The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment, as told by session ace Mitch Dalton. This month: Nightmare On New Street!
We may talk of sweep picking. Of tritone substitution. We may even discuss two-handed tapping. We may also find ourselves at the business end of what life can hurl at us with the force of a Roy Keane tackle. With similarly terrifying consequences.
Not so long ago in the land of Birmingham, the citizens of that commune reopened their stunning Town Hall after years of restoration. And what better way to launch the inaugural concert than by booking me? Okay, I will concede that I was joined on stage by Grammy award winning, Downbeat Critics Poll winner and Blue Note recording artist Kurt Elling. And The BBC Big Band.
‘Twas a lovely day. The national motorway network decided to celebrate the event by very nearly functioning adequately. And the hat-trick was completed by my dropping off instruments and parking with ease in the adjacent multi-storey car park.
So, what’s not to like? I donned my tuxedo, essential attire for any radio broadcast, and emerged at around 10.30 pm, as close to happy as we jazz mortals ever are. A short stroll to the customary machine to make payment and I would soon be on my...er...what’s this?
“This machine does not accept credit cards”. Interesting. In the third millennium, in a semicivilised, connectivity obsessed society. Perhaps they do things differently here in Brum. At this point I could not help but observe a gentleman sporting the obligatory hi-vis jacket. Doubtless a highly valued employee, he exuded both an indolent air and an amused expression as he registered my disappointment. It was clear from his leer that he liked to derive his entertainment from this readily available source and had done so on many previous occasions.
Right. £15.60. No problemo. I extracted a pristine example of a £20 note from my wallet and... hang on... “This machine does not accept £20 notes.” I turned my head instinctively to see Hi-Vis Man staring at me. There was no mistaking that mocking grin. This was not about to turn out well.
“Excuse me. Would you be in a position to exchange this fine banknote for two £10 specimens?” “No!”“Righto. So how do I pay, retrieve my vehicle and exit your excellent establishment?” “You better get some tenners.” “A cogent analysis, if I may say so. And would you know the location of the nearest dispenser of such notes?” “Might be one in The Mailbox.”
“Ah. I know it well. A high-class shopping mall; a five-minute stroll and I shall return with the readies.” “Well, you better be quick. This car park closes at 11 sharp.”
“It is now 10.46. I calculate that I have a mere 14 minutes to effect our entire transaction.” “Couldn’t care less, mate. I’m locking up at 11.” And with that he was gone, leaving only his smirk behind. At this point, I performed my critically acclaimed Usain Bolt impression. I hurtled through Harvey Nichols in the fastest UK time indoors that year. Sadly, I discovered that the mall was midway through a major refurb and that the ATM was imprisoned behind sturdy wooden fences. Despite a cascade of perspiration that made The Mississippi look like an inconvenient puddle, I enquired politely in an adjacent shop masquerading as a temporary security office. “Yeah. There’s another one further down mate, by Tesco.” At this point I should tell you that the next morning I was due back at London’s BBC TV Centre at 10, there to take part in a light entertainment recording involving weather girls, soap opera folk and ex-boy band members as they disported themselves around a dance floor in strict time. You may even have seen it. My participation was beginning to look debatable. As was my career.
Eight minutes to go. I legged it in accordance with the directions provided and within 90 seconds found myself at my potential financial oasis. At the back of a queue of Friday night revellers. Already half drunk. Nothing for it. “Excuse me. This is an emergency.” I barged in, whacked in the card and...“This machine does not dispense £10 notes. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
Fear, panic and desperation are important emotions. And I was in possession of a lifetime’s supply.
Last throw of the dice. I dived into Tesco. Hurdled the shopping trolleys. Elbowed all before me. Rushed to the front of the check-out. “Hello. Here is a £20 note. Give me two 10s. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Oh, and ‘please’. NOW!” And that, to my astonishment, is precisely what the bemused young lady did. If you happen to be reading this, the offer of marriage still stands.
My sweat soaked body arrived back at multi-storey Hell in time to see my new best friend in the act of swinging the gate shut. With one bound I jammed my foot in the way, rammed money in his hand and greeted him with a comradely “Don’t even think of locking up or I won’t be responsible for what happens next. I mean it - MATE!”
That was the night I discovered I make a very passable psychopath when roused. My helpful hostage decided that it wasn’t worth taking the chance. I drove out of New Street NCP. I re-parked. I sat in my vehicle for half an hour, a gibbering wreck. A husk. A broken man. I started the car. I drove home slowly. Very slowly.
I gotta be honest. I am miffed that it didn’t make the Silly Season headlines. ‘Man Nearly Gets Locked In Birmingham Car Park’. Well, have you seen what actually makes the news in August?
the motorway network decided to celebrate the event by very nearly functioning adequately
Mitch becomes exasperated by the frustrations of the modern world