Martin Kettle’s Brass In Pocket.


Martin Kettle, laughing loudly, like an empty wallet, flushed, but not flush, and head of table, accepting a few Kronenbourg, raises his special birthday tankard, says thank you, all, and tells his Brass In Pocket story. We’d all heard it before, but it flowed from him, sounding a lot like lore to me. I have come to know it by heart and have ‘almost’ dined out on it several times over the years. Martin left Stoneyclough (‘Stony-clew’) for South Croydon (‘Croy-don’) in 1978. He was 21 and he had a notion of becoming a music journalist. He wore deadman charity. His hair then was an approximation of Steve Severin’s, but held a tinge, a nicotined inch, above his right eye, that mimicked the severe parting he sported on the left. He wore down, almost, the heels of his eight-holes, thumbing the M40. He grew the nails of his right hand, as guitar players do, and he thumbed the Situations Vacant. Martin rented a room above The Ship, which suited him, coming to know such characters as The Captain, Johnny Moped, Andy From Eater, Eddie Dalek and Woody ‘The Bad’ Actor. He ate his dinner at a table in a snug beside the bar and he was rosy cheeked and we loved the way he spoke the words; they rolled off the roof of his mouth. He talked a lot of rock and roll. He niched himself a part time slot doing something at the NME. It was here that he met Chrissie Pretender. Chrissie, formerly of Akron, Ohio, latterly of Clapham Junction, was an up and coming rock and roll guitarist and singer, and a Crystal Palace fan. Saturday mornings, she would take the 109 to Croydon, meeting Martin, The Captain, Johnny, Andy, Eddie, and occasionally, Woody, at The Ship, and they would head up the hill to Selhurst Park on the 157. If Woody came, he drove them there in his red Zodiac Consul. The week Brass In Pocket went to number 1, Woody picked everyone up and, after the game, he drove them down the hill again to The Duke of York, where they had a juke box and The Big Beer Band would rouse a matinee. At some point, inevitably, correctly, Brass In Pocket came on the juke box and, not needing much encouragement, Chrissie’s on the table, singing her heart out to her song. But, behind the bar, Graham, is having none of it. He is not keen on table dancers. He steps out from the bar and up to the table, fluttering a cloth. “Now, come on, love. Get down now. There’s a love.” He’s flicking the cloth at her denimed arse, and he’s saying, “Someone’s paid good money to listen to this. They don’t want you wailing over it. No one does. Now, come on, hop it! Come on… come on…”             

But Chrissie says she’s special.

[image: Crystal Palace Park boating lake. N Reeves]

6 thoughts on “Martin Kettle’s Brass In Pocket.

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