It was August 2001. I was searching the streets of Islington for a pub called "Filthy McNasty's". Finally at about 8-00 on this summer's evening I found what I had been searching for - in more ways than one. I had received a tip-off a few days earlier that the man I regarded as the greatest musician of my generation (and a personal hero of mine) was to make a rare public appearance at this venue. As I sat outside the pub in the sunshine waiting for the event to begin the rumours were confirmed when a side door opened and a distinctly familiar man walked out wearing a pink polo shirt with the number "4" emblazened on it. Before I knew it, Kevin Rowland was talking to the people at the table next to me and I knew this was going to be no ordinary evening.

About an hour later I was standing inside "Filthy McNasty's" waiting for the evening's entertainment to commence. The venue turned out to be a fairly small, old-fashioned looking bar with orange walls and a small podium next to the DJ's mixing desk. The limited floor space was entirely covered by the sixty or so people in the bar, creating a very intimate atmosphere. Eventually Paul Gorman, author of "The Look" stepped up to the small stage to read extracts from his book. When he had finished his recital, he introduced us to the 'very special guest' who would read us further extracts from "The Look".

Kevin Rowland took the stage to great applause from the small audience. He was by now wearing a smart white shirt with blue patterns and had a pair of glasses. As he spoke in great detail about the fashions he had witnessed during his youth - carefully describing such intricacies as lapel shapes and sizes - his style of delivery brought back memories of the old Dexys monologues like "Love Part One" and "Reminisce Part Two". He was clearly very absorbed in the subject matter, and was visibly frustrated by the interruptions caused firstly by technical problems with his microphone and then by losing his place on the page. As he continued to read out his own observations on Mod fashion and culture - including an explanation of the style of clothing worn by Dexys during the "Don't Stand Me Down" era - his delivery became more relaxed and he even threw in a couple of one-liners to add some humour to the evening! After he had made a reference to the Sex Pistol's infamous appearance on the Bill Grundy show, he added: "...and I never imagined when I wrote this that I'd be reading it out infront of Glen Matlock!" which clearly amused the appreciative crowd - as did his comment that people "would have been shot for wearing flares" around where he lived. Towards the end of his reading somebody at the back of the audience tried to make a joke in response to one of Kevin's quotes, prompting Kev to point out that this subject really mattered to him and perhaps there would be things that would matter to each of us in the same way - a comment which silenced his heckler and gained a round of applause from the rest of the audience.


After a brief interlude and lively sing-along version of "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion" courtesy of the Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock, Paul Gorman read some more extracts from "The Look", before welcoming Kevin back to the podium to give his first public perfomance in two years. As the rapturous applause died down and after another technical hitch - this time with the backing tape - the opening bars of "This Guy's In Love With You" came across the speakers. The heart-felt rendition that followed proved beyond doubt that Kevin has lost none of his ability to perform live as he delivered a note-perfect version of the "My Beauty" song. After more applause - and yet another hitch with the backing tape (at which point Kev shrugged his shoulders ruefully) - he launched into his second and final number of the night. As he sang the lines "I was thinking of a compromise, till I saw the beauty in your eyes...." there was a cheer of recognition from a few of us at the front of the crowd. He then proceeded to give as rousing and passionate a performance of "I Love You (Listen To This)" as he had done some sixteen years earlier with Dexys and although this was a small venue Kevin clearly had no intentions of holding back in any way. It was obvious that he had relished the opportunity to bring these songs to life once more and I could only hope as I stood there cheering that this evening had marked the first step in Kevin Rowland's return to the spotlight.

With the festivities over, a disco commenced and I found myself standing in this small, crowded bar, witnessing the surreal sight of Kevin and his friends dancing and singing along to such dubious classics as Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" and Baccara's "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie". It was a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere and quite difficult to believe that I was literally rubbing shoulders with the man who had created the soundtrack to my entire adult life. And yes, I did get the chance to thank him for a great evening... and a wonderful twenty-two years.

From what I recall, I told Kevin that I'd seen his performance at Reading a couple of years earlier and that I'd thought it was a lot better than the press made out. I remember he asked me where I lived and, when I told him, he repeated "Watford?!!" in a rather exaggerated manner. I could only assume that, having grown up in near-by Harrow, he was probably familiar with Watford. I'd also heard that his sister used to live in Bushey which is just a couple of miles away. I was keen not to over-stay my welcome so I took a step or two back into the crowd and drank the rest of my beer while I watched some of the other Dexys fans who'd shown up getting their photos taken with him. Eventually I decided it was time to go home and thought it seemed only polite to say my goodbyes to the star of the show. "John..." he said, surprising me that he'd remembered my name, "it was nice to meet you!"