A once in a lifetime band.
Stumbled across by a drifting through life 40 year old desperate for something to break the routine.
The rollercoaster ride that ensues affects everyone connected with that band.
A read for everyone that's ever cared about a band. Very Rock and Very Roll.
||Manchester, United Kingdom
||6 publishers interested
Rock'n'Roll's associated stories are part of its rich tapestry and are embedded in the folklore of the bands or individuals involved. The myth can become the truth if it's repeated often enough. It's what we - or did - expect from our Rock Stars.
These often debauched tales often don't tell all the story. How does the aftermath affect both the perpetrator and their loved ones. Living in such a bubble can and frequently does, bring out their worst excesses and personality traits. In simple terms it changes people. Drastically and irrefutably.
This book has at its heart a frustrated 40 year old man facing up to his fallibilities as he enters middle age. An entirely chance encounter with an undiscovered yet supremely talented band takes them all on a helter skelter journey. As well as the face value glamour, the book explores the psyche of all concerned as they face up to their very much under the spotlight lives.
I've worked and hung out with numerous bands so the book contains both true and fictional accounts of various rock'n'roll shenanigans....
From starting out and the trajectory that follows, the book will appeal to anyone that has ever really loved a band and loves a dip into the Rock'n'Roll lifestyle.
The books main protagonist - Johnny Harrison - a man hitting his 40th birthday, stumbles across a band that agree to him managing them. From a very early stage, this proves to be the catalyst that changes lives. How do Johnny and the band deal with this new found fame. How does a 40 yr old cope when flung headlong into a whole new world? How do the band cope being in the spotlight 24/7?
The story follows them through all this and is exceptionally realistic , funny and poignant. It takes on a totally different angle to just hearing the songs and reading about the bands antics.
Relationships form an integral part of this story and the narrative follows them to what I consider to be an original and surprising denouement.
It's a loveletter to love. The love of music, family, friends and to my hometown of Manchester.
The primary market for my novel would be a 30 plus readership who have a love of both music and bands. It will be most pertinent to those facing up to the milestone of 40 and all that it does or doesn't bring.
Music biographies are - quite rightly - hugely popular and I'd wholly endorse the adage that 'fact is better than fiction' However, this isn't a string of rock'n'roll anecdotes strung out in fiction form, but takes these tales and incorporates them into a very plausible and enjoyable read.
In excess of 250,000 people went to see The Stone Roses play last Summer and I feel that this would be the ideal target readership. A lot of people would be interested in this book!
'Kill Your Friends' was both exceptionally popular as both a book and a film with the demographic that I believe my book is aimed at.
The 6 Music audience would be a primary demographic and again with the right marketing and promotion, I feel they would see that the book is a success.
This is my first novel.
I should have done this ages ago. I'll get that in first, save you all from telling me this. You'd be right but lets not dwell on that.
I have previously written for football and music fanzines. And now I want to do this all the time. You haven't even got your hands on the debut novel, but I can tell you that I already have plans and plots for books two and three. So this won't be a one-hit wonder. If you'll excuse the pun.
Having worked with bands and experienced the rock'n'roll lifestyle first hand, this book is based on some of the anecdotes that I heard or witnessed along the way. Some true. Some not so true. And some are utter fantasy....
In terms of a 'concrete plan' to market the book, I have the services of a top Manchester based P.R agency available - they specialise in Music and Corporate Events and have a huge range of clients at their disposal. I believe that this would assist in greatly when it comes to landing the larger/corporate sponsors. I would see a long term relationship with them should a publisher be sourced at this stage.
The usual channels of social media would be heavily deployed and I am just finalising an author specific website. The rationale behind this would be to direct all social media traffic through the website i.e. exclusive links to anyone that reviews the book favourably. An author forum would be a staple of the website and readership interaction would be encouraged.
Also, I am in the fortunate position whereby I have numerous 'high profile' friends and contacts who I could call upon to promote the book on their social media feeds.
I would look to use the books artwork - which was designed by a very highly regarded graphic artist/photographer who has previously worked with some of the biggest British bands (most notably The Cult) - and flier local gigs in city centre Manchester that I feel would be appropriate. Promotional Artwork would also be displayed in various Music venues and bars. A drinks coaster promotion is also something that I would consider.
A combination of all of the above would see the pre-requisite 250/500 advance orders completed...
Kill Your Friends
A Visit From the Goon Squad
You Don't Love Me Yet
I have to be honest and say that I have only read the first three novels listed. Although, I have just ordered 'A Visit From the Goon Squad'
Kill Your Friends is probably the best of the three that I have read. The book is very much 'American Psycho' meets the UK music industry and the author is clearly writing from a first hand experience of the latter. The book is a blast and although the music industry machinations and acerbic takedown are very plausible I feel that my book differs in that it looks at the affects of fame on people and the subsequent highs/lows and fallout. The books differ in the likeability factor of the main protagonists - 'Kill Your Friends' Steven Stelfox is resolutely and unequivocally an anti-hero whereas Johnny is a flawed character but ultimately is striving to do the right thing although he makes heavy weather of this at times.
'Powder' is without doubt the closest in theme to my novel and I was initially gutted when upon finishing my first draft/manuscript discovered that this book existed.
I read it immediately. With some trepidation.
There are distinct similarities. But the books differ in one significant way. And I don't say this idly. Mine is better. That simple.
'High Fidelity' is probably the touchstone 'music novel' and one that is held in very high regard. The novel focuses on music in the form of a records shop rather than an actual band. and the nuances of fame and celebrity. Both books share the same central themes of music, love and relationships. However, my novel is grittier , more hedonistic and less neurotic.
All the novels I have listed are without doubt very enjoyable – in particular ‘Kill Your Friends’ and ‘High Fidelity’ and although ‘Powder’ is a decent read, I can say without hesitation that mine is a better story with more plausible and likeable characters. Indeed, my novel is funnier and far easier to relate to.
Music novels are somewhat thin on the ground as it is a tricky subject matter to tackle and could easily go spectacularly wrong but I see no reason why my novel wouldn’t stand along those listed quite comfortably.
He’d insisted on low-key.
Low-key. It’s unambiguous.
No surprise party.
Resolutely no fucking surprise party.
No see them ‘once in a Blue Moon’ friends making up the numbers.
No debauched weekend in Eastern Europe being rinsed by preternaturally attractive girls.
And resolutely no naval gazing or ‘what if’ recriminations.
At least not outside the confines of his inner narrative….
Male pattern baldness. Erectile dysfunction. Pension shortfalls. Prostate checks. Taking up the saxophone. The fucking saxophone. Earhole, eyebrow & nostril hair sprouting overnight. Middle aged spread. Just for fucking Men hair dye. Fuck me. Buying a bike worth twice your first car and dressing up in lycra like a Poundland Bradley Wiggins. Fucking Lycra. Prozac. Viagra. Vitamin supplements. Anti-wrinkle moisturisers at 30 quid a pop. Getting your five-a day. Stop wearing trainers. Christ. Health MOTs. National Trust membership. Three day hangovers. Dinner parties. Real Ales Pubs and Ministry of turn the Sound down please. Going. Fucking. Bald. And so on….
“It’d better be fucking low key,” Johnny thought to himself as he idly peeled at the dampened label on his bottle of lager.
Thirty-nine years and 364 days old.
Or young. Whichever way you want to wrap it up.
He had begun to warm to the vagaries of thirty-something….
Proper middle aged
How the fuck had that crept up on him?
4-0. That was a whole new demographic. The 39-45 bracket on applications. And that’s nearly 50.
He had been fifteen when his Dad hit the two score milestone. The half century eluding him as he dropped dead of a stroke at 48. Congenital heart condition. Long odds of it being hereditary. But still….
So it was to be a drink or two with his closest friends in Manchester’s burgeoning Northern Quarter.
Dressed for the occasion in his immaculate, but seldom worn, Navy Stripe Boating Blazer, green gingham checked shirt and jeans – the same brand and fit for the past fifteen years. A pair of new brown Desert Boots completed the outfit. A present from his long-term partner, Claire. Complete with a card saying that it should really have been comfy slippers. Drum roll please.
“There’s just no place for balds in Rock’n’Roll,” said Johnny
“Elton John,” Mark replied, with a self-satisfied look on his face.
“He’s not a bald! Proper head of hair on him.” Johnny replied.
“Fuck off. He’s bald as a coot! He wears a wig. I’m sure of it,” said Mark with an exasperated tone.
“AHH!” Johnny said as held an index finger to his nose and pointed at Mark with his other hand.
“You’re such a sarky twat,” Mark grumbled.
“Look. For every one bald you can think of, I can name a dozen that are hirsute in the extreme. Ozzy. All The Beatles. Bowie. Zep. Let’s not start on The Stones. Clapton. Duran Du-fucking-ran. The Gallaghers. Him out of Depeche Mode. Kin’ ‘ell look at Lemmy! The Roses. Pete Doherty. But I wouldn’t encourage his narcotic intake.
“Yeah, yeah alright,” Mark ceded.
“I’m right. A healthy diet of drugs gives you a great fucking head of hair. For life. So shut the fuck up and tuck in,” Johnny said as he nodded in the direction of the mound of cocaine that sat centre stage on his finger-marked glass dining room table.
“FLEETWOOD MAC! They took loads. Legendary for it,” he shouted smugly.
“Behave. Stevie Nicks has got a lovely head of hair. She wouldn’t thank you for that,” Johnny retorted.
“Always the smartarse,” Mark said.
“Always. But you still love me. Now get that polished off. Taxi’ll be here soon. Give Chris a shout. Chainsmoking like a Lab Monkey out there.”
“Anyway. Don’t change the subject. That’s it. All downhill from here,” Mark said pithily.
“Fuck off. I’ve still got my hair. Bit greyer. Well a lot greyer,” he said shrugging, “and my eyesight’s only just giving up the ghost. And I won’t be shopping for Blue Harbour’s finest elasticated jeans like you. That bay window above your belt,” Johnny said as he reached across to pat Mark roughly on his receding pate. “Look at the fucking state of you man. You’ve given up. Five years ago you’d have never been seen dead in them shoe trainers or whatever the fuck they are.”
“Given up? You’ve not got a fucking clue mate. Given up. Fuck me,” Mark said with a weary shake of his head. “I’d love to drop a week’s wages on clobber. But the last time I looked at something smart, it didn’t come in a wipe down from baby puke range.”
“Come on mate, I’m only messing. So I’m 40. What changes? It’s only a number. I’ll be right. Something’ll change for me. Promise.”
“Do you mean you’re actually going to grow up and face up to your responsibilities?” Mark said. “It’s not too late for you to become a Dad or make an honest woman of Claire. Decide what you want from your career!” His tone serious as he attempted to add gravitas to his advice
“Haha! I’d love to take you seriously mate! I’m hanging on your every word. But I cannot take life coaching from a man with a lump of coke hanging from his nose.”
Rubbing his nostrils furiously, “You could at least start with a proper haircut,” Mark said.
Chris returned from the backyard, having just extinguished his fifth cigarette of the afternoon. “But it’s not ‘just a number’ is it. You’ll look at what you’ve achieved or in your case…”
“Balls,” Johnny said, a little too defensively.
An angular chin away from being classed as classically good looking. At his full height, he was just over six foot, with an athletic build he had somehow retained despite a lack of any meaningful exercise over the last decade. A thick head of hair that had seen teenage attempts at a Morrissey quiff – lamentably limp – 90’s rave ‘curtains’ which morphed into an indie bowl cut and was now worn in an unkempt fringe that he felt belied his corporate job.
Decent enough house. Money wasn’t that much of an issue. His job as an H.R manager at a large I.T company paid well, but it wasn’t exactly what he had planned. Claire was a good partner. She was not behind the door at reminding him what a catch she was. Although he missed her more free spirited days. Sort of. She was seemingly now far happier planning interior design makeovers, with hours spent slavishly pouring over aspirational magazines.
This can’t be it.
There must be more to the conundrum of life. There’s got to be more than sitting on a sofa and asking each other what you want to eat before you die.
The front door to the terraced house opened and Claire walked in, dumping her neon striped sports bag at the foot of the stairs.
Claire Cooper – who went by the moniker of CC in her clubbing days. A natural blonde with a dancers body. Upon the closure of her beloved Hacienda, she’d switched overnight from pill popping to detoxing. This epiphany had her looking a good ten years younger than her 38 years.
Standing and hugging her, Johnny kissed her warmly on the neck. “Careful now. You don’t want to get sweat on your best jacket do we?”
“I was just going to say how nice you smelt,” Johnny smiled.
“Don’t creep. Doesn’t suit you. And I know you’re only coming out with the charm to make up for the shit state you’ll be in tomorrow,” Claire retorted.
“Hiya Claire,” Mark said with a surreptitious rub of his nose.
“Hello boys,” Claire purred. Well aware of the effect that her Lycra clad figure would have on her partners drinking buddies.
With a polite peck on her cheek, Chris returned the flirtatious comment with interest. “Hiya gorgeous. You look great. As always. Way too good for this deadbeat!”
Mark smiled back, discreetly trying to wipe the stream of coke induced dribble that had leaked from his right nostril.
“Lucy and the twins doing well?” Claire asked.
“Great ta. She said to say hello,” Chris replied as he studiously tried to stop eyeing her up and down. And failing.
Checking his chunky stainless steel watch, Johnny sighed at the platitudes. “Won’t be a massive one. Just town for a few and that. Maybe a curry.”
Making finger italics,” A quiet one. Hmmm. You’ll tell me anything. Come on it’s your big 4-0. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t make a tit of yourself somewhere along the line. No pun intended,” Claire laughed as she tapped the tiny silver stud on her nose. A throwback to her wilder days.
Spreading his arms wide, feigning innocence, Johnny looked at his two friends for moral support.
“And if you lo-rent Scarfaces could tidy up the evidence before you run along. My Mum’s coming round tonight and even she’s not daft enough to think that I’ve gone all ‘Bake Off’.”
Again making finger italics with her salon painted nails.
Decanting the gak back into a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier wrap’, Johnny pulled out a hankie and wiped down the table. Dabbing a rogue grain on his gums.
“You don’t get any more house-trained with age. A snotty hankie! I’ll clean up after you all. Disgrace. The lot of you,” Claire said with a smile.
Hearing the parp of their taxi, Johnny said, “Right, that’s us honey. Ta for the boots, dead comfy and look the business.”
In a mock condescending voice, Claire replied, “Now you be careful, and don’t drink too much.”
“Yes Mum” said Johnny playing out the thread bare routine.
“And look after Mark. You know he can’t hack it these days,” Claire added sympathetically.
“We’ll be fine and he’s a big boy,”
Blowing a departing Pepe le Pew like kiss, Johnny did his usual keys, wallet & phone check and slammed the red wooden front door shut and in three strides was in the front seat of the waiting cab.
“Hiya mate, Northern Quarter please, and we’ll need a cashie on the way so if you could just stop off on the way. Nice one”
Pulling the seatbelt across him, Mark said, “I knew I should have had a piss before we left.”
“Christ. We’ve not even pulled away yet,” laughed Chris.
“You know what I’m like when the seal’s broken,” sighed Mark. Lamenting his thimble sized bladder. A gift seemingly bestowed on all middle-aged men to quell their drinking valour.
They headed straight to The Crown & Anchor - a quiet backstreet pub that serves a decent pint, with a secret smoking terrace on the rooftop providing great views across the city’s constantly evolving skyline.
As they entered the pub Johnny sidestepped to let his friends to go in first, enabling him to confirm that there was no ‘surprise, surprise’ party awaiting him.
Spotting a table equidistant for the bar, toilets and the well-primed jukebox - which was easing the evening in with something pleasant by Crowded House which Johnny just couldn’t quite name.
“So. My shout,” said Johnny to the back of Mark’s head as he made a beeline straight for the gents. “Three lager flavoured drinks?”
Taking their seats, “That Laser Eye Treatment has knocked years off you man. Can’t get used to you without your Ryans,” Johnny said. “You’re more Game of Thrones than Geography supply teacher now.”
Rubbing a hand across his salt and pepper beard, “Oh I do love your backhanded compliments,” Chris said aiming a playful punch at Johnny’s cleanly shaved chin. “Save me a fortune in the long run. the amount of pairs I’ve lost or sat on.”
“Claire keeps telling me I need to get mine tested. Either that or my arms stretched. And buying a whole new wardrobe would be expensive,” Johnny quipped. “Mind you. If it stops her with the ‘Specsavers’ gags it’d be worth it.”
“I think you could pull that look off. Might even make you look intelligent. Anyhow. Big one tonight Johnny. I’ve not been out in ages. Work and the wife and tw ins and that.”
“Christopher,” Johnny placed his hand on his heart,” I can honestly. Sincerely. Wholeheartedly. Without doubt. Guarantee that we will get totally and utterly pissed tonight”
They laughed and chinked pints.
Three swift pints. A line each. And a collective five pisses. Three of which were on Mark’s scorecard..
“Right,” said Mark, standing and smacking his thighs. A quick JD and we’ll scoot to somewhere a bit livelier. I just need a quick piss.”
“FOUR!” chimed Johnny & Chris with drunken sniggers.
As Mark returned carrying the three whiskies, Johnny held up his phone towards him. “Some bloke from Guinness for you. Wants you to call him when you’ve broken the world record for pisses in one evening.”
Clocking the grave look on Mark’s face, Johnny put the phone down, “Only joking mate. We’re all as bad as each other.”
Inhaling deeply and then knocking his drink back in one, Mark lowered his voice. “Look. Don’t go off on one. But I’ve had a bit of an accident. I. I’ve dr-“
Leaning over the table, Chris looked at Marks crotch, turned to Johnny, “Nope, he’s not pissed himself!”
“Quit it,” snapped Mark pushing Chris back down into his seat. “Right. Some fucking idiot banged on the toilet door and I-“
“AND WHAT?” snapped Johnny.
“Shhh,” gestured Mark. Keep your voice down. “Look. I’ve dropped the Charlie down the toilet. I’ll pay. Fuck. I’m sorry fellas. I’m really sorry. As I said I’ll pay.”
“Oh that’s okay,” Johnny growled. “Just toddle off to the bar and ask for three pints and a couple of grams of coke. And make sure it’s not fucking diet!” slamming his hand on the tabletop.
“It was an accident. I’m as gutted as you are fellas,” Mark said as he kneaded his temples.
“My first night out in fucking ages and you flush the drugs down the fucking bog. Fuck me,” Chris said with a slow shake of his head.
“Hundred and fifty quid. Fuck me. Hundred and fifty notes down the pan. Literally,” hissed Johnny.
“I said I’m sorry,” whispered Mark.
“Right. Fuck it. I need some fresh air. Let’s move on. I can’t stay in here,” Johnny said.
An hour had passed shrouded in awkward silences and sardonic grunts – principally from Johnny.
“It’s not like we need drugs to have a laugh is it?” asked Mark beseechingly.
Johnny looked at him wide eyed. “I’m not even answering that.” Drumming his fingers on the table. “I’ll remind you of that in a couple of hours when you’ve lost the power of speech and need helping into a taxi.”
Chris returned from the bar with three extravagant cocktails. “Here you go birthday boy. That’ll put a smile on your face.”
Grimacing, Johnny stared at the ceiling, “Right. Cos a vase of alcoholic slush will make everything fine.” Picking out the brolly, snapping it between his fingers.
“Let It go man,” Chris said. “He’s apologised. Could have happened to any of us.”
“Exactly,” Mark said. “C’mon mate. Don’t let it spoil your birthday.”
Draining his cocktail with one slurp, Johnny stood and buttoned his blazer. “I’m just gonna grab a burger from the top of the road. Gimme ten minutes. Fresh air and some scran and I’ll be right.”
Raising his ‘Frog in a Blender’ cocktail, Mark said, “Grab me one mate.”
“Shall I drop it down the toilet first?” Johnny said, before kissing Mark on the top of his head. “You daft twat.”
As Johnny exited, Chris patted Mark on the arm, “Give him ten minutes and he’ll be right. Let him chunner on to himself and we can forget all about it.”
“Thanks mate. Another cocktail? My shout.”
“Don’t push it. A pint. And no umbrella!”
Leaving the warmth of the bar, Johnny hunched his shoulders against the cold. Pulling his blazer around him and rueing the decision not to wear his trusty Parka.
“Fuck it’s cold,” he hissed to himself as the wind picked his pockets. Sidestepping a pouch of pavement smokers outside The Millstone, he headed for the take-away on the corner of Thomas Street.
A screech of ‘hens’, goosebump prickled arms linked, teetered towards him on skyscraper heels. Swathes of exposed flesh the hue of a freshly painted fence. Cheaply printed t shirts bore hashtags indicating their respective roles in the upcoming nuptials.
“HELLO SAILOR!” giggled #Bridetobe, exposing a hunk of well chewed gum.
Stifling a grimace, Johnny smiled and proffered a half-hearted salute. A smorgasbord of mono-moniker celebrity perfumes assaulted him, and he gave an exaggerated cough as payback for the nautical quip.
Pushing the plate glass door open, he was met with a grease saturated warm blast. Picking his way across the tiled floor, slick with smeared rainy footprints. A couple sat at a Formica tables that was cracked into fractals and made gooey eyes at each other as they fed each other fried chicken.
Who said romance is dead thought Johnny.
With a cursory glance of the backlight menu, “Cheeseburger please boss. No ketchup ta.”
“You want drink with that? Chips?” asked the burly proprietor as he busied himself at the skillet.
“No. I’m fine ta,” Johnny said.
Johnny leant against the tiled wall and then thought better of it, rubbing the back of his precious jacket. Glancing across, the deep fried lovebirds were now attempting to eat their last piece of chicken a la ‘Lady and the Tramp’.
He busied himself with nothing on his iPhone. Skimming through a few blast from the past birthday greetings on Facebook.
“You want ketchup on your burger?”
“No ta,” Johnny said, smirking to himself.
Inadvertently catching McRomeo’s eye, Johnny nodded. “Alright mate. She’s a keeper.”
“Fuck off yer dick. Only a first date innit. Why do you think we’re eating in this shithole.” Turning to face the counter. “No offence mate. And you look a right cunt in that jacket. I didn’t know they were doing boating on the Ship Canal!”
“A cunt on a punt,” his date sniggered as she wiped greasy fingers on an already soiled serviette.
“CUNT ON A PUNT! OH YEAH! I told yer that youse was funny for a girl,” snorting as he snapped his fingers.
“Hilarious,” Jonny muttered under his breath. Regretting getting involved.
He nodded his thanks as he took the warm carton, electing to eat on the go rather than endure anymore of the gastronomic floorshow that had now moved on to a one cup/two straws finale.
Heading over the road towards Stephenson Square, Johnny wolfed down the burger in four bites and headed towards an ‘open all hours’ to pick up some chewing gum.
As he surveyed the ‘ghost buildings’, idly awaiting the inevitable hoovering up by avaricious developers for yet more rabbit hutch sized aspirational lifestyles, he saw a sticker on a lamppost advertising a gig that evening. Roadhouse. Two minutes round the corner. Bound to be someone in there I can pick up a couple of grams and get the night back on track…
The Roadhouse. Newton Street. Manchester.
A subterranean club, hidden by two huge black metal doors. Doing shabby chic since way before shabby chic was a ‘thing’
A for once, fully functioning neon sign cast a garish halo over the bouncer as he multi-tasked cupping a cigarette whilst drinking from a small Thermos.
Johnny skipped up the three oh so familiar stone steps.
“Hiya pal,” Johnny offered breezily. Never failing to be shocked by the tattoos on the behemoth of the doors face.
He reached for his back pocket for a couple of pound coins to cover the early evening entrance fee but the booth cum cloakroom was unmanned. A promotional poster on the wall indicated that there were three bands playing that night under the imaginative banner of ‘Soundclash’. The typeface done in a punk styling even down to the ‘Anarchy A.’ Somebody being oh so retro Johnny smiled to himself.
A headline band going by the name of Kaspar, with support from The Salvo and Lonely Souls. With the promise of ‘Classic Indie Bangers’ from DJ Sirus the Stylus. All for four quid. Not the usual cringe worthy band names mused Johnny as he stepped into the veiled darkness.
The smell of bleach hung heavy. The freshly swabbed floor anticipating the evenings spillages. The air was begging for the heady cocktail of booze to eliminate the sterile just cleaned odour. Frustrated ambitions hung thick - the attendant bands myopically challenged to their own musical shortcomings.
The club’s patrons would have filled two Hackney cabs. Just. Two small groups stood on opposite sides of the dimly lit room, resembling hormonally frustrated teenagers at a local youth club.
Johnny headed straight to the bar which was staffed by a skinny indie boy with a wince inducing collection of piercings and tattoos and a petite red head who seemed to be skipping in order to be seen over the high wood panelled bar.
Spoilt for choice of server, Johnny nodded to the diminutive girl, who was wearing some seriously elaborate ‘Cleopatra’ style make-up. The walking piercing busied himself stocking the fridges for the evenings demands. Slabs of Red Stripe, Breaker & Bulmers were stacked high awaiting a cursory chill before consumption.
Just as he was about to order, his phone pinged. Phone reception was more than a little hit and miss at these subterranean depths.
‘Don’t forget my burger? x’
Mark. Predictably getting the burger hunger after his toilet mishap.
Johnny nodded for his fellow patron to go ahead of him.
The skipping redhead’s eyes widened at the new arrival, “Anything I can get you?” she offered flirtatiously, cocking her head coquettishly to the side.
Glancing into the large mirror behind the bar, Johnny saw what had flipped her attentions up a couple of gears. A lad with thick brown hair worn in an outgrown crop, having ordered a half pint of Guinness was now counting out loose change onto the bar.
Wearing a black denim jacket buttoned to the neck, with a blood red cotton scarf worn muffler fashion, he glanced up nervously as his limited shrapnel seemed to be adding up to not an awful lot. Just as he reached for his back pocket for further funds, Johnny interjected - an act of half generosity and half to impress the barmaid who was absolutely rapt by her financially challenged customer.
“Make it a pint and I’ll have a Red Stripe please, and your own” said Johnny nodding across to the flustered customer.
“Thanks man,” he said quietly, glancing quickly in Johnny’s direction.
Johnny’s glance to his left was met by the most arresting laser blue eyes. “Gonna be a short night for you if you’re struggling for your first beer,” he offered sympathetically. Dabbing slightly at the corner of his mouth, Johnny indicated that there was something on the lad’s mouth.
Rubbing at the corner of his mouth self-consciously, “Thanks man. Pre-gig nerves.” Taking a small sip, “There’s no Guinness on the rider and I’ve spent up on guitar strings.”
“Right. So you’re playing tonight. Which band you in?”
Pulling slightly at his scarf. “Lonely Souls. We’re on in 15 minutes. Reckon the crowd must have got lost,” he said before laughing self-deprecatingly. “Thanks for the drink man, and nice jacket.”
Johnny still drawn by the lads eyes, soaked up the compliment, “My pleasure man. It’s my birthday Enjoy the drink. And have a good gig.”
“It’s the first gig we’ve played….” were the last words he said as he walked towards the not so salubrious dressing room situated to the right of the cramped stage.
The barmaid, leaning against the bar and stood on tip-toes followed his exit until he was out of sight, shaking her head slightly to herself before ringing the order through the till.
“You know if Phil the pow-,” correcting himself, “Phil Taylor will be in tonight?”
She looked up at him blankly “He’s not been in yet. Probably in later as a rule,” the barmaid replied in a surly monotone. Looking disdainfully at yet another weekend Rock’n’Roller looking to be taken to his dealer…
Turning his back to the bar, Johnny looked over at the stage as a skinny black clad figure with a cigarette behind his ear and a can of cheap lager clutched between his teeth hastily gaffer taped a hand sprayed bedsheet behind the drum kit. Walking with an awkward gait as if his bottom and top halves were in some coordination based disagreement. Stage adornment complete, the figure skulked back to the dressing room.
In large capital letters that had bled into each other, the sheet read “LONLEY SOULS. PROPER FUCKING SONGS”
Johnny rolled his eyes in a seen it all before way at the self- aggrandising slogan.
As the stage lights snapped on, projecting stark white light from erratically situated floor and ceiling lighting rigs, four silhouettes became discernible. A small pocket of cheers was audible from a group who had made their way to stand equidistant between the bar and the stage.
The drummer looked too big for the stage, never mind the undersized kit he was uncomfortably wriggling his way behind. Built like a modern day Rugby prop forward, he spun his drumsticks adroitly between his fingers.
The bass player – who Johnny had clocked whilst he dressed the stage- was now sporting black wraparound shades and a black bandanna pulled over his nose. Standing stage right, he plugged his black bass into an amp and then placed a can to the right of him, rubbed at his forehead and then nodded at the drummer. The guitar seemed to earth him as he now moved with a fluid confidence.
Johnny’s eyes were again drawn to the lead singer. The dude with the red scarf was now looking intently at the fretboard of his champagne coloured Fender Stratocaster. Nodding at the guitarist to his left, and with a 1 2 3 jut of his chin, the band roared into action.
A bottom of the bill band would never usually command much attention - aside from the obligatory rent-a-crowd of friends and family.
However, as the beneficiary of his early kindness set about their first song, Johnny was transfixed. With a Strummeresque vocal, the lead singer was a captivating presence. As the lead guitarist picked away at an angry rising guitar line, the singer held the neck of his guitar in one hand and held the mic with the other in a white knuckle grip.
Lost in song. “Trying to stop myself from slipping under. Trying to get by but it Is what it is..” he sung with eyes tight shut. The chorus was slightly muffled but it hung anthemically over the rhythm sections precision.
Grabbing a bottle of water between songs, the lead singer introduced themselves, “We’re Lonely Souls. For those that are down tonight, I’ll stick you on the guest list when we play the Arena….”
The band were dressed in uniform blue denim jeans and Converse with either a black t shirt or black denim jacket. The only concession to on-stage colour being the lead singers red scarf. Pushing a hand through his unruly hair, the lead singer announced “This one’s called ‘Opaque’. A loquacious bassline threatened to distort the sound but dropped perfectly to let a cascading, spiralling guitar line chop out a staccato opening verse.
Johnny looked around the room. Was it only him that was seeing something very special here? His heart rate had upped a notch. Not drug induced. The cocaine toilet mash-up had seen to that.
Glancing towards the bar, he saw red head barmaid point in his direction.
Phil ‘The Powder’ Taylor was in the house. Bowing theatrically towards Johnny and tipping an imaginary hat, Johnny flashed a two finger peace sign and turned straight back to the stage.
Mancunian psychedelia all underpinned with a drumbeat firmly rooted on the dancefloor. That rock dance hybrid that could easily go oh so horribly wrong.
Spellbound, Johnny knocked back a large gulp of lager, wandering over to the back of the room and standing centrally in front of the sound booth.
Appearing like a genie in Johnny’s peripheral vision, “I believe you require my bespoke services,” Phil said as he made his way to the kitchens situated to the back of the club.
“Yeah, cheers man. I’ll be through in a bit,” Johnny said not taking his eyes off the performance.
“Suit yourself. Good to see you as well.” Phil said with a shrug.
“Nice one. Two if you’ve got ‘em,” Johnny said to no-one as Phil was already through the door that lead to the back of the club.
At this the band kicked into their next song, a pealing guitar riff roared the song on, rawer and more urgent, the lead singer had slung his on guitar behind his back, the classic guitar gunslinger stance and was, eyes closed, singing something about forgiveness and redemption.
Closing his eyes, Johnny found himself holding his breath as the song unleashed its killer chorus. He imagined an arena full of bodies moving en masse.
Checking his wallet to see he had a ‘business card’ within. Like a lustful teenage boy stashing a condom within the confines of his wallet. The crumpled card read ‘TCB Management’ – a lame Elvis/Colonel Tom Parker reference - with just his name, mobile and email in a simple Narkism typeface.
During his mid- twenties Johnny had managed a couple of Britpop style bands which were ten a penny at the time. Any scally that could afford a Guitar and a Berghaus cagoule thought they could be the next Noel Gallagher.
Neither band had achieved much success although ‘Epiphany’ – dreadful, dreadful name he had always thought which sounded even worse when the North Manchester Herberts pronounced it with a crass exaggerated emphasis they thought made them sound ‘real’ – had released a self-financed EP which had been played heavily on local radio and secured them a tour support with a more successful but equally doomed to failure band. Johnny had never given up the hope of ‘finding’ the next big thing and the card was a constant reminder of this.
Great chorus, but the verse needed a little spice in the soup. But this was a band that had something. A decent producer would sort them right out. Feeling exhilarated, Johnny started to plan his post-set chat with them. Nice and laid back, not giving it the big one he thought, considering what would impress without promising them the moon on a stick.
Next, a gentler number, all downbeat chords and metronomic drumming married to a euphoric chorus.
Throughout the set, the band had stood stock still as if in front of a firing squad – the drummer aside.
The lead singer then announced in time honoured fashion, “This is our last song. It’s called ‘Salvation’. Thanks, for coming.” With a gentle laugh to himself, “Remember the name. LONELY SOULS!”
Then that moment. The band ‘locked’ Everything was right. Striking a squealing series of major chords, the song careered off at breakneck speed. The rhythm section pounding down an incessant groove which just about managed to hold the song down as the two guitarists now faced each other, chords exploding off each other.
Mesmerising. Utterly fucking mesmerising. Stood actually open-mouthed, Johnny felt dizzy on pure adrenalin. Astonishing. Bands like this don’t play bottom of the bill to less than you could get in the back of a Cab.
But they fucking do. His mind raced. Compose yourself. Get a grip. Fuck me. They are the gold nugget in a parched riverbed.
The chorus opined that the singer could be ‘Your salvation’ and seemed to be working on the level of both a lost love and ‘the people’ in general. A roaring anthemic chorus insisted that “I’m your salvation, you’re my salvation, we’re your salvation” A neat backing vocal of “ahhs” completed the irresistible nature of the track.
The last chorus finished, the singer pulling at the blood red scarf still tight round his neck and the band hit top gear, clattering into a final flourish, as controlled feedback squealed, the guitars soloed to dizzying effect, with the huge drummer throwing in perfect fills at sweat inducing speed. The bassist, with his bass guitar held at text book ‘Sid’ height powered the song to its conclusion as he continued to stare down an imaginary packed crowd. The band finished as one, looking at each other and exchanging barely noticeable grins.
An understated smatter of applause rattled round the sparsely populated venue. Equipment was quickly and silently packed away as the next band stood waiting to load on.
With his opening gambit planned, Johnny made his way across to the bar and nodded at the barmaid for another Red Stripe. After ten minutes and a half drained can, the lead singer and the lead guitarist made their way over to the bar. The cramped dressing room which would be being shared by all three bands not affording them any post-gig pleasure now their paltry rider had disappeared.
Nodding at Johnny, the lead singer ordered two pints of Guinness from the still admiring barmaid. Okay. No time like the present he thought and stepping over to the two musicians, Johnny offered the threadbare opening platitude of “Great set lads.” Instantly regretting the mundane nature of this, he then followed this up with the equally clichéd, “You lads have really got something. Certainly did what the sign said!’”
The lead singer laughed softly at this.
Noticing that they had identical blue eyes as the singer. And with them also sharing the same cheekbones and hairlines – although the blond guitarist sported some faint scarring on his cheeks. They had to be brothers, possibly twins he thought.
“We have. A proper fucking thirst.” offered up the guitarist.
Seeing that both pint glasses were already drained, Johnny attempted to redeem his earlier opening clumsiness and offered up the next round. Once the two pints had settled, Johnny struck. “I really enjoyed that lad’s. That was fucking superb. I’ve have looked after bands in the past, not for a while, but I want to get back into it. And I thought you were fucking brilliant. Have you got a manger?” It all came out far quicker and sounded far more rehearsed than he had intended. Offering his hand out to them, “I’m Johnny. Johnny Harrison.”
Glancing at each other they both returned the handshake, gig sweat still making the guitarists hands overly warm to the touch.
“I’m Jamie, and this is my brother, Dom.”
Pulling out the time worn card, Johnny half mumbled, “I’d love to have a sit down chat with you sometime soon. You’ll be wanting to have your night out now and catch up with your mates, so no point talking now.”
“Which was your favourite song” Jamie asked probingly.
Without missing a beat, Johnny replied “The last one. ‘Salvation’? Great chorus and the middle eight was fucking top.”
Taking the business card from him and putting it in the sweat stained pocket of his black Levis denim jacket, Jamie then said “Pass me your phone.”
Without hesitation, Johnny unlocked his iPhone and handed it over. Going straight to the iTunes icon, Jamie held the phone between him and his brother and started to scroll through the music library contained within the phones vast memory. With muted nods and approving pulling of their mouths, the seeming initiation process was over and the now sweaty phone passed back. “Some decent tunes on there, you clearly love your music.”
Johnny glowed inwardly at the platitude.
“But that jacket!” proffered Dom.
“Nah, nah, that’s cool man. Nothing wrong with a Mod blazer,” laughed Jamie warmly. “Pass me the phone back.” Smiling at both of them and slightly lost for words, Johnny frowned and handed the phone back to Jamie. Tapping at the smudged screen, Jamie entered the numbers to his own phone into the handset , rang it once to store the number before handing the phone back.
“We’ve both got each other’s digits now. Let’s see who blinks first”
“Cheers. I’m dead serious about this. Dead serious,” Johnny said.
“I know,” Jamie said quietly. “Here’s Mikee and Dan. I’ll introduce you.”
“Alright man,” Mikee said offering out a paw. “Smart jacket. Bit fucking cold out for Strawberries and cream though.”
A brusque nod and a surprisingly firm handshake was proffered from the bass player, who now had his shades on top of his head and was flicking a lighter on off in anticipation of a post gig smoke.
“This is Johnny, we’re going to meet him next week and have a chat about stuff. Used to manage bands.”
“Looking forward to it, and you lads enjoy the rest of your night. I’ve got to dash, meeting my mates and I’m late after watching you lot. Enjoyed it though!” Johnny added as a parting flourish.
Heading into the kitchen. Discreetly. Johnny saw Phil hunched over his phone, stabbing at it with a bony finger.
Phil Taylor – nee Phil the Pill. He had been dealing since the early 90’s. The then burgeoning dance scene having made him a hectic but lucrative living. Since the demise of club culture, he had moved onto dealing high quality Cocaine. This had earned him the beautifully crafted moniker of Phil ‘The Powder’ Taylor. A wonderful borrow from the current World Darts Champion. Although to Phil’s disappointment, he was a terrible darts player…
“Come into my office” as Phil looked up from his phone. Phil had special privileges afforded to him as he supplied the clubs seldom seen owner with his South American merch. “Right then birthday boy, what we looking at? Blow job? Full Sex? Anal?”
“Did you see that band? Un-fucking real. Best band I’ve heard in years. Fucking brilliant. That last song!”
“When have I ever been arsed about bands. Not bought an album since Hawkwind were in their prime. Anyway. Calm down. Getting all excited at your age isn’t any good for you.”
“How did you know? I’ve not been shouting about it.”
“Ah the wonders of social media. I’m always looking at pictures of your Mrs on there. Way too good for you,” Phil said with a throaty laugh.
In that case two grams and a blow job,” Johnny deadpanned back “And I’d have paid more if you had actually had a shave.”
“Ooh , ya bitch,” Phil replied cod cattily. “Getting fussy in your old age?”
Pulling out a large plastic click lock plastic bag from within the lining of his brown overcoat, Phil dug out the wraps and handed them to Johnny with all the subterfuge of a magicians sleight of hand.” . “There you go Jonathan. And smart blazer. D’yer leave the straw hat on the bar?”
“Not fucking you as well! Has no-one got any idea of style? Do you want paying or not?” he grinned, counting out £120 in tens, lining them all Queens head face-up in a vaguely OCD manner.
“And now my present for you.” Phil hunched over the kitchen work surface and chalked up two chunky parallel lines.
Ever the master craftsman, the lines were both perfectly symmetrical and resembled Bookies biros in thickness and length. Assuming the manner of a wine sommelier, Phil deftly rolled a twenty and proffered it with an affected bow. “I hope this is to your palate Sir. It’s from a very well-tended crop in deepest darkest Bolivia. Not far from the sea which gives it its fragrant salty and bitter undertones.”
Clearing his nose in readiness, Johnny laughed at the routine he had heard many times before.
“Bottoms up,” Johnny said as he ducked down imbibing the choke inducing line in one, sweeping a few stray grains on the end of his damp index finger and wiping it, as tradition dictates, on to his gums. “Fuck, that’s good gear,” Johnny said, already feeling the numbing affect hitting his front teeth.
“You’re a good ‘un, lets grab a beer and I’ll go about my business” said Phil, ever the entrepreneur.
“Love to mate. But I’ve left Larry & Moe on their own. Best catch up with them or they’ll send out a search party.”
“Suit yourself. But don’t be a stranger. And say hiya to the lovely CC for me.”
Johnny winced at the mention of Claire’s former moniker. “Yeah. I will. Nice one man.”
With a clumsy urban handshake all fingers and thumbs, Johnny made for the stairwell, noticing that the redhead was busying herself talking to Jamie. Maybe she had taken his advice after all….
Leaving the club, Johnny had to check himself from bounding up the stairs ‘Rocky’ style. As he made his ascent, he laughed to himself and clapped his hands together just as a vintage shop vision of gold lame and leather navigated the perennially sticky stairs.
“Fuckin’ hell. How long have you been on it?”
“Just seen the future of rock’n’roll!” Johnny replied as he planted a kiss on both her cheeks.
“Have you balls! At half eight in here. I don’t think so Mister. You need to ease up on the Persians!”
“You’ll see,” said Johnny over his shoulder as he passed the catatonically bored doorman and reacquainted himself with the chill February night air……..