Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl Excerpt: Chapter Sixteen: The Pixies

(From the soon-to-be-published novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

Convincing Gladys Rhodes and Elenore Johnson to sign a recording contract for their daughters would be no easy task. Joseph sat across from them in a diner in Spanish Harlem. Both women eyed him suspiciously. He recognized Mrs. Johnson as the one who picked the girls up after they sang at the school recital. She didn’t remember him. The stout, stern faced women drank iced tea even though Joseph offered to buy them lunch. Fearing it might be a short meeting he ordered coffee.
They’d agreed to meet with him only after speaking to Curtis’ mom. She’d told them what she knew about Joseph helping the young boy from down south and about his plans to make records with other local kids. Now, he was telling them how talented their girls were and how he wanted to offer them a contract. When he finished, Gladys Rhodes acted as spokesperson.
“Listen, Mister, my sister and me have been raising these kids on our own for a long time. Elenore is a widow and my man…he just up and left us. We all live together, two grown women and three kids in one apartment. I work two jobs, day and night shift. That’s why I couldn’t be there at the school to hear my girls sing.” She choked back a tear. “Evie and my niece graduate next June, but Althea got one more year to go. They need the best education they can so they can get a high school diploma when they go out in the world to a get a job. How can I be sure all this foolishness about singing on records is good for them?”
“I understand your position, Mrs. Rhodes. There are a lot of talented young people making good money by making records. The girls can make more money working for me than by working in a bank or in an office. And I assure you both that singing for us will never interfere with their school work in any way.”
“And you’ll pay them for singing now?” Mrs. Johnson wanted to know.
“Yes. But, because they’re minors, you’ll be in charge of their money. They won’t be able to go on tour or anything until after Althea graduates. But they can make records right now and probably earn enough money so that you can get a bigger place or maybe even a place for each of you.
Gladys looked at her sister whose gaze begged that they accept the offer. She decided it was worth the risk.
“Alright, Mr. Rabinowitz, you have a deal,” she said. Her sister smiled.
With Mickey away on his honeymoon, it fell to Joseph and Curtis to put Evie’s trio through their paces. On their first visit to the studio, the girls listened to the raw material from Teddy’s audition tapes. Joseph worked up some vocal harmonies and Curtis helped arrange the songs they planned to record when Teddy got back.
During a break in the session, Evie drifted into the control room. She hovered over Joseph’s shoulder and didn’t wait for him to acknowledge her.
“So, the plan is for us to sing back- up for this Teddy guy?” she asked.
“For now, yes.”
“And then what?”
“Maybe back- up some of the other acts we sign. I don’t know yet.”
“My mama said you had a lot of nice things to say about us. Did you mean it or was it just a way to get what you wanted?”
“I meant what I said.” Joseph looked up at her.
“Why can’t we make our own records right now?”
“You will, in time. Like I told your mother, you’re too young for that. If you had hit records, you’d have to go out on the road, and you can’t do that until you finish school. Till then you’ll have to be content being…”
“Pixies?” Evie interrupted. “Flittering in the background on our little pixie wings?”
Joseph liked the image. “Pixies? Exactly! In fact, I think that’s what I’ll name your group. The Pixies.”
“You’re not having any of my nonsense are you?” she asked.
“Is that what this is, nonsense?”
“You go ahead, have your fun. I can be patient. But, don’t make me wait too long. I got big plans for my future.” She smiled and walked off. Joseph believed she meant every word.

Rock and Roll Quote of the day: "I love how your heart beats, whenever I hold you.
I love how you think of me, without being told to." From: I Love How You Love Me." By: The Paris Sisters.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl Excerpt Chapter Nineteen: Johnny and Bobby

(From the soon-to-be-published novel copyright 2010, Donald Riggio)

Bobby cocked his head to the side to indicate that Johnny should follow him the rest of the way down the hall to his room. Once inside, Bobby closed the door.
“Pop a squat.”
Johnny sat in the only chair in the room. It looked like it belonged to the kitchen set. The room was small and square, furnished with a single bed, and a three-drawer clothes dresser with an oblong mirror attached. A crucifix hung on the wall over the bed and two other pictures adorned other walls. The air was stale from cigarette smoke.
Bobby set up a small, portable record player contained within a suitcase type carrying case. When he turned around he had a stack of forty-five’s in his hands. He gave them to Johnny.
“You know the words to any of these?”
Johnny looked through the records “This one, I guess.” He said, giving it to Bobby.
“Alright, I’ll put it on and you can sing along with it.”
“Sing along with it? You mean out loud?” Johnny seemed shocked by the suggestion.
“What the fuck? Of course out loud!”
“I…I can’t do that. I’d be embarrassed.”
Bobby found that funny. “How do you expect to sing in the choir if you’re embarrassed?”
“In the choir I don’t have to sing by myself.”
“Dufus! You’re gonna’ have to sing by yourself at the tryout.”
“Yeah, I know, but still…” Johnny was out of excuses. “…Maybe if you sang it first?”
“I’m not trying out for anything.” Bobby soon relented. “Okay, it it’ll make it any easier for you. I’ll do it first.”
Bobby affixed a small, yellow plastic disc to the center of the forty-five so that it fit properly over the nipple-like spindle on the record player. He turned the machine on, moved the tone arm to the beginning of the record, and then lowered it. The four-inch speaker crackled and hissed before giving way to an instrumental introduction.
Bobby stood, raised his eyes to the ceiling and belted out the lyrics of the ballad in perfect unison with the singer on the record. His presentation and poise impressed Johnny. Bobby’s voice was full and he exhibited great range. When the record finished Johnny felt like applauding but he didn’t.
“ Feel better now?” Bobby asked
“ Okay, but don’t expect me to be as good as you.”
“Oh, believe me, I don’t. You ready?”
Johnny rose from the chair and took up position as his friend had done. Bobby started the record again and plopped down onto his bed. When Johnny opened his mouth, very little came out. Bobby burst out laughing.
“C’mon, C’mon that ain’t singing, that’s whispering! Open your mouth so they can hear you all the way up on Tremont Avenue!”
Johnny hesitated, and then composed himself enough to catch up to the lyrics being sung on the record. The two boys laughed together after it was all over.
“How was that?” Johnny asked.
“You sucked!” Bobby blurted out without hesitation and a hearty laugh.
“Aw, c’mon man. It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“All right, I take it back. But you need a lot of work, man. You were off key in a lot of spots. Oh, if anyone ever asks you again, you’re a tenor.”
“Is that good?”
“Well, I’m a tenor myself so I might be able to help you with some things. You wanna’ try it again?”
Johnny thought for a moment. “Yeah, yeah I think I’d like to.”

Rock and Roll Quote of the day: "My arms are empty, my nights are long and lonely I miss you so. Each new tomorrow can only bring me sorrow, I love you so." From: "Have You Heard?" By: The Duprees.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel Excerpt - Chapter Twenty-five: Tragedy

(From the soon-to-be published novel Copyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

In the summer of 1956, a young disc jockey in Philadelphia named Dick Clark became the host of a televised afternoon dance party show called Bandstand. It proved successful in part because of Clark’s uncanny understanding of his teenage audience and his non-threatening demeanor. The show featured local boys and girls, neatly dressed and well-behaved dancing to records Clark played. His sponsors sold toothpaste, hair cream and acne medication. Kids watched the show religiously to see the latest fashion, learn the newest dances and hear their favorite singers and groups, many of whom went on to even greater popularity after being on the show. The formula worked so well that one year later, the ABC Television Network took the show national. It premiered under a new name, American Bandstand, and aired five afternoons a week from three o’clock to four thirty. Clark, realizing the importance of his national broadcasts, went to great expense to snare Teddy Boyette as one of his first guest stars.
The singer thrilled the audience by lip-synching his way through his current number one single and previewing his next upcoming release.
Afterward, Clark conducted an interview seated next to Teddy on a grandstand bench located in the middle of the studio audience. Girls giggled with excitement at being so close to their teenage idol.
“Teddy, you are without a doubt the most popular rock and roll singer in America today. But, how do you feel about the other guys, your competition so to speak. Elvis and Buddy Holly and the others whose style is so similar to your own?”
“Well, I don’t lay claim to owning this type of music.” Teddy hated questions like this, being asked to compare himself to other popular singers. He worried his answer might make him appear conceited or snobbish. But, he was now polished enough to know that if he simply flashed a snarly, sexy grin, he could stall long enough to come up with an answer that wouldn’t embarrass him. “Those other fellas’ love rock and roll just like I do, I reckon. I listen to their songs and I enjoy them just like any other fan.”
“Now Elvis is making movies. They say he’s going to be a big star. Is that what the future holds for you, Teddy, you going to make movies?” Clark asked.
This was a much easier question for Teddy.
“No. Elvis is welcome to all that as far as I’m concerned.”
The host and the studio audience erupted into laughter. Dick Clark had one more question.
“Okay, no movies for you. But, seriously Teddy, where would you like to be in say… five or ten years?”
Teddy thought for a moment, no stalling sexy smiles now, just a straightforward, honest answer. “Well, if I’m lucky enough that my records are still selling, I’d like to keep on singing I suppose. But I would like to be able to slow things down a might, not have to work as hard as I do now. That way I could have more time for myself, settle down, raise a family.” Then came the smile. “I guess I’d just like to have a normal life if I could.”

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Do I want you for my baby, do I want you by my side? Do I wanna run and kiss your lips and say you're my loving guy." From - Do I LOve You? By: The Ronettes