NO SERIOUSLY…WHAT IS THE DEAL? #Eurovision novel pt 17

by Spencer Vale and Andrew Melladay

The continuation of our story What’s The Deal With Europe?  The novel that inspired the comedy movie Transatlantic Smash. Listen to the comedy theme song on Soundcloud.

CHAPTER 17 – NO SERIOUSLY…WHAT IS THE DEAL?

It was warm outside, there was some sort of football tournament going on and we were all sneezing our noses off, so there was no mistaking it was summer. And whilst you were outside enjoying the weather, and hopefully still listening to What’s the Deal With Europe on your new shiny iPod, Taurus were shut up in a room singing the song of dedication. And it wasn’t the theme tune to Record Breakers. It was time for Taurus to pursue their shadowy obsession again, just so the public could reap the musical fruits of their metaphorical loins, although I guess some people were hoping it would be their actual loins they would reap (rape? Now stop right there Mr Krieger! That’s one pun too many!)

But why keep on pursuing this European dream? There can be no success without loss. No triumph without suffering. No career without sacrifice. Everything that has a beginning has an end… but hopefully not quite yet.

This had to be the final push for Taurus if they were going to succeed at the second attempt. I found it admirable that they wanted to keep trying; particularly after the suffering of last time. The grad ball had given them a new lease of life, but writing new material to enable them to conquer Europe was proving an onerous task.

I’d found myself graduated and unemployed. I couldn’t earn a living as a roadie if the guys weren’t gigging and since I’d been off work for a whole month, and feeling lazy, I’ll contain this section of the story to simply saying that even though the kids were still off
school, even though the weather had been changeable, the boys could still find a little haven of tranquility in their dream to conquer Europe, just as I’d found tranquility between getting the van fixed and watching Trisha in my pants! I thought that I was the most realistic of us though, and I’ll tell you for why.

Before Pop Idol, before X-Factor, before Popstars or even Popstars: The Rivals, since the introduction of phone voting in the mid-nineties, Eurovision has basically been the biggest pop talent show in Europe. Therefore I’m astonished that not many people have had success following it. This is despite the fact that millions upon millions of Europeans see your act for one night and give you their support through a vote, not many have gone on to have substantial commercial career success. The only two success stories off of the back of Eurovision of any real note are ABBA and Celine Dion.

ABBA’s first fray into the European music scene was their entry for Sweden in Eurovision 1974 and they are one of the biggest pop groups of all time. And Celine Dion, love her or hate her, (hate hate hate – did I say that out loud?) is a Grammy award winner and sung one of the best selling film themes of all time. It really is surprising that there have not been more success stories than this. Yes, Cliff Richard performed for the UK twice in Eurovision, but he’d already been a household name and chart-topper. Yes, there are tonnes of acts that have gone on to have minor hits in the charts, but let’s be honest, they rarely stand the test of time. Most are
lucky to end up on the Butlins circuit. So going back to my first point, whole nations give you their stamp of approval through Eurovision and their twelve points. Is it simply that they have to choose the best of a bad bunch?

This all makes me think that you’re going to do better as a complete failure than you are as a mid-tabler. And I don’t mean the kind of failure that takes the meandering journey from star to drunken spectacle of the nation on Love Island and back again, possibly via Men & Motors. I don’t even mean the kind of failure that comes last in Eurovision. And especially not the type that comes last with nil point. I’m talking about complete failure. The type of failures that can’t even qualify to represent their own nation. Failures like Taurus.

That’s all well and good in theory, but just exactly where do you go from here? Surely it’s not all graft. I can’t even begin to imagine how many millions of bands never succeed in getting that elusive record deal, that elusive number one single and more to the point, longevity. None of that despite plugging away for the best years of your life, sacrificing stability, meaningful relationships and all the trimmings of your average Joe. What a band needs is direction, whether that comes in the form of a dream to pursue, a good manager or a kick in the arse. Taurus had all three. But not in that order.

Yes they still had a dream to pursue. It’s important to remember that they only formed to conquer Eurovision. They didn’t feel like they’d given it a good enough shot yet so it was back to the drawing board as far as they were concerned.

But what about a good manager? It doesn’t seem that way does it. Michael had been pretty much off the radar since the night that they didn’t get selected to represent the United Kingdom. As far as they were concerned, he’d lost interest.

They asked him to manage the band a year earlier because they had no direction and no idea how to get gigs. And boy had he done that and more. He had succeeded in getting them a record deal off the back of a few songs, very little experience gigging, and no tangible evidence of sustainability other than a smidgen of raw talent, and extremely raw sex appeal. (That’s raw, sex appeal. Not raw-sex, appeal – which is completely the wrong end of the stick. Almost literally.)

Michael had done very, very well. Yes, he could be annoying. Like the time…like pretty much all the time actually. But he was worth it. These last few months though, he’d been damn close to none existent. It felt to Ashley like Michael had resumed the role of Difficult to Please Father. Which technically he was anyway, but his role as a manager should have traversed that.

It seemed like Taurus had regressed to those first few months of all effort and no thought. The days when they wasted time on side-projects and websites, and other things that were basically just stabs in the dark because they really didn’t know what they were meant to be doing or what this game was really all about. So they had a lot more experience under their belt now, which had enabled them to get some fairly good gigs, such as the grad ball, and was also helping them to focus on writing new material. But was this enough?

No they didn’t have a very good manager if the last few months were anything to go by. But the dream was still there.

And then came the kick up the arse. They got dropped. Project Y had realised the error of their ways. It was time for them to let Taurus go. There was no future in a band like this. Or that’s what they said, give or take.

Realistically, it was fair enough. They had taken a very large leap of faith investing in Taurus. Not because Taurus were untalented. It was that they had financed an entire album in the hope that Taurus would succeed in Europe. Not many record companies would do that.

Unfortunately, Taurus hadn’t really created a solid enough platform for them to build upon. It was going to take the most cunning marketing ploy in the history of, well, marketing I suppose, to convince people to buy the album of a band who’d done very little. That’s not something they could really afford.
Yes, they had sold some copies of the Taurus single, but not as many as they’d hoped. It was meant to be number one. It was meant to be a Eurovision winner. It was meant to put Project Y Records on the map. It hadn’t. And now they were left with an album that it was unlikely anyone would want to buy.

They had made a fatal mistake. As I said earlier, Eurovision acts, historically have never really done that well, barring a few. So why place such a large wager on Taurus succeeding where others had failed. They would have been better listening to Nick Berry’s advice: “Every loser wins.” Actually, the advice of a one hit wonder may actually disprove me, so forget that one. Better to put it this way. Taurus, as losers, would win. Sounds garbled doesn’t it? I fear that I’m just spouting forth the meandering waffle of a drunk. And at risk of leaving you in the dark for a little while longer, I’ll stop trying to summarise the rest of the Taurus story with some badly chosen eighties song lyrics and let you form your own conclusions as I endeavour to elaborate.

Of course at first the guys didn’t consider the fact that they’d been dropped to be a blessing in disguise. And why would they? Their initial thoughts were of anger. Anger at Project Y, anger at Michael, anger at each other, and even anger at me I seem to recall. It was to be expected.

Finally, after a good few weeks of anything but depression and a communication style just shy of caveman, the trio once known as Taurus gave themselves a much
needed kick up the bottom.

They had still been touring as Taurus for a couple of months. Pubs, clubs, the usual. Plus the occasional student gig in the early summer on the graduation circuit following the York success, and they’d got a few Freshers gigs booked in for September too. But this hadn’t proven to be enough to make them run on anything but autopilot.

Finally, after much cajoling from me I have to say, they finally began to talk about the situation they had found themselves. Unless they did something about it the gigs were going to dry up altogether pretty soon and should that be the case, inevitably the dream would be over. It was Patrick who eventually started thinking about where to go from here.

“Surely we can take what we’ve learnt of TV and stuff and do something reality based. Because let’s face it there’s enough reality TV out there. There’s a niche for everyone somewhere. If you consider the fact that a lot of the reality TV shows have people in them that aren’t really celebrities because they’re scraping the barrel.”

“Do you really think we could do that?” asked Ashley.

“You don’t really need to be a celebrity to qualify to be on these programmes nowadays,” said Rob and he had a point.

Personally I would rather see ageing popular icons that have disappeared from our screens brought back on a reality TV show, for example Geoffrey from Rainbow, who admittedly is barely on the celebrity radar, than someone who isn’t a celebrity but is the son of one or the girlfriend of one.

Since Rainbow finished in 1992, Geoffrey first found himself pushing trolleys. But then after that he became a taxi driver. I’d love to find out where he does his taxiing and hang around until he picks me up and then pay him to drive me round whilst he talks about Rainbow. Mind you, he probably gets sick of that. “Alright mate, aren’t you that bloke off rainbow?” Maybe his taxi is painted in Rainbow colours and his horn plays the theme tune. He could do better than that. Surely he hasn’t got to make a living from what would be considered a normal job. Someone somewhere must want some swimming baths opened. Or just even appearing at student parties a la Timmy Mallett, you’d think that would make him a better living than you can make pushing trolleys around on the minimum wage.

“I don’t necessarily mean us appearing in a show, but to create one ourselves. You are the producer of a reality TV show. You have limited time and limited budget to get people in. Who are your top five?” said Patrick.

I offered my opinion “I think Geoffrey from Rainbow gets in straight away!”

“Well if that’s the kind of standard we’ve established, how about Rod, Jane and Freddy from Rainbow?” said Ashley.

“The bloke who was inside Bungle from Rainbow. There we go. That’s it! The ultimate reality show!” joked Robert.

“It’s basically just an episode of Rainbow,” said Patrick. They weren’t taking this at all seriously, but at least we were talking again. Talking bollocks again to be more accurate. It was just like the old days.

“You could have a pop talent show of people that have failed pop talent shows. Darius was a failed talent show contestant, then entered a new one, still failed that but ended up releasing a couple of albums.” Robert suggested.

“Could you class him as a failed act now?” said Ashley.

“Could he go back on to one of these shows in an attempt to win it and claw out a third album?” Patrick asked.

Ashley thought so. “I’d like to see him on one as I found him somewhat of an enigmatic character. I genuinely believe his mother was grooming him and his brothers to be Bond villains. He’s called Darius and his brothers are called Cyrus and Aria.”

“I think they’re actually named after Persian Kings,” I explained.

“Oh right. Either way I think we should write into the Bond producers and request them to be characters in the next film!”

Patrick had another idea. “What about Steps and Hear’say forming the ultimate boy/girl pop combo?”

“But you can’t forget Allstars Pat!” said Robert.

“Ha. They were like Steps wannabes weren’t they?” I just about remembered them.

“Yeah they actually supported Steps on tour I believe.” Ashley’s favourite subject, well maybe second favourite subject after Eurovision, had been raised!

“And one of their members ended up in Hollyoaks,” said Robert.

“He was in Hollyoaks beforehand wasn’t he?” said Patrick.

“What goes around comes around,” said Robert.

Ashley began to elaborate: “Then he went off and did Star Street which was the programme that All Stars sprang from. Then he went back to Hollyoaks. Star Street didn’t really have the same impact as…”

“North and South!” said Patrick.

“I was actually thinking Miami 7 which was the first S Club 7 show. Then they did LA 7. I never really liked S Club 7. But I did like Steps.”

“We know!” the rest of us chimed up.

“Sometimes I wake up in the night still in tears! Anyway, is it strange that I liked one and not the other? Maybe S Club 7 took it too far. I always thought that seven members was a little excessive.”

“Especially considering there’s only really one of them that sings!” said Robert.

The conversation continued along the reality TV idea for some time before I tried to bring them back to realityand remind them that this was about them and not other celebrities. Despite Patrick’s protestations they knew nothing of the world of TV to make any of this work. You could argue that when they started the Eurovision dream they knew nothing of that either, but even so I don’t think trying to sell a reality sitcom show idea featuring the guy from Brush strokes, Nadine Baggot from the Oil of Olay ads and Chris Barrie was a good idea. They’d got on this subject when Rob had claimed that Pat’s idea of the ultimate Sitcom was the Brittas Empire. He disagreed and said: “I think you’ll find it was A Prince Among Men!”
The point I made to them about reality TV shows, taking Celebrity Big Brother as my template, was that there’s usually a blip of fame resurgence afterwards, but unless you’re very careful that soon fades. I insisted that they needed to focus their attention elsewhere, but ultimately I was pleased with the fact that they were able to focus on something again. It was enough to keep them going for now. They needed to ride this wave of depression a little while longer before the good fortune they were waiting for would come.

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