The band I put together in high school was good. I’m Eva Taylor, Evo to my friends. As it was my band, I got to name it. Try as I did to think of something catchy using my initials, I got nowhere. Then I remembered in year eight some nerdy kid thought he was being smart by asking if I was ‘one of the Bespoke Taylors’. The moniker suited us so I looked him up and told him I intended to use it.
“Think nothing of it,” he said.
I played lead guitar and handled the vocals. Graham Black played keyboards until he got the call to go grunge with a trio of musical misfits. Andy Bressard played bass guitar and Jack Sampson beat on the drums.
Bob Jackson replaced Graham on what I hoped would be a temporary basis. Bob and I had attended a couple of school dances together and I suppose I allowed him to think we were an item. The football team considered him too violent to play what they called sport, so God knows what I was doing with him. That’s not true. Bob had such a crush on me that it was easy for me to manipulate him.
Some guys thought it wrong for a girl to head a rock band and believed they had the right to hassle me. Jimmy and Jack were musicians, not fighters and they tended to evaporate when the bullies came calling. Bob was a great antidote for all the venom that was jealousy.
I never told Bob what my true feelings were. I dated him four or five times and we had full sex one fateful afternoon at his parent’s house. I’m sure it was his first time; it was his last with me. Unfortunately, that afternoon convinced him I was his one true love. The sap was so keen on me, he put up with my blinkered dedication to Bespoke Taylor and when Graham left, he asked if he could join the band. I let him in because he provided me with the physical security we needed. Besides, Bob’s father had money and bought his son a synthesiser that was far superior to our status in the musical world. He was our weakest link but he tried hard, using his four best fingers on the music machine.
We were good enough to get some gigs at local pubs and the free concerts that towns in our area put on from December to March. A large brewery actually paid us to play at beach carnivals and such events every summer weekend whilst kids ate from barbeques, enjoyed rides, and swarmed the sideshows. It was fun. A lot of people knew us and they would walk up in the middle of a number and high-five me. We impressed our peers; they believed we were going somewhere. Truth was, all we did was cover whatever was big at the time.
Bob declined the sexual offers from local fans until he realised I was not turning down the advances of spunks. His sense of my security got in the way on more than a few occasions. I saw the hurt in his eyes when I screamed at him to leave the men I fancied alone.
We were going nowhere until Jaime turned up. I’d never spoken to him before that day. I always considered him a nerd. The guy played classical music! Mind, he could play the piano as well as I played the guitar, but it was always Bach or Rachmaninov or some other long-dead European. We were setting up for a gig one day when Jaime approached us. He nervously told me he had written a couple of numbers and asked if he could play them for us.
“Can I use the keyboard?” he asked.
Bob scowled. “Shit, no. This thing cost a wad of money.”
“Come on, Bob,” I cajoled.
Jaime got into Bob’s face. “What’s wrong? You an anti-nerd or something?”
It was a risky move and the rest of us laughed apprehensively. Bob looked at me for support, but when I gave my head a slight shake, he walked angrily away with a dismissive sweep of his arm.
“Ya break it, ya bought it.”
Jaime’s numbers were brilliant and I immediately started to wonder if he could be our missing ingredient. Groups need their own music to make it to the big stage. When he finished, I made a date to visit his house the next day.
“Ya want me ta come along?” Bob asked protectively.
“Nah, this is just to see how the numbers work with our style,” I told him. I hoped matters would so develop that Bob’s playing days were at an end. We didn’t need two keyboard players and Bob could hardly read music, never mind write it. His physical presence was still an asset but I could hardly expect him to stay around after I dumped him from the band.
I wondered if Jaime was cursed with rich, socially elite parents. He didn’t dress preppily, but his everyday attire of a shirt, tie, and a jacket with a busy badge on a penless pocket stood out in a school that did not believe in uniforms. When I looked at his address on the paper he handed me, I was surprised it said Preston.
An old woman opened the door. “Come in, come in,” she said. “You must be Eva. I’m Jaime’s grandmother.” She pronounced his name as if it began with an aitch. “You call me Inez.” She had a couple of teeth missing and a few lumps on her face served as gardens for some white, wiry-looking hairs. I hoped I wasn’t supposed to shake her hand, or hug her or anything. It was a scary thought.
“Yeah, Evo, actually. That’s what they call me. Hi. Er…is it all right if I bring my stuff in? I’ve got my guitar and everything here.”
Jaime appeared and I felt a measure of relief. The three of us lugged my gear into a room full of green plants in wicker baskets on a brown-tiled floor. More plants hung from the ceiling. Fly-screens prevented bugs from arriving through open windows. A piano stood in the corner, facing inwards so the player could see his audience. Jaime noticed my understanding, “I give recitals every Sunday for my folks and their friends.”
I smiled. “Me, too. Only I have to do it in the garage. Have to shut the doors to keep the noise down for the neighbours. Everybody leaves when it gets too hot. I sometimes think the garage bit is more for the promise of a quick exit than for the neighbours’ protection.” He grinned and his grandmother clucked. “What about your neighbours? Aren’t they gonna get miffed when I gear up the Straddy? It’s a lot louder than your piano.”
“Everyone’s at school or work. There are no people of leisure in this neighbourhood.”
Inez got excited when I played the first notes on my guitar. The intro to the chorus of the first number begged for a dramatic riff and I obliged. The howling chord reverberated between my feet and the tiled floor. The elderly woman put her hand to her chest as she felt the vibrations in her heart.
Jaime laughed and punched the air with his fist. “Yeah!”
The music needed some re-arranging to make it playable electronically and I insisted on some changes in tune and lyrics. That way, I was able to suggest that Jaime and I become a writing team – Taylor and Garcia, the new Lennon and McCartney. Jaime accepted that we become equal members of the writing team provided I made a few other changes. He would become the band’s keyboard player but we had to drop the name Taylor. From then on we would be Bespoke. We would each take forty percent of the band’s profits. If Jimmy and Jack didn’t want ten percent each, well, bass guitarists and drummers are easily replaceable. If we became famous, we’d control all promotional sales like tees, risbees, jewellery etcetera and split the profits the same way.
When my head hit the pillow that night and I allowed my mind to meander, I realised I had not mentioned Bob’s name all day. I quickly killed the embarrassing thought, stopped the mental roaming and concentrated on dreams of fame and fortune.
Andy and Jack knew things were getting serious when they heard the new numbers. The realisation of our new possibilities caused ear-to-ear grins on their faces. They knew they’d have to improve their skills to remain part of Bespoke and they put in a lot of hours practising while Jaime and I wrote music. Inez spent some of her savings to purchase a new keyboard for her grandson and I told him we would pay her back as soon as possible.
I expected Bob to take his electronic ivories and fade away but he surprised me. He wanted to hang around and be our roadie-cum-gopher, even after I told him we couldn’t give him a wage until we got bigger gigs. He gave me a strange smile and said it was okay, he knew I’d see him right. I realized he still believed his romantic dreams featuring me and would have been happier if he’d cursed me and walked away.
The quality of venues improved once word got out we had our own music. We started to play uni gigs and our reputation grew. We purchased a used van to take us to out-of-town clubs and dance-halls. Andy used his considerable artistic talents to paint the rusted dented side panels with our name and some weird graphics. I said he should patent his designs and we’d pay him every time we used them.
We noticed a growing number of familiar faces at our gigs and realised we had a following. Bespoke groupies! They whistled and jeered whenever we covered another band’s number. We laughed with happiness and played our own pieces over and over. When our repertoire was up to thirty-seven original numbers, we asked our groupies to make out lists of their favourites. Seventeen numbers earned considerably higher ratings than the others and so we hired a studio to record them. The studio’s engineer, who was also the owner, helped us a great deal. At the end of a number of sessions in the course of a week, we had our first compact disk of our own music. Knowing we had made something unique, something we were convinced was going to start us on the road to success, was a powerful feeling.
Bob used the event to push himself into the ‘inner-circle’ again, and I allowed him to succeed because he came cheap and was convenient. He used his father’s computer to design jewel case covers that incorporated Andy’s graphics. Jaime and I made album notes that Bob typed and coloured. The resultant CD looked very impressive. I held it up and turned it this way and that in the light. We bought several hundred disks and jewel-cases and Bob spent days making copies of the recording, the covers and the notes on his dad’s computer. After that, we felt we had to start paying him more than his expenses.
When we had four hundred CDs, we started to sell them at our gigs. A couple of promoters tried to bite us for ten percent of the sales, but Bob managed to dissuade them. Jaime and I visited radio stations and asked them to play our numbers on air. We gave CDs to club DJs and asked the same of them. Bespoke groupies made requests for our music and thereby increased our exposure. It felt like the slow, shuddering start of a rocket launch but we knew the speed would increase as we headed for outer space.
When the large Japanese recording company noticed us, they contacted Bob. It turned out that a small note at the bottom right-hand corner of the back CD cover, inside page, carried details of Robert Jackson and his e-mail address. This came to light after Bob introduced himself to the vice president of the record company as our manager. ‘Bespoke Manager’ is what he called himself. Jaime and I looked at each other in disbelief. Andy and Jack inspected their footwear. The inscrutable vice president covered his smile with a hand to the mouth and a cough. That was the day Jaime and I agreed to sit down with a legal eagle and put everything in writing. We detailed everybody’s job description, pay and benefits to the nth degree. We changed the name of the band to Spoke as an indication of our new start and to legally separate us from our past. Bob was hired in the position he originally applied for; roadie-cum-gopher. Then we immediately promoted him to salaried road manager.
The CD we recorded in the sophisticated studios of the Japanese corporation was pretty much the same as the one we had made ourselves. The quality, however, was of a different world. To be truthful, I thought the finished product sounded better than our gigs. Andy’s artwork depicted a broken bicycle wheel with spokes pointing out at varying angles. The CD soared to the top of the charts in the United States, Europe and Australasia within four weeks of its release. We followed up with an eight-month concert tour, travelling from comfortable Australian cities to strange communities in foreign countries as the supporting act for a famous band in decline. The mega-stars were not pleased when audiences applauded and politely cheered them whilst we became objects of hysteria.
When we were in New York, the film star, Carl Steel put the make on me at the after-party of our first gig in Madison Square Garden. I wasn’t much of a challenge to him; he could have had me right there and then. Thankfully, Carl was a gentleman and we waited until we got to his apartment before we got carnal. His body still looked like it did in that baseball movie and was as hard as they come.
When we played in Los Angeles, he turned up and stayed for all our California gigs. He came to London, too. The paparazzi snapped shots of us dining here and drinking there and we became a ‘celeb’ couple. Everybody wanted us to attend their parties and award ceremonies. Just when I was getting very cosy in the relationship, Carl had to go to Egypt to make a film about Christian terrorists and the separation hurt. I buried myself in what was left of our tour, and then called him to see if I would be welcome in Egypt.
A year later, we released our third CD and began another world tour. This time, we were the headliners. The money from the live performances was good and the CD sales were phenomenal. The tees and other accessories also provided a sizeable income. We shot to the top of the charts in every western country. Jaime and I appeared on radio and television chat-shows in major cities. When we returned to New York, Carl came on stage to do a sentimental duet with me entitled ‘Our Love’. The crowd went berserk and he swore he’d never do it again.
“They were happy for us,” I told him.
“I know, but they still scared me to death,” he grinned. “I don’t know how you can handle that night after night.”
Jaime still wore the shirt, tie and jacket. I’d long ago figured out it was his way of thumbing his nose at the world. The day I found out the pocket-badge was that of some crack military outfit, I laughed until tears rolled down my face. I wore casual clothes; usually strides and a tank-top. The groupies who travelled with us took care of our laundry and ironing so I could grab anything at any time. Jack never wore anything save a new white tee and tattered jeans. He got himself a contract from Fruit of the Loom or some such tee maker. Andy wore a navy-blue pin-striped waistcoat separated from one of his father’s three-piece suits. The look allowed the females to see his well-defined muscles. He also wore a tartan kilt that groupies were forever lifting.
When we appeared on a chat show in London, Jaime arranged for Inez to join him. She was so proud of her grandson, she even allowed a make-up girl to clip the hairs off her face. She accosted the show’s host in a hallway and insisted he stand beside her while I took their photograph.
“You’re appearing with my grandson, Jaime,” Inez toothily told him.
Bob was putting on the pounds. I figured he must be suffering from the munchies on a daily basis. He was always stoned, but had always taken care of the little business we entrusted to him. One night in Berlin, he was late taking over the soundboard from his assistant. His belly bounced under his tee as he hurried to his position. Andy started the intro to the Rawhide song and we joined in.
He affected a laugh, but I could see he was pissed. In down time, he studied music and spent a lot of time on his synthesiser fooling around with ideas for numbers.
“Let me know when you come up with a winner,” I told him one day. You could make a few bucks with a hit.”
“I’ll want more than a few bucks,” he sneered.
When we were in Boston, Andy went to see a doctor to find out why he was feeling sluggish. The quack put him on a course of vitamins and then asked him when he had last had a thorough check-up. He underwent all kinds of tests before we headed for Bangor, Maine the following day. We were in Albany when Andy received the call that told him he had three cancers festering in his body. He left us to go to some place in Minnesota for treatment and Bob saw his opportunity for reinstatement as a member of the band. I set my jaw and consulted with Jaime. We had to admit Bob was the logical temporary replacement, but it rankled with both of us.
We told Bob he would be paid ten percent of our profits, the same as Andy. He feigned surprise at the figure and asked for more. We advised him that, as we were still paying Andy his full share, we were each giving up five per cent of our own take. Anyone who stood in for Andy would get the same ten per cent and he could take it or leave it. I even added that I’d be just as happy if he left it. Danny Carter had split from the group, Cisum and would probably jump at the chance to fill Andy’s shoes. Whoever took the job would do so on a temporary basis. When Andy was well enough to return, he would resume as before. Bob scowled. Jaime added a proviso that Bob had to lose a lot of weight very quickly. Our image did not allow for an overweight rock star. If Bob wanted to become said star, it was on our terms and the weight had to go.
We all shuffled our jobs around but Jaime made the biggest change, as Bob could not play a guitar. We gave him one month to learn the instrument. Jamie was not happy seeing Bob amidst the six keyboards that we continued to put on the stage. Mind, for all Bob’s learning he could only handle two of them. I added a fifth guitar to my on-stage instrument rack and took over most of Andy’s solo riffs. Jamie agreed to take on more singing and we had fun together, sharing the lead mike.
We announced Andy’s illness to the world and said that, out of deference to him, we were changing the name of the band to Poke. When he returned, then so too would the S. At every gig after that, girls brought bunches of flowers and laid them at the front of the stage. The president of our fan club gave a televised interview wherein she tearfully explained to Andy that the flowers represented everyone’s ‘get well’ wishes, just as visitors take flowers to patients in hospital.
Bob hated the floral tributes as they made him feel he wasn’t part of the band. He did manage to lose a lot of weight but his appearance became grungy. His long mane was matted and the beard he grew soon blended with his hair. He looked like a pair of eyes and a nose peering out of a thicket. His mouth was only noticeable when it was open. We had a band meeting during which we told Bob he looked like a pig and had to clean up his appearance. He snarled and told us his appearance was none of our business. We pointed out that, collectively, we were a business; a business that made a lot of money. He laughed derisively and said that some made more than others did.
“Hey,” I told him. “Anytime you don’t like it, you can leave with no hard feelings on our part.”
Andy died. The hospital asked us if we wanted to contribute money to their cancer research unit. Jaime and I sent them a note saying they would have had a better chance if they had saved him. We told a press conference the name Poke was now permanent.
Bob perked up. Once the sorrow of the groupies and fans had run its course, he felt more secure in his job. I figured he must have realised that he and I would never be an item and had purged me from his heart. He had learned the guitar well enough to take Andy’s place and so the rest of us reverted to our normal performances. Jamie touched each of his keyboards and asked them if they had suffered under Bob’s brutal fingers.
Carl and I lived together whenever our hectic schedules allowed us the time. I had purchased homes in Melbourne and London. He had a house in Monterey and another by Lake Como. Then the bastard killed himself on his stupid dune-buggy. What was he thinking when he climbed the steep dune at an angle that caused the vehicle to roll over and crush him to death? Damn him!
Eventually, my anger softened and turned into sadness. I wrote some words for a song.
Carl was such a lover,
Always made me feel
I’d never want another.
It was like a dream, but real.
Hand in hand with my angel
He’ll help me through my life
Hand in hand with my angel
I wanted to be his wife
The man held me so tight
I nearly left this band.
I knew he and I were right.
And still he holds my hand.
Hand in hand with my angel.
He’ll help me through my life.
Hand in hand with my angel.
I wanted to be his wife.
He helped me in every way
Told me to follow my dream.
I played music, stayed away
and missed what should have been
Hand in hand with my angel.
He’ll help me through my life.
Hand in hand with my angel.
I wanted to be his wife.
Jaime wrote a haunting melody and the song was released as a single with full orchestral backing. The disk outsold everything we had previously recorded. I sang the song live for the first time in Monterey, as I had never felt strong enough to sing it on stage until we got to Carl’s hometown. Jaime did a great job on his synthesizer to create the strings and horns. I felt so alone in that solitary spotlight and cried out for Carl to help me. I must have looked a mess. Bob came to my side and put one arm around me while using the other to urge the crowd to sing. After we finished the number, the audience continued the song without our accompaniment. Bob returned to his guitar but I didn’t hear him play. The crowd repeated the chorus over and over as they swayed and held their cigarette lighters and promotional lights aloft. We stood woodenly on the stage and looked about us, not knowing what to do. Tears ran down my face and I had to leave the loneliness of the spotlight. I stayed in the wings, sobbing my heart out until Jaime managed to quiet everyone. When he escorted me back to centre-stage, I received a thunderous ovation and almost had to leave again.
We were in Tokyo when I heard a Beverly and the Hills number played on the radio. It was a sentimental love song in the country-western style for which the group was known. I hadn’t heard the words before but the melody was vaguely familiar.
“You know that piece?” I asked Jaime. He shook his head slowly, as if he was running the tune through his memory bank.
“It’s mine,” Bob sneered. I looked at him with surprise. “Did ya think you were gonna get my numbers for a mere ten per cent? Beverly promised me fifty per cent of mechanical and performance royalties on all the numbers I write for her.”
“You’re still a fool, aren’t you!” I gave Bob my nastiest smile. “We’d have given you a fair break on anything you wrote for us.”
“Why don’t you go play for Beverly?” Jaime suggested.
“I’d rather stay with Poke, thanks. You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
“Actually, we will,” I informed him. “Jaime and I control eighty per cent of this band and if we vote you out, you’re out.”
Jack joined in. “Make it ninety per cent.” Then he grinned as the realisation hit him. “They don’t want you, do they? They get you to write hits for them and they pay you fifty per cent of your own royalties, but there’s no way in hell they want you in their band. Shit! They’re a lot smarter than I gave them credit for.”
“I don’t see you writing anything,” Bob flung the words at Jack with venom.
My eyes found Jaime’s and I knew we shared the same thoughts.
I suddenly understood the song was for me. Had Bob written it when he still cared for me? Did he still care for me? That might explain his sour attitude. Had he written it, and then realised Poke couldn’t use it without his feelings for me becoming public knowledge? I had to admit Beverly did a good job with it.
The situation could not go on. I contacted Danny Carter and asked him if he wanted to join us. It took us just three minutes to reach an agreement and I sent an email to our lawyers, telling them to wind up Bob and get a contract ready for Danny’s signature.
“I think that’s it for us, Bob,” I said the following day. “What you said yesterday was the final nail in the coffin. We owe you a few hundred thousand and we’ll pay you as soon as the accountants have figured it all out, taxes and all. But as of right now, you are no longer a member of Poke.”
The man looked hurt. The tough guy suddenly looked very vulnerable and I felt a measure of guilt.
“It’s just like high school again,” he said. “You screwed me then and ever since. What did I ever do to you, except look after you? If this is how you treat people who love you? I sure as hell feel sorry for anyone who gets on the wrong side of you. You were a cold fish then and you haven’t warmed up one degree.” He turned his head toward Jaime. “Watch your arse, pal. Once she finds she doesn’t need you, you’ll get the same treatment.”
Jaime and I went to a practice studio the next day but we felt listless. He fingered his keyboard and I plucked aimlessly at a guitar. It gradually dawned on me that Jaime was playing something new. It was unlike anything he’d composed before. It was a happy piece that I found infectious. I picked up the tune and played accompaniment. Comedic words started to form in my head and I sang them out loud. Jaime laughed and played the tune with greater confidence, suggesting alternate lyrics or new ones when I lah-de-dahed. Within a couple of hours, we had the words and music on paper.
The song was not something Poke would record and we contacted Beverly’s agent to see if we could put an agreement together. Within two days, Beverly asked us to send the number to her and, if her band liked it, she promised to send us a contract.
Two months later, Beverly and the Hills released a single that shot to number one. Soon after, I invited the guys to my home for champagne and cognac cocktails whilst we watched Bev’s group on a variety show performing the words of my final cruelty; ‘Pig in a poke’.
Peter Lingard asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work