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pop star


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Dedicated to Reg Presley, from the short story collection OUT by the TREES by Max Tomlinson

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pop star

  1. 1. Max Tomlinson copyrighted material pop starHe moved across humble stages in 1965, through smoky bars,and on to the ballrooms, grippingthe mike in his small fist. Daring the world.Springing into the air when the band hit the firstchord of “I’ve Got Mine,” a flip of dark hair and the heel of a Chelsea boot kicking off the verse.He’d growl out the broken words of a lover spurned in the voice decades older than he was.Landing in a splash of exhilaration, sweat shining down his clenched temples, he’d soak up thecrowd yelling his name. He would grin and nod, yes, yes, yes, his eyes clamped shut, savoringthe unruly noise. Mod boys and girls in their best gear, their own voices lifting him back into theair, where he’d float on top of them for a while, guitars ringing and drums pounding underneath.That thick cloud. Then he would come back down and respond in the voice he’d been given.Reverberating through his body, it came out like gunfire, a soft plea, whatever he wanted. He kept the band honest. Chopping out American R&B with rough English hands, postwarchords fashioned by meat rationing and grey factories. Drums, fueled by pints of bitter, bangingskins for all they were worth, making up for anything that might lack technically with simplefury. Bass, eyes down, face down, pulling deep throbs out of a big guitar, making the smallrooms vibrate. The London ballrooms erupted when they finally arrived, thousands in from as far asScotland, on Vespas, the train, anything that moved. Hitchhiking if they were skint.All for threechords and the roar of the Voxamps. Sixteen years old, he couldn’t read a note. Did it matter? Did it, fuck. He had the voice; itwas a gift. All he needed. All he wanted.
  2. 2. Max Tomlinson copyrighted material And before the agents and the managers and the record company and the money—the brief,brief money—when there were just the four of them huddled in the Bedford van, heading up theM1, where they’d tear up the tiny rooms at night, he was the sanest he’d ever been, the noise andmayhem deep in his skin, hair, lungs. Like a gorgeous battlefield, lit by cigarettes, rocked byexplosions in A, D, and E. ###