Golden Earring

August 11, 2014

When I was a relatively young thing, my favourite hobby was getting down to the front at gigs of heavy metal bands, and standing as close as possible to the huge speaker stacks. Long-forgotten bands, like Girlschool, The Tygers of Pan-Tang, Diamond Head, Magnum and Saxon all tried to outdo each other through volume, and I lapped it up.

I saw a lot of bands. And then I ended up playing in a lot of bands, whose hallmark was also volume, rather than skill. It was all very rock ’n’ roll. Hearing loss? Never going to happen to me…

Ah, the inviolable stupidity of youth.

So now, of course, I’m actually quite deaf. For the last few years, I’ve avoided nightclubs (also, young people look at me oddly when I call them discoteques) as conversation is a trial, with too much aimless and uninformed nodding on my part. But things came to a head a couple of nights ago.

There were lots of senior journalists suddenly parachuted into Phnom Penh for the verdict at the Khmer Rouge trial. (Yay for Cambodian justice!) And, as journalists tend to, they all gathered for a drink or two at the local hacks’ watering hole. I was there, swapping jokes and stories with people, but noticed that I often had to get them to repeat themselves while I leaned in, waving an imaginary ear trumpet. But it was a warm and convivial night; at some point someone started breaking out rounds of tequila shots. It was fun.

At one point, I was introduced to a journalist from one of the world’s biggest newspapers. We smiled at each other. I was keen to make friends with him.

He appeared to nod towards my trusty canvas satchel, slung over my shoulder. “So, that’s where you keep your chocolate spanners, is it?” I thought I heard him say.

Trying hard not to look too confused, I replied: “Well, yes, on the whole, in a general sense,” desperately trying to buy time, while I worked out what he might have been smoking. He looked a bit confused too.

“But do you have the seven keys to the onyx mountain in there?” I nodded at him. “Oh yes, absolutely.”

“Toast, I often find, alphabet nozzle hippy airplane,” he said, animatedly. At which point I gave up. “Er, sorry, I’m afraid I’ve got to go.” I shook his hand again, and fled out into the night. I’ve still no idea what he might have been saying. But I wish I had.

I still don’t regret my early hi-volume music adventures though. It’s all rock ’n’ roll, right?