The Only Way to Fly
After three days of being absolutely lazy, except for keeping the place tidy and washing up after us, we found the boredom setting in, so Daley decided to get the rehearsals going early. Billy and I packed way his dad's drum kit and the band helped carry it up to one of the attics, making more room for us to set up our instruments and music stands in the barn. Then Billy gave the band a demo of his prowess on the drums. Daley grinned, and so did I, but the rest of the band watched him open-mouthed, even Ken. A couple of them threw challenges at him; whatever style they asked him to play he played it. He was a real cool dude that day as far as I was concerned.
Daley took us quickly through the band's established pieces, starting with the Blues brothers' "Expressway to your Heart", during which Billy gave it full whack, while I took the sax lead. By the end of the piece we were literally dancing, we couldn't help it; the buzz was in us. At the end even Ken joined us in the cheering. Billy just smiled and blushed at the praise. Well, as much as a pretty Latin kid can blush. I thought he looked quite cute. The next piece we tried was an arrangement of "Working Girls" in which I joined Indian in the sax duet. But the piece that sent us really high was the Gaucher D'Angelo track "Juke Joint" which Daley invited me to play lead on my tenor sax. Next came Sabrina's "Boys" arranged as an instrumental for want of a female vocalist. If we were amazed with Billy's drumming in "Expressway", he really took flight with this one. Next we tried out Dobie Gray's "Driftaway" with Daley asking me to sing vocals, and insisting afterwards that I sounded just like Dobie Gray himself. I took that as a great compliment as I admired Dobie to bits. I was aware of Billy's eyes fixed on me as I sang and he led the clapping in the chorus, hitting his drumsticks together high above his head.
Even Ken nodded and said, "That was good." As for himself he proved Trilby right about his guitar playing. He was a real catch, and I only wished he had a personality to match. The piece Daley asked him to play was a Chris Sudout track called "Lily Was Here", a low and easy track. I echoed him on alto sax with Daley on the keyboard and a lovely, gentle drumbeat by Billy, proving he could play the softer pieces of music with the same professional expertise as the more lively ones.
Before we broke for lunch, Daley got Ashton and Todd to sing the popular reggae track "Special Brew" a Bad Manners hit, with Todd playing a pleasing mouth organ solo, and when lunchtime came Billy didn't really want to stop, and looked pretty disappointed when the band put their instruments down. We trooped into the front lounge and ate a selection of farmhouse sandwiches; big doorstop types made with crusty bread, and washed them down with tea, coffee or lager. I could have murdered a pint just then but, as many wind blowers will tell you, the gas doesn't make for good playing, giving you extra wind where and when you don't really want it. Ken and the guitarists, not being affected in that way got stuck into the lager. After a couple of cans, Ken raised an empty one and said to Billy, "Hey, kid, get me another will you?" I expected Daley to tell the prick to get it himself but Billy signalled it was okay and walked out of the room. Moments later he returned with a can, stood in front of Ken. He opened it and it shot out, full force, hitting him in the face; he must have shaken it well for at least a minute. While his victim spluttered his way out of the deluge, the rest of the band howled. Ken sprang to his feet to confront Billy who held out the empty can, a finger in his mouth, his face a picture of innocence. But Billy wasn't finished.
He walked out into the hall and appeared seconds later with cleaning cloths and a bucket of warm soapy water. He placed them at Ken's feet and stood with his arms folded. We all stopped laughing to watch Ken's reaction to the challenge. He made to step round Billy, but the lad caught his arm, pointed his right index finger at him then wiped his fingers down the palm of his left hand, followed by two hands palm upwards, striking downwards in a sharp motion. The message was clear. "You, clean up, now!"
With the jeers of the band in his ears, Ken grabbed a cloth, dipped it into the water and started to sponge the front of his trousers. Billy wagged a finger sideways at him and pointed to the sofa and the carpet.
"Like hell I will," Ken snarled. "I'm not your skivvy."
"Neither is Billy your bloody servant," Daley said quietly. "You caused the mess, you clean it up."
"And if I don't?" Ken had his answer when all of us stood up and faced him, our silent corporate threat, a clear warning. If the situation hadn't turned so serious it would have been laughable to watch Jake push up against Billy's legs and add his growled warning. Ken shifted to barge past Billy but Jake bared his teeth, no longer the clown of dogs.
While we watched him, Ken made an effort to clean the carpet and the sofa where the throw hadn't protected it. When he finished, Billy put his hands to his mouth then lowered and spread them, saying thank you. Ken stormed out of the lounge and we all sat down again. Billy dragged the soiled throw off the damp sofa and threw it over one shoulder before picking up the bucket. After he left the lounge, the atmosphere was subdued to say the least, and I felt sorry for Daley as he now had a dilemma to cope with; dissension within the band was a bad thing. He had to choose between the best lead guitar he had heard for a long time or a really hot drummer who could send us packing any time he chose. In the end, the band had a pow-wow and decided. Give Ken time to show his commitment to the band and behave in the house or he was out when the snow cleared from the lane into town. Thankfully the snow stopped the next day and the telephone and power lines were restored the day after.
After the lager incident, Ken did not join us for rehearsals in the barn, hinting he had already made the decision for Daley. We rehearsed hard over those two days, ironing out several harmony problems with Daley. With the new arrangements in front of us, he took us through the same seven pieces, then added a further ten including Soul Man, Barefootin, Hold on I'm Comin' and Slow Down - a Jules Holland/Tom Jones track in which Rob surprised us by singing the Tom Jones vocal with great gusto. I'd never classed him as a vocalist at all. Daley thought this one would be too fast for Billy to keep pace with, but he proved he was his father's son and came up trumps with some neat drumming. He immediately followed with Bmovie Boxcar Blues and Flip Flop and Fly, a real humdinger of a song with Trilby on vocals. I could tell he'd been singing that one for a long time, and was really enjoying himself. By then we were ready for a break so while Daley and Todd went to make some tea, Billy switched on a CD player and treated us to a drum rendition, to the Jive Bunny recording of Swing the Mood, matching each drum stroke to perfection. He finished the piece as Daley came back in, and everyone talked at once, telling him he had missed a treat, but Daley smiled and said it was okay he had heard it from the kitchen via the open passage. He invited Billy to play something else while they drank their tea. He obliged by hunting through his CDs till he found one, started it and went off at a fast pace with "I Eat Cannibals". Suddenly Indian was on his feet, dancing around and making warlike Indian yells. The whole scene turned into an impromptu disco, the cups of tea forgotten. It was a really wild scene, and I wondered if Daley would be able to gain control of the rehearsal, everyone was having such a good time; especially when the next track started and Billy went straight into "Life's Too Short" with Rob belting out the Tom Jones vocal. Man, that was a day!
We packed in around six o'clock and Billy, quite rightly declared he was ready for a shower. He was sweating freely and his T-shirt was damp, and stuck to his finely shaped torso. He went off with Jake and I stayed to help the guys put the music and the instruments away. A few minutes later, we entered the house and were about to disperse to our rooms when all hell broke loose upstairs. At first a loud bark and a yell of pain reached our ears, followed by Jak's angry barking and snarling. We dived up the stairs to find Ken on his back on the landing, pinned down by a furious, snarling dog, threatening to rip his throat out. Billy was standing in the bathroom doorway, water streaming down his torso from his hair as he wrapped a towel round his hips. Daley grabbed Jake's collar and dragged him, struggling and still snarling, away from Ken who scrambled to his feet holding his right wrist. "He broke my arm, the little bitch."
Daley looked towards Billy for an explanation, and the boy's face showed his full anger and even I could read the total fury of his flying hands and fingers. Then he spun on his heel and went back into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
Daley spun Ken round to face him." I think you'd better pack your bags."
"I didn't do anything," Ken sputtered, his usual smug expression replaced by one of fear.
"Your hands went where they weren't invited," Daley replied. "and touched what you shouldn't"
"The kid's lying."
"Is he?" Daley plucked at Ken's wet T-shirt. "This is all the proof I need. Now go to your room and pack your bags. You're leaving."
"How? We're snowed in."
"That's your problem. Now move. Boys, see he does as he's told, I've got an angry kid to calm down and I wouldn't blame him if he told us all to go."
How Daley di dn't hit him, I'll never know, but I had no hesitation. I walked up to Ken and smacked him one in the mouth. He went down with blood spurting from a cut lip. "Daley did say you'd be in hospital first. See you in court on a molestation charge, you piece of shit."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]