Tuesday, April 7, 2015

fictmcfa5 The Beat

The Beat
                              by Stanley McFarland

“It’s crap, you know.”
“I know,” said Desmond.
“It’s derivative.  It’s all been done before.  You’ve done it before – several times!”
“I know.”
“That doesn’t seem to upset you much.”
“You don’t understand.”
Wayne threw his hands in the air.  “I don’t understand?  What, it’s too deep for me?  It’s so much more meaningful that the songs I’ve written?”
“It’ll be more popular.”
“Fuck!” said Wayne.  “Is that all you care about anymore?”
“But I won’t understand?”
“No, you won’t understand.”
“Just what won’t I understand?”
“Why it doesn’t upset me.”
“Would you care to enlighten me?”
“I would try…”
“But I won’t understand?”
“That’s what I said.”
“So I should just be happy, tagging along on the gravy train while you spoon out crap that a million zombies download because it has your name on it and they don’t know better?”
Desmond sat down.  These sessions with Wayne were tiring, but Wayne was more than just a good manager.  He had a soul for music that no one else in the band had.  It was just a soul from another generation.  Still – as out of touch as Wayne was, Desmond fed off of him.  That might not be right.  Wayne was more like a compass.  He always pointed true north.  What Wayne didn’t understand was that they weren’t heading north anymore.  Music hadn’t been heading north since Chapman shot Lennon – maybe even before that.
“At least break it up,” Wayne pleaded.  “Give it a bridge – something unexpected.  Give it some rhythm changes.”
“No,” said Desmond.  “I might do a thing or two with the vocals, but the beat stays.  We don’t change it.”
“Why do we even bother with Jordan?  We could save a few bucks and set up a percussion machine for this – maybe even a damn metronome!”
“I know what that is,” said Desmond.
“You were waiting for me to ask what a metronome was, but even though I don’t go back to your prehistory, I’ve seen a metronome.”
“Good for you!  It’s a damn boring little pendulum – but no more boring than the beat in your damn song!”
“Anything else, Wayne?”
“So that’s it?  End of discussion.”
Desmond nodded.  “End of discussion.”
“Alright,” said Wayne.  “Let’s see, I’ve got some stuff you need to decide about the tour.  You want to do that now?”
“How about tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow – fine.”  Wayne did his signature non-slam of the door on his way out, pulling the door behind him violently, but catching it just before it made a sound.  Wayne was always a purist about sound.
Desmond picked up his acoustic, though he had no intention of playing it.  He drummed his fingers on the neck – then the body, making deep thrumming beats and off-beat resonations from the strings.
The beat.
Desmond idolized Wayne when he was little.  He wanted to be just like him.  He still played Wayne’s music when he was alone, even though nobody else did.  Wayne was barely known in his twenties.  He was pretty much forgotten now that he was seventy.
Too pure – too ideal.  A small circle of musicians loved Wayne Ledford – the world ignored him.
Desmond changed the thrumming beat of his fingers to something from one of Wayne’s songs – then he modified it, modulated it.  He played with different strike points on the guitar’s belly, sometimes muting the strings with one hand, sometimes not.
Desmond smiled to himself – this was something Wayne would like.  He could hear the old man pleading for Desmond to do something like that with his next song.  Like an Old Testament prophet calling from the wilderness, Wayne Ledford shouts, “repent!  Save your souls!”
Desmond went back to the beat – the simple beat – the one in his music and just about every other pop musician’s music for the last five years.

Wayne Ledford didn’t understand.  He was of a different time, a different herd.

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