I blame the Underground; I really do.
I got called in for a job that January and they told me that I had to be there by ten, so I knew that everything was already at the office and my wife, my Gloria, had me sandwiches ready for me and the mug of tea to go on the counter when I was reading the paper that morning. Angie, my youngest, lost her bleeding mind when she knew that I was going to be in when they was going to be in.
“Can you get an autograph, da?”
“Let your father finish his tea. He isn’t goin’ in to get autographs.”
Oh, Angie. Such a bright young girl. A few years back, she’d be screaming her head off like her older sister (Susie was working as a secretary now, taking some time off for the baby). Susie only went through a phase; Angie was doing the same thing. Could never say no to that face.
“If I see them, I’ll see what I can do.”
Almost choked me out with that hug. Wife was not happy about me making promises like that, but I was going to be in there when everyone and his auntie knew they were working on something special.
Yeah, something special…
So, the Underground. Another problem with the wiring, then. That’s what they announced (always something electrical). Every time anyone wants to go somewhere in this place, there is always someone who forgot to fix a thing that would make your life easier. I was about an hour late just waiting on a car (could have slapped a nun for a cigarette), and then, I finally get to the place and before I even make it inside…
“You gotta be kidding me, comin’ at this time.”
That was Harry. Not my boss, but he was expecting me to help.
“The Underground got me.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, you missed it.”
“Missed what? The job?”
“No, the show.”
The show. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the crowds around the steps, but usually they had fans there. But this time some were on the other side of the road. I even looked up to see a few on the roof.
“What show? And why are they up there, anyway?”
Harry just laughed, coughing through his Woodbine between his teeth.
“They just played a set.”
“A set of what?” I really wanted to get inside now. And I was going to choke Harry out if he did not hand me a cigarette.
“Songs! What you think I’m talking about? Test matches at the Oval?” He finally passed me one and waited as I stared at him. “Take one, mate.”
Was my hand shaking? I bet it was and I just did not notice. Did not even notice when Harry lit if for me (may have even put it in my mouth for me). I was cold and tired but I looked around and realized that I hated the Underground more than most Londoners.
“Not on tour for almost five years, and now they decided to put on a show. They even filmed the thing as it went on; they got cameras all over the place. Guess we’ll all see it later, right, mate?”
I barely heard him. All I could do was walk to Security, have them check me I.D., and get to work. I just wanted the day to be over.
No one ever asked how the day went. They just want to know what happened next.
Well, the band broke up. Everyone knows that. My Angie was wishing and hoping that it wasn’t true, but then the papers started talking about how the guys weren’t even talking to each other anymore. I almost believed that meself. I was only in there to clean up and get things working, not to gossip or even talk to anyone.
But you know what they say when you aren’t looking for something…
I had just changed some light bulbs that burnt on the floor and began tying up some of the garbage. The studios were down the hall and I knew that they were at it ‘cause the light was on (No Entry When Lit, and all that). I could even hear a little of it. What I did not know, walking past, was that this was just a playback. They were not all in there right then.
“So, what you think?”
Give a guy a heart attack, why don’t you? He stepped right out of the dark near the gents’ room (I was going to change those light bulbs next). And yeah, I knew who it was. Had on those granny glasses and all and his hair like his other half (no sign of her yet; actually wanted to see what the press was so upset about).
“Not a bad one.”
“That’s gonna be the single. May have some changes.”
“You all could read the Times and have a hit, mate.”
He broke up at that and slapped me on the back.
“Right on. Hey,” he took the bag from me and put it by the exits, “you wanna hear the rest of it?”
I kept looking around, like this was some test or joke they wanted to get on camera. He just laughed again and went on with his speech.
“I think you can take a moment for yerself. Come on.”
Maybe it was that Northern accent, or just the fact that I was almost done, but I kept on walking with him. And then, were in the Playback Room (labelled on the door). The melody was a little louder in there, but nothing to hurt the head. And they all seemed so happy then.
They had their kids about with them. The one on bass had one of his on his lap as the music swam around the room (swam? Am I turning into an artist now? Don't tell my Gloria!). The drummer was following the melody by clapping it out on his legs and hands. And the other guitarist looked concerned, reminding me of a Russian count with all that hair.
“Think we should extend it.”
“We’ve done it five times now.” The one with his kids looked tired (I know the feeling, mate).
“So, a perfect six then.”
“Better than half a dozen.” Drummer got in with that laugh.
“I think we might need an outsider’s ears.” Ah, Granny Glasses. You really want to start problems with your mates.
They were all looking at me, not him. I wondered if I could find a hole to crawl into after the day was over.
“Don’t worry. They don’t bite...too often.”
“Ha, ha. Well, I hope not too hard.”
They heard that when the playback ended – perfect timing – and started to lean forward. Could see the Japanese one now coming out from the other side of the room (was the ladies out that way?)
“Oh, don’t embarrass him.”
“I’m not! I just think our public should give us a bit of their thoughts before we throw it out there.”
And now I wanted another cigarette. I put me hands in my front pocket, thinking I might have two of them after Harry’s generosity. And that was when I felt it.
Angie’s pen and paper…
I took them out and stared at them for a moment. The band saw me and did not say a word.
I knew what to say.
“Do what you have to do. What you’ve done is going to last and you don’t have to worry ‘bout it. Let it be…”
Hey, I can’t prove that’s where they got the title, but I did say it. No cameras to prove it, but they were really intrigued by it, I could tell. And the autographs, pictures, handshakes and all that were nice, too. Maybe they went a little too far driving me home (I mentioned the problems with the Underground), but Angie got a great gift that day that I promised meself I would never let her forget (more than four scribbles on her pad). Even Gloria was dead chuffed to have one of them in her home (she would have liked to have Mr. Granny Glasses around without his wife, but beggars can’t be choosy). And now, I have that record right in front of me. They said it was “the first acetate”, whatever that means, and I hope Angie and the kids take care of it. It is their history, even if it ain’t the story we all know.
Nice lads, those Liverpudlians…