Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Salus populi suprema lex esto: An extract from Exit
“John Mellencamp is not from Missouri dickhead!”
“What are you talking about?” exclaimed Rod.
“Yeah, what are you talking about?” added Scott who was trying to focus on his driving.
“What do you mean What am I talking about? He’s not from Missouri.”
“Are you sure? I’m quite certain he’s from Missouri.”
Matt shakes his head.
“And I’m quite certain you haven’t the faintest fucking clue as to the birth place of John Mellencamp.”
Hand To Hold On To was playing on the radio and Rod thought it was fortuitous considering the van they were in was currently stretching across the Missouri blacktops.
“But Matt, wasn’t Scarecrow all about Missouri?”
They had been in this van for a few weeks now and they assumed that eventually the cramped conditions were going to take its toll. No one expected it would be this soon or about something as ridiculous as the home state of an 80s pop star.
“Rod, Scarecrow is about Middle America, not just Missouri.”
Davey, who until this point was quietly ignoring the inane conversation, chimed in.
“Uhh…I think Rod is right on this Matt.”
“And I think the pair of you are fucking idiots!”
“Hey!” yelled Cam, putting down his writing pad and sort of half standing/half crouching from his seat in the back of van.
“What?” cried Matt incredulously.
“Is this really something to get worked up over? John friggin’ Mellencamp? Jesus, at least argue about something decent.”
He turned to the other three.
“Guys, he was born in Indiana. Argument over.”
Cam then sat down and continued writing.
“I bet you didn’t know that Matt.”
This was Rod.
“Of course I did, and I’m not going to sit here and be lectured by a guy who thought that Levi Strauss was the lead singer of The Four Tops.”
“Are you sure he is from Indiana?” Davey asked Cam.
Cam was getting pretty pissed at this point. He had this great stream of lyrics going on and the last thing he needed was an impromptu version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks going on around him.
“Why would I lie to you Davey?”
Davey could detect the strain in Cam’s voice so he went back to reading Rum Diary. It was weird the different relationships in the band. Davey the keyboardist and the bassist Cam were close friends before the band began so they understood and appreciated each other’s limits. Their vocalist Matt and guitarist Rod on the other hand would take any opportunity to piss each other off. Scott, as the drummer, or the current drummer anyway kept to himself. They held a mutual respect for one another but every once and awhile their ego’s dictated the state of play. It was then up to the rest of the band to intervene.
Silence enveloped the van. Someone had had the good sense to turn the music off amidst the argument (no doubt it was Scott) and all of a sudden it was just five lonely Aussie souls travelling through the land of hope and dreams.
“Cam, what are we doing here, really?”
It was Matt, speaking softly which was something new for him. He had quietly made his way to the back of the van and joined Cam who was feverishly writing away until he was interrupted.
Cam was thrown by the question. He wondered if Matt was asking about Missouri specifically? Matt pre-empted the notion.
“I mean this tour in general,” he said, leaning in a little closer to try and create a little privacy in the already snug conditions.
“We’re all unhappy to be here and the crowds are less than enthusiastic. Mate, what’s the point of it all?”
Cam couldn’t help but smirk at the situation, in particular Matt’s line of questioning, as it was the singer himself that had wished long ago to break North America.
“It’s called character building Matty, nothing more. We knew this was going to be a rough ride. Not everyone in Lincoln, Nebraska reads the NME or cares what Jo Whiley has to say about anything. And let’s not kid ourselves, we’re not exactly Radiohead ourselves mate.”
“Matt you watch, by the time we are back in London we will be better for the experience. It is shit like this tour that will keep us grounded.”
Matt nodded in agreement. He not only knew that Cam was right but that he was also the only one that could bring him around.
“In the meantime, don’t rag on Rod and the others over the little things. I don’t want us to be known as the band that broke up because we couldn’t agree on where the guy who wrote ‘Jack and fucking Diane’ was born!”
Matt laughed at the triviality of the whole thing.
“You’re right Cam. I apologise.”
Cam shook his head.
“Don’t apologise to me, I’m not the one you called a ‘fucking idiot’.”
Matt looked back towards the others. Scott had turned the radio back on an Mister Mister’s ‘Broken Wings’ was playing. The other three were singing along, having already forgotten the altercation a few minutes ago.
“Yeah I know.”
Matt turned his attention to Cameron’s note pad.
“So what do have going on here?” he gestured at Cam’s writing.
“Well I thought you would never ask. Go and fetch me Rod’s acoustic and come back here. I think I’m on to a winner.”
As Matt made for the guitar, Cam took in the open fields whipping by. He conceded the crowds were poor and it was a tough slog but he was enjoying the challenge. Besides, it allowed him to see parts of America he may otherwise have missed if he was simply vacationing. As a child, he and his brother were used to moving from town to town because of his father’s job so the transient nature of being on tour was oddly comforting for Cameron.
“Allrighty, let’s hear what you’ve got,” requested Matt, handing over Rod’s Maton to Cam in the process.
“Well the lyrics are by no means finished. I need a third verse and the bridge could do with a rewrite but it could be something to go with that sweet little riff Rod had going the other day.”
When Rod had played it to them back in St Louis they all loved it. The only problem was that it reminded them of a Robbie King number. Robbie had obviously been on their minds during the past week and a half so it was not surprising that he had been influential on their current creative process. At the time, Rod had prefaced this before playing them the riff.
“Hey guys,” Rod said that morning over coffee in a near empty diner.
“You know how we’ve been wanting to play a King song as a tribute? Well I woke up this morning with what I thought was a tune of his. Yet buggered if I know which one it is!”
Rod assumed if anyone would know it would be either Cam or Davey as they were by far the biggest Robbie King fans in the band. So Rod played them the riff a few times over. Cam and Davey exchanged glances, both searching deep within their musical memory bank for a match.
Neither of them could pick it.
Davey sucked some air through his teeth and looked crestfallen as he shot a glance across at Cam.
“Between us we have everything King ever did. What you played isn’t one of his, but damned if it doesn’t sound like it.”
“Davey’s right. It is everything a King tune would be but it doesn’t exist.”
“Not even a B-side?” ventured Scott.
Cam and Davey shook their heads in unison.
“If he was here, Dan would back us up on this. It’s not a Robbie King tune.”
Matt then chimed in.
“I’ll take both your words for it, including Dan’s, but if this riff turns into something we use then we’ll run it past the lawyers.”
“Just to be safe is all,” he assured them.
“So Rod, do you have any words to go with it?”
Rod laughed at the idea.
“Fuck Matt! The music only came to me a few hours ago. Besides, the lyrics aren’t my department. Do you have any?”
And it was that challenge that brought Matt and Cam to huddle around an acoustic and a notebook in the back of a van as it coasted through the farming states.