It was a damp, cold night, I believe in October of 1996. The Charing Cross road was busy, full of excited tourists and locals transiting on foot from one destination to another. Crowded buses pulled to a halt at the traffic lights, accompanied by the screech of several black cabs applying their brakes in unison. The wide opening of the Leicester Square underground was spewing hoards of seemingly endless amounts of people into the the heart of London’s West End. The air was chilly and damp, the smell of exhaust fumes and cigarettes lingered, the bright neon lights of take-aways and coffee shops inticing the bypassers like moths to a flame.
This was an ordinary night for such a populated city, but that night would hold a memory this 18 years old boy would cherish forever.
The previous year I had found myself homeless and by now I was growing accustomed to my daily life as a busker and surviver. The acoustic guitar and the clothes on my back were my worldly possessions, but I had a dream which I grasped on to, that kept me from being swallowed up by the cold nights, despair, lack of warm meals and the dangers of being young and naive in such an unwelcoming environment.
My goal was to learn to play guitar and sing for people. Listening to my music idols, Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel greatly inspired me to improve and better my abilities.
Sitting on the cold stone steps of the Wyndams Theatre, practising the song ‘A Hard Days Night’ of the Beatles, I was oblivious of the event that would shortly take place.
Inside the Wyndams Theatre in that precise moment, the actress Maggie Smith (now Dame Maggie Smith) was on stage performing her role in Edward Abee’s production ‘Three Tall Women’. In the audience, enjoying a evening out with his then wife Linda, was one my musical heroes… Paul McCartney (now Sir Paul McCartney)!
Meanwhile outside, still practising on the steps, I became distracted by a large black chauffuered car pulling up outside of the theatre’s main entrance.
Out of curiosity I stopped, swung my guitar over my back and approached the car, to discover that they were there to collect Paul McCartney, who was about to leave the venue in a few moments time. I couldn’t believe my luck and recognised that this would be a once in a lifetime chance to meet one of my idols in the business. The situation was not made public either so passers by were unaware as to what was about to happen. It was a perfect opportunity!
Time stood still as I waited. It seemed like an eternity. Then finally, it all happened in flash.
Two very large men in black suits and white shirts stepped out of the building on to the pavement, looked around cautiously and waited for a few seconds. Suddenly he appeared. Paul and his lovely wife Linda were making a dash for the already open car door. I nervously made his way towards the vehicle and called out to Paul and asked if he would mind signing an autograph. One of the security men instantly made a human wall before me stopping me dead in my tracks. In that moment I figured that was it, That I wouldn’t ever get this chance. A feeling of disapointment ran through me, but as I turned to walk away, I heard Paul’s familar voice say “It’s ok, leave him alone”.
The huge black and white human mountain that stood before him suddenly stepped aside and now I could now see Paul’s friendly smiling face, beckoning me over to the open car window. Paul took the paper and pen from my quivering hands and immediately signed it and returned it back to me asking “Well, are you gonna play me a tune then?”
I pulled my guitar from my back, and instantly knew which song I was going to perform…’A Hard Days Night’!
As I got to the first chorus Paul happily sang along as the car slowly pulled away from the curb. I took a few steps to follow the vehicle as Paul’s head was hanging out of the still open window looking back and singing along. “It’s been a hard days night, I should be sleeping like a log”
The Beatle disappeared into the night, but that memory stills remains in my head twenty years on. It had been a hard day, but this had definitely made my night!
The autograph I unfortunately lost somewhere in the streets as I had no home at the time to keep it safe. But I will never forget that incredible moment.
Thank you Sir Paul!