Chapter Six: Singles

Tonight we commenced the arduous task of packaging the records.  We undertook to do this here at the kitchen table, just me, Fliss, Flora, Katy, Nat, Violet and Fergus.  It was cold, so Fliss and I dragged Fliss’ little portable heater into the kitchen to warm things up a bit before everyone arrived.  We also dug out my tape machine, which I usually use for bootlegging gigs, and placed it by the window.  As I stacked the tapes into neat piles, Fliss lined up jars of coffee, packets of tea bags, and clean mugs.  It was going to be a long, long night.

  Fergus arrived first, and Fliss and I helped him to unload boxes of records, sleeves, and stickers from his car.  Soon the others had arrived, and a production line of sorts was in progress around our kitchen table.  Over on the other side of the kitchen, I made the tea and paused to watch the moon as it settled into those dark clouds like a pearl into cushioned velvet.

  At the table, Fergus cut the excess paper away from the record sleeves, which he then passed on to Nat, who bagged the sleeves and stacked them at my end of the table.  Meanwhile, Katy cut the sticky labels, and passed them on to Flora, who stuck them to a pile of 7”’s in inner sleeves. The stickered records then came to me, Fliss, and Violet, who paired them with the bagged sleeves, which we had, in the meantime, been rubber stamping with the One Way Or Another logo; lots of arrows pointing in different directions, and the phrase ‘One Way Or Another’ picked out in ransom note lettering.  The tea, coffee, and cigarette smoke flowed steadily and constantly as we each completed our part, and Fliss and I took it in turn to brew up, switch ashtrays, and swap tapes.

  About halfway through the evening, I got up to change tapes and upon walking back to the table, found that the conversation had turned to our upcoming tour, which Fergus has been arranging to promote the E.P.  “Yeah,” he was saying, “I’ve upgraded you from a transit to a coach now that The Girls From Mars are coming as well.”

  “Are we sleeping on the coach?” enquired Violet, her grey catlike eyes fixed on him.

  “Yes, why?” he replied, warily.

  She kept her eyes on him as she purred, “You must have a very understanding girlfriend, letting you go off for a fortnight,” her voice dipped a few octaves, and acquired a trace of sexual menace, “with a coach full of young, attractive, available ladies,” her eyes were deceptively innocent as she focused on his face.  “Well?” she asked a few moments later, when he hadn’t replied.

  He hadn’t broken the stare, but appeared to be thinking about his response.  There was no trace of embarrassment or awkwardness as he said, simply, “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

  “Too many tour bus shenanigans eh?” leered Katy.

  “No,” he and Nat exchanged what could only be a private, silent exchange.

  At last, she came to his rescue, “I do believe he’s saving himself.”

  “Ah,” teased Violet, huskily, “but for who?”

  “Maybe the lady in question is proving difficult,” he replied quietly.

  I could feel the colour rising to my cheeks as I replied, equally quietly, “Maybe she isn’t interested.”

  Nat broke the silence, “This ashtray’s full again, do you want me to change it?”

  “No,” I got to my feet, “I’ll do it.”

  By the end of the evening, the kitchen was barely visible through the fug of cigarette smoke.  Every ashtray was overflowing, and there were no spares left, so I left them on the table to cool down and extinguish properly, and carried the dirty mugs over the sink.  Fliss and Violet had kindly volunteered to do the washing up.

  Nat had already left with Flora and Katy, leaving Fergus and me alone in the living room, which after the crowded, noisy warmth of the kitchen seemed suddenly cold and empty.  He was sitting in one of the armchairs, reading ‘Electra’, but looked up as I came in, and put the fanzine back down on the floor where he had found it, amidst a pile of Fliss’ Louise Rennison books, mix tapes, and hair ribbons.  I sat down on the sofa, opposite him.

  “Can we be friends?” he asked at last.

  I didn’t trust myself to meet his eyes as I replied, “I suppose so.”

  “You suppose so?” there was something akin to a sneer in his voice.

  “Do you want us to be friends?” I asked quietly, “or is it that you like trying to pull girls in bands? Something to brag about to your mates at the studio, is it? ‘Look at that slapper in NME, I’ve had her, she wasn’t that good, but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed’.”

  He got up from the armchair and walked across to the sofa. As he sat down next to me, he said, “Is it so hard for you to believe that I find you attractive?” his voice was barely above a whisper, and I was uncomfortably aware of his proximity to me.  I silently willed him to move away from me, but it didn’t work; I was going to have to move, but how could I do it without it looking suspicious? He wouldn’t understand.  “Look at me.”

  I looked up.  He was looking at me just as he had weeks ago when we were recording, and the intensity of his gaze made me feel just as uncomfortable as it had then.  He was reading me again, and I couldn’t look away.  He took hold of my hand.

  I flinched, jerking out of his grasp, “Don’t,” I could hear the fear in my voice, and I couldn’t face his reaction.  I ran over to the window and, with trembling fingers, drew back one of the curtains slightly, and peered out.  My heart was hammering in my chest as I gazed across the dark, wet street, and saw… his car.  I felt scared, but I was also angry, angry and sad… because it needn’t have happened.

  I heard him stand up, and I could hear the floorboards creaking as he walked across them.  Soon, he was standing behind me.  “I won’t,” he said, very quietly and calmly, “at least, not yet.”  I heard him walk back across the floor, and I heard the creak of the door as he left.

  I could hear Fliss and Violet singing harmonies in the kitchen as I closed the curtains again.  They were singing ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’, Fliss’ voice soared higher than Violet’s, it was pure and immature, a girls voice.  I walked back over to the sofa and sat down, then rested my head in my hands and sighed.  Another fine mess, I thought to myself.  I had been right; he hadn’t understood.  Oh, why did he have to get interested in me? Why couldn’t it have been someone else? Why did he have to go and fuck everything up?

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Chapter Five: One Way Or Another

The bus dropped Fliss and me off on the A6, just opposite the shiny chrome, plastic, and kitsch edifice that is Grand Central.  We were early, the roads having been quieter that morning than we were generally accustomed to.  Cars zipped along the patchy tarmac, not quite believing their luck, and it was a matter of minutes before we were across the road.

  We shunned Grand Central and passed by McDonalds on our way up the hill to the train station.  The chilly morning mist and fog were clearing as we drew closer, and I could see him now, a tall, lanky man, standing just outside the ticket office, by the taxi rank.  The calf length black coat was undone and flapping slightly in the breeze, and he was wearing black jeans and boots with a plain black shirt.  His shoulder length blonde wavy hair was loose and drifting across his face in strands, and he tucked it behind his ears as he dipped his head to light a cigarette.

  “You’re early,” remarked Fergus, as we approached.

  And that was all he would say to us, until Flora and Katy arrived.

  “Why are we here?” demanded Katy as she drew level with him.  She was scowling.

  “You’ll see,” he herded us into the queue of miserable commuters, waiting in the depressing ticket office.  Before we could ask him anything else, he had purchased five tickets to Stoke.  “We,” he announced, “are going to Alton Towers.”

  Some background information is required here.  Fergus had phoned Katy a week ago, and had made it clear to her that he was still interested in doing a single with us.  He wanted to meet up, he said, informally, so that we could talk some more, and, as such… there we were at the train station.

  That isn’t much of an explanation is it? No, but being in a band is a bit like that.  Things are always happening in a random, last minute kind of way, and its best to just go with it and see if anything interesting happens.

  The train was still fairly empty when we got on, so we had most of the compartment to ourselves.  Fliss, Flora, Katy, and I bagsed one of the white perspex coated tables and Fergus sat across the aisle from us.  As the train trundled towards Stoke, we talked.

  Apparently it was Nat who told him to go and see Titanium Rose.  They work together at Twilight Studios in Victoria; he’s an engineer there.   “We hang out a lot,” he explained, “and she was very insistent that I go and see you.”  Later into the journey, he admired my tattoo; a Chinese dragon in fire colours on my shoulder blade, and pulled up his sleeves to show me his own tattoos; Lara Croft on his right arm, and an intricate looking Celtic design on his left.

  At Stoke we transferred to a very creaky, cramped and grimy double decker bus.  They really cram the thrill seekers on at Stoke station, and the noise was absolutely deafening.  Katy and Fliss were on one seat, Flora and me on another, some distance away, and we lost Fergus in the crush.  Behind us, I could hear two twenty something men discussing She Ra as the bus travelled around the hairpin bends of the narrow winding roads.

  The sun had come out by the time we arrived, and whilst it wasn’t warm, it was pleasant enough.  The pale October sunshine took the edge off the chill in the air, and by dinnertime it was even warm enough for us to be able to take our coats off.

  We were just climbing out of our log on the log flume at five o’clock when the increasingly grey sky grew even darker and it started to rain.  The log flume dipped and wobbled as we all struggled to climb out at once, and we stumbled a little on the revolving terminus.  “As if we weren’t wet enough already,” grumbled Katy as we picked up our sodden bags and ran through the exit gates to the coach park, where our bus was waiting for us.

  It had stopped raining by the time the train reached Piccadilly so we walked down to the Twilight Café and got some tea.  Then we walked back along the dark, commuter filled, shining streets and joined the queue of punters waiting outside The Gates to see Glamorous Teen.

  Our damp clothes dried quite quickly once the venue had filled up, and I could feel the moisture steaming off me as the pogoing started.  The bands music hit us hard and fast, and soon the venue was a mass of bodies, jumping up and down to the urgent backbeat of the drums.

  I think it was Fliss who suggested that we go on to a chill out club together after the gig and talk some more, so we walked over to the Freeway and down its neon blue steps to the dimly lit basement where glass topped tables complimented armchairs that were soft enough to sink into.  The others had cocktails, Fergus had a pint, and I had water.  Once his pint was finished, Katy and Flora successfully cajoled him into trying a Test Tube Baby, whilst Katy had a Cheeky Vimto and Flora had a Sunset Boulevard.  Fliss asked for a Strawberry Daiquiri, but the barman quite pointedly asked her if she had school in the morning, so she had to settle for a Cinderella instead.

  The next evening, we began recording tracks for our first E.P.  Fergus had booked us five four a.m sessions at Twilight Studios throughout the week.  Fliss and I hired a taxi to lug my drum kit to the studio, which is situated in a fairly isolated converted mill in Victoria.  We arrived at three, but had to wait until half past before we could set up.  It was eerily quiet as we made our way through the white and navy reception area to the grey, stainless steel lift with our cargo.  The studio on the third floor was modest and dark, the desk was an eight track, and there was the usual section of glass that divided the desk, engineer, producer et al from the band.  I’ve been in recording studios before; they tend to be much of a muchness.

  I had just finished setting up and adjusting my kit when the others arrived, bearing coffee and biscuits.  I leant back against the brown wall and watched Fergus as he miked up my drums.

  It felt as though we were the only people in the building, and in the whole city, awake and working that morning as we played, tuned, re-tuned, played back, and waited.  Fergus was acting as both the producer and the engineer, which can’t have been easy for him, but he didn’t lose his temper with us or boss us about; he listened to us.

 When it was time to take a break, he asked me to go with him to fetch coffees.  The kitchen was on the fourth floor, and it was tiny.  I slouched against the stainless steel sink, opposite him, and waited for the kettle to boil.  We were only inches apart, and I could sense him watching me.  I met his eyes, but he didn’t look away.  Instead he held my gaze until the kettle boiled, and only turned away in order to pour water into the cups, “Is this your first time inside a recording studio?” he asked as he loaded the cups onto a tray.

  “No,” I said as I opened the door for him.

  “Oh?” he seemed interested.

  I shrugged, “Long story.”

  “There’s a club down the road,” he remarked casually as we walked down the stairs, “I go there sometimes after work, it’s open twenty four hours… I might go for breakfast when we finish at six, if you want to come.”

  Inside I froze, but somehow I managed to keep walking, “No… thanks.”

  He didn’t say anything.

  The songs we worked on that night were ‘Be My Girl’ and ‘Boyracer’.  Katy was in a good mood, for once.  She likes the studio environment I think; at least, she seemed to be the most at ease with it.  Fliss was very nervous, and unfortunately it showed.  It took quite a while for Fergus to get a good performance of ‘Boyracer’ out of her.  “It’s the stopping and starting all the time that gets to me,” she confessed later as we were travelling home, “If we kept going, I wouldn’t get so nervous.”  I nodded sympathetically, but I wasn’t really paying attention.  He had been watching me as I played; I had felt it, felt him looking at me in that direct yet curious way of his.  Now he was driving us home.

  Later, when we were at home and about to get changed and go out to work, Fliss asked me if I liked him. 

  “How do you mean?” I asked warily as I rooted through my wardrobe in search of a clean shirt.

  “In the friendly way,” she clarified.

  I shrugged, and said without commitment, “He’s alright.”

  “It’s just…” she was perched on the edge of my bed, and I could sense her awkwardness as she continued, “there seemed to be this atmosphere, in the car…”

  “I don’t know what you mean.”

  But I did.

  I’ve felt him watching me all week, looking at me, catching my eyes with his.  He doesn’t undress me with his eyes, or leer at me, but it makes me uncomfortable.  It’s as though he’s touching me, as though he’s seeing inside me.  He reads me, beyond the surface, beyond the barriers.  He goes beyond them, and he reads me.  That makes me more afraid than I can put into words.

Just because… a flashback to the atypical Manchester music scene of the 80’s

I’ve been getting very intro Carmel recently, especially this video, which was filmed in Manchester. I like it because it’s very natural, perfectly suits the song (which is an absolute blinder), and also because it’s not what is typically thought of as being Manchester music in 1984…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpQ9VbOjqSU

This one’s great as well….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdohz3yTWWc&feature=related

I was discussing Carmel last week with some friends of mine, one of whom is doing a PHD in Post Punk, and discussing whether Carmel, Working Week, and the band that was the forerunner to Swing Out Sister (who’s name I can’t remember…) were a sort of jazzy/soully contrast to the New Romantic scene in the same kind of way as Sade was in London. I’ve recently been writing a lot about women and punk, and interviewing a lot of people about it, and one of the interesting aspects of it is discovering all these little bits and piece about the 70’s and 80’s that I wasn’t aware of, or didn’t appreciate the full significance of…

Chapter Four: New Surroundings

Well here I am in my new bedroom, in the new flat that Fliss and I moved into just yesterday, well, I say new, but it isn’t really; nineteen sixties at least I should think.  A lot of our stuff is still in boxes at the moment, so the place has an unfinished air to it, but my bedroom is nice.  My desk, at which I am writing this, is in the corner by the window, out of which there is a rather uninspiring view of dustbins and bits of cars etc, but I have a decent bed, and a nice pine bookcase.  The bedroom walls are painted white, giving the room a nice, light, spacious feel, and the paintwork is painted pale green; I’ll probably leave it like that. 

  Fliss is loving our new, chaotic surroundings at the moment, and has spent most of yesterday and today running around the half empty, echoing rooms, shouting out suggestions as to what we should put where.  Her most recent suggestion is that we need a computer and a cat.  I replied that I didn’t think our combined finances could stretch to a computer, but that we might be able to afford a cat.

  She was arranging her bedroom when I left her in order to write this.  When I left, every available piece of wall had been covered by posters, mainly of Lucy Lawless, Alyson Hannigan, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and her bed had been covered by a multi coloured patchwork quilt.  The floor was littered with brightly coloured clothes, in fake fur, satin, lurex, and P.V.C, and amidst the clothes were shoes, fluffy hair scrunchies and dainty hairslides, plus ribbons, sixties girl group 7”’s and compilations, mix tapes, punk CD’s, ‘Angel Food’ and ‘Electra’ fanzine, and, I was amused to notice, ‘Brides’ magazine.

  She had helped me to unpack my own things before we had tackled her room, and it had taken an age, partly because she had grown increasingly curious about the large number of books I own.  It wasn’t enough for her to simply stack them against the wall; she had to know what they all were first.  The biographies and music books were of most interest, but some of the novels caught her attention too, so that when she left to make tea for us both, it was under the considerable weight of Jon Savage’s ‘England’s Dreaming’, Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’, Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, and Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture The Castle’, all of which should keep her busy for a bit.  In return, she has promised to lend me Daniel Clowes ‘Ghost World’, all her ‘Xena…’ and ‘Buffy…’ novels, and all the ‘Princess Diaries’ books.  When she has unearthed them all that is.

  We went to see The Girls From Mars play at The Gates last night, along with Flora and Katy.  They pulled in quite a crowd, and it wasn’t long before the place had been transferred from the usual dark, slightly dingy cellar, into a heaving sweat pit.

  Their singer is called Moyra, and she’s a bit intimidating, but she can sing really well.  Violet played slide guitar with a bottle of Guinness, which was very cool.  She plays guitar effortlessly, and simply, without an FX pedal, and with her long, straight black hair hanging across her face.  The bassist seemed anxious tonight, but their drummer was great, as usual.  She has an ease that compliments Violet’s guitar work very well.  Musically, they are ‘harder’ sounding than our band, very angry, and quite bleak sounding.  Titanium Rose aren’t a pop band, but we do seem ragged and skittery in comparison to the shiny, dark, power pop of The Girls From Mars.

  After the gig, I talked to Violet for a while.  I have to admit that I find her a little intimidating, despite her friendliness.  She seems very self-sufficient and determined, and just a little bit stubborn.  Like Nat she is tall and curvy, and they share a similarly hard-edged kind of glamour. Last night she was wearing black knee high suede boots with fishnet tights, an a-line khaki mini skirt, and a Supervixon t-shirt, and as we stood chatting by the side of the small stage, I could feel the eyes on her, watching her from across the dark, steamy, crowded room.

  “I’ve got one of those,” said Nat, prodding the Supervixon logo, which was stretched across Violet’s chest.

  “That was my nipple you just stabbed,” said Violet, mildly, “be more careful next time.”

  “Oh I wasn’t groping you,” replied Nat, airily, “I’m just a very physical kind of girl.”

  “So I’ve heard,” said Violet, her eyebrows raised, “you keep your hands where I can see them, you floozy.”

  I felt embarrassed, but Nat just laughed.  It was quite a loud crowd last night, the DJ played old Madonna records after the bands had played, and people danced to them in a drunken, ironic kind of way.  Nat was in a particularly good mood because she’s in love, or so she said.  “It’s a secret though,” she confessed, with unusual coyness, and despite Violet’s teasing, she remained cryptic all night.  “I don’t want to jinx things.”

  After we arrived back at the flat, Fliss and I fixed ourselves a couple of drinks, and settled down in the living room with our record collections.  It was a cold night last night, colder in the flat because of our lack of carpets, and in order to compensate for this we removed the cushions from the sofa before sitting down on the living room floor.  The light from the table lamp bathed the room in a soft, bluish light as we took it in turns to pick songs and talk.

  As the sun rose, she told me about visiting Canada and Holland with her parents and brother and sister when they were all small, “We don’t go very often now,” she said, a little pensively.

  “Do you miss your family?” I asked her, kindly.

  “A little,” she admitted.

  I felt a huge surge of affection for her at that point.  I am an only child after all, and it has occurred to me that living with Fliss will be a bit like acquiring a younger sister.

  She fell asleep on the floor of the living room whilst we were listening to Dionne Warwick, (one of her choices) and, rather than wake her, I tiptoed back to her bedroom and removed her patchwork quilt from the bed, and covered her up.  Her fair hair was trailing across the bare floorboards, Rapunzel like, and she was sleeping soundly.  As I tiptoed from the room I heard her sigh, and turn over, but she didn’t wake up.

Chapter Three: The Red Shoes

 It’s been just under a month since I last wrote in here, and I’d like to say that it’s because our newly acquired rock’n’roll lifestyle has kept me far too busy to write, what with all the smoking crack and shagging actors from ‘Hollyoaks’, but I’d be lying.  The truth is far more mundane: Fliss and I have been flat hunting together, and the band has been rehearsing a lot.  Allow time for such necessities as eating, sleeping and, oh yeah, working, and there hasn’t been time to do anything.

  We haven’t heard anything from the guy I met at the gig at The Gates, and whilst I’m a little disappointed, I’m not entirely surprised.  We went to see The Girls From Mars last week at The Gates, and mentioned the guy to Violet, and she said The Girls From Mars have had people from record companies come to their gigs, and it never comes to anything.  “They promise all sorts of wonderful things,” she said, in her welsh lilt, “get you all keyed up and excited and then head back to London, promising to ‘Get in touch’, but never do.”  So I’m not holding my breath.

  Anyway, now that Fliss and I have finally found a flat, I’ve been far too busy packing to think about anything else.  Mum and I completed the task tonight, and it was such a strangely emotional process that I thought I’d write about it here.

  “I never realised how much stuff you’d accumulated over the years,” she shook her head as she opened my wardrobe and began pulling boxes out from inside.  “I’m amazed that you can even fit clothes in here anymore…”

  I watched her as she worked.  I’ve only been back living with her for a year, but I know that I’ll miss her now that I’m leaving home again.  It won’t be like last time, but I will still miss her.  Her pale red hair fell into her eyes as she leant forward and, distracted, she tucked it behind her ears, where it obediently stayed.  She was still in her work clothes – skirts, tights, shirt, having not very long returned from teaching an evening class Basic Aromatherapy.  Normally she wears jeans and a t-shirt, but skirts are better for work, as are one set of earrings, not four.  She picked up the first of the boxes, and carried it over to my bed.  It caught on her tights as she put it down, “Bugger,” she muttered as a ladder began to form.

  As she removed the ruined tights and sensible shoes, I gingerly unfolded the cardboard, “Oh,” I murmured, my heart sank slightly as I caught the first glimpse of what was inside.

  “What is it?” she hopped back over to the bed, her tights half on, half off.

  I lifted a white tutu from the box.

  “That’s the one you wore as ‘Giselle’.” She threw the ruined tights across the room.

  “I remember…” underneath were black lycra short sleeved leotards, shiny, and cold to the touch. They were accompanied by pale pink wool legwarmers, pale pink tights, and underneath… tapes, music that I danced to; ‘Giselle’, ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Coppalia’, ‘The Red Shoes’… it was the classics I remembered.  For tap it was ‘Wherever He Ain’t’, ‘One’, ‘Hello Dolly’, for modern, innumerable pop songs, most of which I hadn’t liked, but missed all the same, and ‘Cherry Bomb’, which I had choreographed myself.  There were pictures, clippings, and programs from various productions and performances I’d taken part in, starting with my first role as a cute child in a bear suit, aged five, right through to my last role, as Giselle, aged eighteen. It was all there.

  Mum gently lifted a pink, tissue thin, layered skirt from the box, “Fliss might like this,” she mused.

  I nodded.

  The next box had all my shoes in it, including my block shoes, some broken in, some still in their packaging.  There were spare ribbons, neatly folded, and in a range of colours, and there were my tap and jazz shoes, just two pairs of each of them.  I picked up a pair of red satin block shoes and cradled them silently.

  She knelt down in front of me, “We don’t have to do this now,” she said quietly, “not if you don’t want to, if it’s too soon, you only have to say,” she placed her hand over mine, and touched the shoes.

  “They were the last pair…” It’s over a year now since I gave up dancing, and it still hurts.

  “I know, love, I know… You can keep them if you want,” my mother had trained to be an actress when she was younger; she knows how hard it is to let a dream go.

  I reluctantly set the boxes aside, and turned my attention to the two familiar looking crates that I knew contained my records.  Well, mostly my records…

  “I was wondering where that had got to,” murmured mum as she retrieved X Ray Spex’s ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ from my stack of L.P’s.

  “You gave it to me.”

  “Only on extended loan I think…”

  A lot of my punk records once belonged to my mum.

  She smiled as she looked around my room.  Only the bare minimum was still in residence, what could already be packed had been packed.  “Do you know this is the third time I’ve seen your room like this?”  I nodded. “But it’ll be O.K this time, I can sense it.”  She must have realised that I wanted to be left alone for a while with my thoughts, for she quietly left the room and made her way downstairs.

  I find myself looking around my near-empty room as I write.  The first time I saw it like this was when we moved in, when I was seven.  The room seemed so much bigger then.  For a few minutes, I’ve been remembering that little girl, bursting into the sparse, light, back bedroom and commandeering it for herself as her mother staggered her way up the stairs with the suitcases.  We didn’t have many belongings then: we moved too often to accumulate too much, and we were never well off financially speaking.  I had a scholarship when I went to the ballet school.  I’ve been seeing the room as it was when I was seven, with all my toys, my ballet shoes on the floor, and my soft toys on my bed.  I was happy then.

  The second time I saw the room empty was different.  Now, as then, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in moving out.  Do I know Fliss well enough to live with her? I’ve known her and Flora for less than a year, and I don’t feel as though I know Katy at all.  Am I doing the right thing?

  Mum was in the living room when I finally went downstairs; she was sitting on the battered black leather sofa, a pensive expression on her face.  The room was as eerily quiet as it was fanatically tidy.  “How come you haven’t got the news on?” I asked.

  “I did have it on,” she replied, oddly, “but all they’re doing is showing those two planes flying into the World Trade Center, over and over again.  I watched it for about five minutes, then I couldn’t bear it, so I turned it off.”

  We had been drinking in companionable silence for a few minutes when she suddenly asked, “Have you told your father about the band?”

  “No,” I frowned, “why?”

  “Oh, no reason…” she seemed distracted.  It seemed best to leave her to her thoughts and go to bed.

  The red shoes were waiting for me.  I sat down on the bed and slowly stroked the satin, back and forth, back and forth… the emotion welled up inside me, the memories, the hours of practice, all at an end now.  I slowly got to my feet and walked back out to the landing.  The other boxes were waiting for me there, and I carefully added the red shoes to my other shoes.  Aside from the pink skirt, and a few other things that have been put on one side for Fliss, it is all going, although I know mum will salvage some of the photos, clippings and programs once I have moved out.  I turned my back on it all, and returned to my room and to my drums, packed up and ready to be moved in the far corner.  I can see them from my bed as I get ready to sign off and turn off the light.

Girls in bands books: Rachel Cohn, Sarra Manning, Lauren Laverne…

… I suppose I should have put Louise Wener in there as well, now she’s done her memoirs, but I didn’t like her at the time, so I can’t see myself bothering to read her latest tome… I never was a Britpop girl.

In the course of writing this book though, I did do a certain amount of research by trying to track down any other girls in bands novels out there. Two I read were Rachel Cohn’s ‘Pop Princess’, which was published in 2004, and is about a sort of Britney styled ‘pop princess’ type singer. The other was Sarra Manning’s ‘Guitar Girl’, which was published in 2003, and that’s about a genuine guitar-y girl band. I also read ‘Confessions Of A Backup Dancer’, which was hilarious, but perhaps not for the reasons that the author intended…

Anyway, I really wanted to like ‘Guitar Girl’, whilst having very low expectations for ‘Pop Princess’ when I started reading it, but in fact, I found that, whilst ‘Guitar Girl’ was very good on attention to detail, and on description, I didn’t actually like any of the characters very much. I found the heroine to be especially annoying, and I found the plot a bit contrived as well. By contrast, I found the characters in ‘Pop Princess’ to be much better, much more interesting, fully rounded characters, and had far less of a desire to give the heroine a good slap. True, I’m not the target audience for these kind of books, as both are teenage novels, but I don’t imagine demographics has ever stopped anyone from dissecting Harry Potter, so I don’t think it matters so much really.

What I found was that ‘Pop Princess’, whilst it didn’t feel like it had been written by someone in the music business, was very convincing in its telling, because the strength of the characters, and the unusual twists and turns of the plot, made it believable. By contrast, ‘Guitar Girl’ was clearly written by someone involved in the music business, but who seemed to be more into the details than the characters. Sarra Manning writes teenage fiction, but started her writing life at ‘NME’, amongst other places, whereas Rachel Cohn is an established writer of teen novels, and, so far as I was able to find out, has no connection to the music industry whatsoever. Yet I felt hers was the better book. Go figure… If you want an alternate take on Guitar Girl though, Emily and her little pink notes has quite a sweet take on it….

And now Lauren Laverne has written a young adult book about a girl with a band. The book is called ‘Candypop: Candy and The Broken Biscuits’, and is part 1 in a series. The heroine is called Candy, the band are called The Broken Biscuits. I haven’t read it yet, and despite maintaining an interest in all things Lauren related, this completely passed under my radar. Haven’t read it yet, but will be doing, and will post a review when I have…

Chapter Two: Gigging The Gates

Tonight it was our turn to play The Gates.  Titanium Rose were bottom of the bill, by which I mean that we were the first of the four bands to play, and the only one of the four bands who got dressed and made up in the toilets.  Not the nicest of places, The Gates toilets are comprised of two small, cold cubicles facing one another, in which the lock sometimes works, and sometimes – when it doesn’t – you have to shove a bag or your foot against the door.  There’s also a mirror with two hand basins either side of it.  We took turns in the cubicles, hopping about on the freezing tiled floor, getting into our stage gear whilst the audience queued up by the sinks, then once we were done, we joined the gaggle of keyed up, impatient audience girls by the mirror to do our make-up.  It was a bit of a squeeze, and we were constantly being interrupted as various doors opened and shut, letting girls in and out of cubicles or letting in blasts of Limp Bizkit (Katy calls them Limp Dickshit.)  Even so, it beat sharing the dressing room with the other bands, neither of whom were the sharing type.

  Fliss was the only one of us who seemed to be making an effort with her appearance tonight.  She wore a red sequinned mini dress, red patent D.M boots, and black stay ups.  She had also used red ribbons to fasten her bunches, and was wearing cherry red lipstick.  Flora wore a dirty denim skirt with an off the shoulder tie-dyed green and black t-shirt, and black D.M boots, and Katy wore her trademark black: black boots, black jeans, black cotton shirt, black eye shadow, black eyeliner.  I wore my usual drumming gear, i.e. jeans with a t-shirt and Doc Martens.

  My best friend, Nat, joined us at the mirror and checked her make-up, “Violet and your mum are both outside,” she remarked, casually, to me.

  “Really?” I brightened.  Mum had told me that she would try to come to our gig, but hadn’t promised anything.  It would be the first time she had seen us live.  Violet was another surprise, as we’d only met a few times.  Her band, The Girls From Mars, have been gigging around Manchester for at least two years now.  Fliss saw her at Ladyfest Glasgow and, in her usual clumsily spontaneous, yet ultimately friendly, manner, invited her to our gig tonight.  None of us had ever expected her to turn up though.

  Nat finished her examination of her reflection.  Deep blue eyes stared back at her from the mirror, framed by dark, thick lashes set against a heart shaped face, with high cheekbones.  A tiny blue star pierced her snub nose, and her light brown hair, which was streaked blonde, was hanging loose down her back.  I always think of Nat as being voluptuous, never fat.  I can imagine her as a sweater girl in the fifties, or a forces pin up in the forties, one of those halter-top and hot pant clad Marilyn’s, with film star glamour, the kind of woman who can break your heart with a glance.

  Not many people had arrived by the time I emerged from the toilets into the cool grimy gloom of The Gates, and I found Fliss chatting to Violet by the dimly lit bar as, next to them, Nat talked to my mother.  Violet complimented Fliss on her sparkly dress and, in the darkness, I saw Fliss blush as she coyly looked away. I could tell that she was pleased though.

  There is one word that you can use to sum up the Gates: Dark.  Another would be Empty, or empty for Titanium Rose.  I counted about fifteen people, most of whom were members of the other bands on the bill.  From the stage I could see all the way back to the cage at the back, and the sound person.  Between the ragged gaggle of people watching the stage and the soundperson there was nothing but black floor, black walls, and the occasional scraped and beer stained wooden table and stool. 

  The audience stood about two metres away from the stage throughout the twenty-minute set, mostly wearing the kind of expression that suggested that they were wondering if the City result had come in yet, or were trying to remember just where they had parked the car.  Although they seemed sceptical, I think that some of them had been won over by the time Flora began to play the opening chords to ‘Hathor’s Lament’.  It was a tough gig, but I think we did alright.  A few other people thought we’d done alright too, including mum.

  “That song at the end had a nice bass line,” she said as we stood by the bar later, watching people pour through the doors, ready to watch the other two bands on the bill.  “And I liked the second song…” there was a ‘but’ coming, I could tell.  My mum was a punk in the seventies: She’s very disappointed that I’m playing drums in a punk band in 2001.  She believes that it shows a lack of imagination.  “But I think you need to vary your listening habits a bit more, and Fliss needs a better microphone.”

    She was meant to be helping me to move my kit offstage, the headline band having decided upon seeing it that only their own drummers kit would do, but she had spotted an old acquaintance from her days at the Electric Circus by the bar, and they were in full flow by the time I got around to moving it.  It didn’t matter too much though: I had the car keys.

  The smallest drums and the cymbals had to be moved first, then the next smallest, right down to the big bass drum at the bottom.  I was just carrying this last piece of kit down the steps on the right hand side of the stage when I heard someone ask, “Need any help there?” I put the drum down next to the others and paused to catch my breath, “You look proper knackered.”

  “I’m fine,” I replied, “thank you.”  I turned around.

  He was tall and lanky, with blonde hair, which was wavy and tied back.  There was light stubble on his chin, which, when taken alongside his ripped jeans, t-shirt and plaid shirt, added to the overall air of scruffiness he had about him.  I turned my back on him, and once more picked up the bass drum.  He picked up one of the snares.  “No, really,” I repeated as we turned to face each other, “I can manage.”  I was taller than him and probably stronger too, but I didn’t have time to argue with him.  Instead, I turned my back on him once more and walked back past the stage.  It was pretty dark back there, and the light from the desk when I passed through the doors was of great relief.  As I began to climb the stairs, I could hear him behind me.  I paused in order to scan the posters on the staircase walls for any upcoming gigs of interest.  (Red Vinyl Fur are playing at The Gates in a couple of weeks, supporting Angelica, which should be good.)  He was catching up by then, so I moved onwards and upwards.

  My mother had parked her car in Back Piccadilly, the dark alleyway that runs alongside The Gates.  It took a few trips, but soon we had moved the whole kit, and I was ready to start loading it into the car.  “Thanks for the help,” I said as I unlocked the boot.

  “That’s alright,” he tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear.  “Your band played well, Titanium Rose, wasn’t it?”

  “That’s right.”

  “Interesting name… where does it come from?”

  “Oh,” I smiled, “from Sigur-Rós, and that Sonic Youth song, ‘Titanium Exposé’.”

  He held out his hand, “I’m Fergus.”

  I shook it, “Maggie.”

  “I run a label,” he announced, “I wanted to talk to you, and the rest of the band, about maybe doing a record.”

  (Later)

I didn’t get time to write down everything for you when I got home because I was too tired, which is why I ended my entry so abruptly.  I wanted to lie awake in the darkness for a while and think about things, though, really I ought to have written everything down straightaway, for accuracies sake, still… I don’t feel as though I will ever have time to properly document my life, and maybe that’s just as well.  For now, I can only do my best with what little time I have.

  It was starting to rain as we loaded the drums into the car, and it was so dark in that little alley that I had to feel in order to see where I had put them.  Once we had finished, we headed back inside to discuss the possible single deal that Fergus was offering with the others.

  We worked our way through the crowd by the door to the side of the stage and onwards into the dressing room.  Here we found Fliss and Violet, in quiet conversation.

  “Where are the others?” I asked.

  “Don’t know,” replied Fliss, “Katy was getting a drink when I last saw her.”

  We closed the door behind us.

  The DJ was playing Marilyn Manson as we surveyed the by now much more crowded room for Flora and Katy.  We found them at the bar with Nat, and I quickly introduced Fergus to all of them.  Well, all of them aside from Nat: it turns out that she and Fergus already know each other.

  “Let’s talk in the dressing room,” I suggested, “whilst the other bands are out of the way,” Flora and Katy agreed.

  The Gates dressing room hadn’t improved any since I had stuck my head around the door earlier.  It’s the graffiti that puts me off; it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the names of bands, but the walls are covered in pictures of genitalia and the kind of sexually explicit diagrams that I imagine even ‘More!’ would probably hesitate to use for ‘Position Of The Fortnight’.  The walls get re-painted periodically, but they only stay clean for a couple of nights usually.

  Fergus’ proposed deal was that he sign us up to do a single, and later (finances permitting) more singles, and an album.  In the course of any time spent recording, releasing, and promoting material released on his label, (which is called One Way Or Another) Titanium Rose and/or any of the individuals making up Titanium Rose, will be free to record, release, and promote material for other labels.  As well as other liberties, we are also allowed to arrange our own artwork and we even maintain copyright of the songs.  It sounded fine to me, and the others agreed.

  The meeting broke up soon after, and we joined the crowd outside to watch the remainder of the headline band’s set.  I wasn’t that impressed with them myself, but the crowd seemed to be really going for it, and the atmosphere was generally good.  Bodies slammed into each other as hair lashed the steamy, smoky air, and the band ground relentlessly on, but I stood away from it all.  Had we not been playing ourselves, I doubt very much that I would have paid to see this band.  It’s different somehow when you’re playing a gig with them though, you feel obliged to watch.

  Soon it was chucking out time and Fliss, Flora and Katy all left for home, leaving me with Fergus outside on the dark, damp, street.  The crowd from The Gates were streaming past us as he asked, “Can I give you a lift?”

  “No, it’s alright,” I replied, “I’m going home with my mum, she’s driving.”

  “Oh, right,” he made to leave.

  “Thank you.”

  He smiled, “Bye”

  “Bye”

  As I got into the car, mum asked, “Who was that?”

  “Oh, this bloke,” I replied vaguely, “he’s going to release our records for us.”

  She watched his retreating form for a few moments, “Not unattractive…” she murmured, rather wistfully.

  “Mum!”

  She shrugged defensively, “Just saying…”

  She told me as we drove along the still busy A6, through Stockport, to Hazel Grove, that she had enjoyed the gig.  “Your band anyway, I didn’t think much of the other two.”  She didn’t comment much beyond that, and I was too tired to pursue the subject upon arriving home, but it was enough.  It is probably very un-punk for your parents to like your band, but I don’t care.  I’m still pleased.