An excerpt from a book i'm working on.
This blog is something of an experiment. A few years ago I plowed my through a first draft of a novel to the point where I was able to reach the magic 80 thousand word mark desirable for a novel.
At the start of this year I said to myself I want to get back into my reading and have gotten through three books already since Christmas. The thing with that is the same thing I get with music, when I listen to tunes I want to start playing and when I read I am inspired to write. So I opened up my manuscript and read through it, editing and amending to a point where had deleted some fifteen thousand words of junk I just did not like. Then I re-thought my approach to the story and have come up with what I think is a strong idea for a set of stories.
One thing that is often recommended to any writer when they first start out to write a book is that they regularly receive feedback from other writers and also from regular readers. So, below is a excerpt from my work in progress called SPIKE. I don't want to give too much away about the storyline but if you can read the chapter like it's the first of the book and let me know if its something you would read more of. Any critique is welcome, just don't be a dick obviously.
This is real music.
A balmy club, crammed elbow to elbow with average Joes and Joannes, bouncing in time to a beat played by a glossy chested mad man behind the sparkling chrome of a drum kit. Their hearts pulse in harmony with the rumbling bass line brought forth by the electric pink fingernails of the sultry, fishnet stocking wearing bassist. Their voices exalt the poetry as one, guided by the irrepressible howl of the frontman and his angelic roar of guitar and voice. Listening to music recordings is one thing, but the experience of watching live music in a room full of human beings is an entirely different animal. The energy in a room where live music is being enjoyed is so powerful, that I would go as far to say that even the deaf can experience the power of music without physically hearing it.
Take this, an intense live rock concert for example. Yes, the vibrations of bass which shake ones heart and propel the goosebumps to the surface of the skin can be felt at most live concerts, but the real emotions are highlighted by a force more tangible yet less physical than sound waves. This emotive stimulation comes from the freedom of spirit pouring out into the atmosphere from every punter in the room. We are, after all, sentient beings and in these highly charged euphorias a sixth sense is as profound as the other five. That impulse which has no name, that inner joyous energy, lets call it ‘Enerjoy’, connects with every other free spirit in your vicinity. From the moment the first drum is hit or the first chord is struck, there is a celebration inside your very being which is shared by everyone in the room. It is joy, it is freedom, it is love and it is real. That is why we call it ‘Real Music.’
Wether it be in an arena, club or small pub, all of the problems of the world outside will stay outside for that precious few hours. The stress of a day job is gone, that bill that needs paid is forgotten, tomorrow is on hold and every song sung collectively releases new waves of electric emotion into the air. That energy rich air is then drawn in through the outstretched arms of the free crowd and as they sing the lyrics in unity, they breathe. The crowd exhales song and inhales song, exhales energy and inhales energy and all of this in a unison made possible by the perfect timing held by the band. Each beat of bass drum is in accord with the beating hearts of the audience, each charging roar of cohesive electric guitar and bass sends waves of sound across the surface of the skin and the lead guitar draws it’s fingers down the spine hooking your delirium and pulling it to the atmosphere through your primal screams. The lights, the smoke, the heat all engage, entangle then explode, scattering magic across the sweaty brows of us ecstatically orgasmic organisms.
Hours before, the crowd are servile army ants presiding over meaningless tasks in meaningless jobs but now, with arms outstretched, suddenly everything has meaning. The outstretched arms of victory are a natural body movement for empowerment and freedom. A blind person will automatically stretch out their arms in victory, even if they have never seen the gesture to learn it. A few moments of this stance before a job interview increases your confidence and gives self empowerment and many spiritual methods require the opening of the arms to receive empowerment. The religious receive from their almighty God with their arms to the air. Inuit tribes in south America absorb energy from the sun and the elements of the earth through the palms of their hands so as not to use up their own inner battery life and have been known to live well over one hundred years old.
Wether it be the rave shapes of an Ibiza night club, the floating snake like hand movements of Bollywood dancers, the iconic rock horned hands symbol of a heavy metal gig, or the swaying waving ‘gangsta’ hands of a Hip Hop show, every person in every walk of life is energising from each other in that wide open position. In that gathering of spirits and souls enjoying this thing we love called music everyone empowers everyone. Only live music can be this profound. Only live music can intoxicate the senses in such a beautifully untamed way.
If I get this feeling as the eternal spectator, always in the crowd, imagine what it feels like from the stage. Imagine what it feels like when a room full of people you don't know are singing songs you wrote. Imagine being the main man on this particular stage. Black jeans, black shirt, cherry red Doc Martins, long hair drenched from the exertion of performance, sweat dripping onto his face, rolling down off his chin and landing on the contours of his scarred, sunburst, Fender Jaguar. He howls his poetry in a voice so pure yet so painful that every man in the room wishes they were him and every woman wishes they were sleeping with him. Imagine being this guy, Michael ‘Spike’ Martin, the frontman of Spike and The Stray Saints.
Just Imagine that high. What drug on earth could possibly exceed that high? Spike has tried a few over the years but all of them were imposters to the hit of the live stage. It’s only through deep, lived experience of the triage of sex, drugs and rock and roll that one of the many wise words of his old musical Sensei rang true. Bingo, his old friend and source of constant wisdom, once said to Spike,
‘Spike mate, if you ever have to chose between Sex, Drugs and rock n Roll, choose Rock n Roll every time, because Rock n Roll is everything that is pure and beautiful in this world and will never, ever let you down.’
Spike’s sobriety gave testament to that way of thinking and he thrived in the high that music gave him in all of it’s forms. Wether it was listening to tunes on his old turn table, a jukebox or his car stereo, practicing old songs and writing new ones at home, rehearsing with the band or showing children the magic of music in the community centre, every musical note he heard was a reminder of how beautiful life can be.
This particular gig had been booked months in advance and it was Spikes first time in Glasgow since he left to return home to Aberdeen a decade prior. There were a lot of mixed emotions about returning. The Excitement of playing in the historic King Tuts Wah Wah Hut at the behest of a major record label was palpable among the travelling army of fans and the rest of the band. The tickets had sold out, a bus load of the drunken offshore workers and their wives had seen to that. While Spike revelled in the atmosphere of the night his mind was never far from the life he once had in Glasgow. The Stray Saints played as perfectly as Spike had expected them to play and in doing so had earned a hand shake and an exchange of telephone numbers from a young A&R woman from ‘The Industry’ who claimed she was going to speak with her boss about them. Spike had heard this before though and knew that until the day came where he could move from his flat in Torry into a house with a garden, labels and deals were all pipe dreams that got in the way of his day jobs of filleting fish and teaching lippy teenagers how to play Arctic Monkeys songs.
As Spike left the club with his guitar he took one last look at the famous steps up to the venue hall and allowed himself to dream. The steps in King Tuts have the names of some of the most famous acts who have graced their stage on route to stardom and the year they played there. ‘1992 Blur, 1993 Oasis, 1994 Beck’ all the way up to the first time Spike played there in 2000 and the many names after.
Spike slept well that night and dreamt of the day where 2012’s step in King Tuts would have The Stray Saints proudly emblazoned upon it but when he woke he had the urge to find a very different set of steps. The steps he sought that morning were ones covered with piss, fag butts and broken glass instead of the names of some of the finest acts to ever fill our ears.
It’s not every day you wake up with a voice inside your head saying,
‘get up, find those filthy steps, climb them and find that disgusting cellar where you died.’
I doubt anyone has ever heard that exact sentence, but here sat Spike, anxiously sipping on a tepid latte in his puffed out Honda Accord, waiting for enough courage to exit the car, climb those piss soaked steps and enter that very cellar.
The voice he heard was most likely mine. I have a ‘way’ of getting fellas like young Spike to do things like this, it’s kind of my thing.
‘And who the fuck might you be?’ I hear you ask.
Well for the intents of this tale I am ‘C’.
‘And what the fuck does C stand for?’ I hear you cry.
Well, that all depends on who you are really. I am a variety of things or maybe none at all. How you perceive me is a good marker of your own character, your own ideas on life and your own imagination.
For the philosophers and spiritual types among you I could be ‘Conscience’ or I could be the ‘conscious' of Spike, two very different things that intertwine regularly when dealing with the inner chambers of the mind. Conscience being the inhibiting sense of what is right and what is wrong and conscious being the awareness of ones existence. I am perhaps both his inner monologue, rationalising difficult scenarios he has unfortunately found himself in too often and that peculiar voice inside his head that gives birth to an idea like say, a new song, or, the urge to find a manky cellar in council estate. Perhaps his ‘Compass’, as in his moral compass showing him not only his true north but the east, west and south alternatives that are the wrong direction but a direction he must freely have the option to explore if ever he chooses. I am that which suggests to Spike that a certain thing may be better for him than a certain other thing? I am just like the old cartoon devil and angel on his shoulder whispering the way forward, for better or for worse. Equally, I am his awareness of these options and of himself.
If this idea does not appeal then maybe church and all of its heavenly obedience is your thing. To you I am perhaps the ‘Cardinal’ or the ‘Canon’, the judge, the law and the rule in the Church of Spike. Or maybe I supersede Spike and the church? Maybe I am in fact ‘Christ’ guiding his path? I am his way, his truth and his light. Or better still maybe I’m the ‘Creator’ of Spike, maybe I’m above Jesus also, maybe I am God? There is a very real and quite disturbing part of me that likes the sound of that. There is a very real and quite disturbing part of all of us that likes the sound of that.
If religion fails to float your boat and philosophy or spirituality is too dreamy and aloof, then maybe you are an advocate of rock hard science. In that case you may believe that I am the Psychological phenomena known as ‘Confabulation’. Now there's a big ‘C’ word for you. This is sciences way of describing the cartoon angel and devil on the shoulder and taking all the fun and jolly mystery out of it. It’s basically, Spike talking to Spike, inside Spike and coming up with the best plan for Spike and then claiming this will equate to the best version of Spike. Which makes perfect sense, to Spike, and that won’t help you much.
There are many other nice, metaphoric type things I could be that begin with ‘C’. Maybe I’m the ‘Chaperone’ for the story, guiding you through the inner workings of this tragic, yet beautifully talented young fellow. I could be the ‘courier’ of his tale delivering his many truths to you? I could be the metaphorical ‘captain’ of Spike’s metaphorical inner ship? Or I could be the metaphorical ‘conductor’ of his metaphorical symphony? Or maybe the ‘cicerone’ guiding you on the tour that is Spike’s journey? Or simply the ‘commentator’ in Spike’s game of life? Maybe you will think I am all of those things, or maybe you’ll think I’m just a ‘cunt’ and since this tale takes place in Scotland a cunt is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you do think of me in a negative way, may I suggest you visit your own inner pishy cellar and take a look around.
Back to this particular pishy cellar which lurks atop a flight of pishy steps. The steps themselves lay between the crass graffitied walls of a block of flats in a council estate blanketed in misery and goodness, in a city so happy yet so angry, in a country so beautiful yet so ugly. A country so proud of so many wondrous things it had no hand in achieving and yet so blissfully unaware of the awful things that it did.
Cold grey buildings coarsely wedged on river banks throughout a land so green and epic are home to millions of souls with similar stories to our Spike. The cities that house us, surround us and swallow us to a point where the beauty that lies beyond the walls and tarmac is a heaven we’d celebrate death for. Each road, street and avenue is littered with unnoticed vagabonds and poets, battling with potions and pills and a host of different antidotes. They are locked in the grey misery, dreaming of further grey misery because grey misery is all that can be found with each piss soaked step they take. Those feeding from the bottom don’t feel, they cannot feel, because feeling means pain and no one has time for their pain. They want someone, anyone, to care enough to listen but no one ever does. So they take their place in society, they cultivate a habit and politely become the addict, because someone has to.
The addict sees a warped paradise in the smoke which takes away the pain and hazes their reality. This murky picture of truth is viewed only from the warm embrace of their brown little lovers in bags or our liquid lovers in bottles. Good people in pain are still good people but to them it seems no one remembers this except the drug itself. The drug of choice holds them in her arms like a mother, as they ask for nothing but silence and company.
In contrast to the last time Spike was here, he pulled up at the rear car park outside the drained seventies-built, tenement block in the car he’d bought with his own hard earned cash from a car auction in Inverurie. A work colleague who claimed to be a mechanic in a previous life had recommended it with a few kicks of a tyre and convinced Spike to part with four hundred queens quids insisting, ’a Honda would never let him down.’ But let him down was all this raft had done since he got it. A further six hundred quid of repairs later and it did the minimum requirement and got him from A to B. The average day, Spike’s 'A’ was the working class suburb of Torry in Aberdeen but today the ‘A’ was the hotel in Glasgow where the rest of his band lay dreaming of their future stardom and his fans and friends lay sleeping off the all day session that went before. His ‘B’ today was Rutherglen in Glasgow’s South East.
He had not been back here since he left in 99, ironically when his Honda would have been brand new. A whole decade had past since he left here in an ambulance covered in his own vomit and shit. His arms baring the holes from the rock and the dole but the drugs failed to puncture his soul or spirit or whatever it was inside him that did not want to leave this paradise called Scotland just yet, despite his very worst efforts.
The sun was already beating down on the estate and it resonated with the sounds of early rising children at play, their tiny voices pinged around the concrete maze of flats and houses. He took a breath and stepped out of the car, the Honda door creaking as he did. He stopped and looked around the estate observing a heavy spirit of misery seep from the cover of sunshine. Each building and flat window displayed it’s own expression of regret. The filthy windows and rundown gardens echoed a life long since surrendered to the realities of their jaded circumstances and the clean yet garish festooned windows with fake bright flowers on the sills suggested a life survived in spite of those same circumstances.
The air was warm and as Spike drank it in, the smell of fried breakfasts denigrated the summer air and brought him hurtling back to his childhood. Not quite the memories we had hoped to engage just yet but flickers of his own early years were potent as he walked towards the tenement he sought.
He stopped at the foot of those steps and seen they had changed little from the days he’d ascend them in an addicted frenzy and descend them in a junked up mess. With each step the air thickened with the stench of piss and heroin smoke and suddenly he is back in the moment of the day he died.
--END OF CHAPTER--
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