Picture the scene: you’ve been dragged, keyboard in hand, into Parliament Street. You’re going to try and earn money by playing to a passing audience that don’t particularly want you to be there, a dog is cocking its leg against the wall of Marks & Spencer, and the little sod is getting closer to you… Welcome to my world.
“We just want you to busk…. well!” are my instructions. Naturally.
So, I set myself up. I’ll be honest – I’m nervous. I start casually playing a jazz medley to warm up the crowd: one old woman nursing a carrier bag, a policeman who doesn’t seem convinced that I’m supposed to be there, and a Big Issue seller who wishes I wasn’t. All told, it’s looking like a pretty tough gig. A passing couple throw me a coin, although I think they believed I was a mime act. However, with this spur of confidence, I break ambitiously into a Beatles medley. People are starting to catch on. One man perhaps a little too much:
“You’re not bad” he says.
Go away, you fool! You’re ruining my presence.
“Er, thanks very much…!” I respond.
“Aren’t you a bit like David Sneddon?”
In the same way Primula is cheese, yeah…
“Nope. Not really. Sorry.”
“No. I’m not. Sorry.”
I think he’s getting the hint now.
“Do you do requests?”
Oh, for the love of God…
“Of course! What did you have in mind?”
“Well, can you play any Cliff Richard?”
Inside, I’m screaming.
“Er… no. Absolutely not. Sorry.”
By this point, I’ve been playing for 45 minutes. Frost-bite is setting in and three of my fingers have fallen off. Maybe now is time to start on the Elton John…?
All told, it was quite a lot of fun. Cold, but fun. Time spent busking: 90 minutes. Total money made: £9.65. Cash-back!
I don’t know whether it’s the same for everyone else, but whenever I hear the word ‘busker’ I almost always simultaneously hear the word ‘twat’. I think it may be a disease of some kind. Either way, I still thought it might be a bit of laugh if nothing else, so I let Jenny talk me into singing my heart out on a Friday morning to a bunch of people that I don’t know and will almost certainly annoy.
To be honest, I was actually quite nervous- after all, there’s a busker in York who has trained his dog to bark in time to the music: how can one man and his guitar compare with that? Still, lacking aids of the canine variety, I set up my sign (‘I’m not homeless, I’m not on drugs, I just need money to learn’) and began to play. Figuring that it was close to Valentine’s Day, I tore into a rendition of ‘Your Song’ by Elton John to start off with. Stonegate was clearly lacking in loved-up people though, and it went down like a shit in a bathtub. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ got me a Burger King discount card, which I was exceptionally happy with, and ‘Wooden Nickels’ by the Eels got me fifty pence and an odd look from a work colleague.
My session ended ingloriously, as I was subjected to an attack of mini-marshmallows from some primary school children. I packed up and had a discounted Whopper. £3.39 I collected in total; not quite minimum wage but it almost covered lunch and my bus fare. I think I’ll stick to bar work for now, you don’t get as many dirty looks from the elderly.