John Robertson, Dr Janina Ramirez or Eric 'Winkle' Brown, you must understand. I'm not the kind of person who pushes myself forward in social situations anyway, so I wouldn't normally approach people whom I admire, nor would I usually enter competitions to meet them, and neither would I apply to go on meet 'n' greets at events. So why then, about a month or so ago, did I decide that I'd quite like to go and meet the singer/songwriter, and former leader of Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, when the proprietor of the marvellous 101 Collectors Records in Farnham announced that Wilson would be doing an instore in his shop in March? Well, I can't answer that. I'd not had too much of a good time over January, I'd had a bout of the 'flu, which meant my birthday was pretty rubbish. The 'flu then buggered off and left me with hearing problems. So life's not exactly been a riot. Something inside just said "Bugger it, I want some records signed, I've got some leave from work to use up and I'd like to do something fun"
So last Monday, off I set for the 170 mile journey down the M1, around the M25 and across the M3 to the small Surrey town. I nipped into the shop first to buy a vinyl copy of the LP from Andy, the friendly chap who runs the store. Then to check into my hotel for the night. Hmmm, checking into a hotel on your own when you're clearly not there on business leads to all sorts of odd looks from the check-in staff. It's almost as though they think you're up to no good. What they don't realise is that they could give me odd looks all they like but I knew that there was hardly any hot water available in the room.
The allotted hour came when I was to meet the great man, so I went back into town where I was due to meet a longtime internet friend and her husband who live nearby, and who also happen to be fans of Wilson. I met with my friends outside where we joined the queue to get in. I'd have to admit I was a little nervous. I mean, what do you say? You can't pretend that you're old friends who are just exchanging pleasantries. Neither can you be a gushing pillock.
We finally get into the shop and wait our turn to go to the signing table. There was a guy there with loads of stuff to sign, he had really early, and rare, Porcupine Tree LPs amongst other stuff from Wilson's varied career. I felt like an amateur fan after gawping at all that lot. Anyway, my turn came. I stood straight in front of him like an idiot, just as he shouted if he could have another drink. I thought he was talking to me. Oh dear. Recovering quickly I handed over my LP sleeves and asked if he would do dedications. "Yes, but not for anything silly" he replied. That was okay, I only asked for names. So he asked for the names. When I told him my name he repeated it back to me. I remember thinking "Yes! That's my name, why don't you know it? I know yours! I've known your name for over a decade!". Of course he doesn't know my name, why would he? It's because I guess that I consider him to be a friend. Oh well. While he was signing the Cover Version album I mentioned that I thought his version of Abba's The Day Before You Came as rather magnificent. "Thank you" he said "It's quite an easy song to get wrong" I then mentioned that I had once heard that the song was being told from the perspective of a murder victim and that I thought that was why it would have appealed to his macabre side. "Really? I've never heard that" he said, quite surprised. By this time I wanted to make sure that my friends would get a photo of me with the great man. Photos were taken. As he turned to go and I was saying thanks, he noticed my badge. "Mmmm, Mr Benn" he said gesturing to the badge. And that was it. It probably lasted less than two minutes, but it was worth it. I told him something he didn't know and he liked my badge. And I was quite chuffed that I'm taller than him.
Now I've had time to sit and think, I've thought of some better questions to ask him. One of which is "What's Nick Beggs really like?" (the Kajagoogoo four stringer is the bassist in Wilson's band). Oh well, I'll save that until next time.
I finally met one of my heroes.
And if you're interested, his new LP, Hand.Cannot.Erase. is terrific. Terrific if you like concept albums about someone retreating from society, that is. No, wait, come back...