"LISTEN, if you're Eric Clapton, how come your Mum brought you on the bus?"
The small boy checks under his fingernail to see if he's retrieved the sticky long bit he's been after, and pushes the cap back on his head. "It wasn't a bus, it was an' individually negotiable fare participant tour personnel transporter."
"It was a bus."
"And it wasn't my mum."
This catches the manager of the Great Loughton Palais momentarily off-guard. It has after all been a hard day, with a harder evening to come. "So I suppose strange women often get you to spit in their handkerchiefs so they can wipe Milky Ways off your chin?"
"That was the artist/agent liaison manager, and it was a Whoppa which," here Eric delivers the low sigh especially reserved for adults obviously lacking in the most basic elements of education, "'distills the tropical sun into a chocolate delight of hazelnuts, raisins and... er... thing, biscuit stuff, y'know'."
"I wouldn't care if she was pulling a fruit cake out of your nose, in 15 minutes I'm going to have 2,000 people in here expecting to see Eric Clapton and I very much suspect they will not be satisfied with a 12 year old schoolboy..."
"12 and a half..."
"12 and a half year old schoolboy showing his satchel burns for a winegum."
"You'll want my birth certificate then?"
"I am," growled the manager speaking with the voice of an ulcer, "prepared to accept your claim of 12 and a half if you accept that as the approximate number of minutes I expect to live once I've opened the doors."
"No, you'll need it for the name. My artist/agent liaison manager says 'always show them the certificate when the sweat starts running into their ears'. Here look."
He pulls a defeated scrap of paper from a blazer pocket, spilling two fluff covered gobstoppers and a Roboplane Transformer onto the parquet. "'Eric Simon Clapton, born March 9, 1974, Bournemouth Hospital'," he reads, "'fully appointed representative of the Famous Names Booking Agency.' There was the question of a fee..."
It had been the most disastrous rehearsal since the Titanic practised scuba-diving. The drummer hadn't turned up, the bass player had been pissed from note one, and the lead singer's Hells Angel boyfriend had decided that one of those screw-in legs on the mike stand would be just right to add a bit of weight to the machete under his petrol tank. Doesn't it stand up anymore? That's all right then, me mates will have the other two. No one minds. DO THEY?
The keyboard player had got so close to the single paraffin heater, he'd passed out through the fumes. He'd toppled against the Marshall stack. Which had fallen on the Portastudio. Which had smashed his new Les Paul.
Thank God the drummer hadn't been here, reflected Stan, dejectedly kicking at a few sheets of paper scattered on the floor. He was the only good thing about the band. He was brilliant. A sheaf of Super White Conqueror turned over in the breeze of Stan's boot and floated face up. "I was here on Tuesday," it said. "You gave me the wrong soddin' day again, Dick-Head. Find yourself another drummer." Stan sighed.
It had seemed such a good idea at the time. Just a few old mates all into the same sort of music, just getting together for a bit of fun. Six months later they were in hock up to their haircuts, argued constantly, and now appeared to have musical tastes spanning Emerson Lake and Palmer and The Housemartins. In one song.
A cough made Stan spin round. Framed in the doorway was a tall, gangling figure with hair like a vase of dead flowers. It spoke. "Er... I 'eard you might have some gear to sell, 'n I've been thinking of forming a new band, so it could come in handy."
Stan stared at the newcomer in stunned recognition. "I know you, you're Tony James from Sigue Sigue Sputnik." The skinny presence nodded and a smile not altogether earthly slid across his features.
This means money, thought Stan. He'll have a packet left over from those stupid berks at EMI. I could really do some serious business here.
"So you want to buy my gear so you can start a new band?" asked Stan. The figure dipped its preposterous bun towards him. "Well bugger off. This gear is for people who care
about music, who want to create something new
. It's for musicians."
The star went.
Later, at home, Stan's Mum asked him how the rehearsal had gone. "Well... you know what they say, Mum. Music is a success if you do just one good thing." And he smiled.
IT WAS time for action with a capital Axsh. The representative from Global Guitar Inc nonchalantly flipped the gum from one perfectly milled ivo-plas molar to another, smiled his fully guaranteed smile (dentally precise to half a thou), and squared up to the negotiation table. "Ron. Bottom Line. Ya got summan we want. And when there's summan Global Guitar Inc wants, Global Guitar Inc gets it. Unerstan? So name ya price, and we gonna talk buck city."
Ron nonchalantly stuck the end of his tongue into the hole where a filling had dropped out in the middle of a Fillet of Squid Burger, and mused quietly to himself. His next words could seal a multimillion dollar deal, clear his over- draft, employ 25 per cent of the town's jobless and get him onto Breakfast TV. He coughed.
"Why is it," he croaked across the fine oak table, "that your tongue always seems eight foot long at the front of your mouth, but only 0.4 centimetres when you try to get something out of your wisdom teeth."
The American delegation froze. This was bad. This was pyscho cool-out like their Managing Stress Workshops had never envisualised. Only the ultra-sell tactics of their chief sales executive could pull them through. After all, had he not penned the great client-steer classic "Closing Deals through Facial Muscle Tone"? He made his move.
"Ron, that's what makes you great. That lateral thinking. That spark of genius. What a mind. How else could you come up with 'Rock-Rubber'. It's a unique substance. It damps pickups, seals neck body/joints, prevents microphonic feedback, has just the right elasticity to retain plectrums, but isn't too adhesive to reduce harmonics. Not so dense that it alters resonances, not so light so that it fractures on impact. Ron, our lab guys have spent months trying to recreate your compound and it don't happen. We gotta have it. And this is what we're gonna pay."
With a great flourish, the chief sales executive of Global Guitar Inc held up the sheet of paper he'd been doodling on. Upon it was scribed a figure that would make grown men weep, and other grown men weep as well though not so loudly since they were the ones taking the money off the men who started weeping first.
When the deal had been signed, and the Americans departed in cars like buildings, Ron leant back and turned to his partner. "Were you watching that Yank, Pete?" Pete nods. "Did you notice that he was chewing all the way through that meeting?"
"Yeah," smiles Pete, knowing what's coming, "but he wasn't chewing when he left."
"Exactly. Find it, Pete, it's probably under the table, and God knows we're going to need enough of it to meet that contract."