The Last Time
“I’d do it all again
Live all the bad parts through
Oh my Darling
He stops. His boney fingers slip down the neck of his guitar. He shakes his head at Brian. “Alright everyone. Take five.”
They all leave. The unversed deadbeats. The hired-hands. His band members. Not that you could call them that - there was no connection between him and them, they didn’t care about the music - they were making a quick buck. All those years he spent crafting melodies, all the heart and soul he’d put into his work, and what for? To be re-recorded by a bunch of lowlifes - himself included - in a lousy attempt and bring folk back. That’s what it was for.
I’m getting old and bitter.
I’m seventy one, and’ve hated people for thirty years.
He sat in the dark of the studio. The studio was full of silence.
Well that’s one place I’ve never been before. A studio sans sound.
Thinking back to the old studio on Roe Griffin Street he couldn’t recall a time when there hadn’t been someone making some sort of noise. Whether it was Waylon looping a bass riff he’d written the night before, Stan and Albert improvising some catchy little tune on harpsichord and harmonica, or himself, muttering some new lyrics or even just the sound of ferocious scribbling in his leather-bound notebook. Now those guys were band members. Those guys were friends. Course he’d lost them to Old Father Time. He’d also lost that damn notebook.
Back then he’d been happy. Back then the name Nash Fletcher meant something.
He’d been on the cover of NME, he’d written hit after hit, and he’d toured all across the country. Him and the Nashville Three. Nash and the Nashville Three. The name had been funny at the time - a dumb joke Waylon had made when they first started playing together. Now it was just filled with longing. He wanted to be back with them, back on stage, back in front of a crowd. Sure they’d had fun in the studio, but you couldn’t keep those four guys cooped up for too long.
He looked around the room, the dim, smokey recording booth. His eyes followed a ray of light projected on the floor up to a tiny window. The tiny window. The microphones caught his attention now, he focused on the one suspended in front of him, staring into the metal mesh, the intertwined bars. His head lolled down to face his guitar strings, he noticed how they covered the sound hole. Bars across a window. Suddenly all he could think of was the day Nash and the Nashville Three played at The Tennessee State Penitentiary. They were one of the first groups to do that sort of thing, to perform to those guys who “didn’t deserve it”. He didn’t remember seeing any pain or suffering in the prisoners eyes that evening. He remembered the smiles on their faces, the sheer joy they showed. They may have been part of separate circles and packs when out on the prison grounds or in their cells, yet for two hours, they were all in it together. The rush he got after playing that concert was unrivaled. He was happy.
He stared at his blotched hand and flexed his fingers, returning them to their ‘rightful’ place hovering above a G minor chord. He sat motionless for a moment, hunched over his old acoustic six-string and staring into the Neumann U87 condenser microphone in front of him.
All of a sudden, he heard a double base begin to play. It was being played like Waylon used to. Just three simple notes looped over and over. He didn’t turn around. He knew that if he did, this daydream would be broken. Then, to his left he heard the hum of a harmonica, and to his right harpsichord hammers hit their strings. He closed his eyes and strummed his guitar. The noise felt warm, and not wiry as it had done for so long. His eyes lit up, and a reckless smile spread across the old man’s face. He hummed a melody line that he figured he’d fill in later. His foot began to tap.
“I like that. What is that?” called Brian from the editing suite.
“It’s a work in progress. ‘The Ballad of the Nashville Four’.”
?“Well we need it on the album!”
“It’ll be on the album”
It was then he realised. Just because they were gone didn’t mean that he was just yet. Even if it was his last time, that didn’t mean it was any different from his first.
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