Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Way It Should Be

[Please read yesterday's entry first!]

The bride’s father, who, after all, is the one out of whose pocket the band’s deposit came, gets on the phone with the bandleader, though he is at first too furious to speak coherently. As she sputters and hisses, the bandleader is tempted simply to break the connection, but instead becomes lost in a reverie about an earlier bride’s father he made furious. It was about a year before, and the happy couple’s guests were getting on the bandleader’s tits by requesting nothing but songs he loathed playing. They asked for Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, for instance, and for several Abba favourites. Instead of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, he sang Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High, complete with an uncanny recreation of Tina Turner’s orgasmic screeching. That shut them up for a while; the bandleader took particular delight in noting that someone’s auntie actually required fanning. He liked to imagine she’d fainted, though he hadn’t actually seen it. But his respite was short-lived, as someone’s uncle came up and slipped him a fiver to sing Abba’s Fernando.

There were many problems with this. First, the song’s fatuity -- Swedes conjuring a Latin American freedom fighter — had always made him itch. Second, as one who’d had a deal with Sony not that long ago, five pounds was an insult. He could imagine that when Elton John played private parties for billlionaires, people would give him the keys to Ferraris to sing particular songs, or the deeds to beachfront homes with nine bathrooms, not bloody fivers. So what he did was sing Carly Simon’s That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be, a feminist meditation on the fact that a bad marriage can be a prison.

People stopped dancing two verses into it, and the bride scampered from the dancefloor with mascara streaming down her cheeks. Both the groom and his new father-in-law converged on the bandleader and wrestled his hand-mic from him before he could sing, "You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds, but soon you’ll cage me on your shelf. I’ll never learn to be just me first, by myself." But the damage was already done.

“What’s your bloody game?” the bride’s father demanded. The bandleader said someone had requested the song, and showed the bride’s father the bedraggled fiver the Fernando man had slipped him. The groom demanded that the bandleader point out who’d done the slipping, but the bandleader wasn’t one for grassing, and tried to get his two antagonists to consider that the song might have been one of the most exquisite of the second half of the 20th century, along with the Linda Ronstadt-popularised Long Long Time — which he and the band also knew, in case the groom and his father-in-law fancied hearing it. “Will it stop everybody feeling miserable?” demanded the groom, whose own taste the bandleader guessed ran more to heavy metal bands from the Midlands, and who obviously had never heard it. The bandleader said all he could guarantee was that it was gorgeous, and that he loved singing it.

The father of the bride, meanwhile, sought an alternative solution. He asked the guitar player if anyone else in the band could sing, and the guitarist said the girl keyboard player could. Indeed, she’d been singing harmony vocals all along. The father of the bride said there was an extra 50 quid in it for everyone in the band if, for the balance of the afternoon, they told the bandleader to sod off, and let the girl keyboard player sing. The guitarist got him up to an extra 65 quid for each of them. The girl keyboard player, who was overweight, though with luminous smooth skin, thought this might be her big break, and the other musicians, who included a compulsive gambler and an alcoholic, welcomed the extra dosh. Only the bandleader, who realised he would now have to put together a new band — he had no intention of sharing a bandstand with turncoats — was miserable.

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