SANG FROID

Sang Froid

 

La Bistro, Upper Street N1

Wednesday July 23rd 1.38 PM

 

The wild berry aroma of the 1998 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape soon brought me back to my senses. It was like a more refined – and more expensive – version of smelling salts. Why hadn’t Jacqueline contacted me? I was at the mildly obsessive stage of meeting a woman. Especially this one, who had me by the short and curlies. My Nokia 7720 bleeped and flashed as it vibrated across the table and the wine glass whirred. I inhaled on a B&H.

 

‘Hi!! How r u!! Lets hook up on Friday!! Jaq XXX’

 

Sounded good. I instantly knew it was Jacqueline from all the exclamation marks. I didn’t mnd abrvatins n txts but over use of exclamation marks really rankled me. Half the time I had difficulty decoding them. Where they meant to signify humour? Was it meant to point to an upbeat, happy state of mind on behalf of the sender? Everythings gr8 and life’s wonderful! I was half tempted to reply: ‘Hi!! Just found out I only have three weeks to live!! Also a close relative passed away!!! C u Friday – don’t be l8 :)!’

I refrained and merely confirmed our appointment and suggested La Tavola for Friday night.

 

It had been a hectic two months of touring with Sang Froid of which I was the lead singer and songwriter.  Now was a brief respite. A calm after – and before – the storm. We had meteoric success with our first album and we now had a break before we started work on our ‘difficult’ second album. Actually that was a bit of a lie about the number of albums we had. It depends if you count the ones that faded into obscurity. Actually that sentence is also misleading, ‘faded into obscurity’ implies that our work had slowly dissolved from the forefront of the nation’s consciousness into the 99 pence bargain bin at Woolworth’s.  That’s not strictly true. A more accurate phrase would have been ‘our first album faded out of obscurity’. We – the band – and I, Sebastian Clegg, had spent years in poverty and rented North London bedsits on a diet of Pot Noodles, Stella and music. Philosophically I interpreted this as the necessary path of the artist. Hardships endured; fuel for the fire. I had even prepared my self for a Blake / Keats / Nick Drake type post death fame as I died penniless, obscure and bitter in a hovel. Thankfully, things hadn’t turned out like that. I ordered more expensive wine. I was waiting for a lunch meeting with my in demand producer Danny Tracks. I obsessed for my phone to whirr with more exclamations from our backing singer Jacqueline with whom I was having a frission.

 

We had had – under various guises – non-fêted albums before Sang Froid. I had flirted with folk electronica as Steeple Pusher. ‘Angst driven sub-Simon and Garfunkel meets melodic synth pop. Ultimate student-bedsit fodder. No cheques accepted.‘ Wrote the NME. Well it was a review, some exposure. I notched up some sales but not enough. Bizarrely I had a bit of a cult following in Norway, manifested in a fan web site and a three date tour in small pub venues. I must have somehow connected with Scandinavian melancholia. Steeple Pusher was never going to fill stadiums. I put the project on hold. There were other creations, partnerships, promises, groupings, ideas, imminent deals and ultimately failures. Then along came Sang Froid. At first we had agonised over the name. Not least it’s meaning – calmness under pressure – but more so for difficulty of pronunciation for potential fans.

 

‘Lush melodies, epic guitar playing and heartfelt lyrics. Band of the year.’ Wrote Rolling Stone magazine. Similarly gushing reviews were replicated across the music press spectrum. We quickly became the enfant terribles of pop. Our European tour had been a staggering success. A different city every other night. Oslo, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, Madrid. Also, nearly a different girl every other night. Lillian, Beatrice, Patricia, Miranda. Well it was rock and roll, I had to take advantage of the trappings of fame. It might not last for ever. I was also a follower of hedonism and believed promiscuity was the necessary artistic path. All the years of obscurity had been leading to this and I was only 34. It was towards the end of the tour on the Iberian peninsula when Jacqueline and I had consummated our feelings for each other. Feelings I first noticed after our Benelux dates but blatantly obvious by the time we reached Lyon. At first she was wary. She had witnessed my satyriasis at its height in the Netherlands. Also there was the whole ‘lead singer gets it on with backing singer’ cliché to cope with. To avoid upsetting the equilibrium of the tour and to keep the press under taps, we kept our liaison secret. But she was different. By Valencia I knew she would be my muse.

 

‘Some more wine sir?’ asked the waiter. I had nearly polished off the first bottle.

‘Yes, what would you recommend? I replied.

‘Well monsieur, I would recommend the Château La Mission Haut-Brion, for me it is second to none’ he said, with a heavy French accent.

 

Strange expression I thought. ‘Second to none’ – does that mean ‘none’ came first? And why would he offer me a wine which is only second best? I felt like asking him if he had any of the better ‘none’ wine. At that moment I saw the unmistakeable gait of Danny Tracks, looking very muso in his beanie hat offset by the sharp trimmings of a goatee beard.

‘Mr Tracks, take a pew.’ I said.

‘Sorry I’m late, nightmare parking round here.’ he gasped as he sat down.

‘Yeah, whatever?’

‘How is my old tart?’ he asked whilst peering at the nearly empty bottle of fine red wine next to me.

 

We talked about business, his family, football, holiday plans for the break and the new range of Korg synthesisers. We talked about taking the next album to a darker place. The success of the first one had been built on lightness – uplifting string sections, acoustic tracks and those ‘lush melodies’, plus a few up-tempo, radio friendly conventional rock numbers. The next one was to be more angsty.

 

‘I still want to go for the Phil Spector wall of sound approach,’ Danny gabbled excitedly whilst making a sweeping hand movment. ‘Keeping the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds harmonics but with more of a gloomy Massive Attack meets Radiohead post millennial crisis to the sound.’

 

I nodded in agreement.

 

‘I think Jacqueline may have a record deal,’ Danny continued matter of factly and always with his finger on the scenes pulse.

‘Really?’ I tried not to sound surprised.

‘Yeah. She was spotted on the tour. Looks great, can sing and some personality. She was always bursting to get out of backing. Shame she’s married and got two kids.’

‘What?’ I tried not to sound shocked but the squeak in my response may have been revealing. I don’t think Danny noticed.

 

 

Alfredos, Essex Road, N1

Thursday July 24th 8.34 PM

 

I nursed my dejection with a third pint of cold Hoegarden. It gave me head chills. Why hadn’t she told me she had kids? And a fucking husband. I didn’t know which was worse. Strange. Maybe she thought I would have disapproved and nothing would have happened. I lit another B&H. Maybe I was just her tour shag with no access to her real life.  I hadn’t confronted her with it yet. I would wait till Friday over dinner. No manic texts in between. U hav a husband!!! And 2 kidz!! The exclamation marks this time signifying a manicness bordering on the psychotic. I hadn’t slept last night. I could see a song forming from this experience. Without suffering there is no progression.

 

I ordered some cheesy Super Nachos from the Teutonic looking barmaid who avoided my eye contact. I was just another in an endless line of bawdy males trying to catch her eye. Didn’t she know I had a top ten album and had just finished an acclaimed European tour? That’s the problem, everyone looks rock and roll these days. I toyed with my iPod and searched for an appropriate playlist. Normally you organise songs into playlists appropriate to activity or mood. For instance, for the gym or driving, or maybe as ‘chill out’ or ‘dinner party’, as the latest marketing fad became the soundtrack to our lives.  I arranged my playlists thematically. I found this sparked associations that were useful creatively, triggering of germs of ideas I found useful as an Artist. For instance, songs with colours in the title. Or animals. Or weather references. Last night was place with a West Coast USA playlist. I had been dreaming of Californication in the Hotel California with an LA Woman. Then I had been wishing they could all be Californian but quickly got bored when I realised It Never Rains In Southern California.

 

My next playlist was female names. This also offered no relief. Angie had become tiresome, Roxanne had worn that dress anyway, Layla had me on my knees, Cecilia broke my heart and Lola only wanted to drink cherry cola. Which left Jacqueline. Yes, there was a reason for this suffering and at the very least Jacqueline would inspire me to write a song which I hope would reach the pantheon of songs with females names in the title. iPod therefore I am, I thought.

 

‘Something in your smile woman

makes me feel like coming home,

Jacqueline it’s been a while girl

and I no longer need to roam.’

Jacqueline

 

 

La Tavola, Upper Street, N1

Friday July 25th 9.02 PM

 

Bang on time at my favourite restaurant. I had drunk three pints with whisky chasers earlier at the pub next door to calm my nerves. In fact on an empty stomach it had made me feel a bit tipsy. I had been running through my line of approach with Jacqueline all day. Would I wait for her to offer an explanation? I lit another B&H and studied the menu. Roast breast Barbary duck, plum compote and honey roast parsnips caught my eye.  I’d also been struggling with the rest of my ode to Jacqueline earlier in the day. I thought I might have to put the project on hold until after tonight, to see how events would unfold. My writing today had started to turn bitter.

 

9.18 said my Tag Heuer. The waiter poured me a glass of wine which I quickly gulped in between cigarette puffs. Looks like Jaqs going to be late. Probably putting the kids to bed. Just saying goodbye to her husband with some excuse: ‘I’m out with the girls’. Fucking liar.

 

9.34. When I got to know her on tour it had all been such a manic rush. I guess I’d never had time to properly suss her out. We’d spent quite a bit of time together but often not alone, or just stolen moments in between the madness. I remembered Alicante fondly. I had been drunk and showing off to her in our hotel room. I wanted to prove to her that I wasn’t a rock and roll cliché so I threw the TV out of the window. Unfortunately I wasn’t counting on the 2 inch thick bullet proof glass which the TV bounced off without leaving so much as a scratch, narrowly missing my foot as it fell to the floor. The crash had woken up the guests and security had come up to the room. In broken Spanish I had explained the TV had fallen off the stand. The comedy of the moment had bought us closer. Or so I thought.

 

9.39. Wines lovely. Where’s she? Lucky I had a newspaper in my bag to while away the time till she came. Couldn’t focus on the text. ‘Chinese economy to overtake US economy in 2060’ Shit. I fought the urge to call her. Muddled thoughts. B&H. I coughed. Who’s blondie over there staring at?

 

9.46 Nearly an hour late, bitch. Hiccup. Jacqueline I want you. wine waiter. Chateau Vieux Fortin – how do I pronounce? Must give up smoking. I need another piss. People are looking at me. How am I going to get out of here? Urrp. Ashtray mouth, stop biting my nails, pleeeaase. Want her so bad.

 

10.05 Liar. Fuc. I’m rock and roll climatic meltdown more wine waiter…hmpph. Got a light my Jacqueline hey you don’t be silly. Jaque, Jackie, Jaq…mon amour. What time’s it? Pubs still open where’s my dealer? Hic.  Musn’t call her she’s breaking my heart top ten playlist. Things supposed to be different now I’m success… who’s that blonde staring at? Me? iPod therefore I am I thought it would be different. Want her to hold me her hand Jacqueline I am Sang Froid calm under pressure can’t take this ur l8 ur nvr coming where r u!!!!

 

 

 

 

THE END

Words

2155

 

Martin Worster copyright

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: