This is part two of my project in which I write a series of vignettes inspired by an album. Each vignette is a song. I had to pick a Stereophonics album for this because they are a band that had a massive influence on me and my family. Many of my memories are attached to music by Stereophonics. I struggled to pick an album, my favourite album is probably Performance and Cocktails because those are the songs that really take me back. Therefore I have gone for that one, but unlike with the piece I did for Lana Del Rey this one doesn’t necessarily finds its stories in the lyrics, its more about the feelings and ideas that I experience when I listen to this album. I really hope that makes sense!
I hope you enjoy, thank-you so much for reading and if you have any albums that you think would work well with this project please do let me know!
Roll Up And Shine
He sat on the edge of a stage staring out at the detrotous of a thousand revellers. He had kicked off his boots, his legs were swinging off the edge of the stage as he listened to the men tidy away the mess of performance. The mics, the instruments, the drum kit clanging as it was pulled to pieces, the grunt of backs strained under the weight of amps. He smiled, listening, nobody paying him any attention as they went about their business. Worker bees with the same routine every time they took apart the music, ready to be unboxed for a new audience. If he closed his eyes he could still hear the voices bounce off the metal roof. The acoustics were dreadful here, it felt like so long since he had heard the strum of an acoustic guitar in a dive bar. The sweet memories before things got popular, before he had to follow the sound from arena to arena, watching crowds who only new the chorus heave at the metal bar, arms stretched out, begging for attention.
It was Melody, the girlfriend he had liked for her name and now loved for everything else.
“You hate these places.”
He shuffled forward, stepping down onto the sticky concrete. Floating on the beer stained surface were wrappers, plastic cups and bobbles tugged out of hair, strands of long dark curls still attached.
“You hate this place.” She tried again.
“It has its charms.” He pulled on his boots and looped his arm around her shoulders.
“Where’s Maddie at?”
“There was a line. I can wait.”
He nodded and let her pull him to the emptying corridor outside. The end of a gig was like jumping into a swimming pool. Suddenly you were deaf. All that noise pushed itself into your ears and stopped the drums paying attention to anything that wasn’t music. When Melody spoke he had to look, to really look, to understand anything at all.
“I’ll go in and find her.”
“She better be there. Mum ‘ll kill me if we’ve lost her.”
Melody only rolled her eyes, kissed him quickly that way she always did when he was with his family. As though she was almost embarrassed. She disappeared behind the wall that blocked the ladies from view and he stumbled back into the wall, his head leaning against posters for Disney On Ice and Strictly On Tour.
He unhooked his phone and tried to remember how good it had sounded, the vibration in his feet, the drum pounding his chest. Always over too quick.
The Bartender And The Thief
Maddy had lifted herself onto a high stool, her red head poking over the top of sweaty drinkers so that she could eye her brother and his girlfriend as they jostled to the front of the line. Melody had a way of pushing past people without annoying them, catching the bartenders eye and ordering drinks before the group they had arrived with had even decided what to drink. She watched the way they stood together, heads close together, the way they moved one then the other.
Maddy glanced down at her hands, pale on the scrubbed oak of the table which gleamed with other peoples drinks. She felt different in the dress her friend had lent her, the black material folding up at the inside of her knees and then further, the back of her thighs. She couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it as she tried to find a comfy way to sit on the metal stool. She was still listening to the music in her head, her ears ringing and dancing, she almost wanted to cover them. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of the warm beer, the closeness of the bodies who had poured out of the arena and into this tiny bar. Barely a bar, just a room scattered with odd furniture. Still suffused with the smell of smoke from before the ban.
“Can I get you a drink?”
She looked up at the bald-headed man, his tshirt was clinging to his skin from the sweat that marked the jersey. He ran a hand over the back of his neck. He looked old enough to be her dad, with skin more weathered, embroidered with birds and flowers and MUM across the inside of his wrist. His eyes flickered over her and she tried to remember why she hadn’t hitched her skirt back down.
She reached for a beer mat and twisted it around and around, waiting until Lewis got back. When he did he handed over her coke with a twist of his mouth before slamming his own pint on the table, looking at the man with a sharp raise of his chin.
The man nodded and disappeared into the crowd, eaten up by beer and bodies.
She took a sip from the small glass and grinned, tasting the coconuts.
“Not a word to Mum, right?”
Maddy rolled her eyes, “I’m not daft.”
Hurry Up And Wait
Melody waved from the door, still smiling, her ears still ringing so that she would no doubt wake her parents as she tried to get a class of water and go upstairs.
Lewis waited until her front door was closed, until the key was turned before looking at Maddy.
Maddy nodded and smiled, “sounds like a plan.”
Lewis turned the music down and they shuffled into silence. It was the comfortable silence of having lived forever with the other, or remembering holding them on your knee as a baby, entrusted with the promise of always always looking after them. The kind of quiet that doesn’t matter, just the music and the synchronised drumming of fingers, the bouncing of your right knee at traffic lights. Singing because no one cares if you miss a note or even if you know the words.
They parked up outside McDonalds and ate their McFlurries in peace, the music turned down almost too quiet to be heard over the ringing in their ears.
“We’ll have to get back, Mum won’t sleep until you’re home.”
Maddy rolled her shoulders up and down, not wanting to think about home, about being back to normal, the young’n again. Instead she tipped her head to one side to look at the sky, the deep velvet night, the stars thrown over the earth, making patterns she could almost recognise.
Pick A Part That’s New
It was warm but the air was thick, threatening rain. Maddy pulled her jacket over her shoulders, hunching her shoulders as she peered up the sky. The back of her neck was itching with the heat but a trail of goose bumps had kissed her arms, raising the hairs on her bare skin. She was tired, experiencing the hangover of a good night cut short.
She had danced in the sand, music playing from her mobile phone in a glass, the music amplified so that dog walkers passing them in the dusk had eyed them disapprovingly, tutting and shaking their heads. Neither Maddy nor Sean had cared, they had danced and drank the cider he’d managed to persuade the guy in the paper shop to sell him. They’d danced until they’d been tripping over nothing, their feet catching up waves of sand.
Then the wind had changed, picking up the sand and twisting it into the air. They’d danced some more as though neither of them cared, until Sean had got bored and walked home, disappearing into the distance, kicking up stones with the scuffed toes of his trainers.
Now she waited.
Lewis didn’t take long. He swerved into the car park with a sharp nod of his head that sent Maddy racing across the tarmac, sand still sticking to her legs, scratching at her toes in her sandals. She slid into the car, the air cool, the air con blasting.
The click of her seatbelt, the slam of the door and Lewis revved the engine, pulling them out of the car park so that her head slammed into the back of the seat.
Maddy reached over for the ipod sitting in the middle of the car.
“Can I be DJ?”
“None of your shite though.”
“It’s your ipod.”
Lewis nodded, eyes dancing over his steering wheel at the traffic lights, hands drumming impatiently.
“”Melody is waiting.”
“S’alright. Why didn’t Sean take you home?”
Maddy found one of their favourites, a song that made her think of melting ice cream and barbecue food and the kind of laughter that gave you a stitch. The lyrics were almost dirty, in that way that they had understood when they were kids, singing as loud as they could just to make their great aunt blush.
Maddy turned the song up as loud as she could without hurting her ears. Lewis rolled his eyes but then he was caught, singing along, hitting the rap in the middle with a grin. Leaning forward onto the wheel as though driving them down an uneven hill, bounding into something new.
Sophie hadn’t been home in forever. The door to her room was kept closed, except for Sunday mornings when their mum creeped inside to hoover and dust, to refold tshirts and blankets, ready for the end of term.
When she did come home it was with a tan and white teeth and a lilting accent that didn’t sound like home. Words like ‘raspberry’ ‘school’ and ‘book’ looping around her tongue and into the air as though she was someone else entirely.
She hadn’t told them she was coming home, but walked from the station all the way back, pulling her case behind her and ignoring the calls from boy racers. Hauling the bag over steep curbs, her skin glistening, praying for rain. Was it possible she had forgotten how long it took to get home?
The dog spotted her first, his nose pressed against the living room window, a little cockapoo all fluff and teddy bear face who howled at the sight of her and pushed past everyone to get out onto the drive and push her over with bear paws. The case fell to one side, forgotten.
The family moved around her, arms overlapping. The returned at the heart, pulled close so that pale freckled arms merged with other pale freckled arms and just a blonde head with tanned face stuck out of the top. Giggling and cackling with the laughter that didn’t quite sound like home.
Half The Lies You Tell Ain’t True
It wasn’t until later that Maddy knew that something was wrong. Mum and Dad had gone for dinner, Lewis had gone to Melody’s and she had tip toed into her sisters room with Meangirls and a bowl of popcorn.
Sophie glared at the bowl and the film like they were poison, her fingers moving over her phone as she spoke to anyone but Maddy. As though she couldn’t recognise her unless she was a photo on a screen.
Maddy mumbled her suggestion but watched the film alone, sharing the popcorn with the dog instead. She listened to Sophie’s music through the floorboards, new music that didn’t make Maddy think of anything.
When Maddy went to bed the music was quieter and over it she could hear the sound of ripping paper. Her head round the door to say goodnight, Sophie tried to cover her nights work, but there was no hiding all the pieces of lined paper and neat blue writing piled up around her, a snow drift of things she hadn’t told, perhaps never would.
I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio
Sophie was driving, Maddy in front because she got car sick. Lewis in the back, in the middle with his ipod on his knee, flicking through the music and stop-starting too many times, switching from memories of childhood to sounds of teens, making the girls scream for him to stop. The Prince of Bellaire made them all cackle until Sophie almost crashed the car, her white teeth shining against her tan, her high ponytail dancing as Maddy caught every word and rolled it from her tongue like smoke into the air.
Lewis had promised them chips and ice cream, cans of cold coke drank sitting on picnic tables, feet on the seats to see over the park and down to the sea. Maddy was wearing a sleeveless top and was looking forward to the heat sinking into her skin, giving her freckles.
A quick swerve.
“Shit, kid.” Muttered Lewis, finding another song.
Sophie rolled her eyes, snapped her gum and pulled into a space. She stepped out quickly, before Lewis could unbuckle himself from behind Maddy’s seat.
They sat in a row, oldest to youngest or youngest to oldest. Lewis and Maddy buffering Sophie as she told them she hated uni and the people and the work and the things that weren’t going to be anyway. Lewis passed the chips down the line, before getting them back to finish off, dipping them in the left over vinegar while Sophie chewed on her thumbnail. Maddy swirled her coke in the can until it was flat and warm, then shrugged.
“Well at least your back.”
T-Shirt Sun Tan
Sophie and Maddy were at the park, lying on a towel and pretending to be somewhere else. Short shorts and cami tops, cat eye sunglasses and magazines curled over with sun cream. Legs in the air, kicking back and forth, belly on the blanket, elbows on the grass. Two heads bowed together, whispering, laughing.
Maddy stretched, her feet sinking down to the grass, she flicked onto the next page of her magazine, showed Sophie a dress.
Someone kicked the sole of her sandal.
She looked round to see Sean, a half smile, eyes squinting in the midday.
Maddy glanced at Sophie, far more likely to get annoyed over past records than Lewis, who just did judgment in silence and disappointment in frowns.
“I’ve missed you.”
“Is this Sean?” Asked Sophie as though she was out of ear shot, as though they were watching TV and she was catching up on the soaps.
Maddy nodded and she didn’t know who too.
Sean looked at Sophie, frowning, “Who are you?”
Sophie rolled back onto her stomach. Bored.
“Well, er, can I buy you an-”
Sean nodded to Maddy and then walked away, cap twirling between his fingers, catching up with his mates who laughed and patted him on the back. Commiserations.
Is Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today?
Maddy crept into Sophie’s room, avoiding the floorboards that creaked, learned from games of lava and midnight feasts, watching 18’s lying under Sophie’s bed, whispering about things she didn’t understand but trying to look and sound wise.
Sophie was pale and chewing her lip, sunk deep into the body of her armchair, knees raised to cover her face just in case. Mum was asleep but even now you just never knew. A long time ago, Lewis had bought Sophie a record player and a vinyl was crackling from the corner of the room, music Maddy was sure she once knew. The music on sunday mornings, the smell of roast beef and the sunlight of long days.
“Y’ok?” Whispered Maddy but Sophie didn’t look up so she went and sat on the bed, legs crossed, pillow on her knees, elbows on the pillow, fists under chin.
Sophie nodded, shook her head, shrugged.
“I can’t go back.”
“You don’t have too.”
“It’s gunna kill Mum.”
“I think your flattering yourself.”
And then laughter, shush, whisper. Sliding under the bed, almost fitting, sharp elbows and shoulders overlapping as Sophie found her tablet and put on some Netflix. Not quite Meangirls but it would do.
A Minute Longer
“What happened?” Asked Maddy, two episodes in and afraid Sophie would fall asleep if she didn’t ask soon. It was too hot under the bed, even though her feet stuck out the bottom.
“I just failed.”
Maddy shook her head, “I don’t believe you.” She whispered so that Sophie could ignore her if she wanted to.
“I got lost.” Said Sophie.
Maddy nodded as though that really did make more sense. She leaned closer, rested her head on the bone of Sophie’s shoulder, she smelled of the same perfume she’d warn for years and the mints she always ate, bubblegum and cream soda.
“What will you do?”
Sophie looked at her, the screen dropping down to her lap.
“What everyone else does?”
There was a pause and Maddy felt sick, then she looked up and saw Sophie’s face, the ‘got you’ mouth the crinkled eyes. They laughed through their noses, hands clamped over their faces, shaking their heads.
After they laughed there was silence. Sinking into the darkness under the bed, the screen gone black. The only sound the creak of the house.
She Takes Her Clothes Off
Sophie stood in front of her mirror, pulling her jumper down over her jeans, head tipped to one side, eyes narrowed.
“You look fine.”
Lewis was watching her over her shoulder, impatient.
“Is it true?” He asked.
Sophie shook her head, “What?”
“You know…is it true?”
Sophie turned back to the mirror, messing with the jumper again, better half tucked, out, sleeves rolled.
“I came home. That’s all.”
Lewis nodded then retreated, leaving Sophie to her reflection. Her tan was fading, her cheekbones were disappearing, her teeth were not so bright in the dim light of her bedroom. She tugged a brush through her hair and left it lying on the side. Her phone hadn’t stopped ringing so she’d locked it away, under the floorboards with the crisps and sweets gone stale, the film reel of photos from a holiday in ninety something when they still used disposable cameras.
Sunday dinner served fresh, with homemade gravy and lots of mash. Sophie shuffled in her seat as the food was stacked and Maddy carried in the drinks and Lewis picked music, face creased in concentration. She was inpenetrable, eyes down, hands clasped under the table, nails still neat and painted white, her brows freshly drawn.
“It’s been too long since we’ve all been round the table.”
She could hear Mum’s voice from the kitchen and tried not to get angry. She pulled the sleeve of her jumper over her thumb, closed her eyes and breathed but all she could smell was the sea, salt, sand and ice cream melting until it dropped onto the hem of her dress, sun cream rubbed into bare white skin, the only pale one of a beach of locals, the noise of shouting and waves breaking and cars parked at the top of the beach, racing along narrow winding roads. Something she could have had. Someplace she could one day have been.
I Stopped To Fill My Car Up
He drove fast, so fast Maddy wasn’t sure the wheels were still on the road. Her thumbs twisted into the leather of the seat and she closed her eyes, skull pushed back into the seat as she prayed it would be ok. Images unfolding in her mind she wished she could unpick, unravel, rub out.
The knock on the door. Just her and Mum having a girls night, the others all gone to the football and nothing but crap on the TV. She had gone because Mum was on a difficult row and then Sean was standing on the top step, rain dripping from his nose. He had something in his hand, glinting yet dark. He tipped his head to one side towards his car on the drive and she nodded. Not taking her coat or phone or keys, just doing as she was told, reading something on his face. She passed the window but Mum didn’t look up, counting under her breath, fingers wrapped with thread, the circle held aloft to the lamp by her side, the cockapoo under her feet.
The door slammed closed before and quickly locked. The object hidden down the side of the door, still glinting in the periphery. Still there.
The wheels screeched, picking up gravel and no doubt now her mum knew, came to the window, the dog barking. Perhaps. The car driving too fast, taking bends on two wheels, heading for the sea. Perhaps it would be ok. Perhaps he would burn off his fury, perhaps he would run out of petrol.
But instead he kept on driving until they really were flying and just as they reached the waters edge, he called her Sophie.