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It’s only Rock N Roll

by Guy Lewis about a month ago in success
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(But I Like It)

I always had a soft spot for Idlewild. That’s not to say I particularly like Idlewild. I mean their music is fine but I’m largely indifferent to the sound of the Scottish indie band. I’d probably recognise a couple of their tunes. I couldn’t name one though.

Yet, like I said, I have a soft spot for the band.

A soft spot, as I define it, exists somewhere between a passing curiosity and being an outright supporter of someone or something. In the nebulous space of being more than an acquaintance but less than a friend.

Sam and I got on well. We always gravitated to each other at family parties. Same interests, same wicked sense of humour. You know the dance. Then his sister and I had a fraught break up and I never hung out with Sam again. Circumstances dictated we wouldn’t be pals. However, on the rare occasions we bumped into each other in the pub we’d start right back where we left off. For those five minutes we’d have a good laugh, then wish each other well, and be on our way.

Whilst living in the Balearics I took a shine to, Real Mallorca. Taking a shine is a staging post on the way to having a soft spot. Every native I knew on the island didn’t much care for the local team, and instead opted for the easy glamour of FC Barcelona. Justifying it through their shared Catalan heritage. I was trying to be endearingly contrary, and shamefully a bit hipstery, by supporting the small but authentic, grassroots football club. I went to a couple games to solidify my support. When I returned to England my enthusiasm waned but I still lookout for their results and if anyone asks Mallorca are one of my ‘other’ teams.

I want the best for Sam and Real Mallorca but without any commitment from myself. It’s within these parameters Idlewild exist in my life.

I was pumping iron at Health’s Matters gym with my training partner, Johnny. Knutsford Johnny was a sales rep. A good sales rep at that. Eager to learn, highly ambitious and money hungry. Most importantly of all he was a grafter. It’s a cliché but to be a successful salesman it really is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. No one ever hit target waiting for the phone to ring. Johnny was ahead of the curve with all the self-help and motivational stuff. Long before life affirming memes and online coaching were ever a thing. Johnny sold photocopiers for a living. In the world of sales reps selling copiers was both derided and respected. When you think of the much-maligned image of a rep with one hand on the wheel, McDonald’s coffee in the other, and his mobile phone tucked under his chin he probably works for Canon, Sharp, or Minolta. There were much easier products and services to sell than office equipment. It was a brutal market place but, like the song says, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. When they hit target those boys made good money and a stint in that game looked great on the CV.

It was with his career in mind Johnny had recently accepted a promotion to area sales manager. Knutsford Johnny had no desire to end up a silver haired salesman. He aspired to be an executive, maybe even the Chairman of the Board one day. He was working his final month as a rep whilst, in between appointments, shadowing the outgoing manager.

Today was back and triceps. Johnny was loading plates onto the Olympic bar as I got in the zone.

“Do you know Idlewild?”

I was vaguely aware of them. Another post Britpop band, doing the rounds, getting some airplay, trying to make it big.

“The guitarist works at my place. Well, he did.”

What? Rock stars, even aspiring ones, don’t work. Ok, maybe the aspiring ones do, but serving drinks and waiting tables. They don’t sell photocopiers. They don’t work for the MAN.

“No, really. He was decent too. Anyway, he got called in for a ‘chat’ this afternoon.”

When I thought about it repping, if you’re good, does allow for moonlighting. As my old manager at Shred-it use to say “if you’re smashing target I don’t care if you’re on the golf range at three o’clock in the afternoon.” I was never that good, but it seems, for awhile the Idlewild lead guitarist was. This could only last so long, however, as repping and rocking are a demanding wife and mistress.

“It was one of those, you know, informal, off the record meetings. Part lecture, part pep talk.”

Johnny, attended the meeting as a silent, but interested, observer.

“He wasn’t actually doing that bad to be fair, but his figures were only trending in one direction.”

The nameless sales manager wanted to halt this slide and snap his rep back to reality.

“You need to choose, mate, it’s either selling photocopiers or rock n roll?”

What a stupid question.

“I choose rock n roll, mate.”

With that he threw his car keys at his boss and quit.

We both both said words to the effect of “good on him” and moved on doing three heavy sets of bent over rows. I don’t recall, Johnny and I, ever returning to the subject. Over the years I’ve found myself recalling this incident, and in particular, that question…

“You need to choose, mate, it’s either selling photocopiers or rock n roll?”

Who would ever choose the bleak mundanity of photocopiers over rock n roll? Is there any career one would choose over rock n roll?

“You need to choose, Guy, it’s either pest control or rock n roll?”

I’m sure the more pedantic among you will say I’d rather be a footballer, actor, or rapper, maybe. But they’re all the same thing. Rock n roll by a different name. The yearning to escape from everyday life. The opportunity to be somebody.

Whatever your level of awareness about Idlewild before reading this you’ll probably know they didn’t go onto become the next Led Zeppelin, or even reach the heights of other post Britpop bands like Travis and Keane. That’s life. They make a good living though, to this day, some twenty years later. The band is still together, releasing new albums, going on tour and have a solid fan base. And I’ll wager they don’t have to get out of bed early on a Monday morning. By any reasonable metric they’re a success.

There’s another interpretation of soft spot. You have a soft spot for that person or thing that’s forever out of reach. They’re too young, too old, too attractive, too expensive, etc. Always too unrealistic for you to have. I guess I have a soft spot for Idlewild chasing, and achieving, their rock n roll dreams. We’d all benefit from some of that spirit.

Here’s another inspirational sales mantra Knutsford Johnny was fond of…

It’s better to fail aiming high than succeed aiming low

The End


About the author

Guy Lewis

This is a true story only the facts have been changed

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