Saturday, March 26, 2011

Foolishness and falsification

I was minded to mark the 1st of April with an apposite blog post, all the more because I finally located my scan of an old French greeting card marking the occasion. But most of all because this year the date has a special significance. Exactly forty years ago I departed from Great Britain, never again to be resident on the soil of the land whose passport I hold.

That means that for four decades I have been a fake Brit, I suppose, and that after only a single decade of my adult life actually domiciled in the United Kingdom. My good fortune was that the decade in question was the swinging sixties.

It has often amused my hearers when I have maintained quite accurately that my decision to leave coincided with that of the Rolling Stones who opted for tax exile at roughly the same time. They were seeking to protect their incomes whereas I was simply seeking the next adventure that life might offer.

My telling of all this gained immeasurably in anecdotal value, in Zeitgeist expressivity, as I recounted my last day in London.

I had packed my suitcases and deposited them in the left-luggage at Victoria Station. There on the evening of the 31st of March I would board the Night Sleeper train which would take me to Paris.

But during that day I would spend most of my time at the Marquee Jazz Club in Soho. This was a venue where any activity in daytime was out of the ordinary. For years I had been often at the Marquee in the evenings, since bands I was involved with as press agent played residencies there.

On that day, however, the gig was unusual. My recollection is that it was an American television project, the taping of a special performance by none other than the Rolling Stones who had made one of their first appearances ever at the Marquee in 1962.

Rehearsals for the cameras would take place during the hours of the day when musicians were customarily wont to be sleeping off the night before. I would, of course, miss the final performance since I would have to slip away in time to catch my train. But what a fitting way to spend my final hours in London, immersed in a scene which I knew even at the time was somehow very special. 'Satisfaction' ringing in my ears as a kind of anthemic postlude voluntary.

So I have been telling the story for years. And thus it was that yesterday I decided to do some research.

Yes, the Rolling Stones played the Marquee for the television cameras and a small invited audience but on the 26th of March 1971. And, yes, I was there.

So did I take my train across the English Channel on the evening of the 26th? I cannot find a stamp in the passport I held at the time to give me a clue. Or did I in fact stay another six days in London and travel in time to get to Paris on April Fool's Day? No idea!

Maybe I did travel on the 26th. Maybe I just embroidered the story by eliding the best part of a valedictory week, in a crass falsification of memory to give my story a better pointe. On the other hand they do say, after all, that if you claim a clear recollection of the events of the sixties you certainly weren't there!

But then it was all forty years ago, give or take a few days.

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