Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Sex Gods from the Planet Metal - Chapter Seven
“Aw, go on, just for ten minutes.”
“I said. No. Now just shut up about it. I am not having bloody Iron Maiden songs on my car stereo. What’s wrong with Neil Diamond anyway?”
“What? Apart from the fact that he’s crap?”
“Mind your language David.”
“Sorry, I’m sure. I didn’t mean to bloody swear”
“I’ve warned you about sarcasm. If you take that tone again we’re going straight home. Understood?”
“Yeah. Sorry. You did say it first though”
“Do as I say, not as I do. Come on, David. Let’s just enjoy ourselves for a few days, shall we? Now you’ll like this one, it’s called “America”…
Sometimes, given the choice of water torture or a trip in the car with my Mum I would gladly say strap me down next to the dripping tap, as it’s a slightly preferable way to go insane than my Mum’s Neil Diamond torture, which consists of her playing the wretched mans entire back catalogue to a captive audience, getting their hopes up before each song by saying, totally incorrectly, “You’ll like this one…”
In this instance, the captive audience was me, strapped safely into the passenger seat in her car as we drove south for a “Nice, relaxing few days.” This was what my Mum had prescribed after her and Dad had a good chat about my behaviour that fateful Monday. I was extremely grateful that neither of them blamed me for what I had done, with my Dad even lamenting that I didn’t “Kick the bugger in the nuts as well” whilst I had the chance. Mind you, he had a point. They weren’t really sure what exactly should happen to me, with my Dad retreating into his traditional position of listening (or pretending to listen) to whatever my Mum said, then nodding his head and agreeing with her. She’d either never cottoned on to this, or (much more likely) she had decided that this was an ideal way to have discussions with her husband. The outcome of this one sided conversation was that Mum was going to whisk me away for a few days so we could have some fun and relax, although when she put it to me she didn’t mention the Neil Diamond torture. That was an added bonus.
So there we were, in the car, studiously pootling down to Cornwall and going exactly five miles below the speed limit on any given road. She still does this, and it’s a given that at the front of any queue of traffic is my Mum, speedometer fixed at thirty five or so, saying in a loud voice (so as to be heard over whatever Neil Diamond tape is currently slotted in) “I’m going at a legal, safe speed you know.” As the saying goes, she’s never had an accident, but she’s seen thousands.
As my Mum is the sort of person who thinks the D Day assaults were a poorly organised mess, we had an itinerary. Well, maybe not, as only Americans have itineraries (“Gee, honey – what’s next on the eye-TIN-er-ary?”). We had a plan. The plan consisted of the long, long trawl all the way to St Ives, where we would settle in at a nice bed and breakfast, go shopping and just enjoy ourselves. Now I realise this doesn’t sound much fun for me, but I had the promise of being allowed to do just about anything I wanted, including fun parks and jet skiing. It was a genuinely nice gesture on her part, I like to think, and I was prepared to put up with the aural invasion of Mr Diamond if it kept her happy. Of course, she might just have seized on the opportunity of a few days away from the rest of the family and used me as an excuse, but what sort of a son would I be if I thought that of my Mother? Okay, a realistic one, but I’ll keep my illusions, thank you.
Almost exactly half way, we stopped in a small Devon village for lunch in a pub cum restaurant called the Plough that Mum had checked out in her AA guide and was prepared to risk eating at. As we pulled up, I couldn’t help but be impressed, as the place was a large, spacious building with three different entrances and a car park that seemed to be as long as our street back home. Mum parked up and we walked up to the restaurant entrance, with me doing my best to give the impression that I wasn’t with her, of course. People who wear Iron Maiden tour shirts do not go to lunch with their mothers, I was sure of that, and I managed to get away with slouching close behind her whilst wishing I was allowed to smoke, until that is she noticed what I was doing and told me in a loud voice to pick my feet up. I don’t know why I gave a damn about what a bunch of Devon yokels thought of me, but when you’re a teenager you care about what everyone thinks, even though you will swear at gunpoint that you don’t.
Inside, we sat at a solid wooden table and I marvelled at the amount of crap on the walls. There were shelves of dusty old books, but when I examined them I didn’t recognise any of the titles, or even the authors. This wasn’t because I was not well read, but because someone somewhere supplies pubs with bucketloads of crappy old books that no one has ever read or will ever read. They, along with various farming implements that would be seriously be regretted if a coach load of football hooligans decided to have a ruck, were supposed to give the pub an ambience, and I suppose it did sort of work, but it all seemed so forced to me. I determined that if I ever ran a pub I would resist that impulse to put potentially lethal weapons and crappy books all over the place, maybe instead settling for a few Iron Maiden posters and a small lending library of Sven Hassell books. If you don’t know who Sven Hassell is, then believe me you’re quite lucky.
I ordered a nice Gammon steak, whilst Mum stuck to salad, as she refused to eat meat without first inspecting the kitchen. When she had suggested such an inspection the waiter had politely refused, then slightly less politely refused, then just said no in a grump the third time before marching off with our orders, no doubt to gob on the food.
“It’s nice here, isn’t it?” I said, trying to make conversation. It was like a bloke on a blind date trying to be polite to a woman who has just informed him that she might go home early because her balls itched.
“I shall be writing to that AA guide,” said Mum firmly. “It’s my right as a customer to ensure that the kitchens are clean before ordering.”
“It’s just a bit of food Mum,” I implored, noticing that when she’s in a stubborn mood her face looks just like an Easter Island statue.
“Just a bit of food!” she said, at a volume that caused a few heads to turn. “You tell me that when you’re writhing in agony tomorrow morning because your steak was cooked in a dustbin lid with a Bunsen burner!” More heads turned, and I tried to make myself invisible. It didn’t work, partly because I was wearing a shirt three sizes too big with a gun toting cyborg on it, but mainly because it’s impossible. I still gave it a bloody good go, though.
An official looking man came over to us, and I was convinced we were going to get thrown out, but instead he introduced himself to my Mum as the manager, and asked her what the problem was. Some English people, when asked this question, say “Oh, nothing,” and look embarrassed for causing a fuss, all because the waiter stabbed them several times with a fork. My Mum, as you may have gathered, is not most people, and unfortunately for the manager she informed him exactly what the problem was, going on to mention what a hazard the farm implements would be if a coachload of football hooligans got hold of them. Well, I knew I got it from somewhere.
To the managers credit, he didn’t laugh in her face. I was glad of this, as I didn’t want to have to visit my Mum in prison for the next twenty years as she served her sentence for impaling a bar manager with a handy farm implement. Even more amazingly, he went on to say how much he sympathised with her, as he was something of a hygiene nut himself, having worked as a kitchen inspector for some years in the past. At this point my mother was actually smiling at him, which meant that she either liked him or she was about to tear him a new arsehole. Seriously, the woman has no middle ground.
“So of course,” he concluded, “I will be happy to allow you to inspect the kitchens. Please, come with me.”
With the smug look of one who has got her own way, as usual, Mum went with him, the kitchen doors swooshing behind them, and I sat and waited, prepared for a long sit down as Mums idea of an inspection wasn’t just running her fingers along a counter looking for dust. There would be urine samples, I was sure.
Now for a teenager, sitting quietly comes as naturally as being intelligible does to a Geordie. To my credit I lasted seventeen seconds, at which point I decided I really need to go to the bog. More accurately, I needed to do something, and as I had noted the toilets were on the other side of the dining area, I could have a good nose about on my way over. I had also noticed, as all good teenagers do, the sound of a Space Invaders machine that was in the bar area. Operation ‘Not Sitting Here And Being Bored’ was underway, and I strode purposefully across the dining area, noting that not one customer was writhing about in agony after ingesting poisoned food. To be honest, though, that rarely happens except in Motorway service stations, and even then the writhing in agony is more often than not due to the customer being presented with the bill, realising that he’ll have to remortgage his house for the sake of a cup of tea, two bits of toast and some jam.
After a good slash (my definition of a good slash was now one where I didn’t find a dead body – talk about lowering your standards) I left the toilet and, noticing Mum wasn’t back at the table yet (probably still checking for nits), slipped into the main bar. The bar was still nice, like the restaurant, but with that underlying seediness that is always easily obtained by having several men slouching at the bar who look like the only reason they haven’t butchered you yet is because their pantry is full. They all looked at me as if I was some alien from another planet, the looks getting more and more severe as I dropped a coin in the machine and it started making the sort of ‘Bloop’ noises that probably made their trigger fingers itchy. Sod ‘em, I thought, and got into the game, intent on saving the human race from a bunch of badly animated aliens.
“Good shot,” said a female voice beside me as I nailed a tricky saucer a few minutes later. I quickly glanced beside me and was surprised to see a girl my own age peering at my alien zapping efforts with a knowledgeable eye. Smooth as a really smooth thing, I said “You must be Kaz,” and could almost feel the surprise.
“How do you know?” she asked as I eliminated the last invader on the screen. With a couple of seconds grace, I turned to get a good look, and was pleasantly surprised, if ‘pleasantly’ and ‘surprised’ are words you would use if you woke up one morning to find Cameron Diaz chomping down on your old man (ladies, please use your own analogy here, as I can’t be arsed to think one up).
“I just guessed,” I confessed. “It’s the name on the high score.”
“Aren’t you the clever one,” she said, and the little voice inside of me that talks bollocks screamed at me that I’m being flirted with.
“Uh, what’s it short for?” I asked, like a boy scout going for his ‘Being Crap At Talking To Girls’ badge.
“Kazza,” she replied with a cheeky grin that got wider as the new screen full of invaders dropped a missile on my last ship. I didn’t care, because my breath was definitely taken away at that point.
“So,” I said after I had told her my name and she had gloated about the fact that I hadn’t got anywhere near her high score. “What do you do?”
“I work in the kitchen,” she replied. Thought I’d escape out here cos there’s a right bloody nutter in there at the moment thinks she’s the fuckin’ health inspector or something.”
“Hmmmm,” I hmmmmed, noncommittally
I mean, I bunked off school to get a bit of extra cash, but there’s no way I’m letting that cow inspect me for nits just cos she’s got some precious little boy who might get, and this is her word mind, infected. Couldn’t see him in the restaurant, so I reckon the little twat must be in the bogs, probably trying to have a dump without touching the seat.”
She laughed, and I hmmmmed again.
Whilst I was obviously waiting for the inevitable moment when she would find out exactly who the precious little boy was, I was also enjoying the close company of a very pretty girl. If she looks like this in her work clothes, I thought, I really want to see her when she’s actually trying.
“When do you get off?” I asked, smooth bastard that I was. Okay, I knew I couldn’t actually do anything, but I just wanted to know if she would respond ina good way. I mean, how could she not?
“You chatting me up, Dave?” she replied with a cheeky grin (told you so). “Gonna take me out and whisk me off my feet?”
“Well, um…” I faltered. “I would, you know, but I’m here with my…”
“DAVID!” came the barely contained screech as my Mum burst through from the restaurant. “Where the hell have you been? Come on, your food will be ready in a minute. All things said and done it was quite a clean kitchen.”
Yeah, I know – the Universe has really good timing.
I didn’t even bother to introduce them. I just grinned helplessly at Kaz, whose mouth was open and suitably gaping, then went with my Mum back into the restaurant, where we had an admittedly fine meal. She didn’t press me on Kaz, and I didn’t venture any information, allowing her to believe that all I had been doing was playing the space invaders machine. I basically had resigned myself to never seeing her again.
Until, that is, she bought the bill over.
Whilst Mum looked at it, searching for hidden charges, Kaz leaned over to me and said:
“I get off at five. Meet me here at seven,” then gave me peck on the cheek and left.
So the good news was: I had a date with a total fox.
The bad news? I wasn’t going to be there, I was going to be in St Ives, possibly meeting a man with seven wives on the way.
“You,” I say to Simon, “are never going to get through all those in three days.”
“Whether I do or not is not the case,” he replies, stuffing another pack of condoms into his suitcase. “The point is that I am bloody well going to try.” He zips up his case, whistling a happy tune (“Killed By Death” by Motorhead), then flops back onto the sofa.
“So what’s the plan then, Davey boy?”
“Simple,” I reply, holding my hand up and ticking off the fingers. “First we pile into the minibus with the band, then we go and watch them do a few gigs in some truly skanky holes. Whilst doing this, you shag as many women as possible, and I dazzle Kate with my charm and sophistication.”
“I can go along with the first three”, he says seriously, “but I think that you should really have an alternative to option four, such as you sitting alone having a wank.”
“Duly noted,” I agree solemnly, marking off my thumb, then raising the middle finger of my now closed fist in his direction.
“What’s the time?” he asks. Simon never wears a watch, as he doesn’t live by the clock like other people. Anyway, it gives him a very simple approach with women.
“Time they were here,” I confirm, and on cue we hear a parping horn from outside. Even more embarrassing than most novelty horns, this one plays the immortal first twelve notes of “Smoke On The Water”. We brace ourselves for the worst and leave the house, which for the next three days will be occupied only by Pixel the cat and the neighbour who will be feeding her.
“Waheeeeeeeyyyyy!” is the unsurprising welcome we get from the minibus parked outside the house as we walk up the path. The whole thing is a bit of a shock.
For starters, it has been painted in a very crappy fashion by someone with the artistic talent old a four year old on day release from the School For Four Year Olds Who Are Crap At Art. The bands logo is plastered everywhere, joined by various demons, dragons and the like, all as metal and scary as a Tellytubby. The second shock is that nestled inside, drinking from a can of cider, is Morgan, wearing an Idiosyncratic Routine t-shirt over his Bristol City Top and waving like a member of the Royal Family on speed. Behind the minibus is a van for the bands equipment, driven, I am pleased to see, by Wayne, with the bands drummer Marlon sitting next to him. It will give you an idea as to Marlon’s mental capacity when I say that he is considered the stupid one in the band. The van is similarly daubed, and I dread to think of what a spectacle we will look on the way down to Cornwall in them. On the plus side, Kate is in the minibus, the only one not waving, giving us a friendly smile and drinking a can of coke.
“Fookin’ hell,” says Simon, expressing what we are both thinking. “It’s the Twatmobile.”
After lobbing our cases in the back, we climb aboard and get underway, happy to join in the general alcoholism with some Newky Brown and a few cans of cider. In the back with us are Morgan and Kate, with Neil up front driving. The car stereo is blasting out some obscure European metal band, who I am sad to say are doing a cover of “Love On The Rocks”. Some things never change.
“So what the fuck are you doing here, Morgan?” asks Simon, quite reasonably.
“I’m a roadie,” replies Morgan, with the sort of pride people normally reserve for when they win a Nobel Prize. “They asked me Saturday and I thought why not.”
“I don’t believe it,” says Simon, deadpan.
“What? That I’m a roadie?”
“No. That you thought.” We all cackle at this, and Morgan grins stupidly, as he always does when he’s the butt of a joke.
“Be fair,” interjects Kate. He’s learned his lines and everything.”
“What do you mean, his lines?” I ask.
“Show ‘em, stud,” she says, giving Morgan a nudge.
“One…” he says seriously. “One… Two…”
The rest of us clap and cheer this, because we’re going to have a good time regardless of how lame the jokes are.
An hour later, we’re rolling down the motorway, the sounds of Journey wafting out of the speakers, much to Simon’s disgust. Simon is not a big fan of keyboards. Behind us, Wayne is keeping the van close, waving like a cock at anyone who looks him in the eye from the rear of the minibus. I am glad to see that Kate doesn’t do this very often, and sit beside her whilst Simon teaches Morgan pulling techniques on another seat.
“So you came,” she says simply.
“I came,” I agree. “I will be Peter Grant to their Led Zeppellin.”
“You know I hate lies,” she says disapprovingly. “There is no way you actually want to manage them, is there.” It’s a statement, not a question.
“Well…” I hold the L for a bit too long and her brows furrow cutely. “Okay, probably not. To be absolutely honest, I quit my job today, and I need a bit of fun, and I actually quite like the lads, and you never know they might change my mind.” As well as the overuse of the word ‘and’, I carefully leave out that first and foremost I want to steal her away from her boyfriend.
“Hmmm…” she hmmms (we have so much in common). “Okay, I’ll go with that. Why did you quit your job?”
I tell her, in great and accurate detail, and she thoroughly enjoys the story, agreeing that Lindsay does sound like a bitch, and that I should have walked out ages ago. She is, I decide, a good audience.
Suddenly, she launches into song, joining in with a particularly difficult chorus that only a few women and the squeaky voiced Journey vocalist can manage. I sit there agape, and afterwards give her the obligatory slow handclap as she goes red and looks embarrassed.
“Stop it. It wasn’t that good.”
“Not that good?” I look incredulous, because I am. “That was fucking great. You, little lady, can sing.”
“No I can’t” she protests, peeking out now from between her fingers.
“Take it from a soon to be internationally renowned band manager,” I assert. “You are good. Try another one.”
And she does. The next song on is similarly awkward, but she handles it beautifully, matching the singer melody for melody, even causing Simon and Morgan to stop talking and look back.
“Hey Neil,” I ask, hoping that he doesn’t turn his head round. He doesn’t.
“How come you don’t get Kate to do a few backing vocals for you?” I deliver this quite normally, which is a feat considering Kate is whacking my arm with some force and hissing at me to shut up.
“Kate?” he says incredulously. “Kate can’t sing.” The last is delivered with utter conviction. Neil, along with Wayne, likes girlfriends to sit in a very specific box, which allows them to do girly things like giggling and shagging, possibly knitting, but nothing of any importance or artistic merit.
Kate sticks her tongue out at me in an I told you so sort of way, so I just shrug and enjoy the ride, hoping that Journey never did a cover of “I Am, I Said”.
At six we finally pull up at our destination, a battered pub called The Plume Of Feathers in some small Cornish coastal town that has definitely seen better days. The Plume itself reflects the towns attitude, being as it is a run down, no doubt rat infested dunghole. Believe me, I’m being unkind to dungholes here by including them in the comparison. The bunch of us congregate beside the minibus, Wayne and Marlon joining us, with Wayne giving Kate what I thought was a totally unnecessarily snog. Bastard. After trying to give her a tonsillectomy, he turned to me.
“Right, Dave. This is the place. The owner’s some bloke called Sid.”
“Okay,” I reply, not quite getting the gist. “And?”
“Well… give it a go. Go and tell him we’re here and stuff. That’s what managers do.”
“Is it? I thought managers sat on their arses and creamed off ten per cent.”
“Nice one,” he says, and to my horror gives me the thumbs up. Fonzie he ain’t.
“Okay…” I sigh. “I’ll go get him. By the way, where’s the guest house we’re staying in? Is it close?”
“Well, yeah,” says Neil. “We’re staying here.”
“Here?” I can feel the plague starting to kick in already. “Seriously?”
“It’s brilliant!” enthuses Wayne. “A real metal pub. We managed to get accommodation for all of us instead of being paid.”
“You really do need a manager don’t you,” I say, then walk inside, wishing I’d had my jabs before we came.
Inside, the Plume isn’t actually that bad. As Wayne said, it’s a real metal pub, with band posters and the like plastered everywhere. They have way more bands on than we do, and my eye is caught by a poster advertising tonights gig. This is what it says:
‘Heavy Metal Spectacular!! Featuring Osmium and Idiosyncratic Routine!! Come Down And BANG YOUR HEADZ’. In metal, misspelling is very important – just ask Slade.
Heavy Metal Spectacular? I think we’re in trouble, and I debate whether to just scarper when a bloke pops up behind the bar and asks me if he can help me. Sensing that he probably hasn’t got any poison, I instead ask for Sid.
“That’s me mate,” he says, smiling. He looks like a lovely, sound bloke, just your everyday Mr Normal barman. Except, of course, for the fact that he has no shirt on, the top half of his body being covered completely in tattoos. Naturally, there is one featuring a topless lady on a motorbike.
I introduce myself, trying to stop myself staring and of course failing miserably. He is obviously used to this sort of thing, and graciously stops me in my tracks to fill me in on all his body art. Once that’s done I feel a lot more relaxed, able to appreciate the gentle subtlety of a picture of a policeman with a knife through his head.
“Nice decoration,” I comment, waving a hand vaguely at all the posters.
“Ta. We used to have farm implements on the walls but a coachload of football hooligans came in and… well, you can probably guess the rest.”
God, I love being right.
“So, what are Osmium like then,” I ask innocently.
“Oh, they’re really heavy fuckers,” he replies. “They called themselves Osmium cos it’s the heaviest metal, see. They’ve played here a few times. Set the stage on fire once with all their bloody pyros and the like. Normally they’d headline, but I put your lads on the top spot as they’ve got the record deal and everything.”
“The what and which?” I reply, my head spinning.
“The Vertigo thing. You know, the five album deal and the tour with Iron Maiden.”
“Oh,” I say lamely. “That. Wayne told you did he?”
“That’s the fella. Said he’d play for accommodation, even when I offered him some cash on top.”
I sigh inwardly and bang my inner head against my inner brick wall. “That’s Wayne all right.”
“Well, glad you’re here. The bands play on the stage in the main bar. It’s not massive but it’ll do you okay. Must seem a bit of a comedown after Hammersmith, but there you go.”
“Hammersmith. Yes.” I mumble, feeling impending doom descend like a huge vulture. “I’ll get them to bring the gear in.”
“Wayne, you fucking twat!” I shout, back in the car park. “He thinks you’ve got a fucking record deal!”
“Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit, but we got the gig didn’t we?”
“He’s put you on with a really heavy metal band. You don’t play heavy metal Wayne, you play poodle rock. They’re going to kill you.” I am quite serious here, but Wayne doesn’t seem to grasp it.
“We’ll be all right,” he says calmly. “We’ll just let the music do the talking, you know.”
“That would be great, if your music didn’t say ‘Look at us! We have perms! We know about melody! Please stone us to death!’”
“I ain’t got a perm,” interjects Marlon. To illustrate this, he runs his fingers through his hair, which is so naturally curly it looks just like a perm.
“Okay, so we’ll put it on your tombstone, Marlon” I say sarcastically. “By the way, Wayne, when does the tour with Iron Maiden start?”
“Um..” he mutters, actually looking embarrassed for once.
“Oh, bollocks to it,” I say, throwing my hands up in a very stereotypical gesture of frustration. “Just get your gear in.”
As the band and Morgan lug the gear from the van to the pub, me and Simon sit and have a fag on the minibus.
“We’re gonna have to check this thing for car bombs when we come out,” he says.
“You think? What the fuck am I doing here with that bunch of idiots?”
“Well, look on the bright side,” he says cheerily.
“What fucking bright side,” I reply with a sneer.
“At least your best mate’s here to support you, watch over you and then embarrass the fuck out of you when we get home by telling everyone all about it.”
I wonder what our rooms are like.