Small talk is for time wasters.

How many times have you bumped into someone from yesteryear and had this conversation;

“Hey, alright mate!”
“Hello mate! How’re you?!”
“Not bad, not bad, you!?”
“Yeah, yeah not too bad”
“Good good! What you been up to!?”
“Not much mate, not much. You?!”
“Na, not much”

(silence)

“Well, it was GREAT to see you!”
“And you mate, we gotta meet up sometime!”
“Yeah, we’ll do it”

Life is short (I’ve done the maths.) Wouldn’t it be great if you could know all you really need to know about a person in just from 13 questions!? Well, you can’t but here’s as close as I got…
Feel free to use this on your mates, on dates and for a laugh at interviews (at that end bit when they ask you if you have any questions)…

SUBJECT = ALAN CLAYSON // JOURNALIST // AUTHOR // MUSICIAN 

Dogs or Cats?
I used to have guinea pigs the way some people have mice. They were free-range and my two cats were very protective of them.

Superhero or Villain?
I grew up as a misfit in a country town where the distance to Swinging London was measurable in years as much as miles. Perhaps because of my infallible and lifelong gift for winding people up, I was never regarded as a ‘good bloke’ – and there always appeared to be various combinations of local hard cases with a grievance against me, requiring repeated demands for satisfaction anew. Some, however, had to bite back on near-apoplexy when warned off by tougher guys who had a soft spot for me. To them, I was inclined to be someone to be laughed at rather than beaten up. They amused themselves by getting me to talk. Maybe it was the way I told ’em.

Introvert or Extrovert?
You may think I’m lying through my teeth, but I hate being conspicuous, except in an ‘official’ capacity, notably as a stage performer.

Snow or Sun?
It depends on where I am.  If landlocked, any weather is OK apart from hot sunshine – because it exacerbates a yearning for the sea.

Limos or VW Camper?
I didn’t pass my driving test until I was 32 – and even then, I qualified only for an automatic licence, lacking as I do the hand-and-foot co-ordination for a geared vehicle.  I tend, therefore, to prefer being driven – as I have been twice in a limousine: once for publicity reasons from about half-a-mile to the stage door of a theatre where Clayson and the Argonauts were to appear, and another when driven in one round New York by mistake.  Details will have to wait for my autobiography.

Lust or Love?
The principal reason why I formed my first group in 1965 was that I’d bought into what was largely a myth about a kind of droit de seigneur that prevailed if you were a pop star, a licence to make eye contact with girls in the crowd in front of the stage, ogling with unmaidenly eagerness the enigma of untouchable boys-next-door. During an intermission, a tryst could be sealed with a beatific smile, a flood of libido and an ‘All right then. I’ll see you later.’
Like most teenage would –be rock musicians, therefore, I was motivated chiefly by self-love and sex – particularly with the realisation that girls didn’t go all the way only because they truly loved you.

Fantasy or Reality?
A good half of my life is spent in a world of imagination. How else could I cope?

Left Wing or Right Wing?
Other than about animal rights, I’m cautious with regard to making doctrinal statements, chiefly because they can reveal ignorance, even naivety. Allusions to current affairs were rare in my compositions.  Besides, the difficulty with topical ditties is this: what becomes of them when they are no longer topical or the topic gets tedious?

Religious or Non-Religious?
No-one – not the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama or the chief of the Fire Brigade – knows what’s going to happen in the afterlife (if there is one). I lost my Anglican faith quite painlessly when enduring enough Church to last a lifetime while living under my parents’ roof. Nothing has ever bored or depressed me so much, what with the changeless and, to me, meaningless rituals; the mind-stultifying psalms, canticles, responses, apostles’ creeds, readings and catechisms; the whine of the organ, and the vicar sermonising at an instinctively right-wing flock that, like him, were not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under the table of One whose property, so fawns The Book of Common Prayer, is always to have mercy. Were the rafter-raising votes of confidence and thanks to the Lord each Sunday to assuage His inferiority complex, to quench His restless thirst for praise or a stockpiling of spiritual ammunition for the defence when the worshippers’ cases came up in the hereafter?

Money or Fame?
A combination of drudgery in a grammar school C-stream and a middle-class upbringing centred on the Church awoke in my adolescent self a wish to have been born five years earlier with a destiny as a 1960s pop star. Diversifying into other artistic realms, I would arrive at the gateway of the next century with all of my hair still on my head, more money than sense, and loaded with all manner of honours that I’d accepted with a becoming modesty. My pain-free lifestyle and good works would be sustained into old age as much by income and acclaim for my latest ground-breaking masterpiece as the repackagings of classics I’d recorded decades earlier.

Optimist or Cynic?
Nothing ever turns out either as good or as bad as you expect.

Live Fast Die Young or Old Age?
Two years ago, I attended a concert by ninety-year-old Charles Aznavour, who wasn’t merely ‘marvellous for his age’ but marvellous in absolute terms. When he finished, ear-stinging decibels of foot-stomping ovation only fizzled out a full ten minutes after the play-out – by which time, the great chansonnier’s limo was probably halfway back to the hotel. Certainly, I doubt if he had to help load the van afterwards.

The Future or The Past?
There might be too little of the future left.  If I encountered my younger self, I’m not sure if I’d offer advice or attempt to steal his ideas.

Who is the coolest person alive?
Either of my sons.

Favourite lyric of yours?
At present, a song fresh off the assembly-line called ‘Dust Devil.’

Guy Fawkes, saint or scum?
A vehicle of chaos.

If you could go back and be any age, what age would you be?
Aged twelve in 1963 when British beat was leaving the runway. That’s when I understood that, beyond daydreams, it was possible to do something extraordinary.

Put these in order (best to worst):  Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Bonfire Night, New Years, Easter, Pancake Day, Birthday, St. Georges Day…
Dunno – except Halloween, a licence for people to behave like extortionists, would be last.

Best decade of the 20th century?
It might have been the 1960s had I not been living among folk for whom an element of suppressed envy translated into the bitterest priggishness?

Is the world getting better or worse?
Whenever I come across an old ‘friend’ by chance after half a lifetime apart, there’s a temptation to exude success, solvency, rude health and splendid certainty about everything I’ve ever said or done. Any given world leader has a similar attitude about his/her own policies – while endeavouring to hold at arm’s length their more gothic aspects.

The most defining event in your life so far?
One of them is contained in the answer to ’If you could go back and be any age, what age would you be?’.

The most important thing to you?
Breathing.

Who is the most beautiful person you’ve ever known?
She knows who she is.

What will be your funeral song?
The instrumental pavane by an anonymous composer on side one of  Mediaeval Instrumental Music (Oryx, ORYX 1509, 1964).
Alan has written books on The Beatles and The Yardbirds to name but two, and also written often these past decades in respected outlets such as The Guardian, Mojo and The Independent.

His band, Clayson & The Argonauts are still playing around too, have a gander at what they’re up to on Alan’s website www.alanclayson.com. Have a look at his Wiki page too to find some nuggets of gold wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Clayson. May I also strongly urge you to watch “The Human Riff”, a massively in-depth documentary about Keith Richards, in which Alan splendidly offers his anecdotes,  knowledge and fabulously phrased opinions on quite possibly the coolest man alive – outstanding stuff.

Joe Capaldi

@garageflowerss