Journey to Paradise|
Friday January 15th 1999
I saw a notice stuck to a wall which said: "Keyboard player wanted for band -- urgent -- phone Francis on 9534 7095"
Now, being a musical person I've always wanted to be in a band -- and there's no instrument I play better than my own keyboard -- and opportunities like this don't come along every day -- so after going back and forth on it a bit I decided to ring the man.
Francis told me about the band -- they play cover tunes, a mixture of music -- they play in a restaurant - they're a bunch of Indians -- and presently they're restructuring -- Francis said he'll organise a jam session and he'll call me and tell me when to come over. After dinner I decided to view Melanie's wedding video, and try to play along, just to see if I'm up to it.
That's when I realised -- I'm so stupid -- why did I get myself into this -- going to the beach, that's fun -- chatting in Geocities, that's fun -- playing in a fountain, that's fun -- but playing with a group of professional musicians who've been together for eight years -- that's not fun -- that's pressure to perform -- didn't you remember that bands often play in keys other than C major or A minor? I'm going to look like a complete fool -- let's just hope I'll be in competition with some genuine professional keyboard players so that this thing doesn't go any further.
Saturday January 16th
I was afraid to go into the chat-room today because I was waiting for the call from Francis the band man. I tell you, you'd better play really badly at this audition, whenever it is -- 'cause if you get yourself involved in this band thing, it could upset the equilibrium that your life is in right now -- it's a commitment -- you're supposed to be avoiding responsibility, that's what Stephen Clark is all about.
Wednesday January 27th
For a while I thought my life was rolling along smoothly and pleasantly. Then, suddenly -- Francis the terrifying figure from my past arose somehow and reared his possibly ugly head. It's been almost two weeks now and I thought he was out of the picture -- but he's like one of those evil spirits that you summon in a sťance -- once you start messing with stuff you don't understand, you get into all sorts of trouble and you can't just walk away from it. He said the "jam" is tomorrow. A slightly sane person would have replied, "I'm sorry -- I've changed my mind -- I'm afraid I can't be your keyboardist." But unfortunately I'm completely insane and I can't go back on what I've said before. So tomorrow I make a total fool of myself and try my hardest to get into this band, this band that I have no chance of getting into and if I do then it will ruin my life. That portal to the dungeon dimensions -- it's easy to open, not so easy to close.
Thursday January 28th
Francis didn't call like he said he would -- he's leaving me out of the loop again -- he's making me wait at home for the phone to ring again --
Tuesday February 2nd
Francis is back, and this time he's not screwin' around -- he's gonna come to my place on Friday night, pick me up, take me to Springvale and test my keyboard-playing ability. I'm going to be jamming with the rest of the band. This is it -- after weeks of uncertainty and wishing it would all go away, the nightmare is going to come true. If they don't like the way I play, then it's going to be an embarrassing disaster. If they DO like the way I play, then it's going to ruin my life. The best I can hope for is something in between the two. What is a jam? I don't know what to expect.
Friday February 5th
I was worried about it before -- but experience has showed me that worrying never achieved anything so I just didn't think about it much during the day -- there was nothing I could do to prepare for it except pack the keyboard up in its soft case. Francis the first guitarist picked me up at six-fifteen and we rode in his expensive car to Springvale, exchanging various information on the way.
The rehearsal space was a lot smaller than I expected -- it was someone's garage. I met with the other band members, though I can't remember any of their names alas. They looked like a rough mob -- I felt like I was coming from a different world, a gentler world, and as they set up their mics and fiddled with the mixing desk, I just stood around quietly -- like a fashion model. Then the playing began.
Right from the start I was a quick learner -- my ability to play melodies by ear immediately came in handy -- the song was called "Kingston Town" and the chords were written out for me in an exercise book although some of them were inaccurate -- another problem was that there was no written indication of how long each chord went for. But I overcame all obstacles with my adapting and learning process, and the band members were soon recognising that I could really play.
We played the other songs in the band's repertoire, such as "Mona Lisa" and "Save the Last Dance For Me", both of which are fast rock 'n roll with boring chord sequences -- we also played "Pe-pito" and the reggae version of "Can't Help Falling In Love" -- I sure did excel on those reggae chords and I got a solo. My favourite one was "Help Me Make It Through the Night" -- it has that good bit with the B major to C major -- but none of these songs are really to my taste -- if I had my way they'd all be mellowed down and sung soulfully and painfully with strings added.
All the musicians are highly skilled -- the bass player is a large bearded man and he likes me -- he likes my style and this is his garage. The singer has made a few screw-ups during rehearsal but he has enough self-esteem to tell me that the band works as a cohesive unit and we need to communicate well in order to play as a team. People are telling me not to be nervous and to speak up if I have a question or suggestion to make. It's hot in here and I want to go home. I'm quieter than ever. Triumphant, in a way, but not really belonging.
Francis takes me home and in the expensive car I'm wondering who's the leader in the band -- the bass player seems to be the dominant one, but he's not exactly an expert in conveying musical concepts by mouth -- and Francis is the one seeking out keyboard players -- he said he's received a lot of responses to his ad but I'm the first one they've actually auditioned. And they actually invited me to come again next week at 4pm, Saturday. Just like that, they've made the decision? Even if they have doubts about whether I'm skilled enough, they quench them by saying I'll get better with practice. Seems to me I'll keep screwing up while I can't keep my mind on track.
At home I listened to Portishead, that superior music, and made dinner at eleven o'clock. Being in a band is not too bad. But it is BAD. My life would be perfect if not for this band. And the only way I can get out of it now is if they throw me out, or if something happens to the keyboard. Stupid keyboard -- it's not worth a dime anyway.
Saturday February 13th
At three-thirty Francis collected me and took me to the garage -- I was prepared with pages of chords and lyrics that I'd written up -- it turned out to be unnecessary, as we played only new songs today -- there was "Julio", and "Tape On the Bamboo" and "Sylvio" and "When I Saw Her Standing There" and even "Loving You" -- the bass player had written up the chords but he had more trouble playing "Sylvio" than I did. At one point Francis got so excited during a song that he accidentally knocked my music stand off the keyboard with his guitar-neck and everyone laughed. My biggest moment came during the Latino songs when they got me to play a solo and I did it without any learning difficulty. They were amazed. It was a demonstration of my ability to play a melody perfectly the first time, in any key -- almost like I did for the Cross Art Students on 7/5/96, except not so good because this time I'm gonna have to do it over and over again, and the more I do it, the less amazed they're going to be.
That's it -- they're never going to kick me out of the band now. I'm a valuable part of it. I'm ensconced. I'm indispensable. I can't just give them a taste of my talent and then leave -- that would be like teasing. But I never thought I'd be part of a band that plays the wack foreign-language Latino music. And I'll never find lyrics to these new songs. Fortunately Francis said he can lend me a few tapes in the near future. Oh well. At least I played some different sounds today. What was it that the vocalist might have said to me at the end?
"You're one of the best."
Friday February 19th
6:30pm -- Francis picks me up. On the way to Springvale, he hints that this band is only a temporary thing, and that he has another band around the corner, a better band, one with a female singer. He'd want me to be a part of it. The singer in this band is no good, he says -- the singer can't remember anything and he's always stuffing up. Francis is saying stuff to me that he wouldn't say to the rest of the band.
We play a couple of new songs at today's rehearsal, like "Kiss Me Quick", "The Spanish Night is Over", "Under the Boardwalk", "Unchained Melody", and maybe even "Apres Toi" although I can't remember how that goes. We also mucked around with "Blue Suede Shoes" with a different singer, 'cause our usual singer was late again. Oh and also there was "Montego Bay" which only has two chords. But the exciting news came at the end -- that the drummer has lined up a gig for us on March 20th. At a motorcyclist convention or something. Man, we gonna hafta practise hard before then. Francis and I leave at 11pm.
I don't know what Francis is thinking about the gig. He doesn't say jack to me until the end of the car trip when he says I should give him a call sometime, to talk, or if I'm bored I can come over to his place at 7/16 Chapel Street sometime. But you know I'm not gonna do either -- not if there's talking expected.
Saturday February 27th
This is me playing the keyboard sneakily -- deviously playing wrong notes, slipping in a stumble here and a discord there, making the music sound like crap. It's all part of my clever plan to sabotage the band from within. And the clever part is, they'll never be able to trace it back to me -- they'll sense that SOMETHING sounds wrong, but they won't figure out who's making the mistakes, so cunning is my technique. Actually none of this is true. But the band DID sound crappy today, and they were at a loss to explain it -- "maybe the heat", they said. Tensions are rising in the group, particularly against the vocalist who keeps messing up -- the general consensus is that we should get rid of him. And cancel the gig -- the drummer reckons the audience'll be throwing beer cans at us if we play like that. I'm not deliberately making mistakes, but I hope this band falls apart.
Friday March 5th
In the car, Francis said he's getting out -- he's had it with this band -- they're going nowhere and he has better options than this. If Francis leaves the band, then I do too -- it's a transport thing as much as anything. He says he has a place for me in his other band, one which plays more modern music and has a female singer. It sounds good to me. But when we get to the rehearsal, it seems that things have changed -- they've recruited a new singer. The old singer, as you may recall, was the main problem. At this rehearsal, both singers turned up -- the old one is called Guyto -- the new one is called Colin. At first we went through some old stuff with Guyto, and Colin looked on and gave advice. Constructive criticism. Already we were playing better.
Earlier, before everyone had arrived, I played that song "Feed the Birds" in a slow-rock style, and the guys were so impressed -- Don the drummer said I should write down the chords so we could all play it. Man, that would be cool -- having repertoire influence.
Colin sung some songs near the end -- songs like "Mustang Sally" and "My Way" -- he's a great singer with an enormous repertoire -- he also has good communication skills and he guides us along the righteous path. It soon becomes clear that Francis is not leaving the band. Everything's going better with Colin. He's that missing piece that we've been looking for. Tonight the band was not the monster that I'd been dreading.
Saturday March 13th
Colin presented us with a twelve page document containing a list of his repertoire. We had a few more problems today, endless confusion about song arrangements --
In "Red Red Wine" they were all saying it sounded a bit dead, until I was instructed to pump the strings up twice as loud, and then it sounded better -- only trouble is, now I have twice as much responsibility to not hit a wrong chord. In "Black Magic Woman" Don the drummer couldn't figure out how many bars to play his triplets -- in "Achy Breaky Heart" Clifford the guitarist couldn't figure out how many bars to play his lead-break -- in "Under The Boardwalk" Colin didn't know how many times to go back to the chorus -- the old problems are resurfacing -- at least the problem is not mine.
Friday March 19th
Chris from the band called me this afternoon and said that Francis won't be turning up to the rehearsal tonight. So he was saying there was not much chance of someone driving me to it. Optimistically, I started cooking dinner. But then the message came through that Don the drummer was coming to collect me, and that I was to wait outside my building with my keyboard until he came. Cursing, I turned off the stove, leaving the half-steamed vegetables to cool off slowly.
Don the Drummer and Chris's son come under the category of yobbos -- as they drove me to Springvale they told me how they'd been verbally abused by two girls at the bus stop on the way here -- no doubt the guys had been shouting sexist comments at the girls to begin with, so what do they expect -- Chris's son is younger than me, but he's a working man rather than a studying man -- and he can't quite understand why I don't want to get a driver's license -- his license is everything to him. Don mentioned that I might like to go out drinking with them sometime to see a band or whatnot -- friendly guys, but why would they want to befriend a person who's so obviously not on their wavelength?
Today we were a mess. The band was all over the place. I played O.K. but the others kept messing up and that meant we had to go over bits again and again -- fifteen times through the last chorus of "Achy Breaky Heart" -- twenty times through the last five bars of "Black Magic Woman" -- and as for "Red Red Wine", we had to cut out the best bit because they decided it was just too hard. If Francis were here, he'd be saying that he's had it with this band, end of story.
I feel like I just want to pack up and go home -- we're running late -- it just keeps going, song after song after song, and I'm thinking, surely I'll get home in time to watch "Rage" at 12:40 -- word on the list is that Paradise Motel's new "Drive" video will be shown tonight for the first time. But the hours keep passing, and 12:40 comes and goes.
After the rehearsal we have a talk.
Chris thinks this band is going nowhere, at least he can't see it going anywhere. He asks the opinion of
Me, and I say I agree with him. But
Clifford asks me why. Oh dear, now I have to justify -- I say it seems like we have to go over the same stuff too many times and we're not picking things up fast enough.
Colin, like Clifford, thinks this band can go somewhere with a bit of patience and tender loving care. Firstly, we should try continuing with songs instead of stopping when we screw up. Secondly, we should be playing in a restaurant instead of a garage -- never mind if we're ready or not.
Guyto has hardly said a word -- he's thinking there's no future for him in this band, regardless of whether it continues or not. He's the only one who's really dispensable. And so he suggests that he leaves. But Clifford doesn't want it to be like that -- he rejects the suggestion.
Don drives me home through the dead of night with his wife and sleepy daughters. He says Guyto gave us a chance to get rid of him, and Clifford knocked it back -- why? Another thing that became clear on the homeward journey -- Don has a problem with Chris. Says Chris is always the one who changes the song arrangements without warning. "And what", he asks, "are you going to do if we become a good, successful band and then Francis leaves? Will you leave too?" And I reply, "It depends on how good the band is."
After 2a.m., I have dinner in my flat. I watch Rage. But I missed the Paradise Motel. There was nothing I could do. This band sucks big time.
Saturday March 27th
I received a phone call from Colin the vocalist shortly after Don had volunteered Colin's services for picking me up. Colin's first words to me are, "So what's the problem?" I reply, "No one's coming to take me." Colin says he can't spare the petrol -- he's got to make the petrol in his tank last the week. He asks me if I can't catch a train to the rehearsal. It's raining I say I really don't think I can. He says "O.K. we'll rehearse without you this week", but then he outlines a plan by which I can catch a train next week. According to this plan, I take the stand and the keyboard on the train, and I call Chris when my train comes in and someone collects me from the station. And after the rehearsal, I catch a train home. THAT'S the plan? I say O.K., but privately I'm thinking this is the end of my musical career. If it's gonna be like this, if they're not going to drive me anymore, then they're asking too much of me. All the way to Springvale and back, with a keyboard and stand, at night, possibly in bad weather? I'll do it once, but not twice. This is the excuse I've been waiting for -- I'm willing to stay in the band if they're driving me, but otherwise I'm out. I suppose Colin thinks being in this band is a privilege. Thinks I need to make more of a sacrifice. I'll show him who's got the upper hand.
Thursday April 1
That band rehearsal hangs over me like a karitane -- will it end badly? Will they all hate me for being so insistent? Or will I just chicken out as usual? That would mean a lot more inconvenient train trips to Springvale, burdened with keyboard and stand, every week.
Friday April 2
It was pretty much fully a band day today -- I set off for Springvale at 10a.m., a little too early -- the rehearsal was at twelve -- I went by train -- when Don and Chris picked me up from the station they told me the news -- that Clifford and Guyto have left the band. Apparently there was a big argument last week and they parted on bad terms. But Francis has already found a replacement guitarist, a friend of his named Greg. So today was Greg's first rehearsal -- and it went pretty well, in fact Colin reckons this is one of the best rehearsals we've had. I never got around to making demands that someone drive me -- Greg lives in St Kilda so he can drive me one way at least, but I probably wouldn't have had the guts to threaten to quit the band anyway -- not when things are starting to go right for them -- our first gig will be lined up by next week almost certainly -- Francis is happy -- he rides home with Greg and me -- Greg is a young Indian real estate agent who can conduct mobile phone conversations in his car without taking his hands off the wheel -- it seems so pointless to say anything to Greg and Francis -- they're happy -- I'm not happy -- not until I get home --
Saturday April 10th
This afternoon I was all ready to go out to band rehearsal on a train -- but then Francis called and said we don't have a lead guitarist (what happened? Did greg quit?) and so the practice is cancelled. Well this was indeed good news and I decided to celebrate by going out to Revolver and getting plastered.
Friday April 16th
Tonight, everything was conspiring to make me extremely late. For a start, I had lost Chris's phone number. It had been written on a tiny piece of paper -- apparently I'd thrown it away accidentally when I cleaned up the east side of my flat on Monday. Colin's number was gone too. I searched for a long time before phoning up Don's wife and asking for the number. Then I was about to leave when I realised I had lost the $3.60 daily ticket which I'd bought earlier. After a long search I decided to risk travelling without a ticket.
The journey to Springvale was long and awkward with the keyboard and stand. When I finally got there, I was about to ring Chris from the payphone when I realised I didn't have the piece of paper with the number written on it. In my panic to find the train ticket, I must have taken the piece of paper out of my bag. So there was nothing left to do but walk for fifteen minutes up Springvale Road, with the keyboard and stand, in the darkness.
The band has no lead guitarist. Greg has quit the band. Do you know what that means? It means I'm going to have to play the melodies. All the stuff that Clifford used to play, I'll be playing. Our first gig will be two weeks hence and I've got to learn a whole bunch of melodies so that I can play them well enough so that I don't stuff up and hit wrong notes and make the whole band look bad. The worst part of it is, if I leave the band now, the lads'll be up the creek without a paddle. They're relying on me. They want to get out of this garage and into a restaurant, and if I quit then they'll be back to square one.
Colin drove me home. He asked me a few questions, and that was good. Colin likes me -- I remind him of his younger self. When he was young like me, he didn't have much to say. But he grew out of it and now he talks plenty. He reckons I'll grow out of it too. I said nothing.
I wasn't in a sad mood when I got home, but that's part of the problem. I'm never sad anymore so I don't get to create a sad musical atmosphere for myself. Maybe Morpheus was right -- maybe I can't appreciate the highs without the lows.
Friday April 30th
Another peak hour train-trip, another rehearsal -- Francis has dug up another lead Indian guitarist from somewhere and his name is Rayno or something -- he'll be taking some of the pressure off me if he sticks around -- I was good today, playing the lead in "Pe-pito" and such -- and when we played "My Way" I really got into it -- there were heaps of songs today, preparation for our gig which somehow remains permanently two weeks in the future -- oh it's not so bad I guess -- I was frantically practising today and yesterday trying to sound exactly like Clifford used to sound -- and now it's not necessary so there's no need to worry.
Interesting aside: I arrived early today and thus was able to spend more time hanging out in Chris's living room -- Don was there -- Chris's wife was nearby and numerous children were running around the place. I very rarely get the opportunity to hang out in other people's living rooms -- they had some nice fish in a bowl on the coffee table -- I looked at the collection of ceramic angels on the mantelpiece -- and all those family photos -- they give the place a sense of being deep rooted in history, with the ancient sepia photos showing relatives as they were at the dawn of photography. And all those trashy CDs and videos, the pop culture, the contrast. Chris's wife was kind enough to give me dinner -- it was a free meal -- quite delicious, too -- it's not easy to infiltrate a family household and obtain a license to inspect their angels -- I even get free food, with unwritten permission to take an apple -- but this band is the means. If only it were this easy to infiltrate any household. If only I could pick and choose which houses I can go into. I wouldn't have picked this one, that's for sure. This is a house for people with low education, people who don't have very interesting conversations. I'd like to go into Ginkgo's house and inspect her stuff -- she has heaps of stuff. But she'd shoot me as soon as look at me.
Saturday May 8th
Francis says he's having trouble making it to rehearsals on Saturdays and we're gonna have to do something about rehearsal times or else he won't be able to remain in the band. But we discussed it at length and he's not leaving the band just yet. There was a lot of mucking about today with songs not in the repertoire.
Rumour has it that we may have a booking for new years eve, worth at least $2500. As for bookings closer to the present, well the first gig is still hovering somewhere in the future, uncertain as yet. I was feeling stomach pains during the practice, it was most unpleasant.
Friday May 14th
For some reason Colin didn't turn up today -- he was unreachable. So today's practice was mostly instrumental. The scary thing about it was that we tried to play "Feed the Birds" -- that's my song, the only song that I've actually brought to the band. It went O.K. -- they followed the chords and I played the melody, but there were certain parts of it which would have been better if I had done some explaining about them. It felt like it was totally out of my hands. And there are so many chords, they'll never be able to play it from memory.
In the absence of Colin, I was driven home by Ray the lead guitarist. Ray's that guy who can't stand silence -- he's got to have a conversation going, so he asks me question after question after question. I try to answer the long way, but still he's milking his brain after a while trying to think up more questions. I don't mind answering questions, but there's one thing to be said about tonight -- that I ended up at home listening to the Paradise Motel's "Junk Mail" and it's only the third time I've listened to that.
Saturday May 22nd
And now the band is practising at 3:30pm to accommodate Francis. It leaves very little time to practise at home on a Saturday -- I didn't have a clue what was going on with "Hot Hot Hot". It was a good practice all 'round though. When's the gig? I dunno. On the way home, Colin had his daughter with him and he was talking with her all the way. She's a tiny girl. He seemed very happy talking with her -- this is one of the children he only gets to see on the weekend. Talking with children must be very different from talking with adults -- Colin is the master of it, he knows how her mind works. I can't talk with children, any more than I can play a guitar.
Friday May 28th
It was an average rehearsal -- that song "Feed the Birds" is coming along really well -- I've been thinking I ought to get the band to play "Aeroplanes" by the Paradise Motel -- that would be something to boast about in the fan club, and it only has two chords -- but somehow I don't think I'd be able to teach Ray the lead guitar part.
After the rehearsal was officially over, the guys got to discussing the Offspring's current hit, "Why Don't You Get a Job", and Chris came out with the lyric sheet for it. Colin was singing it a bit wrong so I started singing it and suddenly everyone started paying attention. I sang the first verse off the lyric sheet. Chris announced that it would be ME who sings this song instead of Colin. He told me to learn the song by next week. And this was an exciting new concept for all of us because they had never heard me sing before. Colin spoke to me at length on the way home. He asked me how I felt about this new song that I had to sing. I said that it was good but I might have a problem with some of the offensive language in it. He said it's no big deal, we can change the lyrics if necessary. Also on this car trip I mentioned that I'm creating a web-site, and I've been working so hard on it lately that I've been neglecting my schoolwork so I have to ease up on it. He went on to talk about many things -- his children, his divorce, his regrets, his worries -- somehow he got around to saying that that he's afraid that his children might be seeing the things he does for them only in dollar values. At this point I was searching for something to contribute, and finally something occurred to me -- I asked him "How do you avoid that?" I only said it so as to keep him talking, 'cause I've learnt from experience that conversation tends to dry up when it's all one way. But he took it to mean that I really wanted advice about how to deal with people and how to recognize the ones who see me only as a money-source -- or something like that, anyway -- I must admit I wasn't really listening, I was thinking about the situation. People NEVER speak to me this way. It was hard to focus on the words when the whole scene was so rare and valuable. Colin was talking partly because he wanted to get things off his chest, and partly because he thought the wisdom of his words would enrich my life. Little did he know that my life is already so perfect, there's nothing much that can be done to improve it. Other people's problems are unimportant to me. And yet, listening to Colin is like listening to a fine piece of music. He dropped me off at my place and said I can talk to him any time.
Saturday June 5th
The picture's getting all fuzzy in my head because I'm five days behind on this -- so, um, O.K., the band -- I didn't get to sing that Offspring song that I'd been looking forward to, because the others hadn't learnt it. And as for "Strangers On The Shore" which I'd written down the chords for, we couldn't play it properly because Chris remembers it with different chords and he said he'd have to get the chords from someone before we can play it.
The practice had a promising beginning -- I didn't have to ring from the station because Chris's phone was broken and the car was waiting for me at the phone booth. And it was not Don that drove me, it was his beautiful wife and daughter. When I got to the practice, everything was ready and Francis plugged in my lead for me. But after the "Strangers On the Shore" disappointment, things began to go askew. I must've had a stony miserable face because Francis asked me if I was O.K. and said I must be feeling under the weather. Later he made a coffee for me in an attempt to "warm me up". I didn't want coffee, but I drank half of it out of politeness. Bad vibes magnify themselves -- they don't need a big origin.
There was some attempt to play "Everything I Do I Do It For You", but I don't know how the keyboard part goes and Ray said he'd have to give a tape to me sometime during the week. After the practice Don said that Ray and Francis had been insulting the quality of his drums, and he had been rather hurt by that. Ray and Francis were absent at the time. Chris suggested that we all go inside and watch a Yanni video. So we did. It was a video of a live performance by Yanni (the musical genius) and the highly skilled orchestra that he surrounds himself with. The music was good, but it was too loud. And because I was surrounded by people I knew, I couldn't stand up and make the most of the loudness. I had to sit there and endure it -- my main desire was just to have that loud sound go away. Oh but the music was good, in a high-brow sort of way -- it was classical and modern and far beyond the reaches of anything that this band could attempt. Finally Colin took me home.
Friday June 11th
Ray the guitarist was late turning up to my place -- I had plenty of time to tidy up and to practise. He came with the tape of Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do" song and he taught it to me. I caught on fast but then it was time to go to the practice so he was good enough to drive me.
People don't usually come up to my apartment -- it's not usually "visitor friendly" and I don't feel comfortable letting people into my personal space. But everything is good, and in the long run it's probably Ray who feels more uncomfortable because of all the silence in here. I ought to mention that his name isn't really Ray. In the car on the way to his place he spelt out his name to me -- I'm not sure if I remember it correctly -- MREMAL? Something like that. Anyway he asked me a bunch of questions about my life and he found out that I design web-pages. This caused him to ask me if I'd come over and help him sometime with a web-site that he's making. I said yes. It may seem like I'm committing myself to giving up more of my precious time unnecessarily, but if there's one thing I enjoy doing, it's web-page design, and that's something I KNOW about, almost as much as a professional web designer -- I can help him. We were headed for his place because he had to go there first to get his guitar and stuff, and he said I was about to meet his girlfriend who is very lovable but she drives him crazy sometimes with her bad behaviour and he envies me because I've got no girlfriend and no worries.
Ray's girlfriend is a babe. I was surprised at first 'cause she isn't Indian, I suppose I shouldn't've been surprised. But anyway, I heard them converse and Ray showed me his latest compact electronic music device and his girl said, "It's just another toy to play with", and later Ray started asking her what she was going to do tonight, and she refused to give a straight answer. It was cool to be allowed to listen to conversation such as this, and I felt like I had come across something new and exciting. When we were back in the car, Ray said, See what I mean about having a girlfriend, and I replied, "She's nice", and Ray murmured, "She's nice, yeah right."
We went to Francis's place and I got to see inside his home for the first time. It was clean and neat. Seems like everyone's got a clean and neat home except me. We continued on in Francis's car to the rehearsal space, and that's where the practice began.
We didn't play the Bryan Adams song with the band today -- and we didn't play "Hazard", that other beautiful song that they told me to learn. But we did play "Why Don't You Get a Job" by The Offspring and it was ME who sang it so it was an intense and frightening experience. It was a highly anticipated event, not just by me but by everybody. Even Chris and Don's offspring were curious to see what it would look like when this normally silent person opens up his mouth to sing a pop song. Colin had to make heaps of adjustments to the mixer because my voice was so weak, and I had to sing with my mouth right up to the microphone. My voice sounded different through the speakers -- it sounded stupid, like a guy singing karaoake badly. But Colin and the guys seemed pretty impressed and they said I did a good job. I dunno, I guess I held a tune, but it's like, when the crowd hear it at a gig, they'd just be thinking "Why?" And I was totally trembling with the nerves.
Don is having doubts about his worth as a drummer, especially when other drummers come and take his place for one or two songs and show him how it's done. Seems like most everyone is a better drummer than Don. But Colin re-assures him, saying that Don is very good in that he's adaptable, and he's learning this after twenty years of non-drumming.
Colin drives me home. He says he never got a chance to talk to me about the Offspring lyrics and which words I can't say. So I show him the lyric sheet with the swear words underlined. He talks at length about how a vocalist can replace words in a song and no one really notices. He doesn't even ask WHY I can't say these words -- I mean, it must be pretty unusual, a twenty-three-year-old being unable to swear -- but he's just intent on thinking up words to replace these words in such a way that it will pass unnoticed. This must be a special skill that he has, one that he doesn't have much use for, although sometimes during rehearsal I have noticed him singing "I can see clearly now the brain has gone", and no one comments.
Saturday June 19th
My band is getting better every week. I sung that song "Why Don't You Get a Job" again and I wasn't so nervous this time 'round. Now it won't be long before we get a gig, surely, now that Colin is going to start asking around.
Friday June 25th
Francis didn't show up today. It's a pity 'cause otherwise we could have recorded a demo tape. And Chris's phone is still disconnected so I couldn't ring from the station. I was early so I had to wait half an hour in the cold night -- it's a good thing I had my book with me. Anyway there was a lot of mucking around with the music today but Chris said that from next week there must be no learning of new material, just revisement of old material. And that's good because the mucking around is the main barrier which prevents us from being great. Colin is going to start opening his mouth against the mucking around from next week -- he said as much as he drove me home tonight. He also said that he hates rap-music, but he really likes techno. I got to telling him that I've made quite a bit of electronic music. He was interested and he wants to hear some of it. So I'll bring a tape next week. This is exciting -- hardly anyone has listened to my music before.
Friday July 9th
As for the rehearsal -- well, Francis wasn't there again, but this is the last rehearsal before our long-awaited gig so there was no mucking around -- we had to practise all the songs that we're going to play tomorrow, thirty-two songs in all. It was quite a marathon, and still it's not perfect -- we still screw up and have to go over things in some songs -- Ray still doesn't know the correct chords to everything. And tonight, when all the songs had been played, we unplugged all the equipment and I left my keyboard in the garage, ready for tomorrow. Colin didn't ask about the computer music.
Saturday July 10th
Paradise is the name of the band -- kinda like my favourite band The Paradise Motel, except without the motel and without the artistic brilliance. We met at Chris's house at five -- I had to walk there from the station 'cuz both the payphones were broken, today of all days -- everyone was there, loading equipment into cars and exchanging witty banter about clothes and nick-names. Tonight was our big night -- there was a festive air, and everyone's friends and family were on the scene.
We drove to the Chinese restaurant and started unloading equipment and setting it up on the tiny stage. It's a very long and narrow stage -- and like, we were using our own speakers. So I was down one end and the speakers were arranged in such a way that I couldn't really hear or see Ray down the other end, but it was O.K. -- we finished setting up and we waited at our table while the place filled up with happy consumers.
Ray was nervous, and he just wanted to get up there and get it over with. I wasn't nervous at first, but after 45 minutes of sitting around I was getting the shakes and I couldn't get the tension out of my joints. We went up on stage and played the first two songs "Never On Sunday" and "Pe-pito". This is where I made my major mistake -- after one line of Pe-pito I drifted back into the Never On Sunday melody and Chris had to point out the mistake to me and I somehow forced my way back to Pe-pito and continue. The songs are VERY similar.
Tonight's gig was made up of four brackets, with dinner and discussion in between. There were a lot of stuff ups -- I made a few, Chris made a few -- Colin and Don made some bigger ones though, like during "I Started a Joke" Don played a 6/8 drum-beat instead of a 4/4 drum-beat and we all just had to go along with it. He played the wrong beat in "Oh Carol" as well -- it was a thing he could have fixed up early in the song, if he had been a true professional -- I'm not sure he was even aware of it. Colin sang things in the wrong order, he kept going back to the verse instead of the bridge and stuff like that. I guess the crowd didn't really notice. He sometimes threw me a curve ball by skipping a song on the list and going right on to the next one. And I had a problem with knowing exactly where songs ended. But let's face it, the crowd were in such a good mood, they would have forgiven anything. They were dancing and clapping and cheering. The atmosphere was great.
In the middle of the final bracket it was time for me to sing my Offspring song, "Why Don't You Get a Job." This was the moment everyone had been waiting for, and I must say it couldn't have gone better. It was perfect right from the start, people were singing along and dancing and at the end they gave me such a round of applause, you wouldn't believe. This is what we become entertainers for, you know, for moments like this. Not everyone gets the chance to be applauded by a room full of people -- and not just polite applause, but enthusiastic applause -- it kinda makes it all worthwhile.
At the end of the night we did our calypso medley, "Lambada", "Kalimba", Jo'anna" and "Hot Hot Hot", but Don messed up toward the end -- I don't know how he managed to drift into a 6/8 beat from a calypso, but he did, and there was no drifting back, no matter how much we signaled to him. Anyway the crowd was O.K. with it and we played two reprise songs at the end, because they were shouting for more.
For the rest of the night I was feeling drunk -- not on alcohol, but on success. People were coming up to me and congratulating me -- they made special mention of "Why Don't You Get a Job" and told me to keep doing it. Don handed me the money -- it was sixty dollars to each musician. This is the first time I've been paid for music playing -- Colin said I should keep the money always and put it in a frame.
It's kind of a pity that my parents weren't there -- after all, today was their wedding anniversary and we could have wished them Happy Anniversary, along with all the birthday announcements that we made. But I didn't even know where this place was until we arrived, and besides, it probably would've made me extra nervous to know that they were out there.
Despite my happyness I wasn't more talkative than usual, a fact noted by Chris's wife. She urged me to talk and come out of my shell -- it's no use, of course, 'cause it's NOT a shell, but Chris's wife was very kind and I smiled at her and said she's very kind. After the packing up process, Ray and his girlfriend took me home.
Things have changed now. I'm not looking for excuses to leave the band now -- I certainly wouldn't leave just because Francis leaves. And if my keyboard were to break, I'd probably buy a new one. This is just the start. I'll be playing more gigs, getting more money, and more free food, and everyone will love me and envy me. All I have to do is play.