I am often asked if I play any instruments myself. The answer is ‘no’. There are two reasons: One, I never learned to play any; and, two, does a puppet master learn to dance like a marionette?
I was asked this question earlier on. Being B.B. (see previous entry) I was filling today checking out a local record shop (store) for some underground tunes. Underground is where to find tomorrow’s hits, and next decade’s hits of the previous decade. One of my ex-wives used to joke that I was so underground it was amazing I didn’t have tiny useless eyes and large paws with which to shovel earth around whilst burrowing. The stupid slut.
In the shop (store) the orange-skinned, purple-haired, multi-pierced and thoroughly obnoxious girl pretending to be too cool to care while carefully scratching her eye so as not to disturb the smudge of her eye makeup, looked at me like I was her father or something. Jokes on her, because I actually might be. I’ve often thought she looked uncannily like a younger version of the woman from the services on the M6, who in her heyday was reputed to have been nicknamed The Welcome Party, because whenever anyone came there she was.
Anyway, I spent a time idly browsing the racks, but nothing grabbed me. I have eclectic tastes (as evidenced by the broad list of bands I have represented over the years), but some of this stuff was just shit.
All of a sudden someone grabbed my arm. I turned and was face-to-face with a young girl who was much shorter than me (actually, then, face-to-chest). She was cute in that sort of way that some girls are – if she were backstage she would most likely have ended up with the bassist.
“You’re Ellroy Jones, aren’t you?” she said.
I nodded, looked down at the records that were in my hand.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi,” I said.
“What are you doing here?”
“Making a pizza,” I said.
She laughed. Looking back on it now, her laugh might have relegated her from being with the bassist to the T-shirt guy (the prick).
“I’m checking out bands,” I said. “Got to keep my hand in.”
That made me pause because I couldn’t work out if she was begin funny or not. A moment’s awkward silence in which she had, and then missed, her chance to crack a wry smile, and I decided she was perhaps better suited to the bus driver.
She looked at me wide-eyed. No, she really did want an answer to the question.
“In the scene,” I said. “The music scene.”
“You’re scouting for new bands? That is so cool. How about…” she ran to the other side of the shop (store), plunged her hand into one of the racks, then ran back to hand me a CD.
“Backspace,” I read. “They any good?”
“You like them?”
Always with the smile, tight teeth.
“You’ve never heard them, have you?”
“Yes,” she said again.
I was trying to work out if she meant Yes, I’ve heard them or agreeing with me, when she added, “They’re local.”
“Great,” I said, debating whether she would attack me if I put the CD back. Music is like food – if locally-sourced is so bloody great why can’t they sell the shit anywhere else?
I decided to buy it and leave.
What was perhaps the most uncomfortable part of all this was that as I moved over to the counter, the girl stayed rooted to the spot and watched me. Then caught me up at the till. The orange girl scanned the CD in with a scoff that she very carefully tried to make out she was hiding.
“Well,” I said to the girl as I took the CD. “I hope it’s good.”
This surely was the end of the conversation.
“Do you still manage The Clandestinians?”
“But surely it’s the band who has…”
“Bye,” I said to the shop as a whole and hurried out. Outside I took my mobile (cell) phone out and started having a boisterous conversation into it, so that the girl couldn’t talk to me. When it rang we both knew I’d been caught and there really was no coming back from it. I put the call to voicemail. It was the bank, anyway,
“I’m going home now,” I said.
“Okay,” she said and started to walk with me.
“Alone,” I said.
“Can you introduce me to the band?”
“I have a meeting.”
I decided against going home and sat in an internet café for two hours first. For the first ten minutes or so I felt confident that she was sitting next to me, but after that it became uncomfortably like she was sitting with me. In that time I clarified as clearly as I could that any rumours regarding missing T-shirt monies on a certain Asian tour were erroneous and that the assault charges were dropped. Just to be clear here, the T-shirt guy actually attacked me with a plastic coat hanger and, in self defense, I hit him with a nearby fire extinguisher.
I then explained to her the growing dissatisfaction I already had with the musical direction the band were going in (I’m all for progressions and experimentation, but no one actually likes sitar, they just say they do), and how their lack of professionalism was actually bringing my career down; and downgrading their venues from concert halls to clubs was actually a (misunderstood) canny move to allow us to advertise the dates as “sold out”.
The café owner started making most unhelpful contributions to the discussion. Of her many unsolicited mantras it was You had an adverse face ratio with your people, you should have had Incentivise time and bounced that idea package around the room that made me order the bill. When I requested that we split it, the girl pointed out that she had only had a latte, while I had had a mocha anda blueberry muffin.
Then she left.
The café owner kept the fifteen pence change without asking (I was horrified to see her put it in one of those charity boxes shaped like a dog ) and pointed out that If you don’t have CARE in your CAREER, all you have is ER. I pointed out that in the last two hours she had had two customers and sold 2 drinks and a muffin. I also flashed my mobile phone at her, but I don’t think she got the point. (The point was that I have internet on my phone, just like the rest of the fucking country.)
When I got home I listened to Backspace. I will Email them tomorrow.