The Songwriter - Chapter 10
No Time To Spare
With my six string in the closet I sat inside my berth on board the Belfast to Heysham ferry . I had money in my pocket , a Mersey beat sound in my head and the promise of a good night sleep ahead . I remember the last crossing I had across the Irish Sea and wanted to get my heads down as soon as possible . As the ferry had left Belfast behind I rested my head on the pillow and drifted off to sleep .
When I opened my eyes , the ferry was preparing to dock at Heysham . I quickly got myself shaved and dressed. Although breakfast was rushed I felt revived and ready for the day ahead . I felt relieved to left the gunfire and fear behind in Belfast and felt excited about doing some busking on the streets of Liverpool . My first assault on Merseyside , home of the Fab four Cilla Black , Gerry and The Pacemakers ,Freddie and the dreamers , Everton and Liverpool football clubs and the magic of so many unknown people and place I had yet to see . I stood there on the car deck watching cars and trucks roll off the sea link ferry and drive away on to the dock ay Heysham . I made my way to the foot passenger disembarkation exit and walked the plank with my guitar and bag where a bus waited to bring people to Lime Street station in the heart of Liverpool . It wasn’t too long before I arrived there at Lime Street . It was still very early so I thought I would have a coffee before I started busking . I sat down in a bistro bar and watched some of the early morning activities passing by on the street . I decided to find a suitable spot where I could sing my songs so I finished my coffee and took a walk through Church Street , looking for a central position to stand . It was starting to get busy now as Saturday morning shoppers began to pound the pavement . it looked promising , there seemed to be thousands of people on the move. I set up in a Alleyway near Church that looked just right to cater my needs . I sat on a bench near a doorway with the right ingredients for busking . My first song was a cover of a Beatles song , followed by A Jimi Hendrix number . My voive was carried by the breeze all the way back to the pier . The city centre was buzzing with people but I picked up an unwelcome attitude from the passers by who seemed to resent me for busking in their City . In a half hour I could tell see busking in Church Alley was not going to work for me so I moved to the main drag and started busking . I stood for three hours singing my songs moving to Lord Street back again to Church Street Mall but every number I did was not welcome . My busking box remained empty except for the 20p coin that I placed there myself . I wasn’t going to let this welcome dampen my spirit so I kept playing and I wouldn’t keep quiet . This apathy was not going to get the better of me I started singing , Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover , but there was something in the way that wanted to put me under cover , . My busking heart said , never give up , never give in , never give out , stand you ground and keep singing and I did what my heart said on a Saturday afternoon in Liverpool shopping centre . Regardless of the snobbery, and cold faced robbery , I continued to bring my songs and music to those who passed me by as if I wasn’t there . I smiled at their angry faces and ignored their sneers and snarls and busked on until it was almost closing time .
In my mind I still had so much I wanted to do but not enough time to do it .I wanted to discover their connection with Liverpool from The Quarrymen to The Beatles , the places they played and stayed to the places the Fab wrote about like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields , As a songwriter I could understand the personal attachments to songs of the truth of their youth and the transition to their fame and who they became . I always wished I could have spoke to Paul McCartney and John Lennon about the formula behind their hits and how they were able to write so many brilliant songs one after the other . I wanted to sit in the places they played and imagine what it was like for them as a band from Liverpool starting out . Like ghosts of time I could close my eyes and see them all still there playing as a band to their local Liverpool fans . I needed time to discover The Beatles story but I had to give time to my own songs and I already had too much to do today .
As I sat there at a table near the door in this half a café . The other half was a music shop . A long legged , blonde haired girl who resembled a scrounging student came over to take my order .
‘”What can I get for you .“ She asked .
“A coffee and cake with a cheese sandwich please . How long would that take to make .“
She scribbled that down and replied .
“A week or two if you have time to wait .” she replied .
“Well the thing is I really don’t have any time to wait but I might pass the time by writing a song and then it won’t seem that long .“
She smiled and said : .
“So you play the guitar then?
‘” Yeah , I spend my days writing songs and singing them on the street..”
I answered . She smiled and stood there with a notepad and a pencil in her hand as . Her blonde curls fell all over her face and she seemed intrigued .
“Why don’t you put a band together and play your songs in the pubs ? She asked .
I said ,
“Well there’s not enough time to spare when you’re writing songs to also be performing songs . That’s why I’ve dedicated my time to just writing. So do you spend your time in café’s or is there something else you do .“
She laughed and replied ,
“No I pass three mornings in a classroom . I’m a student and the money I earn here helps me to pay the bills.”
A song began to drift through my head and I said ,
“Could I have a few pages from your notepad there ”.
She tore off a few of the blank pages and said ,
“There you are , why ?”
“Well I’m writing a new telephone directory of Liverpool and I was wondering if I could I have your phone number ?“
She laughed and answered .
“Would you believe me if I told you I don’t have a phone .“
“I believe you , why would you lie to me ?“ I said with a smile .
This punk nearby started to make some noise about the lack of service in the café and the staff who didn’t have time to take orders . He really did have an attitude problem. The young waitress walked away with a sad face as the punk continued to kick and scream demanding for some service . This face of this lovely Liverpool lass had left me but not broken hearted . In the buskers eyes there are so many faces that are unforgettable. There are many things a busker never forgets .
I started to write down the lyrics of a song entitled Lucky Its Not Raining – I had the melody in my head that helped me with the meter of the words for the song . Sometimes I would hear the melody first , other times I would get the lyrics come first but whichever way the song would come to me I was always grateful for the gift .
Lucky Its Not Raining
By Paul McCann
On my own miles from home, without a friend to call my own
I owe the rent and owe the bank but what’s the use to moan .
Lucky its not raining when I’m on the corner busking
Lucky it’s not raining cause I’ve got some songs to sing
Weeks without a bite to eat makes it hard to walk the street
Busking’s all that I can do to somehow help me make ends meet.
Lucky its not raining when I’m on the corner busking
Lucky it’s not raining, I’ve got some songs to sing
My eyes are burning in my head .My legs they feel just like lead
Living on fresh air’s ok But I’d rather have some bread.
Lucky its not raining when I’m on the corner busking
Lucky it’s not raining, Cause I’ve got some songs to sing .
I paid the bill and left the café with the new song I my head . Walked around the twon and was so amazed at the colour of characters in Liverpool , there were freaks in drag standing around and hippies with flowers in the hair and beads around their neck . I saw some Teddy Boys with black leather jackets , some gays wearing pink frocks and gothics in purple smocks , skin heads in bopper boots , business men in their topper hats . All around the town were posters of rock and roll legends and movie stars . It was like a sprinkle of Hollywood has fallen over the city .
It was closing time I town now and I had forgot completely about finding a place to stay . Every where I enquired thy were fully booked and now I realised that maybe tonight I would have to sleep out somewhere , anywhere , as long as it was dry and safe . I made my way back to Lime Street Station to leave my bag and guitar in the left luggage there for safe keeping .
Then I thought if God could ever do me a favour maybe now was the time so I walked up the hill at Mount Pleasant in the pouring rain and went inside the Cathedral of Christ The King and got down on my knees and began to pray . I was about half way through a hail Mary when a bad excuse for a cleric tapped me on my rain soaked shoulder and said ,
“Hey you’re not allowed to be in this seat . These rows are all reserved . Would you mind moving somewhere else ?”
I looked up into his red face My voice and thoughts changed from reverence to anger and I responded ,
“ Listen I’m just saying a few prayers in here and as far as I’m concerned this seat is reserved for no one except for those who come to pray.” .
He started to argue the point , so I got up and walked away from the row of empty reserved seats and stormed out of the building grabbing a parish bulletin on the way out the door . I thought to myself who the hell does he think he is and what gives him the right to say who sits where in a house of prayer . It just so happened I spotted an Irish Club nearby so I went inside and took a seat and watched the Irish dancing competition that was on show . I spoke to a few of the people who where in there to distract my ill feelings towards what had happened earlier on . I asked to speak to the management of the Irish club with the thought of playing some of my songs there but it seems that they had no time to spare and even had the decency to leave me alone waiting for an hour or more . I ended up walking out the door of the club and found a cold night for company at the Liverpool pier . It was such a long night and what a night it was .I amused myself with the blues harp in my top pocket where it always lived . I played the lonely notes of a blues melody I was approached by a young lad who sat down beside me , I was actually glad of the company but wondered what on earth would anyone be doing up at this time of the night in the waiting room at Liverpool pier . I’m sure he was wondering the same thing as me . I guessed that my blues harmonica must have drawn him to me . Then he stood up in front of me and said ,
“Have you got a light ?”
He produced a very large joint of grass so I took out my cigarette lighter and lit it up for him . He stood there reefing away at it as the wind roared in from the Irish sea through a broken in the waiting room . The tattered strands of his hair blew all around his face with the smoke from his joint wafting away towards the city streets .
I kept on playing the blues harp and he started asking questions .
”What’s somebody like you doing here alone in this place ?”
I answered him with exactly the same question and he replied ,
“I like to come down here at night when no ones around to escape the crazy side of the life in the city . It’s a rat race out there you know . Here its peaceful :
He sucked on his joint .
“ Yeah I guess it is “ I said and he answered .
‘See you later then . “
He descended back down the stairs of the waiting room into the car park . I heard a car start up and then drive away . I got up and walked through the waiting room from one end to the other .
I spotted a change room there on the wharf so I went to have a look . Inside the change room was a table and chair . There was a coat hanging up from a nail in the wall . I felt like taking the coat , it looked warm . I felt like staying in their for a while but decided not to hang around too long just in case someone might see me and then I’d be arrested for trespassing . I walked back to the pier that was floating underneath me and I was swaying from side to side as I walked along it .
When I returned to the waiting room I noticed a large cardboard box sitting there and thought to myself a gift from God . Somewhere warm out of the cold wind so I went over and opened up the box . Yes it was a miracle , I had found two hundred and fifty pounds and a note that was written in large block letters . It said ,
“Please find here some money . I’ve just spent three weeks living in this cardboard box . Now I’ve found a job and a house to live in . I hope this money will bring you good luck and it will help you to find a place to live and not sleep out like I did in a cardboard box. “
I took the money and made my way from the pier as the sun peeped up in the sky and whispered to the world , it’s a new day .
I smiled at my good fortune and walked into town . I saw a taxi drivers hut there . where hot coffee and morning newspapers were on sale and started to feel the warmth slowly return to my numb fingers again . As the morning went on I collected my stuff from left luggage and made my way up Mount Pleasant to the YMCA and booked a room for the night then returned to the city centre to do some busking around the walkways and corners , alleyways and doorways in the hope of weakening some of their hard hearts with my music . I found most port cities like Belfast and Liverpool are not that open to welcome buskers . The people there have no time to spare to stop and listen or to give any appreciation for the busker standing there . I started again singing and hoping to win the heart of Liverpudleon’s but I started to realised it was an impossible task . In the end I decided to leave well enough alone . I had spent enough time in Liverpool sharing my songs and I started to set my sights on London once again . I booked a bus ticket to London and took a few days rest sight seeing just being a tourist in Liverpool before I left . I booked a room at the Shaftesbury Hotel and spend the rest of my time there getting my thoughts together and it wasn’t the leaving of Liverpool that worried me , it was the grieving of what lay ahead in London . I still had a bank of money left for the journey but I was aware that London had the abilty to burn all the spare money from your pocket . My time in Liverpool was running out and the last day I went to the Cannon cinema in Lime Street and saw a movie that made me feel even more depressed that when I went in . I went to an underground disco on the last night where I had a few drinks with people I didn’t know and we spoke about things like music and far away places that no one has ever heard of or seen .
The next day I stood waiting with my bag and guitar for the bus . Mercy mercy Merseyside it was just a brief hello and now it’s time to go . Lord have mercy on me I said as I got on board the National express bus bound for London .
End Of Chapter 10
Link to Chapter 11