Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chapter 53. 2019 – Epilogue

I left the stage in humbled silence, the strains of the crowd’s homage still echoing in the arena. Backstage he spotted a small boy playing with a guitar.

“Hi there, pal,” I offered gently. “What are you doing here?” The boy didn’t answer. He couldn’t have been more that a couple of years old.

I looked around, “You must have wandered away from your mother.”

He heard a frantic “Hello, hello. Has anyone seen my son?”

He looked back to the young boy, “That’s probably her, she’s coming now.” He was assuring the boy, but he didn’t seem to be upset.

“You found him! Thank God! I lost him in the crowd!” the mother was grateful.

I tried to calm her down. “He was just here backstage, playing with the guitar. Cute, huh?”

The mother laughed, relieved. “I should have known. He seems to have been interested in music since he was born. I’m so sorry to bother you.”

“That’s entirely all right. I love children. I have a grandson who’s not much older than him.”

The mother suddenly realized to whom she was speaking. In her concern for her son, she did not at first recognize I.

“Oh… My… GOD. I didn’t know who you were! I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t be here.” She turned to her son. “Come on, now. We need to get back to where we belong.”

“No, no. Please. Everything’s all right. Did you enjoy the concert?”

“Oh, yes. It was fantastic. My mother was a big fan of yours in the seventies.”

“Your mother,” I was slightly dejected.

“Oh, I am too!” she corrected. “I just wasn’t born back then.”

“Well, it’s nice to appeal to a new generation, too, I guess. You have a fine looking boy there. What’s his name?”


I was silent for a moment, and a tear formed in his eye.

Rocky’s mother looked at him and said. “Are you OK?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’ve just had a revelation. This is the future of rock.”

Chapter 52. 2019 - The end of the tour

It was the final show of the tour. The group was back in Los Angeles, and many of the beneficiaries of the shows proceeds were in attendance. The first two rows were a who’s who of rock stars from the fifties and sixties, who had themselves taken advantage of what the LAHARM had to offer. The forum was sold out again, as every venue on the tour had been.

William Graham III was a bit wistful that the tour was at the end. He knew that he would never experience anything such as this again, no matter how long he remained a promoter. He took a peek from backstage and saw the immense crowd, the din from their pre-show conversation rising to almost deafening levels. The anticipation of the band members was rising as well. There were no further plans to continue beyond this night. This was going to be it.

William took a deep breath and ran out on the stage as the house lights dimmed. The crowds cheer when up and his announcement was barely heard.

“Ladies and gentlemen, here they are in their final concert appearance, Golden Fingers!!!!”

The crowd went crazy, and immediately as one, they rushed the stage. I urged them to silence and failing that, began the strains of their classic “Golden Fingers Theme” and continued with staples like “A Most Amazing Man” and “When The Kid Gets Heavy”. They also covered I’s solo material. “Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy” was especially appreciated, and it sounded better than any previous performance. Their closing number, the new song “Reunion Chorus,” encouraged full audience participation. As was their custom, this new song told their personal story.
Back together again
Back together again
When we play, people say that we'll win
Back together again

Back together again
Back together again
We make way to portray all we’ve been
Back together again

World’s together again
World’s together again
All are friends, wars now end we are kin
Back together again
The rocking chorus captured the audience in a sing-along, and was repeat at least twenty times with various solos, pyrotechnics, lights and a whole array of special effects accompanying it.

Normally, that would be the end of the show, but tonight was different. The chorus began to fade out, and one by one, the band members waved goodbye and left the stage, except for I, who remained alone in the spotlight. The house hushed so that a pin dropped would be deafening.

I began to sing softly.
King's don't reign forever, got to die.
Time is short, my river's running dry.
Flashbacks, comebacks, laid-back I is through.
In my life I hope I've entertained you.

And now the time has come
To step out of the light.
The band has all gone home,
Finished for the night.
My reign is through, it's true,
I've reached the end.
But rock will carry on
And goodwill it will send.
The spotlights focused on a mirrored ball, a popular fixture in the seventies, and it shed its light on the crowd.

I began to tear up when, as one, the audience rose and began chanting in perfect four-part harmony their Homage to a King. He wasn’t The King, just a king, but he was their king, for the final time.

Chapter 51. 2019 – Fingers restored

Golden Fingers Reunion Tour for the Benefit of the Los Angeles Home for Aging Rock Musicians dominated not only the music press, but also all forms of communication. Instant Messaging traffic during a show was higher than any time of the day, with fans clamoring to hear the latest from their heroes. Micro bytes of sound data streamed to electronic devices all over the world, and even in the remotest regions, the Golden Sound rang out. Church bells announced the group’s arrival in each city; rocks echoed the strains of their music long after they’d left.

I truly did appreciate his father’s contribution to his success, and lauded him at every opportunity. Tonight’s show, though, was special. Henry and Juliette, both well into their eighties, were present in the front row. Special guests Buddy and Annette Arden and Sam and Samantha Martin were also present, and a memorial wreath was laid for Isaac’s late mother, Sandy. I had designated this show to be “The Henry Mall Appreciation Concert – part II.” He loved his father, and the first attempt to honor him had not been the best example of what could be done.

This time it would be different.

His main concern, as it was over forty years ago, was if Isaac was up to the task. Over and over he tapped Isaac and asked “Are you going to be O.K. with this, man. It’s got to be perfect.”

“I am cool, man. Chilled to the bone,” Isaac quipped in the retro hip-speak making the rounds. “That phase is way behind me. Whatever I was missing from my father, I buried that years ago and recaptured it from yours and the other guys’.”

“That’s good, because tonight is going to blow everyone away.”

“What have you got planned?” Isaac was curious.

“Never you mind. It’s gonna happen, and it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen. This will go down in history!” I seemed especially ebullient. History was what Golden Fingers was all about, after all.

The hall, as always, was a sellout. Because of the significance of tonight’s show, additional audience members were packed into the Standing Room Only areas. Thousands of fans crowded outside; they’d been unable to acquire a ticket during the one hour availability period. For them, a forty foot screen had been erected, giving them a live look inside.

When the band took the stage, a tumultuous din greeted the group. They launched into the traditional set list and when it came to “Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy,” I asked for the crowd’s attention. Rapt, they wondered what was up. The show had a flow, and this wasn’t in the flow.

I laid aside his bass. “Some forty plus years ago, I honored my father…” The crowd burst into cheers. I’s reverence for his father had been a major topic of the news stories these days. He continued, “I honored my father with the first Henry Mall Appreciation Concert.” I was proud he didn’t stumble over the words this time. “You might say, it didn’t come off the way I planned…” The crowd roared with laughter, to hear the lyric turned to describe that first disastrous attempt.

“Well, tonight we’re going to try again, and this time do it right!” The crowd rose in applause.

I signaled them to sit again. “I’m afraid he isn’t getting any younger, so we’d better do this now. Mom. Dad. Come up here and join me on stage!”

The crowd rose once again as Henry and Juliette rose from their front row seats. They made there way up the stage, with a bit of assistance, and the spotlight soaked them brightly. The crowd stayed up despite I’s attempt to calm them and continue with the plan. Henry was a hero as much as anyone could be, and this was his night. He deserved the honor.

Finally, the noise subsided and I began his announcement.

“My father was a great musician in his day, and an even greater as a group manager. The Scuffling Scrappers were the Golden Fingers of the time, and owed everything to him.” O.K., maybe a bit of exaggeration, but it is for him, I thought.

“My dad had a dream, one he never fulfilled, and I want to help him fulfill it tonight.”

Henry looked curiously at I. What dream? he thought. I’ve had so many, and they’ve all been fulfilled.

I looked off stage. “Angela! Bring it!”

I’s beautiful wife came on the stage, carrying a shoebox-sized parcel.

“Many years ago, my father was working on a invention to give him back something he’d lost, something that kept him from doing what he wanted most: the ability to play guitar. Oh, he had played guitar, and probably could have still if he wanted. But he really wanted to play the bass guitar. Tonight, I’m going to give him that dream.”

I reached into the box and revealed a nearly perfectly formed human hand. As he touched the wrist, the fingers clenched, then released. A gasp drew from the audience.

“No, it’s not as monstrous as it looks. Dad, come here and hold up your hand.”

Henry had long ago lost any self-consciousness regarding his missing fingers, but he was a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight now. I took the hand, which turned out to be some type of naturally skin sensation glove, and pulled it down over Henry’s thumb and index finger. As it closed over his palm and then over his wrist, a tingling sensation went through his arm. Henry reacted by making a fist and unclenching. He wiggled all four fingers, and much to the crowd’s delight, flipped a bird, just because he could now do it for real. Henry laughed and turned to I, “But how?”

“Dad,” he began, “I’ve spend millions of dollars with hundreds of research firms to perfect this. I took your original designs, which were primitive, but were proven to have merit, and this is the result. It’s the Henry Mall officially authorized replacement hand!”

Henry looked at I quizzically, “Really? You’ve got to come up with a better name than that!”

The crowd roared once again, and I admitted “Well, more money has gone into development than marketing, I guess. We’ll have to work on that.”

Henry once again flexed his fingers. “It feels like a real hand. I can’t tell the difference!” Cameras began flashing as all recognized the significance of this invention. “Son, I can’t thank you enough!”

“There’s one more thing,” as I reached over squeezed a special area on the wrist. At once the individual fingers lit up in a yellow hue. “I couldn’t help myself. Dad, you’ve now got golden fingers!”

The crowd erupted in a psychotic frenzy which gave I time to retrieve his bass guitar from the stand where he had placed it. He took the instrument and asked Henry, “Will you join us?”

“But I haven’t played in almost seventy years!” Henry protested. “And I certainly haven’t played your songs.”

“Dad, you know you know every single one inside out,” I assured him. “But just to help you out, they still something else.” He pulled out yet another matching left hand glove. “You don’t normally need this, but I think you can use it now.” He pulled it over Henry’s left hand.

Pressing the hidden wrist button, a small area burst into additional light. “Run your finger along the screen,” he told him. Henry saw that it was a menu of the songs in the set list. “It programmed to guide your fingers to the correct frets and strings. Even if you’ve never played before, you can now!”

I turned back to the audience, and called out. “Now, the song you’ve been patiently waiting for, featuring Henry Mall, my dad, on bass. ‘Only Golden Fingers Could Play So Heavy!’”

Henry grabbed the neck as the complicated bass lines emerged from the amp. The band joined in and I took the mike.
I first picked up my bass guitar at the age of seventeen…
The song continued through the chorus
Crowds would gather when I played…
But when it came to the second verse, something had changed.
I played in the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band at the age of seventeen.
My father made sure that we would have a plan, ‘cause we were pretty green
He built a studio, he bought us all our gear, we knew that we were ready
‘cause only golden fingers could play so heavy!
Henry’s flashing fingers lit up as each note was played, and there was never a finer moment in his memory than the one night his dream was achieved, because of the love of I Mall.

Chapter 50. 2018 - William

William Graham III had a legacy to fulfill. As the grandson of the famed promoter, he certainly had the skills to manage a tour of such proportions as the Golden Fingers Reunion Tour for the Benefit of the Los Angeles Home for Aging Rock Musicians. GFRTBLAHARM. Or, as he would have it:


He particularly liked to point out the coincidental, but highly prophetic (or so he thought) inclusion of his name in the tour title. In time, he took to just calling it GrahamStock, because the Golden Fingers Reunion Tour for the Benefit of the Los Angeles Home for Aging Rock Musicians was just too much of a mouthful to repeat.

William traveled with the band all over the world, and promoted himself as much as he did the tour. He was certainly going to become a rich man from the proceeds, because although it was a benefit, expenses had to be paid, and he was certain to include his promotional fee in the overall expenses. A one percent off the top of the proceeds seemed minimal in perspective, but seven hundred million dollars wasn’t too bad for a couple years of work.

No one would deny that William wasn’t important to the overall success of the tour, although there were those who would argue that the tour sold itself, there was no need for actual promotion. William’s organization was large as well. More than three thousand of his employees were involved in the various aspects of promotion. One of the most effective was the Neural Syndication Network, where human brainwaves were used to transmit proximity messages to fans who had registered their preference for information about the tour. This nascent technology was enjoying its first major test on a worldwide basis.

The way it worked was this: a seed message was programmed into an Internet Distribution Device and sent out to a microcell vicinity, where it was guaranteed to reach at least 100 people. The message was encoded to correspond with the frequency at which the human brain performed its own micro-transmissions, a discovery that had only been fully understood beginning in 2014. Brain Micro-Transmission Technology was first exploited during the 2016 U.S. elections to ensure the populace had access to current information about the candidates, but had not spread to the rest of the world.

The ubiquitous presence of the Internet worldwide guaranteed transmission to every continent, but the specialized transmission devices needed to seed micro-transmissions had not become cost effective until after the U.S. elections. When GrahamStock was announced, BMTT was one of the first media elements to be discussed.

William programmed the first message himself and hit the transmit key which distributed it across the 39th floor of his office building. Since most employees had registered themselves for tour information, they were informed directly. Then, as they went about their business of the day, attending meetings, going out to lunch, shopping and spending time with family and friends in the evening, the message began its distribution over the NSN. Messages were exchanged by human proximity, generally a radius of twenty feet. Over the course of a single day, the message had been distributed to over a million people.

It wasn’t so much that the recipients had the experience of a direct transmission. It was more of a general sense, a memory they had always known. If someone mentioned the Golden Fingers tour to him or her, they would automatically have access to the tour information, and relate it at will.

Worldwide distribution had a similar effect. The IDD was present on all continents and even had a node on the newly settled moon base. Simultaneous transmission to all IDDs caused their own proximity network to be active. By the end of the first week, 75% of the world’s population knew of the tour details.

Once a worldwide NSN was established, its operation was self-maintaining, as long as fresh content was available. William ensured that a daily distribution of tour news was published, and the NSN ensured that it was distributed. In only two weeks time, every human being on the Earth had received the first message. Even those stationed on the Moon as well as those in transit across the Solar System received it. The sole exception was the members of the Alpha Centauri mission, who would receive the message after a long delay. That small segment of population was considered expendable, as due to distance limitations, they would be unable to attend any of the concerts.

William was proud of the first successful exploitation of the new technology. It was a turning point in future communication for years to come. I’s prophetic statement of “And now I've got it made, there ain't a cat alive who doesn't know who I am!” had certainly come true.

Chapter 49. 2017 - Reunion!

Like his father before him, Hardy Rochester II was a respected journalist. Once only the scion and heir apparent of the I.B.C. broadcasting dynasty, HR2, as he was commonly know about the newsroom, was now in a role that exceeded even his own father’s accomplishments. He had traveled the world over, conducted interviews with most of the world’s leaders and covered nearly every major news story of the past thirty years.

Wars – military coups – catastrophic weather events – famines – genocide – earthquakes – if it was major, then HR2 was on the scene. But despite the enormity of the stories he had covered, none was as personally fulfilling to him as the opportunity to interview the reunited members of Golden Fingers.

Finger Frenzy, as the phenomenon was known, was at its highest the night before the legendary reunion tour was to begin. Heightened security surrounded the hotel where the four friends were sequestered. Without being oppressive, police presence was in full force, and throngs of anxious fans were present, hoping to catch a glimpse of their musical heroes should they choose to exit the building.

The odd juxtaposition of fans in their seventies together with fans barely into their teens made for an amazing sight. Women of all ages swooned at the possibility that their long-gone, but never forgotten idols would soon be performing again.

When HR2 arrived on the scene, he was treated as a rock star as well. It was well known that he would be interviewing the band members, and the crowds shouted out questions they’d like asked. “Tell them to come to Podunk, North Dakota!” one ardent fan yelled out. HR2 acknowledged the fan with a wave and was allowed to pass through the security cordon. Several fans tried to force themselves through with him, but they were successfully repelled without incident.

HR2 was directed to the high-rise elevators and was whooshed up to the 18th floor where each member had been given his own suite. The band members had gathered in I’s suite for the interview.

HR2, the proper, staid and sometimes stone-faced newsman was nervous. As a young man, he had been a big fan of Golden Fingers. He had attended three concerts during their first world tour, but despite his father’s efforts, never had the opportunity to personally meet the individual members face to face.

But the mutual admiration society was not one-sided. HR2 was as well known throughout the world as Golden Fingers, and they in turn had looked forward to meeting him as well.

Introduction and handshakes out of the way, HR2 got down to business.

“It’s been forty-two years since you last played together. How have you prepared for this most momentous of occasions?”

I was the first to respond, “We’ve spent most of the last two years directly preparing for this moment. But, you know, the seeds were sown forty years ago, even as we were breaking up.”

“How so?” HR2 inquired.

Spike took up the question. “It was necessary for us to leave the scene as a group and find what each of us could do individually. I’s choice was to continue in the business, but the rest of us chose to pursue different careers.”

“Popular history records the story differently. Are you saying the split was amicable?”

It was Isaac’s turn to respond, “There were tensions, to be sure, but in hindsight, it was the right thing to do, and the right time.”

HR2 turned to Osgood, “Some say that your contributions were minor compared to the rest of the members. How do you respond to that?”

Osgood put on an offended air. “Minor? Minor? I think the Ozzites would disagree with that assessment!”

“Truly,” he continued, “the keys are a background instrument. I don’t mind playing second fiddle to the others, and sometimes, depending on the synth settings, I am actually playing second fiddle!” The group laughed at Osgood’s joke.

I also came to Osgood’s defense. “Ozzie’s contribution to our sound cannot be underestimated. Without it, there would be a definite emptiness.”

“One final question: What do you think about reunion and the prospects for tomorrow’s first concert in over forty years?”

“That’s easy,” began I. “Only Golden Fingers could play so heavy.”

HR2’s report ran that evening on the 6 o’clock news.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is the six o'clock edition of the I.B.C. News, with Hardy Rochester II, brought to you each evening by Fender guitars. Your local music store will show you their fine selection of Fender guitars, starting at only two thousand dollars. Here’s Hardy Rochester II.

“Earlier this afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing the Golden Fingers rock band, famous for their hits of the nineteen seventies who are reunited tomorrow for the first of ten concerts in Los Angeles. They will play to a capacity crowd of three hundred thousand in the newly remodeled Forum, and are expected to visit their full catalog of classics as well as a few new gems to add to their treasury. The concert is expected to last four hours, although likely it will seem to only be a few fleeting moments. The enthusiasm of the crowds around their hotel this afternoon was but a glimpse of what we can expect as this tour continues to grow.

The group plans to tour the world, playing to an estimated five billion people, through live concerts and closed circuit appearances. The tour, planned to run for two years, will bring proceeds of seventy billion dollars, which will be donated to the Los Angeles Home for Aging Rock Musicians. And that's the six o'clock edition of I.B.C. News. Tune in at seven o'clock for an update of national and world news.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chapter 48. 2015 - Reunion?

I and Angela had enjoyed their many years of quiet retirement on their vast estate. Although the kids were grown and gone, their frequent visits with the grandchildren were the highlights of these soon to be twilight years.

But even with a beautiful wife and all the successes his career had brought him, I sometimes longed for a return to the glory days. His golden years had him longing for Golden Fingers.

As if sharing his thoughts, Angela remarked, “Have you ever thought of getting Golden Fingers back together again? Reunion was very fashionable a few decades ago.”

They knew each other so well; it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. “I've often thought about it,” he revealed, “but always seemed to put it out of my mind. I really don't think it would work out. We had our share of troubles, and I think those wounds may still run deep.”

“The troubles are long behind us, and the road ahead is clear. Personally, I think it sounds like a good idea,” Angela prodded.

“Well, we might be friends outside of a working relationship, but in the studio, I don't think I could get along with the other guys. You know how we argued all of the time. Besides, I think they still harbor some resentment for breaking up the group all those years ago to go out on my own.”

Angela replied, “But we know you've changed, and they've changed. Remember what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder. As a matter of fact, I spoke to my brother this morning on the videophone about it. He’s here for a visit.”

I was surprised once again, “Spike is in town? Where's he staying?”

Angela told him, “He's staying at the Century Motel, about a mile away from here. He'd said that he'd like to try a reunion. He came up with the idea in the first place.”

I stared wistfully before responding to Angela, “Did I ever tell you that Spike was the idea man behind Golden Fingers? I always liked to take credit for it, but he came up with the original proposal.”

“Of course, I know, silly,” chided Angela. “He was pretty sore for a while at some of those comments you made.”

“Yeah, I know he’s gotten over it, I admitted. “I guess Spike is in, but there's still Isaac and Osgood. They'd never go for it. I don't think they were into music all that much anyway. You remember how Isaac used to blow those leads all the time.”
“Spike's already talked to them,” Angela responded. “They agree it should be given a try.”

“So Spike keeps up with them? I’ve been out of touch with Isaac since the wedding, and only occasionally hear about Ozzie. Didn’t he finally get married a few years ago?”

“Talk about out of touch! It wasn’t a ‘few’ years ago, it was over twenty. And you were there at the wedding. You don’t remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Duh. He hooked up with that odd girl from the record company. What was her name, Peppermint or Spice Drop or something like that?”

“It’s Candance. They call her Candy.”

“Don’t they have a couple of kids now? Are they Peppermint and Spice Drop?”

“There isn’t any Peppermint or Spice Drop!” Angela was getting exasperated.

“If you say so,” I conceded.

“Ozzie’s kids want to see him on stage. All they’ve got to see it is the old online video. It’s not the same.”

“But what about Isaac? He certainly wasn’t in top form; he had a lot of vices.”

“Isaac's really cleaned himself up and Spike says he's really worked on his guitar lately. Didn’t you see that he released a solo album about five years ago? It wasn’t a chart topper, but it was a respectable effort.”

I remained unconvinced, “I still don't know. We were hot stuff in the seventies, but this is the twenty-first century. That was over forty years ago. People just won't accept us.”

“Don't you remember what happened in the seventies, though? That was the nostalgia decade. People were listening to the music of the forties, fifties and sixties and liking it. We could start a new nostalgia craze!” It appeared than Angela was already sold on the idea. It would still take more prompting to get I to agree.

“You know...” I paused as he considered the idea. “It sounds tempting...” Another pause, then a rejection. “But I'm too old. Besides, who wants to pay good money to see a bunch of senile old jerks trying to re-create the seventies? Leave it to today's youth. I just couldn't take it.”

“Come on, now. There are plenty of people who would want to see the reunion of the ‘World’s Greatest Band’. They don't want to see imitators and tribute acts, they want to see the real thing. You could attract all the old fans and even new ones. You may have retired years ago, but you can't leave the scene completely without a big comeback. That’s what everyone is doing. You owe it to the world to appear again.”
“Comeback? And how successful has that been for all the rest? Their comebacks have them playing in small towns and tiny venues. What kind of success is that?”

“It’s not about success at this point. You’re already successful. Look around you! Don’t you agree?”

“Maybe it would be nice to get out among the people again,” I mused. “I’ve missed the road; the excitement of touring. Waking up in a bus or a different hotel room every night. Well, maybe I haven’t missed that. But playing is the thing, I could do that.”

I stood up. “Alright, you talked me into it. Get a hold of Spike and we'll start to arrange the details.”

Angela picked up her phone and punched in a few characters. “I let Spike know and he replied that he’ll transport here in about fifteen seconds. They still haven't perfected the wardrobe machine at the motel and it seems he still has to put on his own coat or else risk serious injury.”

It was more like twenty seconds by I’s watch. The door chime announced Spike and opened. To I’s surprise, Isaac and Osgood accompanied him. While Osgood carried his age well, Isaac was a bit worn more than his years would merit. Even though he was clean now, it was obvious that the years of abuse had taken their toll.

As they walk through the door frame, a buzzer sounded. I held up his hand, “Hold it. The security alarm says there's something fishy going on. Have all of you been registered for clearance?”

Isaac’s admission, as he reached into his pocket, was a bit of a surprise. “It's probably because of my pet hamster. I take him wherever I go.” He stroked its fur.

I turned to Angela. “I thought you said these guys had straightened out?”

Angela giggled. “I didn't say anything about senility,” she whispered.

I turned back to the trio. “Okay, come on in. Hmm... You guys look as slick as a guitar lick.”

Spike replied for the group, “We've all been doing pretty well out there.”

Isaac remarked, “I can’t believe it’s been almost forty years since we were last together as a band!”

“Let's see how well we can do together again,” I remarked. “‘Reunion is total communion of souls.’ Isn't that how the old saying goes?”

Isaac looked at him with a question in his eye, “Never heard that one before.”

Osgood defended Isaac’s statement of fact. “He ought to know. He was the head of the English Literature department at the Multiversity.”

It was yet another item that had escaped I’s attention. “Well, it looks like we've got a lot of catching up to do, but we'll get on with that later. First we've got to plan this reunion.”

Spike was all business. “One thing we've got to do is tip off the music magazines. They're always hot for a rumor of reunion among old groups.”

I concurred. “We also need a promoter for the tour, someone who knows his way around.”

Isaac offered “How about William Graham III? That type of thing seems to run in his family.”

I agreed, “OK, I'll leave it up to you to get a hold of him.”

Osgood suggested, “We need a few new songs. The public might not settle for all the old ones.”

I didn’t quite agree. “Maybe we can pen one or two, but the purpose of this reunion is to bring back the era of the rockin' seventies.”

There were nods of assent all around.

Angela was curious. “What will you charge for the concerts?”

“That would be up to the promoter,” I said, “but I would imagine that tickets would run about thirty to fifty dollars each. That seems pretty reasonable.”

Osgood suggested, “Maybe we could make it a benefit tour.”

Isaac agreed, “That's right. We really have no need for the money ourselves.”

I thought it was a good idea, but asked, “Who will benefit from it?”

Spike jested, “William Graham III, for one.”

Isaac made his suggestion. “How about the Los Angeles Home for Aging Rock Musicians? I've heard the royalties from the old rock records are really slowing down and they're in need for some financial assistance.”

I agreed. “That seems like a good cause. Besides, we may end up there ourselves, someday.”

Spike also concurred. “It's true that it's the most popular home in the United States. It gets pretty loud there sometimes. The musicians all get together and jam on Tuesdays. At their advanced age they're near deaf and they have to turn up their amps to full volume to even hear themselves.”

I took mock offense, “What do you mean ‘advanced age?’ Most of them are no more than five or ten years older than us. At sixty-two, I resent being called an old man!”

Everyone got a chuckle out of that one.

Isaac continued brainstorming. “Maybe we can even have a re-issue of some of our old hits to remind people of the music of the good old days.”

Osgood started doing some calculations. “We can figure on a good total for the home. At an established world population of just over seven billion, we can figure on a twenty-five percent turnout, and at an average of forty dollars a ticket, that means about seventy billion dollars for the home. That should keep them out of the red for another five years.”

“We're gonna need a lot of practice,” I confirmed. He held up his hand. “I'm afraid these golden fingers have tarnished a bit.”

Spike agreed, “We'll really have to come on like a lion. We can prove again that only Golden Fingers could play so heavy!”

Chapter 47. 1984 - Todd

I had settled into his life of retirement at thirty, five years later than he had originally predicted on his tenth birthday. He still remained busy, and enjoyed the fresh air of his estate, walking the dog, and feeding the wild birds. After a particularly nice afternoon out, he returned home. Angela met him at the door.

“There was a phone call for you while you were out,” she told him.

I was a bit surprised. He preferred the experience of direct contact, and most whom he knew made it a practice to drop by, even unannounced. Everyone was welcome.

His curiosity was raised, “Oh? Who was it?”

“Some fellow by the name of Todd Rundgren. He called about an hour ago,” Angela revealed.

“A hint of recognition crossed I’s face. “Todd Rundgren ... Hmm.... Seems I've heard of him before somewhere. Wasn't he a record producer several years back?”

“I think so,” indicated Angela, “I think he had a musical career on the side as well, though he was never particularly successful. I remember reading that he released an album that pretty much destroyed his career.”

“That’s right,” I recalled. “He moved into a direction that did not sit well with the fans, and when he tried to go back to writing pop hits, he’d lost all credibility.”

Angela pointed her finger at I, “Don’t be so quick to criticize,” she warned. “You’ve been down that path, too. You were lucky to survive.”

I was a little worried, “I hope he isn't going to try to get me to start playing again. That's all over. Did he say?”

Angela gave I the message. “No, just left his number. He's staying at the motel down the road. Why don't you give him a call?”

I capitulated. “Yeah, I guess so. What's the number?”

“It’s right there in you hand,” she said.

“Oh, yeah, right. 543-1024?”

“That's it.”

I picked up the phone, punched out the number and waited for an answer.

Angela was curious as she heard the one-sided conversation.

“Hello, this is I Mall.” He paused. “Yes, Todd, I’ve heard of you.” He rolled his eyes. “Oh, I see. Hold on.” He covered the phone with his hand and spoke to Angela, “Are you OK with a visitor?”

“When have we ever been not OK with a visitor?”

I resumed his conversation on the phone, “Sure, come on over.” Yet another pause and then, “Alright, see you then.”

He hung up the phone. “He'll be over in a couple of minutes.”

“That means he'll probably stay for dinner,” Angela surmised. “Or if he isn’t expecting it, we can at least invite him. I'd better get something ready.”

“What are we having tonight?” I inquired.

“I think it'll be those steaks I bought last weekend,” she stated matter of factly. “He should be quite impressed since not too many people can afford them these days.”

“Now you know we’re not ones to show off our affluence and we're not here to impress him. He’s been around. I’m sure there’s little that impresses or surprises him these days. He's just coming over to talk business. But just the same, don't burn them; I think that the usual ten seconds puts too much of a char on the edges. Try eight or nine.”

“Be glad to,” Angel admitted, thankful for modern conveniences. “You know how I hate to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.”

Angela left for the kitchen, and I stepped over to the piano. He began to noodle out a tune. Angela returned from her brief stint in the kitchen and inquired, “What are you playing?”

I was totally absorbed in he composition of a song. He replied without thinking, “The piano.”

Angela was mildly exasperated. “I know that, but what song?”

“Oh, just something that came out. Maybe I can work it into something.”

“It's very pretty. But you’ve retired. Why are you writing?”

“Well, you can take the musician away from the music, but you can’t take the music out of the musician. Sometimes these things just happen.”

As if interrupting I’s thought train, a knock came at the door.

“That must be Mr. Rundgren.” I was lost in his own formality and said, “I'll get it.”

As I opened the door, there was Todd Rundgren. He sang out, “Hello, it's me!”

“Ha, Ha, yeah I get it. Your big ‘hit.’ Come on, come in,” he called over to Angela. “Angela, Mr. Rundgren is here.” That damned formality. What had gotten into him?

Todd could sense a bit of tension and asked I, “Please, just call me Todd. I’m just a real man like you.”

I introduced Todd to Angela, and as he did, he took her hand and kissed it elegantly. “A pleasure.”

“I’ve just made some dinner, won’t you join us?” Angela asked.

“Of course, thanks. I’d be honored,” replied I.

Angela shot a look towards I, “I was speaking to Todd.”

Todd chuckled and replied, “Yes, thank you.”

They sat down at the table and I was anxious to find out what this was all about. “Let's get down to business. What's on your mind?”

Todd began, “I'm sure you know this is an election year.”

I nodded. “Right, I'm already a registered voter. My parents were really into that election stuff. But sometimes it’s not too good to get involved. It nearly broke them up when I was young. They were split on the candidates. I guess my dad eventually got his way, though. Ol’ Tricky Dick made it to the White House after all. And look how that turned out. And I swore that if Reagan got elected, I’d leave the country. Well, unfortunately he did, but I’m still here. So much for commitment.”

Both Todd and Angela were surprised by I’s mini-tirade. It was so out of character for him, but Todd continued.

“That's good, but it's not important right now. What I came to tell you is that I'm running for the president this year.”

“Why? Is it one of those pledge marathons?” I countered. “Well, you can count me out. Like I told you, he's not even my party an I wouldn’t consider supporting him in any way.”

I’s ire was unexpected, and Todd tried to calm down the situation. “No, no, no, no, no. I'm running for the presidency. I want to be elected.”

“So what does that have to do with me?” I protested. “I've got nothing to do with the election.”

“I'm looking for a campaign manager and you sound right for the job.”

“What makes me sound so good as a campaign manager?” I was intrigued, but unconvinced.

“You've got the notoriety I need to shove me to the top. I saw the results of your world reform crusade. If it wasn't for you...”

I and Angela looked at each other with a smile, “He's playing our song.”

Todd was confused, “What?”

I responded, “Oh, nothing. Go ahead.”

“Well, if it wasn't for you, “ another chuckle but Todd let it pass, “we might not be sitting here today. With the threat of a nuclear holocaust at the back door...”

Todd was surprised as I shot out of his chair and ran to the door, he opened it and peered out. He returned, confused but relieved.

Angela asked “What's wrong, I?”

“I thought Todd said there was about to be a nuclear holocaust at our back door!”

Todd assured I, “Just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean it literally.”

I responded, “Well watch it with those figures, I nearly flunked school math.”

Angela was getting a little flustered at I’s erratic behavior. “I, will you quit clowning!”

Todd tried to resume his decorum. “Anyway, I'd like to point out how with your inspirational ‘World Theme Song’ you caused the world to settle back in peace again. That's what I need working on my side.”

“We already have candidates running in both parties. What party are you running for?” I asked.

Todd simply replied, “The Treed party.”

“Treed?”, I scoffed. “Never heard of it.”

Todd replied, “Of course not. I just made it up this morning.”

I was getting skeptical. “Why Treed?”

Todd explained. “Do you know what a cat does when he's chased up a tree by a dog? He fights back! I feel that I've been treed by the politicians of this country and I'm ready to fight back. Will you do it?”

Todd’s explanation made sense, in an odd way. He was starting to get through to I’s suppressed political support leanings.

I conceded. “Looks like I've been Treed. Who's your main opponent?”

“Well, besides the major party candidates, of course, there’s Senator Davis from Northern California.”

“Have you given any thought about a running mate? You have to think geographically as well as politically on that one,” I advised.

“I'm originally from Philly, but since I've relocated to L.A. it looks like my best bet is someone from the South.”

“What, you’re talking Mexico? Brazil?”

“No, I'm thinking more on the line of San Diego, but I don't know anybody in San Diego.”

“Who does?” I countered.

“Maybe I should focus my attention on Alabama or Arkansas.” Todd considered.

“What's so special about those states?” I asked.

“I've got some old musical acquaintances down there. Some fellows from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Oak Arkansas live there.”

I thought a moment, “Treed, hmm? I can see the headlines already Todd Rundgren Easily Eradicates Davis!”

Todd agreed, “It does sound good. Now all I need is a theme song. I’m hoping that where else you come in.”

I moved over to the piano and started playing the song he’d earlier become lost in. The lyrics came out naturally.
It's 1984 and time to vote once more.
For once you really do have a choice.
A wizard, a true star has raised his voice.

In music and in song he has carried us along
And he's conjured up a most devoted crowd.
Corruption in the states won't be allowed.

On the sixth of November you've got to remember
To go to the polls and vote.
I know you won't be sorry, with Todd there's no worry
And your hopes won't be so remote.

Utopia it's not, but with a vote for Todd
You'll find that it's one step nearer.
We need something, anything to stop fear

In music and in song he has carried us along
and he's conjured up a most devoted crowd.
Corruption in the states won't be allowed.

On the sixth of November you've got to remember
To go to the polls and vote.
I know you won't be sorry, with Todd there's no worry
And your hopes won't be so remote.
Todd’s election as president would have marked the first time a rock star had rocketed to the Oval Office, but it was not to be, at least for the time being. Todd’s support by I raised his awareness as a household name, but ultimately failed to win the presidency, guaranteeing four more years of a Reagan administration.

Chapter 46. 1977 - World Reform

The new reform movement was in full motion. I kept his vow to create his ‘World Theme Song’ and the momentum for change sent it to the top of the charts.

“Pretty good results for a wash out, “ I told his new wife. “You can hardly go anywhere without ‘World Reform’ coming out of a radio, or being played in a record shop.”

I turned on his radio, and recognized the familiar strains as the song came up again in the rotation.

World's gonna change and I'm gonna change it.
Turn out the old, rearrange it.
We can't get by on what they dictate on high.
Reform! Be reborn!
I couldn’t help himself as he jumped up on the table and started in on a little guitar improvising, without the benefit of a guitar. He took a couple of Townshend-style swipes at the air, and sang out with the radio.
Look out the window and what do I see?
L.A. smog coming after me.
My eyes are burning and heads are turning to me.

Reform! Be reborn!
I took on the solo with a vengeance, and jump off the table, barely missing cracking his head on the ceiling. He calmed down a bit as the music mellowed.
I can't do it alone, help is on its way.
If you'll help me along, we'll see a new day.
The main theme reintroduced, he belted it out:
Political upsets are getting me upset.
Branding our minds so we can forget.
The situation that exists in our nation means:

Reform! Be reborn!
Angela was so happy to see the positive changes reflected in I over the past few months. The music press retracted the stories of suicide, and embraced the new socially conscious efforts of this once over the top, but now down to earth version of “The World’s Greatest Musician.”

Their wedding had been a quiet affair, with a few friends and family in attendance. All four members of Golden Fingers were there, which fueled a few rumors of a reunion, but they were really there to support I and Angela. Buddy and Annette and Henry and Juliette were overjoyed, never thinking in a million years that there would be a matchup between Angela and I, and amazed that their friendship of more than twenty years would produce such fruit. Spike served as I’s best man, and Isaac and Ozzie were groomsmen.

Angela’s maid of honor, was I’s “cousin” and her best friend Elizabeth Stone. Betty was her good friend from high school, and a confidante in Angela’s secret crush on I. Elizabeth was a couple of years older than Angela, and had never revealed to her that she had been briefly involved with I back in High School. Her bridesmaids, Marilynn Spencer and Marie Jordon had been fast friends themselves, known as the “M” girls in the Golden Fingers fan club. They were realizing one of their own private dreams by being involved in an event such as this.

Sam Martin and his wife, Samantha, sat in the special guest row, and even Sandy Daly had sobered up long enough to make a presentable appearance.

I had even composed a new song for the event, based on his own transformation, and the couple used it for their vows.

I began:
I need someone and that someone's got to be you.
Though you've been there all along you're just like a dream come true.

If it wasn't for you
I know I couldn't make it through my life
If it wasn't for you
If it wasn't for you
You have a love that is true
And I know you'll make me a fine wife
You have a love that is true
You have a love that is true
Angela, unaccustomed to singing in public, was a bit nervous, but she continued the story:
Change your life, change for me
You can if you try
You must to get by

Life is change, understand
Yes, I'll be your wife
Yes, I'll share your life
I resumed his vows:
Friendless, lonely, there I was,
A star no longer.
I'd been brought down all because
I wanted to be stronger

I need someone and that someone's got to be you.
Though you've been there all along you're just like a dream come true.
He continued his confession, with Angela joining in counterpoint:
If it wasn't for you
I know I couldn't make it through my life
If it wasn't for you
If it wasn't for you
You have a love that is true
And I know you'll make me a fine wife
You have a love that is true
You have a love that is true

Change your life, change for me
You can if you try
You must to get by
Life is change, understand
Yes, I'll be your wife
Yes, I'll share your life
I resumed a solo vocal:
Now I've seen where my faults lies
You've got to help me.
It's clear to me I've got to try.
I need the key, so tell me.
Angela responded with her solo call for change
Change your life, change for me
You can if you try
You must to get by
Life is change, understand
Yes, I'll be your wife
Yes, I'll share your life
Their vows concluded, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Chapter 45. 1976 - I and Angela

Angela had sat silent while I and Spike had had their discourse. Tears had come to her eyes as she listened, and she dabbed at them occasionally with her handkerchief.

Spike got up to go, “C’mon, Angie, let’s let him think about things for a while.”

“I ‘d like to speak to him for a bit, Spike,” Angela said quietly to Spike.

Spike turned up his eyebrows quizzically. Angela responded to the unspoken question, “Give us some privacy. Come back for me in an hour.”

Spike left the room, leaving Angela behind. I looked up at her, curious.

“You’ve been quiet all this time,” he said. “Are you going to beat me up as well?”

Angela spoke sweetly and tenderly to him as she patted his hand. “Now, now. Your world’s not coming to an end. If you’d only open your eyes, you’d see the answer right in front of you.”

I looked back at the set-aside newspaper, and scanned the headlines again. “I don’t see anything.”

“Look at me,” Angela told him. “You’ve never paid much attention to me, but I’ve always been there. Think about it. Who was there to help out at rehearsals? Who ran the Golden Fingers fan club? Who designed your most famous band poster?”

“Of course I’ve noticed your role in all of those. I did appreciate it. But weren’t you just helping out your brother? And you’ve always had an eye for Ozzie, haven’t you?”

“Ozzie?” she responded, “Don’t be silly. Sure, I’ve spent most of my life with Ozzie. After all, he’s my cousin. We played together when we were kids. But romantically? Be serious!”

“I,” she said as she took a hold of his hand. “It’s all been for you. I could see through that persona you developed and saw beneath it the tender man that I’ve always wanted.”

I lost himself in thought for a few moments, “You know, when I think about it, there was something that I felt when I saw your attentions on Ozzie. It may have been a pent up jealousy, something I saw that I could never have.”

“The fact is,” he continued. “I need someone, and maybe that someone is you. It’s got to be. You have been there all along, that presence in my dreams even. Maybe it’s true, after all.” He paused again. Her silence was golden for the moment as he collected his thoughts.

“If it weren’t for you staying behind today, I may never have seen it. I don’t think I could make it through my life with all of the past month’s events suddenly unraveling everything.”

Angela gripped his hand tighter as the revelations continued.

“Your love is true; truer than any I’ve ever seen. If I could match that love, I’d wouldn’t hesitate a minute to ask you to share it with me in my life.”

“I,” stammered Angela. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“Well, I haven’t asked directly, but I sure would be interested in your answer.”

Angela answered with another question. “Are you ready to make real changes in your life? Would you change for me? I think you can; I think you must. It’s life. It may be inconvenient sometime, but with positive change, I think you’ll understand.”

I confided, “I was without any real friends, except for those guys in the band. I took advantage of them, and when I caused the breakup of the band, I was lonely. I didn’t feel like a star, despite everything that was being said. Because I tried to be stronger and overcome it all, I was brought down even lower.”

“I need someone, Angela, and it’s got to be you. I realize that now. Will you marry me?”

“I will, I. I will.” She leaned over, hugged him about the neck and they kissed passionately.

“I’m beginning to see where my faults lie. I need your help to pull me out. I’ve got to try to change, that’s clear. Do you know what the key is?”

“The key to change,” Angela told him, “is that you need to recognize the need in yourself. You’ve done that, or have begun to. You can change!”

Neither Angela nor I had noticed a new guest in the room. It was Isaac, hovering in the background, and catching a bit of the last of their conversation.

“Did someone mention change?” Isaac asked. “I've run into some hard times lately and could use the extra cash.” He held out his hand.

Angela laughed and gave Isaac a hug. “We’re trying to be sentimental and serious here, and you come in trying to be funny. Shame on you!”

“There goes the mood of the moment,” I complained.

“But Isaac does have a point,” Angela prompted.

Isaac turned quizzically to Angela, and I countered, “What? The one on top of his head?”

“Ever the statesman, I, ever the statesman,” Isaac came back, and then turned to Angela. “What do you mean?”

“Look at the world, today.” Angela’s gesture took in the room and indicated the larger world outside the window. “There are people out they for which panhandling is a way of life. The only life they know. Things are bad, and I think they’ll only get worse. Why can’t you do something about it?”

“Me,” I said defensively, “What can I do? I write, play and sing songs. How could that help?”

“You still have fame, and you still have money,” Angela explained. “You could write a song to unite us in the fight. Maybe sort of a ‘World Theme Song.’ Love. Peace. Togetherness. Action. Something that would inspire the world’s masses to get up and do something.”

“Did you forget already? I’ve already inspired the masses to stand up and march right out of my concerts and I wasn’t even trying.”

“You don’t understand the power you have, I. If channeled properly, and with sincerity, those ‘masses’ will flock back to support you and a new positive cause. Write your song. You’ll see what I mean.”

“World’s got to change, and I’m gonna change it,” I mused. “I like the sound of that.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chapter 44. 1976 - The Beginning of the Beginning

The headlines ran the next day:

I Mall A Suicide
Eyewitnesses confirmed today that legendary bassist I Mall, of Golden Fingers fame, was rushed to the hospital after an overdose on tranquilizers and alcohol. A suicide note was found in the singer’s grasp, which read, “Life. It's over it's over and done. It's not worth the living without you. Over and over I turn in my head. It's not worth the trouble.”

A recent slump in ticket sales for his first solo tour since the disbandment of his former group was suggested as the primary reason for this tragic outcome. It was estimated that the failed tour cost in excess of two million dollars, as contracted musicians demanded full payment, even though the tour dates were generally cancelled around the world.

Former members of Golden Fingers Spike Jones, drums, Isaac Daly, guitar and Osgood “Ozzie” Martin, keyboards, were unavailable for comment.

I read the story from his hospital bed. “What’s this shit? They’re saying I’m dead!”

Rod tried to calm him down. “Quiet, I, you’ve been through some trauma. They’ll get the story straight in the next edition.”

“Rod, I wasn’t in my right mind. I have no idea about what I was doing. Rod, you know me, I don’t even do grass. Why would I try to kill myself with pills?”

“I know, I,” Rod assured him. “We will spin this to a more positive outcome if we can.”

Spike and his sister Angela rushed in the hospital room. Even though Spike and I had had a rather public feud in the music press, he still cared for his old friend. Seeing I sitting up I the bed, he decided to play it cool.

“You don’t look so dead to me,” Spike said.

I responded sharply, “Hey man, it’s not a laughing matter. This could destroy my career!”

Spike gave his retort, “I think it’s too late for that.”

Sometimes I was clueless when it came to his public behavior. “What do you mean by that?”

“You can’t say that you haven’t noticed things have been tough for you these last few months.”

I slumped his head and nodded, “I know.”

“The fans just couldn’t take it anymore. They were fans of Golden Fingers. They didn’t see you as anything more that a successful frontman. When you took the act solo, all they got was an overdose of your ego, and sub-par musicianship.”

I began to react to that slight, and even Spike acknowledged that the instrumental contribution on I’s solo album were of the highest quality. “The problem was that it did not translate to the conceptual presentation you created for the tour. Fans like to see action, and a single player on the stage is not action. They got tired of your ranting and raving about yourself. Face it, I, with an attitude like that, you can’t go far. For now, you’ve got to face it. The press is hard. They’re calling you washed up. You've lost the golden touch.” He broke into song, “You've lost that lovin' feelin'... “ before stopping himself. Sorry, got carried away.”

“But the press just wants to sensationalize,” I retorted. There’s little truth there. The fans can’t leave. Where will they turn? I’m the modern Messiah! I’m an Amazing Man!”

“Amazing man?” questioned Spike. “That’s just a another song, man. And when fans really try to understand the lyrics, they see right through them. You’re no amazing man, no more than any of us.”

Spike continued, “The press may overreact. Certainly, today’s headlines confirm that fact. But the fans do say that success has gone to your head. Some of them are actually responding positively to the news of your suicide. It’s a fringe group, but it’s telling. They are actually enraged in their commentary.”

If I’s mood could have sunk deeper, it would have.

Spike kept on, “They’re already moving on to other acts, other ‘stars’. And they don’t take the fans for granted. They know how to keep their egos in check. Now they are the amazing men.”

Spike picked up the hand mirror at I’s bedside. “Take a good look at yourself. You need to find your way on your own. Nobody can bring a change to your attitude but yourself.”

I couldn’t let go of his opinion that he was rock’s ruler of all things. “But I’m the King.”

Spike returned with “Elvis is the King. You’re just one of his many subjects.”

“But we were bigger than Elvis. We were bigger than the Beatles!” I protested.

“We were big, that’s true. But will we have the legacy that they have? Who will remember us in a year’s time?”

“How will we be remembered? What will it take to save us?” I pleaded.

“You must be their servant, rather that pretend to be their leader. You must fall as a slave to their feet,” Spike suggested.

“Maybe I was trying to find an end to my pain,” I admitted. “Maybe my actions last night were a last desperate attempt at a reconciliation with myself… and our fans.”

I’s eventual recognition of his failings may have been the first small step towards that reconciliation.

Chapter 43. 1976 - The end

Word had swept rapidly though the press, and ticket sales were plummeting. I Mall was washed up as a concert draw, the stories said. One story quoted his most public outburst, “This may be one small downfall for I, but one great downfall for I-kind! They'll be sorry they lost the greatest thing they ever had. You won't have I to push around anymore!”

I wanted to keep touring, but new bookings were few and far between. Due to the stress of the situation, I had been prescribed some tranquilizers, although he had yet to take any. He mulled over his calendar and was incensed when he saw a dual booking on the schedule.

He yelled at Rod, “How am I supposed to be in two places at the same time? There's no way in Hell that I can play a concert in New York City and Miami on the same night!” He was sure his manager was playing mind games on him. There could be no other explanation. “Just fix it and get out!”

Rod looked at the schedule and said defensively, “The Miami and New York dates are ones we were pursuing. They both fell through. You have nothing on that date.”

Rod left I alone, and I opened his guitar case, strummed a chord and started a new song of pain. As he sang and wrote down the lyrics that flowed from his soul, it calmed him a bit:

There's no time to live
There's no time to love
I can't see the sky when it's cloudy above

The rain in my life
The chain of a wife
It drags me below the surface

A train of thought lingers and I reach for some relief
It's beyond belief

A ride in the car
No place for a star
Like me who deserves satisfaction

And when I'm asleep
I just cannot keep
Away from the same old reaction

Life. It's over it's over and done.
It's not worth the living without you
Over and over I turn in my head
It's not worth the trouble.

Pain. My daily companion.
Pain. Enemy of my soul.
Pain. The end of my action
Death. The end of it all

I stopped and threw his guitar into the corner. He ripped off the sheet of paper from the pad where he had written the lyrics. He re-read them, the ripped the paper to shreds. He grabbed the bottle of pain pills and downed them with a glass of rum. "Maybe this will end the pain," he said to no one in particular. "Maybe when I'm dead people will know what they're really missing!"

I fell to the floor, holding a scrap of his final song.

Chapter 42. 1976 - The solo year

Chapter 42. 1976 - The solo year

I’s decision to go solo caught the press by surprise and Rod was overwhelmed by requests for interviews from Rolling Stone, Circus, Creem and all manner of major news magazines. I refused every one.

“There’s no better publicity than no publicity,” I stated. “Keeps ‘em curious.”

The former members of Golden Fingers were not equally silent. Spike, once I’s closest friend, was now his most vocal opponent.

“It may have been I that was the star of the band,” he told Rolling Stone, “but it was I, meaning me, that got the band going in the first place. That ungrateful bastard had no right to do what he did.”

Harsh words even came from the keyboard playing Osgood, “I joined the band to support Spike. I never even liked I.” Harsh words indeed, coming from the normally meek Osgood.

I did not let the negative press affect him. “It’s just sour grapes,” he told Rod. The fans are all that count, and they are as faithful as can be.

“Tell you what,” said I. “Throw them a bone. Put out a press release that I’ve got a new solo album in the works. That should silence the naysayers.”

“But you don’t have any such thing,” protested Rod.

“You know that and I know that, but they don’t know that,” claimed I. “But like I said, keeps ‘em curious.”

Rod left to work on that, and I considered his options. He could rely on the older group material, or he could release a solo album and really bring in an even larger audience, with him playing everything. On tour, he could use a band, but would rotate among all the instruments. That day, he started writing his first solo album.

During the next month, I wrote and laid down the basic tracks for twelve new songs. When it came time to record, Rod hired some session musicians to fill out the arrangements.

During the first recording session, it was clear that it just wasn’t going to work. The session players weren’t getting into the groove, and I kept firing them, one by one, until no one was left in the studio besides him and Rod.

“Now what are we going to do,” asked Rod. “There’s no one left in town that wants to play with you. You’re all on your own!”

“That’s not a problem, Rod,” I explained. “I can multi-track everything and it will truly be a solo album. It’s not like it’s the first time anyone’s done it. But it will be the best time!”

I’s recent attitude towards others was not reflected in the care his gave his music. He carefully laid down track after track after track of licks, fills, rolls, solos, riffs and everything else musical. He overlaid vocals on top of vocals, brought in every horn he had mastered, and even included a clarinet feature. In two months of extraordinary effort, I had completed his greatest work, perhaps the greatest work of all time for anyone: The Real Golden Fingers.

Sales were through the roof, and the album was still weeks from release. Advance copies to reviewers were in agreement; this was easily the finest recorded moment of all time.

Only a few months after Golden Fingers successful world tour, I was on the road again, but this time, he was the only star.

The arrangement was this: Rod had hired stage musicians, but I insisted that they not share the stage. They would be set up off stage, but with their amplifiers on the stage. A full ensemble of additional instruments was at I’s command. It was an effort to faithfully replicate every sound on the new album. I even brought in a twenty piece orchestra, again, sequestered off stage. Every empty instrument space had its own spotlight, and there were runways built into the audience so that I could share his greatness with the crowd at an intimate level.

The arena on opening night was beyond capacity. Press and cameras packed the first rows, the equipment for the worldwide simulcast was in place, and I was backstage.

Rod was amazed at the success, “You're really big time now, I.”

“Yeah, I never realized how much that band could hold back my full potential.“ He looked out from the wings. “Imagine, just me on the stage and those people are just gonna eat it up.”

“It your biggest show ever, tonight,” Rod said. “If this one's a success you're home free. Your album has already sold nearly a million copies and it's still two weeks from release. Capture this one tonight and we'll ship gold!”

I held up his hand, “You can depend on these golden fingers for sure.” He reaches into his pocket and with a magician’s flourish, produce some M&Ms. “Like one?” He popped a couple into his mouth.

“No, thanks.” Rod held up his hand in a stop motion. “I'm trying to diet.”

I seemed surprised. “You? Diet? I thought you were underweight.”

“It's a new thing I'm trying.,” Rod explained. “If I diet now, I won't have to diet if I get fat later. Some old doctor told me about it. Says he read it somewhere.”

I was perplexed. “Sounds crazy. Who is he?”

“His name is Orson,” Rod revealed.

I’s eyes widened. “Dr. David Orson? From California?”

“Yeah, that's right,” Rod confirmed. “Why? Do you know him?”

“I sure do,” replied I. “He delivered me!”

It was Rod’s turn to be confused. “Where to? Did he used to be a cab driver?”

I couldn’t believe Rod’s dimwittedness. “Come on now. He’s a doctor. What are you thinking?”

Rod mulled over I’s statement before the light bulb flashed. “Oh!”

I let it slide. “Sure you don't want an M&M? Melts in your mouth.”

Rod defensively replied, “Yeah, I know all that garbage. I do watch TV, you know.” Finally, he relented. “O.K., I guess I'll fudge on my diet.”

I warned, “Better watch it. Those things are habit-forming.”

Rod assured him, “I'll watch my step.” He took a glance at his watch and extended a second warning. “You're due on stage in a few minutes.”

I replied, “I'm up. Although I gotta piss first.”

Rod glanced again at his watch, worriedly. “Save it for the stage. It'll set them on their ear to do something like that out there.”

I wasn’t so sure that was a great idea. “Naw. My dad always said ‘When natures calls, don't refuse it.’”

Rod took yet another glance at his watch. “Make it quick. Two minutes to show time.”

Without warning, calliope music began to play, and two clowns suddenly began marching in front of Rod and I. One of the clowns was carrying a sign that read 2 minutes to show time! The “2” was in a big red circle, and there was a picture of an animated hot dog and a bag of popcorn marching in their own parade.

Rod was taken aback. “What the hell was that?”

I was similarly affected. “I don't know, but it sure scared the piss outta me!”

Rod glanced at his watch once again. “Good thing, because you wouldn't have time now. Just one minute to show time.”

Once again the clown parade appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, accompanied by the calliope music and carrying a new banner claiming 1 minute to show time!

Rod yelled out, “Who hired these clowns, anyway?” He looked around and nobody admitted their guilt. Turning to I, he asked “Are you ready?”

I was pumped. “Yeah, they're gonna eat it up tonight.” He picked up his bass and headed for the stage. “Here I go!”

I’s appearance on the stage caused the crowd to go into a roar. I called for the crowd to quiet down, and he began his own introduction.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm glad you came to see the World's Greatest Musician” The crowd started in again. I again called for calm. “I know I deserve your applause, but could you hold it back for just a minute?” The din finally subsided. “O.K., tonight's the first show of my new solo tour and it's gonna be great!” The crowd noise began to swell again. I yelled out, “Just give me your undivided attention with liberty and justice for all!”

His booming bass began the song. Those in the first row caught the full brunt of the deep sonorous experience. After thirty seconds of bass intro, the brass section began with its intro. The audience seemed a bit surprised when they saw no additional musicians on the stage.

I began to sing:

I first picked up my bass guitar at the age of seventeen.
I really wanted to be a star and I was playing clean.
After the first few notes, I could already tell that I'd be playing steady
'cause only golden fingers could play so heavy.

The crowd began to cheer at the words “Golden Fingers.” The anticipation, the possibility, that Golden Fingers would now join I on stage brought the crowd to a frenzy. I kept playing the bass part until the crowd noise diminished, and the off stage orchestra began to swell. I began the chorus:

Crowds would gather when I played.
Sometimes so many they even paid.
They hadn't heard music any finer
Than that which came from my golden fingers.

The crowd once again reacted to “Golden Fingers.” Surely now we would see the legendary group? I had to solo again for a while before the calmed down.

He continued singing;
I played in my first rock and roll band at the age of seventeen.
It didn't come off the way I had it planned, and so I split the scene.
I wrote some songs and I sang some tunes, and I knew that I was ready
'cause only golden fingers could play so heavy.

The realization began to set in that Golden Fingers would not make a surprise appearance. The Isaac fans in the front row sat down, disappointed. He sang the chorus, again.

Crowds would gather when I played.
Sometimes so many they even paid.
They hadn't heard music any finer
Than that which came from my golden fingers.

Then I took an unexpected mellow turn:

But life can't always be heavy;
Sometimes you've got to take it light.
But if I had my way
I'd play those heavy lines all through the night.

I returned to a heavier groove.

And now I've got it made, there ain't a cat alive who doesn't know who I am
And I play every night doin' my funky jive in a concert or a jam.
And if I wanted to, with my powerful sound, I could break down the levee
'cause only golden fingers could play so heavy

Crowds would gather when I played.
Sometimes so many they even paid.
They hadn't heard music any finer
Than that which came from my golden fingers.

The disappointment of an imagined, yet failed appearance by Golden Fingers had the crowd a bit subdued in their final response to the new song. I knew he had a big hit on his hands, but this was not the response he was expecting.

“You’re a bit foolish if you were expecting something else,” he told the crowd. The crowd murmured, but I went on. “But we’re all fools, aren’t we?” The crowd warmed a bit at the self-referential joke. “Well, I’m a special kind of fool!”

A fifties style beat began from the sound system, a piano keyboard banging out the introduction to I’s next song. I switched to electric guitar and began wailing. After an extended solo introduction, he began to sing.

I'm just a rock and roll fool.
Never went to rock and roll school.
Always breaking the rock and roll rules.
When I play my guitar
I become a rock and roll star.
I know that fame and fortune can't be very far.

Jump up, Jump back, give it a chance.
If you know how, get up and dance.

I is my name;
Rock and roll is my game.
They tell me that a crowd like this is so hard to tame.
But I just call to the mass,
"Quit smoking all that grass,"
So that you can witness what has come to pass.

For no apparent reason, I stopped, and the offstage musicians gradually faded out.

“Did you hear that last lick?” I called out to the crowd, “I surprised myself with that one. I guess nobody knows how good I really am. Not even myself!” He resumed singing and playing, after a leap in the air.

Jump up, jump back, give it a chance
If you know how, get up and dance

So you can call me your rock and roll king.
Playing guitar with that rock and roll ring.
It's something you'll remember, that rock and roll thing.
Now here's a rockin' goodbye
To get you rock and roll high.
Rock and roll will live 'til I die.

Jump up, jump back, give it a chance
If you know how, get up and dance

I finished up with another blazing solo, then stopped abruptly.

“Whew! Really burned up my fingers on that one,” he explained. “Hold it while I go back and get some water.”

I left the stage, and the crowd was puzzled by his behavior. It was a full five minutes before he returned. Some responded with “Boooooo” and not a few even gave up their seats and started to leave.

I moved into the classic Golden Fingers song “A Most Amazing Man” but the feel with full orchestration and brass did not conquer the crowd. More boos and hisses arose from the audience. When the statement of I’s greatness was sung, many in the crowd raised their rancor even higher. I couldn’t understand why everything had turned so ugly. If these were fans, he wouldn’t want them either.

Chapter 41. 1975 - The breakup

Golden Fingers world tour had broken every sales record established, and they had truly claimed their role as the number one attraction ever, even more so than the seemingly limiting “World’s Greatest Band.” After nine months on the road, they were home.

The energy required to maintain a nine-month tour schedule was trying, and when it was finished, the band members preferred to go their own way and limit their communication with each other. I could not escape the press, and the pressing business of accounting for all the wealth he accumulated as a result of the tour.

Rod Manger, his personal business manager, related to him, “You are personally worth over three million dollars. You can buy any home you’d like; you can have any woman you want. You are truly a most amazing man!”

“Yeah, that’s great,” I responded, not really sounding like that was his true impression.

“Problem?” prompted Rod.

“Yeah, there’s a problem.” I did not elaborate.

Rod waited a few minutes before responding, “And…?”

“It’s the band. They are not giving 100%. Night after night, I’m carrying the whole show on my shoulders. Why do I even need them?”

“Well, I,” Rod began. “You can’t go out there and play all of the instruments, can you?”

“I can play them all, you know. Maybe not all at the same time, but I can play them all.” He sunk again into thought.

He sprung up, animated once more and exclaimed. “We can hire some random monkeys to play, and I’ll go out solo.”

“Monkeys?” Rod was puzzled.

“Not literally monkeys, you dumb ass,” I retorted. “But just some hired players. Nobody cares about those other guys. We could just put up anyone as long as I’m there and the crowd will eat it up.”

“Rod,” I looked at him sincerely, “fire the band.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chapter 40. 1975 - The tour ends

The 1974-1975 world tour had been a great success for the band, with the exception of Isaac’s meltdown, and especially for I. As the only songwriter, I received vast amounts of royalties from the sales of their records, and a larger take of the tickets sales for their concerts. Every show was sold out, and 275 performances after their first show of the tour, they were wrapping it up in their home town.

Traditionally, they liked to introduce themselves with the Golden Fingers Theme.
We're the world's best rock and roll band
Listen to what I say.
If you came to see what was planned
Don't expect it to turn out that way.

Music fills every ear.
Its presence is never in doubt.
The sweet melodic lines you will hear.
Will seem to never run out.

Now you've seen and heard the best.
Can't believe your eyes.
So much better than all of the rest.
Stick with us if you're wise.
As the final chords died down, the tumultuous applause continued. I signaled the crowd for quiet.

“That song pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?” He asked them. Applause broke out again, and it was a full five minutes before I could get the crowd quiet again.

“Well, you’ve just heard about the World’s Greatest Band,” and the applause starts up again, crowds frantically trying to rush the stage, kids filling the aisles. I once again called for quiet, “Don’t make me come out there!”

The comment had the opposite effect, with the crowd pleading for him to join them, so they could touch their god, as they might classify him. I yelled out, and it reverberated through the hall. “Quiet!!!!”

A hush fell over and I continued, “Yes, you’ve just heard the World’s Greatest Band,” a swell began, but I suppressed it by holding up his hand. “But now you get to hear the World’s Greatest Me!”

The group started to rock into the new song “Today,” which had hit the charts at number one earlier in the year. The crowd was so loud, they could barely hear the lyrics:
Is your lucky day
You get to hear me play
Declare a holiday!

You just can't just get away
I have you in my sway
Not just another day

And now you'll hear
As you draw near
It's my year!

Is a special day
You got to hear me play
You'll never get away

Is not just any day
It's a holiday
Now let's just slip away

And you've just heard
The one true word
When I appeared
The crowd could not get enough. Fans all the way from the back of the hall were pushing though, some even climbing over the tops of the crowd to get near the stage. The frenzy was over whelming, and rather that trying to calm them down for more patter, Golden Fingers launched directly in the next song “A Most Amazing Man.”

A fan cried out from the first row. “Where’s the story? We need the story, man!”

The fans knew every aspect of the show, even the patter between, and they did not want to miss even the smallest part of the experience. Isaac hit a final chord, and the crowd, quieted.

“You know,” began I. “I've got to tell you a little story. I've seen many bands in my time and they all have one thing in common: a bass player. Some don't have a guitarist, some don't have a singer, some don't have a keyboard man or a drummer, and, believe it or not, some don't even have a cello player. But I've never seen one without a bass player.”

The crowd went wild again. When the roar subsided, I closed in on the microphone, lowered his voice, and said conspiratorially, “Keep your mouth shut if you have.”

The crowd could not contain itself, and pandemonium nearly broke out. I once again expressed his calming influence.

“Anyway, the bass player is the most important member of any group. Therefore, since this is the World's Most Amazing Band, I must be the World's Most Amazing Man!”

This time, the band launched into the song so powerfully that the crowd immediately silenced in complete awe. The words rang out:
Am I not a most amazing man?
Am I not a most amazing man?
Here I am at the top of the world
And to me all the flags are unfurled
And I always have first choice of girls
What a most amazing man!
I'm a most amazing man!

Am I not a most amazing man?
Am I not a most amazing man?
Watch my fingers fly as I play my guitar.
Watch me at a party and I'll be a star.
Watch me come in first place when I race my car.
I'm a most amazing man!
I'm a most amazing man!

I have to agree when I look at myself
I know that I'm the best
And comparing myself with somebody else,
I leave behind all the rest.
How can I be so perfect?
I'm a most amazing man!
I'm a most amazing man!

Chapter 39. 1974 – Missing Fingers

Nixon was in trouble. Everything pointed to a conspiracy that led right to the top. Henry had seen and heard enough evidence that finally convinced him that all of his previous support had been in vain. Nixon was a crook. He was going to be impeached. The American Dream had been shattered.

Juliette tried to reason with him. “You’ve had plenty of warning over the years. I won’t say I told you so.”

Henry’s response was, “I think you just did.”

Together they watched the President address the country on television.

…Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office…

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Henry said resignedly.

The next day they watched the news reports as Nixon boarded the helicopter. Henry saw the ex-President holding up the familiar “Victory” sign. Henry raised his right hand and extended his remaining finger. This one’s for you, Tricky Dick. If I still had my middle finger, it would be up there instead.

From the road, the members of Golden Fingers watched the same set of newscasts. I remarked, “I’ll bet this is eating my dad alive. He has been Nixon’s man since before I was born. I don’t know how he’ll handle it.”

Spike agreed, “Your dad’s a good man, and he’s been good to us. Let’s dedicate tonight’s show to him.”

Isaac and Ozzie assented. I sealed it, “Tonight will be the Henry Mall Memorial Golden Fingers Show!”

“Uh, I,” Spike interrupted.

“Yeah, what is it?” as I turned to Spike.

“Your dad’s not dead. It’s only a Memorial if someone is dead.”

“Oh, yeah I guess so. O.K., try this.” I puffed up his chest. “The Henry Mall Appreciation Concert!”

“That sounds a lot better,” agreed Spike.

That night, I quieted the crowd as Golden Fingers made its way onto the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight is a very special night and we want to dedicate this show to a very special person. He’s been there though thick and thin. Bought me my first guitar, built us a rehearsal studio and was responsible for destroying it…”

Laughter rose from the audience. Golden Fingers rough beginnings were etched into the annals of rock history.

“To the man who gave me everything,” I was being uncharacteristically sentimental, “I give you the Henry Mall M..,” he stopped and checked himself, “The Henry Mall Appreciation Concert! Thanks, dad! Now hit it!”

Spike’s drums rose alone, where the accompanying guitar chords should have rung out. I spun around and surveyed the stage. Isaac was nowhere to be seen. He looked to Spike and Ozzie and they both shrugged their shoulders.

The crown began to get a bit ugly, as they were used to perfection. This was not perfection. This was disaster.

I threw down his bass guitar and ran off the stage. There, sitting among the empty equipment cases was Isaac, stoned out of his mind and crying streams of tears.

“Isaac!” I yelled at him, “What the hell are you doing? You need to be on stage right now!” I was about ready to head over the edge himself.

“I’m sorry, man,” he blubbered through the tears and smoke. “I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?” I tried to drag him to his feet.

“You go out and honor your dad. I just can’t do it.”

“You got a problem with my dad? Get it out, man. We got a show.”

“No, your dad is cool, man. Spike’s dad is cool. Ozzie’s dad is cool. My dad is missing. I never knew him.”

“Twenty-one years and you picked this night, of all nights, to start on this? Buck up, man. We got a show. The crowd is getting restless. C’mon, strap on this axe, get out there and play!”

I pushed him out on the stage and the crowd started to cheer again, but when Isaac hit the first chords, they were a disaster. It was almost as if Isaac had forgotten how to play.

I signaled the sound tech to cut off Isaac’s guitar and went over to consult Ozzie. “You’re going to have to carry the leads tonight on the keys. Don’t screw it up!”

I positioned himself back on center stage, the stage lights focused on him as he counted out “1. 2. 3. 4!”

Ozzie caught the cue and came right in with the closest sound the keys could make to the heavy guitar chords needed, and Spike hit the skins hard as well. I’s booming bass joined, while sad Isaac’s broken frame languished in the back corner. A Finger was missing tonight, and the critics were not impressed.

Chapter 38. 1974 - Golden Fingers

By early 1974, Golden Fingers were the top band in the world. Everyone knew the names of I, Spike, Isaac and Ozzie. But within the band, I’s overt egotism was putting cracks in the fa├žade. I was still writing new material, but the band was not giving it their full effort, at least in I’s opinion.

The band was preparing for the biggest world tour event and practicing their new material. Despite their ability to secure a practice space anywhere they wanted, they still preferred the comfort of one of the band member’s home to a sterile studio. I suddenly stopped and yelled out, “Alright, hold it! That was terrible!”

Spike was incensed. “Whady'a mean, terrible? It was perfect. Just the way you wrote it.”

I countered, “I didn't write that ‘pop.’"

Spike was confused. “What ‘pop’?”

I explained, exasperated, “Isaac's finger popped. I heard it when he barred that ‘C’ chord.”

Isaac defended himself. “Hey, man, it was an accident.”

“Well, don't let it happen again,” I threatened. “OK, take it from the top.” He counted off, “1, 2, 3, 4.”

They started over, played for a while, and then Isaac stopped, Osgood pulled off the keys but Spike and I kept going. Finally they gave in and stopped.

“What the hell are you doing now?” I yelled.

Isaac complained, “My fingers are beginning to hurt. And I've got to take a cigarette break. I'm about to have a nicotine fit.” He lit up a cigarette.

I was disgusted and gave Isaac a dirty look, but relented. “All right, five minutes, but then we’ve gotta go non-stop. We do have a show tonight.”

Spike called into the other room from his drum kit, “Hey, sis! Bring me a beer.” He looked at the rest, “You guys want a beer?”

Osgood scrunched up his face. “I'd like a lemonade. Can't stand beer.”

Spike turned to I and Isaac, “What about you two?”

I wasn’t happy with the delay, and knew a refreshment break would make it even longer. He groused, “I don't want anything.”

Isaac patted his pocket, “I've got my own.” I shot him another dirty look.

Osgood reminded Spike, “Don't forget my lemonade.”

Spike replied, “Yeah, Yeah,” and yelled out again. “A lemonade, too.”

Angela entered with the beer and lemonade. He gave Spike his beer and Osgood the lemonade.

Angela winked at Osgood, “There you go, sweetie.”

Osgood was clearly embarrassed at the attention given to him by his younger cousin, “Aw, c'mon.”

Isaac, without a drink, pulled out some paraphernalia and began to roll a joint.

Spike accused “Hey! What're you doing?”

Isaac replied, “Just some grass, whady'a think?”

Spike warned, “There's none of that in this house. Put it away.”

Isaac stashed his stash and grumbled, “I should’a got a beer.”

I looked at his watch, “Well, times up anyway. We gotta get under way.”

Spike suddenly recalled, “Just a minute. The news is on in a few minutes. I gotta see what they say about us.”

He turned on the TV. The familiar electronic introduction was playing and they heard the news introduction voiceover.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is the six o'clock news, with Hardy Rochester. Brought to you each evening by Fender Guitars. "Fender: The most trusted name in guitars."

The electronic introduction continued, but didn’t cut off as usual. Hardy Rochester was on camera, and was clearly getting annoyed.

“Alright, already, turn it off” he yelled out. I t was an uncharacteristic representation for the Emmy award winning journalist. He shook his head and below his breath he uttered, “Sheeze.”

Regaining his composure, he began the segment. “Headlining tonight's news is the Golden Fingers rock band, who are currently breaking all records in the music industry. Tonight is their opening appearance in their 1974 world tour. This morning we had the good fortune of speaking with I Mall, bass guitarist for the group.”

On the screen Hardy and I are seen conversing. Hardy asks, “Tonight you’re starting what looks to be your biggest world tour ever. From all accounts, it is the biggest undertaking by any group. You’ll be playing in fifty-seven countries and will be out on the road for nine months. Where do you find the energy?”

“Hey,” started I. “We’re all supermen. We feed on the crowds and are actually regenerated with the traveling between.”

“Feed on the crowds? What do you mean by that?” Hardy inquired.

“Well, not literally. I mean. We’re not vampires.” I laughed. “But the crowd’s energy feeds us. Standing up on the stage with thousands calling out your name, screaming, clapping, dancing. It’s all there is.”

Hardy continued, “Few have been able to account for your unprecedented success. Can you?”

I replied, “We strive for perfection in every musical selection. Hey,” he paused and stroked his chin thoughtfully, “That sounds like it could be a song in itself.”

He recovered from his reverie and explained sincerely, “Each individual note is plucked from the piece and practiced for a solid three minutes until we achieve what is called ‘The Golden Sound’.”

“That sounds like a strict regimen. Your rehearsals must extend for hours,” Hardy said.

I replied, “Well it’s only on new songs. Once we’ve mastered one, we move on to another. There’s no need to revisit it again.”

Hardy posed the next question, “You’ve written all of the Golden Fingers material. Do any of the other members ever contribute his own? How much of a group effort is it?”

“I haven’t heard anything original from the other guys, so we only do my stuff. I write, arrange, score and play it out for everyone before we go into the rehearsal. Isaac once tried to write a song, but frankly, it was terrible.”

Hardy wrapped up the interview, “Could you sum up your career in one sentence?”

I pondered for a moment and pronounced, “Only Golden Fingers could play so heavy.”