Friday, 29 July 2011

Stan the Man

Stan the man. I haven't thought of him in a long time. He was Lickety Split's drummer, and also their fixer, a bit older than the rest of them, the guy that held it all together on and off stage. If there had been mobile phones in those days, he'd always have been on one. As it was, he was always in phone boxes, arranging the next gig.
Phone Box Stan, the others called him. No wonder he fell out with the new management regime of bloodsuckers that moved in after the hit single. He was an unpaid manager before then, really. There was some bloke called Billy G, but he was just always pissed.
Anyway. There he was, on my doorstep in L.A., looking off back down the track when I opened the door.
"Hello, Linda. You got my letter, aye?"
"Sure, of course I did," I said. I was still half-asleep. We often slept till noon in those days.
I showed Stan into the living room, where the remains of last night's party were scattered around. Empty bottles, the ends of roaches, and a half-dressed girl called Marianne whom I'd never met before last night. She rubbed her eyes, and looked past Stan to me. "Hey, Venus."
Stan raised an eyebrow at the cannabis residues. "You're all grown up, Linda. "
Marianne was lighting up her first cigarette of the day, that passive hit of sharp smoke making my own cravings stir themselves. She pushed her golden mane of hair out of her eyes, squinting in the light.
"People call her Venus around here. She's gonna be a huge star. You heard her songs?"
Stan looked slightly foxed. Looking back, I guess he must have been totally jet lagged, but that didn't occur to me then. "You doing your own songs now?"
"Yeah," I said. "Grown up ones."
Days passed. Maybe just a day. Memory's hazy about that period. Next thing I can remember clearly is walking along Lookout Mountain Avenue with Sumner. Stan was ahead of us, joking with Marianne, who had never remembered to leave.
Neither of them knew where Carole King lived. But I did.
It was early evening. The roadside bushes were alive with crickets, sawing away at those violin legs of theirs. A motorbike sailed past, adding a smell of two-stroke to the scent of vegetation starting to exhale.
Carole met us at the door herself. "Come in," she said, smiling. "Find a place on the floor, if you can."
You know the picture on the front cover of Tapestry, with Carole King barefoot and a cat in the foreground? Well, it wasn't an official launch party for that album, but it was that time, that Laurel Canyon house, that cat rubbing himself in and out of all the partygoers as Carole took her turn at the piano.
"Oh, that Carole," Stan whispered to me, as she sang Will You Love Me Tomorrow.
You know how she sings that song on the album, right? Slow, her voice a little raw to catch the edge of the emotion? Now imagine that in a little house in Laurel Canyon, and you're sat on the floor with twenty or thirty other people, and she's singing it like she wrote it that morning, instead of in another lifetime. I don't think Joni Mitchell was there that night to sing backing vocals like on the record, but Sweet Baby James, James Taylor, was, with his guitar.
"Yes," I said. "That Carole."

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