There was Twink, a man who happens to be a connecting link to many of my musical interests, who turned up one day in the early 1990s, with the initial aim of flogging me some stock from his own record label, but stopped back intermittently over the next couple of years as both supplier and customer. I'm sure I bored him to death with my fanboy questions about Tomorrow, Steve Peregrin Took and Syd Barrett, but he cheerfully indulged my enthusiasms, before gradually turning the subject back to pushing his latest Pinkwind or Hawkfairies release.
Then there was the day I looked across the shop to see a vaguely familiar face, looking down, browsing through the CD racks. It was one of those faces you somehow recognise, but was wildly out of context in the surroundings of my shop. Luckily the owner of the face made a purchase and paid by cheque, enabling me to confirm the identity of my unlikely customer. It was Walthamstow based psych-rocker and one time Countdown contestant, Nick Saloman, a.k.a. The Bevis Frond. Before I could strike up a conversation he was gone and so I don't know what brought him to my neck of the woods in general, or my shop in particular. He did, however, make an album with Twink back in 1990, so one assumes they were chums. Who knows, perhaps he checked out my gaff on Twink's recommendation?
In the mid-1980s, it seemed that every gig I went to in London was also attended by Andy Kershaw, he was everywhere. By the mid-1990s my omnipresent shadow at London shows had become Stewart Lee, whose musical tastes at the time clearly overlapped my own, judging by the sheer number of times I spotted him in audiences all over the city. In 1995 (or possibly '96) Lee and comedy partner Richard Herring brought their 'Fist of Fun' tour to a hall in my little town. It was an optimistic booking for a venue best known for its family variety shows, tribute acts and the occasional Irish country singer. On the afternoon of the show, Stewart Lee walked into my shop. 'Aha. Do you know....', I blurted out without thinking, '...you've been at practically every gig I've been to in London recently...' I'm not sure what the exact legal status of stalking was in the mid-1990s, but Lee would've been quite justified in expressing concern at my over-excited opening gambit. To his credit, however, he flicked through my stock for a few minutes, as we chatted about bands we'd seen and would like to see. Eventually he turned to me and, gesturing at my racks of LPs and CDs, said 'You've got some good stuff here', which was nice of him to say, but he didn't actually buy anything! The Fist of Fun show that evening was very funny indeed, but, as I feared, appallingly attended, perhaps 50 of us in a seated venue with a 900 capacity.
All that was in another lifetime and although I haven't crossed paths with Twink or Nick Saloman in the years since, I have continued to admire the work of Stewart Lee and a couple of evenings ago I caught a date on his latest stand-up tour, 'Much a-Stew About Nothing'. Unlike his previous live shows, which usually have a linking theme throughout, by necessity, 'Much a- Stew About Nothing' consists of four unrelated individual sections. The necessity arising when, soon after the BBC dropped his TV show 'Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle' after two series, the programme won a BAFTA, causing a swift (and, I would imagine, somewhat embarrassed) re-think. Two further series were belatedly commissioned by the Beeb and Lee has used this tour to knock the material, destined for Series 3, into shape, refining a rotating selection of half-hour set pieces over the past four months. On Saturday evening he was thought provoking and hilarious. Really hilarious. I'd love to elaborate, but you'll be able to see for yourself when the new series of 'Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle' airs in the Spring.