Thursday 29 May 2014

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round (Not Fast Enough)

I'm having a really miserable day so I thought I'd go into my rare storytelling mode, it's nothing to do with food, just me, but it always makes me smile / cringe a little. I'll take either.

As you may or may not know, in (what seems like) a past life I used to work in music. I was a fan of all sorts of genres and me having control of the office stereo was not something that some thought 'appropriate'. Read as: I didn't play the 'cool' stuff.

One of the really 'not cool' things that I used to listen to a lot was Abba. I love Abba. Now, this was before the success of Mama Mia on stage and screen, way before it was kind of 'cool' to like them.

There were no closeted feelings about Abba, I was a fan and pretty much anyone who had a conversation with me about music knew it. Which is where my story truly begins.

One evening whilst on my way home from work on a jam-packed bus my phone rang, it was someone who worked with one of the bands I did.

The conversation was as follows:

Band Dude: "Lee, James (that's not his real name) wants to sing S.O.S tonight"

Me: "Ooooh, that'll be cool"

BD: "Yeah, but no one here knows the lyrics to the verses"

(This was before widespread internet access let alone smartphones and this place had the type of mobile service which required you to stand on one leg on a countryside gate with your head tilted balancing on a hedgerow)

Me: "Okaaaaay"

BD: "You know them....."

Me: "Yeah course"

BD: "Can you recite them to me so I can write them down?"

(I'm on the top deck of a packed Routemaster bus at rush hour, surrounded by lots of smartly dressed office type people)

Me: "But I'm on a bus"

BD: "James really wants to sing it tonight"

(I liked James lots so my mere contribution of Abba lyrics was simply an offering to the music gods above. Yes this was going to be awkward, yes my fellow commuters would probably think I was slightly unhinged but for the love of music I would supply those deeply heartfelt lyrics on a packed bus in the middle of London)

Me: "Have you got a pen?"

BD: "Yep"

Me: "OK..........." *Whispers* "Where are those happy days, they seem so hard to find...."

*Phone silence*

Me: "Did you get that?"

BD: "Yeah, just writing it down..... go on"

Me: *Whispers* "I tried to reach for you, but you have closed your mind"

*Glances slightly to my right where there is a man sat next to me*

Me: *Whispers* "Whatever happened to our love?"


BD: "Yep"

Me: *Whispers* "I wish I understood"

BD: "yep"

Me: *Whispers as quietly as possible* "It used to be so nice, it used to be so good"

BD: "Was was that bit?"

Me: *Sighs, looks around awkwardly and whispers* "It used to be so nice, it used to be so good"

(By now I'm not sure I like James this much. I've got the left side of my head resting on the window, I'm slouched down as far as I can in my seat until there is no more leg room with the collar of my black leather jacket pulled up to hide the right side of my face. The vibe I was getting from the guy next to me was of pure fear.)

*Phone silence*

BD: "Okay"

Me: *Whispers like the tiniest thing I can think of, I know, a mouse* "So when you're near me.."

BD: *Cuts me off* "It's alright we've got the chorus"

Me: "Are you sure?"

BD: "Yeah, So when you're near me darling can't you hear me S. O. S. The love you gave me, nothing else can save me S. O. S. When you're gone How can I even try to go on? When you're gone Though I try how can I carry on?"

Me: "Great" *thinks thank !&%$ that I don't have to say that aloud*

(By this time the bus is out of central London and heading East meaning that the passenger number has thankfully dwindled somewhat but it's still busy. I think by this time I'm alone on the seat.)

BD: "Is there one more verse or more?"

*Thinks* *Sh&t, I don't know*

Me: "Hang on...."

*Quietly and quickly hums song while singing the lyrics in my head to get the answer*

Me: *Somewhat relieved* "One more"

BD: "Okay"

(At this stage I've totally forgotten the next line so I have to hum it aloud and sing the lyrics in my head again)

Me: *Softly speaks* "You seem so far away though you are standing near"


Me: *Softly* "You made me feel alive, but something died I fear"

(Several of the remaining passengers are looking at me at this stage and I think, this was a bloody hit you ignorant people, a hit! I'm not mad, it's S.O.S by Abba! I'm doing this for the fans! The FANS!)

Me: *Not really caring about the volume of my delivery* "I really tried to make it out, I wish I understood"


Me: "Got that? Last line coming"

BD: "Go for it"

Me: *Usual speaking tone* "What happened to our love, it used to be so good".......... Done!"

BD: "Thanks Lee, you're a star. I need to get these to James he's on in 10 minutes"

Me: "Have a great gig"

BD: "Will do, bye"

Me: "Bye"

I hadn't realised it at the time but as I ended the call the bus was approaching my stop so I had to get up and run down the stairs to make it. I'm thankful of this because there was an older woman sat on the other side of the bus a few seats ahead of me who had an increasingly concerned look on her face as I delivered the final lines of that song.

If I hadn't needed to get up when I did would she have said something about my apparent heartbreak? Given me some consoling words? I'm truly thankful that I never found out because I couldn't have played along, I would have had to give the honest answer; that my then encyclopedic knowledge of lyrics were required by a successful non jumpsuit wearing, testosterone fuelled band, somewhere in the quiet greenness of the West Country who wanted to sing S.O.S. by Abba.

I think the truth was and is stranger than what anyone who heard me must have thought.

It's been a while but here's some music, the song that evokes the memory of that very odd journey:

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