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I Took Johnny Borrell's Advice and Walked Down the Street With my Guitar

I'm sick of being lied to. I want to find the truth.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB

All photos by Jake Lewis

These days, it’s very hard to find the truth. Whether it’s The Daily Telegraph telling you that someone has overdosed on weed, The Sun announcing that Kanye West is releasing a three-hour album of spoken-word, or Vita Coco trying to convince you that their drink doesn’t taste like shit, the world is full of bullshit.

I’m tired of being lied to and tired of taking things at face value. Thankfully, I woke up this morning to the news that, Johnny Borrell, a guy known for his credibility, had a way out of all of this madness.

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In an already infamous interview with the Metro, he was asked about the Libertines reunion show. He replied:

“Ah, no. I didn’t really know anything about it. Look, I don’t know anything about what’s going on in culture and I really have very little interest in it. As a musician I think you’re more likely to find out what’s going on by just walking down the street with a guitar than by having any clue about who’s playing which festival, or whatever.”

Then later he was asked whether he was interested in the news and he, once again, replied:

“I think again, you’d find out more truth by just walking down the street with a musical instrument than by looking at any of the news outlets.”

Finally, he was asked about his 2007 Vogue cover, to which he replied:

“The thing that really attracted me to that was that Mario Testino was shooting the cover. I’m a musician, and I’m never going to say no to sharing experiences with somebody who’s talented in their field. It’s a cover of a magazine – get over it. But I know Vogue has got a lot of history and I respect that. But again, you’ll learn more from walking down the street with a musical instrument.”

This is exactly what I need, I thought. So I dusted off my guitar and went to find the truth.

We were off to a good start because, before even stepping foot onto the street, I made a discovery: when I get home tonight, I should probably put my washing away. The lonesome socks have been hanging there for about four days but TBH I just haven’t found the time.

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I hoped that I wouldn’t have to carry my guitar down any more flights of stairs. It’s awkward being a troubadour.

Here's me taking the first steps into my new life as a guy that carries his guitar down the street.

Walking down Commercial Street, I began to play the only song that I could remember - “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer. It really felt like all the hours I’d spent on Ultimate-Guitar.com instead of making friends had paid off. I felt like a real street artist - a modern day Bob Dylan but with a pair of Vans and an iPhone that has Google Maps.

Johnny had said that I would find truth by walking down the street and not in the newspaper. The first thing that I wanted to clear-up regarded the bank. Recently, I’d read a story that said the bank has fucked up our life; that the bastards at Natwest are the reason we sit inside torrenting Game of Thrones and subtweeting journalists instead of getting jobs. I asked this woman if she could tell me the answer. I told her I was looking for the truth.

She laughed in my face.

Undeterred, I continued. With my guitar by my side, I glanced around Shoreditch. It didn’t look any different. The shops were still overpriced. The sky was still grey. I still couldn’t afford to buy lunch every day because my rent was so high. The only thing that changed was the way people looked at me - it was like they hated me. Like they’d never seen a guy walk down the street holding a guitar before. Dickheads.

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Maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places, I thought. I peered underneath a van, hoping to find the answer to third world debt or the truth behind the kale diet. No such luck, although I guess I know who to call if I ever need my water cooler and boiler fixed at the same time.

I asked this guy if he could help me in my search for the answers. He didn’t really want to talk to me. I don’t know why. If someone came up to me on the street with a guitar I’d talk to them - you shouldn’t judge people based on their possessions.

This man, though, did tell me that the guitar would "help me find girls". That's nice, I thought to myself. I've already swiped right to everyone on Tinder and only received three matches so maybe this will help me find a date.

Keen to find some culture, I walked into a local supermarket. They had a wide range of produce but, sadly, they kicked me out. Apparently you’re not allowed to carry musical instruments inside of a shop because, I don’t know, they interfere with artichokes or something. I walked out and visited Rough Trade, the home of great independent bands and vinyls that cost half of my day’s paycheck. A guy outside told me that I could find some truth if I headed up the road, toward the food market.

I stood around here for a while, hoping to find a girl rubbing bacon over her tits, but nothing happened. It was just a bunch of people eating pulled pork rolls that cost £7. Meat IS Murder though - you can’t argue with that.

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Something was happening just off Brick Lane. Apparently a bunch of people were shooting a film so I stood around trying to get in shot. The two guys dressed in suits told me that I could probably find the solution to all of my problems if I visited Yahoo Answers. I’d already tried that before though, and it just ended up with me convincing myself that I had cancer.

Look - it's a pair of guys that probably know about culture! I asked them if they knew who was headlining Glastonbury this year. They did not. Fuck it though, to be honest, neither do I.

The people who were shooting a film really didn’t want me around. The director shouted at me twice. “Hold on a minute, mate. We’re shooting a film”, he said. “Okay”, I replied.

I don’t know what film they were shooting that required a half-nude orchestra, but it looked like something that I would never want to watch; like a T-Mobile advert or some kind of Dom Joly “skit”. I asked these guys what the name of their film was. They said that they couldn’t tell me because I might let the secret out. It felt like I was being ostracised for carrying a guitar around - this instrument was denying me truth.

A guy approached me on Brick Lane, telling me that he had a very special offer. I read on the side of his building that his Curry House had won, like, a bajillion awards.

Convinced that I was a famous musician, he wanted a picture taken with me to stick on the wall of his restaurant. I obliged. I could get used to being a rockstar, I thought to myself. He told me that I could get a curry, a starter, and a drink for £6.99 and that it would be the best chicken korma I could get in London. I wanted to believe him, so I took him up on his offer.

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The food arrived quickly. It was pretty nice - much better than the Tesco microwave meals I currently subsist on. I haven’t actually eaten a curry in London before, and thanks to my guitar, I’d just eaten the best one in London. Maybe Johnny was right, maybe this thing did have benefits. Afterwards, they handed me a hot towel. Sure? Why not?

In the interview with The Metro, Johnny said that walking down the street was more informative than reading a festival line-up. Wrong again Jono. TIL that a festival called Beige exists.

In the Metro article Borrell, appalled that the interviewer would ask him if he was upset about the poor sales of his solo album, said “I don’t understand what you mean by that. Why would I be upset? Am I a salesman or a musician? All I can say is the most emphatic no. We must be on different planets.” I don’t know about you, but I’m on the planet where Razorlight’s debut album is framed on the wall of Pret A Manger.

The last place that I headed to was a church. If anyone can provide the answer, it’s God. I sat on a ledge, strumming along like a Jehova, thinking about what I would watch on television when I got home. No one paid me any attention. In fact, I felt like I would have been better off sat here without a guitar, with only my thoughts.

So far, most people had ignored me so I went in and sat down next to this pair on a bench. They enjoyed my music for a little while but after playing “Say it Ain’t So” on repeat for about fifteen minutes, and trying to work out how to play “Wonderwall”, they politely told me to fuck off. So I did.

Today, the EU has imposed further sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and an Egyptian judge sentenced 720 men to death without hearing from witnesses. I learnt that from reading the press, something Borrell still scorns. I don’t know what I learnt from carrying my guitar down the street. I’m pretty sure that, between having tired arms and feeling like an idiot, it actually made my life a whole lot worse. I guess the one thing I took away is that if you’re a man who has been critically and socially ostracised, you’d probably want to stay away from the news media and instead seek the company of people who are yet to get to know you.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil

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