Band of Black (part 2)
by Thadd Presley
Nick was my best best friend. We grew up together in a small Wales village. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee last year on an educational exchange program just after he started his first semester in Bangor University. He wrote me once he got settled in America and told me all about the fraternity house he’d been staying in and the friends he’d made. He even told me about the new band he’d started and seemed to be boasting about all his good fortune.
I took the letter all wrong and it made me mad. The more I thought about it, the more offended I became. His new band, his amazing luck, his friends this and that. It was more than I could take. Living in a mansion filled with half naked girls and I’m still at home giving guitar lessons to twelve year old boys.
I was mad to the point my hands trembled. Tears were in my eyes.
I’d lost my friend and my band mate to this great fortunate turn of events.
These emotion quickly turned when I got near the end of the letter and he finally got around to inviting me to America. Saying in his letter that: We would join forces again and it would be like the old days.
America! I was going to America. I couldn’t believe it. The ticket would be waiting at the airport. Tears were in my eyes.
The switch of emotion from rage to elation was too much for me and for the first time in my life I had to sit down before falling over. I was so over come with sensation my legs were actually weak.
I only wished Nick could see me. What a picture it would make. His oldest friend collapsed in a chair laughing and crying at the same time. If only he could see me now.
After a moment, I put the letter to the side and just sat in the chair. My imagination took me to America. Floating before my eyes was a new city, a new stage, a new crowd of people. It was overwhelming at the least.
What would the University of Tennessee be like? Did they have a good football team? It would be American football of course. But, the local bars downtown might be the same and the crowd inside would be wanting to hear music.
Would it be anything like London’s music scene? I couldn’t imagine a club like Heaven being in Knoxville, but there might be a place like Barfly and Nick.
No matter, though, because I was going to find out for myself and Nick said his band was doing well.
So, I was going to America. I’ll play bass with Nick on the drums and everything will be just as it was before.
Before Nick left for Bangor, our band had quite a reputation in London. We were practically local punk celebrities. Many times after playing a show, I find our names spray painted on the sidewalk and walls outside the venue. The clubs didn’t seem to mind.
The letter from Nick arrived in my post in January, but it wasn’t until April that I actually leave for America.
In my heart, I was still jealous. I couldn’t imagine, after all the time Nick and I had spent together, after all the music played together, and all the time sitting in my dad’s garage, listening to records, playing until our fingers bled, that he could replace me. I remember many mornings, sun barely poking above the sea to find us arguing over fingering patterns, push each other to stretch our minds and incorporate more than fifths, but to play seconds, ninths, and flattened eleventh chords. It hurt my feelings that he was happily jamming with other people. There’s a ritual to music, it was sacred and magical, and for him to practice our sacred witchcraft with others was almost unforgivable.
In the same thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what was his new band like or if the would like me?
These questions would continue to haunt my days and nights until the day I met them in person. And there was also the point of them knew that I was coming and all the questions being reversed upon them. Were they wondering the same about me.
Although that was a distraction, it didn’t make waiting any easier.
In a sense I was scared of them. All I could imagine were cowboys and Hooters girls with attitudes much larger than they needed to be.
So, needless to say, I was reluctant and nervous to meet them. I worried about it and dreamed about how terrible it would go everyday. I was worked up into a frenzy.
On the day I was to board the plane, I hesitated.
I questioned my responsibilities.
I had been working in a London studio four days a week laying down bass tracks for various groups. It was the best playing gig I’d had all year and it was a steady gig.
I could see myself staying. I was so close to not going.
That morning I went into to work.
The entire place was surprised to see me. They knew I was going to America, so question came from every direction.
Nine A.M. came and a band called The Stevenage Three came through the door.
They took their time setting up and I noticed the guitarist had a rare guitar. For a moment, I watched him and I could feel the magic on coming off of him. I went into the studio and began to set up my gear, which only took a second.
My back was to him and he hit a note, then played a riff, then the music filled the room. It was true magic. The notes set me on fire. They made me want to be in front of an audience again. The keyboard joined in, driving the music up another dimension.
I realized in that moment that I need my own band. I would soon get bored with the studio schedule and be on the street alone. I needed to move on for my own good. I had to have a band again.
A rolling stone gathers no mass and all that, I told myself.
In truth, I think I wanted to see my best friend more than anything.
So, I laid two tracks for the band and at lunch I quit.
The studio head, who I’d only met three times before, Emmett Barrett, came down stairs and shook my hand. “You’ll be back, my boy. And I want you to come back. Do it when you’re ready and bring your band with you. We’ll cut a track that tops the charts. Now, take this.” In is hand he had an envelope. “Go get some lunch, then go see America.”
With his blessing, I went home to pack. I didn’t look in the envelope until I got home. Inside was five hundred Euros and a letter of introduction to a studio in Nashville.
The next morning, I was 35,000 feet in the air on my way to Tyson McGee airport where Nick would meet me at the gate.
I couldn’t wait to see him again.