I barely moved until the last song, a Spanish-language version of “Do It,” played, and then there was the sound of the needle hitting the end and I jerked reflexively before realizing that this was a tape of the vinyl. I hit rewind and sat up. I swung my feet over the edge of the bed to put the second empty bottle back into the cardboard caddy. I turned to Court.
Her reaction: “Huh.”
“What do you think?”
“I think…huh.” She sat up, too. “It’s…okay, I guess?”
Relief swept through me. “Thank god I’m not the only one who thinks that.”
She waved her hands like she was trying to shape something out of clay in the air. “I mean, it’s…pop? Like they set out to make a really–”
“–inoffensive, fun record?”
“It’s bland is what it is.”
“I confess I was expecting something…weirder.” She frowned. “It’s not even particularly angsty. Or arty. Like…where are the references to Brecht and Machiavelli? This is Ziggy we’re talking about.”
“In the lyrics. Nothing struck me as deep, let’s put it that way.”
“I don’t think he wrote many of the lyrics.” I blinked. I actually had barely listened to the actual lyrics as words with any meaning to them: I’d been listening to the melodies, the rhythms, the orchestrations, the arrangements. But I guess Court had heard the words and they had left her with the same impression the music had left on me. “Inoffensive is a good word for it. I described it to somebody as ‘having no edge.'”
“‘Do It’ is at least catchy. But that’s also not new. Do you think if you’d played on it it’d be different?”
“I don’t know.” If I played on it but didn’t write any of the songs…? “Wait, you know what I just realized is missing? ‘Breaking Chains.'”
“Does that mean it’s not going to be on the album or that it was mixed too late or what?”
“Hm. I guess I’ll have to ask. I’m sure we’re going to play it live, though.” I got a notebook out and jotted some things down. “I’m going to listen to it again. You up for it?”
“I’d love to but I actually have a paper to write,” Courtney said, standing up and stretching. “You want me to leave the beer here or put it in the fridge?”
I told her to leave it and hit play on the tape again. She said goodnight and that she was glad I was back, then let herself out and shut the door.
I only got a few songs in before I had to take a break.
I called Sarah and it felt like a small victory when she answered. “Rogue here.”
“Daron there. I heard you left town today. Without saying goodbye.” She pretended to be miffed. “Hmph.”
“I’ll be back in two weeks,” I said. “Who’d you talk to today?” She had to have heard I left from someone.
“Barrett, who else. I understand we share a manager now?”
“Sort of? I guess Carynne is still my manager but he’s her boss?”
“Welcome to the family.” She yawned. “So what’s bothering you? I think it’s a great arrangement, by the way.”
“What makes you think something’s bothering me?”
“When else do you call?”
Busted. “Guilty as charged. I’m trying to warm up to Ziggy’s South American album and so far I’m not feeling it.”
“And you’re worried this means the spark’s gone out of your relationship?”
“No! No, our relationship’s great right now. Wow. I haven’t gotten to say that very often.”
She laughed. “No kidding.”
“I’m just worried I’m going to be bored to tears by this whole thing and that could negatively affect our relationship. You know he’s kind of sensitive about me judging him musically.”
“Only a little. He’s grown a lot lately. You heard him at The Cat Club. He sang the doors off that place.”
“I know. Which makes it all the more awful that on this record he’s…not stretching himself.”
“Stretching doesn’t sell records,” she said, and it sounded like maybe she was quoting someone. “How many times have you listened to it?”
“A few. I…I know I should give it a couple more before I start judging it.”
“Sounds like you’re already judging it. It might take a few more listens after that before you undo all that prejudiced listening.”
I lay back on the bed. “You’re really…you haven’t even heard it.”
“I don’t have to. Daron, did you ever think maybe this might be your reaction to it even if it was really good?”
“I…” No, I hadn’t thought about that. “You think I’m resisting hearing how fresh and interesting it is because I’m not playing on it?”
“Just a possibility. Maybe it looks different from the inside.”
“I hope you’re right. Maybe I haven’t found my way inside this yet.” I heard her yawn again. “Thanks for the pep talk. Let’s get together when I get back to the city.”
“I won’t be here,” she said. “I hit the road in eleven days. Starting a cross-country tour on the West Coast.”
“Damn. Well, break a leg.”‘
“You too, D.”
I would later learn that the space we were taking over as a rehearsal and pre-tour headquarters was being vacated by Sarah’s crew and then Ziggy’s crew would move in.
I rewound the tape again, determined to listen with fresher ears. Maybe the pep talk helped for a while. On the next listen I began to get some of the subtlety of “Parade.” It was catchy. Peppy. The bass was mixed way down, though, and so was the percussion. Was that to put Ziggy’s voice so much front and center that the rest didn’t matter? I played with the balance and levels a little. Maybe the problem was that the drums weren’t as interesting as they could be and bass part was downright boring.
I had a feeling that Bart wouldn’t let it stay that way. Because of course he was going to be my first hire for the actual band. Until they told me absolutely not, you cannot recreate Moondog Three on the stage–plus possibly some other musicians–of course that was my plan. I know, I know. A year ago I would have said over my dead body would we take the band I had built and make us into Ziggy’s backing band. But circumstances were different than I imagined.
Weren’t they? Or were they in fact exactly as terrible as I’d imagined they’d be but the consolation was a warm armful of Ziggy every night…?
Do I have to tell you I finished the six pack before I’d gotten through two more plays of the album?
(By the way, folks, some time in the next two to three months I predict we’ll hit 10,000 comments on the site. What should we do to celebrate? Also, please note that last night the February Fanworks Challenge was posted! -ctan)