You can't smoke on Melbourne's commuter trains, or drink, or put your feet on the seats, but you can, apparently, strum an acoustic guitar as badly as you like, as loudly as you like, and there's nothing anybody can do to stop you. Over the past year I must have been regaled by half a dozen different Metlink mariachis, including one guy whom a passenger (thinking he was ever-so-cool) offered to pay to go elsewhere, which only succeeded in making said passenger look like an utter wanker, and in front of his girlfriend, too. But despite being received with bewilderment by some and belligerence by others, busking on trains does seem to be, if not the next big thing, then at least one of the more interesting contenders.
The occasional semi-talented busker aside, acoustic guitars can be dangerous things on public transport, or indeed in any confined space. This is especially true when the guitar is being strummed by one or more members of a rowdy group of teenagers, no doubt off to sniff glue or beat up old ladies or whatever it is young people do for fun these days. Although impromptu teenage singalongs can be amusing enough, sometimes the results are rather disturbing. Take yesterday, for example. Traveling home from the city mid-afternoon, I noticed, sprawled across several rows of seats, a number of teenagers, one of whom was wielding the dread acoustic guitar. As he tuned his instrument, I braced myself for some hopelessly improvised covers of current indie favourites, with mumbled accompaniment from the assembled youngsters. But no - when he began playing, what do I hear but the Eagle's "Hotel California", followed by a note-perfect rendition of Gary Glitter's "Hey", complete with vocals from his mates. Somebody asked the musician what his favourite song was, to which he replied: "Classical Gas". I was gobsmacked, flabergasted - in a word, shocked. Where do innocent minds learn such trash? What kind of world do we live in when teenagers are allowed to roam public transport unsupervised, singing songs that would make their parents blush? I mean - what the fuck? There is no excuse for this sort of premature old fartism and, frankly, I thought these kids would have known better at their age.