A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Odd One Out: Not The Sunken Box/Drunken Boat

2. Shamefully true. OK, so let's set the scene. It's the early 70s. In Frankfurt-am-Main, West Germany. At a little progressive-jazz club called Sinkkasten on the corner of Mainstrasse. Steps lead steeply down to a smoky cavern with a low, vaulted roof. There's a small stage at one end, a bar stretching down the side, and lots of circular tables crammed into the remaining space. The tables are crowded with huge, foaming jugs of lager. Young people are packed in everywhere - sitting round the tables and cross-legged on the floor, leaning against the bar. There's the sweet, resinous reek of cannabis in the air.

On stage is the virtuosic, free-jazz pianist Keith Tippett and his wife Julie Driscoll. (I think she was playing percussion.) There may have been 1 or 2 other musicians with them - I can't recall. (Do you remember Julie's haunting, psychedelic version of Dylan's This Wheel's On Fire?) In the interval I chat to them at the bar. At some point in the 2nd half a girl from the audience - tall, beautiful, stoned - walks gracefully and purposively onto the stage and embraces Keith. It's a magical moment. A moment, we tell each other, we'll remember for ever. We? Well, that's me, my mate Nigel, his mate Chowcat, and Dodo and Fido and others we'd met just minutes or hours before.

The rest of the evening is patchy, unclear, evanescent in my memory. I know I looked half-heartedly for Nigel - who went missing towards midnight. (The cleaners found him comatose in the toilets the next morning.) And I woke up on a bench next to a tram stop - wallet thankfully intact but clothes in disarray and fake army great-coat missing - just as the Frankfurt bankers and equity traders, drug dealers and prostitutes were about to begin their daily business...