688. The Look

(By the way, there will be a Saturday post! The donation counter hit $100 so now it goes back to $0 and starts accruing again! The more times we hit $100, the more extra story posts there will be! -ctan)

First thing when we got to Barrett’s office the next day I told him I needed the album on cassette so I could walk around with it in my headphones. Lo and behold, he had a tape deck and the preamp necessary for connecting a turntable to it. I know. That’s like I just said he had a crank to start the engine of his car. I set side one to dubbing and then turned the actual volume in the speakers down so we could have another meeting with The Aesthetician and some other folks.

She had brought some designs for sets, lights, and costumes. She was planning for two costume changes for Ziggy during the main set, and possibly one before the encore, which would be four costumes total, and she had brought variations on each, in the form of colorful sketches she had done by hand. I am always impressed by visual arts stuff because I have no real talent for drawing so it’s kind of magical what other people do. What really fascinated me was that even though she hadn’t drawn a face on the figures in the sketches, and the sketches were, well, sketchy, it was still recognizably Ziggy. Something about the way he stood, walked, moved, onstage: Linn had captured it.

“Of course we can’t quite finalize these until you determine how many dance numbers and where they’ll be placed,” she added.

This meeting was in Barrett’s office but with seven or eight of us in there we were somewhat closer together than usual. They’d pulled in some extra chairs and Barrett himself sat behind his desk while Linn stuck the sketches to a whiteboard on the wall. Ziggy was in the corner under a speaker and I was next to him.

His eyeliner was extra thick and black that day, his lips black, too, not a hint of color on his face anywhere. “Give me and Daron another day or two to discuss things like set order.”

“Why don’t we discuss it now?” Barrett asked. “I don’t mean set anything in stone, but get some ideas.”

Ziggy turned and looked at me. I held up my hands. “I don’t know the songs well enough yet to fine tune anything.”

“Speaking in general terms, though,” Barrett said.

They all looked at me, even Ziggy, then, as if I should be the one to say something now. So I did. “Well of course you want to open with a big number. Do we know what the record company is expecting to be the biggest hit? Biggest uptempo hit, I mean. If a ballad breaks big it’ll need to go right after the midset peak.”

They all nodded like this made perfect sense. Barrett was taking notes. So I kept going. “So you need an uptempo opening number, ideally followed by two to three songs of equal or increasing energy, then a small break to address the audience before the next group of three, presumably one of which is also a dance number…” I had all these hypothetical variables floating around in my head. “How fast is the costume change?”

“Well, the first one could be a simple change,” Linn said. “Just a few seconds because we could do something like a layer comes off, a hat comes off.” She pointed to two of the sketches on the white board, one of which I guess was worn under the other.

“So if the first song of the second group has an instrumental intro it could happen during that,” I said. “And then that group of three brings us to midset and a major tempo change, time for either a big power ballad or, if you really want to change it up, drop all the way down to acoustic, just you and me.”

Ziggy’s eyes lit up. “I like that idea.”

“But you’ll need a change before that, definitely,” Linn said. “Perhaps a dance break that you are not in?”

“I worry people will yawn through that if Ziggy’s offstage and what, this is some kind of interpretive dance?” Barrett said. “No offense, Josie.”

“None taken,” said the choreographer. He was a reed of a man with a stalk of hair on top. “The obvious solution is put a body double in for him. The majority of the audience won’t be able to tell it isn’t him so they’ll stay interested.”

“The break only needs to be two minutes,” Linn pointed out.

“Plus it’ll take a couple of seconds for me to move to a stool and change guitars,” I added. “Assuming you put us both on stools.”

“Huh, stools, wouldn’t have thought of that,” said Mickey, who was a craggy-faced stage managing veteran. It was hard to tell if he was being sarcastic because he was that deadpan. So deadpan it made my deadpan seem lively. He made a note on a piece of paper.

“Okay, so, bring it all the way down to a soft ballad, then a filler song, then a big power ballad with the full band which should bring down the house. Then three hard-driving uptempo songs to finish the main set before the encore.” I looked around and they were all nodding. “There are only ten songs on the album and we’re going to need fourteen or fifteen to make this work.”

Barrett tapped his pen against his desk blotter. “We’ll need to figure out how and when to incorporate any of your previous material.”

Ziggy and I looked at each other. I played it very cool, I thought. “That is a good question.”

“People are going to clamor for ‘Candlelight,'” he said.

“Then we should hold it for the encore.”

“I thought you didn’t like that. Didn’t you say it was cheating the audience or something?”

Like putting in a body double for yourself wasn’t cheating? I didn’t say that, though. “That was if it was a Moondog Three concert. This isn’t. This would be giving them something special in the encore.”

“Ahhh.” He nodded. “Yes.”

“What else. ‘Why the Sky?’ or ‘Wonderland?'”

“Wonderland,” he said. “And it should be the first song of the last group of three.”

“That works.” I guess. Since I was still guessing what all the other songs would be. “We’ll need to work up a cover song or two to fill out the set list.”

“You and I can brainstorm that later,” Ziggy said, then looked toward Barrett as the phone on his desk rang.

“One sec.” He snatched up the handset. “Jill, we’re still in a… oh, yeah, you’re right. He’s been impossible to catch lately. Put him on.” Barrett put a finger to his lips to signal us all to be quiet.

I lowered the speakers to nothing and then felt my blood run cold, then hot as Barrett punched the button for speakerphone and I heard the voice of John Mills pour greasily from the speaker.


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