Pay attention or life may pass you by

Burt Bacharach, left, and Elvis Costello pose in this 1998 promotional photo for their collaborative album, "Painted from memory."
Burt Bacharach, left, and Elvis Costello pose in this 1998 promotional photo for their collaborative album, "Painted from memory."

I thought I’d never see him live and I’d never hear my favourite song because he didn’t play live very often and anyway, he never played the old stuff. I’d come to Elvis late but he was, and still is, my favourite (writes columnist and hypnotherapist John Cooper).

I was desperate to see him live and would have given a kidney to meet him.

So, in 1998, my friend Dave and I got tickets for the Costello and Bacharach show at the Royal Festival Hall. I was working at Ticketmaster so as soon as they went on sale, I bagged a couple.

The night came. We had a few pints and then settled down about ten rows back on the aisle.

They played some songs together from their duet album, then Burt did some of his oldies. He sang ‘Alfie’ at the piano. It was brilliant, I was having a wonderful time. I desperately needed the toilet though. It was painful by ‘Toledo’ and unbearable by ‘God Give Me Strength’.

Dave wouldn’t let me go, he made up some excuse and so I squirmed and grimaced and suffered. Then, to my astonishment, Elvis came on for a solo slot. He played ‘Alison’ and I almost cried with joy. Dave had got the set list from the internet (Ask Jeeves, probably) and he didn’t want me to miss out.

At the end of the show they both came downstage for a bow and I was feeling a bit twitchy. Should I or shouldn’t I? Anyway, I did. I ran down to the front, expecting to be kettled by security but there was none. I was three feet from my hero.

I held out my hand and said something fawning and embarrassing. Elvis Costello shook my hand and smiled. Perhaps he even said, ‘thank you’. I turned away in a bit of a trance. I was in awe. Starting to go back to my seat, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. It was Burt Bacharach, one of the finest songwriters of all time, holding out his hand to me. I was halfway back up the stairs.

Nonchalantly, I turned back and shook it. I said ‘oh yeah, er…thanks very much’. I’d forgotten he was there. I’d treated the man who wrote ‘Walk on By’ and ‘The Look of Love’ like someone who had held the cubicle door open for me in the gents.

I’m glad I shook Burt’s hand (I call him Burt now that we are mates). I’m the sort of person that hates to miss out on anything. You never know when someone will help you out, fall in love with you or offer you a job and if you’re looking the other way you’ll miss it.

Here is the learning I took from that evening. Be alive to the opportunities and new experiences that come your way. Keep on your toes, be present. If you aren’t paying attention, life will pass you by.

But mainly, don’t drink three pints of strong lager before going to see a show, it’s quite distracting.

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