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Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Latecomers (Opening)


This is the opening to a story I wrote the other day called 'The Latecomers', about four young men in their twenties in a funk/rock band in London.





“That was great, thank you,” Trevor Clapton said to the man covered in sweat. James, his name was. He wasn’t the best drummer they had auditioned, but he wasn’t the worst. Next to him, Joe Hendricks and Luke McCartney were taking notes. James came from an indie/rock background. Trevor wanted someone with more of a groove. Not that James wasn’t good; he just wasn’t for them. He would see what his bandmates said afterwards.


James was smiling eagerly as he packed his sticks away. They were in the rented room of a studio in Clapham, South London. The Vox drum kit James had been sitting on for the last fifteen minutes was drenched in perspiration. The three men sat patiently, waiting for James to leave. “Bye, thank you,” said Trevor, waving at him. Luke also waved. Joe, as he had done with all of the drummers, didn’t look up from his piece of paper.
The door closed. The men consulted each other. “What did you think?” said Trevor.
“Nope,” said Joe. “He’s not the one.”
Luke laughed. “How do you know?”
“Can just tell,” said Joe. “He won’t suit our style.”
Both Luke and Trevor smiled. They agreed, but Joe’s response didn’t surprise either of them. Curt, blunt and precise, Joe never hesitated to say what he felt. Everything about him, from the way he dressed to each note he fingered on the bass, was on point. His crisp shirts, ironed trousers and neatly brushed hair didn’t make him look like your stereotypical laid-back bassist. Joe was anything but laid back. He was meticulous and practiced for five hours a day, every day. He recorded in one take and never missed a note or slipped into the wrong key during a solo.
“I thought he was alright,” said Luke “but yeah, he definitely wasn’t for us. Too straight. Didn’t have a groove.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” said Trevor. Luke laughed and belched. His T-shirt barely stretched over his fat tummy, and his hair was up in its usual greasy ponytail. He took a swig from his can of coke. (Diet coke, but the diet didn’t seem to be working for him). With his hairy calves in shorts and beard frayed around his chin, Luke couldn’t be more of a contrast to Joe. But when Luke riffed out on his Stratocaster and Joe complimented him on his Tele bass, they created magic.
“We’ve been through nearly all of them and we still haven’t found the one,” said Trevor. “And we only have one more left.”
“Maybe he’s the one?” Luke suggested. Joe scoffed. “I told you guys we should’ve gone for that Filipino guy we saw yesterday. He’s been the best by far.”
“We have to go through everyone, it’s not fair otherwise,” said Luke, knocking back another swig of coke. Trevor rubbed his chin. “What about the small blonde girl, Cathy? She was cute and she could play double-time swing.”
Both Luke and Joe laughed. “Thinking with your dick as usual, Trev,” said Luke. Trevor raised his eyebrows. “Hey, most of the people we’ve seen these past couple days have been guys. We should try be more inclusive and have a girl drummer, you know; equality and that.”
“So you can sleep with her before the first gig?” said Joe. “Remember how things with Natalie ended.”
Trevor was their lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. He was the front-man, the main guy, the one who made all the final decisions. With Joe’s cold bluntness and Luke’s laid back attitude, he was the perfect middle ground.
He ran his hand through his gelled blonde hair. Like Luke he was wearing shorts. It was a hot day and they were stuck inside a sticky studio looking for their Ringo Starr. Only they couldn’t be more unlike The Beatles. They were somewhere between Fishbone, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Earth Wind and Fire. The perfect blend of funk, soul, punk and rock.

Now all they needed was a drummer whose heart Trevor wouldn’t break.

There was a knock at the door. Their final audition-nee. Trevor called for the person to come in. The figure pushed against the door with their weight. They – or he, I should say – was carrying a black circular shaped bag with his own cymbals inside. But the three men weren’t looking at the cymbals. They were looking at this peculiar looking fellow. He looked like an attractive Caribbean version of Pennywise the Clown. He had warm brown skin and a massive shock of dyed bright red hair curling around his head. He was dressed in bright orange trousers with red sandals on, a yellow T-shirt and a navy blue jacket on top with lots of buttons of the likes of Bob Marley and Prince and Michael Jackson and James Brown and Peace and ‘Anti-War’ and Marijuana signs. He had a cheerful look on his face as he adjusted the drum stool and asked if it was alright that he used his own cymbals.
“Yeah, go ahead,” said Trevor whilst the other two gaped. It was like looking at an androgynous alien. Perhaps this was how most people felt the first time they saw Prince. Did I mention that the man also wore a giant hoop earring in one ear? Not both, just one.
Whistling, the man took off the heavily used cymbals and put on his cleaner and shinier ones. Trevor flicked through the papers. “Marlon Jackson, right?”
“Please, call me Marly,” said Marly cheerily, sitting down on the stool with his sticks in his hands. His voice was high-pitched. “And no need to make any jokes about the Jackson 5, I’ve heard them all.” He laughed. Luke laughed too. Joe raised his eyebrow.
“So do you want to tell us a bit about your musical background?” said Trevor.
“I’m mainly into 70s Soul, Funk, Disco; James Brown, Diana Ross, Motown, that kind of thing,” said Marly. “But I also like some of the really heavy rock stuff; Guns N Roses, Black Sabbath, AC/DC...”
“Nice.” Luke and Trevor nodded at each other. Joe sat back with his arms folded.
“How long have you been playing?” said Trevor. Marly laughed. “Erm, since I was about six. That would be...seventeen years?”
“Wow.” He’d been playing longer than any of the other guys they’d seen. “I do a lot of session work, and I’ve played in a few bands before but I haven’t been able to click with them in terms of genre,” said Marly. “Like, because my musical background is pretty split it’s hard to get that balance, that fusion.”
“Well mate, you’ve probably come to the right place,” said Luke. “Can I just say, I fucking love your hair? I would literally have you in just to have someone with cool hair.”
Marly laughed. “Oh, thank you! My boyfriend dyed it for me. He works at a hair salon.”
“Nice. It really suits you man,” said Luke. The men nodded at each other. Joe still looked taken aback by Marly’s attire. “Show us what you have today then. CD player is right on that table next to you.”
Marly put on a backing track. He said it was from the band he had previously been in and toured with. He nodded his head, getting into time, and then was off. He was brilliant. He moved between time signatures, did the perfect amount of fills; not too many or little – he would play softly and loudly at appropriate times, and best of all he had groove. He had what they were looking for. He was their Neo. The guys looked between each other. Even Joe was impressed; they had their one.

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