Hannover

J.Brent©1993

This is where they're said to speak the "best" German, but most buskers know the place as "Hangover" which is where you have the best parties.

It was Saturday morning, and there was me (on acoustic piano), Jerrykins (on liktrik guitar), and Galfano from New York (on stand-up bass) getting ready to play the big pitch at the Möcke. This is the biggest and best street pitch in Hannover and we showed up at 9 am to start playing at 10.

At about 9:45 these people with a table and a bunch of books showed up and started setting up right behind us. There were at least eight or ten of them, and only three of us. Anyway we didn't own the street so we figured there was nothing we could do to stop them.

With our trio, we put the piano in the middle, and the other two guys on either side. I was the star of this show, in spite of the fact that I played with my back to the audience.

It was getting towards 10 o'clock, there was already a crowd forming and as I turned to begin playing the piano, I noticed that these "book people" behind us were unfurling a big red banner that ran the length of their table. And right in the middle of this red banner was a golden hammer and sickle. Fucking communists!

I didn't know what to do. Here we'd sat there for an hour to reserve the best pitch in town, and now we've got a bunch of commies pitching propaganda using US as a front to attract attention. Damn!

All three of us musicians were Americans and the last thing we needed was for some unscrupulous journalist to publish a photo of us playing for a communist rally!

And besides if you wanted to make big money on the streets of Hannover there was only one place to do it. I decided that one of us was going to have to go. It was them or us!

At this point about a hundred people had collected to see the pianist and crew. Well, everybody knows that the Germans are a nation of sheep, and so I decided to try my hand at a little old-fashioned rabble rousing.

I went to the middle of the circle, raised my hand in a dramatic gesture and shouted in my most authoritative voice "KOMMUNISTEN RAUS!" (Communists Get Out!). I had no idea what was going to happen, maybe the band of commies would begin disrupting our music or even get into a fistfight. I was scared.

Two or three people in the audience clapped. That gave me more confidence. I yelled "KOMMUNISTEN RAUS!" even louder than before and the whole crowd started clapping and booing. I'd won!

By the time I'd yelled "KOMMUNISTEN RAUS!" the third time, the whole crowd had taken up the chant "Kommunisten Raus Kommunisten Raus Kommunisten Raus Kommunisten Raus Kommunisten Raus!" clapping in rhythm and booing.

Those motherfuckers packed up their books and table so fast you'd have thought they were under seige. Ha, Ha, Ha!

As the commies ran off, I launched into some heavy duty boogie-woogie and the coins were flying in. We were on a roll, baby!

After the set, Jerrykins said to me "Man, I always knew you were crazy, but this takes the cake. You could have got us fucking killed!" Galfano looked at me like I was some kind of hero, and said in his New York accent "Dat wuz GREAT, ya shoulda seen da look on doze bastuds faces!"

When the set was finished, this guy walks up to us out of the dwindling edge, and says he wants us to play in his bar the next morning. The Germans have this tradition of "Frühschoppen". That is, on Sunday mornings they always do Brunch Jazz concerts, and he said to name our price.

We told him what we wanted and then he said he'd pay us 200 marks more. Not bad, eh? We'd really created an impression. The reason he was paying us the extra money was because his bar was in Hamelin, a couple of hours drive from Hangover. No problem, we'll be there, buddy.

That night we went to the university section of the town and played at least three or four bars around there. The brilliant thing about that part of town was that almost every bar around had its own piano, so we didn't have to schlepp the black and white toothed monster all over the show.

We ended up in one bar called the "Noten Kisten" where we were good friends with the boss, and he tried to kill us with gallons of schnapps. Jerry ended up going off to bed with the guy's sister (a little toad of a thing), while me and Galfano drunkenly snored ourselves unconscious in the back of the van.

In the morning we had to drive to Hamelin to be at the bar by 9:30 to get set up and playing by 10 am. We had to scream at the top of our lungs to get Jerrykins to get dressed and come down. On the road to Hamelin we were kidding him about fucking that ugly girl the night before, and he said that he was "only doing her a favor".

Some favor! Not to get off the subject, but a couple of months later I was sitting around at Jerry's girlfriend's place in Zurich when he gets a phone call. His girlfriend answered the telephone, passed it to him, and we both watched as his face went from red to green to white.

Jerry said "Hey, man. Let's go for a quick drink!" He was obviously shook up, and his girlfriend was giving him some strange questioning looks.

In the bar, Jerry breaks down "I can't believe it! The bitch is pregnant!" "Which one?" I ask. "You remember that night in Hangover, Jeff?" We'd had a million drunken nights in that town. And then he spells it out "The sister of that barman!" Oh, shit Jer, you really know how to pick 'em, don't you? He goes on with "How was I supposed to know that she wasn't on the pill?" etc, etc. Anyway, I never found out what happened in the end, all I know is that he told her not to call him again.

When we got to Hamelin, we had no trouble finding your man's bar. And he had a huge grand piano inside! Normally, on the street we always did the boogie set (the people's music), but in Hamelin we had a chance to play all the Jazz numbers that we'd jam in our spare time. Galfano was actually a classical guitarist, but he could play the hell out of the upright bass, too. We taught him all those showbiz tricks like spinning the bass around at the breaks and laying it down on the ground, etc. It was cool playing with the contrabass. The only problem was that it takes incredible force to plunk those big fat bass strings, and by the end of the tour Galfano's fingers were swollen up to the size of fucking cucumbers.

The man who ran the bar was chuffed beyond belief. He kept running around clapping his hands saying "It's so Funny, Funny, Funny!" By this he meant that it was "exceptionally enjoyable". This is a common mistake that Germans make. They think that because the word "fun" means "enjoyment" that by extension the word "funny" means "enjoyable". Anyway, he loved it, and told us that we were the best musicians that had ever played in his bar.

The people loved it too. And Jerry got picked up by some older woman who took him home for the afternoon. I wouldn't have fucked her (or the girl he'd screwed the night before), but that's his life, not mine.

He said he'd be back by 3 pm, and of course he was late. Galfano was crashed out in the back of the van recuperating from the night before in "Hangover".

And me? Well, I couldn't resist. I went and got my flute and walked up and down the streets of Hamelin playing pied piper. Not a rat in sight though.

 

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