The decaf coffee that Honor Blackman orders when she arrives at the café near her home in Notting Hill is not, apparently, one of the secrets of her eternal youth, secrets that people always ask her about. “No,” she says.

“It’s just I don’t sleep properly at night if I have any caffeine at all during the day.” For the record, her tips are eating sensibly, cleansing your face, and daily exercise, in her case Pilates and sit-ups.

But having plunged straight into her appearance, we may as well continue with it. Blackman is 86, the same age as the Queen, but my goodness she doesn’t look it. Her thick, shoulder-length hair is still set in the same way as it was when she became a screen icon as Pussy Galore in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, only now it is white not blonde.

Apart from that, the clear skin, the icy blue eyes, the bone structure, all are pretty much the same. And what is remarkable when you look at photographs of her down the ages is that she has never really changed.

There was never a moment when she disappeared and reappeared in a surgically enhanced state. Even her figure hasn’t altered much. The most weight she has gained since her teens is 2lb.

Her fellow 86 year-olds must hate her, I say. “I don’t think in those terms,” she says with a short laugh. “I’m used to people saying ‘I hope I look as good as you at your age’ and I don’t make any comment.” She leans forward and gives a sideways glance before adding mischievously. “Some people don’t have as good a start.” Yes, having the right genes must help, especially with skin. “My mother, bless her, I remember putting her in the shower when she was 91 – and she hated to be stripped off in front of anyone, almost worse when it was her children – and her skin, because she never sunbathed, was pure and white, and her face was pretty good, too.”

I suppose a lot of Blackman’s generation, the first true sun worshippers, sunbathing in bikinis without sun cream for protection, have now paid the price. Brigitte Bardot, with whom she starred in the 1968 film Shalako, is an obvious example. “Isn’t it strange how people go? She had – what is that word that people use these days? Drives me mad – issues. She had issues, by which is meant problems. Bardot seems to have done a volte-face from being a great sex symbol to someone who doesn’t care about her appearance, only her animals.” I’m sensing they didn’t get on. “Bardot didn’t really get to know anyone on the set because she was surrounded by people to look after her. She couldn’t be left alone, you see, because she had recently attempted suicide. I think she was frightened because it was her first film outside France. It was a nightmare really.”

Like Bardot, Blackman was a pin up, especially after The Avengers in which, from 1962-64, she played the smart and sexy, leather-wearing, judo-throwing Cathy Gale. She was always being told she was beautiful, did she believe it? “Looking back, I suppose some of it must have been true. But I couldn’t relate to it at the time. I didn’t think it was true, brought up as I was. British families then, in complete contrast with today, were always afraid that someone would be prideful and arrogant, so my mother made sure I kept my feet on the ground. I remember once as a 17 year-old I was all dolled up to go out and thought I looked rather splendid, for me, and I asked my mother, ‘Do I look all right?’ and she said, ‘You’ll pass in a crowd’. It hurt awfully. All these years later it still rankles, isn’t that pathetic?”

On a hunch, I ask if her parents had a happy marriage. “I think they loved one another but he was such a disciplinarian and so demanding that there was a fair amount of fear in the house. He was a very randy individual. It didn’t matter what she was doing or how she felt, there was no foreplay. He didn’t even come down and help with the washing up and then say ‘how about it?’”

I ask if, after all the sexism and boorish behaviour she herself encountered in the Sixties, the feminism of the Seventies came as a relief to her? “I think I contributed some of it with The Avengers. Because a lot of the fan mail I got was from women. It was enlightening. They liked the idea of a strong woman and then that character was followed by another strong woman, Pussy Galore.” Ah yes. That name. Not exactly a great leap forward for feminism, was it? “I know. The problems I had in America. They couldn’t even bring themselves to say it.”

What about the Bond scene with the Queen in the Olympics opening ceremony? Did she approve? “Wasn’t that ridiculous? But everyone seemed to love it. The Queen did play ball, but she surely didn’t enjoy the opening ceremony. I do think you should look up when your team goes by. She was bored to tears by that point because there were no horses.” Again, I’m sensing she’s not a fan. “No, I’m a republican. I think the Queen has done her duty pretty well, but it has taken her a long time to be a human being, a mother. I have to say, I found it odd that she had to read her speech to her own son on his 60th birthday. I know she has been trained not to make mistakes but surely you can talk to your son and make a mistake, if it’s someone you love. But she’s doing very well considering her age.”

They are the same age! She laughs. “Yes, you needn’t have said that. I still do my job and I stand at bus stops and drive my own car and take the Tube. If I was taken to an engagement and my time was strictly limited to an hour and a half and anyone who was a nuisance was kept from me, I think I could manage life pretty well, too.” Well, she can’t be accused of hypocrisy, given that she declined a CBE. But what is her real problem with the monarchy?

“It does seem to me, for a democracy, that it is absolutely weird that we have a privileged family as our representatives. Surely you should earn it, not inherit it through some extraordinary blood. Not very British that. The Americans think it’s wonderful, but they must also think we are all idiots.” She is keen to point out that she admires the Princess Royal. And she does leaven her comments with this little aside: “My father always made me stand for the national anthem, perhaps that was why I rebelled!”

The thing you notice about Blackman, after her appearance, is how refreshingly blunt she is. Feisty too. She doesn’t temper her opinions for the sake of propriety, and she is pleasingly unconcerned about promoting the film she has ostensibly come here today to promote. Indeed when I mention it she says: “Oh that, yes. I haven’t seen it.” It’s called Cockneys vs Zombies and it looks pretty funny, part of a new genre called zomedie, in which the traditional zombie horror movie is subverted (think Sean of the Dead). In this one it is old age (cockney) pensioners who do battle with the undead, and the running joke is that they both move at the same speed. There is one scene in which an aged Richard Briers uses his Zimmer frame to try and outrun an equally slow moving zombie.

Blackman – herself a genuine East Ender, by the way, though she doesn’t sound like one thanks to elocution lessons she had as a 16 year-old – says: “Oh yes, Richard was very funny. It was a good script but it’s the kind of film I never go to see because I’m horrified by these awful looking creatures. Was any of the language left in? Because there were so many fs and blinds.” It sure was. “Well my parents would have been horrified. I’m horrified. When I started in film there was no swearing. You couldn’t even say ‘bloody’ when I started.”

And don’t get her started on sex scenes. Oh, go on then. “It’s like sex scenes,” she says, “they were more powerful in the Sixties because they were all about suggestion. Now nothing is left to the imagination, everyone humps everyone else, all over the place. I find that boring, frankly.”

The directors were all sexist in her day, women were treated as objects. Did she go along with it? “It was accepted. You were expected to do ‘wobble shots’ [where an actress jiggles her top half].”

Her first husband was a businessman called Bill Sankey, who reminded her of her father. This was surprising given that her father, a First World War veteran and statistician for the Civil Service, would beat her with a leather strap when he was angry.

“Bill was 13 years older than me and those were the days when your husband was always right. It took me a long time to realise I was more capable than some of the men I knew. It was maddening it took so long. We were supposed to emigrate to Canada where the plan was that I would ditch my whole career, but then I made a last film in Spain and I found it lovely being away on location, not haunted by his jealousy all the time.” Did she…?

“I behaved like a very good wife all the time we were apart.

I must have been mad. I posted money to Toronto to help him get established. It all disappeared.”

Did he feel threatened by her having a successful career? “He loved the money I earned but he was jealous beyond belief. He was always looking for people to bash and it was dreadful. I suppose when you see two actors snogging on stage or screen you think they must be enjoying it, and sometimes you do, but it’s just a job. Even if it could be quite a pleasurable job when it was Sean Connery.” Did she fancy him? A roll of the eyes. “Yeees.” There was a sexual frisson on the set? “Of course.” Did anything become of it? “No, because I was married. But it was very tempting. He was so sexy. I disapprove of him strongly now.” Why? “Because I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it. He wants it both ways. I don’t think his principles are very high.”

Blackman lives alone these days, but sees her two children (both adopted with her second husband, the late actor Maurice Kaufmann) and grandchildren regularly. She insists that she only takes work if it sounds interesting, but you suspect her still working has something to do with her Equitable Life pension, or rather her lack of one. The fund went bust in 2000 and Blackman has been campaigning for its members to be compensated ever since. She narrows her eyes jokily. “I just want justice. I was sold mine when they knew they had no money. It was fraud. I have been able to work on in this profession after 60, but others weren’t able to, and they are left so bitter. It makes me so angry. The people in Equitable Life should be in prison.”

I find myself reminded of Blackman’s reputation as a scrapper. She has, she says, “a terribly good uppercut. When I was 10 or 11 I knocked out two boys who were bullying my younger brother. I can’t stand bullies. My mother was horrified but they had to learn.”

Does she still have a quick temper? “I don’t think so, but maybe I take after my father. It’s more that I just couldn’t bear seeing injustice. I once got out of my car to intervene in a fight between a couple of boys, because it was so unfair.” And she knocked out a couple of her fellow actors during her acting career, Tony Booth being one of them. “Yes, I left one dizzy for a few minutes after giving them a karate chop on the neck. I don’t think I could do that stuff any more.”


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.