The Professor of the University of the Street

Early Days

Photgraph by Michael Abrahams

There we were, busking outside “The London Experience” in Coventry Street, London’s West End, with our friend David Benn on the tin-whistle (or flageolet as it is sometimes called).  The year was 1978, and we were finding out what it was like to be hunted criminals, regularly hauled up in court for “obstructing the free passage along the highway”.  Two songs that were to become permanent fixtures in our repertoire were composed on this very spot: “It’s a Crime to Play Music in the Streets” and “I am the Professor of the University of the Street”.

Our acoustic performance of “Professor” became the mainstay of our busking act on the continent, during what we called our exile period; but back in London ten years later, we recorded an electric version of the song, which we decided to make into a vinyl single.  We called our electric act “Disco Justice” (more on that name another time), and released the record of  “Professor” b/w “Away from Tube Trains” on our own independent label, Newspaper Records.

It so happened we’d used some pictures of Skopje  – a town in Yugoslavia we often used to visit in those days – for the artwork of the single.  We took along some copies next time we went down there, and our friend Vladimir Mandecevski – who owned a record shop in Skopje called Bagi Shop –  started playing it on his program on the local Studentsko Radio.  It became quite popular with local kids who were enthusiastic listeners to Indie music from the UK and USA.

Vladimir was known to everybody in Skopje as Mande.  As well as playing our record quite a lot, Mande would interview us when we were there, and used to say nice things about us…….which was always welcome, considering how much we were up against things at home.

The song lasts an epic 5 mins 20 secs, featuring towards the end a surprise verdict and punishment meted out by the Magistrate.