Friday, 15 December 2017

The Gentleman is a Dope and other jazz records for referees

The winter break is here. It's time to count my earnings. Every week, rather than allow my chiselling compensation to be swallowed up by the daily cash flow of my wallet (pills, thrills, hearing aid batteries etc.), I drop the risible €22 in to my Manchester United 1977 FA Cup Winner's souvenir mug. Every few months I take Mrs RT out for a meal (because she never complains that I spend my Sundays being a human sponge for choleric inadequates), or I indulge myself in the sort of stuff that people of a certain age cannot resist: superfluous gadgets and old vinyl.

Receptacle for a mug's wages
There's a second hand record shop I often cycle past on my way to and from games, and inevitably I wonder why I'm not in there perusing forgotten Meisterwerke instead of pedalling off in to the wind and the rain to voluntarily face the wrath of athletically backward men operating on a collectively shortened fuse. Last week, though, in the comfort of knowing I won't be refereeing for at least another six weeks, I delayed a long overdue office clear-out in favour of finally stepping inside, the wages of abuse burning a hole in my jeans pocket.

I don't regret the amount I squandered because this turned out to be the finest record shop in the world (and I've seen a few). It's small, but friendly. Each one of the three clerks made sure to welcome me, and one gave me a quick orientation course before disappearing to make me a cup of coffee. Was there anything I wanted to hear? Sure, stick on this Kenny Burrell Japanese
import that's way out of my price range. (Occasionally I get a reception like this at some of the city's better-run football clubs. Often, though, you have to ask twice before you even get a bottle of water. And I've yet to find the referee's changing room with a working turntable and a stock of Kenny Burrell Japanese imports.)

After a while I stopped checking the LPs for scratches because all the records in this place looked flawless, while the prices were thoroughly sane. When you think of being paid in terms of recordings-per-match, two LPs per 90 minutes is a pretty decent return. There's not been a jump or a scratch on any thing I've brought home. Better still, I realised that almost every disc I bought has its own title aimed at referees. Yes, these jazz recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s somehow managed to intuit that they would one day in the following century be purchased by a forlorn whistler looking for solace within perfectly exquisite music. Here's the evidence:

Cannonball Adderley - I'll Close My Eyes from African Waltz (Riverside, 1961). What I sometimes want to do during a bad game so that I can shut out what I no longer wish to witness, while dreaming that I'm in a better place (like a second hand record shop).

Count Basie & Sarah Vaughan - The Gentleman is a Dope from The Birdland Years, Volume 12 (Roulette, 1960). Instead of the usual yells of "Hey, ref!" and much worse, I'd love it if a player would just announce to his team after one of my obviously unconscionable decisions: "The gentleman is a dope. Let's just deal with it and keep playing." The paucity of imagination in insults aimed at referees is ruining the game.

Horace Silver - Shoutin' Out from Silver's Blue (Epic, 1956). I do this a lot, every weekend. "Shut up and play football!" "No foul!" "Stop acting like five-year-olds and just get on with the fucking game!" Like music, it's a form of cathartic expression.

Chick Corea - What Game Shall We Play Today from Return to Forever (ECM, 1972). My pre-game speech, which is multiple variations on the theme of: "Are we going to behave like decent human beings, or are we going to act like psychotic tossers all afternoon?" Regular readers will know the answer to that.

Coleman Hawkins - Out of Nowhere from Wrapped Tight (Jasmine, 1965). A composition for that moment in the 87th minute when the score stands at 5-0, it's been quiet all afternoon, and you're already thinking, "Home, shower, sofa, beer, football on TV", and then two players start chest-beating and screeching at each other like a brace of boner-afflicted apes performing for the last female in the flange. Someone's ankle got tapped. Someone's absent mother took an insult. Again.

There are many things that ultimately make refereeing worthwhile. An afternoon in a second hand jazz record shop with a wad of cash, however, tops them all. And I've still got enough left over to wine and dine Mrs RT.

To my readers - thank you for logging on this year, and for the comments and emails of support and recognition. I wish you a Merry Pagan Festival of Light and a Happy Same Old.

You can support this blog by buying Ian Plenderleith's latest book, The Quiet Fanhere.


  1. I think that might be a Brown Booby on the front of the Chick Corea album.

  2. Cool - does that mean I can cross it off my list?