It was October, 2001—9/11 had just taken place a few weeks earlier, throwing all of New York City into a deep, unshakable, mourning depression. We walked the streets like wary dogs, overwhelmed by what had happened and what it meant for the future, and yet in the middle of it, incongruously, there was an English Tourism Week called UK With NY going on. I heard through the grapevine that there would be an unannounced event in Grand Central Station one morning, so I came to work prepared with an old gimmicky 5-inch vinyl record, just in case the rumor turned out to be true.
It was 8AM and commuters were arriving in Grand Central Station like they did any other day—groggy and grumpy, thinking about the day ahead as they fumbled for change to buy coffee. As if on cue, some maniac with an acoustic guitar started leaping around, belting the old Eighties hit, “Black Coffee In Bed,” at the top of his lungs. As the song began to penetrate through the fog of commuters’ minds, one mumbled, “He sounds like the guy who sang that.” Within a few more seconds, the crowd had stopped moving and started watching—because it WAS the guy who sang that.
It was Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze, working as a busker to raise money for 9/11 relief efforts. For the next half hour, we watched him explode through “Tempted,” “Pulling Mussels From The Shell,” “Another Nail In My Heart,” and plenty of other classics. When he was done, Tilbrook cheerfully chatted, signed autographs and simply hung out. It was a great way to start the day, and for me personally, the post-9/11 depression lifted for a few hours. While he was kind enough to sign that 5-inch Squeeze record for me, the break from despair, however brief, was the real gift of that day.
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