Studio Blues – read #popculture #comedy novel chapter 11

Love pop culture? Love Eurovision. Read on!

Continuing our serialisation of What’s The Deal With Europe?  The novel that inspired the comedy movie Transatlantic Smash.

CHAPTER 11 –  STUDIO BLUES

Full of inspiration again, Taurus had been busy little lads, beavering away, working hard like a good beavers should.  You know, making dams, making sure things don’t go upstream or downstream when they’re not meant to, having big teeth.  Like a furry Freddie Mercury.  Like a gay beaver.  Beavers are like nature’s Queen.  Like Brian May and Freddie Mercury rolled into one package; the hair and the teeth.  Now that I feel that I’ve fully exhausted this metaphor and succeeded in explaining how hard the boys had been working, I can continue.  (And to think that I managed to mention the word beaver four times without a muff joke.)

Robert’s bedroom studio certainly provided a good platform for Taurus’s first endeavours in sound recording, but nothing could prepare them for the experience of recording in a proper professional studio.  It’s not that recording their debut album and forthcoming single overwhelmed them.  Far from it.

Sheer mind-numbing boredom was the lasting experience of their time in the recording studio.  So much time was spent waiting around for engineers to move microphones half a millimetre, only to move them back again.  It’s not like the guys could entertain themselves doing other things like they could when they were recording demos back in Robert’s room.  Then, they had the freedom of their own house.  Here, they were trapped and fed up.

All they had to occupy their minds was to discuss random topics of conversation.  For example, they discussed the possibility (not seriously I hasten to add) about managing a side-project band called The Antiques Roadshow, made up of middle aged TV presenters.  David Dickenson, Michael Aspel and Parky form a three piece type band.  David Dickenson would be a bit more hard-edged, he’s done time, he’s been inside.  David Dick-inside.  It conjures up horrible images doesn’t it!  Depending on how you take it and indeed how he does.  What I don’t understand is when he came out of prison and he hadn’t seen sunlight for years, why did he have a tan?  Maybe that’s not tan oil.  Prison food is awfully colourant.

Anyway, Parky, Dicko and Aspo in The Antiques Roadshow.  Or if they wanted to be really hard edged they could call themselves Michael Asbo.  That would be the band’s name and they’d all be wearing hoodies.  They would sing songs like: I Interviewed Tom Cruise Last Night and he Was Quite Candid About his Ex-Lovers.  Not necessarily a crowd pleaser admittedly and I’m not exactly sure how you’d get a hook into a chorus like that!

And they continued: “What about Bob Holness?”

“Isn’t he dead?”

“Maybe we could give them a mission like find out if Bob Holness is dead.  Or a band made of Bonds.  Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and George Lazenby form a band.  Roger Moore on drums, you can’t put him front of stage because in the heat of the lights he’ll melt.”

“None of the Bonds to my knowledge played keyboard.  Can we have someone else singing like Jamiroquai, but give him a Pierce Brosnan mask?”

“You made a schoolboy error there.  You referred to Jamiroquai as the man, whereas Jay Kay is the man; only a cornerstone of Jamiroquai.”

These types of conversation could go on for some time.  What about Timothy Dalton on keyboard?  Surround Sound Timothy Dolby they could call him.  Can he play keyboard though?  Is it important for the keyboard player to actually be able to play?  Could he just get away with playing a helicopter sound effect?  He’d have to have a slightly harder edged keyboard – maybe with one side made out of diamond.
And they continued with gems such as what would they do if they managed to persuade Bob Holness to join the band.

“He’d better not try and bring in a stupid dance like he did at the end of Blockbusters.”

“That was rubbish.”

“Don’t make me jive Bob!  I’ve just lost!”

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“What did they win on Blockbusters anyway?”

“Naff all I think.  They were just history students who went on for the fun of it.  They had more time than sense!”  (Rather like Taurus come to think of it!)

“They thought they’d get credit towards their degree but in the end it was just bitter disappointment.   How about Des Lynam?”

“He couldn’t be on vocals he’s got too dry a voice.”

“Rejected!  Like the day he tried to get in Burt Reynolds club and he wasn’t allowed in because he didn’t have his’ tache comb on him.”

“What a band that would be.  Reynolds, Lynam, Tom Selleck and – I don’t know – someone else with a ‘tache.”

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“Lord Kitchener!”

Eventually the boys began to find little things to do to amuse themselves, but they were quickly put in their place by studio staff.  Gerry Taylor, the producer, really didn’t take kindly to Ashley leaving a half eaten burger on the side of the mixing desk; a spot of mayo precariously hanging from the side.  One of the junior engineers (work experience anyone?) did not appreciate Patrick turning off the microphone, as a ‘prank’, every time they went to record a take.  (I’ve heard theories that the engineer never bothered to turn Patrick’s microphone back on the final time and that’s why you can’t hear Pat’s voice very well on some of the album.  The conspiracy being that the album was better for it.)

Taurus’s little jokes were no more than time wasting activities though and soon wore thin.  Michael and Gerry, both realising that something had to be done about it, decided to give Patrick and Robert the day off.  Ashley was asked to stay so that they could work on his vocals.  Being the member that sang lead on most tracks, they said that they needed to redo some of his sections.

Little did Ashley realise that he would spend a good percentage of his day drinking tea and twiddling his thumbs.  By 3pm, having sung about five lines all day, Ashley was at the end of his tether.  He desperately needed some form of amusement and so gave Patrick, who was back at Taurus Towers, a call.

“I’m setting you a challenge,” he told Patrick.

“What kind of challenge?”

“I want you to put at least ten things on top of other things and get back to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want you to put ten things on top of other things.  That’s the challenge.  I’m bored and I need some stimulation.  They’ve just got me hanging around here and I’m going out of my mind.”

“So you want me to put things on top of other things?  What anything?”

“Yes, anything.”

“Can it be like a Dandy Annual 1990 on top of Dandy Annual 1991 and so on?”

“I didn’t know you had Dandy Annuals!  But no, they can’t be the same thing.  Just get on with it!  You’ve got ten minutes and then you’ve got to get back to me,” and with that Ashley hung up.  It seems that boredom makes Ashley demanding.

Twelve minutes and forty five seconds later, Ashley’s phone vibrated.  Less than a second later, he answered it, “you’re late!”

“I think you’re going to be happy though.  I’ve done it!  It was actually a surprisingly easy challenge.  At first I was thinking ‘what can I put on top of other things’ because I wanted to get a nice jumble of different shapes and sizes and varieties of things.  But I think I’ve come up with a good tower in the end.”

“What’s in it?”

“Do you want me to run from top to bottom or bottom to top?”  Patrick was a perfectionist.

“Err…bottom.”

“Do I count as a thing?  It’s an important question because you could start with me.  The things are on top of me.”

“Ok, yeah, I’ll count you if you like.”

“Brill.  So I’m number one, hey like Taurus will be soon, and Krieger is on top of me,” Patrick explained excitedly.  He liked a challenge.  Hence the reason why he was trying to enter Eurovision I suppose.

“Krieger is on top of you?” asked Ashley.  I was.  I enjoy the challenge too!

“Yep.  Say hello James.”

“Hello!” I bellowed.  Maybe I was having too much fun.

“Nice one.  That’s two things then I guess,” said Ashley.

“There’s a tray on top of him,” Patrick continued.

“Three.”

“On top of that there’s a stereo.”

“Four.”

“On top of that there’s a four CD GI Jazz collection from the forces, including the song Your Feet’s Too Big.  Hey we should cover that!”

“Weird but good.  Five.”

“On top of that is a plastic plate.”

“Six.”

“On top of that is an Oxford Encyclopaedia of World History.”

“Seven.”

“On top of that is a Sega Megadrive 2.”

“Eight.”

“No, two.”

“Very funny. Carry on.”

“On top of that is my favourite pornographic magazine.”

“Nine.”

“On top of that is a belated birthday present for my Auntie Gillian, wrapped up – it’s a box of liqueurs.”

“Ten!”

“On top of that is a 1970s meat-mincer that we found in the loft.”

“Eleven!”

“On top of that is a Skidoodle which is like a seventies Etch-a-sketch type thing.

“Twelve!  Isn’t that it?”

“No way!”

“Wow,” said Ashley rather like if Taurus had just had their debut single enter the charts at number one.  There was probably more riding on this than Ashley realised.  Until this day though, he’d never imagined it possible to get this bored doing something that could potentially make or break his career.

Patrick continued, “On top of that is a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts.”

“Nice.  Thirteen!”

“On top of that is a record entitled The World of George Formby.”  Where Patrick had got these old records from I’m not entirely sure, having only dragged me into this quest part way through the process.  If it was the loft though, I’m not sure why we never got round to going on Cash in the Attic.

“Fourteen!”  This result had well exceeded Ashley’s expectations.

“Oh and finally, also sharing pride of place on top of the belated birthday present, a wrapped up box of liqueurs for my Auntie Gillian, is a fully painted Games Workshop Wyvern.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s like a big lizard from Warhammer.”

“Well that’s fifteen items then, including you.  Aren’t you feeling a little bit flattened?”

“I think Krieger is taking the bulk of the weight.”  I was.  I was stretched out across Patrick’s middle, face down.  I doubt that there are many men that can lay claim to have partaken in such an act with ‘Wild Card’ Patrick Terry!

So there it is; the most interesting story from arguably the dullest period of Taurus’s short tenure.  And they make recording sessions out to be so glamorous too.  It’s also the reason why, rather than thanking his family and friends in the sleeve notes to Taurus’s album, Ashley chose to thank: a tray, a stereo, a four CD GI Jazz collection including the song ‘Your Feet’s too Big’, a plastic plate, an Oxford Encyclopaedia of World History, a Sega Megadrive 2,  Patrick’s favourite porno, a belated birthday present for my Auntie Gillian, a meat mincer, a Skidoodle, a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, ‘The World of George Formby’, a Games Workshop Wyvern, James Krieger and Patrick Terry.

It’s also the reason why Ashley never thanked Robert Cole in the sleeve notes.

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