Caution: This Drama Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Teenagers, Group Sex, Oral Sex,
Desc: Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A young girl singer turns up for an audition for a 70s covers band. Mick Johnson, a cynical old guitarist, sits up and takes notice.
Mick could only conjure five hopefuls, despite advertising in every publication he thought relevant. Only five, and the first four had been shit. Mick was resigning to the situation - few girl singers wanted to do the material.
Anna Kuznetsova was the last. Born of Russian immigrants, she was tall, willowy and impressive in appearance.
Anna arrived with her own guitar and material. Mick, his real name was James but he'd always been called Mick, after Mick Ronson - asked her for a key so he could accompany her on the piano, but she didn't read music.
"Is that an 'A'?" she asked.
"'A' flat," Mick said dryly. He hadn't much hope, but thought he had to hear her just the same.
She started strumming, her face betraying self-consciousness. Anna's voice began - frail, and barely able to sustain a note. Mick looked at Geordie, who was going to play base. Unspokenly, they knew she'd be another disappointment.
Then she let rip - full throated and with such power it rocked back the two old musos in their seats. Mick looked at Geordie in astonishment. 'What the Hell have we here?' was the unspoken communication.
Mick's mission had been to form a covers band, with music mostly from the 70s. There was a good market out there for that stuff and he was confident they'd find enough work for most of the year.
It was Mick who decided they needed a 'chick singer.' That'd go down well in the provincial pubs he intended to find work. Geordie was always sceptical of the idea.
The girl finished as she began, with a frail voice full of loss. The silence was deafening.
"Ah, give us a moment?" Geordie told her.
"Have I got the job?" she asked.
"Hang on a minute," Mick interrupted, "Anna? You know what sort of band this is?" She nodded. "Then tell me, why do you want to play covers?"
"Listen, you guys have been around a long time, right? I go to Uni. We have a band called 'The Curse.' I thought if you heard us you might be able to help us get really going, y'know?"
"Hey, this is an audition for a singer..." Geordie started to say. Mick could tell he was irritated.
"Wait!" Mick, again, interrupted his cohort, "so why the charade? Why didn't you just come out and ask?"
"I did! I wrote to you. I even came around to your house, but you were out."
"Huh? Why me? There's a lot of musicians out there who're younger and have a better feel for that kind of music."
"Michelle's Dad said we should call you. She plays base guitar. Her father used to be in the 'Frontal Lobes.'"
"The Lobes?" Mick said in surprise, "go on! Hell we had great parties with them in the old days." Mick looked at Geordie who was also smiling at the memories. "So, who's her father?"?
"The Dodger? He has a daughter?"
"Mick," interrupted Geordie, "I have to be somewhere?"
"Sure, sure. So the Dodger's daughter is in a band?"
"Michelle said her father told her that you were the best rock guitarist in the country and there was little you didn't know about stage performance and arranging."
"Her father said that? Thank him for the plug, but I'm not sure I'm the best person..."
"Mick? I really gotta go. We're having people over tonight," Geordie told him.
"Sure, sure," Mick replied, dismissively. "So, Anna, what stuff do you play?"
"Kinda alternative, punk, maybe? I dunno, we just play what seems right."
"Ok, so who have you got in the band?"
"Michelle's our base player and we have a drummer, Karen. I play guitar. We're still learning..."
"All girls?" he raised his eyebrows, "and only a three piece? That's kinda hard work for a rock band."
"Tell me about it? It's hard, y'know, playing guitar and singing."
"A lot harder than people think," Mick agreed, "especially with two other guys, er, girls."
"Michelle's probably our best musician. She hasn't a base so she plays guitar tuned down to 'D'."
"That's clever!" Mick said.
"And she reads music. Karen, well, she finds it hard sometimes to keep time. She keeps speeding up."
"Ah, has she tried a click track?"
"Like a metronome except through headphones. Tell her to practice like that for a few hours."
"I don't think we have that kind of thing."
"Yeah, well, we can lend you what you need. You have your own PA?"
"Kinda, it's shitty!"
"All right," Mick told her, "bring your band in here one day? Maybe we can work something up? Let me know what gear you need and I can arrange it?"
"That'd be great," Anna told him.
Mick watched her leave. She was a fox, he thought, and projected tons of charisma on stage. She had a great set of pipes and her voice control was spot on - possibly the result of vocal training. Her guitar playing was pretty average, however, and not really up to the mark for performance.
But was he really up for this, he wondered? This 'alternative' music wasn't really his cup of tea. At 53 he was just too out of touch. Hip hop? He couldn't stand it. He hoped they weren't going to play that stuff or he'd be out of the room so fast...
Anna was excited, as she walked down the stairs carrying her guitar. She hadn't told Mick that their band really sucked, but, she hoped, he'd see the potential.
Michelle had urged her to go to the audition - to talk to Mick and convince him to help them out. Their base player was the most accomplished, having been raised in a musical family. Anna, herself, had had voice lessons from the age of 6, back when they lived in Russia, and her mother had paid for private lessons in this country. She knew she had a good voice and she had faith in her fledgling band.
Their biggest problem was Karen. It wasn't her fault because she'd been barely playing the drums for 5 months. She'd good upper body strength and knew all the shots but she just couldn't keep time. 'What was this click track?' she wondered.
Michelle was waiting for her in the van. "Well?"
"He wants to hear us," Anna informed her friend.
"Uh, oh!" she grinned.
"He knows it won't be perfect," Anna explained, "we'll pick our best number!"
"Sure," she laughed, "like what would that be?"
"Maybe?" she considered, "I still think it should go down to A minor."
"That's too low for me."
"Oh, bullshit! You've got a great range. I think it's your natural key."
"Y'think? I don't like the chord fingering. It's too hard!"
"Then let me carry it? Just do a little riff. I'll show you?"
"Suppose," she replied, unenthusiastically.
They both knew, though, it will be a tough mission to impress the likes of Mick Johnson.
Mick's flat was a clutter of band gear. Through the front door, he had to squeeze past a guitar amp. Guitars littered the lounge, together with an effects pedal, another amp, boxes of strings and sundry other gear. A Gibson SG Custom was his favourite axe and there was a Stratocaster, which'd seen quite a few stages over the years.
'Best rock gutarist in the country?' he mused. Well, he'd damn little to show for it. But what did an old muso like himself do but grab whatever gig paid the bills? His chance at superstardom had long passed into oblivion. Not, he thought, that there was much chance of that happening in this country. Maybe there'd been riches overseas, ripe for the plucking? His forays, however, had fallen foul of bad and dishonest management, excessive drugs, a surfeit of great guitarists - all seemingly more pretty than he - and just plain bad luck.
'Performance and arranging?' Well, he'd picked a little up over the years. He'd written some good material as well. But, what would appeal to 'The Curse's' fans, he'd little idea. Punk? He could do punk, or grunge. If that's what they wanted, well, he could do that, he supposed.
Anna called a little while later. She told him she could get the band along tomorrow, unless that was too soon? 'Yeah, why not?' he told her. He'd maybe get his mate Freddie along to coach their drummer. 'You good for that?' Of course they were. It was refreshing to work with a young band that hadn't acquired the attitude, the arrogance, and the competing egos.
Mick searched through the mass of flyers, bills and competing letters that graced the floor by the front door until he found what he was looking for. Anna Kuznetsova's handwriting was elegant. Opening the letter he found a photo of the band, clearly taken by a friend.
Anna stood in the middle, her mass of untidy blond hair highlighted by a orange streak that had clearly now disappeared. Michelle, the base player, was also a blond but her hair was curly and tied at the back. She was shorter than Anna, but her eyes reminded Mick of her father. They were blue and full of mischief. On the other side stood Karen the drummer. She looked younger than the other two, but had well-developed upper arms. Dark haired - she wore it cropped in a fashion Mick would've called 'Dykish.'
But you can hardly tell, these days, he thought. In any case, their sexuality hardly mattered, except out of curiosity. A little work on their image would be all that'd be required. All three of them were good looking. He was kinda looking forward to tomorrow.
Freddie George was game. A real ladies' man, Freddie thought Mick was having him on. 'Coach a girl band?' 'Oh, sure, ' he'd said, 'pull my left one?'
Mick was adamant, and Freddie was all for piling into the van that minute to set up.
"Just be here at two," Mick told him, "and keep your hands to yourself!"
Mick had little doubt that Freddie would behave himself around the ladies. He'd been married for twenty years, had mellowed considerably over the years, and, in any case, was terrified of his wife Terry.
Neither of the old bandmates were exactly Brad Pitt material anymore, Mick laughed to himself. 'What would three such pretty girls want with a couple of old fossils like themselves?' No doubt they had plenty of talent to choose from, he thought, for boyfriends, or, for that matter, girlfriends, if their door swung that way?
He slept till 12, as was usual, before loading some gear into the van. Then it was off down to the hall to set up. Mick kept a ton of gear in a room at the back. He'd acquired quite a bit over the years as a professional. He spotted the drumkit, a lockfast Premier twin base kit with a Zildjan cymbal set, and wondered if he should set it up for Karen. It was bound to be way better quality than whatever she brought.
He was pushing the Marshall PA out onto the stage and beginning to plug up when Freddie arrived.
"Hey!" he said, "wanna set up your old kit?"
Freddie nodded. This was still way early for him. "Better be worth the effort," he mumbled.
Freddie's wife Terry breezed in around 1pm bringing plateful's of sandwiches. No doubt she'd want to stick around awhile to check out these girls. She was no slouch as a singer herself and played piano. But she preferred jazz and, in any case, was well out of the business these days.
The woman was formidable with a voice to match. Mick was sure she could've been heard unmiked, no problem. Terry had a good ear for a good singer, too, and all of them went way back. He didn't mind her sitting in. Her opinion would be interesting.
"Tell me?" Terry asked Mick, "where're going with this? You gonna be their manager?"
"Dunno!" he shrugged, "I thought, maybe, they could use a bit of advice?"
"From you old farts?" she laughed, "what the fuck do you have to offer? How to party?"
"Hey!" Mick smiled. He knew she was just having him on. "I'd like you to hear the pipes on this girl," he told her, "I'd say she's voice trained with tons of natural talent."
"Oh, I can imagine the talent you old dreamers would be eyeing?" she laughed.
"No, you listen," he said, walking back, "this girl is really something."
Something in Mick's tone made her sit up and take notice. He was excited like she hadn't seen in about twenty years. He'd a spring in his step, she'd never noticed before and she wondered what was happening. She called her husband over. "What is it with him?" she asked, "is he screwing this girl?"
"Not that I've heard," he laughed, "but he might be a little cunt struck?"
"No fool like an old fool!" Terry told her husband.
At last 'The Curse' arrived. They wandered in as if in a daze. On stage was a glittering swathe of equipment including Freddie's immense drum kit. When Karen saw it her eyes widened out like soup plates.
"Shit!" she said in wonder.
"You Karen?" Mick asked, "this is Freddie George," he pointed, "he volunteered to give you a little coaching. He's been drumming for close on thirty years."
"Ah, hi!" Karen said, nervously.
"Anna? This is Terry George," he introduced Freddie's wife, "she's done some voice coaching in her time."
"Please to meet you," she said, with just a hint of a Russian accent. "This is Michelle... I think you know her father?"
"Roger the Dodger," Mick explained, to gasps of surprise. "Hi, Michelle! I hear you play a six string tuned down? That's pretty cool. Who thought of that?"
"My Dad," she explained, "Corinne Brown of Sleater-Kinney does it."
"Right!" he nodded. Although he'd heard of that Seattle all women's band he couldn't say he was familiar with their music.
"It sounds just like a fuzz base... like strumming chords on a four string."
"Ok," he shrugged, "why don't you give it a shot?"
The three girls trouped up on stage. Mick cast a professional eye as they brought out their equipment. None of it, it seemed to him, was performance quality.
Anna's semi acoustic was cheap and nasty. Michelle brought out a battered Telecaster and Karen's gear was left in the van. No doubt it was second hand.
"May I?" Karen asked with barely concealed excitement. She was pointing at the kit on stage.
"Be my guest?" Freddie grinned. He then shot up to assist her with such indecent haste Terry shot Mick a resigned look.
While the two drummers arranged the kit to Karen's satisfaction - it had to be said, the girl was a little lost by the size of it - Mick helped the others tune up in preparation for a sound check. He was thus able to establish that the instruments they were playing were shit.
Anna's guitar was so heavy Mick thought it had weights inside. He was impressed that she could tote it through a gig.
"Here," he said, retrieving a Stratocaster from his battered case, "you might like to try this?" Grinning, she strummed it a few times and announced she'd give it a go.
Michelle's Tele was in reasonable condition, considering the look of it, and its unusual tuning made it difficult to immediately replace. In any case, the only remaining guitar was Mick's precious SG and no-one but he dear lay a finger on it.
Eventually, the girls sorted themselves out and announced they were ready. Freddie did a brief fiddle with the faders on the PA and decided the levels were okay. All was set.
The number started slow and quiet like Anna's audition piece. After the first 8 bar, however, the girls went into a thrashing, chaotic, screaming, wall of noise in which all but Michelle seemed to completely lose their way. Mick, Freddie and Terry shot each other glances. Freddie's seemed to be asking 'what the Hell?'
Some order was restored for the final 8, although Karen was plainly struggling with her timing.
"Well?" Anna asked, nervously. "I'm sorry, we kinda messed up the middle part a little."
"A little?" agreed Freddie, ruefully.
"Anna?" Terry said, reassuringly, "you have a really great voice."
Mick stood for awhile, his hand combing through his beard. Eventually he looked up from one band member to another. "There's just one question I want you to consider," he said, "are you prepared to do what it takes? I don't expect you to answer straight away, but I wonder whether you've thought about just how much work you're taking on?"
"I'm not sure what you mean?" Anna, replied, suspicious.
"I think I know," Michelle said, nodding.
"Give it a month," Mick continued, "rehearsals 6 days a week starting at six every evening. We'll go on until we nail one number. By the end of the month I want 30 songs ready for the stage. If you can do that, you've got a chance." Mick allowed it to sink in for a minute. The girls were obviously overwhelmed by the scale of the commitment. "Karen, I'm going to ask Freddie to put you on a click track until you can keep perfect time. Anna... Anna..." Mick wasn't sure how to tell her without crushing her ego. "Anna, you're a great singer but you haven't yet learned to play guitar well enough. To be honest, I don't think a three piece is going to work for you all at the moment. I think you should look around for a lead guitar... someone with the ability to add colour and texture. Anna, you should free yourself and concentrate on singing... let someone else take over the guitar."
Mick stood and watched the reaction. If they weren't prepared to accept his advice or commit to the time and work needed, then they'd all be wasting their time. Both Freddie and Terry knew exactly what he was doing, all of them had faced such decisions in the past.
"Can we have a conference?" Anna asked.
"Sure, go ahead," Mick said, "I guess what I'm asking is, do you want to be musicians or just play around for your friends?"
Michelle looked stung. She fixed Mick with a withering glare before turning to confer with her bandmates. Eventually, the girls came out of a huddle and announced they could put in the time, if Mick and Freddie were willing to help.
"One month," Mick replied, "that's all I'm willing to give, at the moment. If you want more, you need to show me you're serious."
Michelle's anger was visibly growing. Eventually, she couldn't contain herself. "Hey, she said, "we're not a fucking basketball team and we're not fucking around. I think we deserve respect..."
"Ok, I respect you," Mick shrugged, "now I want you to play."
"What?" Michelle challenged.
"That number. Except, Anna? Lose the guitar. I'll sit in."
"You know the song already?" Michelle queried.
"Yeah, 'A' minor, wasn't it?" She nodded. "Karen, I'm going to ask Freddie to sit in on drums, just this once, ok?" Karen nodded assent and vacated the seat.
Anna watched Mick take his SG Custom from its case and sling the strap over his shoulder. She watched as he came up on stage and plugged in. "You sure you can play this stuff?" she asked, dubious, "it's kinda weird."
"I'll give it a go," he smiled, "Freddie, count us in?"
The opening bars were so crisp and clear Anna almost lost her way. Mick added a jangle, with beautiful, precise fingerwork. Behind her, she was aware of the brush of the highhat, and the knocking of the tomtom, all even and exactly in time. She'd asked these old guys whether they could play this kind of music and they answered her with a nonchalance she found oddly infuriating.
Mick looked across at Michelle as they neared the bridge piece. He urged her to carry the rhythm with a nod of the head while he tried out a few runs at the top. The communication was immediately understood - Michelle having a good sense of working with other musicians.
Freddie lead in with some powerful double rimshots and a smash of cymbals, before driving the other guys insistantly with his double toms and basedrum. 'Punk?' he seemed to be saying, 'I'll give them punk!'
Mick followed Anna up the scale while never smothering her voice in guitar flurries. Anna could see why he was considered a great guitarist. He'd heard the number played once, and badly, then took it up himself, improvising as he went. She glanced at Michelle during the final 8 to see her grinning broadly.
Terry clapped and grinned at her husband. She saw him pat Karen on the back in passing, and shot him a cautionary look. He grinned back at her.
Anna looked flushed with excitement. "That's exactly what we want to do," she told Mick, "but I can't play guitar that good."
"That's why you need a guitarist," Mick replied.
"Where'd we find someone as good as you?"
"Oh, there's a few guys who..." he started to answer.
"Why should we?" intervened Michelle.
"You could play with us?"
"Me?" laughed Mick, "I'm too old for you. I'd look silly playing with you guys... well, look at me, huh? I'm old enough to be your fathers."
"Grandfathers, actually," Michelle grinned, mischievously, "but, so what? Put you in one of those brimmed hats with a feather? Maybe some tight jeans with a big belt buckle?"
"Oh, c'mon? And call me 'Tex' I suppose?"
"Well, no flares and make up, that's for sure. You'll make us a laughing stock," giggled Anna.
While Anna and Michelle continued to give Mick a hard time, Freddie noticed Karen standing dejectedly at the back. He went over to her, at Terry's urging.
"Hey!" he said, "just put the practice in and you'll do all right."
"You're just so good!"
"Yeah, well, I've been doing it for thirty years, love. You really wanna play drums, I'll teach you. Use my kit, but you pay for any damage."
"Have you been in lots of groups?" she asked.
"Um, yeah, I suppose so," he grinned, "can't think of them all at the moment so I must have. Bit of jazz, some rock groups. Hey, I even played in a dance band, can you believe it? Fucking weddings and birthday parties... well I never."
"Punk? Yeah, well, it's all the same, really. You just keep time and follow everyone else. It's not genius stuff, y'know."
"Who was your idol when you started out?" she asked, "who'd you look up to?"
"Keith Moon... The Who, no question. Absolute master of the drums was Keith Moon. Like fucking war happening, and that was on a bad day," he grinned.
"The Who? Like Tommy?"
"Yeah. Tell you what, get a copy of 'Tommy' and fiddle with the stereo balance until you can only hear the drumming track. You listen carefully to what that guy's doing, then weep. He flourishes all around the kit then comes back dead on cue... not half a beat off. That was in the days before all that digital wizardry. That's organic drumming, just plain God given talent. No-one taught him that, he just did it."
"Mick's good, isn't he?"
"Jimi fucking Hendrix and Bert Jansch rolled into one," he said, "play anything, anytime. He ain't never had the breaks, see, or he could've been up there with the Pete Townsend's and the Jeff Beck's. Covers band?" he scoffed, "he shouldn't be playing covers. He's way too good to be pissing around like that."
"And what about you?"
"Me? I've had my time on the road, love. I've got a family, now, and they deserve my time. They had precious little of it when I was a musician, that's for sure."
"What do you do, then?"
"I teach up at the High School. Mick had a music shop downtown but he went bust. That's why he's trying to get a band going, to pay all the bills. We're all just a bunch of old codgers," he laughed, "dining out on the good times and forgetting the bad. We had all the energy, then, but none of the common sense. Parties galore and women everywhere you look... um, sorry, love..."
"No, no. I can really understand, I can. You were the stars of your day..."
"Stars? I suppose," Freddie rubbed his chin, "fuck all money, though. Whatever we made we spent straight away, in any case."
"Freddie, I just don't think I can drum as well as..."
"As well as me? Probably not, but then I've had thirty year's experience. Give me a couple of weeks and I'll have you up and running."
"Course I'm sure. Y'got the strength and rhythm. Just need a little technique."
Meanwhile, Mick capitulated, sort of. He agreed to stand in while they worked up a few numbers and in return, they promised to keep an eye out for a promising guitarist. No way, he insisted, was he going to stand up on stage with girls less than half his age and make a thorough fool of himself.
One week later, Mick read through the new lyrics Michelle and Anna brought him.
"Got a tune in mind?" he asked.
"Something slow and bluesy? Maybe one of those time changes for the last part?"
"Yeah, but what the Hell does it mean? These words make no sense to me?"
"I don't know what it means, either. The words, well, they just arrived at my pen. I had to get out of the way and just write."
"Anna? What do you sense in these lyrics?" he asked, shaking his head. "If we're going to work this up, you need to interpret them?"
"I think they're great," she said, "it's not what the words mean but the emotions they..."
"Yeah, yeah," Mick said, dismissively, "ok, if you're comfortable with it and you want to work this up to a song, let's try it, shall we? Freddie? Let's try a Bo Diddly beat? I think I have a riff that might fit in there. As for the last part, well..."
"A little jazz, maybe? Let's mix it up a little?"
"Yeah, what the Hell..." Mick shrugged. "Count us in?"
They struggled for a half hour but the song just didn't come together.
"It's the beat," suggested Michelle, "why not a plain old 4/4 and something like that Throwing Muses song, 'Limbo'? Heard of it?"
"Sure I've heard of it," Mick said in surprise, "I've been a Muses fan for a long time."
"Yeah, I know what you're getting at," Mick said, brightly, "hey, Anna, we'll try a 16 bar intro..."
"Double it?" suggested Michelle, "then work up the guitar part for the final 8. Why not just base and drums for, like 24 bars?"
"What if we drop it to a minor key? Put some fuzz on the base..."
"Which will build tension? Yeah, a little discordance then you come over the top with the sweet notes?"
"Are you two ready?" Anna asked, impatiently, "I need to be home in an hour."
Things were already growing a little tense, particularly between Anna and the rest of the band. She was such a good singer that she could nail a song with a minimum of fuss. Like many good singers, she questioned why it took the musicians so much time to get it together, why she had to wait around.
Karen struggled with her confidence on the drums and clung to her headphones like a liferaft. The next step for her was to lose them and play without a click track to assist with her timing.
This time, however, Karen took the chair and started with a simple base pedal, tom, highhat routine. Michelle followed, using a thumb and plectrum on her 6 string and some gentle wah wah. Anna began to sway. She liked the groove and came in early, although no-one seemed to mind. She was using her singer instincts.
Mick waited until she'd delivered the first verse before picking a riff over the top. He played a descant to the base, following where Michelle was leading, heavy with reverb with a tinge of fuzzbox. The effect was immediate - something was happening - coming together. They all felt it, even Freddie listening in from the side.
In the zone, Mick stalked behind Anna, catching Michelle's eyes in silent communication. They both looked at Karen. Her eyes were half closed, sensing something was happening, something was going on that couldn't be explained in music class.
It was a long outro. Anna, swaying and hopping in time, jigged back to the amps and watched her bandmembers sparking off one another. None of them wanted the song to end and it lengthened out to a good 15 minutes. Finally, Mick wound it up.
They all stood for a moment feeling the vibe fade back to wherever it came from.
"Hey?" Freddie grinned and showed him the little box that generated the click track for Karen. It was turned off, much to the drummer's surprise. She'd never noticed and they all laughed at her stunned expression.
"Break for pizza?" Mick suggested.
"Your shout?" grinned Michelle.
"His shout," agreed Freddie, "and a beer?"
"Yes, please," Karen said.
"You old enough?" Freddie asked.
"What d'you think?"
"Shit, who cares anyway," Freddie replied, "let's adjourn to the pub?"
The local tavern was quiet, being early in the week. The band took a corner table and Mick stacked the table with bottles of beer and piles of crisps. Pizza was available and he ordered three, giant sized.
"What happened back there?" Karen asked.
"Spiritual," declared Freddie, "y'can't analyse it. Least, I never could."
"Synergy," suggested Michelle, "that's what my dad called it. The result is greater than the sum of the parts."
"Call it what you like," Mick said, "I'd say we started cooking. Stopped playing as individuals reading a script and started to listen to one another. You stopped thinking about what you're doing and just did it."
"Where's the pizza?"
"Guys?" Anna spoke up, "um, I'm not sure how to say this but... they want us to play next weekend... up at Uni."
"What? You can't!" protested Mick, "you're not ready. You don't even have a permanent guitarist."
"Yes we do," Michelle said.
"And we'll get ready, won't we girls?"
Three fists flew into the air. "The Curse is on the road, ladies!" they chimed.
Some time later, the girls had gone and only Mick and Freddie were left. Both men had drunk a fair amount of beer.
"It won't be so bad," Freddie told his dejected friend. Mick flopped on the back bench. "They'll be playing to their friends. I'd say if they stood the racket they made when they first played for us..."
"He, he!" Mick laughed at the recollection, "I guess they've come a long way. But that ain't the same as doing a whole set for the night. I think we have, maybe, one or two strong songs..."
"So, get three or four more? I'd say they're willing to nail them."
"Yeah, well, that's not the point is it?"
"Tell me, Freddie? Can you honestly see me up on stage with a bunch of teenage girls playing to a bunch of other teenagers?"
"Ah, so this about your fear of ridicule, not their's?"
"Well, damn it! I'm just too old for this shit!"
"Hey? I saw you this evening, man, and d'you know what I was thinking?"
"Do I want to?"
"I ain't seen you so happy in a long time. You weren't thinking, 'hey, I'm playing with a bunch of kids and I must be looking so stupid.' They were just 'the guys' to you, like any hot band you've ever played for."
"This Karen's got under your skin, hasn't she?" Mick suggested.
"Nah!" Freddie scoffed, "I guess she reminds me of my daughter."
"You got two boys. What daughter?"
"The daughter I never had. I guess I woulda wanted her to be just like that girl. She just keeps on coming... never gives up. I ain't seen such determination... even my own boys woulda given up before now. Y'see? She ain't no natural talent. She has to work for everything..."
"Yeah," Mick laughed, "I seemed to remember a young drummer about thirty years ago. Couldn't play for shit, could you Freddie?"
"No, Mick," he laughed, "but my mates stood by me... never gave up on me. Particularly this hotshot dude from the hills whose daddy paid for Classical and Spanish guitar classes?"
"Don't remind me!" Mick blushed.
"We looked up to you even then, Mick. We thought you were our very own Clapton. You set the standard for us, dude. We thought, 'if Mick wants us in the band we must be good!' You gave us the confidence, man!"
"You're memories are scrambled from all those years of high grade dope."
"No, Mick, they're not!" Freddie said, adamantly, "and now three girls want you to be in their band, playing their music, not because you look the part, but because you're still the best. The shoe's on the other foot, now, and you don't like it. 'Am I good enough to be in their band?' That's bullshit, man, cos they wouldn't ask you if they didn't want you."
"Y'think these girls'll make the grade?"
"Who knows? Probably not. A couple'll fall out, someone'll get pregnant... someone else won't like someone's boyfriend, girlfriend or mother. One wants to make all the decisions and another'll get hooked on smack. There's tons of things that'll destroy the unit, Mick, but how's that different from 'The Strobes?' 'The Heat?' 'Mick and the Misfortune' or a dozen other bands we've started or been a part of? You ever thought to yourself, 'hey, I won't join that band because they'll probably fall apart in a couple of months?' You thought that, just maybe, you might be able to create a little magic."
"You're a romantic, Freddie."
"And you fucking know what you want to do. So you ain't young and pretty? Don't worry, the kids won't be looking at you anyway."
"Hey, Terry'll serve my arse up if I don't get home," Freddie said, looking at his watch. He stood and made his way to the door, while trying to ignore Mick's smirking expression.
The next Saturday, Freddie had the van docked early at the venue The Curse were due to play. The hall had a large and high stage, having been designed 50 years ago when big musicals were all the rage. There was room for the full drum kit and the stacks on either side. The stage size wasn't the problem, however, it was the size of the auditorium.
At best, fewer than a hundred people were expected. That few people would look insignificant and the sound would be bad in such a big space with few bodies to absorb the echo.
Freddie had brought his 18 year old boy to assist with setting up. His father suspected he'd more interest in the bandmembers than the music.
Mick was there promptly, fussing over the sound. The girls had charmed some lad to do the lighting. He'd borrowed a pile of gear from the Uni's AV centre and was already busy rigging. The set up and stage looked impressive, all they needed was a good audience - a sympathetic one consisting of friends and family who'd be expected to support the band. The last thing The Curse needed was a bunch of sceptical concert junkies, media and music industry people.
Midway through the afternoon, some disturbing signs were beginning to gather. The Student Union office reported they were being inundated with enquiries for tickets, and not just from fellow students. The media, too, showed interest and an extraordinary number of folks who would show up to any band that included Mick Johnson. Little did Mick realise just how many old fans waited patiently out there for a return of their old guitar hero.
But was this the sort of audience that would be best for The Curse's debut? A band of women, barely out of their teens, and, it had to be said, one member who was still in theirs, Karen. Mick thought they'd be a tough ask with folks probably expecting some 70s' power pop. By contrast, The Curse's music was often lyrically dark and at times discordant, thrashy and loud.
The band was still rough around the edges and the stage performance something of an unknown quantity. Mick simply thought they weren't ready to be cast out for public scrutiny, yet. A small concert for a few invited friends seemed a much better gig for a trial run.
"We gotta pull it," he told Freddie, "tell everyone Anna's got the flu?"
"You tell them!" he shot back, "who the Hell's gig is it anyhow? So your mates are here and you want out. Don't want to look the fool, huh?"
"Not true. I'm thinking of the girls..."
"So fucking ask them if they still wanna play? Who elected you the General?"
"Freddie? You know how it can get out there?"
"Sure I do, brother, and I remember scratching to get 50 dudes to a gig. The girls are going to have a good audience. Why aren't you prepared to give them their night?"
"I, I dunno..."
"Besides," his old mate grinned, "they'll have us old hands along to steer the ship, now, won't they? I'll fix the sound good and proper and my boy and I will manage the stage. I'll tell the lighting dude to keep the spots off you. No-one'll know you're nothing but an old axeman who shoulda been put out to pasture long ago."
"Fuck you, Freddie!"
"That's the story," he laughed, "go break a string!"
The large auditorium began to fill up from the time the doors opened at six. At first, most were students, although Mick noticed Michelle's dad, Roger the Dodger, arrive early. They were still doing a sound check when the old musos spotted each other.
Roger came on stage and embraced his daughter. He then strolled over and held his hand out to Mick.
"Still with the old touch, Mick?" he grinned, "charming the girls and filling the halls?"
"So what are you doing with yourself?" Mick asked, "besides breeding talented children?"
"Some Media, and I run a booking agency," he said, "Michelle says you've really put things together for them. I just like to thank you for giving them this chance."
"Didn't you warn her about the music business?"
"Of course, but she's a chip off the old block. Doesn't listen to her old man's advice... except I told her to give you a call."
"Yeah, well, someone taught her to play. That trick with the 'D' tuning? And whose Tele is she using? I seem to remember you used to play one just like it?"
"Guilty!" he smiled, "now I couldn't let her go on stage playing a piece of shit, now, could I?"
Anna arrived, nervous. She rushed up to Mick.
"Mick, can I borrow that Stratocaster?"
"Everyone expects me to be playing. I don't want them to think I'm a cop out. I'll just play a few chords," she insisted, "I won't let it interfere with the vocals?"
"Why not?" Mick thought, "it may make you feel less exposed out there."
"Hey!" Michelle shouted across, "we got you a hat with a feather. Want to see it?"
"No fucking way am I going on looking like the Grand ole Opry."
"Are, too!" shouted Karen, "and open your shirt. We girls want to see a bit of chest."
"Yeah!" shouted the other two.
"Hey? You do the sex, I'll take care of the drugs and rock and roll!"
Overhearing, Michelle's father glared at his old friend.
They decided to open with 'Indigo, ' the number they'd practiced the most. Clearly the obvious finale would be the number they'd started that week, the song that'd generated such a strong feeling within the group.
By 7.30 the hall was packed. Students crowded the front a dozen deep while the older crowd jostled for the best sound further back. As a single spot lit the front, some youngster walked on to announce the band. The Curse waited nervously in the wings - the most nervous, it seemed, was Mick.
It's not that he hadn't had this moment a thousand times before. Tonight, though, he wasn't standing with a bunch of veterans.
The guy finished and Anna lead the band on to a roar from the front of the auditorium. Karen scuttled for the safety of the drum kit and Michelle casually strolled on and plugged up. Last, Mick walked with as much authority to the other side of the stage carrying his precious Gibson slung over his shoulder.
"Hi!" Anna smiled, before turning back for a cue. Mick suggested they get straight into it rather than start with any chit chat with the audience.
Mick strode in, encouraging he, Michelle and Karen to focus on each other and ignore the crowd. 'Get the music going right, he suggested, 'then there'll be opportunities to connect with the audience.'
Offstage, he could see Freddie nervously tapping out the beat with his hands for Karen's benefit. Mick realised his old mate was as anxious as he. His son hovered behind the stacks ready to reset anything that might fall over or retrieve a thrown drumstick.
Anna sang her heart out before retreating for the outro. Michelle, Anna and Mick moved together for the thrashy conclusion to the song, Anna strumming lustily with them on Mick's Strat.
The applause rolled towards them even before the last bar of music. Anna whooped a thank you, Michelle grinned like a cheetah and Mick felt something like the high he always felt when a concert was going well.
Not that there weren't missed notes or a broken string. Karen began to lose a cymbal stand - Freddie's son was there in an instant - these things always happen - but no-one was thrown, no-one lost confidence. The audience became their friend, tolerating their errors, and praising the hard work they obviously had put in. As an opening gig, it couldn't have gone better.
At the end, Mick strode emphatically off stage. He knew from experience the longer he took the applause, the more the crowd would expect encores. They didn't however, have any more material to offer. They'd given everything they had.
The roaring, however, didn't die down. Mick brought the band into a huddle backstage.
"Ok," he said, "what're we going to do?"
"Maybe 'Indigo' again?" Michelle suggested.
"Maybe? But I don't like repeating songs. Everyone'll know, then, how short our set list is."
"D'you know 'Your Ghost'? That Hersh number?" Anna asked.
"Um, yeah, I think so," Mick said, "you can do it?"
"Sure, it was a practice piece of mine."
"What're you suggesting?" Michelle asked, "we haven't rehearsed it."
"Yes, but I could do it solo with Mick playing guitar?"
"Mmm? Suppose? That all right with the rest of you?" Mick asked.
"It's a duet," Michelle pointed out, "Michael Stipe sang with Hersh on the original."
"Shit, he did!" Mick said, "who's going to sing with you?"
"So, how many guys do we have in the group?"
"Oh, no!" said Mick, aghast, "I don't do vocals!"
"That's not what my dad says?" Michelle laughed, "he said you're not a bad singer."
"That's a few years ago."
"Hey?" Freddie intervened, "are we going to keep gabbin'? The crowd's going to storm the stage in a minute."
"Mick doesn't want to sing," Michelle told him.
"He doesn't? Mick, get out there and feed the beast!"
Mick grabbed his acoustic and stumped back on stage to an eruption of noise. Anna followed and went to the front to announce the song.
Actually, Mick knew the song pretty well. He also knew the words, but was loth to admit it to the band. Stipe was one of his favourite singers and he adored REM. The thought, however, of being out front with the pretty, statuesque, and very young Anna Kuznestova was just too, 'beauty and the beast' for his liking.
The number went down well. Mick thought they were golden tonight. He also knew the problems that was going to cause for the band.
"Candyland!" Anna whispered, and Mick nodded. It'd be a good number to wind the audience down - a song of loss, of the sadness of losing a child. That Anna, barely twenty years old, could pull off such a number amazed him.
At last, the applause died down and the house lights came on. Backstage, there was excitement, hugs and pandemonium from wellwishers. Mick deftly skirted the chaos and, together with his friend Freddie, went in search of alcohol.
Drinks and some supper had been laid on in the nearby cafeteria. There, Mick took interest in the social dynamics of the girls, their friends and families.
Freddie left early, citing the fact that he didn't want his son getting too drunk and making a fool of himself. Mick supposed he was under strict instructions from Terry, his wife.
Karen also left early. It was rumoured there was a boyfriend somewhere who disapproved of her playing in a band and steadfastly refused to come along.
Anna held court with an extensive coiterie of friends. Most of them appeared to be Russian or East Europeans and predominantly male.
Michelle, however, seemed to prefer her own company. After accepting the obligatory congratulations, she reteated to a table by herself. As the room thinned out, she continued to sit alone, perhaps in a relective mood?
Mick strolled over and sat next to her. She smiled and made room.
"We need to have a band meeting fairly soon," he told her.
"It's funny, but my dad said the same thing. He said we risk being 'overcooked.' I'm not sure what that means."
"It means that a buzz is gathering, raising expectations a little higher than I think we can deliver. We only have about 5 or 6 songs and no act or image to speak of."
"We can complete more songs," she replied, "both Anna and I have a few ideas..."
"That's good, but we need to work them up in rehearsal. I don't think we're anywhere ready to go on the road, yet. I think we should cool off... maybe aim to do a few festivals at the end of the year. Maybe, till then, we might do a couple of low key things... intimate spaces..."
"Like a few duets with Anna?"
"Huh?" he turned, but saw she was smiling. "Ever tried harmonies? The three of you?"
"Four of us? You've got a good voice."
"When not stretched too far," he grinned.
Presently, a girl of about 19 or 20 came over and sat down opposite Mick. She had brown, straight hair tied back in a clasp, white T-shirt, an unzipped brown leather jacket and tight blue jeans.
"Hi," she said, "my name's Catherine. I'm a Music History major and write for the Student Paper." She extended her hand and Mick shook it briefly. "You guy's were really great tonight," she continued, "y'know, my father remembers you playing at the old Downtown club in, what, 1975 or 6?"
"Yeah, The Strobes, wasn't it?"
"Something like that," he shrugged.
Catherine flashed Mick a smile that was unmistakeable in its intent. Michelle caught it and sat back in her chair, putting a bottle to her lips and looking out the window.
"I just don't know how you can play so many styles?" Catherine continued.
Michelle got up and excused herself. As she passed the next table, Anna caught her eye and beckoned her over.
"Where you goin'?" Anna asked.
"Goin' home," Michelle replied.
"You can't!" She moved closer to her friend, "you can't leave him with her!" she said in a low voice.
"Doesn't matter!" Michelle said, before scuttling away.
"Silly bitch!" Anna muttered.
"What's the matter with her?" one of her friends asked.
"Him!" she pointed in Mick's direction, "that's the matter with her."