Inspired by the ridiculous number of musicians I know, amongst other things.

It could’ve been any of them, really. When there’s a fire you don’t stop to see who started it, you just run. Especially in a poky little rat-hole venue like the Pip and Post. I’ve got photos of that gig, oddly enough. If you’d like to see.
I used to take loads of photos. I always had to keep them all, too. I mean, they’re all memories. It’d be like throwing out old friends. These ones were taken by someone else, though. Well, obviously.
Look at this one – we’d been together for about eighteen months when this was taken. Looks impressive, dunnit? All about angles, photography. We only got about twenty people to that gig, but it was a small venue, so it looks all crowded and, y’know, buzzing. Well, I mean, it was, but it looks more so in this picture. I could probably still name everyone in that picture, if it interests you.
So. The one with the fluffy blond ponytail is Vannie. He was one of the guitarists in Dolly Mixture – the glam-rock band I told you about last time, remember? He was quite a sweet guy. Had his foibles, like the rest of us I guess. Had very fixed ideas about how rock music should be written. Gawd, but him and Charlie had some set-to’s about it! I could tell you such stories. But anyway.
The giant over to his right is Tim. The tallest man I’ve ever met – fuckin’ towers over everyone else! Such a softy, though. If he wasn’t standing there you’d be able to see Paul – that’s Paul’s girlfriend next to him though. Pretty, ain’t she? Married now. To each other, yeah! Ah, ‘ere’y’a, this pic ‘ere, you can see ‘im in this one. Amazing guitarist, one of the best you’re ever likely to hear I reckon. You know which band he was in, of course. Such a fuckin’ great band.
Ah… can’t remember these two here. Nah. But the little dude in front of them, that’s Welshie. Used to roadie for us. Well, I say roadie, it was more like carry a coupla things about and then get a free ride to and from the gig. And bloody guestlist! Not that that didn’t suit us just fine though! Another good guitarist, that one. Played bass pretty well, too.
That one’s Chris, looking all solemn and meditative. Look at him standing there with his eyes shut, well away in the music! He was really into the stuff we played – well, why else would he have been there I suppose. Yeah, he was a mate, but he was one of those people that if he didn’t like something, he’d tell you straight away. We valued his honesty, being as we were a young band still not sure of its sound. So yeah, I believed him when he said he liked us.
And there’s us, up on stage. James at the back there, pounding his heart out on the drums; Georgie stage-left, off in his own little world just as normal. Yeah, he was like that mostly all of the time. That’s me stage-right, not looking at the camera as usual. Though in my defence I didn’t know anyone was taking photos. Would I have looked if I had known? I dunno. Maybe. I was the “moody” guitarist, after all. But anyway.
And then there’s Charlie, dead centre of course, thrashing his guitar and peddling his poems to the masses the only way he knows how: by belting them out over some righteous heavy rock. Well, not exactly rock. I never did understand how he approached songwriting, nor where he got his ideas from, but I loved the tunes he used to bring to rehearsal, and I loved his lyrics even more. They really were poems, verbose works of art spun out of the ether, or out of whatever cause he’d felt moved to take up that day – and he took up a lot of causes – whatever was important to him got into his lyrics somehow, and he thought everything was important to some degree or other. I mean, I’ve always been good with words, but… I’ll dig out some of his lyrics, you should read them. As for the music itself… He wrote music like he was painting a picture, or sculpting some crazy image in stone – so there was no central point, nor standard structure; just sounds, and other sounds, different sounds – all flowing together, one from and into the other. But that’s why he and Vannie had such – hmm, “differences of opinions”, let’s say – like a classical pianist trying to talk shop with an avant-garde jazz pianist: they’ll both agree that they can each play the instrument, but neither one’s gonna be able to appreciate the other’s style firsthand, cos neither one plays like the other. So they’re never gonna understand what the other one’s trying to do, y’know? Not properly.
But anyway, the fire. First thing we knew, someone was yelling – way to spread the panic around. Quickest way to get a lot of people killed, that is. So then our sound cuts out. And we’re looking out across the audience to the sound desk – what the hell’s going on, kinda thing – and it’s then that I notice the whole place is a helluva lot smokier than normal. Everyone else has noticed, too. I struggle out of my guitar – I actually took the time to carefully lay it down on the stage floor, how I thought that would protect it I don’t know – and jump down from the stage. Charlie and Georgie are doing about the same, and I see James bolt down the back stairs and round to the front, where the rest of us are.
Some of the audience push open the back doors – a cloud of dark, heavy smoke rolls in. So, the fire’s in the main bar. Fine. Everyone heads for the back exit. That leads to a walled alleyway that runs round the back of the pub. We’re all scurrying along it, panicking and yelling – like rats, rats out of the rat-hole, eh?
Luckily everyone got out before the fire took the ground floor windows out. Me and a few others got hit by a few stray shards – see these little scars along here? – not gonna grumble, it could’ve been so much worse. No one died, that’s the important thing. Well, no one in the normal sense… I guess it’s different for the musicians. We lost all our instruments, all our equipment – we weren’t insured, we had to start from scratch. You pick a musical instrument, you go play it for a coupla years, and then you tell me it’s not a person somehow. And then you leave it in a burning building, and tell me how you feel. Fuckin’ heartbreaking, that was.
But anyway. Everyone got away relatively unscathed; emergency services showed up; they put the fire out; we went home. It nearly ended there. But – thanks to some good mates, a few under the counter “discounts” and a lot of extra hours at not-too-badly-paid but scummy jobs – bit by bit, we put it all back together. And then, almost a year to the day after it all turned to shit, we decided to organise ourselves a little tour.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Mnh…”
One eye open. Good start. Now let’s see about the other one. C’mon, man, it ain’t that hard. Aw shite, forgot to take the eyeliner off again…
The noise of a car horn outside the window. Persistent. Annoying. No doubt what woke me up. Lucky for the other guys – Georgie still snoring away there, cocooned in borrowed blankets and dribbling onto the jacket currently serving time as a pillow; James likewise, except for the dribble; and I suspect Charlie’s got the first suggestions of tinnitus, so no one who can sleep with bells in his ears is gonna be woken up by a bloody car horn.
Car horn…
“Shit!” I fought to get out of my sleeping-bag, stood up too quickly and fell over Charlie. That at least woke him up.
“Fuck off…”
Very friendly. I kicked him.
“Get up!”
“Five more minutes, f’r fuckssake…”
“Vince is outside NOW!!”
Charlie went from asleep to almost-vertical (impressive for a hangover in a sleeping-bag) and hopped around a bit before crashing into the wardrobe.
“No one set a fuckin’ alarm! Why did no one set a fuckin’ alarm?” he wailed, staggering to his feet. His eyes focused on mine.
“Jesus, dude, why d’you bother with the fuckin’ make-up? You look like some kind of crackwhore-panda.”
“Least I put some effort into my appearance, you fuckin’ sloven!” I retorted, grinning.
“That’s not even a word,” he snorted, rubbing his eye with the heel of one hand. Then, “I gotta take a piss,” he announced, and shambled out of the room.
“Whaddya want, a fuckin’ medal?” I inquired of his retreating back, not really expecting an answer. He did mutter something, but I didn’t hear it and it probably wasn’t even funny, so no matter.
Bloody car horn! I clambered over James to get to the window, opened it and leant out. My breath fogged in the winter air and for what felt like the hundredth time I silently berated Charlie for not booking us a summer tour.
“Dude! We overslept! Come on up, you’ll freeze yer arse off waiting, else,” I yelled down. Vince rolled his eyes, grinning, and threw his arms up as if questioning the gods – why am I driving for these dumbasses?
I went to the front door, unlatched it and left it ajar – Vince could let himself in and I could get dressed instead of freezing my arse off. But no – it seemed Fate (or rather, last night) had other plans for me…
“A.K!”
I sighed.
“What?”
“Dude – come look at this!”
“Aw, I’m not falling for that one again, Charlie – you’re sick man, you know that – “
“No seriously, come here!”
I pushed the bathroom door open cautiously – it was best to play safe where Charlie was concerned, whatever reassurances he gave – and stuck my head round. Charlie was staring, a picture of confusion and amusement, into the toilet bowl.
“What’re you expecting to see, your future?”
“Shuddup and come and look at this.”
“Hehe,” I sniggered, ambling toward him, “that’d make a great headline for Rolling Stone: ‘Budding Rockstar Sees Future In Mammoth Tur-‘ ugh, what the fuck -“
“Mind if I make myself a cup of tea?” Vince called from the hall. “Hey, where are you lot –”
“In here,” I replied, still transfixed by –
Vince threw the bathroom door wide open and strolled in.
“What are you two doing?” he asked, a puzzled half-grin on his face. I motioned for him to come closer, which he did, natural curiosity overcoming the need for tea.
He leaned in, and then burst out laughing.
“Whoa! Who left that in yer carzee?”
“Dunno, but I’d hate to have been on the other end of it –”
“I bet it was Kov, he’ll eat anything –”
“Ugh – can we just stop talking about this and get outta here!”
The Spell of What Lurked in the Toilet temporarily broken, we bundled out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, where Charlie set about making tea –
“And coffee, mister! Don’t think I’m drinking that leafy milky shit you make!”
– And coffee, for anyone in the flat who isn’t a mad-bastard-tea-slurper.
Now for the other matter…
“Rise and shine, brothers!”
(Ok, so James and Georgie aren’t brothers; they’re cousins. They spent a lot of time together when they were growing up, that’s all – plus I have something of a penchant for A Clockwork Orange, and any excuse, eh? They act like brothers to a certain extent; James especially is quite protective of Georgie, being the elder of the two – and Georgie being a bit wayward at times. It’s nice to see family looking out for each other, I think. But then coming from such gossiping, backstabbing stock, I’m bound to say that, I suppose. Anyway.)
James was the first to come to, as usual, and wordlessly shuffled out of the room. Georgie required a couple of encouraging kicks before finally succumbing to A.K’s Grand Scheme, which started with him not being such a lazy bastard. He groaned, rolled over and tried to trip me up as I stepped over him. I kicked him again. Well, it was for his own good. Probably.
Meanwhile, James’s voice floated out from the bathroom, deeper than normal and cracked with the smoke and shots of last night’s revelling:
“Dude – dude? Uh – I can’t take a piss – there’s a dead baby in the toilet…”

* * * * * * * * * *

“This week is gonna fuckin’ rule, dude,” said Charlie, as he sat down, all grins, at the table. We were at our favourite haunt, the best rock pub in London – The Fearless Weasel. For those who liked their beer cold, their shots generous and their floor sticky, it was perfect. It was Home, pretty much – especially given how many hours of our lives we must’ve spent there. I even worked there for a few months, but I got sacked pretty quick when the landlord discovered I couldn’t even answer the telephone without cracking up. “Good afternoon, The Fearless Weasel Public House” – I just couldn’t do it. Getting sacked didn’t stop me hanging out there, though.
“Fuckin’. Rule.” Charlie said again, whacking the edge of the table for emphasis.
“Fuckin’ right.”
“Yup.”
“It better do, after all the shit that’s gone on.” This from Georgie, ever the sober voice in the band. Charlie screwed his face up at this.
“Aw, why d’you have to be so negative, man? Just fuckin’ enjoy it for once –”
“Nah, c’mon, hang on a minute,” I protested, “he’s got a point – we haven’t exactly had an easy time of it lately.”
Charlie shrugged his agreement and James nodded mutely before downing the last of his pint. Charlie frowned.
“Yeah I suppose,” he admitted, “I just don’t like to dwell on it, that’s all.”
“Less maka pact, then…” slurred James, raising his empty glass in the drunkard’s salute, “we’re gonna look frorw… forward, from now on. No looking back at the shit that’s gone before. ‘K? Onwards n’ f’kin’ upwards!” He beamed at us. Charlie and I tilted our glasses towards the inebriated drummer, echoing the sentiment loudly and laughing; Georgie nodded self-consciously and looked slightly embarrassed, perhaps on behalf of his drunken relative or just because he wasn’t comfortable with this public show of camaraderie, who knows.
James stood up, swaying a little.
“‘M gettin’ ‘nother drink,” he intoned solemnly. “Anyone else want one?”
“Yeah, go on then, if you’re buying,” I said, winking at him. He was still sober enough to roll his eyes at this suggestion.
“But let’s have some shots this time, yeah?” I added. “We’ll all shove some money in, make a night of it, huh?”
“Count me out,” said Georgie quickly, grabbing his coat from off the seat and standing up. Charlie sneered into his pint.
“We weren’t gonna count you in, man, you haven’t had a drink all night,” he pointed out accusingly. Georgie shrugged.
“I’ve had a few! Anyway, I was, er, thinking of giving up,” he said. I spat the dregs of my drink back into the glass out of shock and stared at him in disbelief.
“What?! You wait ’til we’re about to go on tour and then you decide to go teetotal? Are you nuts?”
Georgie shrugged again.
“Just don’t wanna do it anymore,” he replied.
“Well you don’t have to go just because you’re not drinking,” James said, and reached over to take Georgie’s coat out of his hands. Georgie held it out of his way.
“Nah, dude, I’m gonna go for a walk and then head home. I’ll see you later.” He put his coat on, pulled up the collar and sauntered towards the exit, James and I calling uselessly after him:
“Aw, dude, c’mon –”
“George – hey…”
“Ah, leave him, if he wants to wander off on his own,” Charlie interrupted. He finished his drink and replaced the glass on the table with unnecessary force.
“Well I didn’t see you trying to stop him,” I said.
“What’s the fucking point?” he retorted. “He’s just after attention, and when he doesn’t get it and gets bored sulking, he’ll wake up, stop being a prick and we’ll have our old Georgie back again. No point trying to force a change, we’ve tried that and it didn’t work. Just leave him to his self-pity.”
James had gone a bit quiet during all of this. Now he shot Charlie a look and then turned abruptly and headed toward the bar.
“That was a bit far, wasn’t it?” I said coldly. Charlie shrugged.
“Look, I know they’re cousins, but even Jamie must see what’s been going on. He’s not stupid.” I said nothing. Charlie sighed, loudly. “I’ll apologise when he comes back, I will – but we gotta sort this out. If George is gonna be like this all tour I think I might end up killing him!” He smiled at me to show it was a joke and I smiled back briefly.
“I know, I know – look, let’s just clear the air, have a great night and wake up in a better frame of mind tomorrow, okay?” I held out my hand and Charlie shook it.
“Okay,” he agreed, sounding relieved. I looked across the room and saw James signalling from the bar.
“I’m gonna go help Drummer-Boy bring the drinks over,” I said. “Back in a minute.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Two hours and more than a few shots later, the arguments were barely a hazy smudge on our collective memory. What was at the front of our collective memory was trying to remember the rules of the Weasel Game, invented in the Fearless Weasel many years ago and named in deference to said establishment, and to be played whenever there was alcohol about.
What you do it this: you take a double shot and sit opposite someone else; your opponent (or, if you’re feeling oh-so-decadent, a third person, designated referee style of thing) counts “One, Two – Three!” and the person with the double has to drink. (Pints work just as well but I can’t stomach that much fuckin’ beer.) Whilst they are drinking, the person sitting opposite them says “Say Weasel” over and over again. If the drinker chokes, they have been ‘Weaselled’ and have to buy the next round. If not, the ‘Weaseller’ has to buy. And we switch roles each time, so everyone gets a few turns at drinking and Weaselling. Simple.
Our game was becoming somewhat infamous in the Fearless, and this particular session was starting to gather a small crowd. There were a few familiar faces – Kov, Tim, Paul, to name but a few – alternately cheering us on or trying to put us off.
“Charlie, say Weasel! Say Weasel, Charlie, say Weasel! Say Weasel! Charlie, you gotta say Weasel now! Say Weasel –”
Barely six ‘Weasel’s and the rum was sprayed across the table, Charlie rocking back in his seat and laughing his arse off in between spluttering coughs.
James thumped another double down in front of me.
“Your turn, A.K,” he said, grinning. Charlie took a deep breath, ready to yell:
“One, Two – Three!”

* * * * * * * * * *

“Aw, man, it’s not a dead baby, c’mon, jeez…”
“Fuckin’ looks like one… what the hell is it, then?” James finally dragged his eyes away from the bowl and turned the tap on in the sink; freezing cold water gurgled and splashed onto the cracked porcelain and he failed to suppress a shudder as he threw the liquid ice over his face and round the back of his neck.
“We don’t know what the hell it is…” I tailed off, and shrugged by way of explanation.
“We’re blaming Kov,” Charlie chipped in helpfully, handing James a mug of tea. James grinned briefly.
“Yeah, that’ll do for now,” he said, and took a sip.
Vince looked around casually.
“Georgina not up yet?” he enquired, smirking.
“He bloody should be,” I said, frowning, “I kicked him enough times.”
We trailed back through to the bedroom, where, sure enough, Georgie had succeeded in regaining unconsciousness with record speed. I sighed, folded my arms and rolled my eyes heavenwards.
“You wanna do the honours, Vince?”
“Sure, why not,” he replied, grinning again. He reached down and grabbed Georgie by the ankles and started to haul him out of the room, blankets and all. Georgie woke up and started yelling. He clutched desperately at the carpet, the doorframe and even at thin air, but all his efforts were to no avail and he was half-dragged, half-carried down the narrow hallway into the bathroom and unceremoniously dumped in the tub. Whereupon Vince turned the shower on.
“Wakey wakey, Georgina,” he boomed.
“Fuck off callin’ me that, man,” Georgie complained, swatting at the water cascading down on to his face and struggling to hoist himself out of the bath. Vince grinned and threw a towel over Georgie’s head.
“Hey, you should be thanking me – that’s yer shower for the whole week taken care of!” Vince winked at him.
“Fuck you, Vincent,” Georgie growled and hauled himself to his feet, almost yanking the shower curtain off its rail in the process.
Vince, thoroughly unabashed, shrugged and left him to it, crossing the hall and rejoining us in the kitchen. The enraged cursing grew fainter as he pushed the door to. He took his cup of tea from beside the kettle, added half a bag of sugar and raised it to his lips without bothering to stir it.
“S’awake now,” he said, his voice muffled by the mug.
“You surprise me. Want some tea with your sugar?”

* * * * * * * * * *

It had got to that point of the night where things were making so very little sense that they had come out the other side and started to make sense again. Charlie rolled out of the heaving crowd currently sweating away to something cool by Lynyrd Skynyrd (I forget what) and collapsed on to the seat opposite me. I did not look up as I was immersed in my own drunken musings and scrawling industriously on the back of a beer mat with someone’s discarded eye pencil:
“‘And all the games that we have luded
But none so much as have been ruded
And why to have them brooded
On by us who are still so young’…”
“Wotcha doin’…” Charlie angled his head impossibly sideways and tried to read my kohl-lined incoherence.
“Piss off, Charlie… Y’know, with this,” I prodded the mat with the capped end of the pencil for emphasis, “this kinda rhyming scheme, I coulda been Bob Dylan, y’know that?”
Charlie made a grab for the beer mat and spun it round so he could read it properly. After a fashion of absorption, he said:
“Yeah… but what does it mean?”
I snorted and snatched the mat back from him.
“Hey, don’t push me man, I’m having a poetic moment…” I glared at the words in front of me, frowned and stabbed the air absent-mindedly with the eye pencil and then sagged, defeated.
“Aw, dammit, you made me lose my thread!”
“Looks like you lost it a while ago, dude,” Charlie leered at me. “Remember when you wrote that thing about being a bun?”
“What – ‘I Am A Bun’? That was a classic, that coulda gotten us fuckin’ signed, and you vetoed it, you bastard!”
“Or the one about the camel? No beast as noble as the noble camel should be described as havin’ ‘pussies for feet’ –”
“Noble? Noble?? Now there’s one creature that really would spit in your face as soon as look at you –”
Nah man, they’re cool, they’re fuckin’ noble as fuck –”
“And anyway, they do ‘av pussies for feet, point of fact –”
James had reached the table by this point:
“What the hell are you two arguing about now?”
“Camels.”
“And buns.”
“Yeah, and buns.”
“And camels.”
“An’ pussies.”
“With feet.”
“Runnin’ around like they own the place…”
James could only look on in bemused puzzlement as we collapsed into uncontrollable laughter.

* * * * * * * * * *

It was sometime after midday when Vince quite rightly pointed out that we should really get loaded up and on the road if we were going to get to the first venue in time for soundcheck, a point which we all accepted with varying levels of panic and inaction. Finally, though, we got moving. A still-grouching Georgie changed into some dry clothes (to match his new, ‘dry’ lifestyle, Charlie rather unnecessarily pointed out) and fortunately we had organised ourselves sufficiently the day before so that everything that needed to go with us had already been piled up and was waiting patiently in the living room. So it was really only a short while later – after tea had been drunk, bacon sandwiches created and then demolished, and Vince’s beaten-up old Land Rover (and I say that with affection) loaded up with equipment, instruments, merch, alcohol, further bacon sandwiches (now cold and congealing) and various other munch – that we were bid a tearful farewell by two gorgeous aficionados of the cause (namely the “brothers”‘ girlfriends, whom Charlie and I had taken to calling the Princesses, after a certain cult film) and then we were backing out of the side road and joining the nearest motorway marked “The North”. Onwards n’ f’kin’ upwards, a’right.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Ok – snare, please –”
“Oh, this is always my favourite part – the drum soundcheck. Thud, thud, thud…” Charlie swung his guitar round and nodded his head theatrically in time with James’ snare hits. When he was sure he had the attention of the female sound engineer, he pouted at her and gave her a wink. She pretended not to notice and frowned over the channels, continuing in a semi-bored monotone:
“Floor –”
Charlie rolled his eyes in contempt and cocked his head briefly in the sound engineer’s direction; “Lesbian,” he mouthed at me, and flicked his tongue back and forth rapidly. I grinned and concentrated on tuning up.

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