Chapter Seventeen: A Fresh Start

Jenny Malone cut a distinctive figure as she made her way through the maze of empty tables with our drinks.  Her magenta hair was tied back in pigtails, a series of stick on jewels enhanced her eyebrows, and pale denim hot pants and an old Velocity Girl t-shirt, knotted at the waist, set off black clompy espadrilles.  As she placed the drinks down in front of us, (cokes for her and Katy, Reef for Flora, lemonade for me and Fliss) she said, “Of course, if I’m going to manage you, we’re going to have to make sure we understand each other, so that I can concentrate on what you want, as a band…”

  “As opposed to what’s best for us as a band?” quipped Flora.

  “Well, if you’re not going to enjoy yourselves, what’s the point in being in a band?” replied Jenny.

  We exchanged glances.  It had been Nat who had suggested that we approach Jenny about managing us; she hadn’t wanted the job herself, she said, and in any case, she was about to take over the promotion at Juvenile Hell, and didn’t think that she could devote equal time to both.  Jenny had the experience though, she said, she’d been a promoter, and she’d managed a couple of Liverpool bands before she wrote for ‘NME,’ so she would be a good choice.

  Flora took a deep breath, we had discussed it, so she was speaking for all of us when she said, “I suppose what we want is to get a good deal for us, one that will give us the time, space, and flexibility to create something really good.  We aren’t interested in being famous really quickly, we’d rather it happened at a natural pace, we want a career, not fifteen minutes of fame, and,” she took a deep breath, “we want complete control of our material and our image.”

  Jenny nodded sagely, “You realise that you will have to sacrifice some control in order to get signed.”

  Flora nodded, “We do, but we aren’t willing to become someone’s creature, we aren’t in this to be the next Girl Trouble or Atomic Kitten.”

  “What about the next Girls From Mars?” asked Jenny, tentatively. 

  We exchanged glances, “That would be O.K I suppose,” said Flora, cautiously, “but I don’t know if we’re ready to be hyped so much yet, we need space to write and gig more before we’re ready for that.”

  Jenny nodded, “Fine.”

  Now that our proposition had been made and accepted, Flora felt ready to raise yet another issue that had been troubling us, “What happens with you working for ‘NME’ if you go on to manage us?” she asked, “would you have to quit?”

  Jenny laughed, her face lit up as she grinned widely, “Hell no.”  She took a sip of her drink, then continued, “I’m pretty small fry, even if it were an issue, which it isn’t, then I doubt if they’d even notice.”  Flora seemed puzzled, so she explained, “NME’ writers are always setting up record labels, and then writing glowing reviews of bands that they just happen to release records by, not to mention all the sexual connections there are between certain male journalists and certain female P.R’s…”

  Katy grinned, “That’s useful to know…”

  We went on to Fab Café on Portland Street after our stint at The Twilight, and on the way we passed a series of large pink and black posters advertising The Girls From Mars’ first single for Hardpop, ‘She Sees Red.’  It’s about a girl in Bolton who got in the local papers for twatting someone with a chair at school after they stole her diary and put extracts of it up on the internet.  It was kind of an unusual choice for their debut single I suppose, but ‘Rock School Bitch’, which would have been my choice, probably wouldn’t have got them on the Radio One playlist like ‘She Sees Red’ has.  Fliss and I are going to see them next month at Manchester Academy: Very grand, and a very different venue to The Gates or The Twilight.

  I’ve been hearing ‘She Sees Red’ a lot, even before it got playlisted.  It doesn’t sound as scuzzy as it did when they did it live, but songs always sound different on record, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  I think the video surprised me more… I know Violet and Moyra had wanted to do a low budget re-enactment of the schoolgirl chair-bashing incident for the video, in grainy CCTV style black and white, but I guess the school said no.  As it is, it’s more like ‘Bad Girls’ than ‘Grange Hill’, with the Girls decked out in prison style uniforms, being mock arrested and so on, playing in a mock cell etc.  The pictures are very stylised and glossy, and airbrushed, with Moyra and Violet in the foreground, looking punkish yet glamorous, and Jane and Andrea in the background, looking more punk and less glamorous.  I suppose they surprised me because they were so unnatural but then, I suppose all publicity pictures are like that.

  The Girls From Mars are in London at the moment, doing press, radio, T.V… they seem to have been gone for an awful long time, and I could sense that Fliss was missing Violet as she gazed up at the posters in Piccadilly.

  “When are they back, Fliss?” asked Nat when we arrived at Fab Café, but Fliss just shrugged sadly, “Be your posters up around town soon,” she teased.

  Jenny shook her head sadly, “I don’t think they want to be famous,” she said, in mock sadness, “They’ve been saying that they want to ‘take things slow’.” She made inverted commas in the air.

  “I want to be famous,” said Katy, “but we should wait a bit, I mean, Fliss isn’t even legal for one thing.”

  Jenny nodded, “I thought that that might be something to do with it.”

  Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with Katy.  It would be O.K for the rest of us because Flora and I are both twenty, and Katy’s nearly nineteen, but Fliss is only sixteen.  O.K, she’ll be seventeen this year, but even still, that’s young.

  The party broke up quite quickly at Fab Café.  Jenny left with Nat after about an hour, having arranged to meet up with Liberty and go on to Juvenile Hell, whilst Katy offered Flora, Fliss and I a lift home.  She has quit her supermarket job, and seemed to be in amazingly good spirits.  “This is really the start of something now,” she said as we drove along the A6, “I think we’re really starting to get somewhere.”

 “You said that when we signed to One Way Or Another,” pointed out Flora.

  “Call me flighty then,” called back Katy, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel “but I still reckon we’re getting somewhere this time.”

  As we pulled up in front of the flat, she turned to Fliss, next to her on the front seat, and asked, “Are you coming to see Prick Tease in Leeds next week? I’ll drive us.”

  Fliss shook her head, “I have to go home then,” she said sadly, “It’s Jack’s christening next week,” Jack is the name of Fliss’ elder sister’s son, born last October.  “I’m there all week.”

  Katy nodded, but I could tell that she was disappointed.  She craned her neck, and peered over the top of the headrest, to where Flora was sat, placidly knitting.  “Coming to see Prick Tease, Flor?”

  Flora shook her head, she didn’t look up from her needles as she said, “Too many clothes to make, too many university assignments…” her hands seemed to speed up as she spoke, “too little time…”

  There was a long, long pause, and then…

  Katy turned her attention to me, and said, rather aggressively, “I don’t suppose you’d like to come and see Prick Tease next week.”

  And to everyone’s surprise, including my own, I said, “Yes.”

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