Back in 2001 when I was living in London, I had a job selling records and CDs at the infamous but sadly now-defunct Ray’s Jazz Shop.
I was out one night after work with my hilarious and talented friend/work-mate, Brandon Allen and after some hours of socializing and thirst-quenching, we found ourselves in Soho at midnight with a strong urge to play our saxophones. Against better judgement, we started to play an al fresco duet at the corner of Greek Street and Old Compton Street. Amidst a few protests from local residents shouting from their open windows, we had picked up a small captive audience.
We were winding down after playing a couple tunes when a slightly scruffy-looking man standing listening with his lady-friend asked her to hand him some money to give us. She gave him a 20 pound note and he approached us and tried to put it in the bell of one of our saxophones. He said, “You guys… You got THE SOUND. No, really. You got THE SOUND!” We were grateful for the generous offering but maybe a little dismissive of him. He said, “No, really! You got the sound! I know the sound when I hear it. I was asleep! I heard this sound coming through the open window and I woke my lady up and told her we had to come and check you guys out right away. I rolled right out of bed. Look, I’M NOT EVEN WEARING SOCKS!” “You probably think I’m just some crazy nutter, but I’m not. I’m a musician. I’m Joe Strummer. You guys have the sound!”
That sort of encounter would probably seem pretty normal to seasoned Londoners, but I’ll never forget it.