I first met Damian Clarke twenty-four years ago when his band, Pressgang, played a gig a couple of nights before they were off to play Cropredy Festival. I was also introduced to his nine-string Shergold guitar which gets a mention later in the book. Damian had had a long and varied career before that point and an even longer and more varied one afterwards when Pressgang decided to stop touring. He almost certainly has another book in him about life on the road with the band but for his first outing in print he turns his attention to Busking Business about which he knows a great deal. The book is part memoir, part how-to guide for aspiring young buskers. In it Damian talks about his business plan as a busker and if that seems odd for such a freewheeling profession remember that he’s very successful at it.
The book begins with him being arrested at Waterloo station for “soliciting alms”. His error was mistaking private property for a public area, a mistake he never made again and he also learned not to argue with authority, not that he’s the sort of man who would. He agreed it was a fair cop and didn’t offer to accompany the young PC to the police station, which was probably a good move. The Met are not known for their sense of humour. Thankfully, the charge was not pursued but those two lessons – know the rules and don’t argue with the law if you break then (inadvertently or otherwise) are at the heart of this guide.
Damian plays hurdy-gurdy and hammered dulcimer, instruments which provoke both interest and derision, and doesn’t use PA, so chapter 4 – busking etiquette is particularly important. His are intimate performances; he wants his audience to be close and hopes that what he is doing will have an effect on those listening. He also sells more CDs that way and this is how he makes most of his income as a musician. Busking Business is about a business plan, after all, but it’s also packed with anecdotes and stories, some illustrating the point of the chapter and others being more … diversionary. In later chapters he interviews other buskers, including former Pressgang member George Whitfield, discourses on the histories of his instruments and indulges in a few flights of fancy. One of the stories included in that chapter is true but it didn’t happen to Damian.
Each chapter is headed by the title of a song from an accompanying CD of covers, Covered4Cancer. Damian being charmingly eccentric, however, the chapters and the CD do not follow the same running order. The important point is that a portion of the profits from Busking Business will go to Shelter while the CD will raise money for cancer research and the Stroke Association. Damian is a man who puts his money where his mouth is but he also tells a good story.
Artist’s website: http://www.damianclarke.co.uk/
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk/
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