Way back in the 80s, a driver where I worked was a regular street busker. He looked like a forlorn hippy at work, and apparently played guitar with a few of his mates at the weekends though I never actually heard him play.
In my home town, buskers were often to be found in subways or outside pubs, some were entertaining, some were plain wailing Willies, and one particular guy couldn’t play at all and just strummed a continuous and repetitive tuneless noise until people paid him to stop.
When we were in town yesterday, there were quite a few buskers around, and it wasn’t until I was looking for an image for this post that I discovered that yesterday (18th July) was National Buskers Day.
Rather than the normal guitar player, harmonica player, violinist or even tin drums that we’ve seen in the past, I was surprised to see piano accordion players of different ages entertaining the passers-by.
A young lad in his early twenties was playing what I’d call sea shanties, and was having the time of his life as his left hand pounded the buttons while his right flew across the keyboard. He was having a fanatical race with both, but enjoying himself immensely, and judging by the coins in his hat, so were a lot of other people.
Another man somewhat further up the road was playing barn dance music, and you couldn’t help but tap your feet in time. He was older and not quite so exuberant in his delivery, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, and he had quite a coin collection too.
As a kid, I had one of these squeeze boxes.
Mine was bright red and a twelve bass similar to the smallest one above on the left.
I was disappointed when I first got it as I’d been hoping for a typewriter and the case was the same shape. My Dad was really excited about it though, and showed me how to play it.
I ended up taking it on many of our family picnics where I was expected to ‘do a turn’.
Another girl in my class also had one, and we would play duets in music class and at school concerts.
Compared to a piano though, I found it restrictive and frustrating as I always seemed to either run out of right hand notes or the left didn’t have a chord button to match.
In later years, it became awkward and painful when I was suddenly no longer flat chested!
Other Brother sold it for me for the grand sum of £18, keeping £3 for himself as commission. For a teenager, fifteen quid bought a lot of records!
Not all that long ago, MOH came up to Lincolnshire to stay with us and brought with him ‘a surprise’. His surprises are always just that, totally unexpected, unusual and a source of amusement, though not always clear whether it was his or ours.
He’d been to an auction some time previously where he ended up buying an old piano accordion, and knowing I used to have one, asked me to teach him how to play it.
Oh boy. It had been years, this one was bigger than mine had been with more bass buttons, and the bellows were damaged. Every time I squeezed, it let out a sigh of protest, but I managed to get a tune out of it (Amazing Grace), and also to identify the bass chords for him which we annotated with sticky labels.
We haven’t seen or heard anything of it since, so it’s quite likely it has either been designated to the garage along with all his antique tools and a motor bike he’s in the middle of restoring (don’t ask how long), or it’s been skipped.
Some of the street musicians we come across exude talent, and we’d rather listen to them than the garbage they call music on the radio these days. This guy at Stratford Upon Avon played classical guitar and felt the music to such an extent, you believed his guitar was a living thing.