Play Your Sitar, Percy


Play Your Sitar, Percy by Chris Green

We were carefree students caught up in the rapidly changing world of the late sixties. Five of us, Dylan, Barry, Roy, Syd and I shared a converted attic in a big old house, sufficiently far away from campus not to attract attention to us. We were stoned most of the time, occasionally turning in for lectures if they were late enough in the day. Lectures were certainly not the main focus of being a student back in 1969. Those were the days. Academic endeavour was taking a haitus.

Bob was not our usual dealer. He was a new kid on the block, so to speak. Byrd, a mutual acquaintance introduced us and we arranged to buy some hash from him. He had some Red Leb as I recall. It was late at night when Bob called round, not that there was anything unusual in this but he managed to knock up some of the Sports Science students, referred to affectionately the P.E. thickies, who had digs on the floor below before he realised that we lived on the top floor. Sports Science students bucked the trend. Unusually, they went to bed early and actually turned up for lectures to learn about golf swings or football refereeing or whatever it was they were studying. They were less than pleased to have been woken. It might not have been so bad had Bob not offered one of them a joint. But anyway, Bob eventually managed to find his way up the stairs.

The landlord had ingeniously divided the attic space up into five or six smaller units. It would be too generous to refer to them as rooms. But, their size did not matter greatly to us so long as you could fit a bed in there somewhere and have room for a stereo. We each had a stereo. We liked our music. There was a lot of it to like in the late sixties.

We got on with the business at hand and before we knew it we were all pleasantly stoned and burbling away as you did at late night sessions back in the day.

‘What’s behind that partition?’ Bob asked, out of the blue. He had heard a noise behind what might or might not have been a serving hatch and for some reason was curious.

‘Percy lives in there,’ Roy said. ‘He’s a hermit.’

‘Really? Bob said. ‘A hermit.’ He seemed quite excited by the idea of a recluse living in the roof space.

‘Percy never comes out,’ Barry said. ‘We pass through some melons and grapes for him occasionally and some sunflower seeds and he seems happy with the arrangement.’

‘He has a sitar,’ Dylan said, winking at me.

I spotted an opportunity and pretending I was going to the toilet, slid away to my room.

A few seconds later I heard Dylan shout, ‘Play your sitar, Percy.’

I had by now managed to find my Ravi Shankar record.

As the needle made its way down on to the disc, Ray repeated the request.

‘Play your sitar, Percy. Come on, Percy. Play your sitar.’

When I returned to the room, the opening theme of the raga was being sketched out. Bob’s face was a sight to behold. He had been taken in hook, line and sinker by our ruse. Meanwhile, we kept schtum and pretended to be in awe at Percy’s playing.

‘He’s fantastic, isn’t he?’ Bob said.

Dylan came out with some spiel about Percy having studied in India with Allauddin Khan, one of the great sitar players of old, before deciding he needed a more solitary life.

If the record hadn’t stuck in the groove a minute or two in, Bob might have taken longer to cotton on to what was happening. Perhaps he might never have found out, although in the cold light of day he would surely have realised he’d been taken in. As it was, his embarrassment was perhaps lessened by the effects a few spliffs of Red Leb. He was able to use being out of his head as an excuse for his being suckered. To his credit, he managed to suggest that it was a good advertisement for the quality of his wares. But, I imagine deep down Bob found this episode humiliating, something it would be difficult to live down. While we kept in touch, future business between us was always conducted elsewhere.

© Chris Green 2018: All rights reserved


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