Ostara Conversations: Performance Art

Hola, and welcome to The Cold Burg, where the wind chill is keeping everything down below zero.

Not like that keeps me inside.

Not like that keeps me inside.

That’s outside the coffee shop I’m sitting inside right now, though that picture was taken right before eight AM.  The Pennsylvania capitol building is behind me, so you know I’m in Harrisburg–or I’m really good with picture editing.

Busy day yesterday with writing and video blogging, and this morning I have just over a thousand words out of the way to finish my latest scene, and I’ll do a couple more videos this afternoon once I’m back inside the warm confines of my apartment.  But for now it’s time to bring my kids back into the fold and show a little of what Annie did for her part in the Ostara Celebration.  It’s nice, you can bet.

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

There were two canvases before him: Kerry turned his attention to the one of the left first, partially out of habit, partially because it was the more colorful of the two. The painting depicted a girl in light blue pajamas floating in a field of gray mist surrounded by a variety of blues, reds, pinks, aquas, and yellows, hovering over three large crimson and violet spheres run through with tendrils of turquoise. The girl was herself surrounded by a small field of faint white, giving her the appearance of a corporeal ghost.

He didn’t need to think about the symbolism of this work. “That’s you dreamwalking, isn’t it?”

Annie grinned. “Did you noticed the title?”

He looked at the card on the stand, which was written in both the English and Cyrillic alphabets. “I don’t even want to try saying that. I’ll end up butchering the words.”

“It’s Na Povŭrkhnostta v Tsarstvoto na Sŭnishtata, which translates as Afloat in the Realm of Dreams.” She gave him a knowing look. “That’s me dreamwalking you.”
He continued examining the painting. “It’s beautiful.”

“I can’t wait to teach you—” She chuckled. “Though I need to become better before that can happen.”

“Just give it time.” He turned to the canvas on the right. “There’s no need to know what this one’s about—” The second painting showed him siting on his broom, outfitted in winter flying gear, kissing Annie, who hovered in mid-air just to his left. All around them was dark, though it was possible to make out the huge structure covering the entire space behind them. Unlike the last painting there was almost no color in this one: it was all blacks and grays, punctuated by the brightness of their faces, close together and locked in an deep, tender kiss.

If he had any doubt about the source of the painting, the title cast aside those doubts.  “Night Flight to Fenway. I like that.”

“I like what’s going on.” Nadine stepped up to join them, replying to Kerry’s comment before Annie could speak. “You two.” A broad grin formed while she shook her head. “There’s no place you’ll do a PDA, is there?”

Annie grinned back at Nadine. “No. Why would you think otherwise?”

“I don’t. I think it’s sweet as hell, actually.” Nadine glanced between the two. “I’ll bet you’d kiss in your dreams if you could.”

The couple exchanged glances before Annie laughed while Kerry blushed. “Yes, we would.”

 

We now know Nadine approves of those public displays of affection, and she actually calls it a PDA, which given that today in my world it’s Valentine’s Day, though I never get to partake any PDAs of my own.  Then again, Nadine’s a couple of years older, so the whole “Let’s lock lips” thing isn’t something to giggle over.  Like a few others at Salem, romance is serious business with her.

Quickly we discover that Nadine isn’t there just to admire the artwork . . .

 

Nadine knew better than to dig any deeper into Annie’s cryptic comment. “Next year you’re gonna have to paint something that doesn’t have you two in flying gear.” She turned to Kerry. “Ready for the big night?”

“About as ready as I’m going to be.” The right side of his face turned up in a smirk. “I just hope the rhythm drummer can keep up with the lead tonight. He got it right during our dress last week, but—” He shrugged. “He’s blown the bridge a couple of times.”

Nadine turned to Annie. “That’s what he gets for using two drummers.”

Kerry pretended to be indigent. “That’s how the song was played live. Two drummers, no waiting–except for when Phil had to come down and sing.”

“The dude’s gotten it right for a few weeks now.” Nadine crossed her arms. “I don’t think you have any worries there.”

He nodded. “I only have to worry about the vocals now.”

“That was your choice.”

“You’ll do fine with the singing.” Having sat in on their dress rehearsal she didn’t need to question either person on the specifics of their performances. “It won’t be any more difficult than when you played and sang last year.”

Nadine nodded. “Just a longer song.”

“It was either Burning Rope or Cinema Show—” He chuckled. “I went with Burning Rope ‘cause I figured I had less of a chance of screwing up a seven minute song than a ten minute song.”

Annie nearly rolled her eyes. “You won’t screw up.”

“Annie’s right; you got this.” Nadine lowered her voice just a bit. “Though if you’d played the ten minute song Professor Ellison would have let me add another song to my set.”

“I think it would have been tough finding something to go with Cornflake Girl and Run.” Kerry looked around to see if anyone close by was listening to them. “And if you had played a third, people would think Ellison was giving us preferential treatment.”

“Which he sorta is seeing how you’re using the Quadra for your performance.”

“I didn’t expect that.” He pursed his lip for a moment. “Not that anyone other than us three know how important that instrument is in my song.”

Nadine shrugged. “Screw everyone else. I’m glad you’ll use it tonight.” She glance to Annie before turned back to Kerry. “I’m going to check my setup.”

“I’ll be along in about five minutes.”

She nodded to them both. “See you back stage.”

 

So there you have it:  by Nadine showing up and talking a little musical shop, you learn what they’re playing during the Ostara Performance.  Even though their songs are wildly different, they’re using two instruments are similar, so it kinda makes sense they’d work together up to a point.

Nadine’s playing Cornflake Girl by Tori Amos as her first song.  Tori normally uses a Bösendorfer baby grand piano, which was the piano of choice of Franz Liszt as well of that for Queen, Peter Gabriel, and Roy Bittan.  This is why the Yamaha P-255 is being employed, because Nadine wants a hard-core sound without requiring a baby grand on stage.  Which she could totally do if she wanted–

Her second song is Run by Collective Soul.  This song has more of a subdued feeling, and while the piano isn’t as prominent in this song, she’s employing the Mellotron M4000D for the string parts.  It’s an interesting choice for her, as some people have referred to this as an indie song to which one can slow dance.  And who knows:  maybe a few kids will jump into the aisles and do just that during her performance.

No one is dancing to Kerry’s tune, however.  As he indicated, he’s playing Burning Rope by Genesis, which is a seven minute song that was the longest tune on the album …And Then There Were Three…  When this song was played live during the 1977-78 Mirrors Tour four different keyboard instruments were employed, and that’s what Kerry is doing with his performance.  And being a pedantic little prog rock geek, he’s also asked for, and gotten, two drummers to play in his accompanying band.  The reason for this is simple:  back in the “old days” while Phil Collins would do all the drumming on the albums, they used another drummer for concert tours–in the case of the Mirrors Tour and all later tours, it was Chester Thompson.  However, Phil not only sang in concert but also drummed on a number of songs, and whenever there was a long instrumental section he’s run back to the drum kit behind his section of the stage and join in the drumming.

This is why Kerry has two drummers:  because that’s the way it was played.  His lead drummer, however, isn’t coming down off her kit to sing:  Kerry’s doing the vocals as well.

(I should point out that the “house band” being used by Nadine and Kerry–and the other students who require musical accompaniment–are all former students with extensive musical backgrounds.  This will get a mention in the next scene.  Are any of them famous?  I’ll never tell . . .)

The video below is Burning Rope as recorded 13 October, 1978, at Chicago’s late, great Uptown Theater, and this is pretty much how it’ll sound when Kerry plays.  This is taken off a broadcast from my favorite radio station back home, WXRT, which means this is mixed right off the band’s soundboard.  The image in the video also shows Tony’s set up for the tour.  The keyboards he’s “facing” are a Hammond T-102 organ with the ARP Quadra digital synthesizer sitting on top.  The Quadra that Kerry is playing–and which is constantly mentioned in the scene–is the same one heard in this recording; it’s making that “Wha-wa-wa-WAAAAAA-wa” sound in the song intro.  Kerry isn’t using an organ, but is employing the Akai MPK61 Midi Keyboard Controller to replicate an organ sound.

In the image the keyboards on the right of Tony are a Moog Polymoog 203a sitting atop a Yamaha CP-70 electric grand piano, which was the standard for portable concert pianos back then.  The Yamaha P-255 is used in place of the CP-70, and the Mellotron M4000D is used in place of the Polymoog 203a to produce the string sounds as well as an additional synth sound at the start of  the mid-song bridge.

Have I put too much thought into this?  No more than Kerry would.  Hummm . . . it’s almost like we’re the same person.

There you have it.  All you ever wanted to know about songs you’re never going to hear.  But what about the paintings?  Let’s get back to that . . .

 

Kerry turned back to Annie’s paintings. “Sorry about that.”

“Not your fault.” Annie took his hand. “It’s your time to shine as well.”

“My time comes later.” He pointed at the paintings. “This is your time, and we shouldn’t talk shop now.”

She loved that he was so apologetic. “You love my paintings?”

“They’re wonderful. Though I’m surprised you got the Fenway one out so quickly—”

“I started sketching it that night. Only took me two weeks to paint.”

“You’d could never tell. I love the difference between light—” He indicated the painting on the left. “—and dark.”

“Just wait until you see the dream realms with your own eyes.”

“Can’t wait.” He moved closer to the painting of them kissing. “I’ll never forget this moment.”

“Nor will I.” She held him close. “First time to show us kissing.”

“Like no one’s seen that.” He squeezed Annie’s hand. “Though we do need a painting that doesn’t have us in flight gear.”

“Well . . .” She leaned in so she could whisper in his ear. “There was another dream scene I could have painted.” Annie giggled softly. “Then I’d have only needed to explain why we were under a comforter.”

 

Could you imagine Annie painting the scene of them in the hotel in their dreams?  “Oh, this is a little something that happened to Kerry and I over the summer before we returned to school.  The comforter?  It’s there because we were naked under that–”  Eyes bugging, blood squirting from noses–it would make for a hell of an Ostara presentation, that’s for sure.

The question arises, too:  which painting does Kerry get?  He got the Bulgarian back yard scene from last year, so will Annie give him the kissing picture this year since she already has one of them together?  Or is going to give him the dreamscape painting?  Do you think I’ll answer that question in the next scene, which is the last of Chapter Twenty-six?

Hummm . . . Yeah, I probably will at that.  After all, Kerry wants to know as well, so someone’s gotta tell him.

The Night Air: Embracing the Madness

It’s 15 F/-9 C outside, which means I’m gonna have a cold walk into work in about an hour.   It’ll be almost Annie and Kerry cold outside, but don’t worry:  I keep bundled up.

How I normally look walking back and forth to work this time of year.

How I normally look walking back and forth to work this time of year.

My coat even has a hood, so I could go flying if I wanted to fly–assuming, you know, that I had a broom or could fly like a bird like certain characters of whom I write.  But I can’t do that, so I have to deal with trudging around in the cold on foot.  Flying to work would be nice, since it’s only a mile away and I’d be there in no time.

Speaking of getting somewhere in no time . . .

The next part of the scene has been in my head for a long a long time–probably a bit longer than the “Resting in Fenway” scene as a whole.  I’ll get to the part I really love in a second, but here are the kids, with the music on, and it’s bringing back memories of a far warmer time than what they’re experiencing now:

 

All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie couldn’t prevent the smile from appearing on her own face. Kerry’s reference wasn’t difficult to pick up: when they were together in Berlin, she’d played Muse’s song Madness more than a few times when they were in their hotel room—sometimes so much that she expected Kerry to make mention of the replays, or at the least roll his eyes every time began playing.

To her surprise he not only didn’t complain or mention the constant performances, but after a while Kerry actually appeared to enjoy the song, and there was one time when Annie came out of the bathroom and caught her soul mate reading the lyrics on his computer while the song played. The song played during the last Samhain dance, and Annie wondered if perhaps Kerry asked one of the instructors—maybe Deanna, though more likely Erywin—to play it early.

She leaned in close, stretching out her body so she was nearly perpendicular to her boyfriend. “You like this, hum?”

“Well . . .” He turned up the volume just a little. “It reminds me of a special few days.”

“Oh?” She moved her face closer to his. “I felt it was a special time as well, my love.” She touched the tablet display and turned up the volume as loud as possible, letting the sound fill the dark, empty stadium. “No one around to hear—”

“Only us.” Kerry sat back in the broom’s saddle with his eyes half-closed. “A long way from summer in Germany.”

“I have on my charm bracelet; that means it’s always summer no matter where we are.” Annie slipped through the air until she was hovering over the end of his broom. “And no matter what is happening with these dreams, know I’ll always be here for support.”

Kerry grinned as she semi-mimicking the current lyric. “So is this real love, or is it just madness?”

Umnik.” For the first time since leaving the school she flipped back the hood of her coat. “You know better than that.”

 

What Annie said there was “smart ass”, but the literal translation is more like “big nerd”, showing that Annie can swear and be on point the whole time as well.  We’re heard Annie swear before, but usually she just calls someone a bitch, and that usually comes right before she starts to light them up.

This scene does relate back to the days when the kids were in Berlin, way back in the early parts of Act One.  And it also relates back to the song mentioned in the scene.  This was another one of those, “Ah, ha!” moments for me, because when I decided to use this song in the background of the story, I first saw it in this scene, which then set me to wondering, “How did it get there?”  A little quick research showed that the song was released just the week before my kids hit The Big B, and knowing Annie’s taste in music is a little more modern than Kerry’s, I had no problem seeing her dancing around her room and the lake house while getting ready to leave for school with her dancing around to the beat–something she’s already told us she does.

Pretty much a Chicken coming before the Egg moment, wouldn’t you say?  First I see the scene in Fenway, then I think of the song, and then I incorporate how the song came into my kid’s lives before I write the scene in which that happens.  Yes, my mind works in strange ways.

Oh, and here’s the tune in question, in case you want to imagine what’s happening next with a little music to make it complete.

For your interesting worthless fact of the day, if you played the video, you heard a distinctive “Bromm bromm bromp” through much of the song.  The instrument making that sound is a Misa Kitara digital MIDI controller, which looks a lot like a tablet surface built into a guitar, and is played a lot like one, only instead of strumming strings, you run your fingers over the tablet.  Now you know something you likely didn’t a few minutes before.

Annie has her hood back–what could that mean?

 

“Yes, I do.” Kerry flipped back this coat hood as well, exposing a relaxed face and affectionate eyes as the song segued into the guitar break. “So much, Sweetie.”

She twisted her body around until her feet were away from Kerry and appeared to be swimming towards him. Isis said that first day we were mermaids of the air. The song reached the crescendo as she pushed with her arms towards him, as if she were moving through water.  I am more than that.

Annie whispered a version of a line from the song while centimeters from his face. “Imam nuzhda ot vashata lyubov, skŭpa moya.” She took hold of the collar of his coat and turned her head as her lips met his. She felt the music swell around them as she held the kiss while floating together meters above the ground. She didn’t want to break the kiss; she wanted to hold it, to press it into herself and keep it there through the winter, into the spring, and take it home for the summer—

I love him so much. My soul mate; my husband to be. She finally broke the kiss so she could stare into his eyes—

Kerry sighed as his head tilted back, enraptured in ecstasy. He took Annie in his arms and clenched her tight. “Will come to me in my dreams—” He whispered into her ear. “Will you come and rescue me?”

Annie pulled herself against him tight. “I will come anywhere to rescue you, my love.” She kissed him again. “Anywhere.”

The song finished and Annie looked up as she found them surrounded in silent. “A little more of this—” She reached down and stopped the music stream. “And a little more of this.” She took his face in her hands as she kissed him once more.

 

Leave these kids alone for a few minutes, and before you know it the lip locking is underway.

Leave these kids alone for a few minutes, and before you know it the lip locking is underway.

 

 

Now . . . what Kerry said there at the end goes back to one of the lyrics of the song.  What is sung is, “Come to me/Trust in your dream/Come on and rescue me”, and some people–if they were, say, a writer–would say that’s foreshadowing.  Perhaps they’re right.  Perhaps they’re not.  Only I know for sure.  Bwah, hahahaha!

Annie also said something, more or less, from the song.  Her whispered line is, “I need your love, my darling,” which is something that’s sung after coming out of the instrumental bridge, and happens when the song moves towards the crescendo.  Her love, her soul mate . . . her husband to be.  Annie’s always got her eyes on the prize, and at that moment she had him right there, all alone in the dark in a baseball stadium.

There isn’t much left to this scene, but I have to say:  after waiting just about a year to get it written, I’m finally glad to have made it real.  Now if I could only get someone to draw a picture of the moment.

That would be perfect.

Getting Science All Up In Here

I don’t get out my these days–that’s sort of clear to a lot of people.  And one of the things I don’t get out to do is see movies.  Most of that is due to having sort of a high standard when it comes to seeing a movie, and that’s to be entertained without having too much of my intelligence insulted.  That’s why I’d only seen Mad Max:  Fury Road this year of 2015 and nothing else.  I’m just a cranky bitch when it comes to film.

Yesterday, however, not long after posted on my blog, I headed out to see The Martian, the movie based upon Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name.  One reason I wanted to see the movie was because it was science fiction, and from everything I’d read of the novel, pretty accurate science fiction, with the emphases on science.  I will say now that I have not read the novel, but I’m probably going to pick it up and give it a read just to see the differences between the printed and visual versions.

The interesting thing about the novel is how it came about.  Weir wanted the novel as scientifically accurate as possible, and did a lot of research on the surface of Mars, on botany, astrophysics, space craft design, and orbital mechanics, going so far as to write is own program so he could track the orbits of the ships in his novel.

Which is something only a few crazy people do for, say, a game.

Which is something only a few crazy people–like the one who wrote this a few years ago–kinda sorta do for games.   Crazy.

Weir had been writing since his twenties, and The Martian was his first novel.  He shopped it around, and when none of the publishing houses showed interested, he started publishing the book for free on his website, going thought chapter by chapter.

That's insane.  What sort of nut does that?

That’s insane. What sort of nut does that?

After a while people asked him to put out a Kindle version of the story, and he did, and he sold the book for $.99, the lowest price one can offer for a work on Amazon.  After he sold thirty-five thousand copies in one month, Crown Publishing Group approached him and asked if he’d like a sweet deal for his book.  The deal made him another one hundred thousand dollars and got him a movie, so it sounds like he got what he was looking for.

If you’re asking, “What’s this about?”, it’s about a guy who, through no fault of anyone, gets stranded on Mars and has to find a way to stay alive until he’ rescued.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that says the same thing through Apature.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that makes you wonder if Aperture Science runs the space program.

That’s the story in a nutshell, and without going into a lot of detail, it’s what the movies shows.  What I loved was the attention to detail and how everything was so . . . sciencry.  As I indicated I haven’t read the book, but there were things in the movie that because of my knowledge of Mars and space stuff in general, I got right away.  (There was a scene in the movie where the main character was looking at a map, and the minute he realizes something and was hit with a light bulb moment, so was I.  Geeks, I know.)

The movie is magnificent in appearance.  The Mars stand-in was Wadi Rum in Jordan, which has stood in for Mars in a couple of movies, and one of the locations used in Laurence of Arabia.  With the help of a little CGI you feel like you could be there on the Red Planet.  All the tech looks workable and has an authentic feel.  And the spaceship Hermes and the Mars HABs . . . Oi.

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

I can look at the ship above and see stuff that’s supposed to be there on a real spacecraft, and that makes me happy.  There are things I saw happening in the movie that shouldn’t have happened (when you decelerate in space, your engine is supposed to be pointed towards the forward edge of your orbit, thank you), but they were minor and nitpicky.  Even Weir admits that he made the storms on Mars more visually impressive than they would be in real life because, you know, sometimes you have to do that.

The characters are good, though I think NASA in the middle of the 21st Century would be a tad more diverse than shown, and in one major instance, a character was completely whitewashed. The moment I saw the character’s name I thought “Shouldn’t she be Korean?”  This, again, came without reading the novel, and after a little investigation last night I discovered I was correct.  It isn’t impossible to find an actress of the proper ethnicity these days,  so Hollywood, you need to stop that shit right now.

There is one scene in the movie that got a huge laugh out of the audience I was with–and with me as well–and without going into detail:

When you see the scene, you'll get this completely.

When you see the scene, you’ll get this completely.

I came out really happy, not only because I saw what I’d say was a real science fiction movie, but because there was a scene involving engineering that was done while ABBA’s Waterloo played on the soundtrack.  I mean, come on:  that’s something I’d do in my stories, so you know I was smiling like crazy and bouncing in my seat as the scene played out.  And in a moment of disclosure, in a game I was running some twenty years ago, I’d planed to use Waterloo as a song-over during a scene were some people were preparing in invade a planet.

See?  Great minds think alike.  And so do those who know what makes science fun.

Down On the Deck: Home By the Sea

Here I was, yesterday, saying I wanted to finish this scene and chapter, and guess what?  Did!  Totally did.  No, really.

See?  No brag, just truth.

See? No brag, just truth.

And as you can see Chapter Seventeen awaits, where it’s a week later and–humm.  Looks like the kids are heading home for the holidays.  Yes, it’s that time, when the school shuts down for two weeks and all the kids go home to see their parents.  And if you look closely, you can see that Kerry is heading back to Cardiff and Annie is heading back to Pamporovo.

Actually, Chapter’s Seventeen and Eighteen deal with the kids being away from each other–the first scene of Chapter Sixteen is one of only two times you’ll see the kids together the next two chapters–but that’s in the future, and right now we’re finishing up the present, and it’s time to get my kids together again.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

The dots on within the image had already crossed half the map when Nurse Bianca called the deck and informed the girls that Nurse Thebe and she were downstairs with warming blankets. Alex was able to get off a quick thank you when Kerry called in. “Flight Deck, this is Overnight. On my mark lowing to four hundred kph and beginning our decent.” He paused for about six seconds before continuing. “And . . . mark.”

Emma, as group pilot, gave the overall command. “Overnight, slow to four hundred kph and follow us down.”

Penny kept her eyes on the display, watching the dots descend towards Cape Ann. She nodded her approval. “Smart move. Forty kilometers out, coming in at four hundred kph—”

“They’ll be here in ten minutes.” Annie figured out the plan during the time Kerry informed them.

“A little more, actually.” Alex waved her hand over a pad. “Lights up on the roof and the Clock Tower. They should be able to see us now.”

“And we need to do now is lay out a landing pattern.” Alex walked over to the window and looked out onto the darkened meadow. “And light a few fires to everyone can warm up on the spot.”

“Good idea.” Penny tapped Annie on the arm. “You’re helping, right?”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” Annie gave the display another look. “You think I’m waiting up here—”

“—While he’s down there? Nope.” Penny tapped near her ear piece. “Overnight, this is Flight Deck. We have the Flight School overhead lights and the Clock Tower beacon lit, and we’re going to set up your landing grid for you. Over.”

Emma returned with the acknowledgment. “Roger, Flight Deck. Should be on the ground soon. Over.”

All three girls were about to turn from the hologram when Kerry’s voice broadcast through the room. “Hang on, Overnight: A little homecoming music is in order. Hit it.” Immediately four loud guitar cords rang out followed by a heavy drum and bass rhythm. A few seconds later the vocals rang out: “Home by the sea/home by the sea—”

Annie chuckled. “I’ve heard this one before.”

Penny stared at the dots in the tank with a smile on her face. “Bloody hell.”

“That’s my Darling.” Annie grabbed the coats and levitated them towards the girls. “They’ll be her in a few minutes.”

 

Once more the Flight Deck is running pretty smoothly considering it’s being run by three teenage girls.  They got the action down.  This is why when the bad guys came calling, the school just locked shit up and put the kids out there with the adults, because nothing is crazier than a teenage witch.

“That’s my Darling.”  I actually loved writing that line, because if there’s something Annie’s doing this year, it’s getting loosened up around people.  Well, people she likes.  Other bitches best watch out or they’ll get a lightening bolt shot their way.

And here we have Kerry bring everyone home with music–He’d actually sort of foreshadowed this back on PEI:

 

“Already figured that out.” He pushed the map display to his right until they were looking at the western coast of Nova Scotia. “Right there.” He marked the point. “About as west as you can get before you run out of land. Which means . . .” He sketched a line to the southwest until he encountered a well-known point of land. “Rockport. And our home by the sea just to the west.” He quickly connected the marked points on the map, creating a line from their current location back to the school. “There’s it is: that’s the route.”

 

“Our home by the sea”.  So what song does he play coming in?  Why, Home By the Sea, what else?

Not only does he play it, he plays it loud:

 

All three girls hurried downstairs and found Bianca and Thebe waiting just outside the main hangar door. Penny began pointing to different spots around them. “Alex, set up three fires on the right, I’ll do the same on the left. Let’s get them in a large semi-circle.” She pointed straight ahead. “Annie, could you set up a row of lights for about twenty, thirty meters, maybe five meters apart?”

“Not a problem.” Annie rose about a half-meter off the ground and crafted a white light source on the ground before floating out about five meters to do the same thing again. She did this five more times, setting up a thirty meters runway for the flight to line up on and bring them into the group of fires Alex and Penny created.

She floated back to where the girls and nurses stood. Annie adjusted her wool cap and glanced skyward. “Do you hear that?”

Alex looked up and grinned. “Music?”

“Yes.” Annie grinned wildly. “Kerry must have it his tablet loudspeakers.”

“Jeez.” Penny shook her head. “Vicky must not worry they’re going to be heard from the ground.”

“It’s not like any of the Normals would see them.” She pointed towards the southeast. “I think that’s them.”

Annie saw two sets of yellow-white lights moving off to her right: one seemed to indicate where to turn, and the other seemed to point downward. The continued moving to her left as they now appeared to quickly lose altitude over the east wall. At the north end of the meadow tree line the lights continued swinging to the left, then stopped and began approaching her.

She heard Penny giving instruction for the flight as they lined up on the makeshift runway. The music was easily discernible now, and she could now clearly make out the lead flight, bundled up tight against the cold, with nary a square . Kerry pointed downward with his left hand until they were within touching distance of the ground, at which point he flattened his hand and spread out the lights at his fingertips, while Emma waved her right hand overhead to slow the group, then pumped a fist into the air bringing the flight to a complete stop. The last few lines of the song played—”Cause you won’t get away/So with us you will stay/For the rest of your days/Sit down/As we relive our lives in what we tell you”—before Kerry punched his tablet and shut down the song.

Emma pulled down her balaclava before looking backwards over her shoulder. “Dismount.” She was off her broom a few seconds later as Kerry pulled down his balaclava and slipped his goggles up onto his forehead.

Each of the girls grabbed a couple of warming blanket. Annie immediately made clear which team she was going to treat. “I’ve got the lead.”

Penny chuckled. “Figured that.”

Annie saw Kerry drop his backpack and come around the front of his broom and hold up his right hand for Emma to slap. They exchanged a quick nod before Kerry turned towards Annie, a huge grin affixed upon his face. “There you are.”

“Here I am.” She secured one of her blankets around Emma’s shoulders before doing the same to Kerry. “You need this.” Standing this close she saw patches of frost on his parka, and noticed his glasses were partially fogged. “Come on, both you—” She took Kerry’s hand and waved for Emma to follow. “Come warm up.”

 

Kerry does a quick high-five with Emma–who seems to have a good pair of lungs on her and likes being in control–and then he’s like, “Open arms for my Sweetie!”  Annie’s being nice handing a blanket to Emma, but then she’s not going to be a bitch a ignore her like someone used to do her.  And there’s frost on Kerry’s parka–probably from when he warmed up coming down to the school.  The temps went up considerably, believe that.

 

The entire flight had left their backpacks next to their brooms and was now crowding around the fires as the nurses examined a few of those students seen shivering. The two instructors went from student to student asking them them how they felt, patting each on the shoulder. Vicky checked on Emma before turning to Kerry. “I see you’re in good hands.”

Kerry wrapped his blanketed arms around Annie. “In the best, Nightwitch.”

“As I thought.” She stepped towards the middle of the runway. “Okay, listen up—” She raised here voice so everyone could hear. “As soon as you’re warmed up and feeling better, move your brooms and your packs to the hanger—do not unpack them now—then go get something to eat. As there’s no racing tomorrow, we’ll have a debriefing at nine, and after that we’ll unpack and put away our gear. And anyone who doesn’t want to change now let me know and I’ll have housekeeping move your clothes back to your dorm rooms.” She flipped her parka hood back, removed her wool hat and flight helmet, and shook out her hair after stripping off her balaclava. “It was a pleasure flying with all of you.”

“Hey.” Emma pulled her blanket tight as she stepped closer to Annie and Kerry. “I’m gonna see if Nadine will give me a jaunt to the Dining Hall.”

“No problem.” He grinned back at his wingmate. “After flying a couple of thousand kilometers, I think we’ll walk back.”

“Okay, then: catch you later.” She gave them both a wave and walked off.

Finally alone, Annie unzipped Kerry’s parka, pushed back his hood, and removed his head gear, dropping it to the ground next to them. “Feeling better?” She slipped her arms under his parka and around his torso.”

“I am now.” He leaned his head against her shoulder. “What’d you do last night?”

“Hung out with the girls and Jairo.” She felt comfortable and secure against Kerry’s body. “Penny and Alex had me over to sleep with them: they asked Professor Semplen to get housekeeping to move another bed into their room. They said they didn’t want me sleeping alone.”

Kerry held tightly on to Annie. “That was nice of them.”

“It was.” She whispered into his ear. “Did you miss me?”

He moved Annie back so her face was mere centimeters aware, then kissed her slowly for almost twenty second. “Oh, Darling—” He pulled her into a warm embrace. “Every second I was away.”

“So did I, my love—” Annie closed her eyes and held on tightly to her soul mate, least she slide to the ground. “So did I.”

 

No racing, just Midnight Madness after a little dinner and a cup of something warm, and some warm arms to lay in.  Annie got to do a bit of a sleepover with her covenmates, and Kerry is giving her a long, lingering kiss in a fire-lit PDA, probably because his lips are cold.  Yeah, that’s what it is.

Everyone’s home in what turned out to be a long chapter–one of the longest, actually–and now it’s time to send the kids away for a few weeks.

Where a few more surprises await them . . .

Rocking Along the Overnight Way

So, Cassidy, were are we now?  Good you should ask . . .

As I may or may not have pointed out, last night was my electrolysis session.  It was two hours of fun, if you consider having an electric needle stuck in your face fun.  At least Bonnie–the woman who does my work–and I were having fun, talking about Emmys, Game of Thrones–which I told her is also called Boobs and Dragons, which she loved–Orphan Black, menopause, and women who should wear something over really, really tight leggings.  I mean, what else are you doing to do for two hours?  I’m sort of sitting there with nowhere to go while she does her shock and tweeze routine,  so you make the best of the situation.

And don't mind how numb you are when you get home.

And don’t mind how numb you are when you get home.

But I did write:  last night and even a little this morning.  I wanted to get the scene moved alone, and . . . the part I added required a bit of thinking–which I did on the forty minute trip back from my session–and once I got home I needed to sit, change, get organized, and write.

And I came up with this:

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Just west of Millinocket they turned nearly due north as they skirted the eastern border of Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin. After completing the turn and getting set on their new course Kerry pulled down his balaclava—which everyone now wore under their flying helmets to keep their exposed faces warm—and looked to his left. He could just making out the darkened bulk of Mount Katahdin ten kilometers away. It was nearly impossible to make out detail with the naked eye as there was a new moon, and under low-light the green tint hide the beauty of the scenery.

Kerry remembered the location of their camp site, and with them moving along at nearly two hundred kilometers an hour, he quickly calculated they’d arrive in approximately twenty minutes. He called to Nightwitch and asked if it would be all to play some music off his tablet computer—which he’d brought to help navigate—to perk everyone up after nearly two hours of chilly flying. To his surprise Vicky told him to go ahead and put it on external so it wasn’t jamming the comms.

He quickly found three songs, set his modified computer over to external sound, adjusted the transmission field so it’d cover a sphere about twenty meters across, and hit Play. A few seconds later the snare roll of Smashing Pumpkins’ Cherub Rock began, and in seconds the Salem Overnight was cruising at eight hundred meters past the tallest mountain in the state of Maine as the bass, drums, and grinding guitar of the song filled the sky around the flight.

He found himself bouncing up and down on his broom’s saddle, moving with the rhythm of the tune. He looked to his right and saw Emma had pulled down her balaclava and smiled his way while bobbing her head. Nadine gave him a thumbs up from the other side of the group, and a few others looked his way and nodded in agreement. After nearly one hundred minutes of flying in darkness and sub-zero wind chills, everyone welcomed the addition to their travel.

Seconds after the first song ended the opening cello strikes to Viva la Vida began, and Nadine chose that moment to pop over to Kerry’s left. As Chris Martin began singing Nadine joined in and motioned for Kerry to accompany. He joined her on the second verse and continued singing as she returned to her position on the first chorus. He smiled broadly as he sang without benefit of magical auto tune, remembering that they’d almost chosen this song to play last year during Ostara, and they’d practiced it twice before Kerry decided to go with Lovers in Japan.

Though he knew he sounded terrible, especially when compared to Nadine’s fairly wonderful singing voice, he enjoyed singing along, and when he started getting into the second chorus, he heard others joining in, their off-tune voices coming in over the comms. It got him smiling even more, and the chill that had help him for the last hour drifted away.

The last song was one he’d always wanted to play while flying: Murray Gold arrangement of the Doctor Who Theme used from 2005 to 2007. He cranked up his system as the synths, guitars, bass, and drums were accompanied by the National Orchestra Of Wales and the quick tempo bombast of strings and horns blasted out over the almost deserted and near-frozen Maine countryside. It was only two and a half minutes long, but by the time they came up on their final turn and approach, Kerry was once more fully alert and ready to start setting up camp in the minus eight Celsius winter darkness feeling suitably heroic.

 

Kerry bringing the tunes to the sky!  Now, it’s been said before he’s done this–during the graduation flight Annie and he took at the end of their A Levels, he played music from his tablet, and he’s brought it along once more.  On the way up it’s a lot of cold flying–the temps are legit for the date and time, and if you really must know the wind chill, it’s -25 Celsius–but now that they’re down to the last sixty kilometers, he’s ready to rock out.

And it is sixty--okay, sixty-one.  We'll just ignore that last kilometer . . .

And it is sixty–okay, sixty-one. We’ll just ignore that last kilometer . . .

Which brings us to Kerry’s Last Sixty Kilometer Play List:

Smashing Pumpkins, Cherub Rock

Yeah, I remember this from when I was working in downtown Chicago and the Pumpkins were still kind of a local band.  And flying through the night with some awesome thrash going on is a good way to get the blood pumping as you’re flying past a big mountain peak.

What Kerry would see, only with a lot more darkness.

What Kerry would see, only with a lot more darkness.

Coldplay, Viva la Vida

Not only does Kerry like this song, but so does Nadine, it seems.  It’s a nice touch pointing out that he almost played this the year before at Ostara, but decided to go with another Coldplay song.  A good, driving beat that gets one in a bit of a positive mood and should make you forget the cold.

Murray Gold, Doctor Who Theme from 2005 to 2007:

And last but not least, Kerry is for sure gonna throw this one on.  Two-and-a-half minutes of tecno-orchestral bombast, it would be like having a marching band behind you as you fly triumphant through the night.  This would probably get a smile out of Erywin as well, as she’s something of a fellow geekette–after all, she is Leela.

Tonight:  gotta write my recap and I hope to finish this scene after that.

You might even get to see Emma . . .

Bechdel-Wallaceing Down Memory Lane

Ah, the sweet smell of Wednesday.  It’s hot and muggy outside, but tomorrow it’s not going to get out of the upper 60s and rain all day.  Maybe I’ll wear my purple dress tomorrow, because why not?  It’s like this when you walk to work, right?  All the time.  Best enjoy this, ’cause in a few months it’ll be snowing and cold and I’m gonna need a pair of rubber boots to wear, ’cause I damn sure don’t want to do it in flats.

Now we have writing, and a strange title for today’s post.  The title refers to the Bechdel-Wallace Test, a litmus test for female presence in fictional media. It’s named for Alison Bechdel, creator of the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, which she credits to idea first put forward by her friend Liz Wallace.  The rules are simple:

 

1.  The story includes at least two women
2.  Who have at least one conversation
3.  About something other than a man or men

 

Booyah.  Simple, right?  You’d be surprised.  This is mostly applied to movies, but it can be applied to any sort of fictional media.  And you get a lot of funny results.  Most of the Harry Potter movies/books fail this test, but Starship Troopers passes because of one conversation.  Now, I’m not gonna point out that the movie Bikini Car Wash totally passes this test, because to do so points out that you shouldn’t take stuff like this so seriously that you revolve your whole story around whether or not you can pass the test by hitting the required marks–that’s known as gaming the system, and it’s easy to do.

I don’t try to game, however.  I let my work stand on it’s own merit.  I will say, however, that I do pass the test, though the first novel has Annie talking about Kerry a lot to Deanna on  a couple of occasions, but that was because a lot of the story was about her working to get back his memories.

"Let me tell you about my boyfriend. He doesn't remember me from our dreams, and he thinks I'm really another girl he fell in love with, but . . . not. Pretty clear, huh?"

“Let me tell you about my boyfriend. He doesn’t remember me from our dreams, and he thinks I’m really another girl he fell in love with, but . . . not. Pretty clear, huh?”

There have been a lot of other conversations, though, that weren’t about Kerry.  Annie and Helena talking about Shadow Ribbons; Isis and Wednesday talking about going outside The Pentagram; Wednesday and Erywin talking about getting comms and sensors back on-line; Erywin and Helena having a number of conversations; Helena threatening Maddie about being a mole for the Guardians. And the conversation below:  Annie and Deanna getting into a little school history.  Which is always fun . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“Fortunately for everyone Wanda was affable and well liked, which was considered a change from a few of the school’s overly-strict instructors. And given her age, she tended to identify with the students, which they loved. And as a seer she was good: from what I read two-thirds of her visions tended to be accurate.

“But . . .” A large smile began forming on Deanna’s face. “You know how Normal entertainment tends to portray seers as being eccentric, sometimes to an extreme?”

“Eccentric or insane.” Annie tended to stay away from popular books and movie that had ridiculous or hurtful portrayals of witches, and in particular hated the stereotype of the seer who was anti-social or crazy. While she knew it wasn’t Normal artist’s fault that they’d never knowingly interacted with witches, it was still bothersome that they were played for the lowest common entertainment value. “I don’t care for either.”

 

Seers coming across and eccentric and crazy in popular fiction?  Think they have a certain witch in mind?  Probably.  A nice little touch I love is showing how the people at Salem react to the way their kind are represented in different forms of media popularized by Normals.  Think Deanna doesn’t get pissed every time she sees a woman staring into a crystal ball?  Think Erywin nearly blinds herself rolling her eyes every time she sees witches standing around a bubbling cauldron?  Think Helena hasn’t gone all Elvis on her television whenever there’s an evil sorceress in a program?  They know how they’re seen–either played for laughs or decked out as pure evil–and even when someone comes close to getting it right, they shake their heads and mutter, “For heaven’s sake, we own TVs–we’re not living in the 19th Century, you know!”

But, you know, every so often someone does fit the image . . .

 

“Neither do I, for obvious reasons. However, stereotypes exist for a reason, and it seems Wanda was one of those exceptions. According to the diaries from the time, every vision was a Pronouncement, and she made a huge deal out of each one: standing up, spreading the arms, tossing back the head, and speaking in a really loud voice.” Deanna almost shouted out the last few words to give them the emphasis she wanted. “And it was likely to happen at any time: in class, during meals, during celebrations, even in the middle of the night. That’s why she got the nickname Crazy Wanda, because there was nothing subtle about the way she brought her sight to the attention of others.

“However, given that she was a great instructor, the staff and students put up with her, and she not only became a mainstay, but by the early eighteen hundreds she was being considered as a coven leader. Then Imbolc, 1803, came around, and that is how all this—” Deanna held out her hands and looked about the office. “—came about.

“The diary of the Ceridwen Coven leader stated that right in the middle of the Imbolc feast Wanda stands up and begins speaking of her vision. In this one, she states that the school must build a second building for divination studies just to the east of the current structure, and it must be completed and ready for the next school year, or—as she stated—’The whole of the establishment will be consumed in flame and agony’.”

Annie was torn between grimacing and laughing. “That’s quite a vision to proclaim: give Divinations their own building, or watch the school burn to the ground.”

Deanna nodded. “And what bothered the school staff was her sixty-six percent success rate on visions. The school’s one hundred and thirtieth anniversary was happening that summer, and they wanted a school—and students—there to witness said anniversary. So . . .” She raised her eyebrows as she turned her eyes towards the ceiling. “Here we are. They broke ground right before Beltaine, and they completed the building the first week in July. Wanda got her building—and an office—and the school didn’t burn down.” Deanna sighed. “Everyone was happy.”

 

I should try that with my job:  “If I don’t get a raise, FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, YO!”  Yeah.  I’d get shown the door real quick.  Probably would help if I could turn people into newts . . .

Now you know why there are two buildings out at Memory’s End.  And all’s well that ends well, right?

 

Annie leaned against the wall. “So how long did Wanda teach here after this was built?”

Deanna’s mood began to shift and turn dower. “Four years.”

“Did she go back to The Netherlands after that?”

“You could say that—” Deanna looked down for a moment. “She died 2 November, 1807, right after the Samhain celebrations.”

Given the way Deanna’s mood changed Annie was almost afraid to ask the cause of the young seer’s death. “What happened?”

“She killed herself.” Deanna paused just long enough for Annie to get over the shock before continuing. “She came out here early in the morning with a potion—which is what they called them back then—and her body was found right before lunch. She gave no reason for her suicide: all she left behind were instructions on who would get her books, that she wanted her body immolated, and that the ashes were to be dropped into the Maas River a bit upstream so they’d flow past her home town on their way to the sea.”

With the end of the story the mood in the office changed dramatically. “That doesn’t seem right. How could she kill herself?”

Deanna came over and touched Annie’s shoulder reassuringly. “It’s not the first time it happened, and certainly wasn’t the last.” She glanced to her left. “A total of five instructors of divination have died in this office, four by their own hands—the last one killed herself in 1964.”

 

Well, that’s a bummer, but it was one I expected, because when I set Wanda up in the notes I wrote “1770–1807” next to her name.  She didn’t make it to forty.  And, you find out, that’s not unusual out at Memory’s End–or at the school . . .

 

“That’s so . . .” Before coming to Salem she’d knew nothing of the dark side of the school save for whispered comments about The Scouring, and though the Day of the Dead attack was horrible, she believed it to be an exception. “I don’t know how you can work in an office where people killed themselves.”

“It doesn’t bother me.” Deanna softly chuckled. “Besides, this place is drenched in blood. The school is going to be three hundred and thirty years old next summer, and in that time nearly six hundred people—staff, instructors, and students—have died here—”

“You’ve seen a lot of that, haven’t you?” Annie was very much aware of Deanna’s involvement in The Scouring, how she managed to lead a majority of her covermates out of Åsgårdsreia Coven before it was destroyed by a Deconstructor attack, even though they hadn’t studied the event in history yet.

“More than I’ve cared to see.” She slid her hand behind Annie’s shoulder and directed her out of the office. “Let me show you something—”

“What?”

Deanna led them towards the stairs going to the first floor. “One of my favorites places here.”

 

Let’s hope the place Deanna wants to show Annie is a happy one, because I managed to end almost a thousand words of writing on a real down note.  Not to mention that she pointed out that nearly two people have died each year at Salem for the duration of its existence, and that’s a strange bit of history to keep in mind.  In Annie’s first year at the school ten people died, and that number was nearly fourteen, and that’s a hell of a way to start off your magical instruction.  And even though it was pointed out that Deanna was involved in saving a lot of people from her coven during The Scouring, she’s leaving out that something like thirty were killed when Åsgårdsreia Tower exploded–yeah, right up in flames it went.  Not a pretty sight.

Maybe tomorrow there’ll be happy time.  Pretty sure we could all use it.

Revelations Into Genesis

Blame this all on Skye Hegyes, who while conversing with me the other day said, “I need a Genesis play list.”  Well, Sweetie, you come to the right place!  (See, you got a Sweetie; usually only Annie gets a Sweetie.)  This gives me an excuse to post about something besides writing, and to show off my obscure knowledge of worthless crap that usually only I care about.  I’m kinda the Queen of Useless Crap, and today you get to see it in full-blown mania.

Back in the day when I was a young lad–and, yes, I did look like a lad–I used to listen to this band, and many others, on the FM stations broadcasting out of Chicago.  This was back in the days when you’d get ten minutes songs, entire albums being played at night, and ever so often, a DJ getting drunk or loaded and needing to be hauled off the air before the FCC came down on their asses.  It was really kind of a glorious time for music, because you could hear everything, from metal to folk to progressive to soft pop all in the course of an hour.  No rules, just music.  My thing was progressive, keyboard laden music, because I’m strange, okay?  That’s why my record collection tended to have a lot of Elton John, Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Genesis in them, and when one of those would come on the radio I tended to stop what I was doing–which was mostly reading–and listen intently, because this was one of the few escapes I had in live, and I made the most of that escape.

I have stated before that I have a Genesis connection in my novels.  Three characters were named after members of the band:  Mr. Mayhew, the rep who came for Kerry, was named after John Mayhew, the drummer on the Tresspass album, and not to be confused with the dude who plays Chewbacca.  Ms. Bernice Rutherford, Kerry’s case worker, is named after Mike Rutherford, the bass and guitar player, and Mr. Gabriel was named after Peter Gabriel, the first lead singer.  In the third novel, the C Level novel–yes, there should be one baring death–you’ll met someone named Collins, and they will not be regarded as a nice person.

There isn’t a Mr. or Ms. Banks person in my novels, however, because it’s also stated the Tony Banks, the keyboard player, has actually given lectures at the school.  Hummm . . . so if he knows about the school, does that mean . . .?  Nah, couldn’t be.  But we’ll get to him and how he sort of sets something in motion in a moment . . .

All of the videos included are live shows.  I mean, anyone can put on an album and kick back, but with a live show you get to hear not only how the songs sound before the studio engineer gets their mitts on the recording, but in some cases, how it the technology of the time kept a band from sounding the way the did on a record.

One of the terms you’ll read is “soundboard”.  If you’ve ever been to a concert, it’s usually found in the middle of the floor of a show, maybe half-way or two-thirds of the way back from the stage.  This is where the input from the different instruments is gathered and mixed so you can hear a show that doesn’t sound like a hot mess–or maybe it does for various reasons.  This is the best location to get a recording of a live show, and most bands do just that.  David Bowie is supposed to have records of ever live show he’s ever performed, which would be taken off a tape unit getting the final mix from the soundboard.  There is only one of the following recordings that is not from the soundboard, and I’ll identify that concert in the notes.

So . . . the music, and the novel.  How do they relate?

First off, Kerry, who is a geeky music fan due to one of the only influences his father handed down, was told by Mr. Mayhew that Tony Banks has taught at the school–you know, it’s almost as if someone knew what sort of music he liked and threw out that hook, yeah?  He gets to Salem and at the end of the first week Annie and he visit the Keyboard Room and meet with Professor Ellison.  And while there, this exchange happens:

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

She didn’t expect what the professor did next. He looked Kerry up and down while he tapped his left index finger against the top of the organ. “Tell me—” He pointed at an instrument about three meters away. “Do you know what that is?”

Kerry answered right away. “Mellotron Mark IV.”

“And the one to the left?”

“That’s a Mellotron Mark II.”

“And you know that because . . ?”

Kerry took a few steps back from Professor Ellison. “The Mark IV has had that same sort of case for most of the time it’s been produced. The Mark II . . .” He glanced over his shoulder, then back. “Two manuals, side-by-side.”

“Correct.” Professor Ellison move slowly towards the instruments. “This Mark II is a bit famous: it originally belonged to the band King Crimson—” He powered up the machine. As soon it was ready, he began playing.

Kerry’s face broke into an enormous smile as the professor held the first chords, then progressed to the second set. “No. You’re kidding.”

Professor Ellison played another ten seconds before stopping. “Oh, yeah. It’s, uh, a gift to the school.”

Though the two males in the room knew this music, Annie certainly didn’t. “What was that you played?”

Kerry answered, and he couldn’t hide his excitement. “The opening to Watcher of the Skies: it was the first song on Foxtrot.” He pointed at the machine. “This is the machine it was recorded on.” He turned back to Professor Ellison. “Right?”

“You are.” He patted the machine. “Tony says he has a mellotron in storage, but he’d rather not dig it out because the new tech is better . . .” He chuckled. “Or he doesn’t want to fly across the ocean to get this.” He pointed to another keyboard on the other side of the room. “Do you know that one?”

 

The intro to Watcher of the Skies is so famous that sound is replicated on modern mellotrons and Memotrons as “The Watcher of the Skies Package”, because it’s that damn bad.  And what did Annie and Kerry hear Professor Ellison play?

Why, it’s right below

The first show was recorded for an audience at Shepperton Studios at the beginning of the Selling England by the Pound tour.  This was the “classic” lineup that was together for four albums:  Steve Hackett on guitar, Mike Rutherford on bass and Taurus bass peddles, Phil Collins on drums, Tony Banks on keyboards, and Peter Gabriel on vocals.  This really gives people an idea of what sort of theatrics the band was into at the time, and they were . . . a lot.  Gabriel was uncomfortable in front of crowds–yes, I know, strange, right?–and that was on of the reasons he loved the costumes, because it insulated him from the people who paid to see him sing.  He doesn’t banter with the crowd:  he tells stories as introductions to the songs and then gets to singing.  The stage is stripped down and pretty bare, and there aren’t a hell of a lot things going on that we sort of take for granted in shows these days.

Of particular interest is Hackett, who is sitting on the left side of the stage from our point of view.  And I do mean “sit”:  he sat on a stool right up through the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, would play his guitar, and often drink beer–lots of beer.  There are many stories about how he’d set his finished cans on top of the speakers around him, and during some shows would knock them off by accident and send them scattering across the stage.   1970s, I know.

The opening of the next two shows is the intro my kids heard, played then as it was in my novel on the infamous “Black Bitch”, a Mellotron Mark II that was prone to acting up and breaking down when it was least expected.  But if you’re a keyboard geek like me, you love these cords . . .

Selling England by the Pound Tour, Shepperton Studios, UK, 30/31 October, 1973:

As the above show was one of the first done on the tour, this one below was the second to the last.  This is a famous performance jokingly called the Selling Equipment by the Pound show, because at some point after the show concluded people broke into the Academy of Music, stole all the guitars, and held them for ransom.  The 5 May show, which was to have been the last, was canceled and moved to 6 May before the band managed to get their equipment back after a bit of negotiation, and the likely exchange of money and/or a few . . . “substances”.  Taylor Swift never had to put up with this shit, let me tell you.

This show is also famous as it’s the last time Peter Gabriel sang Supper’s Ready live.  This is the twenty-three minute song–yes, you heard me right–that closes out the album Foxtrot, and it’s considered the band’s magnum opus and a concert favorite.  The title is also the code that Erywin used to let the kids know things were going sideways during their trip to Kansas City, so there.  It’s also one of the last times Tony Banks played the piano intro–right around the 42:45 mark–to Firth of Fifth live, because he hated playing it on a shitty little electric piano, and after completely blowing the intro a few times in other shows, he stated he’s never try it live again.

Oh, and the ticket prices for this show:  $3 USD.  That included a twenty-five cent service charge.  I actually paid that amount for a few shows at the old Hammond Civic Center.  You could even buy a tee shirt afterwards for five bucks . . .

This is the only one of the videos that came from a fan recording, which means someone was sitting in the audience with a tape recorder getting this all down, and this is what we heard when we spoke of “bootleg tapes” of shows.  The guy who recorded this must have had a hell of a tape deck, because this is almost of soundboard quality.  This is really how one would have heard the show back then, complete with audience approval.

Selling England by the Pound Tour, Academy of Music, New York, 4 May, 1974:

Onward to what was probably, at the time, one of the most well known and nearly mythical tours ever:  the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, done in support of the eponymous album.  The show was basically the whole album replayed, with lots of costume changes, images flashed on screens, and story telling.  It was, however, 1975, and a lot of these things were near disasters:  the videos never seemed to sync up with the music correctly because it was all controlled manually–’cause technology was limited, yo–and a few of the customs were a complete pain in the ass to wear.  The worst was the infamous “Slipperman” outfit, which was . . .

This goddamn thing.

This goddamn thing.

That’s an actual picture from one of the shows, and someone was high as hell when they decided this was a good idea.  Gabriel had about two minutes to get into that outfit, and half the time he’d be out of breath once he was back out on stage, and the other half of the time he couldn’t get the mic close to his mouth.  Either of these meant that while he was in garb you couldn’t hear most of whatever he was trying to sing.  70s, people:  it was a different time.  Now you know why a lot of shows with a lot of costume changes just play a backing vocal of the singer while they dance across the stage.

While trying A For Advanced I spent a lot of time listening to this show while typing away at Panera.  This is also a famous recording as it’s the only professional recording of the tour, done for the King Biscuit Power Hour radio program, and broadcast a month or two after this performance.  I’ve found only one other soundboard recording from the Lamb tour, but this one is one of the best.  And, no:  Peter isn’t out of breath while singing The Colony of Slippermen.

Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Tour, Shrine Auditorium, L.A., 24 January, 1975:

We move on.  Peter Gabriel has left the building, and it was decided Phil Collins would get out from behind the drums and sing, something that made him pretty nervous at the time.  From this point on the band hired another drummer to place the album parts, and for the Trick of the Tail Tour Bill Buford was personally chosen by Phil because they’ll played together in the band Brand X.  This follow is a great soundboard recording, mostly because the band was recording show that would eventually end up on the Second’s Out album, and Phil even makes reference to that near the end of the show.  At this point there were actually two drum kits on stage, as Phil would run back and play drums when a song fell into a prolonged instrumental segment–as it did on a few of these songs, notably Cinema Show, which has a four minute keyboard solo.

Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett introduce some of the songs because Phil wasn’t comfortable speaking to the audience.  Because he was a drummer, and most of the time they’re nice and cozy sitting behind their drums.  He got better, don’t worry.

Trick of the Tail Tour, Hammersmith Odeon, London, 10 June, 1976:

The Wind and Wuthering Tour was the first to see Chester Thompson on drums, and the last to see Steve Hackett perform with the band.  Steve decides to leave during the recording of the album, and he agreed to go out on tour to help promote the album.  This is one of  their best shows, and it’s a lot of fun to hear Phil address the crowd in Portuguese.  This was also the start of them starting to get big, though the huge stadium tours were still ten years away.  Personally this is one of my favorite tours, and the one I almost saw when they came through Chicago in late 1977.  I say almost because plans fell through at the last minute, and I was unable to procure tickets when they played the International Amphitheater.  This show has them performing Inside and Out, which they did only in Europe and South America, and was replaced by Your Own Special Way once they came to North America.  Inside and Out was found on a twelve inch record Spot the Pigeon, which had three songs that never made it onto other albums.

Wind and Wuthering Tour, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 21 May, 1977:

And then there were three–hence the name of the next album and sorta tour name.  Because there were only three band members now, they hired Daryl Strumer to play guitar and bass while on tour, and continued to use Chester on drums.  These two guys would remain part of the touring group for pretty much the remainder of the band’s existence.

I say this was “sorta tour name”, because fans referred to this tour as the Mirrors Tour due to the placement of six mirrors over the stage–

Like this.

Like this.

Which were used to direct light on to the stage, and could give the audience different views of the stage–

Like this.

Like this.

This tour saw The Eleventh Earl of Mar and Cinema Show being performed in their entirety for the last time, and it was also the last tour where Tony used a mellotron:  after this he started going with digital samples in place of the mellotron’s tape samples, and the probably shipped the keyboard off to a special school in Massachusetts.  The Dijon show is not only a great recording, but hearing Phil tell the Story of Romeo and Juliet–the intro to the song Cinema Show–in French is hilarious.

Should also point out that the intro to the song Burning Rope is the same that Kerry plays in the Keyboard Room with Professor Ellison.  He’s even playing it on the same synthesizer being used in this tour.

… And Then There Were Three/Mirrors Tour, Dijon, France, 3 June, 1978:

I’m including the Chicago show of the same tour for two reasons.  One, this is taken from the live radio broadcast, done by WXRT–the station I used to listen to when I lived near Chicago–at the old Uptown Theater, and two, this was the last time they performed Dancing With the Moonlit Knight in it’s entirety.  This was the song that opened the album Selling England by the Pound, and the band performed the song as a favor to the radio station, who asked nicely if they would pretty please do it for their Chicago fans.  You can also hear how we sometimes heard shows that we couldn’t make, and keep in mind this broadcast was free and not some Xfinity “Bringing you the concert for only $100!” shit.

… And Then There Were Three/Mirrors Tour, Chicago, 13 October, 1978:

And now back into the novel for a bit.  During their walking tour of London–before Young Kerry knew he was a witch and remembered that the girl he sat with at lunch in Russel Square was his soul mate–the kids visited a number of locations, but there was only one that Kerry wanted to see . . .

 

They ate in silence for maybe three minutes before Annie asked Kerry about the one thing that had been on her mind since taking their cab ride to the site he wanted to visit. “Why did you want to see that theater?”

He tapped a finger on the table as he swallowed. “The Lyceum?”

“Yes.”

“’Cause I wanted to.”

“Yes, but why?” She shook her head. “No one does anything for no reason whatsoever, Kerry. Why did you want to visit there?”

He started drumming the fingers of his left hand lightly against the table. “One of the groups I listen to, they did a few shows there back in 1980—almost exactly twenty years before I was born. It’s like . . .” He shrugged, keeping his eyes on his food like someone was going to steal his sandwich. “I feel like I’m connected to it, you know? There’s also, like—” He frowned before turning his gaze back towards the street once more. “I figured I better do it now while I can.”

 

What he was talking about this show:  the Lyceum show recorded near the end of the English side of the Duke Tour.  The BBC program The Old Grey Whistle Test recorded footage of the band on the nights of 6 and 7 May, and broadcast about an hour of that.  This meant getting soundboard recordings of both shows, and besides the BBC filming, there were a few amateurs filming as well.  Eventually someone put that footage together with the sound, and a DVD of the shows was released.

The video isn’t great, mostly because this was filmed thirty-five years ago.  But what you get from this show is the back and forth between the band and the audience, which was tremendous.  As you can see, there are times when Phil’s about to lose his shit because the crowd is just yelling crap at the stage.  Oh, yeah, and that’s his real hair, and seeing him with a beard can be a bit of a shock.

However, his banter with the audience is good, and we not only get to meet Roland the Bisexual Drum Machine–no, really–you get an earful of The Story of Albert, which is the lead-in to The Duke Suite, which was supposed to show up on the Duke album as performed here, but the band decided too many people would think they were trying to make another Supper’s Ready and scrapped the idea.  The suite consists of six songs:  Behind the Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocals, Turn it On Again, Duke’s Travels, and Duke’s End.  Most everyone knows Turn it On Again, which was the main single from the album.  The first three songs in the suite opened the album, and the last two closed it out.  One of the other reasons it wasn’t included on the album as they play live–as you’ll hear–is Turn it On Again is performed in a different time signature than the other songs, necessitating the stops before and after.

Duke Tour, Lyceum Theater, London, 6 May, 1980:

Abacab, and the album that lost a lot of fans because they’d “sold out” and gone “commercial”–and let’s face it, if you’re an artist and you wanna eat, it’s what you do.  The following show came days after the infamous Leiden, The Netherlands, show, where fans booed the band, and Phil got pissed off enough to yell into the mic, “I’m gonna kick the shit out of the lot of ya.”  This is a great show, though, and it’s the only time Mike Rutherford played drums, which happened during the song Who Dunnit?

Abacab Tour, Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany, 30 October, 1981:

What about the Mama Tour?  There aren’t any good records of the full concert, soundboard, bootleg, or otherwise.  The person who usually gets the best concert recordings is waiting on a soundboard recording for one show, but that hasn’t arrived yet.

We do have this, and it’s one of my favorites for putting just under twenty minutes behind me.  It’s the In the Cage Melody, and whenever I need a quick writing dash I put this on.  The video also shows the Vari-Lite system, which was used for the first time on this tour, and is pretty much a standard these days.  It’s a computerized light system that controls the color and, for the first time, movement of lights, and before this tour you need to have a special system built for you–like Queen often did–if you wanted fancy moving lights.  The band actually put up a few million of their own cash to build the system, which meant that they made money off other bands who wanted to use the same system.  Now you know one of the reasons why Phil Collins has been able to pay out one hundred million dollars through three divorce settlements and still live comfortably.

Oh, and when look at the display on the video below?  The keyboard Tony is playing with his right hand is the same ARP Quadra that Kerry plays Burning Rope on in the Keyboard Room.  Thanks, Tony!

In the Cage Melody, Mama Tour,  National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, England, February, 1983:

And down to the last of their final shows where they were pretty much riding the crest of stardom.  First the Invisible Touch tour, which was probably their biggest:

Invisible Touch Tour, Wembly Stadium, London, 1 to 4 July, 1987:

And The Way We Walk Tour, done in support of their We Can’t Dance album:

The Way We Walk Tour, Earl’s Court, London, 8 November, 1992:

These two shows have their most “radio friendly” tunes, which are the songs they’re probably most known for unless you’re an old bitch like me, or a crazy kid like Kerry.  These last two shows were notable because several of the songs needed to be performed at a lower key to prevent Phil from straining his voice on high notes, and that came in handy during their last tour in 2007, because his voice had deepened with age and hitting high notes was right out of the question.

So there you are, Skye:  a huge playlist for you to hear, and four thousand words of history for everyone else to blow off.

I believe my work here is done.