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Day 1 Florida 2018

Day One

Today I met a guitar legend. A guitar hero. A man who I know I can never play like, and yet someone who I aspire to play like. Do you know how frustrating that is? You want to emulate just a tenth of what they can play, and yet you can’t. No matter how hard you try, your fingers just wont do what you want them to do, when you want them to do. And to top it all, not only can he play like no other, he bloody well wrote the songs he plays as well. That’s doubly destroying for a bloke who’s been playing a guitar for 40 odd years and has only just mastered “The Streets of London”. From the second, and I mean the second I heard “Reel Around the Fountain”, I wanted to play like Johnny Marr. I can picture the scene. I’m 16, in my bedroom, with an old Kays electric guitar, and a 3ft curly red lead plugged into a WEM amp I’d recovered from the tip, that just about worked when it wanted to. I put the record, yes, record, on and listened ….its time the tale were told. An hour later I was at Keith Minshull’s Northern Soul and other oddities record booth buying everything that had The Smiths written on it. As luck would have it, and as only my pocket money allowed, I managed to walk out with a 7 inch version of Hand in Glove, with Sandie Shaw, a single I have to this very day. It didn’t matter that Morrissey wasn’t singing on it, Mr Marr was spreading his wings. Or strings.

From then on, every release date of the next instalment of Marr Magic was met with anticipated excitement, a feeling not shared by most. But what did they know? They were listening to Paul Young, Bananarama and Spandau Ballet. I had found a guitar maturity. Someone who appeared on Top of the Pops with a Ricky over his shoulder. Not only did he play tunes from heaven, but he played a guitar that only Gods approved of, that Zeus himself only issued to those deemed worthy – Harrison, Townsend, Weller. Every album, The Queen is Dead, Strangeways, all came with a new unique approach to his very own sound. A sound that no one has managed to copy. The Gods wouldn’t allow it. Only Johnny can do Johnny. Just pick up a guitar and play the opening chord to Heaven Knows I’m miserable now, no, better still…even though he wrote it on a Gibson, play it on a 12 string Ricky. Your loins will feel like they’ve been attended to by the angels…..now move down to the second chord. Is this bloke an alien? This is the nicest melodic music I’ve ever heard.

I once saw The The at the Kentish Town and Country Club, during the Mind Bomb tour, and Mr Marr was the guitarist. I took great pride for many years after The Smiths had called it a day, stating that I’d managed to see him live. Some had seen him guesting at gigs with others, but few saw him do a set. Our Sam, 16, once rang me screaming from a festival, and when the sound eventually became comprehensible, I could hear a crowd singing along to “There is a light that never goes out” as Johnny and his Modest Healers finished their set. Sam came home, saying that Arctic Monkeys were great, Foo Fighters were great, but his overall smile was because, and I quote, “Dad, I saw Johnny Marr”. I had taught him well, and the mantle had been passed.

So, imagine if you will, the slightly non rock n roll environment that is 7am on a Sunday morning, in WH Smith’s, Terminal 2 Manchester Airport. There are three people in the store. Me, Nikki, and a bloke with short dark hair and sunglasses, looking at the magazines. Nikki shouts across the aisle “They’ve got Carp Monthly here if you want it”. “No Duck, just Viz”. As I say Viz, the other bloke looks at me and smiles. Shit! You don’t half look like Johnny Marr. I’ll now give you a word for word account of the conversation….

“Nikki, that’s only Johnny Marr”

“Where? No its not!” (Man walks towards Nikki). “S’cuse me, are you Johnny?”

“Yeah. How are you?” “I’m great, we’ve always been big fans of yours, that’s my husband, but he’s a bit shy” (points to me).

“Hello, How are you?” He says, as he offers a handshake. It really is Johnny Marr, and I’m about to shake the hand that played This Charming Man, How soon is Now and The Beat(en) Generation. “Hi, you’re the reason I bought a Ricky”

“Oh wow, that’s great, what did you get?”. “I bought a 360 in 1989, a twelve string”. “Oh wow, that’s gotta be worth a bit now, did you get the black one”. “No the red sunburst, but it was a bastard to keep in tune”. “Yes they can be trouble. Do you still play it?”. “Not really no, I tend to pick up a Strat, but if Nikki would let me, I’d love one of your Jaguars”. “Mate, I’m going to sound like I’m a salesman, but the Jag is just a brilliant brilliant guitar… (turns to Nikki) bet you think were a right couple of nerds talking about guitars? Sorry!”. “No its OK, where you off to today?”. “I’m just going to New York for four days, where you going?”. “We’re off to Florida for a week. We’re going again in May, but we didn’t get any Christmas pressies, so thought lets just get a cheap week away”. “So you’re having a pre Florida holiday holiday? That’s amazing!”. “I bought your book last year, did it in a day, brilliant read”. “Thanks, that means a lot”. “Yep, got accused of being anti-social, but I really didn’t give a shit”. “Yes, he wouldn’t put it down!”.

I then extend a hand to bid farewell. “Any chance of a photo please Johnny?”. “Yeah, no problem”. At this point I’m aware that I’m shaking like a shitting dog. Photo taken. Then Mr Marr says, ” I know you’re not a 12 year old boy, but would you like a plectrum?”. He than hands me a plectrum. Used. The very plectrum that could have, the very night before, strummed Shakespeare’s Sister, Rusholme Ruffians or made Easy Money. He again offers a hand and bids us a safe trip.

I’ve just met Johnny fucking Marr! And he’s a rock star. He even looks like a rock star. Nikki said, “he wasn’t wearing a Primark jumper, he was proper rock n roll”. Well groomed, well cared for, and totally and utterly polite and friendly. It’s hard to explain how this moment, or moments, have made me smile. To Johnny, I was another fan after a selfie, but I’ve just met Johnny Marr, and I’m smiling hours later. Thanks Johnny.

Welcome to the January 2018 Blog for us Talbies. Well, two of us. Me and our Nikki. Wigans very own one liner, who has kept me sober and in tack for the last 32 years…and I’m still only 50. As previously mentioned, took this vacation after deciding to not get ourselves Christmas presents this year. We found that we were spending a couple of hundred quid on the same old shite we always get one another. So, instead, we decided to forego presents and get each other flights. So, as i type the word vacation, according to the map on the screen in front of me, were approaching the coast of Canada. Happy Christmas. We’ve coincided this trip with a flight crewed by Rebecca, Christan’s wife, and as luck would have it, Christan and their two lovely cherubs Rafe and Joe are sitting but four rows behind us. Rebecca has gone for her mid flight break, but not before shes plied us with Champers, JD, GnT and red wine. Christan looks like he’s taking a well earned five minutes, whilst his sons and heirs sleep off Auntie Nikki’s Fudge and chocolate breakfast combo.

Oh, and before i forget, Nikki’s drink tally so far has been……One pint of IPA, one glass of champagne, one large GnT, one half bottle of red, one more glass of champagne, then another, then another large GnT. Gotta go now, we’re about to board…

Only kidding of course, we boarded five minutes ago. Actually, 7 hours ago now. We’re just flying past New York, and there’s snow all around. Clear blue sky, and snow snow snow.

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