Paul slipped between the people in Mike’s room, and found a spot of free carpet beside a striking, overly tall, young man clutching a bottle of evil looking wine. Wig, as he was called, was the drummer in the band. He appeared physically to be constructed from a variety of pipe-cleaning wires, loosely dressed in extra-long black jeans, and a brightly patterned shirt which hung on him as uncomfortably as a politician’s promise. Paul was convinced that it was a girl’s blouse, but Wig liked gaudy patterns, and this gold and red number was no exception. Shiny gold tigers chased spiral red patterns across where Wig’s chest would be if he could be surgically shortened by a few feet. An old black waistcoat secured the blouse to his shoulders, allowing the bellowing sleeves to pour down his skinny arms before giving up six inches from his wrists.
Wig was striking looking, not just because of his lanky height, but because of his nose, which held forth from his face like the prow of an ancient man’o’war. Fully half of his features were composed of nose, proudly cutting through the air as he walked, yet it gave him the comic good-looks that matched his kind, funny outlook on life. Wig was Paul’s best friend, a superlative drummer, universally held in top regard by everyone who knew him, a caring and sensitive guy with great musical insight and taste.
He was also well on his way to getting blind drunk on the sickly, medicinal wine he now proffered to Paul.
“Thunderbird, Bastille... a fine vintage.” Bastille was Paul’s “Mike-name”. As part of the mystique, perhaps, Mike gave everyone a name of his own and, because it was Mike, these names stuck. An awkward situation one party, involving Paul, several rooms, several different girls in each of these rooms, and a little too much to drink, had led to his own Mike-name. When the dust from the cigarettes had settled, and the hangovers moved on to find other targets, Paul had discovered that he had arrived at the party with one girlfriend. During the evening, this had briefly increased to three girlfriends as he wandered from room to room. Then, after a few conversations in the morning between said girls, this number had finally settled to zero girlfriends. And a Mike-name. “Bastille by name, bastille by nature.”
“Thanks, Jay,” said Paul, using Wig’s real name. He braced himself and took a mouthful of the Thunderbird fortified wine. In a wine tasting, he would have to describe the wine as having “powerful initial flavours of berries and battery acid, followed by a gentle numbness in the throat, eyes and nose, leaving an aftertaste of liver failure on the palate.” The palate, of course, would soon be too drunk to care, which explained Wig’s advertising tag-line for the nasty brew. Thunderbird... it gets you there.
“Mike wants us to play this evening, you know?” Said Wig with a smile. He had mastered a slightly off-centre smiling technique which, coupled with his monumental nose, and glitteringly clever eyes, made all around him smile too. “Mike’s gonna be bloody lucky!” He pointed to the empty bottle of Thunderbird lying on the carpet beside him.
“Well...” Paul said. “Best catch up, then.” He extracted a half bottle of whiskey from his jacket pocket. A small scrap of paper fell from the pocket with the drink. Paul picked it up and peered at it. A metro ticket for the Paris underground. The joys of second-hand clothing. “There you go, Jay... ticket home.” He handed the stub to Wig.
“Give it to Mike... he’d go through French girls like a disease.” Mike was getting ever closer to the young lady he was explaining the album cover to. He was a wealth of musical information, about bands, band-members, stories from the studio, stories from the tour bus. It was, however, likely that they were entirely made up, but fairy tales or not they had the desired effect. He enchanted people, and his latest acolyte was now only dimly aware of others in the room. She was lost in his voice; sucked deep into his eyes. Curiously, though, she was unlikely to be end up pulled under his sheets later. Mike wasn’t like that. His conquests were little less than complete entrapment of the mind and the heart. Physical conquests were too tame for him; too everyday, too normal. Uniquely for an owner of a Y chromosome, Mike played hard to get.
It added to the mystique, the phenomenon, the event that was Mike.
“What you been up to, Jay” asked Paul, sucking back some whiskey.
“Hey, just the usual. As little as possible. But I went into town this morning, and you would not believe what I found in the back of Blair’s.” Blair’s was the music shop of choice in town. It was far enough from the centre not to get blown up every fortnight by the Irish terrorist group of the moment, seedy enough to have cheap gear, and the Canadian who owned it looked like central casting’s idea for a Led Zeppelin roadie. Legend was that Dave the owner wasn’t actually Canadian, but had ran away there to avoid the Vietnam draft. However, this was a Mike story, so true or not everyone accepted it as adding colour to the overall tapestry of their lives. “I found a fucking Hammond... seriously, for real, a bloody Hammond organ in the back of the shop.”
“Joking me... that’s cool!” Paul played keyboards, and a Hammond organ was the ultimate wet dream for a keyboardist. “Just don’t tell me how much.”
“Okay.” Jay looked away at others in the room. “Had a Leslie speaker too.” He continued to aim his nose at other people in turn, firmly ignoring Paul. “And a cup of coffee with mould in it sitting on top.”
“Alright. How much?”
“I can’t say. You don’t want to know. I like to respect your wishes.”
“That’s good, Jay. But I’m changing my wishes now. I would like to know.”
“What? How many pounds?” Hammonds would be dear, and Paul, Wig and Mike were very poor.
“Unatey pounds.” Wig was being annoying. He looked serene in his annoyingness.
“Just tell me the bloody price, Jay!!! “
“One hundred and eighty new pounds stirling, sir.” Wig looked directly at Paul, eyes wide and glistening. “One eighty. For a Hammond. With a speaker.” He paused. “The coffee cup’s probably extra.”
“Bloody hell, Jay. That’s insane. Did you tell Mike?” Wig nodded.
“Mike’s dad just gave him a hundred for doing some work for him last week. And I’m getting the dole from next week... we need another fifty to buy it.” Expectant glance. Paul shifted his weight, uncomfortably aware of the scrumpled ten pound note and change in his pocket which comprised his sole assets in this life.
“Crap. Did you ask Dave if he’d hold it for us? Do you think he’d do a deal?” Paul looked around the room, wondering how much they could pawn some of Mike’s crap for. An old church incense censer caught his eye, a huge iron thing with window-like openings to let the incense out. It was being played with by one of the hippy chicks, who was lighting a small yet potentially lethal fire within it, feeding the flame slowly with tiny pieces of meticulously torn up paper.
“Well, yes he will. If we stump up fifty for a deposit, he’ll let us have it for one fifty. He says no-one else wants it, because of a dodgy electric lead or something. But Mike reckons he can fix that.” Paul did the sums. With a little help from his parents, they could be playing Hammond organ within the week.
“I think we can get it. God. I actually think we can get it.”
“And get it we shall, my friends.” Mike had detached himself from the LP reading girl and slipped on his bum over to his band mates. His eyes sparkled and a wide smile was on his face as he nursed a pint glass of water. “I spoke to the parent type people earlier on, and they provided us with a small sum of hard currency to get the magical organ in the morning.” Mike enjoyed expanding language.
“That is amazing... I can’t believe it! When will we go and get it?” Paul couldn’t wait to add the mother of all keyboard instruments to his meagre collection of synthesisers.
“You don’t mean ‘morning’ as in ‘morning morning’, Mike?” Wig raised his half-empty bottle. “Surely you mean ‘lunchtime morning’, or ‘after I’ve stopped being sick, morning’?”
“I mean morning has risen morning, as in first thing in the morning, as in whenever Paul can get the Green Thing here in the morning morning.” The Green Thing was Paul’s car. His mother’s car, actually, but he had the main use of it largely because he was the only one willing to fill the cooling system with water every ten miles. It was a Vauxhall and, at some point in its life it probably had a model name and technical details describing its engine, speed, economy, petrol type, and such motor-enthusiast stuff. However, now it was reduced to its colour – Green – and what it was – a Thing. It was the mode of transport for the band. Jay didn’t agree with cars because they damage the environment, and Mike didn’t drive. He was driven.
“Well, if it’s morning morning then Jay and I should make tracks fairly soon.” Paul put the whiskey down. The Green Thing needed a clear headed driver to caress it. Mike passed the water to Wig.
“My plans exactly... but first you drink this, Wigster, and secondly I feel the urge to produce some large rock-like noises next door.” He clambered to his feet and helped Paul up. “I’ve everything ready – just put the mattress against the window and we’re good to go.” The mattress was the soundproofing. Although Mike’s house was detached, and there weren’t any neighbours directly beside it, with guitar, keyboards and Wig’s drums clattering and wailing away, neighbours needed to be in another postcode not to notice. So the mattress cut the complaints down a little. It also fell on Wig’s head every now and then during practice, so it was funny too, watching him trying to keep playing whilst being squashed like a peculiar spider with sticks for legs.
The three went into the practise room and, as Paul flicked on his synthesisers and amp, and Jay searched around for his drum sticks, Mike began the elaborate pre-flight checks of his bewildering array of effects pedals, amplifiers and leads before finally plugging his battered old Gibson copy electric guitar into the system. With a few clicks of the drumsticks, and the grinding hiss of Mike’s overburdened amplifiers, the three transported themselves once again out of the dull suburb of a dull city in a dull, grey country, and into a multi-coloured, screamingly loud, landscape of music and meaning. Tomorrow they would return to the real world but, for tonight, as a few of the other party-goers slunk into the room and sat on the floor, they lost themselves in sound.
Sounds soon to be enhanced by the raucous coughing of the Hammond organ.