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P o s i t i v e V i b r a t i o n s

A Brief(ish) Encounter

Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
Brockenhurst Station, 25/9/93

By Aidan Merritt

This ain't rock & roll -- this is trackside!

Of all the places to stage a gig, an almost totally unpublicised performance on the platform of a small railway station in the New Forest must be one of the odder options. The idea reeks of self-indulgence, and as soon as I heard of this gig I just felt sure that this would be either an embarrassing shambles or a tell-your-grandchildren Major Event on the scale of Bingo Hand Job.

I got there an hour early, and nobody else was about. I had a horrible feeling that I'd misread a date or something, and felt quite amazingly self-conscious, hanging about the station entrance getting peculiar looks from a guard. Eventually I met a few other fans and disappeared into the pub, coming out just in time for the start.

The whole atmosphere's very unreal; an audience of perhaps twenty people, roughly two-thirds of who were family & friends of the band and/or the management. Four tape recorders (your DAT machine's no good if you run out of tape now is it ha ha ha) taping the event for posterity. The band (Robyn, Andy, Morris & Sean, whom I'm told is someone Andy met while playing the music for Vic Reeves' Big Night Out) moping about on the platform; Robyn looks like someone you'd avoid after dark, Andy & Morris look dead cool lounging about in black sweatshirts and shades after the sun's set, and Sean alternates between looking manically eager and totally petrified.

The band plays a single hour-long set obviously, all acoustic seemingly unrehearsed. The songs we've come to expect from Respect all raise their heads -- "Driving Aloud", "Railway Shoes", "The Yip Song", as well as, for some reason, Perspex Island's three worst tracks: "Ride", "Birds In Perspex" and "Oceanside" which acoustically sound halfway decent but there's so much stuff in Robyn's back catalogue better suited to acoustic treatment ("Earthly Paradise", "Queen Of Eyes" & "Heaven" spring to mind) that I don't know why he bothers. We also get three covers, "Baby You're A Rich Man" and two others I can't put a name to (I think they're by Dylan & the Velvets -- can anyone help?). We also get, inevitably, "Kingdom Of Love", and the usual two Element Of Light tracks.

The whole thing is suitably surreal. Trains whoosh by whenever anyone launches into a particularly tricky bit. Sean doesn't know how to play "Somewhere Apart" and gets a crash course in ripping off riffs from John Lennon. (I still don't understand why he's suddenly materialised, when they've got on fine for nine years with just one guitarist.) Apart from "Airscape", which comes out sounding like Dire Straits tuning up (and Robyn did warn us beforehand that it would come out sounding naff) everything comes out sounding better than the electric versions, which is surely more than we could have hoped for.

So, after twelve songs the thing breaks up and the small crowd drifts off. Given that it was free, it would be rude to complain, but the fact is there was nothing to complain about. To be honest, it wasn't all that special -- Robyn's UK gigs last year were of a much higher standar, but even the low points were more than adequate. And it was great fun to be there. And it didn't rain.

This article originally appeared in issue 2 of Positive Vibrations, the Soft Boys/Robyn Hitchcock/Kimberley Rew magazine. It may be distributed freely but may not be sold except with permission of the author or publisher.

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