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chapter 20

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Johnny Slipknot



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 39
Location: The Burned City
chapter 20  Reply with quote  

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1986



The air in the studio had become a stew of cigarette smoke and insults. They’d sent the technician home hours ago and descended into a war of words and abuse. The album was nearly completed and there was only room for one more song. Unfortunately, the band didn’t have another song in them. They had run through every half-written, drunken jam session they could remember and unearthed nothing. They were collectively blocked and separately blamed each other.

All but Trip. He waited out the tantrums and pouting quietly in the corner of the board-op booth with a beat up copy of William Shakespeare’s Henry V and offered a word of sanity when blood came close to being spilled.

As it approached 1:00 in the morning, Bull dropped his bass into it’s stand and said, “I say ‘screw it’. We just leave the song list at twelve.”

Seth shook his head and said, “We can’t. It needs one more.”

They all knew it. Like a dragon that lies on its pile of treasure and can tell if a single piece of gold is missing, the four of them could feel the hole that sat in the middle of their virgin album.

“Well, how are we gonna fill a slot with no song?” Jay had a headache from too many cigarettes but lit up another one in spite of it. “Explain that to me.”

Seth shot a look of malice at him and said, “HEY! I don’t see your ass doing anything but bitch. When’s the last time you wrote a song?”

“Fuck you! I wrote one when we were in Greensboro. The one with the organ intro.”

“No. I meant a song that didn’t song like someone dropped an accordion down a flight of stairs.”

Jay blew out a cloud of protective smoke. “Oh, I see. It’s quality you’re worried about. Because I had assumed, given the lyrics for ‘Blind Faith’, you weren’t that concerned with quality. What did you do? Vomit into a fountain pen and hand it to a monkey with a legal pad?”

Bull stepped between them. “Ease up Jay…”

“Oh yes, and let’s not forget the remarkable bass line that accompanied said work of art. What happened? The monkey ask for more money?”

“When I pull my foot outta your ass, I’ll ask him.”

As the scene spun deeper and deeper into the abyss of animosity, Trip got up and went to the piano in the sound room. He placed the copy of Henry V on the stand in front of him. After plinking out a few notes, he began to hum a simple tune, trying to merge what was in his head with his fingers. When it came together, he began to sing the words from the page in front of him, stumbling a little as he went. Even though they didn’t really fit the music, he liked the way the words felt in his mouth and the power they had against the simple notes he played.

When the tune was embedded in his hands and his fingers found their own way up and down the keyboard on their own, Trip let the song wrap around itself and guide him to different chords and harmonies. Each time he came to the end of the dead king’s speech, he dropped a few stanzas until there were only one or two left.

Trip didn’t notice when the shouting in the adjoining room tapered off and his three companions filed quietly into the room behind him.

“Trip?” Seth said over the piano and Trip’s off- key voice.

Trip stopped playing and turned. “Oh. Hey. Sorry. I didn’t hear you guys. What’s up?”

Bull and Jay and Seth looked at each other. Bull volunteered, “What is that?”

Trip picked up the book. “It’s the Saint Krispen’s Day speech from Henry the Fifth. It’s where…”

“No,” Seth cut in, “The piece you’re playing. What is it?”

Trip looked at the keyboard in mild surprise. “Oh. I don’t know. I was reading the speech and…I don’t know… it made me want to play something. It’s really great, this speech. It reminds me of us, a little. You see, Henry is leading his army against the French and they’re all pretty banged up…Well, wait. Let me read it to you.”

As Trip finished the speech, the three of them stood silently feeling the goose flesh rise on their skin.
Trip smiled and thumped the script with his thumb. “Pretty cool, huh?”

There was a moment of silence and Trip used it to light another cigarette. “So, where are we at? What are we doing now?”

“I don’t know about you guys," Jay said, "but I’m ready to go kill some French people.”

“So, did you guys come up with a song?” Trip asked.

Seth sat down on the bench next to him. “I think so. Play it again.”




Jay and Bull laughed their way through a round of darts while Seth and Trip huddled over sheet music that was scattered over the piano and at their feet.

“I’m sorry, dude. I can’t make these words fit. Not with the melody you’ve laid down.” Seth shuffled through the papers for the fiftieth time that night.

“We can come up with some new music if you want.” Trip replied with a shrug.

“NO.” Bull and Jay said, in unison, from across the room.

“No. It’s not an option.” Seth said. “The music is brilliant.”

“Well, I’m cool with whatever lyrics you wanna come up with.”

Seth shook his head. “In my best moments, I wouldn’t attempt to rephrase Shakespeare. And, let’s face it, their isn’t any way to make this about anything other than that speech.”

“So, what do we do?” Trip asked.

Seth thought for a while. He pushed his bangs from his forehead and rested his elbow on Trip’s shoulder.

“We make it clean. No lyrics. Just music.”

Trip sat back as Jay and Bull walked over and stood behind them.

“What do we name it?” Bull asked.

They stared at the scribbled up pages all around them.

“It’s about…”

“Us.”

“’WiseMagic versus the French’.”

“’Our Song’.”

“You name it that and I’m quitting the band.”

“Trip should name it.”

Trip shook his head. “No, it’s all of us. What it means…what it says. That’s the beauty of Shakespeare.”

“How about, ‘We Were Exhausted and the Monkey Went On Strike’?”

“Jay…”

“’In D Minor’.”

“First of all, it’s in the key of E and second of all, no.”

“It does have a ring to it, Seth.”

“Bull…”

“Sorry.”

The quartet remained around the piano for the next hour, batting around song titles and quips. Buoyed up by the feeling of completion, each one of them searched his heart for a label that fit the feelings encompassed by the music before them. Music that was born of childhood friendship, the pains of maturity, and thrill of battles yet to be fought.


As the clock neared 6:00 am, they emptied the ashtrays and tossed the many soda bottles that had collected during the evening.
The untitled track now filled the hole that sat in the middle of their opus. It had been laid down in only two takes.
As they left the building, Seth touched Trip on the arm. “You know we still have to name it.”

Trip stopped and stretched. The city streets were already filling up with cars aimed at places of business and delivery trucks laden with goods.

“Let’s face it. People who hear it are, hopefully, going to think its great music. No title is going to convey what it means to us. And it has a different life for each of us as well. So how do we give that a title? Let it be what it is?”

“To me it’ll always be ‘Monkey on Strike’.” Jay said, proudly. Bull pushed him in the back.

“What’s this thing with you and monkeys?”

“And what would you call it?”

Bull rubbed his eyes. “’Death by Second-Hand Smoke’.”

Seth gave Trip a wry smile and asked, “What’s it called for you?”

Trip pulled out the dog-eared copy of Henry V and flipped it open to Act IV Scene III. They followed his finger down the page to a phrase near the end of the speech.

As he closed the book, a smile graced the face of each of them;
the knight,
the jester,
the wizard
and the prophet.




JS





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