Disclaimer: Characters are FICTIONAL. The game should become obvious, sooner or later
Meet me in Newham.
PS Hire new equipment, dont buy just yet!
Enigmatic perhaps, yet probably the most coherent part of a typically scrambled note. Niall was a pleasant character, actually a very nice man, it was simply that somewhere along the line his brain had misfired.
Given the times, it would be easy to blame drugs, LSD in particular, easy and most probably accurate. It was my personal view that rather than prolonged or too frequent use, Niall had simply dropped a few tabs from a very bad batch.
I should point out that he had likely always been a dreamer, if not a fantasist. Originally from the Channel Islands, his actual given name was Kevin. Simply a Gaelic variation of the more common Neil, to middle-class Kevin from boring Jersey, "Niall" looked positively exotic.
His taste in music, even as a very young man had been straight down the line classical. Mozart, Beethoven, Handel. Aware however that this new popular or Pop music was no passing trend, I think Niall just convinced himself that he enjoyed it. Not at all rebellious, he vaguely liked the idea of being a rebel. An independently wealthy rebel.
Of course he knew Jersey was not destined to be the rock n roll capital of the world, that scarcely required genius thinking, indeed moving to London was probably little more than inevitable.
Fortuitous for me, however.
My own roots would make Niall, or just plain Kevin seem positively cosmopolitan. By coincidence also an islander, Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland was about as far removed from Jersey as you could get, certainly within a UK context.
Physically miles apart, with climates that may have been from different planets, our cultures too would be equally alien. In truth though, our personalities were not so dissimilar.
My chosen path to seek something just a little more mainstream had been the army. Easy to laugh now, but back then simply uprooting from the Isles to the big city was an unnerving decision.
The Special Air Service or SAS was, indeed still is the elite force of the British Army. Now quite famous, back then it was little known even within the everyday military. I had heard of it, and it was my ambition to join, despite the notorious training and selection process.
I had joined the regular army at aged sixteen.
"In the dark, an SAS regiment marched clear through Berlin unnoticed"
It had been that type of barrack room whisper that had galvanised my ambition, even though you had to have a minimum two years ordinary service before even thinking of applying for the elite.
Not very much beyond my eighteenth birthday, a certain George Murray Innes put his signature to the document that was supposed to transport him to a different level.
I can still remember the excitement. Just as my sixteen year old hand had trembled when first enlisting, two years down the line my grasp of the pen could not find a happy medium between too casual, too tight.
Of course I never got within a sniff of the SAS. Again, the luxury of hindsight told me that as I put shaky hand to paper, even the regular army had induced disillusion.
My final mission at least had the hint of the covert nature that was the speciality of SAS units.
"The Commies are developing something new. Semtex. As harmless as window putty to look at, to transport, yet devastating when ignited by the proper high temperature charge"
Our sergeant addressed the company as if Armageddon was nigh.
"Do not think we are being remiss. Our industry boffins are working on a similar type of explosive, we just need to grab a sample of theirs to compare notes"
I should explain that the sarge basically loathed me, the feeling was mutual. He had a blind hatred for pretty much everyone, in my case his gripe was that I simply was not a proper soldier.
Too small and puny, prone to saying the wrong thing.
"You have an opinion Lewis?" he barked as he heard me whispering.
This was a favourite ploy. He well knew my name, yet he also knew I would probably take the bait.
"My name is Innes sir. Lewis is my home"
He smiled sadistically.
"Lewis? Cons inside prison choose death rather than be transported there. Isnt that right Crenshaw?"
As a muscle bound, fitness fanatic, Monty Crenshaw represented what the sergeant saw as a proper soldier.
"Twenty push-ups Innes. You too Crenshaw"
Another old trick of the beloved sergeant. Match me against the fittest soldier in the entire army. Humiliate me.
Monty had completed before I reached six.
"Crenshaw, A1. I thought you might win"
As I collapsed in a heap, I muttered "Queer!"
Not a man for procedural niceties where internal discipline was concerned, the sergeant merely dismissed the platoon before beating me to a pulp. My army days were over.
I had one final victory.
The research facilities at our base had been extensive.
During WWII, four laboratories, A-D would work around the clock investigating almost anything to give us that edge over the Nazis.
The urgency of conflict over, two had been demolished and later another became little more than a storage facility.
A cynic might suggest that the work given over to our remaining lab
diminished not through lack of need, but when its new custodian, Amanda Jones was appointed.
Remember, the sixties was still an infant decade. Leading female scientists were quite rare, those assigned to the military rarer still.
Men of ranks much higher than my hitherto sergeant seemed ill at ease with this new idea. I fear Amanda Jones was simply not trusted as being competent.
City dwellers do seem to have odd ideas about those of us from rural backwaters, but I confess to not feeling comfortable about the barrack -room chatter as to how Professor Jones may have occupied her time.
Maybe I was just prudish, but notions that our female scientist simply
entertained the troops or indeed herself with a succession of test tubes left me cold. This was one affinity I shared with Monty Crenshaw who also balked at such humour.
Knowing that I was leaving anyway, and aware that the Semtex we had successfully intercepted would not be given over to Professor Jones analysis I acquired just a small sample to gift to the under used researcher.
In A lab, Amanda Jones showed me her appreciation in a way that made we wonder if previous gossip was not entirely false.
Over two years in the military I had made few real friends. Crenshaw was probably the closest to me, so it was quite a shock when on my leaving day he confessed.
"I am queer. It aint easy, especially in the army"
I never got over Montys admission, but that was a good thing.
It forced me to pause before casting judgement on others.
And so to London. Niall had found a decent place in Newham, unusually decent as this was a tough east end district. To be honest though, Niall was one of those characters who could find a roof to shelter under almost anywhere.
Id a house, a small place in Clapham which I shared with Ian Brown, a fellow Scotsman. Alan Ness seemed to live all over town, though for different reasons than Niall.
I am sure that some historian or sixties nostalgia freak could tell you better than I how it was that we all met up. Though given some of the things that I have since read, I would not necessarily believe them.
Forming the band was surely Nialls idea. He had read the runes and saw that money was there to be made.
Ian was the genuine musician. He could play guitar like you would not believe. I suspect he was frustrated in those early days. Pop was the thing, the money maker, and Ian was really gifted to rock.
Of course he would discover other compensations
I was the opposite. I could play the drums, a little. Happily for me, a little was all that was required. Alan was our singer, average voice, above average looks and the ability to write sweet lyrics.
Niall picked up the bass guitar if absolutely necessary, but normally we just hired a session bloke and left Niall to manage.
Of course I am slightly ahead of things. We werent actually a group at all, just the idea of a group. Then that note summoned myself and the others to Newham.
"Louis, Ian, Alan. Listen up"
Quick confession time. I was Louis. Deciding somehow that George was not a catchy name, I had chosen to mimic my loathed army sergeant and call myself Lewis. That still didnt ring true, so I altered it to Louis. It makes me cringe just to think of it now.
Niall sounded excited to the point of agitation.
"I spent all of yesterday talking to some big people at Mecca Records"
He left a dramatic pause, but we were not impressed. It sounded an oddly familiar routine.
"Did we connect? I cut us a two album deal is all"
The three of us seated exchanged glances. Where was the punchline?
Nialls manic grin suggested he may just be serious.
"One hit single and we are signed, sealed, delivered"
It seemed there had to be a catch, but this time his enthusiasm was more infectious. Practising in basements, being booed off pub stages, surely we hadnt done it all for nothing?
By now we were all aware that Niall could sometimes simply lose the plot, but by and large he was coherent, and he sounded so confident.
His mad spells were quite identifiable. We agreed that he may be over optimistic, but not actually mad.
"Are we going to do this?" I asked as we returned to Clapham.
Ian looked at me and grinned.
"Main engines start!" he replied.
The Life Of A Single
Our first decision with Alan staying overnight in our Clapham home was to find a name for the group. Surprisingly difficult, especially as we were all quite drunk. During our relatively brief experience of gigging around London pubs, we had used quite a few.
The joke was that we changed our name hoping no-one would remember us from some previous debacle.
My prudish Highland sensibilities will spare you the more lurid suggestions.
I believe it was Alan who finally came up with.
"Dan Dare and the Mekans!"
"As I recall, it was Mekons"
Even when drunk, I remained fastidious.
It was now very late, or very early. I for one was eager to sleep.
So pending the approval of the absent Niall, we chose to eliminate Dan Dare, and "The Mekans" or possibly "The Mekons" was our settled identity.
Now I cannot relate a sixties tale, especially that of a fledgling band without introducing sex and drugs and rock n roll.
Of course from the comfort of today, I have to stress again that the music was far removed from rock as we would know it today.
I have already alluded that Niall, who was slightly older than the rest of us had already dabbled in drugs, and had perhaps prematurely, paid the price. Niall indeed was an enigma in most parts of his life.
I liked him. I felt closer to him than I did to my fellow bandmates, yet I could honestly tell you that I have no idea whatsoever, even to this day, if he had any sexual relations at all.
However many years it was we spent together, I never once saw him so much as kiss a woman, a man or a donkey. It would be my best guess that any notion of physical intimacy simply never once entered his head.
Much later, when asked about sex, I believe it was Boy George who famously responded "I would rather have a cup of tea"
I am fairly sure Niall might have said that first, had he been asked.
As for the rest of us, myself included, the clues would be begin at
The Audition (The Single Part 2)
Between them, Ian and Alan had penned what seemed like a decent track to be released as the all important Hit Single that would open up our two album record deal.
Niall was genuinely impressed by the rough demo, but decided correctly that it required some female backing vocals. Maybe not just for this one record, but as a permanent fixture.
The response to his advert in the music press was frankly overwhelming.
I think overwhelming to Niall himself.
If not hundreds, then certainly dozens of girls with an age range of suspiciously young fifteen, to suspiciously optimistic forty arrived on a rainy day at a run down community centre to sign up.
Our manager took to the stage. Along with Ian, Alan and a couple of roadies and just plain hangers-on, I remained on the main floor of the hall. It is difficult to describe why it was such an eye-opener to me, obviously I had been in busy pubs and clubs with girls dressed up for the night but they were gloomily lit places.
Standing in the harsh lights next to quite so many young women, most of whom it seemed had decided to display as much as necessary to impress, I did feel intimidated. My notion was to sidle off out of the throng, my bandmates took the opposite tack and were mingling and chatting up as if it had indeed been a Friday night dance.
This surely was a sign of things to come.
"Thank you all for turning out in such vast numbers, in such miserable weather" Nialls opening words seemed oddly formal given the occasion. It had at least got everyones attention.
"Clearly many, most of you will be disappointed" he carried on "though back out in reception you will receive a small memento of the day"
I had the feeling that Niall was stalling and that the girls were growing restive. Not all of them. That all too familiar aroma of pot reached my nostrils, and I then noticed our pretty boy Alan had produced a bottle of whisky and was offering it around, paying particular heed to the younger girls one indeed actually wearing her school uniform.
Suddenly Niall announced.
"If anyone can sing con brio walk back out the main door"
This caused initial consternation. My more puritan instincts were actually pleased to see school uniform vomiting in a corner while Alan had taken to examine the contents of a black dress which barely covered a more mature body.
The remaining hopefuls seemed mostly uncertain. Amidst some confused chatter, a handful of girls filed out. I noticed Niall talking to one of our roadies who then proceeded to open the small bar.
"Fifteen minute break ladies, the bar is now open and the first drink is free!"
If only briefly, I was possibly the most confused person in the room.
Suddenly Niall was at my side, looking shakier than I had seen him for a while. I think he sensed one of his melt downs coming on.
"This could turn ugly, I for one am out of here"
I understood that con brio was merely a musical term for lively and though I doubted knowing this meant so very much, I think it was simply Nialls way of dividing an impossibly large group. The half dozen or so who had walked would be those to gain a further audition, the remainder left drinking, would learn in time that they had been abandoned.
I quickly followed Niall out into reception.
Though I have admitted that my memory is not fool proof, indeed entire chunks of my life have been permanently erased, my initial meeting with Carol remains vivid to this day.
She had been inside as a hopeful a picture of elegance.
Beautiful beyond measure, flawless skin, curves in perfect proportion.
Not a woman, a Goddess.
So far out of my league it was laughable, yet she smiled, introduced herself, even offered a handshake.
Did I really suggest going to a coffee bar, did she really accept?
OK. I have no verbatim recall of our conversation, I know she displayed an intelligence equal to her beauty, mostly I remember that she was the most composed person I have ever met. When animated in discussion, her eyes retained serenity, while relaxed she kept a determined aura.
Within a couple of hours I had scanned fingers for wedding or engagement ring, had analysed her words to detect no mention of a specific boyfriend. Had she stayed much longer, I would be planning our wedding. She departed leaving her address and the hope we might
"cross paths again."
I would make sure of that.
Births And Deaths
Is it possible to witness the death of something as yet unborn?
I had probably not simply witnessed but experienced it with Carol, though I was obviously unaware at the time.
Trying to keep this account reasonably chronological, I must include this bizarre episode that may have been the death of our pre-nascent career.
Summoned again to the Newham home of our manager, I arrived uncharacteristically late, though I am glad that I did.
"Screw Yom in Gods name Kippur!"
Sweet-faced Alan was as florid as a tomato.
I had never heard such rage in his voice.
Niall was clearly seething, but chose to remain silent.
"We finally make it to vinyl and you are worried about release dates and religious holidays?!"
That remark at least explained to me that our first single "Go Hi" had been pressed. I never bothered to query the odd title, I was just the drummer
I glanced at Ian, but his solemn face only indicated that a much longer, more deep seated conflict had occurred.
Again, I would never discover the true root of the problem, but the bell had begun tolling even before our first record release.
Today, television is an all powerful medium, then it was still somewhat conservative and stuffy. However, the rise and further rise of the British music scene was something that could not be totally ignored.
A few differing formats had been attempted before "Pop Party" emerged as the one TV show that music acts aspired to appear on.
"Go Hi" on initial release attained a chart position of fifty three.
Since the official chart only numbered the Top 30 positions, our single technically did not chart at all.
I was curiously disappointed. In some ways I had been the least committed to the whole venture, yet I shared the gloom of the others.
I should have had more faith in Niall.
Taking my lead from biographers who have written such abject nonsense about the people and the times, I could tell you that Niall had made a Faustian pact. He had agreed to have any and all sexual urges removed to be replaced by forces of dark alchemy.
Utter nonsense of course, but the man did have apparently unnatural talents. More prosaically, he simply secured us a spot on "Pop Party" by whatever means.
We did our best to mime along as "Go Hi" played, the poor old session bass player need not and did not appear. Even the three female backing vocalists that Niall had finally hired were shunned in favour of the programmes regular mime girls.
The affect however, was staggering.
Following the broadcast of "Pop Party" we, or at least I, had little expectation. Yet the next published chart saw us placed at No. 7
and our faces were even being recognised on the street.
This changed everything, though maybe more so for Alan and Ian than myself. I will own up straight away, my first thought was money.
One thing had in fact been evolving over time. Alan originally of no fixed abode was spending more and more time at Clapham.
I never really minded sharing with Ian, who was in many ways quite introspective, and passionate about his beloved guitar but Alan was not the same.
Our lead singer was a frivolous character, and it seemed to me he was diverting Ian away from music or perhaps he was just plain annoying. Being blunt, I simply did not care to spend too much time in Alans company.
They were still heady days, our debut finally peaked as high as four and there did seem much to celebrate.
I had not forgotten about Carol. Indeed I had driven up to her address on a few occasions, yet each time a sensation in my gut, a hollow feeling of doubt prevented me from taking that final step.
Instead, I chose to visit Niall, alone.
He could not deny that we had bagged the hit single that should have opened the two album deal. I had always been wary of that particular promise. Even with my limited knowledge of the music industry, it just did not ring true.
Niall would not confess outright that he had lied to us, the best I got was that he may have been misleading but only to kick us into action.
"There will be an advance, some money in your bank accounts"
He smiled, then realised I was not Alan.
"OK. Enjoy the moment, but dont squander everything."
I studied Niall, the impression I got was that we could trust each other.
"T.R. Hode is landing at Heathrow tomorrow. He co-founded Pacific Records, has many connections in America"
"Dont bullshit me" I cautioned.
"All I will do is lay the groundwork. Listen man, we could just make it.
More likely it will fall apart. No bullshit. Ian could join any band he chose, if he keeps his head. Alan just doesnt know how to keep his head. You my friend, should enjoy the cash, hope more will follow.
Put some money in the bank, keep shit out of your veins and dont for a second believe that you can play drums any better than a hundred other guys"
I believe that is called harsh but fair!
The Party Begins
Niall knew that I would not divulge that conversation.
It was a lengthy drive from Newham back to Clapham so I chose to stop off at a pub. It was quiet enough, with the same decor that I swear is found in every single pub in London.
I was genuinely amazed when a couple of youngsters (i.e. people my age) asked for an autograph. Flattered too. I had to keep reminding myself of Nialls sobering words.
One aspect of Highland life that by-passes those more sophisticated types, is that we know how to drink. From the age of about ten, a daily dram was simply routine. On Lewis, the local pub stayed open as long as anyone cared, the local policeman was one of the heavier drinkers so legal closing time was of no concern.
Not so in London. Finally, I had to go home to face the increasingly obnoxious Alan. I actually faced a whole lot more.
As was my habit, I used the car park of the underground railway station.
Using the tube as geography, I officially lived in Clapham North.
Carolina Street was a long stretch of terraced houses, mine being only a two hundred yard walk away from the station.
It seemed a foregone conclusion that Alan would be present, he had basically moved in since the "Pop Party" TV broadcast, and it was also likely that various friends whom had never been quite so sociable before would be dropping in for a drink
Even as I approached the house it did not seem excessively noisy, just the expected cacophony of music, chatter and the odd raised voice of any party. I just did not expect the partially or fully naked bodies.
The main living room seemed to my eyes to be as a low-rent Roman orgy. Seeking shelter in my own bedroom, I could see just a shadow.
"Is that you Al? Ask Amy to get through here, this chick dont mind sharing!"
Jeez! That was my bed.
Temporarily speechless, I just closed the door and sought the sanctuary of the kitchen.
Normally my haven at parties anyway, I procured a bottle of whisky, leaned against the work counter and sighed. The kitchen was not empty, but at least all present were decently clothed.
I Was There, I Was Square
I looked around at the various people, recognising none.
A few gave me a cursory smile, but it was not the lot of a drummer to be taken notice of.
However two girls did finally home in on me.
"Im Kate, this is Mary"
They were similar in appearance with long dark hair, equal in height and build, wearing closely matching attire.
"We are not twins or even sisters. Just friends" One of them said.
"I just live here" My reply was a touch sour.
"Mary landed herself a job at Mecca Records last week"
"Hail Mary!" I raised my glass in bad humour.
They seemed oblivious to my dismay.
"We are wearing fur underwear! Show Louis our ermine bras Kate"
I was more taken aback that they knew my name, than when they actually did unbutton their blouses to reveal their fur clad assets.
One of them reached out and began stroking my inner thigh.
Her companion followed suit.
"Hes quite sinewy"
"Or knotted, relax man"
I did wince, but had no way of stepping back. It was Kate (I think) who attempted a whisper.
"You can have us both. Not together, we aint doing any dirty dyke stuff. But one after the other. Just decide who goes first"
I was now gulping down my whisky.
"Mary is a virgin. I am a slut! Who first big boy?"
My last resort was the small garden.
I Aged With The Night
You probably do not believe me, or just do not believe my reactions.
For what it is worth, I put my case for the defence.
Fine, I accept a certain backwater naiveté. It was put on a plate for me, and I panicked. I do think though that I would have reacted differently except that this place was my home.
Another party, another place and I would (indeed did) indulge.
I neither would nor could accept the brazenness of the living room.
All that public nudity was not me. I had seen a girl, her eyes lost in drugs, sitting on my chair, her skirt hiked up as she masturbated.
The open exchange of bodily fluids, spilled drinks and vomiting teens only induced in me the urge to redecorate the entire house.
A mean Scot? You bet! My kitchen cupboards and refrigerator were being pillaged by total strangers, my garden used as public toilet, rubbish dump and attempted fornication site by those so stoned they had no clue what planet they were on .
My own bed being used as playground for some fly by night hangers-on who would (and did) leave the place trashed
Utterly selfish, no doubt.
Elsewhere, the cleavage of Mary or Kate would have me drooling with anticipation, but this was my home. I had never intended it as a permanent residence, or indeed dramatically desirable. That night, it was mine and it had been violated. It wasnt such a common vernacular, but I was acting like a square and was happy to do so.
Two other things in particular rest in my memory.
Having openly refused the Kate and Mary routine, I was later accosted by a man wearing nothing save his erection.
"John North, Dakota Management" He introduced himself.
"Despite possible rumours, I am not queer" I told him.
He may have been crestfallen, but recovered quickly.
"Not at all, sorry. I love your song, thought you might like some professional guidance"
"We have a manager. Niall " In truth his second name eluded me.
"I spoke with Niall earlier" Mr. North replied, slightly too quickly.
I did not know it then, but such attempted poaches were in fact commonplace. He had given the same spiel to both Alan and Ian.
Finally, before my bedroom was vacated for me to retire with my friend whisky, I witnessed the most disturbing thing.
Alan with a girl who was just too young for ease had previously played on my mind, but like so many before, I had simply reasoned that she was unlikely to be inexperienced and that she had chosen to attend such a party. Such things happened, and I was no moral guardian of the country.
This time, I actually witnessed what was undoubtedly sodomy, and any prior consent was given over to cries of pain not pleasure.
The fact that in the harsh light of the following day, the very same girl was slobbering over Alan like a besotted puppy will never ease the shame I felt that night trying to sleep with covered ears and a fresh bottle of whisky.
There really is nothing new under the sun. I just didnt realise it back then. The times may have been "a changing" but then as the French saying goes - the more that things change, the more they stay the same.
Niall had suggested we give him time to plan our next move, probably a follow up single to keep the momentum of "Go Hi" going.
I visited him mostly because I preferred his company to that of Ian and Alan, particularly Alan who was becoming even more tiresome.
It transpired that Alan had visited Niall, suggesting they ditch me in favour of a better drummer. That had not been his prime purpose, apparently he was expecting a much larger financial reward from our success and his discontent had then turned to me.
I would discover later that he had also made approaches to one John North, the very man who had approached me in a naked but excited state at that party.
"What a prick he was" Alan had concluded.
I could vouchsafe that!
Way back during my schooldays on Lewis, we had a euphemism that warned of a rough day ahead.
"Miss is sipping her tea again"
Of course tea was really whisky, and it meant that our headmistress was in a bad mood.
That sprang to mind because my unannounced arrival at Nialls Newham home found him drinking lager from a bottle.
Not exactly life on the edge you might think, but very unusual for Niall.
He was quiet, pensive, slightly edgy.
Accepting my presence, he silently passed a bottle to me.
It was a quiz show on TV that held his attention, to be honest this was exactly the sort of mundanity that I required too.
Niall liked to answer the questions out loud. He had a good general knowledge. I ventured an answer before him, and rather than be upset, he seemed to like it. A private competition ensued.
"Which river runs through Leningrad?" The quizmaster on TV intoned.
"Damn! You are good" Niall was impressed that I too held some useless information. That evening I think cemented our bond. Whatever scheming Alan might do to oust me, I was pretty confident that Niall as manager would fight my corner. I hoped that Ian as the major musical talent would too, or at least remain neutral.
Meeting The Future (In Hope)
The centre of London for whatever reason, is known as the West End
No matter your starting point, a journey to the heart of the capital means you are going up West.
I was already there, when I met Carol. Having made those couple of trips to sit in my car outside her house, then fail to go further, I think that I had probably lost my nerve and resigned myself to simply never seeing her again.
She looked more impossibly beautiful, yet she approached with a smile.
"Hello there. I believe congratulations are due"
I still felt unfeasibly unworthy of her mere presence, yet I again contrived that we have a drink, in a pub this time.
It was convenient that she needed bathroom facilities as during her toilet break I managed to down two whiskies.
"You were on TV and everything" she said once we had finally found a quiet corner.
"The drummer doesnt get much attention" I noted wryly.
Perhaps Carol was not that composed, it could be that I was simply a bumbling fool in her company, yet such a happy fool.
I had no idea of what she did, somehow I doubted that she was merely a jobbing singer, more likely a glamour model.
She directed the conversation.
"I adore that Scottish accent, do you really enjoy being down South?"
Carol in asking, had suggested that I possibly did not. Her tone said it all.
"Maybe not" I agreed "but there are good things about London"
That was my attempt at chat-up, flirtation. I had a feeling it fell on deaf ears.
"Do you see the barmaid, her look?"
Whatever Carol had meant, it had not registered with me.
"A Cinnamon tan. A lot of girls are trying it, to look more exotic"
I feared that this particular conversation strand was slipping over my head.
"A friend of mine got a token tuck. You cannot see the scars, but that little change made a huge difference to her appearance"
To be honest, I was so befuddled that I briefly lost interest, but when she announced that she had to leave, then smiled at me, Carol as Goddess returned. But I still could not bring myself to arrange a specific date.
Meeting The Future (Reality)
Some sixth sense informed me that this day was not going to go well.
The telephone request, invitation or summons depending on ones viewpoint had been made to visit Niall that night.
"En masse, as a group"
I had passed on the message. Ian, who was now given over to fleshy delights merely grumbled, though he conceded that taking his latest conquest was probably not a good idea.
Alan was more indignant, to the point of defiance.
"Niall calls and we all jump. And Louis here just licks his arse!"
"I thought arses were your taste" I retorted.
"You scum Innes. O! Take that back" Alan raged, though he thought better when he seemed to consider violence.
I stood my ground and glared.
"Newham at eight, make your own fucking way there!"
I wondered if Niall had made an error by arranging such a late hour, none of us were likely to be sober by then, or maybe that was deliberate. Perhaps he wanted sparks to fly.
Duly assembled we sat in anticipation.
I noted that our manager was keeping a close watch on Alan.
"Your friend Mr. North has, well, gone south. Dakota Management folded last night, and criminal investigations are taking place. Not simply for fraud, but for certain other illegal activities "
Our singer tried to look disinterested.
"My friend? Dunno what you mean" he mumbled.
"A boy of ten Ness? Eeek! Its disgusting"
Alan blanched, but just about maintained composure.
"What the fuck are you telling me for?!"
Niall had a face of stone.
"My extensive grapevine has told me that a ten year old boy has been raped at a party hosted by John North, with certain other familiar sounding names also in attendance"
Everyone seemed to look at each other simultaneously.
It felt like the longest silence ever.
Intuition told me that Alan in fact had not been implicated in this particular horrific event, but Niall had knowledge that our pretty boy singer had a taste for, well pretty boys. And as with girls, that taste veered towards the uncomfortably young.
Maybe the only thing that allowed me to stay was that I recalled my army friend Monty Crenshaw. I was not prejudiced against queers as the world then described such men, and since I had no specific evidence, I would take my lead from Niall.
"Now to real business" Our manager switched mode effortlessly.
"The record company wants a follow-up single. I have bought us enough studio time to cut about a dozen tracks, assuming we all turn up on time and you lot have actually written some stuff in between the shagging"
"What about the two album deal?" Alan questioned but he had lost his authority.
"We can put out a single and have the album down on tape to be released soon after, it is a great opportunity" Niall sounded convinced.
There seemed little appetite for argument.
Ian spoke, unusual in itself.
"I have some songs, though they are a bit of a departure we would need to get a keyboard player"
"Jeez! Split the money four ways?!" It was Alan who spoke aloud, but I secretly felt the same. It really was all about the money.
But Niall was happy.
"If we follow a trend, we could be big. Start a trend, become huge.."
"Or giant fools" Alan observed.
The meeting met an abrupt end.
"Shit! I have to go up west. Virginia Gold is playing tonight"
Virginia Gold was the biggest female singer of the moment.
A black, American diva, she could sell out any venue ten times over.
"Niall you are such a liar. She is so popular she cant get tickets for her own fucking show! Dream on, man"
My Brush With Fame
It is difficult to look inconspicuous while standing in The Dorchester hotel attired little better than a second-hand scarecrow.
This was surely one joke that Niall was pushing too far.
Even the mere bell-boys looked suitably disdainful as I cringed quietly.
Niall guided me to the lift.
I was still looking out for security guards as my manager steered me into the Penthouse Suite
"Man that was cosmic. Hi gang!"
There wasnt much of a gang but Virginia Gold was speaking and I was in the same room. Cosmic indeed!
"Right. Diana Penn, Sylva, Niall you presumably know "
Grief, she was speaking directly at me.
"Im George, rather Louis" I stumbled out.
Niall was grinning at my unease, I think they all were.
"Relax child" Virginia spoke again.
"Im just a poor black girl from the deep south, Diana may be my manager, but she is pure white trash, and Sylva is some poor kid that keeps Diana happy "
I only partially relaxed once the champagne was flowing.
I have to say that Virginia was nothing like the superstar diva I had imagined. I had picked up a room-service menu, it was a defence mechanism, gave me something to stare at as the others chatted like old friends.
"What the heck is a chilli noisette?" Had I said that out loud?
"Ill order one honey if you want, but my advice would be stick to the chicken" Virginia laughed.
"Hope you have money, kid. Food here is real expensive" Ms. Penn noted. I blushed violently.
"Er, no Im fine"
They all laughed.
"She is kidding, honey. Order whatever you want, I can afford it. I can afford it, right Diana?" Virginia asked.
"Otherwise child, you is getting fired!"
This sort of playful interplay, often in a southern drawl, would continue.
I think even Niall was jealous at the ease in which manager and singer could relate.
In Diana, the star had found her ideal manager, in Sylva, the manager had found her ideal mate. An odd looking couple, it did not have to be spelled out that Diana and Sylva were lovers. Though they didnt seem to mind spelling it out
Ms. Penn was a tall, brassy, buxom blonde. Her attire more high class hooker than sheer high class. Sylva was dark and petite. In fact not really so petite, it was simply that next to Diana she appeared so, and she seemed to be always next to Diana.
"I would do a Broadway musical if "
"Or Niall could arrange a West End one for you.."
It seemed there was a spot of tension between Virginia and Diana.
Sarcastic tones and raised eyebrows sort of tension.
"Not content with million sellers and smash tours, Ms. Gold here wants to star in her own musical" Diana explained.
"Its the coming thing" Virginia bemoaned.
"My friend Sachu "
"Here we go!" Diana interrupted again but was silenced by a hard stare.
"Last Christmas, Sachu set T.S. Eliots poems, his cat poems to music"
"Never work in a million years!" Diana was adamant.
"Maybe one day" Niall offered his opinion.
The Next Stage
That meeting had boosted my respect for Niall, how did he know these people? It also convinced me that maybe I should apply myself to the band, and assist Niall in persuading the others to put some serious work in too.
True to his word, Ian had indeed produced a plethora of new songs.
I cannot be certain how much he had involved Alan, it seemed like the previously growing bond between them had cooled.
Much of the new material was the promised departure.
My limited drumming skills pushed to the extreme, and the suggestion of a keyboard player being added to the mix became an inevitability.
Ian was clearly more keen on pushing the album.
Just as it had taken a drunken evening to christen the band, he was pushing for an album title, and definitive artwork.
Was I alone in thinking Niall had remained oddly subdued?
It was our managers extensive network of contacts that had provided the setting of an all-night drinking den. I should confess now if you didnt already know, drinking was my weakness.
"Dogo fokl - A homage to dyslexics"
All right, a terrible joke, but it had us laughing like idiots.
That was the sort of atmosphere we inhabited that night., schoolboy humour, juvenile behaviour.
As the night wore on, Niall had sketched his idea of our definitive album sleeve.
The French Tricolor, a dog and a pot of gold.
We were naturally mystified, but all completely stoned, one way or another.
It was only later that Niall explained to me.
The French flag was simply that I had chosen Louis a French sounding name. The dog was Alan- "A useless bastard who would shag anything" and the gold was Ian, our only genuine talent.
The Final Breakdown
And that was effectively our last night together.
All of us knew Mexico was not the country to launch our international career, so when Niall announced that he had discovered "the gateway to America" we realised that his brain had finally flipped permanently.
Speculation is often futile, but everyones favourite game
We suspected that Niall had returned to drugs and that his already damaged brain could not cope. But why?
Rumours abound that his myriad connections were not all savoury.
A certain criminal fraternity seemed to enjoy the company of showbusiness people, but this uneasy alliance always depended on money. Just one bad deal, one unpaid loan could sour the happiest of marriages.
An already fragile mind could be destroyed by one spiked drink, or simply the overwhelming pressure of having too many obligations to too many people
I prefer to reserve judgement, but Niall did crack big time, and our own house of cards would soon follow.
We had the music recorded, but without Nialls leverage it meant little.
Probably in law, Ian held some rights, he had written most of it, yet he was in no position to take on the might of Mecca Records in a court.
In a time of confusion, I of course drank. Heavily.
It was under such circumstances that I eventually chose to visit my dream girl the unattainable yet unforgettable, Carol.
I stopped outside her home as I had done previously, but this time I would not remain in the car. Curtains were drawn but lights were on
When she opened her front door, one of us must have been more surprised, but I would not take bets on whom.
Wearing only a black bra and pants, accessorised with cheeky grin, I gathered she was not expecting me.
"Louis!?" she gasped "My big washing tonight, I have nothing to wear"
An explanation clearly false, but sharp.
It flashed through my mind that maybe Ian or worse, Alan was the expected visitor. The notion that Carol had succumbed to the dubious charms of our wayward singer made me feel quite sick
From further down the hallway, a city gent appeared.
Pin stripe suit, waistcoat and old school tie, yet this gent could boast long, black hair and a bosom to rival that of Diana Penn throw in high heels and full make-up and my whisky brain lumbered into action.
"Is this your gay, drummer friend?" the woman spoke in sultry tones.
Jeez! Carol thought I was queer! Thinking was as easy as wading through mud
The woman draped herself over Carol, which caused my dream girl to shiver.
"He cant stay long, the others will be here shortly"
Simply the husky whispers and gentle caresses seemed to transport Carol to a realm beyond my ken.
"Homo or not, we must let him go. The schoolgirls are already misbehaving, headmistress is tied up and they are spanking her with her own cane she will need rescuing in twenty minutes time"
I swear those words had Carol shuddering, she was lost, abandoned in a world that I had no access to. If not scared, I was surely intimidated.
I could hear voices, giggles and more intimate sounds from somewhere in the house, one final attempt to look Carol in the eye was defeated as the suited woman intensified her caresses.
What Is Normal?
You may think it ignoble that as a group we chose to avoid Niall just for a few days. Speaking only for myself, the fact that my love at first sight girl was a promiscuous lesbian was difficult to take. Though always in my mind an unattainable dream, the shock of just how unattainable was perhaps too much.
Our just on the brink band had been scuppered was any of us thinking straight?
History will tell us that Niall basically went missing.
When I finally visited Newham, his house was locked and in darkness, his telephone disconnected.
Mecca Records would issue no information, and despite some minor coverage in the music press, the vanishing of Niall created few ripples.
A tidal wave in our little world, but no splash to the world at large.
What You Already Know
Any rock music fan will know that Ian Brown went on to form Potassium Red Yes, the keyboard player of that mega-group was the same guy who played on our album that was never released. Ian finally found the forum to display his guitar prowess, and now you know the meaning behind that odd dedication on their second album "to godo fokl"
I was not invited to join, I was not surprised. A genuine rock drummer, I was not, never had been.
Poor Alan. Yep, I never really liked him, but he was shattered that Ian chose another singer/frontman. Alans biggest flaw was that he believed in our early publicity his early publicity.
We all have character faults, but his drove him to death.
Officially killed by a drugs overdose, I at least believe it was deliberate.
Seduced by his "fifteen minutes of fame" he could not cope with a normal life.
I coped, after a fashion. My army days at least trained me to be a mechanic, and it was steady work. I drifted to be sure. Renting out the Clapham house, I returned to Scotland, though not to Lewis.
Reverting back to my original name of George, I battled with the bottle, just about keeping my head above water. On my last ever visit to Clapham, I found a scrawled note, it read
"Im fine, Kevin"
It had to be from Niall, I was one of the few who knew his proper name but their was no contact details. I trust he really is fine.
In my quiet flat, I flip on the television, then go to make a cup of tea.
I cannot see the picture, but the volume is loud enough
"What did you make of that, Brent?!"
"Hari Kari, zonal defence! Third and long with the clock running down, the Pirates simply tore up the playbook and lost the ball game"
I smiled. It might have been a foreign language, yet I understood.
Once, we were in the Top Five, had a spot on TV and our faces in the music press. Back then, all we really desired was to make it to America.
Now, America had come to us all.
Return to the Academy