Heard some familiar sounds in Eltham High Street recently? 853‘s special correspondent and turf investment adviser MERCURY MAN has been talking to the man playing them…
The chances of coming across a Portuguese guitarist playing in Eltham High Street, just outside Clinton’s, and asking him politely if he knows any Bert Jansch, only for him to launch into Bert’s arrangement of Davy Graham’s Anji, are slim.
But that’s what happened the other day after having nipped into William Hill in Passey Place for a Wolverhampton placepot (low draws, especially over seven furlongs) and reading a bit of Rex Stout over a flat white in Costa.
Then, instead of resting me knees at the 160 bus stop back to Lee, I shuffled across the road to fully investigate 27-year-old Joao Miguel Silva Ferreira – or Joe – who now lives in Sidcup.
“I came here six years ago,” said Joe. “My uncle had been living here for a couple of years – at Streatham Hill – and he asked me if I wanted to move in. It was a no-brainer, given that I could easily make a better living here. If you switch pounds with euros the cost of living is pretty much the same but the minimum wage here is over two times higher.
“I also felt a strong need to be independent. I don’t like to deal with people in general, even more if they have any type of authority over me, which is funny because I ended up playing solo classical guitar which sounds ‘kind of complete’ without the need for band members.
“I have managed to become self-employed by performing on the streets and I’m making a living. I used to work in restaurants before and, looking back, I think I’d be happy with the progress I’ve made so far, though we tend to overlook what we already have.”
This was good stuff and somehow I managed to keep my own life story out of the conversation (Amazing! – Ed).
So when did Joe first become interested in music?
“I think I showed interest at around five years old, though there were no instruments around the house. My father invested heavily in a great sound system and all the good albums.
“My favourite movie was Godzilla and the theme song featured Jimmy Page on guitar, playing a version of Kashmir with Puff Daddy. I’d use my father’s stereo headphones and ask him to play it louder. I only discovered Led Zeppelin when I was around 13 but I guess I knew Jimmy Page was my favourite guitar player from the age of five.
“My father bought a guitar for my sister when I was around 12 and I’d play it when she wasn’t in the house.
“Eventually she lost interest in playing and let me have the guitar. At first I had a group of friends in school that were also interested in playing guitar and I picked up on what they were doing.
“The first year or two I would run into something I knew like the riff on Come As You Are by Nirvana. Then I discovered that there were tabs on the internet, and I just started learning every bit of music I liked.”
Joe didn’t want to talk much about his early life apart from being “disappointed”. He said: ‘This is all I do. I’m pretty frugal and financially responsible. It hasn’t been difficult aside from me being very lazy and unmotivated at times. I’m self-employed now and it’s a bit different being your own boss. I don’t have to clock in and I can pick my days off, which is no good when you are as passionate about doing nothing as I am.
“I’ve come to realise the importance of having a routine that would help me keep my sanity so that I can be a bit more productive. But yeah, as long as I go out and play my couple of hours, I’m good.
“It’s only been difficult when the government stepped in with the lockdowns. I pray that never happens again.”
What about permits to play? “Bexley Council is cool and Greenwich not so much, but they’re okay. I play three to three-and-a-half hours, around 70 songs. I play until my back starts to hurt too bad or I’m no longer in the mood.”
The future? “I just want to get better at what I do. I still believe good things come as a result. You have to work on your craft to be able to charge money and make your living.
“I’d like to form a group and make some great music that I’m excited about. I’m not really trying to get a group together right now but I will at some point.
“I feel that music is better made in a group when different influences come together. But the classical/fingerstyle type of playing fits me perfectly as the loner hermit.
“I’d like to have enough money for it not to influence my decisions, but I feel that’s an illusion, perhaps a necessary one, to keep me going. I’d hate to wake up one day with all the money I need, only to find I had no other ambition.”
Joe will be playing at Kebab Ziyafet, 200 Eltham High Street, SE9 1BA, from 9pm to 1am on New Year’s Eve.
Mercury Man talks to SE Londoners with interesting tales to tell. Read his past stories.
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