based on a true story from 1998 written by Denis Taylor Editor for painters TUBES magazine
I strolled through the car park sucking on my empty pipe and coming to terms with an altered perception of my existence. A figure approached me. “Hey mate have you got any skins.” He asked me. I took a step back as I cautiously looked him over. He was a youngish man with a wild haircut and friendly eyes. “No.” I said a little startled by him having spotting me in the shadows. “You see mate, we’re doing our first set of new tunes tonight.
It will be an all night rehearsal thing for a gig this weekend. The drummer remembered to bring the weed but forgot to bring the skins, the dick head.” He said with a grin. “Oh I see, what is it you want from me again?” I was still unsure what he was talking about. “You know mate, papers…’skins’ to make a spliff.” I stared open eyed back at him. “It’s just for a smoke mate whilst we are playing.” He said. Still a little confused, as I didn’t know what he was referring to in the first place, I replied.
“You can borrow my pipe, if you want.”
Then I pushed my arm and hand forward, holding the pipe up with some reverence. “Nice one man.” The young man said. “You can come up to the rehearsal room if you want and have a poke, that’s if you like to try the weed.” I thought about the word ‘Poke’. I presumed he meant a smoke of his ‘wacky baccy’. I agreed to the offer of the poke and followed him through the yard to the old buildings urine smelling elevator, which we had to take as the rehearsal rooms, which was on the third floor of the old cotton mill building. It’s odd, I thought, why these young people never take the stairs? He looked to the corners of the lift.“Bands today man, what are they like?
They piss everywhere, they think they’re all fucking Oasis or something.” The boy showed disgust at his fellow musicians lack of respect and I was more empathic about their bladder control. We arrived on the third floor and was greeted by the mural I had painted many years ago of the Beatles. I looked at the mural casually, but made no comment about it. The paint was slowly fading away, but somehow that gave it more authenticity. “Sort of ironic reminder of Pop music.” Said the young musician and he pointed to the mural. “Why ironic?” I asked him.
“You know, it’s fading away, like all pop bands fade away, when their fans fade away. or grow old and die…”
…and so the story begins.
…The old rehearsal studios were very old, but loved by the local musicians, because they are cheap to rent space in. The building carried a renown musical history going back several decades. I first came here as a young ambitious artist, wanting to be around the new music that was exploding onto the scene at that time. They called the place ‘Green Door,’ due to the large metal doors of the entrance that were painted green for as long as anyone can remember – I knew why they were that colour of course, because it was the one that painted them, when I first created the wall mural of the Beatles on either side of the doors.
The young man and I walked through the Green Door and there seated on two old leather sofas was the rest of the band. He introduced to each of them in turn. “Ok, this is Monny our Singer and this is Spider our lead genius guitar and this is Woody our mad drummer and I’m Smiffy the quite one on base. And this guys is the provider of the pipe, sorry man but didn’t catch your name?” I never replied
I shook each of their hands and introduced myself as Spike, my own nickname back in the day. “And I’m the bands public relations expert.” A young blonde girl came out from one of the side recording rooms, she held out her hand. She resembled an updated version of Marilyn Monroe with heavy red lipstick, matching finger nails and the possessor of an curvy figure. She shook my hand gently, but firmly. “Pleased to meet you, my name is Anthea.” She said, “But the band call me Andy.”
Are you an artist? She asked me. “Of sorts.” I replied. Before Anthea could develop the conversation Smithy had loaded the pipe, fired it up and handed it to me. Blue smoke already filled the air accompanied by the sweet aroma of marijuana. I decided to be polite and not refuse to partake and sucked on the pipe before blowing out a cloud of smoke. It caught my throat and I coughed. “Good Mary Jane.” I said. The band looked at me confused. “You know, – MJ.” I said. They laughed at the dated references to the drug, as each of them took turns to suck and blow in between refilling the pipe with the weed. “Did you say you’re an Artist?”
The singer said. “I was a painter, many moons ago.” I answered. “You didn’t you do that old mural at the entrance did you?” The lead guitarist asked. “Guilty as charged”. I said smiling. “And I was actually paid for doing it.” I replied. “That’s sick man” ‘Woody’ said and after a silent pause in the group conversation.
“I thought it was Ok when I did it, but it may look sick now I guess.” I replied. Smiffy explained that ‘sick’ was good and not ‘sick’ as in meaning bad. “Nice one, I always wondered who painted it, now I’ve met him.” Said Spider laughing.
“My company is called Sync-In” The blonde bombshell interjected. “That’s with a ‘Y’ and a ‘C’. She clarified her companies name by handing me her business card. I looked at it impassively. ‘Sync-In’…keeping you in touch with todays sounds. The card said. “That’s Cool” I replied to her card, trying to appear as ‘cool’ as any old man could be, given the present company who’s average age I guessed to be no more than twenty one years old. “Are you a well known artist?” She asked.
I stuttered a little before answering her. “Yes, but only to myself.” I said and the band laughed. The pipe finally arrived at me again and I took one huge drag and then passed it on to the blonde bombshell. “Oh, thanks, don’t mind if I do.” She said politely. “Hey mate” Smiffy shouted. “Wanna hear a tune or two in a bit?” “Sure.” I answered enthusiastically. After all I had nowhere else to go, also the blonde bombshell intrigued me. We walked into one of the smaller rehearsal rooms and the band began to warm up their respective instruments.
Andy Sandy sat next to me. “They are really good” She said. “I’m organising a video for the BBC New Sounds show. “We decided to record a live gig.” She purred. After numerous twangs of electric wire strings and drum rolls, the band launched themselves into their first new song. ‘Smiffy’ created a base line that led the lead guitarist into a hook line whilst ‘Woody’ became one with his set and clicked his sticks together to ascertain the beat, his bobby hat being the only thing in view behind the large drum set.
The band spun-off from each other as the rhythm and lyrics began to slowly gel together into a melodic beginning. It went well until Andy decided she wanted the band to rehearse how they would appear on stage, (for the video). She began positioning them, explaining from which best direction they would be videoed. The band went along with her for a while. Then Woody got up from his drums and went back to the sofa, quickly followed by Smiffy leaving only the lead guitarist and Monny.
I excused myself and joined Smiffy on the sofa. He sat smoking my pipe and looking glum. “She does my head man.” I looked at him with sympathy. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s good at what she does, but I don’t see why she has to be at rehearsals every fucking week. I mean she maybe shagging Monny, but for fucks sake…we gotta get some real rehearsing time in..seriously man…we a’int anywhere near tight enough yet for this BBC gig.”
He took a suck on my pipe and then handed it to me. “You know she is probably wasting her time anyway.” I said to Smiffy. “What d’you mean?” He sensed I was on his side. “Well, of all the best bands I’ve ever seen in here, and thats like hundreds and hundreds in my time.” I stopped for a puff on my pipe. “How old are you man.” Smiffy said. “As old as pop music my boy”. I said with a wry smile. “Now as I was saying, of them all, the very best didn’t so much play music as feel it.” “Well yea, we all do feel the sounds man, what’s that gotta do with Andy and her fucking about with our rehearsing time?” “Perhaps you should mention to Monny that if the video is to be of any substance, musically speaking, then Andy should video you exactly how you feel when you are performing the tunes.
No rehearsals are needed for that.
You should be creating the togetherness at rehearsals and only performing the sounds at the gig. If anyone has to be in rehearsals at all, they should be like me, invisible. That way it will be a great video and not a cheesy one, like so many of these video artists seem to be these days.”
“If he’ll listen, I think he goes deaf when he sees her big knockers, he can’t concentrate on the words of the tune.” He was right, as in so many cases, personal or physical relationships and creating music cannot be mixed and if they are, generally it’s for the worse, at least that’s according to my observations of the years.
” The mad thing is Andy’s got a brilliant voice – I want her to be in the band – and be a sort of co-singer – that would have solved everything- but I was out-voted.”I persuaded, with a promise of support for many of Smithy’s viewpoints, and persuaded him and Woody to go back into the rehearsal room and try again to play at least one song from top to bottom without Monny’s girlfriend’s involvement.
Andy was still positioning Spider and Monny for camera angles as we walked in. When the band set up again she sat down next to me. “So, Andy, tell me, are you planning to be on stage with the boys at the gig?” She looked at me as if I had insulted her. “Of course not, this is about the Band and not me.” I sucked on the pipe, which was, by now empty. “Oh, I see, I thought you would be.” I said. “Why? She asked turning towards me. “It would be natural for you to do it wouldn’t it? or have you employed a camera person for the job? “Not exactly, the BBC said they would have to use their own camera people.” “I see, so you have no real input with them do you” “None at all.” She said. “Yet I hear you have a good voice?
Couldn’t you persuade Monny to be a back up for him.” I asked. ” Well you know what bands are like…they are very funny about letting in new members.” She with a frown on her forehead. “I see so now, you are trying to get the band to put themselves in a position on stage as if you would be filming them, so you are involved, is that it?” “Well, I hadn’t thought of it like that but I suppose so.” I looked at the pipe and looked at Andy. “Could you do me a favour.” I asked. “Depends on what it is.” She said with a cheeky smile on her face. “Can you find something to put into this.” I held up the pipe. “I believe you will some ‘weed’ in Woody’s jacket on the sofa. Andy obliged and being a bright girl, I think she was thinking about our conversation, and seriously thinking about making music for herself.
The band began their first tune of the night. And repeated the introduction…
“Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain” ‘Monny’ sang and faded out the last of words as ‘Spider’ caressed his electric tool and produced an addictive repetition of notes. Smiffy played a pulsating captivating hook base line throughout. Monny looked up from the staring at the floor and began to sing with emotional power. “A million thoughts are spinning round my head, a sinking feeling like I’m in a dream.” He continued. “Remembering all the things I could have said…to you.” He turned to face the drummer and turned back grabbing the microphone in one movement while simultaneously upping the volume of his voice. “When you’re gone there’ll be no second chance, you made your bed now lie in it.”
The rest of the bands volume increased three fold and Monny roared. “Rain on me and wash away my tears, shine on me and brighten up my years.” Spider played a haunting solo on lead as Woody rammed the drums with powerful expression. The instruments then fell silent except for the faint base rhythm played by Smiffy. Monny looked down at the floor and shook his head from side to side as if he was crying.
He looked up at the ceiling and quietly sang with a sad delivery. “We all come to a bridge of life.” Monny then looked to his side and then looked directly at me. “Has it ever occurred no-one crosses it?” The guitar kicked in much louder and the drummer became a blur of flashing sticks. “Rain on me” ‘Monny’ cried out and then repeated the same lyric as he expanded the line. “I’m taking one day at a time, one day at a time” He followed it swiftly with an emotional tone. “Rain on me and wash away my tears”. He pleaded “Shine on me and brighten up my years.” He asked with passion. He repeated the line “Brighten up my years.” Building up to a crescendo. As the band slowly played in unison to the fore with an immense addictive sound. It was, I thought, the best song I had ever heard for many a year behind the Green Door.
I found myself standing up accompanied by Andy, who had come back into the room smoking and hot. At the end of the song I collapsed exhausted into the chair. “I have to leave.” I said. “Wanna a poke before you go?” ‘Monny’ asked me. I looked at the pipe and looked at Andy. “No thanks Monny, but you can keep the pipe, because that was what I call a great tune.”
till next time…
I walked to the Green Doors, as I opened them I turned my head to the band. “What do you call yourselves?” ‘Monny’ rose to his feet and proudly said “Teaser.” “That’s with a very big ‘Z’ in the middle” Andy added. “ I looked at Andy – “Let the band do the video exactly as they have, it will be a smash hit. I said and walked out of the room making my way towards the urine perfumed elevator, but detoured towards stairs, preferring the smell of mould and dirt to that of urine. “Rain on me and wash away my tears, Shine on me and brighten up my years.” A tear fell as I sang the tune as I slowly walked down the stairs and through the yard and back into my non-existence, that is until the next time I cross the bridge of space and time to once again go behind the Green Door.