I don’t think there are many people in this world that are good at handling rejection. I know that I’m certainly not one of them. And I also know that Robert ‘Aftershox’ Cole is not either. In fact he is probably one of the worst for dealing with negative feedback. Ashley once plucked up the courage to point this out to him, only for Robert to exclaim, ‘No I am not!’; It says it all really.
So imagine the following scenario: Not only are you bad at handling feedback in the first place, you then have your latest song rejected by the entire nation. The whole fucking nation. The same fucking nation that gets Mr Fucking Blobby (thanks Noel Edmonds) and the Crazy Fucking Frog to number one. (Crazy Fucking Frog – now that’s a novelty record I would like to see!) I don’t think anyone would find that particular knock back easy to swallow at the best of times, never mind about those that are aspiring song-writers, and certainly never mind those that are on the brink of having one of their own compositions get into the Top Forty. Robert didn’t just take it badly – with his reaction, Taurus’ days seemed numbered.
The previous Saturday, they had been in such a jubilant mood. It was meant to be the day that the United Kingdom decided that Taurus would be the best group to represent the UK at Eurovision. And let’s not forget it is primarily a song contest. It was meant to be the day that What’s the Deal with Europe? was selected as the best song for Europe.
One week on, Robert found himself questioning not what the deal with Europe was, but what the deal with the UK public was. Why hadn’t they realised how good his song was? Yeah, Ashley had written the lyrics, but it was Robert’s tune. The lyrics were ideal for a Eurovision song, but let’s be honest, when ever has the Eurovision Song Contest really been about the lyrics? A contest that can boast winning songs with titles such as
La, la, la, Boom-Bang-a-Bang and
Ding-A-Dong can’t really claim that lyrics are the most important thing in the contest. For that reason alone Robert was convinced that it was the music that was the most important thing in the band. Considering the lyrics for some of the other Taurus tracks I would have to agree with him. Public rejection may be one thing, but personal rejection is even worse.
That’s why Robert couldn’t cope when he received an email from the producer of the Chris Tarrant radio show on this particular Saturday morning. The phone call in question informed him that What’s the deal with Europe?
would not be making it on to the playlist at the station.
It happened the Saturday before Taurus’s debut single entered the charts. The mid-week preliminary figures had shown that they were going to chart at around thirty-five and they couldn’t wait for Sunday to see where they would actually end up. The mid-week sales were promising a result greater than their highest expectations: a top forty hit with their debut single! It was more than what they had hoped for on an independent label considering that they’d actually lost Making Your Mind Up the week before. Also, their first album was in the can so they had more than one reason to feel good. But Robert, always one to focus on the negative, still felt rejected.And the Capital Radio email hadn’t helped.
He just couldn’t believe it. The only reason why Robert got a personal email informing him that Taurus would not be making the playlist was because he had taken the trouble of writing a letter to the show to appeal to its better nature. And by better nature, I mean Chris Tarrant’s new female co-presenter Becky Jago.
Robert had been a fan of Becky’s for about a year having watched her on CBBC Newsround each day, prior to his daily fix of Neighbours. It wasn’t long before all of us in the house were joining Robert for the daily fix of Becky though. Although none of our pleasant eye-candy viewing went quite as far as Robert’s crush. When a friend of his mentioned that he’d bumped into Becky Jago in his local chip shop in Norwich when he’d been back home for the summer holiday, Robert was jealous. When he then went on to mention that he’d seen her kissing her boyfriend too, Robert was more than jealous!
So after a year of enjoying kid-friendly news, coupled with an eye-friendly presenter, albeit interspersed with the occasional disappointment when Lizo Mzimba presented the show instead, Robert had to cope with the fact that in February 2003 Becky Jago left Newsround to join Chris Tarrant on the Capital Radio Breakfast Show. She certainly didn’t have a face for radio.
Little did Robert realise though that only one month later, he would be writing an email to her to try and get Taurus’ first single on to the Capital Radio playlist. He had no real need to email Becky, it’s not like she would be in charge of the playlist at the station, but he used it as an excuse to write to her. He accompanied the letter with a white label demo of Taurus’ single.
It should have also been the song to win Eurovision for the United Kingdom for the first time since Katrina and the Waves. Maybe it just wasn’t to be – unfortunately Robert didn’t see it that way.
Robert’s letter, needlessly addressed to Becky Jago, needlessly contained too much exposition regarding his “respect” for her. Let’s just say that the word stalker springs to mind. And that was the reason why he received a very impersonal email response from the producer of the show.
Robert said two words after reading the reply. The first was “wanker” and the second was “wanker” just in case the world hadn’t heard him the first time.
After that, nobody saw or heard from him again until six o’clock the following evening when Patrick stumbled into his room.
Patrick was desperate to share Taurus’ good news with Robert. Ashley, Michael and I thought it best that Robert be left alone, but Patrick drunkenly insisted that it would cheer him up. Aftershox might well have still been reeling from the aftershocks of dismissals on three fronts, the UK public, Capital Radio and Becky Jago, but Patrick thought it was only right that he know that they had a single in the UK Top Forty – at number twenty-eight in fact!
Robert needed some time off, that was for sure, and despite recovery from the Jago episode, he hadn’t really had chance to take stock on the changes to his lifestyle that Taurus had brought about. The whole experience had changed him somehow. He wasn’t quite the same person that had originally agreed to form a pop group with two of his best friends. Still living in the same house as him, I witnessed his changing moods first hand.
A few months earlier, when Taurus really looked like they could be going somewhere, Michael had tried to persuade the University to give the guys some time off from their degrees. Unfortunately he had failed, but Robert really didn’t care about that though. Taurus had taken over his existence. He hadn’t realised it immediately, but he was looking for the simple life. He didn’t need Taurus for that. There were two things we all needed to focus on now. Some time away from the band, and with less than four months until graduation, to knuckle down and finish our degrees.
A few weeks later and Robert was on the way back to some reasonable level of mental health. Michael had given the band some time off; he had worked them incredibly hard over pretty much half a year. It was definitely what they needed as individuals, but not what they needed as a band.
You would think that the success of a top thirty hit would create a platform from which to build on. Unfortunately, it was the event from which Taurus pretty much ceased to exist as a collective.
With what he thought was simply a few weeks to himself, Patrick found himself in Oxford, visiting an old flame. He wasn’t ready to give up his dream yet, and he wasn’t ready to give up his Wild Card ways.
Ashley on the other hand took the opportunity to go back to Derby with his Dad and spend a little time with his extended family as well as revising for his finals. He needed the time to forget about his York life, his York persona, the little Taurus personality he had carved out for himself. And forget about it he did. He forgot about it completely. That was until May 1st.
May 1st, meant that there was only fifteen days until Eurovision 2004, and that included today, and only twelve days (once again including today) until the new Eurovision semi-final. But exciting as all that was for the finalists and semi-finalists, Ashley’s dream had been for Taurus to be there in the final. The most exciting news on Ashley’s block on this particular day was that his CD of all the year’s entrants had arrived. So having listened to all of them, back to back, track to track Albania to Ukraine, he took the opportunity to force his early formed thoughts on the world.
Ashley phoned Patrick, respecting Robert’s need to not be involved in Eurovision Ashley phoned Patrick, respecting Robert’s need to not be involved in Eurovision discussions right now, to talk him through his favourites.
“Well it’s only a couple of weeks to go to the main contest and with only twelve days to go I thought I’d offer up my thoughts and predictions for the semi-finals.” Ashley told Patrick.
“I’ve heard a fair few of the entries and picked out a couple of favorites, but I’m still not ready to put my money on one yet, as a few I like are in the semis so if I publicly go on record to say Ukraine has a chance, then they don’t even get to the final, I’ll have schnitzel flavored egg all over my lederhosen face!” Little did Patrick realise how accurate his predictions were.
“Now this new semi-final thing is a weird one, mainly because everyone can vote, even if their country isn’t in it, and when only ten of the songs can go through I suppose tactical voting can come into play. Get rid of the decent songs in the semis and if yours is decent and you’re already in the final, your chances increase…but rather than second guessing why the Lithuanians might have sinister feelings towards the Montenegrians. Montenegrans. Montenegri? What’s the plural of people from Montenegro?”
“Rather than that, I’ll just confine myself to making my predictions as to which lucky ten will go through,” Ashley continued. “Now I’ll be honest, ‘prediction’ might be generous to my method, even ‘method’ might be pushing it. I’ve basically picked my favourite ten, and sort of thought about where the countries are and so may get neighbouring votes. So here’s my best guess at the final ten to hit the finals on Saturday. If I get more than five right, I’ll make myself a crown of an EU flag and appoint myself King of Euro pop. So in no particular order: Albania, Belarus, Greece, Ukraine, Denmark, Cyprus, Israel, Macedonia, Malta and Switzerland. That’s what I reckon. Tough to choose though cause there’s a few decent ones, and I’m not intimate with the musical preferences of Hungarian society. They don’t order the semis. They just say who’s through. Although I’d rather come last in the final than not qualify.”
As it so happens, he actually predicted seven out of the ten correctly, with only Belarus, Denmark and Israel not making the final. It was amazing how quickly he’d bounced back from the initial disappointment of not winning Making Your Mind Up. Enjoying the excuse to talk Eurovision again, Patrick and Ashley spent the best part of an hour long conversation recollecting the joy and pain, the elation and falatio, the mayo and advacaat of being in a band. They were both missing their Taurus ways.
No one had dare say that Taurus were finished. No one had wanted to admit the obvious. Nobody had even heard from Robert in weeks and Patrick was particularly bitter about it. He had always wanted Taurus, or at least the power and lifestyle changes that Taurus had given him, somewhat more than the others, and he wasn’t about to let it lie. They were a band with a number twenty-eight single. How many people could claim that?
Despite Patrick’s efforts, he was only able to keep the dream alive with half of his colleagues. For now at least. And that was largely due to Ashley’s obsession with the song contest that was the reason for forming Taurus in the first place. Even if he couldn’t be there with his own band, Ashley was determined to enjoy this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and invited me and Patrick over to Derby to wave flags and watch it with him.
Since Taurus lost Making Your Mind Up, I had lost interest in the competition and hadn’t really been following the lead up to the event. Not that I normally would mind you, but I have always enjoyed watching the final. Going over for a gathering at Ashley’s to watch the contest was a welcome return to normality for me; a return to familiar ground. I needed Ashley to bring me up to speed though and explain what had happened in the semi-final.
“Hmmm…Hmm indeed. Well the results from the semis are in and let’s just say the east of Europe has done very well. Malta, Greece, Ukraine, Albania, Cyprus, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro, Boznia and Herzegovina and the Netherlands. Only one there that’s east of Malta! Although I predicted seven of them, in my mind only four of them deserved to go through. But once again this is gonna raise the question of political voting. And I understand that a Serbian is more likely to favour a Macedonian song than someone from Monaco dressed as a Christmas tree, but the problem is that there are so many more Eastern European countries than Western, bless ’em. And the problem lies in that each country has the same amount of votes. Sixty million Frenchies have the same amount of voting weight as twenty-five thousand Macedonians. And that seems a bit off to me.”
But enough of the intricacies of the new semi-final format, it was Saturday 15th May, and that meant it was the Eurovision final. Ashley was almost losing bladder control with excitement and it was great that he had almost forgotten that it was ever his dream to be there. By the time the evening came round and we heard that delightful fanfare and the Istanbul stadium go crazy, we were all relaxed and really enjoying each other’s company; which was something it had been so difficult to do lately of with the pressure on the boys to succeed.
Finally we asked Ashley what was in store for us and more to the point who he expected to win: “Well I reckon Sweden have a good chance, but after seeing the decidedly eastern swing in the semis I’m not so sure any more. I can’t make a single prediction, but I think Serbia, Greece, Ukraine and Cyprus all have a good shot at it, if not necessarily a good song!”
“And just in case a miracle happens, I’d just like to wish James the best of British luck for tonight, God knows he’ll need it. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we got our second nil points, but damnit, he’s doing it for the UK. So come on!” Patrick piped up.
The contest was actually a very entertaining one, with Ruslana Lyzhichko eventually winning it for the Ukraine with the song Wild Dances. She was basically wearing a Xena Warrior Princess outfit that was very skimpy.
James Fox finished sixteenth with twenty-nine points. Respectable compared to Jemini, but even so disappointing. It wasn’t really his fault though and was largely due to the amount of block voting that went on between various neighbouring nations.
As was the same every year, we saw the full range of emotions from Ashley during the contest. No points were awarded to UK from five countries, causing Ashley to exclaim “We aren’t gonna get any points are we?”
We were then given one token point by Belarus, before five more countries failed to award James Fox any points.
“It’s immigrants. Eastern immigrants voting across Europe. Bullshit!” Ashley decided. Then eventually, Ireland awarded eight points to the UK.
“Eight points! Oh yes. Come on we can do it. Maybe. Yeah. Come on yeah.” Ashley cried. Ultimately it wasn’t to be though. And I don’t think it would have been any different if Taurus had have been there instead.
I find this political voting particularly annoying, and yes I know you could call this sour grapes, but it’s not. The James Fox song wasn’t actually that bad. In fact after nine cans I was convinced it was a winner! It certainly wasn’t bad enough to warrant such low scores. It’s unquestionable that the east has the upper hand nowadays, and they vote for their neighbours.
I don’t think it’s as sinister as some would have us believe, there have always been alliances of sorts, but now there are so many eastern European countries, they have an overly unfair advantage. You don’t even have to be a European country to enter the Eurovision Song Contest these days. You simply have to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union, which even Egypt is a member of and therefore if it wanted could qualify for the contest. In today’s climate I think it should. You could guarantee that the year they entered, every song would have an Egyptian theme to it with snake charmers and allsorts of other Egyptian style shenanigans.
Something definitely needs to be done, or soon western European countries won’t be bothered about entering, especially the ‘Big Four’ (UK, France, Germany and Spain), who stump up the most money for the contest. Despite their best efforts they haven’t looked like winning for some years now. Why would they continue to fund an event they stand virtually no chance of winning? Should we have proportional voting with smaller nations able to hand out fewer points than the larger countries? Possibly.
It was a good contest though, largely due to the absence of rappers. I’m sure there’s a rule that states that rappers in Eurovision have to be Dutch and rapping in very basic English. Want an example of a rap that didn’t work? Love city groove. Enough said.
But what was really important in Ashley’s eyes, is that Ireland got fewer points than the UK. And that really does conclude the votes for the Taurus Jury. On to Kiev!