The Mime Artist

I had been given the keys. I couldn’t play the keys, but I had been given the keys.

“How about the bass?” I asked. “I can play the bass”

“It messes with the symmetry” they said.

One left handed, stage left, One right handed, stage right.

I got given the keys.

“Okay” I said. “I guess I know the basics”.

“No need” they told me. “You just need to look the part!”

“I can play a bit though…”

“No need”.

Get a suit. Get style. Got a suit. Look the part.

“Practice in front of a mirror” they said.

“Practice what?”

“Looking the part”.

I’d been the backbone. The lugger. The roadie. The get up and get in guy. But three months in one room would mean a lot of time off for me. That and they’d gone for a job as a four-piece, and by my counting there was just three.

Sometimes it’s hard to do nothing, but be seen to do everything every night, twice a night week after week, month after month.

Every night, twice a night we go on. Warm them up. Same sad faces staring back. The other three on the stage living it, and me; the massive fake. Warming them up. Same place night after night. Same view out. We go on warm them up. Oldies Goldies.

We come off and make way for the main event. New faces. New sights. New sounds. New names. Old names. Big names. And me, the massive fake. Elvis, Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Same place. New night. Band comes in. Get in. Rig up. “That guy played the drums on a number one in 1983.”. That band from the 60’s barely left the charts for years. Same band, only the whole line up has changed.

Same place. New night. Prima Donna imitation of a bona fide gone to heaven rock God sweeps in. The crown and glory of cover band royalty. I clear out our store room at his behest. One room for him. One for his band. One pint of water in, no sight or sound. Prima Donna imitation. Locked in his room until the lights go up. A tribute to arrogance. But sheer talent. Not quite the real deal; but this holiday camp is not Wembley. Lights go down. Get out. Didn’t even see him leave. Didn’t get to bow or curtsy the Prima Donna imitation of a bona fide gone to heaven rock God. No sight or sound. All that remained, one pint of piss. The crowning glory of rock royalty pisses in pint glasses.

‘We’re doing a talent show’ the venue manager tells me. ‘Play the keyboard as backing?’

The lies and the guilt open a chasm beneath me. I stutter. ‘I’m not great at sight reading’

Did I get away with it? Did I look the part?

Same place. New night. This band actually knew The Beatles. Back in the day, played The Cavern. Mop-top top-lads. Every song a hit. Every song their own. Of course there’s only the old bass player left. Massive fakes.

The drummer’s a joker. ‘He’s not even playing a note’ he jokes about me. The massive fake. But I look the part. I do look the part? The lies and guilt open a chasm and everyone there; both my band and the mop-top top-lads, the venue manager and his co-host stare into the void my nervous eyes create.

Same place. New night. Skinheads from Donny. Get in. Rig up. Look like they’d stab your gran for her pension. Look like they collect Nazi memorabilia and knives. Don’t look them in the eyes in the dressing room. Don’t need to . They don’t speak. Stoic. Angry looking. Hitler youth. Stab your gran for a rizla. We’re up. Oldies goldies. Elvis, Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They’re up. Wigged up. Smiling. Energy. Happiness incarnate. Look like they’d take your gran out for lunch. All I can tell you is these guys can act. But wait. They’re not even plugged in. The massive SS fakes.

Same place. New night. Band comes in. Every night a new game for me. Who is plugged in? How many more of me are there out there? Looking the part. The great rock n’ roll swindle. Turning up and turning ourselves down. The massive fake brigade. Faking you entertainment. Our lies in harmony for all to see. Night after night.

Same place. New night. Second set. Up beat, chart stuff. Get’s them dancing. There’s me, looking the part. Livin’ La Vida…BANG! The ‘F’ key broke off. I kick it away and hope nobody saw.

I think it’s the ‘F’.

I can play the bass.

Maybe it’s the ‘G’.

I’m wearing a mix of lies and concern. Suddenly, I’m not looking the part. I tell myself to snap out of it. Carry on. Nobody saw. Nobody knew.

Same place. New night. Curtain down. Waiting. Waiting to start the second set. The venue manager lingers like a jarring discord on a prog rock record, hanging in the air with impending menace while we wait for the song to kick in. He stands beside me, staring down at my ‘F’-less keyboard and my chasm of lies and guilt. He presses a key. ‘is it on?’ there was no sound. ‘It’s not up on the desk yet’ The chasm widens. He knows. He can hear the nothingness loud and clear. The silence of the keyboard echoing around the venue drowning out the crowd behind the curtain. He hears nothing and knows. And I know he knows.

Same place. Night after night. New band on stage. Same faces in the crowd. Every night avoiding the truth, that my lies were louder than my keys. Every night looking the part. Two sets a night. Night after night after night after night. A few beers and back to the caravan.

Every day, learning some songs. Learning the parts so my lie could grow some truth. But every night I stand in silence. Looking the part to oldies goldies. Looking the part and livin’ la vida loca. Looking the part to Elvis, Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Looking the part until the end. Until the final set.

Same place. Last night of the season. Last show; then drinks. The bands and the venue staff drinking until it gets light. Then no more ‘night after night’. No more ‘same sad faces’.

‘I always knew’ the venue manager patted me hard on the back.

‘Knew what?’ My chasm of lies and guilt get ready to make their final curtain call.

‘First time I saw you. I knew you were miming’.

And there it was. I never looked the part.

I couldn’t play. But I had been given the keys.

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