I submitted this story for my last Creative Writing deadline and got a decent mark, so I thought I’d upload it.
By the way, if you don’t mind giving me some feedback on my stories then please read AUTOMATON first, that story is for my next deadline. Thanks!
I entered a 50-word story competition last month (you can see my entries here) and ‘Newspaper Story’ was one of the winners! It’ll be published in the spring issue of Tremors magazine.
Band Name Generator
‘Alright guys, go.’ Recording begins, the band’s first live take. Greg is on guitar and vocals, Paul on drums and Steve on bass. Clive is in the control room. Together they are Band Name Generator. Apart they are a shop assistant, a third-year music student, the award-winning manager and producer for Cover Version Records, and Steve.
Greg forgets the second verse and sings what Clive calls ‘hipster scat’, a mixture of vague mumbling and sighs. He also messes up his guitar solo and kicks Paul’s drum-kit in frustration.
‘Sorry,’ he says.
19th February 2112. Band Name Generator have recorded their first demo.
‘OK, that’s enough,’ Clive says through the window of the control room. His voice is followed by a haze of static until he thumps the intercom. It’s one of the drawbacks of old equipment and techniques. ‘Well, how do you think it went?’
Greg sighs. ‘Pretty shit, thanks to my solo.’
‘What’s with the hipster scat?’ Paul asks.
‘Hipster shit, more like,’ Steve says, fiddling with one of Paul’s drumsticks.
‘Scat means shit, Steve,’ Clive says, ‘that’s the joke.’
‘I thought my lyrics were fine. Maybe you didn’t get them; they’re supposed to be ironic.’
‘Can’t you just sing about chicks and shit like that?’ Paul says.
‘But… that would be shit.’
‘Hey, no-one’s shit, guys,’ Clive says, ‘but Paul’s idea isn’t so bad, Greg. We’ll have a ten minute break, then I want some finalised lyrics.’
‘You’re shitting me?’
‘Enough with the shit!’ Hiss of static. Thump.
Greg sits in the corner with his notebook while Paul and Steve go out.
‘Chicks… and shit like that.’ If Clive doesn’t like their songs then he’ll just make them play someone else’s. He’s already tried to get them to cover Visually Impaired Placenta’s ‘Cats Don’t Reproduce Asexually’. Greg isn’t willing to let that happen.
He begins to write.
‘Greg?’ Paul says. ‘You alright? You look stoned.’
Clive looks up from his magazine. ‘Stoned? Guys, you’re not famous yet, you can’t–’
‘No, I’m not stoned…’ He looks at what he’s written.
‘Did you finish the lyrics?’ Steve asks.
‘Yeah. They just… came to me.’ He holds out his notebook. Steve takes it and reads.
‘It’s about a girl,’ he says. Clive gives a cheer.
There are two minutes of noise and take two is done.
‘Much better, guys,’ Clive says. ‘Greg, I’m all over the new lyrics. Girls are cool. Days with girls are cool. Nights with girls are cool. Everyone can relate to that.’
‘Paul can’t,’ Steve says, ‘He’s gay.’
‘Leave the homosexual demographic for later. Let’s not try everything on your first demo. Now play it again and this time I’ll record you.’
‘What?’ Greg runs up to the window. ‘You weren’t recording us before? You said you were recording us before!’
‘Do you think I’m–’ Static. Thump. ‘Do you think I’m made of recording tape? It’s not easy to come by. Most people don’t even know what ‘analogue’ is. You know my niece thought a guitar was just an app for her phone? Do you guys understand how unique my studio is?’
‘Ah, fuck it. What’s the point?’ Clive throws himself back in his chair. ‘Download some make-a-band software and sort it out yourselves.’
‘Come on, Clive.’
Clive sulks. Greg watches him in the control room. He’s sure Clive will be back with them in a minute; he just has his moments. He looks at all the band posters on the walls. Ice-Cream Dynamo. WLTM. There’s A Formula. Queen. That one is so old it should be donated to a museum, though it’d probably disintegrate if it was moved. Clive has told Greg about all these bands that no-one else remembers, and about other bands lost to time that even he has never heard.
Greg is going to do better than they did. His music will last forever. His music will be like nothing made before.
Band Name Generator are going to make a name for themselves.
Clive sighs and looks down at his replica Led Zepellin t-shirt. The words and colours have been carefully faded. ‘Alright guys, apologies accepted. Let’s go.’
Greg opens with the guitar riff and the others join in. ‘I’m not. Content. To be with you in the daytime,’ he sings, and music history is born.
Born again, anyway.
Band Name Generator change their name to Alien Sky Satellite and then back again, the only difference being that they have less respect for Steve’s ideas in future. They release their album, titled ‘Omen’, and Clive is pleased with the sales. After thirty years the world is starting to consider guitars cool again.
Greg wants more than decent sales, though; he wants to win over the critics. This is easier said than done and many critics pan their ‘newfangled rock and roll style’.
‘That’s fine,’ Greg says when they read the reviews, ‘it means we’re ahead of the curve.’
Other critics respond differently, however. One says ‘their music is dated. Like necromancers they have defiled Rock’s corpse and set it walking again’.
‘Just what do they want?’ Greg asks Clive. ‘I wish they’d make up their minds.’
The band begin a tour supporting King Queen, another neo-retro rock band, and release ‘Give (Me)’ as a single. It debuts at number 38 in the singles chart. Clive attributes this success to his idea of releasing the song before Father’s Day; many of the band’s fans are middle-aged men in Steel Armadillo t-shirts trying to relive their youths.
The band give an interview just before their first show.
Interviewer: ‘What’s that thing you do in ‘Give (Me)’ about two-thirds of the way through?’
Greg: ‘Uh. The guitar solo?’
‘Don’t let it bother you, guys,’ Clive says afterwards. ‘Oh, and, by the way, what would you say to DJ wakawaka doing a post-industrialsynth dubwave remix of ‘Give (Me)’?’
‘Absolutely not,’ Greg says.
‘How much do we get?’ Paul earns a glare from Greg and apologises. ‘Though I do quite like post-industrialsynth dubwave,’ he adds.
The first show goes well and the band regain some confidence for gig number two. They sit backstage, waiting for ‘And Others’ to finish their set, when a man comes in without knocking, a brightly-wrapped box in hand.
‘From someone outside,’ he says, handing the box to Steve. Then he walks out, leaving the smell of stale sweat in his wake.
‘Ooh,’ Steve says, ‘a present?’
Paul’s eyes are wide. ‘Woah, this means we have fans.’
Steve opens the box. ‘Oh shit,’ he says, and faints.
They take the box to the venue’s management, thinking it to be a joke.
‘Who gave you the box?’ someone asks.
‘Um. A guy. Dressed in black. He smelled.’
This is received with blank stares. No such person works there.
The band try to forget the incident, though Steve sees the words ‘I know You’ written in blood in his nightmares, clumps of hair sticking to the letters.
It’s the last show of the tour. The band go onstage and open with ‘Envy the Hopeless’, followed by ‘Pikachu is God’. Some of the audience listen, and a few even cheer at the opening riff for ‘Give (Me)’. One person is particularly unimpressed, however. Greg spots him in the middle of the crowd. He doesn’t nod his head or half-dance; he stands still, a head taller than everyone else, mouthing the words to the song. His eyes are locked on Greg.
Afterwards Clive congratulates the band on another great performance. ‘Grab yourselves some drinks,’ he says. ‘You deserve it.’
It turns out they have to buy their own drinks, so they send Steve out to the shop. He goes out the back of the building and follows the security guard’s directions to the nearest off-license.
On his way back a man steps out of the alley in front of him.
Steve returns with beer and a guest.
‘Uh. Who’s he?’ Greg asks.
Steve whimpers. The guest says nothing. He stands in the doorway emitting body odour and the threat of violence.
‘Hey,’ Paul says, ‘isn’t that–’
The man tears his t-shirt down the front. Words are tattooed on his chest:
‘That doesn’t even make sense,’ Paul observes.
The man speaks, his voice hoarse. ‘Forty years ago I had a band called You. We released a single called ‘I’.’
‘Those are terrible names,’ Greg says.
‘That was the only thing we ever released, with a b-side called ‘Give (Me)’.’
‘I’m proud of my songs,’ the man whispers. ‘Very proud.’
Greg joins the others in backing away. ‘You know, two bands can have songs with the same name.’
‘It wasn’t just the same name,’ the man says. He takes a penknife from his pocket and eases the blade out with his thumb and forefinger. ‘It was the same song.’
The man lunges forward. Steve screams ‘psycho killer’ and runs for help, or perhaps just runs away. Greg avoids the knife but Paul trips over and looks up in horror at the giant. He opens his mouth to shout as the man kneels down beside him, knife raised, but he can’t form any words.
The man falls to one side. Greg stands over him, guitar in hand.
‘Woah,’ Paul manages to say. ‘Rock and roll.’
‘Can he sue us from prison?’ Paul asks.
‘Yes,’ Clive says from behind his desk.
‘Well, at least he can’t kill us from there,’ Steve says, fiddling with Clive’s pen.
‘How can he sue us when we didn’t copy the song? I’d never heard of it before I wrote it!’ Greg says again.
‘It’s the same song,’ Clive says. ‘You must have copied it.’
No-one speaks. Paul and Steve look at Greg.
‘What? You two wrote the music!’
Clive looks at Greg. Paul and Steve look at their shoes.
‘I don’t know what to say,’ Clive says, ‘except get the fuck out of my office.’
They leave. ‘Good luck in court!’ Clive calls after them with a smile.
Band Name Generator go to a vintage record store and browse the CDs.
‘So let’s be clear: no-one copied anyone?’ Paul asks after a few minutes.
‘Who the fuck are You anyway?’ Greg says, ‘I couldn’t even google them.’
‘History is a net. Some things are caught and are remembered by future generations, while other things pass through and are forgotten. In the distant past that net was the medium of the written word. In our age that net is Google,’ Steve says.
‘Shut up, Steve,’ Paul says, flicking through the Yolk CDs again. They’re followed by Youth Army.
‘What are the chances?’ Greg mutters. How many of their other songs defy probability like ‘Give (Me)’? ‘Sympathy for Beards’? ‘Fragment (Consider Revising)’? ‘All Day and All of the Night’? The odds were small but who could tell?
‘What now?’ Paul asks Greg as they leave.
‘What can we do? Fate is against us.’
‘How about lunch?’ Steve says.
They go to a café and sit in silence, thinking about possibility. Steve rattles his teaspoon on the table and the sound is like a million monkeys working on a million typewriters.
‘What does it mean?’ Paul asks. ‘It must mean something.’
‘Some people claim that there are no original ideas,’ Steve says. ‘Maybe there were, but mankind has run out. We’ll stagnate from now on. Our time is up. With ‘Give (Me)’ we have heralded the end of humankind.’
No-one responds, but when they step outside they check the sky for judgement.