Chapter Nine

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From the diary of Leo Harwood

Amber has just gone out to the beach, it’s midday and I’ve just woken up. My body feels like it’s been run over by a steamroller, my head literally feels like it’s booming – I can feel the blood pulsing around my brain.

Last night’s gig was quite something. Really quite something. We drove over to Brocksburn in Jimmy’s van. Amber fell asleep in the back straight away. I can remember when she was little how she would fall asleep as soon as we got in the car. She had really curly hair then and it would hang over her face and her mouth would fall open. When she woke up I would tease her and tell her she looked like she was trying to catch flies. As little sisters go, I have to admit, she was cute.

She did exactly the same today in the back of the van, mouth hanging open, snoring a bit. She must have slept most of the way there, despite the fact that Jimmy and I played songs loudly in the front.

Jimmy had a load of new CDs he’s just bought from Lazy Suzie – a music shop in Ellwood, the one right next to the park. Jimmy’s musical tastes are, to be honest, utterly bizarre and sometimes I wonder how he even came to be in our band.

Well it was probably because there are only three drummers in Ellwood (below the age of forty five). One constantly smells of body odor and the other one is tone deaf but enjoys beating out a rhythm now and then. So yeah, Jimmy it was. In fact, he only learnt the drums so he could be in The Dovetails.

He was in my class at school and would always sit next to me and stuff, pretty much all the time. He got his Mum to buy him a drum kit within weeks of me declaring I was forming a band. Within a few months of almost freakish dedication to learning to play them, he actually became good. I now rate him as one of the best drummers in the district.

At the moment Jimmy is going through a jazz phase – you know, the kind of twiddly jazz that goes up and down and all over the place. I can listen to it, I can listen to anything. Any music is better than no music. But after a while all the twists and turns get on my nerves.

‘Can we turn this off?’ I said to Jimmy.

He swiveled his head towards me, hands clamped tightly onto the huge steering wheel.

‘Why?’ he said.

‘Well, er, it’s a bit much this improvised jazz stuff after a while.’

‘Pah!’ he said, eyebrows knitted.

‘What?’ I said. ‘I like a song to say something to me! This song is on the road to nowhere, my friend.’

‘See Leo, this is where you need to open your mind, man. Learn something from these guys. Brilliant guys.’

‘Like what?’ I said.

‘You have to feel the music, like, don’t think your way through it,’ he said.

‘Right, that’s it, you spaz,’ I said, reaching to the CD player and pressing the eject button.

‘What else have you got?’ I said.

‘Oh, man!’ said Jimmy. ‘I was listening to that.’

I laughed when I saw the disbelieving look on his face.

‘Here,’ I said. ‘Let’s listen to Moses and the Firecrackers, these guys are great.’

‘Suppose so,’ he said, sighing and shaking his head.

The whole journey was pretty much like that the whole way – both of us requesting songs, arguing about them, singing along and putting on more songs.

We eventually got to the hotel and dropped off our stuff. The next morning Amber and I stayed in the hotel room, practicing. Amber kept jumping all over the place, hysterical with excitement. Once we got to The Crystal Bowl for the sound check there was this odd guy there called Damart who seemed to be a fan of ours or something. Sort of a strange chap but nice enough. He knew exactly who we were and kept saying we already had his vote.

He told us a bit about the judges, none of whom I have ever heard of my life. There were these little pictures of their heads on the poster – it made them look like a set of fannies but I wanted to know more about them because I wanted to win.

One was the lead singer of a rock band Mad Machine – I never heard of them. I checked with Jimmy, whose knowledge of music is encyclopedic but no – he drew a blank as well. Then there was Jenny Smith who, by looking at the poster, looked about fifty and wore glasses. She looked like she worked in the local bank or something.

Finally there was Kevin Cousins – some shining star from Bradford apparently. Again this guy was not on my map. I asked Jimmy and he had actually heard of him. He said he was a cheesy guy who warbles on about love and stuff.

So yeah, all I knew at this point was that this was our first proper gig, not holed up in some pokey pub in Ellwood, and it was time for us to come out on top. I didn’t find out much about the other bands so I waited patiently all day, getting a bite to eat with the rest of the guys, doing the sound check, getting dressed at the hotel – my God, Amber didn’t half run around at that point. And finally, it got to 9pm and it was time for us to head back to the club where the competition was about to start.

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