love, short fiction

A Whole Step Down From The Side

Paul took over on bass with my band, The Spooky Electric, after Lenny, our original bass player developed ALS and retired before the worst of it kicked in and killed him.

 

El recommended him said they had played together a few years ago, jazz and hip hop but El shared old files and we saw the guy could play. It came down to the simple matter of we liked El, and if El vouched for someone, it was worth a go. He had been the most recent member of the band, stepping in when Lewis got religion and went out to the desert.

 

Paul shook hands with everyone, set up with his own bass, tuned down a whole step, and with his own rig. Jenny peeked over and raised an eyebrow.

 

‘You’ve got Lenny’s set up?’ she said.

 

He scratched his beard and gave a short nod.

 

Jenny switched on the Moog. She smiled with curiosity, her glasses perched on the end of her nose as she ran her fingers over the keys.

 

El counted us in and we jammed through Sense Of Place before it became clear to everyone Paul was a natural fit for the band. Jenny never took her eyes off him. He had a telepathic connection with El which was tighter than anything Lenny could manage, even before the ALS kicked in.

 

I had questioned carrying on but there were people depending on us. We had good years, and Paul was coming out on tour to support a greatest hits compilation which took us out of our contract with Empire Records and covered Lenny’s medical bills until he died.

 

‘What do you think?’ Jenny said.

 

I took my guitar off and passed it to my tech. I looked past her and saw Paul stood with El, comparing notes and pantomiming variations they could work on.

 

I was thinking about calling time on the whole thing. My songs sounded like cover versions or parodies of earlier work, and I was faking the joy I took for granted.

 

Yet it was still my band, at heart, and Paul fitted in too well to make me comfortable with him. He was in, but I would watch him.

 

‘He’ll do for now.’ I said.

 

Jenny and I had split up five years ago. It was all amicable, but I still hoped nostalgia would bring her back and it was a test of my capacity for romance I kept my priapic reputation up as a matter of habit and reputation over any real need. The curious glances between her and Paul stung me but I couldn’t justify it to the rest of the band if we had gone with anyone else.

 

Hindsight has such awful clarity to it.

 

2.

 

He stood to El’s right, and he looked at Jenny as he played. She doesn’t miss a note but there was a focus to her playing which ramps everyone up. It’s a balancing act, between meeting commercial considerations and wanting to develop as artists. Jenny played more blues and jazz, and she would hide herself away to write songs for herself. I had one roady keep an eye on Paul but he was smart, hung out with El and the technical crew but I was sure he was sneaking time with her.

 

The paranoia fed on me, made hollow reeds of my bones as I pushed myself onstage, each night, throwing myself into the adoration of strangers rather than tell the people I loved how frightened I was, how I wanted to stop being the performer but I wasn’t sure I could live without it.

 

Paul worked with me when I played solos, pedalling notes to make my runs down the fretboard sound more dynamic and less technical. He turned down solos, preferring to make the more established members shine onstage. He picked out a fretless bass guitar when Jenny played new material, performing with a nuance and ease which makes me grind my teeth with envy.  I wanted him to be a cunt. I learned he was married, but divorced now and one morning, we’re sat having breakfast together when I talked about my marriage. Jenny has slept in, but El and Paul were there.

 

‘Were you married, Paul?’

 

He looked up from his heaped plate of breakfast meat and nodded before he returned to his food. El narrowed his eyes before Paul poured himself a coffee and looked at me.

 

‘What split you guys up?’ I said.

 

Paul lowered his glasses down the bridge of his nose.

 

‘A lack of self awareness. How About You?’ he said.

 

My temples throbbed with indignation but El had given me a hardened stare whilst Paul carried on eating. I looked at the greasy meat on the plate, appetite gone and I got up from the table without thinking.

 

El grabbed me after a show. He was uncomfortable as he asked me if I had a problem with Paul. I waved him off, but I derived a shallow enjoyment from knowing I still held power over things. The tragedy is I’d lost the ability to wield it with any skill.

 

When Leon called to tell me Paul’s left the tour, I poured myself a scotch and lit a cigarette, and it all tasted the same as Leon asked if I want to sue for breach of contract. I looked at my reflection and say why the fuck not?

 

Why the fuck not?

 

Jenny stormed into my dressing room, whilst I was getting a massage. She was in tears, and she told me how fucking twisted I’d become. Her beautiful face was twisted with anger and grief as she pointed at me, and I laughed at her, despite the increasing pressure in my head.

 

El told me in person he was leaving. Paul and El shared the same manager, and they were floating a constructive dismissal charge. We had a whole leg of the tour cancelled, and I told Leon to find musicians who could play the songs. The accounts showed we were bleeding money everywhere, but I stopped caring about it.

 

Jenny left the tour and spoke to me through lawyers. I went out to the beach house and switched my phone off as I poured myself a drink and went out to watch the waves.

 

Leon had a whole band waiting for me and I didn’t want to finish the tour. He quit and told me he’d see me in court. I poured out another scotch and sat in the living room, watched the shadows grow thick and full like mould in a cheap apartment.

 

Something twisted in the back of my head, filling me with heat and thunder as I threw up down myself and felt the glass fall from my hand.  A blockage in my basilar artery which wasn’t enough to kill me.

 

I was found alive but there was enough damage to see me classified as pseudocomatose. I can move my eyes, but a stroke wiped away all the connections to everything else.

 

I’m trapped in here. My silence was my sentence, and I watched Jenny debut her band, with Paul and El as her rhythm section on a live feed.

 

They were married a year later. My children were involved and I had Leon scroll through the photographs, apologising for having accepted. He had changed his mind about leaving when he did the accounts on my back catalogue value when I died. The stroke wiped away my control of my body and I watched everyone I knew move on without me.

 

Jenny came to see me and ranted at my immobile face until she collapsed into hoarse sobs and was led away by Leon.

 

Paul came over. He knew I disliked him and why, but he bore me no ill will over it. I glared at him until he lapsed into a mournful silence and stood up.

 

He looked at me, the hate and frustration alive in me was so powerful I wanted it to reach inside his chest and burst his heart but instead he smiled at me without malice and walked out of the room.

 

The next video auto played. It was the eighties, we came back with the double album, four hit singles and Lenny starting to drink more to keep his hands steady. I look at Jenny’s eyes and will my heart to grow cold. The attention makes it burn all the more, but I bear it without complaint.

 

I have no other choice

 

Advertisements
Standard
books, music

Words And Music

This is what I’ve been listening to, reading and watching. For disclosure, if you click through on these, I have an Amazon Affiliate account and I get something for it.

Music.

Bilal, In Another Life.

One of the unsung geniuses of neo-soul. The duet with Kimbra, ‘Holding It Back’ is a song I can listen to on repeat without being bored by it.

http://amzn.to/2DFpDmC

Prince – Purple Rain 25th Anniversary Edition.

Remastered brilliance and some gorgeous unreleased tracks. I have a lot of love for his music, and I’ve said before, even his bad stuff is interesting. He set a high bar for musicians with me which only a few of them have ever met.

http://amzn.to/2nbTvMa

Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral.

It has an operatic intensity without forgetting the dichotomy of beauty and ugliness which informs the best art. There are some beautiful melodies and deep, hard drops of harsh intensity which adds up to a classic album of anger, love and madness.

http://amzn.to/2DGIJIU

Books.

Nick Harkaway – Gnomon.

A complex, rewarding and challenging meditation on surveillance culture, digital selves, mythology and society. It is exciting, complex and beautiful storytelling without compromising on the need to explore and expand on these ideas in the service of the story.

http://amzn.to/2Ee1ArJ

Jordan B Peterson 12 Rules For Life

He’s lauded as the next popular intellectual. I enjoy the pragmatism of his ideas, and his delivery is compelling. His ideas speak to a direction men should know, or consider. I don’t agree with everything he says, and I might put my thoughts down in a post at some point. His lectures on YouTube are fantastic and he is stimulating to listen to. I have this on audiobook and also a copy reserved for a present. I’ll get my own copy too, but he’s compelling and passionate.

http://amzn.to/2Bw3YHB

Joyce Carol Oates A Book Of American Martyrs.

She goes after the issues lesser writers avoid, and finds the innate humanity in disparate positions. Oates’ work intimidates me as a writer and she channels a terrible intensity into her work before she gifts us with prose and emotion as subtle and involving as a missed connection.

http://amzn.to/2Gm4JGv

 

 

Standard
beauty, love, music, poetry, women

Mixtape

 

 

 

It arrived in

The post

His writing on the envelope

Your hands shake

And it starts,

A warmth in your pelvis

Like the moment you begin

Singing along

with a beloved song

Taking the tape to bed

You slip earphones in

Lay down and slip away

Enjoying being horizontal as

The music

Explores you

You run your fingers

Over the handwritten note

Send prayers through

Your fingertips

To him

Standard
beauty, love, lust, music, poetry, women

Mixtape

It arrives

In the mail

You recognise

The handwriting

The tape is warm in your

Hands

Press play

Because this is

How he expresses

Feelings too large

For words

He could write

That he loves

Misses you

But you know

When you press your

Fingers against the words

He’s written

And he tells you

Shows you

Each time

You

Press

Play

 

Standard
music, women

My Favourite Things – Music.

These are a selection of albums I love and listen to. For disclosure, if you buy through the given links, I get a few pennies thrown my way as I have an affiliate account because writing doesn’t pay well at the moment and prostitution is a tough market to crack, even when you’re as handsome as I am.

 

It’s a lovely album I missed the first time around, a raw and angry record awash with a frank and gut-level sexuality which never forgets the appeal of a solid riff and melody. Ah, 90’s guitar albums are a large part of my psychosphere and this is a great album. My favourite song is Johnny Sunshine.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01LZ5D7UT/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01LZ5D7UT&linkId=79a731618accd5e93639d03f79e4092b

 

History is cyclical, and I found this album dense and less immediate than Voodoo, but in turn it was less immediate than his first album. D’Angelo is a living archive of black American music, from the helium croon of Wonder and Gaye through to the dense polyrhythms of Parliament and Sly and The Family Stone. I love the challenge of an album like this as repeated listens reveal new nuances and pleasures. My favourite tracks are The Charade and Ain’t That Easy.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00QR7ZN16/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00QR7ZN16&linkId=cb45eeb362de8d6fb7a396ada5d8ced6

 

Everyone loves Purple Rain but this is the album which best represents the glacial, inventive genius of the man. The Revolution did not have the detailed jazz-fusion chops of later line ups, but they could groove with a fearless invention and gave this album the fluid grooves and gorgeous soundscapes which he wouldn’t explore in the same way again. It also has Kiss, which everyone knows, or should know. I can lip sync to it like a boss. Sometimes It Snows In April was a song I played on repeat after the loss of a close relative, walking around with my dog and crying my

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000002L9B/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B000002L9B&linkId=0622d595a1f55a00b0be92cca444189b

 

Beneath the slabs of noise and dissonance there are beautiful, complex symphonies at work within the music of Nine Inch Nails. This album is a masterpiece, including the song covered by Johnny Cash ‘Hurt’ and March of The Pigs which enlivened many an indie disco in my youth. It’s an album which speaks to me during dark times of rejection and discontent without falling prey to accusations of adolescence.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0000262Q8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B0000262Q8&linkId=0302623d21bbbfe1834b30f3162e62ac

 

People think jazz is insular and elitist, but I appreciate the intricacy and beauty of it, how it underpins so much of musical progression and history. This album is three hours of intricate, gorgeous music which demands your attention through its virtuosity and passion but also allows you the privacy of your own head, as all good instrumental music does.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UVIR4G4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00UVIR4G4&linkId=7fb53d4d436433989e44759b4c77e2ff

 

Some albums, and it feels quaint to think of music in those terms these days, define a band. Here you have Dave Grohl drumming like his life depended on it alongside Josh Homme at his most impassioned and inventive, set on a bed of monolithic riffs, sensual vocal melodies and punch the air choruses. Songs For The Deaf is fifteen years old and it feels utterly timeless.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00006IJXT/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=mbblissett76-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00006IJXT&linkId=8b8b2d2949e586b1fae4cd60f3091928

Next I will be selecting some of my favourite film and television shows, then more books and albums. Please share your favourites with me below and thank you for reading.

Standard
beauty, love, music, romance, women

Bass Vibrations

The people carrier sat on the kerb outside. The two men moved shining refuse sacks, reusable carrier bags and boxes inside, but for the oversized guitar case, the taller of the two insisted on taking it inside. His head gleamed with perspiration as he kept an even pace of removal until he invited his friend inside. I had watched them whilst the washing machine ran through a rinse cycle. The apartments here were pauses not new beginnings.

I thought about the man on the commute, making up stories why and how he came to be here.

The twilight beat me home. I poured a glass of wine, switched on the oven and wandered into the living room, slipping my shoes off with a sigh of relief.

His windows were open. I saw the magnolia walls, their expanse broken by the monochrome poster he had put up. He sat on a stool, guitar on his knee with black headphones over his ears, a lead trailing off to a speaker about the size of a mini refrigerator; I opened the window and sipped my wine.

He turned the pegs with his left hand whilst strumming the strings, nodding and adjusting them until he gave a short nod. He curled his fingers around the neck of the guitar slow and cautious as he plucked with his right hand. He had tan skin, a shaved head and lean, strong arms. He wore a white shirt, with the sleeves rolled to the elbows and his forearms were vascular from the effort of playing. He lifted his head, smiling to show his white teeth, caramel eyes gleaming with delight. I liked the dimple in his chin when he smiled and how his eyelids had fallen, heavy with some quiet brand of ecstasy as he played. His feet were bare as he tapped them against the floor, keeping time to some internal rhythm.

His lips were parted and he tilted his head back as his thick, long fingers gained boldness. My heart was pounding in my chest, frustrated to not hear anything but enthralled by the fierce, boyish purpose he took to as he played.

I stopped watching only when the smoke alarm went off. By the time I came back, he had finished. I sighed and fought a twist of disappointment which stuck in my chest, hurting with each breath.

He practiced each day. I would get home from work, grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and watch him play. He played like he were taking flight, an act of purposeful liberation which became the quiet highlight of my day.

I had needed milk, gone to the shop across the road and had a carton in my hand when he walked in, slipping behind me in the queue and saying hello with a gruff, low voice vibrating with warmth.

‘Hi. You’ve just moved in around here, haven’t you?’ I said.

He nodded, gave a quick, pained smile and looked at me with amused interest.

‘You play guitar.’ I said.

My voice sounded tight as he raised an eyebrow.

‘Bass. I use headphones though.’ he said.

I shook my head.

‘I’ve seen you play. I mean, I see you. I live opposite you.’ I said.

His smile softened. I paid for my milk and left, wishing I had idled in the shop. He called as I left and I turned, steeling myself for a confrontation or a laugh at my expense.

He gazed into my eyes, asked if I wanted to come over.

‘You’d enjoy it more if you could listen.’ he said.

His smile made it an agreeable decision.

‘If I could hear you over watching you.’ I said.

I had work to do for the office, half a bottle of wine and something for dinner. An ordered, comfortable existence but here was a stranger, prone to flights of pleasure when alone, and I wondered if it would be as sweet to listen as it was to watch him.

‘Yes, I think I will.’ I said.

He said his name was Mark.

Later that night, feet bare and with my hands cupped over the headphones, enraptured by the womb-dark sea of sound and vibration as he played as I was by his expression. I felt myself soften, and when he touched my shoulder, I put my hand over it, enjoying the warm strength of his fingers on my skin.

I carried the bass vibration along with the touch of his hand, let it move me towards him and took flight in my own way.

Standard