Friday 12 August 2005

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #7

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It falls once more to me, Howard Phillips, to introduce the reader to Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, since the Editor likes to avoid writing about his own work, where possible. It is not a happy day for me, so I will not go out of my way to make it a happy day for you. This seems to be a penance I have to serve. I am, they say, indentured to the magazine, or at least obligated to its editor.

True, he found me stumbling along beside the canal in Birmingham’s city centre, desperately begging for money for alcohol from passers-by, drinking the dregs from abandoned glasses, and generally making a fool of myself, but I had had a difficult few years. My writing had not progressed in the direction which I would have wished, my poetry had stalled, and my plays had fallen into the ditch, unperformed.

True, he allowed me to write once more for his family of publications. He gave me another chance, knowing that in doing so he was taking one himself.

But it isn’t for any of those things that I owe the editor of this magazine. The thing for which I truly owe him is that he showed me music. He lent me an old Yamaha keyboard, told me to download Audacity for the PC, and put a microphone in my hands. In a matter of days I had formed a band, and that band was called The Sound of Howard Phillips. You might have heard of us, listened to one of our songs, or dreamed of going to one of our gigs, but have you been introduced to the band yet?

I, Howard Phillips, sing. You may know me as a letter-writer to New Words, a writer of unfinished novels, and a poetry of not enough repute, but till you have heard my falsetto, we have not properly met.

On the keyboard is Jack “The Space” Tom. They call him The Space because the gaps between notes are as meaningful as the notes themselves. Perfectly suited to the Sound, Jack “The Space” Tom rarely comes to the studio, preferring to conceptualise the music at home. He says he cannot concentrate on music unless his grey cat, Harry, is there with him, and unfortunately I detest cats. We have been able to work around Jack’s absence from the studio by jerry-rigging a fax machine to receive his incoming jams.

On guitar we have Quids McCall, a genius who was all set for stardom in the 1970s till he broke up his band, The Crazy Quids. He does attend the studio, so I have tried to ask, now and again, what happened, why did he throw it all away?

He simply shrugs and says, “Howard, if you are ever in the same position, and with these amazing songs you might well be one day, then you will have to make a decision too. You might make the same decision I made, or you might not. You might change your life, or you might not. I can’t tell you what to do, Howard, and I can’t tell you what I did.”

He says that every time. I am trying to persuade him to dig some of the old Crazy Quids songs out of the attic, but he won’t hear of it.

“If The Sound of Howard Phillips ever does cover versions,” he always says, “then before you get to my stuff, there’s a whole world of classics to do first.”

He is remarkably self-effacing, as you can tell.

On drums, and other percussion as needed, we have the amazing Lumley Clark. There is nothing I can tell you about him that will still be true by the time I have finished writing this editorial. He is the ultimate chameleon of fashion, leading the pack by day, chasing it back to the kennel at night. He drums like the wind, and plays the tambourine like he was born with one stitched to his hand.

That just leaves our bassist, saved till last because I cannot remember his name, but he is very good.

So, till we meet again, perhaps I in the stage, and you in the audience, stay true!

Howard Phillips
Editorialist and Edutainer