Open Air: All By Himself

Ernie: I’m a group.

Eric: All by yourself?

Ernie: No, no, no, there’s a group of us. There’s Sid and Dick. You haven’t met ’em, have you?

Eric: No, no.

Ernie (as their scriptwriters enter stage left): Well, this is Dick and this is Sid…

The Boom Oo Yata-Ta-Ta Sketch. (Still on YouTube - in black and white. Early days, eh?)

What’s the worst part of a rock concert? No, Bill, it’s not the bit between the beginning and the end. It’s when the singer goes off and then, one by one, the other band members relinquish their instruments and follow him offstage - usually to fortify themselves with a little liquid refreshment. And that’s when the drummer is left alone for what we’ve all been dreading: the drum solo…

I don’t care who it is: Mitch Mitchell or Max Weinberg, Albert Bouchard or Clem Burke - it’s never a good idea. It’s like a man sitting in a powerful car parked on his driveway, revving the engine in neutral, over and over again. He’s going nowhere. Why bother?

As we begin, it’s a pleasant day here in Piccadilly Gardens. The sky is bright enough, and the autumnal sunshine is casting shadows across the pedestrian precinct, like long fingers pointing towards the illuminated façades of the shops across the way. It’s busier than ever, with plenty of young people about; everyone seems to be taking advantage of the milder weather before the winter really gets going.

It’s just the three of us, today: Janette, Peter and myself. I’ve got everything set up, my companions have their tracts at the ready, so - hang on, my finger’s bleeding! I must have caught it on one of the hooks on a bungee cord. As I try to stem the flow, I hear a couple of drum rolls and a crashing of cymbals behind me. If that’s a group out to make some money by busking, then they’re a bit too close for comfort. As I bow my head for a brief prayer, the performance begins in earnest.

Well, I can work it into my introduction, with the obligatory nod to Eddie Cochran’s “Three Steps To Heaven”, and then on to “Seven Steps…” to that same destination. But the noise is now so loud that I wonder whether I’ll be heard at more than a few feet away. I turn the amplifier up a notch or two and carry on, as some electronic trills and frills are added to the commotion; but, for the most part, it’s just drums, drums and more drums…

And that’s the way it is for the rest of the afternoon. I get a shout of encouragement occasionally, and a catcall or two in the middle distance - but that’s all there is. No one stops to talk or to make a nuisance of themselves, and when I ask afterwards, it seems that neither Janette nor Peter had any meaningful encounters. However, the tracts went out in abundance, as usual.

Before we depart, I walk around the Air Quality Monitoring Station to take a look at what’s going on. It’s just a drummer, all by himself, with a full kit in front of him, still thrashing away like a madman, with half a dozen spectators looking on - perhaps wondering why he’s got his baseball cap on the wrong way round.

Back at the Bagel factory, I ask Peter if he could hear me in front of McDonald’s. Yes, he could. That’s good, and it’s a fair tribute to our little Roland amp, I’d say.

And that’s it! We will be out again next Wednesday, God willing - and without any unmusical accompaniment this time, we trust. Please pray for us, and for the call of the gospel to go out unhindered.

Every blessing!