Thursday, 5 January 2012
Day 5 – Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
This song is Gerry Rafferty’s masterpiece. It’s difficult to express how much I love this song. It transcends genres – even my dad liked it. And I’ve even seen the Foo Fighters perform it live on stage in Manchester a couple of years ago.
It is my favourite pop song of the 1970's and that is up against some stiff opposition.
The song is fixed in my mind because it was around at a time when I was changing from a meek little child into a bit of an arse, to be perfectly honest. I was at the age dreaded by parents – fifteen years old and full of hormones and wrath.
I didn’t even know why I was angry – actually I do know.
My school was a grammar school, the only one in Walsall. Some parents desperately wanted their kids to attend because it focussed on “excellence” and “academic achievement”. To qualify for a place, kids had to pass the 11+ exam – I did so with flying colours. If you failed, you had to sit an entrance exam.
It was an all boys’ school (which was a massive disappointment for me) and generally the kids who earned a place came from a more privileged background. I didn’t and it soon became a pain in the arse as kids took the piss out of me for coming from a working class background.
For three or four years, I took abuse from arseholes that called me names like “El Cheapo” and questioned my parents’ wealth, referring to them as “peasants”.
And then something snapped. It was an epiphany for me. I started lashing out at kids and teachers who questioned me. I fought with a bully and made sure he never picked on me again. I started finding myself in detention for calling teachers idiots and refusing to do as I was told.
I actually became a nasty little shit for a while, answering back parents, being very mouthy to teachers and intolerant of all forms of bullying, both verbal and physical. In fact, I started down the road to verbally abusing other kids with no provocation – heading down the road to actually becoming the kind of person I hated.
It was a period of my life when I spent more time in detention than not. I was one of an elite few students who was thrown out of assembly. At the time I was proud of that achievement – I’m not now.
I think I realised what I was becoming when I stepped over the line with my German teacher. He was a really nice guy, one of the teachers who made a real effort. The problem was he was deaf in one ear and he had a bit of a body odour problem – we used to call him Pongo.
I stupidly decided to test a theory I had been postulating – that he couldn’t hear if I screamed in his deaf ear. During the lesson, and urged on by other kids, I screamed at the top of my voice when he passed me, his deaf ear closest to me.
I screamed – “You STINK, Pongo!!”
My theory was partially proved to be correct because my scream was loud enough to echo all around the room, the noise bouncing off all walls and eventually resonating in his good ear. He turned around away from me, thinking that the noise had come from the other side of the class and shouted “WHO DID THAT??”
It was too much – I burst out laughing – and the rest of the class followed. It soon became clear who the culprit was and he turned to me. I expected him to be full of rage and steeled myself for yet another exchange with a teacher where I wouldn’t take any crap at all. I had my arrogant and defiant responses carefully prepared.
But he shocked me.
He wasn’t angry at all.
The look on his face was one of pain and disappointment. He genuinely looked upset. And I was gutted because I liked him.
I meekly said “It was me, sir,” and I got the detention I deserved. After the lesson I stayed behind and apologised. He told me it was okay and that I really ought to stop being an idiot. But I would still have to go to detention.
And I think that was the time I started to change back to being a nicer person. I still held onto the defiance and intolerance of bullies – I needed that – but I chose to use it as a weapon against those people, and not innocent folks like German teachers.
It’s bizarre that a song like Baker Street can evoke the memory of me being a total dickhead back from the depths of my mind – and I wouldn’t really like to associate it with that darkly rebellious period of my life.
Still, it’s good to know that the fifteen year old idiot who almost became a totally rebellious arsehole managed to realise that you get more out of life by being nice to folks.
So maybe the association isn’t so bad after all.