Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"tHe FaBulOUs cOmEBacK" Author Sin Sai-man

YOU MUST HAVE MISSED IT/THE FABULOUS COMEBACK

Five men, for they were far from the boys that they’d once been, stood on stage. For the record, they weren’t pretty in any obvious way. The bass player looked impossibly mean; he was tall, skeleton thin, badly balding with chunks of ugly brown/grey curl plastered back across his pink pate. The further his eyes had sunk into his skull, the more pronounced his big, boney, nose had become and the effect was hawkish, evil, malcontent, as if all three stars of The Good, Bad and the Ugly had morphed in to one. And he’d chosen, for his band’s first TV appearance in fifteen years, to wear, but what else!, a shower cap and bathrobe.

Standing in front of him on the stage, the dark haired guitarist. His lank locks hung round his shoulders and he wasn’t wearing a top. He, too, was skeletal, count his ribs, but his face was more boyish, with a hookish, dripping sort of nose, and he was wearing drainpipe trousers that were made out of LED lights. His lower half throbbed like Christmas tree lights and he was smoking a joint.

To the right of the stage, as the main camera panned briefly round on the group for an instant, the blonde guitarist stood legs akimbo in black leather. His features were pronounced like a dog, an Alsatian, and he had a weird animal magnetism. His eyes were in another place altogether and he stuck out his tongue, waggled it and winked.

The singer stood in the middle of the, stage front, with his back to the camera. He too was naked to the waist. He had on pair of grey slacks and stack-heeled, winkle-picker boots which were split down the middle, half red and half black.

Then, in this weird lull after the end of one act and the beginning of another, the camera now beaming back down on Jools Holland, as he pre-ambled his introduction, the singer began to scream.

His face was contorted horribly, wet-looking as if he’d been crying, and he was manically eye-balling the drummer, whose village simpleton, bowl-cut framed, pudgy, red, alcoholic face registered a look of pantomime fear that was all too real.

“Are you watching mamma?” the singer screamed and he began to smash the drummer’s cymbals with his microphone, “mamma, mum, mother …” he was repeating, still wildly eye-balling the drummer.

“Fuck off, where’s Little Richard?” the Good, the Bad and the Ugly bass player announced in an amplified Keith Richard croak, leaning up to the dark-haired guitarist’s microphone.

The singer stopped banging on the cymbal and turned round to face the audience. He had lost it in every conceivable way but, weirdly, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. Beneath his low slung grey slacks, he had on a pair of vivid yellow pyjama bottoms, the side’s tugged up around his hips to make a frontal V and accentuate what he had left of a physique, which wasn’t much.

The main camera, however, was still on Jools, who had been clearly thrown off his stroke, aghast at this rude intrusion, his mouth open, but, for now, struck dumb. No such problem for the singer, who, wrapping himself around his own microphone on the stand at the front of the stage, began spieling : “Yeah, hey, you, fuckface, where’s Little Richard? Where’s big dick? Up your arse? I can’t hear you. This is in C, why don’t you play along, Hey, I’m your African friend. Where’s your motorbike? Brum brum brum,”

All this time, as the singer ranted, on camera, Jools’ face frozen in horror, mouth open, eyes wide, looking foolish. Then, out of smooth velvet character, his body jerked like comedy, like a marionette tugged violoently, as the dark-haired guitarist start to slash out a blizzard of far-too loud chords, all to no discernable end, but quite impressive. This was enough to frighten the already terrified drummer to quickly follow, bump, bump, bump, beating out this horrendously pathetic rehearsed pattern to which no one else was playing along,

Then the bass, even louder than the guitar, started burping and farting out a tune, quickly recognisable as an old anthem from Grease, the musical. This prompted the blonde-haired guitarist to let out some ear-piercing solo lines that started, stopped, began again, confused, as if searching for a vein in a body already full of junk.

Over the top of this cacophony, our man, the singer, was still screaming himself horse, in total meltdown. “As God is my witness,” he screeched, ‘this is for you mamma”. A pause, then, “Hey, slick the fucking hair” (the diatribe, if you watched on TV, Jools, deep inhale, now finally realising was being aimed at him). “Look at my sax, you doo-wop fucking bitch, I am your Lord, I am you’re African child.”

A breath, a heave, ”uuuurgh”, and now a more random spiel from the singer: ”Jesus Christ was a faggot, Jewboy, nigger cunt…” and, finally, just chanting — “fabulous, fabulous, fabulous” — the name of the band,

We were still in close on Jools — deep disgust writ large across the TV host’s face as he looked about for help, his brain racing to formulate a suitably tailor-made witticism in response to this hooliganism — as you heard the band kick in to a blatant, but exhilarating none the less, Sex Pistols pastiche. Razor sharp but bludgeoning.

The camera cut to the stage and, on the one, the Good, the Bad and Ugly swung his bass guitar in an attempted throw a shape and the end of it smashed the singer on the back of the head. Some start.

The singer bowed down and held his hand to the impact. Then pushed up his hand to the camera. Triumphant. Blood. He emitted a piggish grunt and then started into an approximation of that Iggy Pop dance of his, but so fantastically uncouth and wrong, it moved beyond tribute.

He began spitting out lyrics. ‘Tonight.” he drilled like a sergeant major via Johnny Rotten, finally looking direct to camera, even offering up a bloody, camp salute, “we got an Australian queen or some old has-been.” The Pistol thrash repeated itself, with only the blonde-haired guitarist now offering any real discord from the familiarity of the rip-off tune, although, at that, it was a tremendously loud nail-scrapingly off key attempt to follow his band-mates,

“Tonight,” again a salute, “the prize is cash for a hundred sick kids with a reddy rash. In the back pocket of whatever’s fash”.

Now, the drummer, for the first time, began to exert himself over the din, beating himself louder and louder, more dumb, dumb bumb bumb bumb bumb bumb bumb bumb, up and up and up to what he hoped might be a chorus line, until even until the dark-haired guitarist realised something musical might be happening here and held back his attack waiting for the big chorus chant, dwaaaaaaannnnnnnggggggg.

But the singer was still lost in his own madness, and where he should have been singing, he began kicking over the monitor in front of the stage and then kicked it again until it fell off the edge and banged and sparked on the floor. He drove his microphone stand in to the other stage monitor, smashing it fiercely with no hint of pantomime, again and again,

In all this, the blonde guitarist, who was looking cuter and cuter by the second, stopped strangling his guitar and hissed out, to his microphone, “It’s a showbiz show.” He then stuck out his tongue and winked.

The Sex Pistol-stylee onslaught began up again, all five men thrusting, banging, rutting, in unison; even the blonde-haired guitarist finding the pattern of things. Yet, now, before new life could leap out of this ancient, dead beast, which it was surely poised to do, we saw these two large, shaved-headed, security men approaching the stage. They had the word “crew” written on the back of their black bomber jackets.

In the moment you registered this, the singer pulled his penis out of his slacks, out of his pyjama bottoms, and began pissing, first on the stage and then, turning round, straight on to a big amplifier stood at the back of the stage. The amplifier fizzled and phutted (cutting out the dark-haired guitarist’s rhythm) and then there was just the bashing sound of drums, the blonde-guitarist making faces and weird noises and the Good, Bad and Ugly playing up again with Saturday Night Fever for a few bars, before a loud silence.

Our showered-capped, bath-robed hero was the first to sense the imminent danger and in a clean easy motion swung full-blooded at the first big ape up climbing on stage with his bass guitar. He caught him flush in the face and rather resonantly knocked him clean out, blood arcing out of his big fat mush, the sweetest note of the night.

The singer, sensing pain, did a weird zig-zag sort of run, avoiding ape two and legging it into the audience and beyond, leaving the dark-haired guitarist to take the brunt. Poor Marty was smashed in the face with a big fat forearm, thumped in the mid-riff by a huge sovereign-ringed fist and then, finally, dragged off the stage by his hair to an unseen kicking that left him heading straight for the local infirmary.

The drummer, heroically, began to boot and kick and hit all his drummy stuff in frenzy. The bass player threw his instrument toward the audience, gave everyone watching the finger, came close to pouting and huffed off toward the dressing room. The blond-haired guitarist just stood there, his guitar emitting violent feedback. He winked, licked his lips and pulled his tongue out for a final waggle and then turned his black leather back — and, it was over; 53 seconds. Just perfect.

Later, around 11 that night, all the band, but Marty, had made it safely back to their manager’s big house in Islington. They’d simply left behind their wrecked equipment and the hire van at the filming studios and caught various cabs, lifts and tubes back there.

The singer, Simian, and bass player, Ronnie, already on the second of bottle of red, babbled tipsily about their, as they saw it, heroics and the impact the televised performance would have on the big comeback.

Jimmy, their pseudo Jewish sharpie manager, was on the telephone, presumably to the hospital, for his look suggested bad news. His shook his long curly haired head and talked quietly to make himself beyond earshot.

Marty, just then, was being discharged with 17 stitches in a head wound, and wondering where the f*** were his mates as he walked in to the heavy rain on this desolate night on this deserted road looking for a taxi to hail.

The Jools Holland show was, of course, pre-recorded, and it was some chinless director from the BBC on the other end of the telephone, letting Jimmy know Fabulous were going to be cut from transmission. That, Jimmy knew, spelled the end of this little game.

He’d only got involved again out of a sense of lost youth. He’d managed the band in a disastrous cavalier fashion during their meteoric rise and sudden implosion 15 years earlier. His post-band successes in the world of lad’s mags, had made him fat, rich (hence the house) but rather boring, predictable. Now in his mid-40s, chance encounter with his old mate Simian had set the whole reunion thing rolling. He’d pulled the strokes to get them on the Jools show.

Simian looked at him cradling the phone. He was so much fatter now and the wild, wreckless spark had been replaced by endless corporate horseshit speak. He recalled his 20-year-old self, sleeping on Jimmy’s couch and nicking bits out of Jimmy’s then envied wardrobe. But since they’d met up again he hadn’t seen him wear anything at all covetable, more laughable, his fat arse squeezed in to Levi’s and crappy shirts. Okay, that one tie was alright. Still, it was good, that he’d talked him in to this. He had the bigger contacts and lots of spare loot.

Ronnie was still talking about something big starting up all over again for the band tonight, when James put the phone down. “They’ve decided to pull you,” he said. ‘It’s over.”

Quietly, without anyone noticing, the drummer started to cry.

“Gimme the phone,” said Simian.

“They’ll not listen to you,” said Jimmy.

“Hello, Tony, yeah, look they booted us off. We trashed the place, they turned the dogs on us and Marty’s been hospitalised. Jools says we’re the worse band he’s ever seen. The BBC banned us for life. It was great. We really stuck it up ‘em. The vilest, most hated band in the UK – still!”

A pause.

“No, no-one,” Simon continued. “Grab some stills off what’s-her-name at the BBC, I’ll bike over some old snaps, I’ll say whatever you want me to, make it up, yeah. Hey Jimmy, what’s that cunt at the BBC called, yeah, Glass, William Glass, he said “they are ‘he most repugnant spectacle the BBC have ever witnessed, a vile cesspit of incompetence and arrogance, they called Jools a baby f***er and threatened to kill him, the security acted in defence of Jools, they got what they deserved”. Listen Shake’s in hospital, yeah, 46 stitches, broken ribs, possible brain damage’. Laughter.

At 7 the next morning, he was at the newsagents, still a little drunk. He grabbed the Mail, missed it on the first flick through, his stomach sinking and half thinking how nice it would be just to head back home, north, forget this madness. Then his eye caught hold of it, and BEJEJUS, Tony had done him proud. “There you go,” said Simian throwing down the entire stock of the local newsagents Dail Mail on the kitchen table in front of Jimmy. 26 copies.

Page 17 and 18, a lovely spread: “Worse than the Sex Pistols — Pissing rock band banned from BBC”. There was a great picture of Ronnie hammering the security guy and another of Simian with his cock out pissing. They’d pixellated his cock. The copy was, well what could you hope offa Tony, a horrendous mish-mash of the discussion they’d had the previous night. It didn’t matter, although, Simian noted, Tony had done him a big favour knocking a few years off his actual age, the word was out.

From there, their day just got better and better. By 9am the Guardian and BBC websites were carrying versions of the Jools’ event and carrying sketchy outlines of the band’s history. A couple of noted music hacks had crawled out of bed to supply quotes, either damning or praising the group’s past and present.

Jimmy was quickly rewriting their future — and their past. It was easy to forget, looking at him eating a packet of crisps and slurping tea totally respectable, that he’d started out as a drugging and drinking Gonzo music journo at the NME.

He whipped up a press release in half and hour that laid it all out — and acting as his own secretary for the first time in years and got it out on the news wires.

The band had formed in 1990 when Simian was teenage music journo, Marty a raw war photographer, bass player Ronnie an underworld heavy, blonde-haired guitarist, Russ, a porno model and drummer Bobby, a dustman. They’d recorded one legendary limited edition single and then set about causing disgust up and down the country, proudly banned from almost every venue they set foot in. They’d generated enough press coverage to paper the Albert Hall (nice touch), taken a bulldozer round to EMI records and destroyed a corner of their first floor with it. They’d turned down millions of pounds in recording contracts in favour of working with Pete Waterman on an album that was never officially released. Above all else, they were the most hated band in Britain. From start to finish they’d been together six months. In every single way, this was high art.

Now 18 years later, as they had agreed and planned from the beginning, they had reconvened to do it all over again — and all exactly the same, except mortar rockets were now mentioned in place of bulldozers. One single, six months. They were shopping for producers. It was called Even More Fabulous Than Before. Jools Holland was an inconsequential ivory botherer and would live to regret his decision to ban the band. A comeback gig was being planned at a secret venue.

For the rest of the morning, Jimmy handled phone calls from the nationals. They all wanted to interview the band and grab an exclusive. He played it coy at first, asking about copy control and photographers. But soon he was talking hard cash, how much? The Mirror offered £5,000. He asked them to bike it round, cash. The Sun said they could do £25,000 to include a News of the World splash too, Bike it round, cash, Jimmy said.

The NME wanted to know more about the band’s recording plans for their website (no cash), the Guardian and Independent were offering up sympathetic interviewers for profiles (no cash) and there was a harsh argument involving the Daily Mail editor, who felt the story was his and why the hell should he goddam have to pay, although £10,000 he offered in the end. “Bike it round, cash,” Jimmy said.


Marty had spent the night at his flat in South London. He lived now in the Philippines with his wife and young child and rented out the flat to a couple of fashion students. It was the same old grot hole but he couldn’t face the rest of the band in Islington and wanted someone to fuss over him.

When he woke up there was blood on his pillow and his head throbbed. He had taken most persuading among the group that this reunion lark was worth the while and now he was deeply regretting it. “Same old bullshit, he was thinking, “ Simian’s a talentless tw*t and just causes chaos to cover up for the fact. There was no way Jools would run the performance and they were f***ed before they’d even begun”. He began to think about the sun and his wife.

He got up and went to the to the kitchen to start cooking up his morning liver. He’d drowned his sorrows after he came back from hospital, mixing vodka with the heavy painkillers he was administered. He was now shaking, hunched up in pain. Marty was 48 but could on a good day pass for the 35 he was pretending to be. Now he looked about 70.

He turned on the radio. Five Live news. “A dead baby, blah blah blah, a teenage murder, blah, obesity concerns, blah, some numbskull footballer on a rape charge …”. Christ, what a godawful country, so glad he’d quit it.

“Now in entertainment news, Sadie”.

“ Yes, thanks Chris, a rock band who claim to be a piece of modern art are being called the most hated band in the country after an outrageous performance on the Jools Holland show. Fabulous, who briefly gained notoriety in the early 90s, have been banned by the BBC after urinating on stage and threatening to kill music show host Jools Holland. The band claim guitarist Marty Chumlick is fighting for his life after being heavily beaten by BBC security guards. The group’s manager, former lad’s mag boss, Jimmy Mutter, has added to the controversy by claiming the band have a cache of mortar attack missiles and are targeting record labels. A BBC spokesman has said the security men acted in self - defence after one of the band attacked a guard with his guitar.”

He tried to call the Jimmy’s home number. Engaged. Mobile. Off. Simian’s mobile. Off. Ronnie’s. Off. Russ. Off. Bobby. Off.

“Fuck,” he shouted hurling the phone handset against the wall. 35 minutes later, he was scrambling out a taxi, eager more than anything to put a light to the joint he’d rolled in the back of the cab.

Inside the house, the cunts were in the front room watching BBC News. Jimmy was in the kitchen on the phone. He heard him say: “No, just Simian, he’s the only one who looks half way decent these days” and put the phone down

“Who was that?” Marty asked.

“It doesn’t matter, my little Chumlick, all that needs concern you is this.” He gestured to the table and on it were bundles on £50 notes. “Count it” he laughed, “£40,000 for a morning’s work, not bad.” Then, almost concerned, “Jesus, did they have to shave half your hair off?”

Ronnie wandered in and said; “I’ll have mine now, I’m off. Giz a look then Marty, fuck, nasty, wanna lay off the drugs for a while …. here.” And he handed him a wrap of cocaine.

Ronnie then began a row about the cash split, Jimmy blabbering on about expenses and how it would be best if … this fast reached the point where violence looked likely, until Simian took hold of the cash and handed Ron his sixth of £40k — 7K. “There you go, Bobby can’t count very well can he? And there’ll be plenty more from where that came from. Fuck six months, we’ll clean up in a week.”

Marty scuttled over to the pile of cash. “10 for me, you cunts, look at my fucking head.” Simian took £6k for himself and gave Bobby and Russ, £6k each. That left £5k for Jimmy.

“You don’t fucking need it, as well,” he said looking at Jimmy. “Now let’s start earning us some real money.” He then went to the wall where the telephone socket was, holding the knife he’d been slicing melon with and jammed it straight in, ripped its guts out madly.

He made the rest of them hand over their mobile phones, dramatically dropping them in the boiling kettle. “We’re like Kraftwerk from now on, communication by fax only. Kling Klang Klong.”

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