Since this “snippet” series began with the genre category of Comedy, it is fitting that it ends with the category of Tragedy. Both are the hallmarks of theater that began in ancient Greece and are historically headlined by the immortal William Shakespeare.
When it comes to plays, NOBODY rivals Shakespeare! Tragedies IMHO are his magnum opus (especially MacBeth and Hamlet) but my favorite comedy character, theatrical or otherwise, is the ‘buffoon’ known as Falstaff, who appears in several of Shakespeare’s plays about various kings named Richard. Then there is Romeo and Juliet, which has inspired any number of spinoffs, one of my favorites being Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, where an Israeli special ops agent takes on his main rival, The Phantom, a Palestinian “terrorist” leader with Hezbollah ties. But Zohan gets tired of that job and wants to be a hair-dresser. So he secretly moves to the US (after failing to take down Phantom) and becomes a hair-dresser. At a salon owned by Palestinian Dahlia, who turns out to be sister to the Phantom! They fall in love and marry–the Israeli-Palestinian “Romeo and Juliet”!
The greatest tragedy? When Hamlet ponders his existence using the immortal line, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” And then the rest of the soliloquy.
And speaking of “being” or not, the only snippets I will bring up here with tragedy happen in Chapter Nine of Battle of the Band. This snippet involves Sound Unltd singer Erik who has a conversation with a friendly rival rocker named Denny Spradlin of a rival band, Wolfin, that is on the wane at the time, in January, 1996. Denny claims that after a couple of years of laziness the group is returning to work on song tracks; since Wolfin did not get a video deal other groups got, the message was to get back to work. But Erik had his doubts.
January 8, 1996
Frigid winds driving walls of rain barraged a chauffeured 1938 luxury model which slowly took a daydreaming Erik to the warehouse, now set up to film and produce the MusiCom videos. He’d been back to South Hold to pick up belongings. First he made sure Ger was gone.
As he listened to some traditional flute-and-guitar music, as he took a match to light a joint, the corner of his eye caught the shine of unmoving car headlights up ahead. In passing the disabled vehicle, he saw the dangling gold chain on Denny’s luxury sedan hood ornament.
“Stop the car, eh?” he ordered the driver. “That’s Denny’s car in trouble. Let’s go out and help him.”
While Erik’s driver assisted Denny’s, the singer opened the back door to visit. He hadn’t seen Denny since the party.
“I thought that was you passing by,” Denny said with a stoned grin as Erik plopped himself on the leather seat, his sopping wet pea coat soaking up the aroma of Colombian herb. “Take your coat off and stay awhile, eh? Share a j with me.”
“Definitely, man. So where you heading home from?”
“The recording studio, Erik. We’re trying again. Trying to get back into the fast track. New album. Art’s been trying to get me and Blake into the studio for months. We finally put up or shut up.” But the white-blond singer’s voice failed to convince.
“That’s super, Den. Glad to hear you people working again. Too bad about your car, though.”
Denny toked. “Just a fan belt. Yeah, we’re gonna try one last comeback.” Spradlin sounded tired. “Last three albums were all the same—sentimental bluesy metal. This time, we’re more deliberate. More now. Got some good songs coming.”
While Erik toked, Denny sang a few bars of one.
The other tried to appear encouraging. I’d better nod and smile and be enthused. But, shit, Den, your style went out with the hippies. More now? Who you fooling? I’m sorry, Den, but Wolfin’ll never make it back. “Sounds boffo, man. I can dig it.”
Denny toked. “Yeah, we’ll make it back. So, what you doing out on a night like this, ol’ man?”
“We leased a warehouse on the Thames for shooting those videos. LoveLace Media’s providing the video camera crew and computer technicians. Some of our roadies’ve been building our sets since November. One is a life-sized replica of Stonehenge. The authorities wouldn’t let us film any footage at the real Stonehenge. Said the loud music could disturb the monoliths. Do you believe that? So, we’re programming images of Salisbury Plain into a video mix with the replica props that form our set. We’re shooting the video for Where Do We Come From? You want to watch?”
“Thank you much, man, but no. I’m a wee bit in the mood to just hang out at home.”
The second snippet concluded the conversation.
“Listen, Den. Whether you make it back or not, Sound Unltd will always acknowledge our debt to Wolfin.”
“Right,” Denny snickered. “Everyone knows Wolfin opened the door for Sound Unltd.”
“No. Wolfin means more than just a footnote in history.”
“Quite all right.” Spradlin lit the next joint. “How many people get to be footnotes in history? I feel privileged to be your usher.” He cackled while Erik toked uneasily.
Denny then switched the subject. “So, how’s Ger?”
The other turned morbid. “Fine. Her show’s very big time. She loves it. I hardly ever see her.” True. “I really can’t say much about her right now. Kids’re fine, too.”
“Well, super ol’ man.” Denny knew when to drop a sore subject.
They engaged in more small talk, then Denny said, “Listen, Erik. I want you to have this.” Spradlin took off his razor-blade earring and gave it to the flabbergasted singer.
“Shit, Den, this is your favorite earring! One of your prize possessions.”
“I won’t need it anymore. Tired of it, eh? Put it on.”
Erik wore two left earrings—one, the band’s insignia, black on silver; the other was a diamond Ger gave him for Christmas, 1995. He removed the diamond and put the razor-blade in its place. Then he threw the diamond into the ashtray. “And I won’t need that one anymore, eh? You’re a damned good friend, eh Den? I’m really honored you’d give me this.”
While Erik toked a long drag, it occurred to him Denny must be changing his life to give up his trademark so easily. Or—maybe—ending his life? No, he’s still got too much to live for, doesn’t he? He handed Denny the joint while looking straight at him, eyes boring into Spradlin’s soul. “You’re not gonna kill yourself, are you, Den? I mean, you’re giving me part of your being.”
With stony eyes and smile, the Wolfin singer laughed, “I got a nicer one. Do you think I’d kill meself and not be buried with me favorite earring? Don’t be silly, ol’ man.”
At the warehouse, Erik learned that Denny had given Jack his platinum record of Wolfin’s best album, Serious Confusion, and Keith got Denny’s crystal nose spoon.
Then again, Denny said he wasn’t committing suicide.
The final snippet, which begins with Erik still dealing with anger issues over his wife Ger’s ‘betrayal’ of their relationship–she never told him that she, a supermodel, was bulimic, plus she had a sex-relationship with a toy boy as well–ends with an emotional crash. Note: bulimia is an eating disorder that is supposedly common with fashion models whereby to keep weight down, they will eat food and then vomit it.
Two nights later in the flat, Erik lay on a fluffy cushioned rattan couch, unable to concentrate on the nightly news program, unable to release Ger from her guilt.
I want to forgive you for betraying my trust, Ger. I want to go back to you and say, ‘I love you, I was just upset at the time.’ I want to tell you it’s okay if you snack on Gunther. I understand why you’re bulimic. Your modeling makes you do that. I want to say it’s okay, you don’t have to be perfect. I’m sure not. Why would I expect you to be? But dammit! You worked at appearing perfect! You loved it! You tricked me, Ger! You worked at convincing me you had something no one else had. Or did I take it the wrong way, and it’s all a misunderstanding? You shoulda just told me what was going on, Ger. It woulda been hard for you, but you shoulda given me credit for some compassion. I would’ve accepted you having fault, eventually. You shoulda had faith, babe. I coulda helped you. I coulda—
The TV news announcer cut into Erik’s consciousness at 10:42 p.m., February 3: “A coroner’s report from an hour ago would indicate that rock singer Denny Spradlin died at his Wistview residence from an accidental overdose of skuz. He was known to be a heavy user.”
Having lost his love and his friend in the same instant of boundless time, Erik stared at the TV screen through moistened eyes, through a barren soul of self-pity.
I knew he would kill himself! I shoulda stopped him! Why didn’t I stop him? Too damned wrapped up in my own problems.
Rocking back and forth, he cried. I’m so sorry, Den. Forgive me.
Spoiler alert: At the present time I am working on a “spin-off” of this ‘suicide’ tragedy narrated by The Prodigal Band narrator, pop culture pundit Lloyd Denholm.
The Prodigal Band Trilogy © 2019 by Deborah Lagarde, Battle of the Band © 1996 by Deborah Lagarde, The Prophesied Band © 1998 by Deborah Lagarde and The Prodigal Band © 2018 by Deborah Lagarde. Permission needed to copy any materials off this page.