User:Aleister in Chains/Neon

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Too Many Women Spoil The Broth is a 2008 suspense/horror book by my BFF, writer Stephen King. TMMSTB quickly won the coveted Client Knows Best Award (CKBA) of the Ultra Silly Workman of North America Society (USWONAS). IMNHO, SK won USWONAS' CKBA for TMMSTB ASAP.


King, with a distinct air of nonchalance and swagger, was walking home one day from an afternoon of daring-do, dodging cars, and outsprinting obese fans and lanky mailmen for the experience. Suddenly his boyhood hobby of looking into neighbor's windows paid off when he saw a beautiful well-dressed woman with a touch of backfat holding a record upright with her index finger and just about ready to accept a beer from an unseen companion. Instantly the plot for his next book formed complete in his mind, acknowledgements, copyright page, and tear sheet included. And all he had to do was walk home and start up the laptop. He wrote the 985-page novel in 14 hours, named it "Don't Tell Tabhita" (later changed to "Too Many Women Spoil The Broth"), went to the bathroom, e-mailed the book to his agent - who, awoken from a sound sleep, brokered a deal within ten minutes for a multi-million dollar advance just about the same time King was shooting two baked potatoes and a plate of brown rice, beans, and seasonings, into the microwave - and then caught an episode of Eastboung and Down while laughing himself hoarse.


We arrive quickly in Cumberland, Maine, a quaint sleepy town adopted from Washington Irving's raving days - days when things never jelled into more than ten things at once and the best of the bunch often pops in enough to enjoy it. It is 10 p.m. Enter Jonathan the narrator, John for short, or Joey the Jake if you prefer, who relates an idea which is meant to stir up the town a bit. To awaken it from its rural doldrums. With both the plot and the pot thickening, Stephen King's characters start to make their appearance.

The Queen of Hearts

Bettie page devil


"Dance me till I'm naked," she says when she is first introduced to the reader. Make yourself known to her and then stay well back of the first character to enter the plotline, the Queen of Hearts, until she invites you in. Man, just look at her! Either the townspeople are going in balls-up and jerrying the gelaton to a new level of experience and light for the Queen, or they are going to tar and feather her and run her out of town on a pail. The narrator goes in to take a quick look at her, and, satisfied, continues the plot.

So in "Don't Tell Tabhita" (later renamed "What's a Woman to Do?" before acquiring it's publication name of "Too Many Women Spoil The Broth") King presents the Queen of Hearts as being somehow transported, or time-traveled, or mixed up in all the dimentional brewing, into Cumberland, Maine, right into the middle of the town square dressed in her devil costume, with a child's park on one side and a chess pavilion on the other.

She doesn't know how she got there, or why she's there. She smiles wide, knowing that those are some of the best rides.

As Stephen King goes on and on for 70 pages, giving a cherry-coated cake and oaked-stained backstory to her popping-in and those horns and what that tail's up to, he finally comes out of his usual forest for the trees which often could be a 75% shorter (you think?) and takes position on the outside of the goal post. The narrator explains how Eden is really a land right here, which Bettie Page disquised as Goddess meeting herself as Bettie Page - this time as the Queen of Hearts - decides is always right here anyway. For the QOH travels lightly and plays well with strangers.

Then, in a plot twist to give readers the Eve Clybourn heebi-jebees.

Elmo, the lion-hearted councilman of Cumberland, Maine

It seems King was envisioning an elf lord who suddenly shows up in Cumberland devoid of currency and clothing, just hanging around. What he got was pretty much that, but with a chink in the armor: the grin of the Queen of Hearts.

So all the townspeople are confused, and King spends 125 pages telling the stories and adventures of the Elf Lord and Hearts as they roam the land together, meeting even odder and more romantic characters counter-balanced every 20 pages or so with slimy things that live in sewers and grow spines and eat gristle, just to get a jostle out of the readers in time to get back to the romantic stuff.

Finally, a Stephen King-week later, as the author counts time, the readers meet the next character in this basically triad leveled book: the righty radical.

Clyde who lives down the street


Clyde is the comic relief, and Hearts and Elmo end up as straight men (except for Hearts) to his ramblings. He is a racist but a kindly and jovial neighbor, blaming everyone for everything else. Clyde says things so extreme that by the second half of the book he becomes the spokesperson of the Republican National Committee, and drafts much of the GOP platform. King writes that in 2012 Clyde actually gains complete dictatorial control of the GOP, which then nominates a drone Mitt Romney. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph enter the book's narrative - we won't show them here, you know what they look like - and they start right in nagging everybody. King's use of the Holy Family metaphorically engages them into coflict with the Queen and Clyde, since Elmo sits out the next 82 pages.

Clyde, in a bandana and ad-libbing a nutshell speech, confesses to Hearts that even though he knows that all beings are hanging out, animals up and down someones fancy idea of a food chain usually end up in his mouth. Eventually he meets his food, which is raised in a space the size of an average bathroom and stands knee high in the foods own expelled fluids. Yada yada yada - Jesus Christ - Stephen finally gets to the point already after 50 more pages, and puts all his characters in a room to hang out in order to crescendo the thing. In the meantime everyone in the book gets some dinner, which is ready to go, and that takes up almost 25 more pages just for the seasonings alone.

But he's good for

The cover of "Too Many Women Spoil The Broth", said by King's
rival's rivals to rival the innovation of The Beatles White Album (TBWA)

Psychedelic clothes: Bettie page devil

copy to watch sometime:

March 29 ~ The most amazing video on Youtube.

India, 1947

The sun struggled red through the dust of Kashmir, slowly alleviating the chill of the April night. Mid-morning would see the women shielding their infants from its glare as the heat haze obscured the distant mountains. By the afternoon it would be unbearable, the only relief from its unrestrained power the gentle breeze blowing over the roof of the little train as it clattered south. For now though, the sun was welcome.

The old man shifted imperceptibly as the first rays warmed his back. It was the will of God that they should flee, though Swami Madhav knew that no one could escape their fate, even by train. If they were meant to die then they would surely die in Ladakh just as they would have died in their homes in Shkardu. Fate was inexorable. Still, when Deepak had urged him to leave he had agreed.

He was, perhaps, eighty years old; too old to hanker after new sights or to be excited even by the prospect of bathing again in the scared Ganges. He wanted to go nowhere, to sit among the trees familiar to him since his youth and to meditate on the name of God in peace. But there had been fear in Deepak’s eyes and on the faces of the dozen other villagers who had urged the Swami to join them. They wanted to leave; their wives wanted them to leave. The Swami had no possessions to abandon; he lived in the earthen floored house they had built for him with its grass thatch and dung-plastered walls. If the villagers were so in fear of their lives that they would leave behind their fields, homes and businesses, he would have to give his blessing. They would not leave without him and he could not ask them to remain.

“They say there were riots in Amritsar again, Swami-ji,” Deepak had said. “Over a hundred Muslims were killed by a mob.”

“Amritsar is far away, child.”

“The Muslims in Lahore took revenge. They set fire to their Hindu neighbours. No one knows how many died.”

“Lahore is also far away, my son.”

“Lahore will be in Pakistan, Swami. So will Shkardu. Our neighbours will burn us too.”

“No one knows the will of God, my son. Why should our neighbours set on us when we have lived together before Shah Mir ruled over our ancestors?”

“They have no love for us, Swami. And we have fields that they would give to their children. We must go to India before they kill us all.” “Are we not yet in India?” The old man thought. But he said nothing. He picked up his stick and rose stiffly to his feet, placing his hand on Deepak’s forehead and marking it with the ash from his fire.

“Then we will go to Ladakh until it is safe to return,” he said.

By morning the small number of Hindu villagers gathered their portable goods and walked the two miles from their village to the town of Khaplu in darkness, boarding the train at first light, scarcely protected by a troop of twenty soldiers in khaki uniforms. A white officer watched nervously, anxious for them to leave before the small jeering crowd swelled. Those who could pay occupied the carriages; those who could not climbed onto the roof.

The old swami sat on the carriage closest to the engine, using his body to protect the others from the worst of its smoke. Soon there were so many refugees that even the roof was crowded and yet somehow there was space around him. No one wished to intrude on his half-mumbled chanting. He sat with his back to the engine and heard the sighs of relief as they pulled out of the station. After that, quite deliberately, he had scarcely moved, using years of meditative practice to cast a spell of calm over his fellow travelers. It was, he felt, the only useful contribution he could make.

That had been two days ago and still they had not crossed the border that as yet existed only in the minds of men, argued over by politicians in the offices of the departing British. At first the train had stopped at every town, picking up more refugees and somehow finding space for them, though some of the men could only hang from its sides. But now, as they neared Ladakh, the driver no longer stopped - every station was thronged with baying demonstrators - he could only blow the whistle and accelerate until the bucking and jolting seemed certain to derail them. The mob threw rocks, breaking windows and showering the occupants with glass. Sometimes they succeeded in pulling a man from the sides, tearing apart the body almost before it hit the ground. The women no longer screamed. Even the children were too scared to cry.

Outside Khalatse a crowd had gathered at the crossing over a small river. The Swami sensed the fear of his fellow passengers but refused to turn around to look, even if he could have seen the danger through the thick, brown smoke of the engine. He knew from the nervous conversation around him that a cart had been left on the bridge. But he knew also that, if he betrayed any fear, panic would sweep the rooftop. And so he continued to face north and the homes they had left behind.

The train lurched again. Through the stench and noise of the locomotive he could smell the smoke from the burning cart and hear the cries of a donkey still tethered to its shafts. A low moan rose around him and mingled with the anticipation of the mob waiting to see them plunge into the dank water. The Swami raised his head and gave volume to the mantra he had mumbled since leaving Shkardu. It was not yet his time to die. He had long since blown out the fires of hatred and greed in his own life but he would not be liberated from earthly suffering until he had opened the minds of others and put them on the path to enlightenment. Had not his own guru told him so when he had scarcely sprouted hairs on his chin? The villagers surely loved him but he doubted that he had truly opened any of their minds. It was not yet his time, it couldn’t be, not until he had provided the villagers with a service worthy of his long years of study.

The driver accelerated as much as the tired locomotive would allow and crashed through the improvised barricade. The train rocked but held fast to the rails leaving the mob to stone the few who had been jolted from the roof. There was relief but no cheering.

The old Swami maintained his chant until they finally stopped at the town of Rishikeshi more than a day later. He needed to sleep but first, he knew, he must cleanse his soul in the Holy River and give thanks for the deliverance of his neighbours. Rishikeshi was to be Indian; the authorities here would house the villagers and feed them. There were soldiers and police to maintain order and see that they did not seek vengeance from the remaining Muslim population. Now, he could look to his own salvation. He climbed slowly from the roof and left the refugees to pray and to mourn their losses on the platform.

Minutes later he was walking along the banks of Mother Ganges, the chanting of pilgrims, the smiling faces and brightly coloured saris in stark contrast to the tense days on the train. The odours of cooking stirred his hunger and he realised that he had scarcely eaten since leaving Shkardu. There would be time for that later, however. For now he made for the steps of the ghat, half-amused and half-irritated by the chatter of local women and awestruck worshippers from across Northern India.

Leaving his robes on the bank he made his way down the ghat. Children swam out from the shore in the sunshine laughing, or splashed happily in the shallows to the obvious irritation of bathing worshippers. But the old man ignored them. He was content to submerse himself three times to the accompaniment of prayer and the bells of a nearby temple. He washed the oily smuts of the locomotive engine from his skin as the sacred water washed away his sin. And then he stood for a while, silently watching the pilgrims bathing themselves and collecting the blessed water, admiring the little boats which drifted slowly to the far bank where other bathers knelt in prayer.

Finally he made his way back to the ghat and dressed in a fresh loincloth before meditating in the morning sunshine among devotees young and old. The sound of the trucks barely disturbed him but the renewed panic and the noise of men and women running for the safety of the river brought his mantra to an abrupt halt. He stood to protest as a mob poured from the back of the trucks and began to stone the worshippers. “Brothers!” He began but no one was listening.

He took a step backwards towards the river. He did not hear the bullet fired, nor feel its impact. His body hit the water shoulder first and he plunged briefly beneath the surface again. He emerged to screaming and the rushing of water in his ears. His soul was preparing to depart. A tear merged with the holy river. He did not regret the ending of this life, only that he must continue his journey in another, his destiny still unfulfilled. It had always been so, and would always be so until he lived a life worthy of release from the eternal cycle of rebirth. Only then would he deserve a permanent place at the feet of God.

The world retreated until it seemed it was filled with nothing but screams. Blood filled his eyes, throbbing and pulsating. And it was cold. There was time for only a final goodbye. He summoned his final reserves of strength and opened his eyes to bid farewell to everything he had known. “I’m not talkin’” he shouted, though even as they formed on his tongue the words seemed strangely unfamiliar. The light was different too, now glaring green before fading through yellow back to blood red. The screams redoubled as he took a step towards the girls in the front row and put one foot firmly on the stage monitor.

“That’s all I’ve gottta say,” he sang. The guitars chimed in again but all eyes were fixed on him.

The Marquee Club, London, 1966.

There were people in the room whose attention was not fully on the band's performance; two of them, leaning against the bar where conversation was just possible over the heavily amplified guitars and where their drinks were safe from the jostling crowd. Both were dividing their thoughts between the need to avoid being swindled in their forthcoming deal, the possibility of swindling the other, and the girls attempting to dance by the side of the stage. While the relentless beat of the music was undoubtedly intense, it didn’t lend itself to dancing. Still, the pulsing lights occasionally flashed across their thighs and you had to admit that there was something to be said for mini-dresses.

Eventually the two men dragged their eyes away and glanced at the band. Both nodded approvingly. “Not the finished article, Nigel, but, yeah. Why not? We don’t have anyone ‘psychedelic’ yet and it wouldn’t take a genius in the marketing department to generate a few headlines for a Yank-band based in Blighty. Mind you, they look like shit!”

“Don’t worry about that, Dick. A haircut and a bit of a wash and brush and they’ll be fit for Top of the Pops. You should be worrying about whether they’ll want to sign for you. Fontana isn’t the only gig in town. And they may not wish to share a label with Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, Tich, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.“

Dick stood up, the better, apparently, to extract a cigarette from his jacket but also because it allowed him to stand several inches over his companion. Nigel’s public school accent was bad enough, the blazer was inexcusable. If his own suit had been any sharper it would have taken someone’s eye out, but nothing said working class boy made good than expensive tailoring. He found a lighter and pushed the packet along the bar. He wanted to sign these boys enough to put up with their pompous manager but he wasn’t about to beg. There had been enough Nigels during his six years at boarding school to make the four years it had taken to lose his accent feel like time well spent. If he never spoke to another Justin, Jeremy or Raif, Dick would consider his life fulfilled, the last thing he wanted to do was spend more time socialising with the people who’d bullied him into doing their Latin prep at Charterhouse.

“If you don’t think they’d be at home with The Pretty Things, The Troggs and The Mindbenders there are plenty of other groups who’ll sign in their place.”

“They’ll do what I damn well tell them to do,” Nigel insisted, lighting one of the A&R man’s execrable cigarettes. He winced as the cheap tobacco hit his lungs, it reminded him of his father’s roll-ups and he hadn’t invested in an old Etonian tie and elocution lessons to go back to the two up two down in Cricklewood he’d been born in. Everyone knew that posh boys slumming it made the best managers and where St. Michael’s Secondary Modern School hadn’t given him much education it had at least taught him how to avoid being stiffed by fellow low-lives like Dick.

“I doubt they’ll welcome the news that Mickie Most is sniffing around, mind you. Herman’s Bloody Hermits they most certainly are not.” Dick put on his jacket and exhaled. “Fine, give ‘em a good scrub and bring ‘em over on Monday. You and me can convince the big wigs to issue a contract and we’ll find a sympathetic producer that can capture their… unique sound. This time next year we could be ordering a Bentley each!”

He reclaimed his Rothmans and made a perfunctory wave over a mounting wall of sound. The crescendo of feedback seemed a good excuse to finish the discussion without exchanging further pleasantries with a man who he would sooner spit on. Business before pleasure. “I’ll call you then,” Nigel mouthed, knowing the A & R man couldn’t possibly hear him. “You jumped-up barrow-boy oik.”

It was cold back-stage. A cloud of smoke hung below the low ceiling, mingling with the scent of excitement and sweaty bodies too tired for another encore. It was a small changing room with paint that nicotine and the graffiti of previous acts had long since tainted. Condensation ran down the windows and the mildewed walls. If The Marquee’s management had kept animals in there the RSPCA would have started legal action.

“They love us, Moe. They fucking love us!” The singer collapsed into a venerable leather chair; stuffing hung out of both arms and springs stuck through the seat, daring visitors to sit on it. Rick ignored the discomfort. He grinned disturbingly at his friends until the drummer threw his sticks at him

“Why wouldn’t they love us, Rick? We’re so well-dressed.”

Moe gestured at the funky clothes on his own body. Rick half-heartedly threw the drumsticks back while the others stacked instruments and attempted to enjoy the beer their manager had thoughtfully provided. It was darker and considerably warmer than anyone cared to think about, but it was wet and it wasn’t costing them anything.

Steve swallowed a pint in a single practised motion and picked up another, knocking the table with his leg and catching it before the dozen or more other beers cascaded over his bass.

“Jeff Beck’s here, with some blonde who's stacked like a brick shithouse,” he ventured, adding as an after thought, “And Keith Relf. And Donovan.” Glenn carefully placed his steel guitar in its case before Steve washed it unexpectedly. He grimaced through a sip of stout and then through several more in swift succession. He was too happy to let the unaccustomed bitterness worry him. “We must be the news of the whole friggin’ city, man!”

“Merrie Olde Englande may be swinging, man. But once we switch it on it’s gonna rock.”

The door opened. Everyone looked up, apparently in the hope that Jeff Beck might be there to introduce them to his gifted girlfriend. The look of disappointment when Nigel’s face appeared would have upset anyone less brazen. “Good set, boys,” he oozed. “The crowd seemed to enjoy themselves.”

“Enjoy themselves? They were ecstatic, man. We rocked out!”

Nigel perched on the grubby table and hoped that the spilled beer wouldn’t stain his suit. These malodorous Americans might just be on the verge of the big time and he needed them to appreciate the importance of his input to their success. His ten per cent of the millions they were about to earn would more than pay for some dry cleaning.

“You were splendid. Of course, you were. I told you I’d arranged for a representative from Fontana to come, yes? He was a little surprised by all the feedback and so on but I think I convinced him that we could smooth over your rough edges.”

“Jeez, Nigel! The rough edges are what stop us being Freddie and the Dreamers. No rough edges, no trip! No trip, no Misunderstood! If he doesn’t get that then tell him no deal.”

“Hey, now! Wait a minute, Rick. If someone wants to give us some bread we should talk to him, even if he is an asshole. I don’t want you to live in that apartment any longer than you have to; And I’m sure you'd like to be able to buy food not cooked by someone who fries fish all day." "Nigel, we've been stuck there six months already. Hell, man, we'd all give anything for a half decent meal. And if we don’t get one someone’s gonna die!”

“Well, fortunately I don’t think that’ll be necessary. “ Nigel smiled. “Despite his reservations I convinced Dick to arrange an audition at Fontana. Monday afternoon, gentlemen, we begin the process of making stars of you!”

“Not me!”

No one spoke for a moment. Then suddenly everyone spoke together.

“What the Hell, Greg?”

“We worked three years for this…”

“Are you serious?”

Greg shrugged and avoided making eye contact. He’d been dreading this moment but the decision was made. There was no turning back. “I’m going home, guys. That’s all there is to say.”

Rick collapsed back into the unwelcoming chair. For months he’d been attempting to live his life according to words he’d read on the walls of an underground station. All possibilities remain open to those with open minds. Thanks to some strategically placed, phallic vandalism it hadn’t been clear who was being quoted but the truth of the sentiment was irrefutable. Rick chose to think of it as the Gospel According to Saint Pancras. Even so, it was inconceivable that Greg could really want to go home on the cusp of success.

“You lived in that rat hole of an apartment with us since we got here, and now we’re finally getting some place, you wanna go back to Riverside?”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Riverside!”

“Everything's wrong with Riverside, it's the centre of nowhere, Greg, the dead centre, with the accent on dead. Riverside is the ass- end of everywhere.”

Moe took Rick’s lead. Greg clearly hadn’t thought this through. “Yeah, this is London, man. If we can make it here we can make it anywhere, it’s like New York only without indoor plumbing.”

“Yeah, right! Make a gag outta it but I gotta go home. I’m getting drafted.”

“You’re going home because you’re getting drafted?” That was a possibility that even the most open-minded would consider a bit flaky. “Have you lost you friggin; mind?”

“It’s not a joke, man. I gotta go home. I’m sorry guys, really. But my folks already sent me the ticket. I leave Sunday night.”

The silence returned. No Greg meant no band and no contract. They’d all be going home to be drafted. For all the desperate moments of misery they’d shared in London and in California, for all the freezing nights with empty stomachs, and the wasted performances in front of unreceptive ingrates in echoing little West End clubs, for all the hopelessness and fear of failure there had always been the band. Never had a whole been so much stronger than the sum of its parts. So long as the five of them had been working towards a goal – first gig, first demo recording, first management deal, the move across the Atlantic – so long as they’d been working towards something together, the bad times had been bearable. But now?

“I’m sorry to be the voice of doom,” Nigel offered. “But you signed a contract. I strugged to pay your bills for these months and if you don’t turn up on Monday you owe me back rent and the money I advanced you.”

Glenn rarely lost his temper, or, if he did, no one heard of it. Glenn rarely spoke. But this was the last straw. The loss of Greg was the loss of a limb and all their manager could do was moan about the paltry few hundred pounds he’d invested in them. “Fuck you, Nigel. For the last eight weeks we’ve eaten the food the chip shop on the corner leaves in the garbage when it shuts. Then we burn the newspaper that shit comes wrapped in because there are refrigerators warmer than that apartment and we can’t afford to heat it any other way.”

“And who’d you get to decorate that place? The Luftwaffe?” Moe added. “You shoulda been paying us to live there.”

“Very well, so you didn’t like the flat. And if you fail this audition I’ll lose a few shillings but you’ll also lose your one chance at a career that could see you being the next Rolling Stones. So, you talk to Greg and make sure you’re ready for Monday’s audition or you’re finished in this town.”

But no one talked to Greg. There was no point; Greg hadn’t changed his mind in living memory. Rick kicked open the fire-escape and wandered along Wardour Street in search of the one point of British culture he’d felt truly au fait with – a quiet pub with a friendly barman.

“I’ll take a pint of that,” he said, pointing at the plastic keg on the bar. The barman looked surprised, possibly at the American accent; possibly at someone ordering for Watney’s Red Barrel while apparently sober. Either way, he accepted Rick’s last two shillings, opened the tap and allowed the gas-assisted brew to fill a greasy glass. Grudgingly, he dropped six pence change in the puddle of stale bitter slowly soaking into the elbow of Rick’s best and only shirt.

Rick sipped slowly and deliberately. He was aware that the beer would taste like something cooked up in a High School Science lab, but all British beer was like that. Red Barrel had the redeeming feature of being refrigerated, though its sour aftertaste actually preceded and overwhelmed what the manufacturer’s wryly claimed to be a “a subtle hoppy flavour with a hint of oak casks.” If he lived to be a hundred Rick knew he’d see the inside of an oak cask before anything Watney’s sold.

“Wot a’ ye neckin’ that shite fo', man?” The newcomer had a tattered leather jacket and jeans and he was looking at Rick with genuine concern.

“I’m sorry,” Rick said patiently, taking his time to enunciate. “But I only speak English.”

“Ha-way, man. I just seen ye in The Marquee, ye wor fuckin’ class!”

Rick smiled. He had no idea what the guy was saying but he’d picked out the words “Marquee” and “class”. There was some sort of irony in making fans just as the band was falling apart, even if they had incomprehensible accents from Denmark, or Bulgaria, or somewhere.

“Let us buy ye a proper bevvie. Hey, Ken, two bottles a Dog an’ hoy ‘em outta the back a the fridge this time.”

The Pig and Whistle, Wardour Street, London, 1966 Two brown bottles appeared on the bar. One of them instantly began to empty itself into the stranger. Rick sipped his experimentally, it tasted like a hangover wrapped up in a headache but he drank it anyway. He was keeping an open mind. Besides, it was free. “Cheers, Ah’m Tony, by the way. Ah’ve never seen a band like ye lot before. All that feedback at the end. Man, it was like pulsing in me heed.”

“Yeah,” Rick agreed noncommittally. More of the man’s words were beginning to make it through to his brain but too quickly for him to make sense of them.

“An’ the lights!”

“The lights?”

“They wor like vibratin’ with the feedback! How the fuck d’ye de that?”

Maybe the alcohol was kicking in, but suddenly he understood. “The lights are Glenn’s idea. He wires them to the amps somehow. It changes the power supply with the pitch. Or the current. Maybe it’s the voltage. I’m just the singer, you know? If I had any less technical know-how I’d be the drummer.”

“Fair enough, an’ ye’s all Yanks, like? How de ye’s like England? Must be pretty weird bein’ surrounded by bleedin’ Cockneys all tha time.” Rick took a wild guess at what Tony was talking about.

“It’s okay, I guess. People are people, you know. Cockneys seem a bit glass half empty compared to home. Californians are more glass half full kind of people, if you see what I’m saying.”

“Nah, not really. I’m more of a glass too small kind of bloke. Let’s see what we can de about that.”

Another two bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale appeared and disappeared quickly. Rick was determined to take advantage before Tony’s generosity wore off. There wouldn’t be any afternoon drinking when he was knee-deep in mud in some Alabama marine-corps training camp. Make the best of your remaining days of freedom, he told himself, even if that means spending an hour getting drunk with an unintelligible stranger. How open-minded was that!

“Man, ye wor fuckin’ brilliant. That’s exactly how ah hear music in me heed but every band ah’ve ever been in’s been shite”

“You’re in a band?”

“Naw, nay any more. Ah keep quittin’. Ah don’t think Ah’ll be satisfied until Ah’m in the fuckin’ Yardbirds an’ every band Ah’m in ends up soundin’ like the fuckin’ Tremeloes. Ah mean, who the fuck wants to play guitar to “Twelve steps to Love” every fuckin’ night? Or ever, like, come to that.” Maybe this was fate. Rick didn’t like to think that his fate revolved around some dude in a scuzzy bars. On the other hand, the alternative was turning down a record contract and going back to the US. And Riverside had been sadly dull when he was seventeen or eighteen, going home now to admit failure was unthinkable.

“Are you any good?”

It was a rude question. But Rick felt safe. The British pretty nearly always misinterpreted rudeness in Americans as blunt honesty.

“Good? Ah’m fuckin’ great, man. Ah mean, Ah cannae play steel guitar like yer man back there. But, other than that Ah’m hotter than shit!” Rick took that as a yes. He downed the remaining brown ale and slid the empty bottle back across the bar. Ken, now that it was clear who was paying, looked at him with even less interest than before.

“My new friend here is going to join the greatest band the world has yet to hear.”

Tony opened his leather jacket and pointed to one of the pockets. “Direct from your neck o’ the woods, pal. We’s gonnin’ on a trip an’ the charabanc leaves now!”

Rick modeled a look somewhere between bewilderment and fear. He could only hope that Tony wasn’t about to suggest something dreadful. Ken leant across the bar to press the packets of peanuts into his hands.

“I believe he means he has some American acid but, if it turns out a dud, come back after nine and knock on the kitchen door.

Lee Bridge Road, Hackney, London, 1966.

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