ROCK AND TROLL

A short story.

The YouTube link arrived in messenger at 10.00pm last Thursday.  I have not slept since then. When I hit the play button I almost fell off my chair with shock. My stomach felt as if somebody had tipped a gallon of readymixed concrete into it. Some people might feel happy, ecstatic even, to see a major performer at an international event singing one of their songs. Not me, not this song and not by this singer. I watched in horror as the singer nicknamed The Governor took my beautiful sensitive ballad, written for the only person who ever truly meant anything to me, and turned it into an overblown power ballad designed for afternoon Radio Two listening. I felt physically sick at every contorted vocal slide and shriek. He performed it to an audience of 50,000 at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and they went mental as they screamed for more.  Not only had he completely ruined the meaning of the song and turned it into a sickly sweet afternoon screwfest but he did something even more unforgivable in my book.  He failed to mention that the song was mine.  
How dare an international superstar take my song and not attribute it. I watched the video on repeat for about two hours solid as the anger mounted within me.  I determined then and there that I had to do something about it.  I Googled his website and looked for his touring itinerary. He had a couple of gigs in London booked, one yesterday, one today. I bought a ticket for each, not cheap at sixty pounds a throw.  I didn’t know exactly what to do but he had something coming to him.  
The whole idea of revenge took shape as the days passed. Sleep became difficult.  As I lay in bed the pure injustice of what he had done whizzed and whirred inside my brain throughout the nights.  The question of how to wreak my revenge on him grew from the centre of the pit of my stomach where that ache of unrequited love had been born in the first place. Any other song and I might not have reacted so strongly but this one was special.  Usually I can write a lyric in under an hour, sometimes in minutes, but this one had taken weeks to hone and polish and get right. It required me to search deep into my psyche and explore exactly what she meant to me and how much I loved her. No ordinary three minute throwaway pop ditty but truly a heartfelt cry of passion aimed directly at her.  
I rarely perform the song these days because it hurts too much to revisit the memories of that time.  I had recorded it on my second album, which had not sold many copies, but had been critically acclaimed.  At that time it looked as though the band might make it big and I still harboured belief in the efforts of our management to get us the gigs and the airplay needed to propel us into super-stardom.  Such a long time ago now but the memory of Jill standing in the wings as we played is as vivid as ever.  Her winning smile with just a hint of irony drove me on then and haunts me now. The first time I read the lyric to her she burst into tears. She knew immediately that I had written it for her and wanted her to leave Pete, our lead guitarist, for me.
At first she just turned away from me and made it clear that she belonged to Pete and that was that.  Pete knew nothing of this and he even complimented me on writing such a great song and his guitar licks were simply beautiful.  After we had recorded it we played it at every gig and, after about six months, it worked. One night in the dressing room at Dingwalls she told me she was leaving Pete and that she could not stop thinking about how it might be if we became a couple. From then on we moved in together and our life became as sweet as it is possible to imagine. Of course Pete was not best pleased but he knew that there was no going back and he wished us luck.    Our relationship lasted for seven months and ended when she fell down stairs backstage at the Vortex and suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage.  After that we just stopped playing it and the band quickly split up. 
Yesterday I arrived at the Apollo and the place heaved with fans wearing tee shirts emblazoned with phrases such as “There Is Only One Governor”, “The Governor Rules, OK” and “Listen To The Governor”. The smell of popcorn in the foyer overwhelmed me and the amount of people standing outside smoking and vaping added to the noxiousness.  I handed my ticket to the security man who looked like something straight off Venice Beach boardwalk, with muscles that bulged everywhere. He asked if I had any cans, bottled water or food with me, I told him I didn’t and he handed me back the torn stub.  I was through the turnstile and into the bar area where I bought a large whiskey and downed it in one. 
I sauntered over to the merchandise table and there were piles of his CDs and various clothing items but the display board with covers of the latest vinyl release caught my eye. Written on a sign were the words “The Governor will be signing Vinyl Album covers after tonight’s show”.  The packaging for the album looked, I had to admit, superb.  It needed to be to justify the asking price of twenty five pounds.  The front cover featured a portrait of him superimposed over a photograph of the chariot and horses on top of the Brandenburg Gate with the words THE GOVERNOR – LIVE IN BERLIN.  I looked at the back of the sleeve and read the track listing.   There I saw at track 5 on side two “The Girl With The Smile In Her Eyes”.  No writing credit to me, it just said Arr: The Governor.
I could feel the anger welling up inside me.  I walked away from the display and into the auditorium where I took my seat and began working out how to do what I knew I now wanted to do so much.  Hatred had completely consumed my whole being.  The lights dimmed and two thousand adoring fans started to cheer and whoop.  Suddenly a single high powered white spotlight beam shone onto the centre of the stage and illuminated The Governor.  He stood there in his worn industrial denims and checked flannel shirt with a mustard coloured Fender Telecaster slung over his shoulder. He looked like a true man of the people but I knew the truth.  I knew what stood before them to be a lying, cheating cockroach that made a living out of ripping off fellow artists.  The band started to play the first of a string of number one hits.  Overcome with stifling emotion I got up and left.
Tonight I returned to the Apollo, in my pocket a converted ball point pen which housed a super sharp steel stiletto blade.  This time I watched the whole show, tears streamed down my face when he performed my song.  A young woman leaned across to console me but I shrugged her off, I didn’t need her sympathy. The show ended and I went straight to the merchandise table and purchased a copy of the vinyl album. I loitered around in the foyer as a queue formed for The Governor’s autograph, I joined the end. 
Fifteen minutes after he had triumphantly left the stage he appeared at the stall, looking fresh, in a clean shirt and jacket. He smiled and chatted freely as he asked people their names and signed albums.  I edged closer as the queue got shorter with my album in one hand and the weaponised pen in the other. When I reached the table I calmly handed the album sleeve to him. He took it saying “Oh, it’s OK man, I have my own pen. Who shall I make this to?”
I looked into his eyes and said “Make it to Alan Banks, the man who wrote The Girl With The Smile In Her Eyes.”  He stopped in mid signing. He looked at me and said “Wow that is fucking awesome man. We thought you were dead. We have a ton of royalties waiting for you. Why don’t you come with me to my dressing room and meet my manager, we can sort this out. I can’t tell you how glad I am to meet you, such a great song.”
I slipped the pen into my pocket and walked backstage with him as he continued to praise me.
“Don’t suppose you have any other blockbuster songs do you?” he laughed.
“As it happens, I just might.” I replied as he handed me a bottle of what made Milwaukee famous.
Funny how a bit of recognition can make all the difference.
Harry Rogers, edited im the Yellow Room, February 18th, 2021.

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