1.The tube original
Upon entering the London Underground of 2015, a time traveller from 40 years ago might be awestruck by our partial disabled access, cowed by Oyster card readers and worship the Jubilee Line as a sort of god. But they’d be familiar with the busking, since the majority of today’s performers are shaggy-haired blokes bashing out ‘All Along the Watchtower’. More advanced ‘originals’ may have an Oasis song in their repertoire, but essentially the last two decades of musical history are dead to them. And you know, that’s all right. Even TfL’s endless rules and regulations haven’t gentrified our buskers.
2. The flange legend
Did his longsuffering wife ban him from deploying his arsenal of expensive FX pedals in the home? Or is he just so delighted by the cathedral-like reverb he can tease from his ‘axe’ that he has to share it? Either way, he is so walled in by amps and pedals, so lost in his shred rendition of ‘Comfortably Numb’, that you know he’s not there to make money. A scratch of the chin as he layers on the flange effect or an admiring nod at his Big Muff is all he needs.
3. The ‘Baker Street’ wanker
From John Coltrane to Colin Stetson, the saxophone is a wondrously versatile and beguiling instrument. So why is it inevitable that every busker with one will feel obliged to play Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 AOR smash ‘Baker Street’ three times an hour? If this sounds a little bitter, then yes: one of these tools used to ply his trade outside Time Out Towers, and yes, we are still very angry about it.
4. The nice young classical musician
Fresh-faced, smart, clad in evening wear and found in small ensembles often featuring actual human females (a busking rarity), the well-groomed cello or violin player is the most confusing species of busker. Are they minted? Are they penniless students? And how can you tell if they’re any good or not? Will they play the song off the carpet advert? Hopefully they’ll play the song off the carpet advert.
5 The beatboxer
Beatboxing: it’s just some twit doing an impression of a drum, isn’t it? Still, unlike other buskers, the strictly above-ground beatboxers are aware that they get more money when they chat to their audience and put on a bit of show. Imagine if they just stood in a corner pretending to be a snare. That’s not busking, that’s a breakdown. For many tourists, a beatboxer may be the friendliest Londoner they meet during their entire visit, and that’s got to be worth a bit of shrapnel, eh?
By Andrzej Lukowski, who just secretly wishes he could play ‘Baker Street’.
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