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In The Mix: #13 There are good days and then there are The Hopefuls… Jane Risdon

Charity records were all the rage at one time. If you had a studio or were a record producer the odds were that at some time someone would make an approach requesting the donation of studio time and productions skills to produce a record (single) which would be released to raise funds for the charity in need of a cash injection for whichever cause they’d chosen.
All production time and skills, talent – as in performers – and sometimes even a song, would be expected to be donated and all royalties and earnings handed over. It’s hard to turn anyone down but quite often when all the work has been done, nothing comes of all the effort – sometimes the charity single is never released.
I’ve been involved in a few, been approached by a well-meaning individual or collective, and I’ve agreed to do whatever they required – it was their project after-all. But goodness me, it can be a trying experience. Everyone is a producer and everyone has their own idea of talent. Sometimes the charity has decided who they’d like to perform on the record, regardless of whether they can sing or play and instrument.
I saw a trailer for a TV ‘talent’ show whilst looking for a news channel the other day and had an instant flash-back to one such series of auditions on behalf of a small charity raising funds for victims of war. The level of ‘talent’ on the show was appalling and reminded me of a couple of ‘would-be’ performers invited to try out for the single the charity wanted to release – they refused advice to get well-known performers to make the record. This was going to be different – well, you can say that again.
An engineer/producer suffered all week with me as we ‘auditioned’ the hopefuls the organisers had collected together. We’d never experienced anything like it before. First into the studio a middle aged man with a Casio organ – he resisted offers of using one of our many keyboards and players – and insisted on setting up without a mic and he placed a sort of stuffed dog on top of the organ.
‘I’m dedicating my song to ‘Spit, the Dog,’ he announced.
‘Who is ‘Spit, the Dog?’ I asked from the control booth.
My engineer rocked back and forth laughing silently and whispered, ‘don’t go there.’
‘I wrote it for him,’ he added.
‘Whatever,’ said the engineer, nudging me hard in my ribs.
‘Go for it,’ I said, wondering what on earth to expect.
Yes, well, what can I say – he started playing the dreariest whatever – music, if you really want to call it that – and after about two minutes began to woof and meow his way through the song. He hopped from one foot to the other and howled like a wolf. I kid you not!
My engineer rocked to and fro laughing silently as I gaped open-mouthed at the idiot in the studio who pranced around like a demented clown. The engineer lit a spliff and offered me one. I was sorely tempted. ‘Got some scotch in the fridge,’ he giggled.
‘Thank you,’ I said over the speakers.
‘Do you like it?’ The charity representative came into the control room, eyes shining with enthusiasm. Who the hell had chosen these hopefuls I wondered not for the first time.
Ensuring the desk mic was off, I said, ‘are you serious?’
The engineer laid back in his seat, smoke curling around his head as the hopeful ‘musician,’ watched us eagerly though the glass, ‘shall I play my next song?’
‘No,’ we both went for the mic button at the same time. The charity rep smiled and waved as he left the booth. ‘Just lining up the next one,’ he shouted as the door slowly closed.
‘Where’s that scotch?’ I asked.
A week later and the auditions were beginning to drive us both nuts. We’d suffered a Mariah Carey wannabe who couldn’t keep in key and insisted on screeching at the top of her voice before dropping into her boots on every line of lyric, and we’d had a George Formby who wasn’t too bad if you like that sort of thing, but this was supposed to be a single to sell, not for a niche audience. And so it went on and at last the final hopeful was due to appear.
The studio door flew open and a Steve Tyler look-a-like flounced up to the mic. He tossed his long dark curls, pouted lip-sticked lips, fluttered kohled, mascaraed eyes, and preened outrageously as he stroked the mic seductively. He wore a bright yellow t-shirt with the arm-holes cut away to his waist. His tighter than second skin zebra striped orange and yellow leggings (girls call them tights) clung to his skinny legs which disappeared into his orange and green snake skin leather ankle booties with snakes heads on the laces.
He spread his ringed fingers across his narrow hips, wiggled, thrust his lower torso forward so we had no doubt of his gender and shouted ‘hit me,’ to the engineer, who’d already cued his backing track waiting for the signal.
We had no idea what the song was, one of his own ‘compositions’ we assumed, pulling faces at each other as his high pitched caterwauling began. He pranced, thrust, and wriggled his way through three minutes of something rock-influenced and heavy on drums and bass. Twin lead guitars screeched as our performer made love to the mic stand and the engineer, to whom he pointed and blew kisses, as something rather strange began to happen inside his tight leggings.
One side of his leggings seemed to develop a long, large appendage on the inside, which gradually began to make its way down his skinny leg. Both the engineer and I were transfixed. It moved slowly but determinedly past his knee and after getting stuck on the bony protuberance briefly, managed to make it to the top of his booties as he jumped into the air, Jagger-like, and landed in the splits on the studio floor. His head bent to his knees – like the dying swan – and just as we thought he’d done himself a mischief and were considering going into the studio to check, he did a scissor-like movement and landed on his feet in front of the mic. The long object in his bootie causing his some discomfort, he leered at the engineer, removed his bootie and flicked his leg a few times to release a rather large courgette which he picked up and waved at the totally stunned engineer. With a sexy wink he blew a big wet sounding kiss and shouted, ’this one’s for you gorgeous.’
Believe it or not the numbers attending the audition were eventually whittled down to about six performers who were actually excellent, and after two months a very suitable record had been recorded awaiting release. Our job was done, we’d found the right performers despite being put through hell. We’d had a good laugh. I’d managed to resist all temptation to plunge myself into drugs and alcoholism in despair, sure in the knowledge that I’d not be doing another charity record for anyone without more control over the process.
I’ve no idea what happened to the ‘Spit, the Dog,’ man or the ‘Mariah’ wannabe, ‘Steve Tyler,’ or the others. They never saw the light of day again as far as I’m aware. I missed what happened to the charity record having gone to Taiwan immediately after recording – a relief if you ask me.
Drop in again next month for In the Mix: #14 if you enjoyed this.
Jane Risdon began her working life in the international music business where she managed recording artists, songwriters, record producers, and where she has been instrumental in placing music on to soundtracks of many TV series and Movies, working alongside her musician husband.
After years of promoting talented young artists Jane decided it was time to do what she’s always wanted to do: write. She began writing in earnest some ten years ago starting with flash fiction and short stories – mostly crime/thrillers – and her writing was soon included in various anthologies – to date 15 different publications, some award winning. She has written for numerous online newsletters and magazines and is a regular blogger.
She has also written a best-selling novel with author and lifelong friend, best-selling, award-winning author, Christina Jones, set in the UK music scene of the late 1960s. Only One Woman is published by Accent Press with whom Jane signed in 2014.
With over 100 short stories needing a home, Jane has recently published Undercover: Crime Shorts with Plaisted Publishing House, which went into the UK Amazon ratings at #18 and into the USA Amazon ratings at #333 upon publication.
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