"In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has"- Mark Twain
"I am trying to be heroic/ in an age
I am trying to be heroic/ as all around me/
History sinks/"- Bloc Party
After we left Selfridges (Raf had tried on four or five pairs of Prada shoes, each worth more than my TV), I saw a pretty girl watching us as we rode the escalator down to the exit on Bond Street. We made eye contact, I smiled. The escalator reached her level. The pretty girl took one look at my Reebok Classics, groaned and turned away. For some reason I started thinking about Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince who was the origin of the Dracula myth. There had been a documentary on Channel 5 the night before.
"What would you prefer," I asked, lighting a cigarette. "Impaling or crucifixion?"
"I think crucifixion," Raf said.
"It has a certain religious dignity," I agreed. "There's something a little too gay about impaling."
Vlad the Impaler pioneered the technique of impaling. There are two kinds. The first involves a stake sharpened at both ends. The victim is placed on top of the stake and is killed within minutes, their body weight forces the sharpened point down through their vitals and although painful, death comes quickly. The second technique is far more brutal. The stake is sharpened only at one point (the point that will be driven into the ground) and the other is left dull and rounded. This end is smeared with grease and forced into the victim's anus. Then the stake is raised, and the victim's body weight very slowly forces its way down the pole. Death can take days. There is a lot of blood.
Journalistic integrity has never been very important to me in the past. Usually I would start with a fairly unscientific thesis, and manipulate the truth to prove said thesis. With my self-published debut novel "Smoking Is Cool" (http://www.amazon.com/Smoking-Cool-Andrew-Moody/dp/0755211634/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369076418&sr=1-1&keywords=smoking+is+cool)
I started with the theory that psychiatric incarceration exacerbates mental illness. I used the real names of doctors, locations, patients (known as 'clients') in between entirely fabricated sequences of sadomasochistic torture to belabour the point. The NHS threatened litigation. The case petered out into nothing when it became apparant that no major publications were going to review it. This became my point of reference for the underground scene, be it literary, cinematic or musical. If nobody is aware of your work, it basically doesn't exist. I'm sitting in Pret a Manger in Great Portand Street making some notes on a small jotter, the same jotter I am taking to the EP Launch of "Themes" by The Bedroom Hour at 229 The Venue. As a little experiment, I am going to try and write a historically accurate version of events. I order a filter coffee and make some background notes (mainly about Vlad the Impaler) and when I'm done, I see a young girl smiling at me.
"Are you a journalist?" She asks.
"Sure," I say, getting up to leave. "Why not."
I make it to the Venue in time to see a giant queue snaking its way around the corner. The Bedroom Hour were winning a battle of the bands on Amazing Radio with their song "X Marks The Spot", and apparently have now become ridiculously popular overnight, since I have just been told by some Rasta dude that the event is sold out.
"It's been sold out for weeks, mon," he says.
"Ah shit, really?"
"Of course!" he grins. "Ginger Baker is a fuckin' legend, mon."
After about thirty seconds of superb investigative journalism, turns out that the queue is for Venue 1, not Venue 2, which is where The Bedroom Hour are playing. Venue 1 is an African showcase featuring feared and fearsome drummer Ginger Baker, regarded by many as the greatest rock percussionist of all time. Venue 2 is in the basement. Last time I was here The Darlington's were headlining, a charming four piece who reminded me a little of One Direction facially, but musically had put together a mature and upbeat sound that fused Joy Division with The National. This time round The Bedroom Hour are headlining, supported by Crystal Seagulls and The Broxton Hundred. The Venue 2 is part of the journeyman circuit, populated by bands who have some industry interest, building up support slowly through Soundcloud, YouTube and staggering influential music journalists like me. To play the Venue 2, you have to be able to play. After that, a lot of it comes down to luck. I decide to get professional and make some notes. A few Ginger Baker fans are eyeing me curiously, which fills me with an immense feeling of power. Ginger Baker/ Venue 1/ Sold Out I write, and then: Make some reference to feeling sense of Vlad the Impaler style power over mankind
I look up from my jotter to see an attractive middle aged woman with an expensive looking coat and MILF style glasses on.
"Yes?" I say.
"I am looking for the producer?" She is from the Eastern Bloc, judging from the accent. It would have a nice thematic coherence if she was from Transylvania.
"Who are you here to see?" I ask, pen at the ready.
"I am Ginger Baker's manager?"
Score, I think.
"And your name is?"
"Ina," she says, beginning to realize that I am in no way connected to Venue 1.
"Your surname?" I ask.
"Who are you writing this for?" Ina asks.
"I've heard that Ginger Baker can be difficult to get along with," I say, phrasing my question nicely to offer the answer many avenues that I can later manipulate to my own nefarious ends.
"I have always gotten along with him," she says, and quickly disappears towards Venue 1. I decide to head downstairs into Venue 2 to seek out juicy tabloid information on the bands. After paying my entry fee and getting a stamp, I head to the bar, notepad in hand.
"Two things," I say to the barman. "Firstly, do any members of The Bedroom Hour, The Broxton Hundred or Crystal Seagulls have heroin dependencies or illegitimate children, and secondly, what's your cheapest beer?"
The barman blinks. "Umm," he says. It transpires that he has never heard of any of the bands, or of Ginger Baker. And that Carlsberg is the cheapest. I buy a pint of Carlsberg and see the bassist for The Bedroom Hour, Dan Rider looking nervous by the stage. I unhook my jotter and go in for an exclusive interview.
AM- So, Dan, this is your EP launch.
DR- Uh, yeah.
AM- Tell me about it.
DR- The EP's called "Themes". Available on... iTunes. Uh, I'm kind of in the middle of something right now?
AM- You were recently played on Amazing Radio with your track "X Marks The Spot". How was that for you and the band?
DR- What are you writing this for?
AM- As an experiment into journalistic integrity.
After that he disappears backstage. I down my drink, roll a cigarette and decide that I'm getting better copy upstairs. Maybe there'll be groupies that I can tap for a quote, I think. The bouncer is looking tired when I get back upstairs.
"What is this for?" He asks me as I take out my jotter.
"An experiment into journalistic integrity," I reply.
"What?" He says.
There is quite a crowd out here now. The first band, The Broxton Hundred are about to play, but I see that Crystal Seagulls (and their parents) are smoking cigarettes up here and look like they've been drinking. Using techniques I've learnt from Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux (basically wait until your subject is drunk) I introduce myself as a "Famous Underground Novelist" and already I can smell blood.
"Wow, so Crystal Seagulls," I say. "What's your opinion of Ginger Baker?"
"He's a twat," says Jon (Vocals/Bass).
Score, I think, writing this down.
"Who the fuck is Ginger Baker?" Asks Ben (Drums/Percussion).
"Okay," I say, "who are your biggest influences?"
"Ginger Baker and J from 5," says Jim (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar).
"Nice," I say. Then the drummer's mum comes over for an exclusive interview.
"They're the best, the Crystal Seagulls!" she says. She's a little drunk.
"How long did you breastfeed Ben for?" I ask, hoping for an answer I can manipulate into tabloid gold.
"I'm sorry what?"
"Joking," I say. After a few minutes of banter where the drummer's mum explains that she's "the mother to the whole band!"
I decide to get on to the topic of narcotics.
"Let's do a checklist guys," I say. "I'll say a drug and you say yes or no."
Ben (Drums/Percussion) has smelt a rat and disappeared, so I'm directing this to Jon (Vocals/Bass) and Jim (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar).
J & J- Yes!
J & J- Of course.
J & J- Yes.
J & J- Yes.
J & J- Yes.
J & J- Yes.
J & J- Not yet.
AM- Crack Cocaine?
J & J- No.
AM- Crystal Meth?
J & J- Nope!
J & J- Not yet, want to.
J & J- Yep!
"Can I get a quote on Crystal Seagulls attitude to drugs?" I ask.
Jon (Vocals/Bass) grins and says: "Poppers are wild!"
"Nice," I say, and then: "How gay are you as a band?"
"Dangerously gay!" Jim (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) says.
"What's the most rock and roll thing you've ever done?" I ask.
Jon (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) replies, "Well, my Dad nearly ran over Donnie Osmond."
I have a few other bits of info from them (Beatles NOT the Stones, fave band- Mystery Jets, most popular Soundcloud track- "Yours For As Long As You Keep Me" available as a single on iTunes, they've been played on over 30 different radio stations, headlined 2012 BrisFest, overall winners in Isle of Wight Unsigned Battle of the Bands out of an impressive 3000 acts) but they're starting to get a little nervous.
"Who is your music for?" I ask.
"Anybody who hates Pitbull," Jon (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) says, and then Ben's (Drums/Percussion) Dad (also drunk) shouts over at them, "For heaven's sake don't talk to the fucking press, they're fucking vampires!"
"I think I've got all I need, guys," I say, feeling sated. Downstairs The Broxton Hundred have already started playing. Later that night I will research them and find out that they are a three piece: Richard Lucas (Vocals/Bass), Gary Yari-Gerrard (Guitars/ Backing Vocals), Rich Ormond (Drums/Percussion) who formed in early 2012 and have "a sprinkling of psychedelia, plenty of groove and a knack for a pop tune". Their EP- "Higher Surroundings" is available to buy from their website. Since I'd spent so long feasting on Crystal Seagulls, I basically missed their set. That night (to ensure maximum journalistic integrity) I play all four of their Soundcloud tracks, "Run", "Who Put the Weight of the World On Your Shoulder", "She Brings The Light" and "Higher Surroundings" and imagine that the set I missed was about as inoffensive and middle of the road. I head to the bar with the change in my pocket and scrape together £3.90 for my final beer. There's quite a crowd now as Crystal Seagulls take to the stage.
They look kinda cute.
Earlier that day Raf and I were walking towards Hyde Park, and started talking about the climax of Boogie Nights.
"You know that bit where's he's selling a handjob to that guy in the car, and he can't get it up, and then he gets the shit kicked out of him?"
"Vaguely," I said, "I'd have to check my notes."
"Well, bruv, one thing I don't get."
"Is he gay then?"
I handed over my tobacco to him and he dutifully started to roll me a cigarette. Over the road tourists were taking photos of themselves in front of Buckingham Palace.
"That's pretty gay though." Raf paused, his charcoal skin flushed in concentration.
"Oh. And another thing. At the end, he's about to fuck Julianne Moore, and he's doing that speech in front of the mirror, and he whips it out, and he's saying "I'm a star, I'm a star, I'm a star"."
I felt an odd sense of urgent unease.
"What about it?" I asked, trying desperately to change the subject from penis size.
"Is it a weird incest thing? A son fucking his mother? Seemed a bit bizarre."
He handed me the roll-up, geometrically almost perfect. I lit it, took a much needed drag.
"Essentially," I said, "Boogie Nights is about dysfunctional, damaged people who find a temporary sense of family, community and identity in pornography. Mark Wahlberg craves a loving, nuturing mother to replace the one who neglected and abused him, and Julianne Moore craves the son she neglected and abused. The climax of the film shows the consumation of these twisted relationships. Although his full frontal in the final shot? Pure Hollywood."
Raf laughed. "I know man, his dick is like thirteen inches long."
Buckingham Palace stands before us, proud and erect and glistening with ornery.
"They just did that to be provocative. Same with all porn," I said, still nervous, and then: "Can I tell you something Rafael?"
Raf looked at me. "Sure."
"You are obviously aware by now that I have had some mood problems in the past."
"Bruv, we met in a mental institution."
"And," I continued, "like all men you are aware that the sensory walls of the vagina are only three inches long."
"Of course, bruv. We learnt that at school. It's on the national curriculem."
"And," I said in furtherence, "You are therefore aware that women tend to seek out men with the smallest possible penises in order to correctly fit the vaginal cavity."
Raf paused. "Yes?"
Tears were welling in my eyes. "I need to get this off my chest, bro."
"It's just that... my dick. It's..."
"Dude," I said, "my penis is over fourteen inches long."
Some girls overhear me, and start to giggle. A smile crosses Raf's face.
"Don't laugh, man, it's not funny."
Raf sighs. "Bruv, look, I'm not laughing at you. That can't be easy. It's funny in the way all men with big dicks are funny. It's... you know at school where everybody always wanted to have the smallest dick, and girls would always say shit like, "I bet your dick is too big to correctly fit my vaginal cavity""...
"Mate, I got that one ALL the time."
The girls were now pointing and making huge dick mannerisms with their hands, cementing my public humiliation.
"Bruv," Raf sighed, "Look. It is how it is. Girls are genetically hardwired to seek out a man who can correctly fit their vaginal cavity, and if you're way, way, way, way too big, I dunno. That can't be easy."
"I mean sometimes I have to tie it around my waist like a belt," I said, crying now, but tears of humiliation mixed with a strange sense of catharsis.
"Well," Raf said, "I don't know what to say. I know you're on benefits, but maybe, you know if one of your books kicks off you can get reductive surgery. Apparently in America they can shorten a good seven or eight inches. I'm even thinking about sizing down."
I smiled, wiping tears from my eyes, sucking on my cigarette.
"I bet you've got a really small one, don't you, you bastard."
The girls had now gotten bored of making huge dick jokes at me and were wandering up towards Hyde Park.
"Yeah, it's pretty small. I mean not perfectly small, so perfect it can exactly fit the vaginal cavity, but, I'm pleased with it. Look," Raf said. "You're very talented. You can write, sing, rap, y'know. Maybe that's your one weakness. Maybe having a really, really, really massive cock is just your Achilles Heel. It must be difficult when it comes to meeting girls, but, I dunno. Try not to think about it so much. Don't preoccupy yourself with your shortcomings. Look on the positive side of things. Maybe you'll meet a girl who won't mind. Some girls just look for status and money."
"Yeah," I said, "my parents are solidly middle class so when they die I'll be able to find a girl who'll want me for my car, house and bank balance and look past my gigantic cock."
"Dare to dream," Raf smiled. "Dare to dream."
"Yeah right," I sigh. "My dick is so big it's like a huge wooden pole with a rounded edge, man."
"I don't know what to tell you bruv," Raf said. "It sounds like it must be very hard."