I'm with the Band, page 1
I’m with the Band
By Melanie Brown
Copyright © 2005, 2016 by Melanie Brown
Published by DopplerPress
A Division of Janglewood LLC
Brielle, New Jersey, USA
Editor Tom Peashey
Publisher Joyce Melton
First Kindle Edition
Cover Image: © CandyBox | Dreamstime.com - Teenage Girl Dancing Singing With Microphone Photo
Table of Contents
I’m With the Band
by Melanie Brown
Copyright © 2005, 2016 Melanie Brown
* * *
“Fuck!”My brother John’s fists slammed the table hard enough to cause some of my Cheerios and milk to jump from the bowl to the table top.
“Hey! Watch it!” I yelled, staring at my upset breakfast. “What do you think you’re doing?!”
“Quit whining, doofus. I have bigger things to cry about than your spilt milk.” John dropped into a chair at the kitchen table and glowered at nothing in particular.
From the living room, Mom called out, “John! We don’t use language like that in this house!”
Scowling, John yelled, “Sorry Mom!” Then to me, he added more quietly, “What are you looking at, butthead?”
I took another bite of my increasingly soggy Cheerios before answering, “I just want to know why you suddenly have a bug up your butt.” I brushed a long strand of hair from my face.
“Aww… I just got off the phone with Fritz.” Fritz was John’s oldest and best friend. His name wasn’t really Fritz. It was Fred. But when they were kids, they’d decided that Fred was a name for losers, so he started calling himself Fritz and it stuck.
Fritz and John had had a garage band called “John Gray’s Band” since middle school, and it was starting to gain popularity in the region. John talked Mom into being the manager. They used my brother’s name for the band since they started it in our garage. John and Fritz are both eighteen and out of high school. At four years younger, I still have quite a bit of school to go.
“And?” I prodded.
“Michelle just dumped Sammy. Could she have picked a worse time!?” John scowled fiercely at the stove. Michelle was the band’s lead singer. Sammy was the bass player and had twisted John’s arm to let Michelle join them. John had been the lead singer at first. After Michelle had joined, the band’s popularity took off. And it wasn’t just because she was such a good singer (and to give her credit, she is good), she was real easy to look at as well.
Looking up from my breakfast bowl, I said, “Well that sure sucks! She was hot! How could Sammy be so stupid?” John just shook his head and I continued, “Why is it a bad time? I can think of several cute girls that would love to join your band.”
Continuing his study of the stove, John said, “Oh yeah, if all we needed was eye candy, there’s plenty of girls to choose from.” Lowering his voice and looking over at me, he continued, “But dammit Mike, we need Michelle! She could sing — better than I can. That’s what that talent scout guy liked about us. He thought we had a good sound when we sang together. And, it’s a bad time because we’re supposed to be making our demo next Saturday morning! We don’t have time to find another girl who can sing as good as Michelle and rehearse with her before we make the demo. Our one shot to get out of this crummy town and it’s already gone.”
Taking a bite of my soggy cereal, I said, “Well John, as Dad is always fond of saying, ‘If you really want something, you’ll do what you need to do to get there’.”
Frowning, John said as he stood up, “That’s easy for Dad to say. All he ever wanted to do was sell insurance.” John always had a little trouble with Dad, and I never fully understood why. I got along with Dad okay. But they always seem to rub each other the wrong way. It didn’t help that John was always doing stuff to irritate Dad — stuff like drag racing the car and crashing to piercing my ears with a straight pin.
* * *
I was at my usual station, manning the tape deck to record the rehearsal session. The rest of John’s band, minus Michelle had gathered in our garage.
Fritz was in a foul mood. “Shit man! Why even bother?” Fritz shot a searing glance toward Sammy and continued, “Without that bitch we’re screwed. Why bother practicin’ for the demo if we don’t have her? I think we ought to kick Sammy out and talk Michelle into coming back!”
Sammy shouted, “Hey asshole! It wasn’t like, my idea that she left me, okay?”
“Hey! Knock it off, guys!” shouted John. “That’s not doing us any good. We can practice without her. Maybe we can lay down a girl’s track or something after we record our part.”
They finished setting up. From the mock stage (a masking tape outline on the garage floor), John looked over at me and said, “Okay Mike. Start the tape.”
I made a final check of the hook ups and started the tape recording. A moment later, the band started the intro. The band really did have a good sound, and the song they were going to use for the demo, written by John and Fritz, showcased their talents well. As they sang, the gaps where Michelle’s voice was supposed to be were very obvious. About halfway through the song, John stopped and motioned for the rest to stop as well.
“This ain’t workin’ guys,“John said as he set his guitar on the floor. “It just ain’t workin’.”
Fritz sat down on one of the boxes stored in the garage and said, “Didn’t I just try to tell you that? We’re screwed man. We’re just plain fucked.”
Juan, the drummer who usually doesn’t say much of anything said, “Hey, if all you guys are gonna to do is sit around and bitch, I’m goin’ home.” He cast a glance around the room.
John frowned. “Might as well. I don’t think anything is going to happen tonight.” He pulled the plug from his guitar.
As they started to break everything down, I said, “John? Why don’t you let me sing Michelle’s part? I know all the words, and that way you’ll have another voice to sing against. You’ve heard me. I can sing. That way you can at least get your practice in.”
John shook his head, “Don’t be stupid. Just stack the speakers against the wall over there for me, okay?”
Sammy said, “Wait John. Let the kid sing. We’re here. We’re set up. Let’s have a session. We’ll find a new girl before Saturday.”
Fritz looked over at John and said, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt. I mean, what the hell?”
I could tell John didn’t like the idea since I’d been badgering him to let me in the band for months. Finally, he shrugged and said, “Okay, yeah. What the hell. Come on, Mike; get over here. Just don’t screw up, okay?”
I didn’t need to be asked twice. I jumped up and ran to the microphone that Michelle usually used. Fritz said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
The band started playing and I suddenly felt a wave of nervousness wash over me. There was no one watching us in the garage, but I felt a sudden embarrassment and the song’s lyrics left my head. I pushed down the panic and listened for
When we finished, Fritz pointed at me and said, “Mike, play the tape back. I want to hear that.”
I stopped the recording and rewound the tape back a ways. After a few moments of trying to find the right spot, we heard the band start to play. Everyone just sat there and listened. When the song ended, I hit the stop button on the tape recorder.
Sammy said, “Did you guys hear that? That was great! John, your brother sings just as good as Michelle. That’s amazing.”
Fritz added, “And if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that was a chick singing.” Fritz punched John in the shoulder and said, “John, we can still make our demo!”
John looked horrified, “Are you mental? I’m not letting my brother sing on the demo!”
Sammy said, “Why not, John? Didn’t you hear the tape? I thought he was perfect.”
“The record company is only interested in us because we had a girl. They want to see a girl in the band!” complained John.
Fritz said, “So? We use Mike to make the demo; then, we find a girl later.”
John scratched the back of his head, “I dunno guys. It’s my brother we’re talking about. He’s just a kid.”
Fritz said, “I’m not saying to put him in the band.” He looked over at me. “Sorry kid. Nothing personal,” looking back at John, he continued, “but he can get us through the demo. That’s all we need.”
Sounding irritated, John continued to protest, “How do you propose to explain the fact that he’s not a girl?”
Looking irritated himself, Fritz almost shouted, “John! I know you don’t want your little brother in the band, but really, who the fuck cares? We’re not making a movie, man! It’s just sound! They’ll hear a girl, that’s all.”
John hesitated, “Well…”
Juan said, “Sounds like a plan to me, guys. Let’s do it.”
“So it’s a plan!” declared Sammy. “I mean, what could go wrong, huh?”
Fritz laughed, “Well for one thing, Mike’s voice might change between now and Saturday!”
While the others were laughing, I glared at John. He shot back a look that’s usually accompanied by the words “Hey man, how many times do I have to say I’m sorry?!”
The others didn’t know, but when I was around eight years old, John was playing with a bow and arrow he’d gotten for his birthday from our uncle in New Mexico. John was goofing around, spinning around while looking down the shaft of the arrow. As luck would have it, his fingers slipped just as the arrow was pointed towards me and he wound up shooting me in the groin. Not only did I almost die from bleeding, but my never-even-used testicles had to be removed. Fritz didn’t have to worry about my voice changing…
* * *
I was sitting at the kitchen table with a comic book when Mom walked in. The comic book was open, but I was staring at the wall instead.
Mom said, “What’s up, Mikey? You look bothered about something.”She sat down next to me.
I just shrugged and said, “I dunno.”
Mom frowned slightly, “Come on, Michael. I can always tell when something is bothering you. What’s going on?”
I sat up in my chair, but starting idly flipping the pages of the comic book. “It’s about John’s band.”
Smiling, Mom said, “I heard the CD you guys made this morning. It was very good. You sounded wonderful!”
Twisting my face almost into a scowl, I said, “I sounded like a girl, Mom. That’s the only reason they wanted me to sing with them. ‘Cause I sounded like a dumb girl!”
Allowing herself to look slightly annoyed, Mom said, “I’m a girl. Do you think I’m dumb?”
I gave her a sideways glance, “You know what I mean, Mom. The guys in the band didn’t want me to sing because I’m better than John (and I am, you know.) They wanted me just because I sounded like a girl.”
Sheepishly, Mom said, “Yes Mike, I know. And I’m sorry. I wish you hadn’t had the accident. We probably should have started you on HRT before now.”
Shaking my head, I said, “No, Mom. It’s not really that…much. It’s because they wanted me for the wrong reason. And they don’t want me to stay!”
“Honey, it’s not that big of a deal,” Mom said. “You’re fourteen. I think that’s kind of young to be touring around the country with a rock band anyway. You should at least finish school first before you go off joining bands.”
After a pause, I asked, “Do you think I should go ahead and sing on the demo? Or should I force John to go find a real girl?”
Mom shrugged, “I’m not going to force you to sing. And I’m not going to tell John you can’t. But don’t you want John to be successful? I doubt they could make that demo without you.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right Mom,”I said, “and I don’t think the band will be around much longer anyway.”
Sitting up, Mom asked, “Oh? Why do you say that?”
“I think Fritz is getting bored with the whole thing, unless they hit it big with the demo. Juan is talking about going to college in the fall.” I rested my chin on the table and sighed.
Mom said, “Then this could be your one and only chance to sing in the band, huh?”
* * *
It was a cool, rainy Saturday morning as we turned into the parking lot of the recording studio. Sammy parked the van outside the rear entrance. After we unloaded all our instruments, he’d drive back around to the front. The studio wasn’t much and didn’t exactly have the newest equipment. We were just lucky to have one in town, and it was certainly good enough to make a demo.
While the guys were setting up, I wandered around the studio. Tony Soto, the studio owner, suddenly came around a corner while I was looking at some equipment, “Hey, what are you doing here?”
Startled, I pointed at John and the others and quietly said, “I’m with the band.”
Tony looked where I was pointing, grunted and headed over to John. I kept looking at all the stuff in the studio, but over my shoulder I heard Tony say to John, “Look, I got some paying customers coming in here at ten. That gives you an hour to get set up, do one take and get the hell out of here.”
Looking around at the expectant young faces, Tony seemed to soften slightly as he continued, “Mr. Rubins can’t be here to watch you guys record, but I’ll make two copies of the demo. One for you and one to send to him in California so he can pitch it to his contact.” Doug Rubins was the talent scout that heard us play one night and asked us to make a demo for him.
Sounding annoyed Fritz said, “He’s not here? Just great. I bet we never hear from him again!”
Tony glowered at Fritz, “Hey kid, I’ve known Mr. Rubins for a long time. He does what he says he’s going to do. I know he’ll do what he can to get you in. Just remember there ain’t no guarantees.”
John raised his voice and said, “Quit jackin’ around guys. Let’s get ‘er done.”
* * *
I was amazed. We performed the song almost perfectly. We had enough time for two takes and Tony promised he’d send Mr. Rubins the best one.
As I was helping John coil up the cables, I heard Tony call out from the other room, “Sammy, what’s the name of your girlfriend again?”
Sammy was about to exit the studio back door, helping Juan with his drums. Without hesitation he called back, “Michelle!” Then he was out the door. I looked back to Tony. He looked like he was jotting down some notes.
After waiting a bit, Tony came out and walked up to John. He looked around at all of us and said, “Great session! Here’s your CD. I also videotaped the session. I’ll overnight a CD and the video to Mr. Rubins. Don’t forget about me when you’re famous, okay?” Tony grinned. Something told me he said that to every garage
As we piled back into the van, Fritz let out a primal yell. As he plopped down into one of the van’s seats, he exclaimed, “All right guys! I’m really jazzed! That was the best we’ve ever sounded. I think we have a real shot at this. I really do!” He leaned back with a goofy look on his face.
Sammy navigated the van back into traffic. He said, “Fritz, don’t forget about that thing about counting your chickens and shit. I don’t want to set myself up for massive disappointment.”
Fritz shook his head, “No man. This is it! I can feel it. We’re going to the top!”
John said, “In that case, Fritz, we need to recruit a new girl pretty fast. We might hear something by the end of next week.”
I suddenly thought of something, “John?”
“Yeah?” John didn’t even turn around.
“Did I hear Tony say he was sending a video tape along with the CD?”
“Shit man, I don’t know. I wasn’t really listening. I’m too jazzed.”
* * *
It was Wednesday night and the fourth girl to audition had just left. Fritz sat down on the cold garage floor and said, “Well, she was damned good looking, but man! She couldn’t sing worth shit!”
Sammy plunked out a scale on his unplugged guitar and said, “We gotta find one soon. Time could be running out.”
The garage door to the house opened, and Mom popped her head out, “John, there’s a call for you. It’s Mr. Rubins.”We all sat there and stared blankly at each other for a moment or two, and then we all scrambled for the door.
“Mom, can we use the speaker phone in Dad’s office?” blurted John as he bounded through the door.
Mom stood back and said, “I don’t see why not. Is this the call you’ve been expecting?”
John was already down the hall. Yelling over his shoulder he said, “We sure hope it is, Mom!”
We all piled into Dad’s office, and John hit the button on the phone to turn on the speaker. John, trying to catch his breath, said, “Mr. Rubins! Hello! We’re all here. How’s it going?”
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