Friday, 26 September 2014

Archer Street

Back in the old days, my dad and his mates used to hang out on Archer Street , where the Musicians Union used to be, in the hope of getting work. I’d always imagined it as little knots of musicians dotted along the pavement . Then I saw a photograph which showed the street awash with men in pork-pie hats and Burton suits toting their instruments around like unemployed Mafiosi. It got so crowded and competitive, my dad said, that bands would have secret hand gestures to communicate across the crowd, sliding fist for a trombonist, flat hand, palm down, for a drummer, fluttering fingers for a cornet or a trumpet . That way you could stay friendly with your mates in the crowd even while undercutting them for a gig at the Savoy or the Café de Paris. My dad said you could have walked down Archer Street and assembled two full orchestras, a big band and still have enough bodies left for a couple of quartets.
Moon Over Soho

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