. Stones soon dropped him too, as he never managed the switch from washboard to drumkit. Ended up being a comedy turn on the telly. Cruel but fair, I'd say. Another?"

Shortly afterwards I fell out with elements of the Chechen separatist government and Armenian secret service, so chose to spend a few years sampling the assisted baths of Samarkand.

I found my eventual return to work a little trying, and wandered down The Goat again for a late-morning restorative. One bar prop was hissing abuse at his lager.

"Anything wrong?" I inquired.

"Bloody Keith and his Macro Magic Show! An hour watching him hitch up his Millets jeans and point at what looks like Japanese sewing-machine instructions while my monitor melts down! Monkey plunger!"

"Not changed then, has he?" I sighed.

"Too right. Mind you, I heard he was in the Rolling Stones once. What do you reckon?" asked the imbiber.

"Keith? Well, he's musical all right, and grew up in Reading the same time as Marianne Faithfull. Still waters, eh?" I returned to my pint.

Keith got the respect he was due, impatient youth learned wisdom, and I had the pleasure of seeing the seed I'd sown years ago sprout and soar into the skies above Serendip.

A legend was born.

As for the Skiffling Stones, there's a clip of Maestro Guyler with Eric & Ernie below, at 7'30". What might have been:


Anonymous said...

Guyler was supposed to do Prize Day at my "school" (delete school insert borstal). It took me 30 yrs to discover he was too shit scared to enter the grounds without an armed guard.

Dewi Harries said...

Keith Richards tunes to Open G - it's all you need to know.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Bizarrely, a certain type of lady really can't resist the toilet plunger lunge of the old 'bone. Sort of lady that drinks snakebite. The weird (though vaguely endearing) thing about Keiths is that they are uninsultable: any malevolent comment about their t-shirt/hair/builders-cleavage will simply trigger a Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy quote from them and they'll be grinning like a pig in shit for the rest of the day.

No Good Boyo said...

Your school must have been hardcore pro-skiffle, Ciaran, because I don't think Deryck ever shied from a fight lightly.

Indeed, Dewi. Out of interest, is there a single major rock guitarist who uses the conventional tuning. I know Fripp invented his own. If they don't use it, why do the rest of us axe demiurges?

Gadj, "Snakebite Lady" ought to be a song, ideally performed by some West Midlands bikers. Keith is an excellent name, Kevin hopeless. So close and yet so far.

Anonymous said...

Der was a world authority on the Roman army apparently. Not a lot of people know that.

No Good Boyo said...

I believe the hoplite shield formation inspired his idea for a washbooard orchestra, Ciaran. Sadly, it was not to be.

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