Sunday, 22 March 2015

Drum Boy John

A guest blog by Dennis Rainbow.

The first time I met Drum Boy John was on the school bus. I'd got on and, as usual, most of the seats were taken. I walked down the aisle and ended up standing next to a lad I'd not seen before. He was sitting on a double seat with a snare drum next to him. He looked up at me, and, although I wasn't bothered if I stood or sat for the short journey, he moved the drum and I sat down. We didn't say a word, but I watched him after we got off. He put on his headphones, pressed 'Play' on his Walkman, picked up his drum with a strap attached that he slung round his neck, took some sticks from his waist band and walked off, beating out a rhythm as if he was playing in a marching band.

The next morning I got on the bus and walked towards him. As I did so, he again moved his drum and I sat down. He'd been the talk of the school the previous day. The weird new boy with the drum. He'd walked down town at dinner break playing abstract beats and done the same again at home time.

'What music you into?' he'd said that morning.
'Bowie, the Postcard stuff - Aztec Camera, Josef K, Orange Juice,' I'd replied. 'What about you?'
'The Skids,' he'd said.

After a couple of weeks, I asked him.
'Why do you walk around with that drum?'
He gave me a sidewards glance, shrugged his shoulders.
'No reason.'

I started hanging around with him at breaks, after school and at weekends. Most people still thought he was a freak but, gradually, we both got a bit of attention. A couple of the cool girls - the girls who wore dark eyeliner and listened to Bauhaus and the Cocteaus - started to knock around with us. I made one a mix tape with stuff like 'Walk Out To Winter' and 'Fantastic Voyage' on it. John generally ignored them both.

That summer was brilliant. Jobless, we spent most days together. I saved my birthday money and bought a drum. We both got jackets from Oxfam like the ones on Sgt. Pepper's, and John copied me a cassette for my Walkman. In perfect synchronicity we'd march up and down the beach, past bewildered holiday makers, drumming and laughing.

The first day back, I took my drum on the bus and sat next to John. We were in a new class that year - 4U- and, as we walked down the corridor, we heard a familiar sound. Darren Johnson was stood in front of the class, laughing and drumming. He was one of the popular lads. The sort that had proper girlfriends, wore skinny ties, white socks, Adidas Sambas. Listened to U2. He wasn't taking the piss. It was as if drumming was cool.

The next morning, I sat next to John.
'Why you not brought your drum?' I asked.
He gave me a sidewards glance, shrugged his shoulders.
'No reason.'

The next morning, he wasn't on the bus at all.
Our form teacher told us that John and his family had moved away.
I don't know if he took his drum with him.

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