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  • Writer's pictureKeith Dersley

The Wrong End of the Road, 2

Rod was forever raving about #Elvis, while I dug #Dylan and had a sneaking admiration for #Donovan. A Northgate beatnik from a higher form explained to me that Dylan’s Jewish heritage enabled him as a white man to sing the blues. Dylan was in addition to that a genuine poet, he said, while Donovan was a competent songwriter. most of whose works should have their copyrights assigned to Dylan.

Rod, who was no beatnik, also ruled Donovan out of court, along with the Kinks, as ‘too tinny’. One artist we agreed on was #GenePitney, who seemed to have some of Presley’s vocal brilliance. To us he was like some opera singer of the world of vinyl. We sat in Rod’s mum’s kitchen with a little record player and a tape recorder, singing along with ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ over and over.

A few nights after the encounter with Kevin Sawyer and the others, Rod and I were ambling along Landseer Road, about where we were before, when with shrieks of delight and a shout, ‘Yeah, that’s him!

It was Paul Stopher. This was faintly surrealistic to me, because I had been friendly with Stopher before this and he had never seemed overly tough or aggressive, in fact a bit of a joker. But he must have had some recent Road to Damascus stint whereby he became a hard case.

All right,’ he said with a wheeze of asthma. His fist preceded him against Rod’s chin with a crack like a wooden ball hitting a coconut.

‘What colour’s my hair?’ asked Stopher. ‘What colour’s that, eh? Fuggen ginger?’

‘Musta broke his friggin’ jaw!’ shrieked Kevin Sawyer.

Rod stood there reeling and his eyes were glassy. I don’t think he ducked it, but Stopher’s second blow missed. While he was setting up the third haymaker, Rod snapped to and delivered a right hook that bounced off Stopher’s bony brow but only made him smile.

After that they were wrestling and rolling along the pavement. There was a rip and Stopher’s silk windcheater with a dragon on the back received some damage.

Rod stayed amazingly cheerful in the circumstances, attempting to land a blow, while Stopher began from his position across Rod, holding him down, to analyse what was going on for the benefit of Kevin Sawyer.

As Rod wriggled to get away, Stopher said, ‘Do you think he’s had a chance to take a look at my hair?’

‘The light’s not that good,’ said Sawyer, ‘but I know to me it don’t look anything like ginger.’

‘What ya think?’ asked Stopher, giving Rod’s neck a twist.

After a long two minutes, Rod agreed, after all, on a shade of blond. He’d only meant yellow to sandy in the first place.

They got up and dusted themselves off but didn’t shake hands.

‘It’ll cost you more than it costs me,’ said Rod, pointing at the damaged embroidery hanging down from Stopher’s windcheater.

‘Ah, things get ripped.’ grunted Stopher and walked off lighting a cigarette.

The other fellows had lost interest. They strolled off in the other direction.

Rod and I continued the debate about Dylan and Presley during which his bruised chin became partially paralysed and his knee developed a shake. We stood looking at it.


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