Around 20 years ago, I bought a Porsche. I had turned 50 that year, or perhaps the year before and you could probably put the purchasing decision down to a ‘mid-life crisis’. You see, after spending the best part of a decade performing and working throughout the United States the time had come for me to return to the UK. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston; all these great cities I had called home for a couple of months at a time. Settling down just long enough to make friends but not long enough to miss them when I left. My forties were spent drinking most nights in dive bars and restaurants, playing sax and having a great time of it.
Academic work that I had completed in the latter part of the 80s had given me the financial freedom to do as I wished, and I’d taken full advantage of this. Travelling the length and breadth of the States, playing music until the early hours, they were the most exciting years of my life. So, when the time came to return to the UK, for the benefits of a National Health Service and lower-risk of getting shot for crack, I was gripped with a melancholia that could only be moved by one thing: a beautiful car.
Owning a brand new sports car is the stuff of teenage fantasy. It is assumed that the need for such a status symbol diminishes over time, that a man grown wise over time will not hanker for such things at such a graceful age. That assumption is exactly that. At the age of 50, with my travelling days behind me, it occurred to me that the longer you hold these childish dreams intact, the more you yearn for them.
When I turned the ignition on my brand new Porsche 911 for the first time in 1996, all thoughts and memories of old age wilted away. I wasn’t 50 anymore. I was 26, tops, blasting down a country road with the top down, my sax in the back and Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street blasting through the cassette dock. That was 20 years ago.
For a good couple of years the Porsche had been making a few strange sounds, odd bits and pieces are falling off and the speakers have significantly lost power. All too soon, the old girl was starting to remind me of another relic that was falling apart. Something needed to change – so I took a recommendation from a friend and booked her into a Porsche Specialist. I never got my head around car mechanics, but these fellows apparently stocked the best Porsche spare parts in the country and were willing to fit them. The only catch? They were hundreds of miles away in Liverpool of all places.
It had been a while since the old girl had done so many miles, but I felt like we had it in us both to go the distance – so I booked her in and we set off early in the morning.
Liverpool was an old haunt of mine. I’d spent a few years playing up there during the 70s, when the town was just about recovering from Beatlemania. It had a fantastic selection of blues and jazz dives, with a welcoming open mic scene. As I cruised up North, with the sun dawning on the horizon, I wondered if that same friendly spirit still resided there.
Arriving in the city, I dropped my bags off at my first stop: The Hard Day’s Night Hotel. An expensive, tourist focused establishment, I had chosen the place because of its location more than anything. However, I must admit I was bowled over by the sheer volume of Beatle’s Memorabilia that they had crammed into that building. Guitars, outfits, posters, photos – if it was related to the Beatles in even the most tangential of ways, it was there.
After dragging myself away from all the gorgeous things, I drove the 911 over to Tech-9 for her makeover. Leaving her there with the friendly mechanic – I slung my sax over my shoulder and made my way over to Bold Street for a spot of busking. The pavements were surprisingly busy with shoppers, luckily I found some steps to sit on and jam out some tunes. I played through a few classics for an hour so – stopping when I’d scratched enough money together to buy a pint. There’s something so satisfying about paying for beer with busking money, all those little coins brought together thanks to your own enterprise and skill. Never has a pint tasted better.
Although it had me going for an hour or so, Liverpool still proved itself to be the friendly and vibrant city that I had known in my younger years. Save the demise of some of my old haunts, the spirit of Jazz was still alive and well – at least for that night. I played with a range of semi-pros, all of us old and enjoying our little return to the lime-light. I was so enriched by the evening that I had almost forgotten why I had travelled there to start with. Luckily the boys at Tech-9 called me up to remind me that my car would be ready in the morning.
The restoration was complete. The car gleamed, inside and out. When I turned the ignition, I felt like I was 26 all over again and, what’s more, they’d even fixed the speaker system. All I can say is, I’m glad I never replaced that tape deck: Baker Street has never sounded so sweet.