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The Swan Song

The Swan Song

TELLING TALES ·

Al's son, Mike, had shown no interest in music whatsoever as a child but young Jack had caught the music bug, so all was not lost

PETER EDGERTON

Friday, 10 February 2023, 12:14

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Young Jack Malone shook his head and returned to scrolling through the endless, inconsequential posts on his phone. His grandfather, Big Al Malone, slipped out through the front door clutching a padded envelope, turning his collar up against the sharp February wind as he left. It was all a bit sad really.

Big Al had made it on the local music scene at a relatively young age but, despite a few near misses, had never quite cut through to achieve national, let alone, international, recognition. Everyone around town knew who he was but Elkie Brookes' hit Pearl's A Singer could have been his biography, if you only changed the 'she' to 'he':

"And they say that she once cut a record

They played it for a week or so

On the local radio, it never made it"

It hurt him, everyone could see that. He thought he deserved more and, truth to tell, he probably did but he wasn't the first very talented musician to be left trailing in the wake of lesser players purely as a result of some being luckier than others. Just one hit would be enough to satisfy him at this stage, he was quite clear about that. Consequently, at sixty-nine years of age, he was still popping out to post demos to record companies two or three times a month. He returned from the post box on this particular occasion rubbing his hands together and cajoling Davey to "get off your lazy backside" and make him a cup of tea.

"I've told you a hundred times, granddad, it doesn't work like that anymore. You need to build a following online and then the record companies come looking for you. That's what we're doing."

Al had heard his grandson's band Tangleland and their spiky guitar pop and could recognise that they had something but he hadn't liked it much, in all honesty. Not enough melody, no catchy riffs. He didn't say so, though - that would just seem mean-spirited.

Jack brought the tea through as Al opened the hard case and pulled out his guitar.

"Listen to this riff, son. It's a belter."

Jack braced himself for the usual cod-seventies stomp-rock imitation.

"Terrang-a-tang-tang-terrang....teeeeerrang!"

"Actually, that's really quite good granddad. If it's the basis for a new song, though, just promise me you won't include the word 'lady' in your lyrics like you usually do. Right, I'm off to band practice. Tell mum and dad I'll be back by six."

Al's son, Mike, had shown no interest in music whatsoever as a child and, unbelievably, had decided he wanted to be a chartered accountant by the time he was fifteen. Thirty years later, he was a bean counter of some distinction much to his father's barely-disguised chagrin. Still, young Jack had caught the music bug, so all was not lost. In fact, he was something of a prodigy with his perfect pitch and outstanding powers of recall.

A year or two passed; Al still posting dead-end demos, Mike commuting the nine-to -five and Jack, well Jack actually had some good news.

"Hey, granddad! You'll never believe it. Tangleland have been offered a contract. We're playing a launch show in London at the end of the month. I told you - thirty thousand followers. They were just waiting for us to come up with a single."

The whole family piled down to the capital for the event, Big Al feeling pangs of pride and jealousy in equal measure which had him quite confused in his old age.

The atmosphere was electric at the venue. Tangleland received an ovation fit to lift the roof as they bounded onto the stage, guitars and drum sticks held aloft in triumph. Then, an incongruous, tense silence fell over the auditorium. Even their biggest fans had never seen them play to such a huge, expectant crowd. Would they be up to the task?

Jack raised his arm above his head poised to hit the first chord, leaned forward and bellowed into the microphone.

"Hello, London!! This is our new single, the one that finally that did it for..... Tanglelaaand!" As the last word fell from his lips, a huge roar rose from the crowd. He struck down hard on his guitar, clean and precise.

"Terrang-a-tang-tang-terrang....teeeeerrang!"

Big Al beamed like a child.

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