There was a kid at my secondary school called, I don’t know, Spud*. In the early years of school he was just known as Weird Spud but by the time I was 14 he was well on the road towards Art College. He started a band, spent most of his time hanging out with kids older than us and was the first person I knew to announce that he didn’t like Nirvana any more because they had sold out. One of the proto-emo crowd, Spud always had ink-covered hands, a ripped sweater and a slightly agitated demeanour.
He was a top student in Art class and did well in English but Music was his thing. I can’t remember ever walking into his room at school and not seeing his huge purple biography of Jimi Hendrix somewhere on his desk. After every exeat (a designated weekend when the school got a break and our parents had to look after us) he’d return with a fist full of cd’s by bands you’d never heard of and instruct anyone who’d listen on the latest movers and shakers in the indy music scene.
One Sunday night during my 5th year, I was in the communal kitchen making a fried egg sandwich when Spud came in with a bunch of acolytes from the year below us in tow. He was going on about a great gig he went to at a bar on Saturday night. I don’t remember who the band was but I do remember that most of the story revolved around how he’d fooled the bouncers with a fake ID rather than talking about the musical performance. He then went on to lecture on the subject of what we should be listening to, proving to his court how cool and ahead of the mainstream he was my naming three obscure bands (I’m pretty sure Kula Shaker was one of them). The egg was cooked so I assembled my sandwich and left but something nagged me about the bands Spud had highlighted as ‘ones to watch’.
It wasn’t until post-sarnie that I realized I’d heard John Peel mention exactly the same three bands, in the same order, on Saturday night. Not only was Spud recycling Peel’s wisdom but if he had heard it on the radio the night before, then there wasn’t anyway he was at a gig running rings around a bouncer with his fake ID.
I didn’t ever challenge Spud with my Poirot-like deductions but I did stop treating him as the resident expert on all things musical.
Spud was last seen on the streets of Cheltenham, a couple of years after I left school, sleeping at a bus stop. I can’t confirm if he was homeless or just waiting for a bus. With those indy types, the line between unwashed chic and vagrant becomes kind of blurry.
*Definitely not his real name