My brilliant imaginary career

To Balham to see my friend Ella Montclare perform a set of unbelievably good trip-hop at the Bedford. Most of the people who appear in this column are sheltered behind the anonymity of an initial letter followed by a long dash, but Ella is a musician and could do with the publicity - even, she generously assures me, in this column, which is not, as far as I know, avidly read by A&R men anxious to pick up on the Next Big Thing.

But I always find that a stage magnifies people, and am awfully impressed by performers, particularly when electric guitars are involved. Like many sad men of my vintage, I entertained, from the age of about 13, not so much fantasies as certainties that I would be in a band. Indeed, I am still more than half-convinced that, had I gone to a proper comprehensive school and not been kicked to death for liking poetry, I would have formed one of those well-regarded yet never terribly successful, clever-clever indie bands - something along the lines of the Monochrome Set. (I met the drummer of the Monochrome Set a year or two ago and was embarrassing with awed respect.)

Sometimes, in an idle moment, I imagine my career trajectory in this alternative universe. The high point, I glumly realise, would have been an NME cover in about 1982 (following months of racking our brains for the most pretentious band name ever, we had come up with "Canto XIII"). After the initial excitement, our second album, My Trousers Rolled, would have sold 2,000 copies, most of those after John Peel played the title track at the wrong speed. Then the "musical differences" would have begun.

By 1983, the bass player and I would no longer have been speaking to each other and the lead guitarist, the one who could actually play his instrument, would have gone off to form his own band, got noticed by Brian Eno and ended up a household name. Things would have gone a bit fallow until 2008 when, after I had been making a precarious living in telemarketing for 15 years, some bright spark used our best-known track for a chocolate bar advert and we grudgingly re-formed for a comeback tour, which attracted a small paragraph's worth of attention in Time Out. Someone would have put some of the footage on YouTube and, after two years, this would have attracted 632 views and one stalker.

Friends electric

In fact, all of these grand plans would have foundered on the impossibility of finding a decent drummer. Any fool can pick up a guitar, especially a bass guitar, but knowing how to hit all those drums in the right order and at the right time is something I find quite incomprehensible.

The reputation drummers have for stupidity is, in my experience, undeserved. My friend John Moore - another person I name in full in the faint hope it might help his career - was, for a while, the drummer for the Jesus and Mary Chain, and says he resigned from the band when the increasing vacancy of their lyrics got too much for him. He is still on good terms with them, though, and if you think I was embarrassing when I met the drummer of the Monochrome Set, you should have got a load of how I grovelled in front of the Reid brothers after meeting them backstage at the Royal Festival Hall. I blush to recall it, but then they are geniuses - not a compliment I use lightly. And I made a footnote in rock history by supplying one of them with weed to smoke at the after-show party - even though it was in a non-smoking area!

But I suppose, all in all, I am happy with my lot. I may not have the guitar-shaped swimming pool in the back garden of my Los Angeles mansion - but I do have three excellent children, an uncorroded septum, half a share of a house in Shepherd's Bush, and . . . Oh, now I come to think of it, I have a very splendid, red, semi-acoustic 12-string Baldwin. It's looking hopefully at me right now from the corner of the Hovel's living room. I wonder . . .

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 15 March 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Falklands II