It was, when I actually think about it, a very odd experience. Brilliant because I got his autograph and exchanged a question with him. Sad because he chose to stop posing for pictures just as I was about to step up. Elating because this is a real rock hero and deflating because it was only an autograph and a moment.
Because like every other fan, I have this feeling that I am different to all the others. More important. Special. Something that separates me from the yelling morons with their faded Bad Reputation t-shirts. Something that makes me a bigger, better fan than anyone else. This isn't something limited to Thin Lizzy or even music. It's the same with everything that has fans. The football fans who claim to have been to thousands of games or the baseball fans in possession of certain baseballs. The fans of Certain Sci-Fi Films That Shall Remain Nameless who queued for tickets earlier than anyone else and saw it more times than anyone else. The Elvis fans who claim to have bought more over-priced tat than the others, the Marilyn Monroe fans who dress up. The Jim Morrison fans who make pilgrimage to Pere-Lachaise. The caravanners who have the biggest caravans or who've visited more sites. The hikers who walk further. The monarchists who own more tea towels or who have been in the hallowed presence of the most royals. The Buffy fans who can remember the most trivia. The Harry Potter fans who bitch loudest/know exactly what an Irish Phoenix is/wrote the OMGmostpopularficevar/I'll stop here cos of who I'm writing to right now.
You get the idea. Part of being a fan isn't just loving something/someone, it's about being seen to do so and being seen to do so more than anyone else. Rock fans are infamous for it. Remember Barry in High Fidelity? The guy who despises you for not knowing as much as him about music and tears you down for knowing as much/more. Fans are funny, funny people.
Part of this came to me while watching The Perfect Catch earlier, but most of this ran through my head on Friday, the Day After Meeting Scott Gorham. Now, I've met Philomena Lynott, Philip's mother. I've met Brian Robertson and I've met Eric Bell, two of the other guitarists. All in the space of one heady afternoon in which I realised a few things:
-There are many, many more Thin Lizzy fans than I ever really believed still existed.
-A lot of them are, outwardly at least, 'bigger' fans than I am. The woman with the tattoo of Philip's face on her arm. The guys who took their collections of Lizzy records to be signed. I realised there's actually a real community going on there.
-I am not even close to being as obsessed as a lot of other people, and I am of the opinion that love and obsession are not quite the same things.
-I also realised that I did not want to meet these people as a fan, I wanted much more to meet them on a more equal footing, as a fellow musician if possible. That I didn't want to just be a fan, grinning ridiculously into the camera as they stand beside me with a sort of strained grin on their face. I wanted to be able to converse with them on important subjects (music, obviously) and for them to be interested in what I had to say because they had some sort of respect for me in turn.
On Thursday, I met Scott Gorham. While fans of things may claim to never choose favourites, they always do. In Lizzy terms, the Prettiest Guitarist That Ever Was ranks below only Philip Lynott as far as I'm concerned. Not for being pretty, but for being consistently cool and decent in the face of overwhelming odds, for being willing to be 'the guy on the left' when the guy on the right was showboating his arse off. So it stands to reason that I should've been over the fucking moon to see him grasping my shiny purple notebook and asking how I spelled my name.
Sure, it was cool, but at the same time I was very 'blah'. Now as you know, I'm very blah about most things in the universe. Birth, life, death all flash past me with barely a quirk of an eyebrow. And although I rushed around a little trying to find a pen (he had his own) and trying to sort out my camera (fallen to the bottom of my bag)... I was remarkably cool in the face of Gorham. Then, as I stepped up to have my picture taken with him and he moved away...
And I didn't really mind. I mean sure, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't have that small proof of the moment, but I didn't really mind. Honestly, I'd just spent a couple of hours of my life squashed against an amp on the stage (still got a bit of ringing in my ears) staring up at him and John Sykes, ripping my throat out trying to hear myself screeching the lyrics along with them over the sound of said amp. He'd acknowledged me when he was on stage, smiled at me a couple of times. More than that, he'd played a great gig. Why the hell shouldn't he piss off? He had the decency to come over and talk to us despite the cold and slight rain. Some of the fans had been yelling at him to come over even after he'd waved that he going to come over. Smoe of them, from hearing them talk, had been at the show the nights before and had hung around outside then. Why should he waste his night talking to people he talked to the night before and the night before? Perhaps I'm still sane enough to have an inkling as to what it's like for him. John Sykes didn't bother doing anything but get into the car and get chauffeured away... and even that's not entirely unreasonable. They're human beings who get tired and pissed off and hungry and whatever it is you humans do.
More than that, I didn't like very much the feeling of hanging around outside the stage door. Mostly because I feel like I should be the one coming out of the stage door, but that's a different drama for another day. I felt alternately like a groupie (must've been the fact I was wearing a dress for once) or like an insane fan. I know it seems like it, but my entire life is not Thin Lizzy. My entire life may be rock and roll, but not just my boys. I would never buy a guitar just so it could get signed by Scott Gorham, even if it was a cheap Les Paul copy. The whole thing seemed wrong, somehow, somehow predatory. Perhaps it never used to be like this in the old days, but if anyone knows the old days are gone, it's me.
Do I yet make sense? While I can laugh and joke about having Scott Gorham's autograph, while I can feel glad that I've at least exchanged words with him, it's not really the point. Because I am different to all the other fans. I am special. I am not like all the other fans. I'm not saying that they should see it that way, but I don't want to be just another fan with a trophy autograph. I want to be a musician and have great conversations with my heroes. I want to see that my heroes are the same as me and yet also great. I was not disappointed by my hero, which is more than many heartbroken fans can say. He wasn't a bad guy. He was thoroughly cool to the gaggle of people there. He answered my question with the same evasive non-answer he always gives, and the same for everyone else. Can you blame him? He's been doing this since 1974 for Lizzy. He's been answering the same questions about Philip since 1986.
It must be the most infuriating thing to be a hero, or a legend, or a basic celebrity in many ways. In ways that riches do not make up for. We treat them like public property or like old friends, when they are neither. We know something of their lives, so we think we know them, when we do not. Knowing what a person eats for breakfast, having seen them come out of Starbucks or filling a car with petrol, or hearing them speak about their addiction/adultery/new movie does not give us any insight into their real selves. It just feels like it does. I don't know Scott Gorham any better than you know Jake/Tom/Heath/Whoever. Or in fact, any better than I know Jim Morrison or Errol Flynn or Philip Lynott or John Lennon. I have always known that the more I learn about these guys, the less I truly know them. I know enough to know that I don't know them at all. We are given fragments of their lives. Fragments that they let us see and which even when added all together do not create a true or full picture of a person.
This is something I know. I also know this: it is still possible to love them. Even when you're in possession of some of the bad fragments too. They are always distant and sometimes it's not a bad thing if we can accept it as the way it is.
It was cool to meet Scott Gorham, to share a few words with him. Should we meet again, it'll be cool. If he should recall "C L A R E, like the county" then I should likely be pleased as the proverbial Punch. But meeting Scott Gorham did not change my life. It did not bring stars falling from the sky, fairies were not resurrected, my heart did not stop. It was cool, but if you think it even compares to the way the music makes me feel... you have no concept of what it truly means to be a fan. Real fans? Proper ones? They know that it's the music that really counts. That while the people who made it are important, they still don't compare to the music.
So funnily enough, the concert itself was more elating than the moment Scott Gorham asked how I spell my name. God love you Scott, and your hair and the California drawl, but it was always the guitar I cared about.