25 March 2007


Every Friday at Canary Wharf tube station a unusual busker plies his trade playing 70s music on his Fender Stratocaster

But not the ghastly 70s music that features in endless themed parties and interminable compilations. There is no Carwash, Blockbuster or any other class of glam-rock in his repertoire. He plays the other 70s music, the real 70s music. My 70s music. The Sultans Of Swing, Changes, London Calling, Stairway to Heaven. Going Underground (yes, really!)

Its odd music to busk in any underground station but especially at Canary Wharf: In Canary Wharf the average age of commuters seems to be about 23 and I don't suppose even 1 person in 10 recognises the music this lonely busker plays.

The effect is spooky. Not because the sound echos eerily around the cavernous converted-dock station (though it does) and not because the material he plays is incongruous (although it is) but because he plays hidden behind a pillar: London Underground, in their wisdom, sited the licensed busker's pitch facing the down escalator - so he plays with his back to us work-bound commuters, and if he puts as much as a toe outside his designated area the LU staff are there to pounce. There may be rock music and avant-garde poems on the modern underground, but they still like the buskers to know remember who's boss.

He doesn't sing, he just plays, and often the familiar tunes cause half-remembered lyrics to roll around the edges of my mind as I hurry out of the station.

A fortnight ago, late for work, running over the same old ground, with deadlines looming, and my blackberry showing 194 unread and unreadable emails (it was before I got my glasses) I reached his spot at the foot of the escalator as he was in middle of a familiar song. I wasn't sure what it was but felt that if I listened long enough I thought I could tell. It was the end of that lovely warm week we had in London and I and all the other commuters stood on the cold steel rail, trading hot air for a cool breeze, heading for blue skies.. or pain.

You don't expect to hear Pink Floyd busked, when you do it's a welcome treat. So why did I only give him a pound?

Fridays is my favourite commuting day

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's terrible how the authorities restrict buskers so much in the London underground. It's a much nicer busking-permit system in the NYC subway according to the 'Saw Lady' (www.SawLady.com/blog - busker in NYC).