AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STAIRWAY
Huh! I come awake, my chin on my chest.
Eyes throbbing pain. Drooly shirt front. Bladder full.
“I need to piss!”
“No time big boy.” Miki says swerving us across three lanes of downtown traffic, “We’re almost there.”
“We’re late Luke.” Annette adds.
Fucking managers. “We’ll be wet Luke if I don’t have a slash soon.”
The truck lurches, stops, doors swing open and spit me out onto the asphalt. Staggering for balance, ice cold night air knifing my lungs, head clearing but then I’m shoved toward and swallowed by the stage door mouth. Down narrow gloomy corridors, through a door, bearing a tarnished star on flaking paint. The dressing womb. Toilet stall in the corner, thank fuck. Pissing in almost orgasmic relief, I lean one hand against the wall in front of me. Back in the room I find a speckled mirror, framed by lightbulbs, only three of which work, and a cold, metal, folding chair. Starting to focus, make-up ritual, deep breathing. Enough of that, fuck all that yoga shite Sting does, get a cigarette lit, suck some blessed relief. Fag balanced on the burn- decorated table edge. Foundation, eye-liner, eye shadow, blusher, hair gel spiked, perfect.
“Any chance of a beer?” I ask the room.
“No.” Annette says.
“Two minutes.” Someone yells through the door.
“Whaddya mean two minutes? What about the sound check?” Dik demands.
“Have to do it in the first number.” Mulligan says.
“Are the guitars and bass in tune with my synth?” Mulligan asks.
“Give it here.” I say.
Practice amp dead, my ear pressed to bass guitar like fucking Beethoven trying to guess the bugger into tune. Have to do, close enough, I think. I hope.
Back out into another birth canal corridor, low ceiling, naked bulbs barely above the top of my head, wading from pool of light to pool of light, feeling the floor rise beneath my Docs. Rumble of crowd growing. Doors slam open, blinding lights, red, green, searing gold, silver, blue. Lights die, I’m plunged mid-step into an abyss. Tap-dancing across snakes nests of cables, a starter roar from the crowd. Fumble guitar lead into pedal, then into a strange amp set on fuck knows what, drag pedal next to mike stand, cable into pedal, cable into guitar, eyes adjusting to the gloom, back to amp and flick standby by switch. Twist volume knob up full, middle all tone controls. Menacing tidal wave of feedback pulsing as I swagger back to microphone.
Blam – lights up, full chaos, searing heat, blindness.
“We are Fashion.” Dik’s voice booming all Bog-like, bam, bam, thud, as he does a quick check of his snare and bass drum.
“Meeeep … warble!” Mulligan’s synth up and running. “Boom boom boom boom boom boom boooom” bass line intro to Red Green and Gold and we’re away.
Oceans of light, then drowning in darkness, coming up gasping, sweat building already, guitar neck slippery, finger positions and song structure now rooted deep in muscle memory, automatic pilot engaged, adrenaline thrill sparking like high voltage through tired wiring, head aflame with pulsing beat, guitar slicing magnesium chops through the back beat. Huge breath, mouth to mike to find it, pull back a couple of inches, and:
“Red, green and gold – let this be the color for all .. no more black and whi-yite game – together we can overcome all!”
This next one must be Burning Down, teeth gritted throttle that fucking guitar neck, smash the chords’ face in, sweat flaying in arcs through the lights as I dip and whirl, psycho carousel of thunder, rising like Poseidon to the mike:
“Can I borrow your lighter – ‘cos my forehead’s getting tighter – and I gotta go gotta go – bu-urn some-um-thing da-own”.
And even before there’s a chance, the smallest gap
into which might creep a whisper of applause, we’re into the third number:
“Die in the west and you’re halfway to heaven, heaven, heaven!” bawled over bratty chords, thunderous bass and drum avalanches.
There’s a gasp of breath after the last looping vocal note and into the sudden ear-roaring silence the applause wells and breaks over the lip of the stage. Take that and I’m straddled, balls to the crowd, and don’t you all just wish you could be me! A dip to the bottle of water a roadie has magicked at my feet, seared throat soothed with ice cold water shock.
“This is our new single. It’s called Citinite. You won’t like it!”
And we’re off into Mulligan’s hurdi-gurdi carousel, drowned Ferry, acid vocals with Andalusian guitar slicing the face from the windshield. Pain in my throat, notes totter on the brink of discord, breath is now furnace hot with every landed fish mouthful seeming to deliver minimum oxygen to starved muscles. One more song segment to go – I think –into Big John and then Hanoi Annoys Me, both of which Dik sings, before I have to sing The Innocent. Move off the mike and dance this beautiful fucking guitar around the moonscape stage. Mulligan and Dik’s faces rising occasionally through the lightshow bombardment like satellites lost in a cosmic stew. Teeth and grins and nods and snarls slamming in strobe. Back to the front of the stage to strafe them with the opening chords to Hanoi Annoys Me. Light spilling back off the stage giving occasional glimpses of upturned faces, arms snaking above a mass of writhing bodies. Then back to the mike to boast:
“We are innocent, it’s not our fault, if we don’t stop moving, we won’t ever come to a halt.”
And then we’ve nailed the set’s carcass to the back wall and run for the wings, a passing “thank you very much” tossed at the mike.
Panting side-stage like dogs, sweat drenched, grinning at the growing roar for more.
“Not too long – let’s go before they change their fucking minds.”
Back out into the land we now own, a roaring wave of applause washing up over me. Mea culpa, absolved, and adored. No messing, smack them with the Fashion anthem and then dive back off down the rabbit tunnel to the dressing womb.
Sweat everywhere, gasping, drowned as rats, towels lobbed over heads, Annette bobbing and gushing, the words “fucking brilliant” buzzing through the air like honey-stoned bees. A drink, a drink, my condom for a drink. A soothing stream of some cheap lager, ice cold pinning me in my seat, a babble of voices, the room filling. I can hardly breath, somebody get me a cigarette. A line, then two of white powder appear on the table at my elbow. No need to even roll my own note these days, kapow, brain floodlit, mouth buzzsawing words into easier to understand pieces, delivered with accelerating blood pulse. Limbs, smooth arms, slim shoulders, silky hair, long legs of mini-skirted slinkers, ruby mouths, proffered breast fruit, juicy arses, a joint here, another line, a shot, then outside, into a cab, I’m suddenly in orbit around a club dance floor, or two, then a hotel lobby, the room, the bed, the faceless orgasm, the exhausted slump sideways into tomorrow.
The door is being pounded. It’s time to get up and do it again.