Another late morning, another guilt trip. Midday already and I’ve wasted yet another morning. A good four hours I could have spent practicing, even writing a new song maybe, who knows. That’s what moving from the Windy City to the Sunshine State does to you. It changes you from a creature of habit with a regular schedule into a lizard sunning itself on the beach day in and day out, only truly waking up at sundown and spending the night consuming illicit substances that expand your mind and open your eyes to new worlds of possibilities. Jim assures me that there’s nothing wrong with any of that. He tells me that I’m going through the gestation process, and that when the time is right, the music will come pouring out of me. He says the guilt thing is the result of my Catholic upbringing.
Talking of Jim, he’s obviously still asleep. He will not emerge for another couple of hours. Another hour or two and we’ll head for the beach until six o’clock, then we’ll make our way to the little house on the beach we’re using as a rehearsal studio.
Someone is coming to audition today, a guitarist. We’ve seen so many already, but it just didn’t click, it didn’t gel. Not that these guys were not talented. There are plenty of extremely talented people in this city, and we’ve already auditioned quite a few of them. But it’s something else we’re after, something we cannot put into words. Something mystical, the same thing that drew us close, Jim and I. When the right person comes along, we’ll just know. We won’t even have to talk; it’ll just be obvious.
I’ve got a spectacular headache this morning. Spectacular hangover would be a more appropriate term for it. The hangover has a name: hallucinogenic drugs. It’s been one bad trip after another lately and if it hadn’t been for Jim persuading me to try just once more because I’m so close to discovering something amazing about myself, I would have given up that stuff altogether. Arguing with Jim that I’m more into meditation these days is no use when he smiles at me while handing me the little tab. “Come on, you know you want to find out what happens this time…” That voice, those eyes… I’m not into guys but how could you not love this one? Smooth-talking bastard.
Well anyway, someone is coming to audition to become our guitarist, late afternoon, at our beach rehearsal place. At first it was just the two of us, Jim and I, getting excited about creating this unique-sounding music, his poetry and my bluesy organ. But who would pay to see that, an organ player and a guy reciting his poetry? Some intellectual types at an avant- garde arty event, that’s who. But that’s not what we want. We want a real audience, with people from all walks of life, young and old – well, mostly young, let’s be honest. We want the love of a public, not the interest of a few spotty, bespectacled librarians. Oh come on, let’s just say it like it is: we want to be rock stars, like the Beatles and the Stones. What is it those guys have that we don’t? Jim is so much better looking than any of them, and I think I can say I’m a much better musician than any of them put together. Right time, right place, that’s what it is. That’s all it is. “Is that the meditation or the acid talking,” Jim asked last night. We laughed, but then again I know we view things in the exact same way.
Enough procrastinating. I finally leave my empty bed. My girlfriend left early this morning to go to work. She’s our patron in a way, supporting the both of us so that we can put our music, and our band, together. The former is pretty much there. As for the latter… We’ve got a drummer now but there’s still something missing, and that something has to be a guitarist to support the vocal melody and the weirdness of the organ sound; something that will sound familiar to most people, and what’s more familiar in popular music than an electric guitar sound?
Freakin’ drummer said he knew this guy who also meditates and could be interested, but the guy in question never turned up for the audition. We just sat there waiting for him, and then Jim told us about a new song he’d started writing and we played something to complement his vocal melody. And before you know it we had a new song to add to our set-list. But still no guitarist. And something is definitely still missing.
Who knows, maybe we’ll finally be complete tonight, after we’ve auditioned this guitarist guy Jim met at a bar the other night.
Here’s what happened, three days ago. Jim comes home at the crack of dawn, all excited, and he wakes us up, my girlfriend and I, and she decides to go and make breakfast while Jim tells me all about it. He was writing the lyrics for a new song in his favourite bar when this guy comes to sit next to him, reading over his shoulder. Jim, being the character that he is, gets annoyed and asks the man what he wants with him, adding that he’s not that way inclined. The other guy laughs and tells him that he’s not either. That he has just never seen anyone writing poetry in a bar before; that he would expect something like that in Paris or New York, but not here in the Sunshine State. Jim explains that he writes poetry, and also lyrics for songs he’s working on with this keyboard player friend of his and a drummer who seems to like what they’re doing. The other chap asks what’s up with the no-guitarist business, and Jim answers that it’s starting to get to us, to get us all down, not having the final piece to the puzzle, that we might lose our mojo if we don’t find this guy sometime soon. The guy grabs the piece of paper on which Jim was writing and he starts reading, and he asks Jim to hum the music he hears in his head, the music that will accompany the words. And Jim, by now quite drunk, starts singing, and the guy tells him it’s so beautiful that he would like to be part of our project, of our exploration. As Jim tells the story I can picture him in the bar with that guy, getting all excited and letting rip, letting the real Jim out for once, the liquor having helped him to get over his natural shyness. “So there,” Jim says to conclude the story, “he might just be what we’ve been looking for.” And on this he leaves me stranded and collapses on his bed two minutes later.
It was three days ago. The guitarist Jim met at the bar is coming to audition tonight and I’m thinking that this guy has to work out otherwise our beautiful adventure is going to end very soon. I’m a little nervous and there’s no one in the flat I can talk to; my girlfriend Dorothy is at work and Jim is still asleep. So I decide to take a stroll on the beach, breathe in the sea air and try to steady my nerves.
And who do I meet on the beach but our drummer John. “So you’re looking forward to tonight?” he asks me. John wasn’t supposed to be here tonight, the audition was meant to be only Jim and me checking this guy out before involving John. Freakin’ Jim and his big mouth. He’s told John when we’d agreed it’d be just the two of us first. Oh well… But John continues: “I always thought he was our man, do you remember, from that very first evening at the meditation class?” Now I’m lost. What the hell is he talking about? And so that’s what I ask him. “What are you talking about, man? When the hell did you meet that guy Jim hanged out with at that bar?” “What bar? What are you talking about?” We’re obviously not talking the same language here, and I suspect this has something to do with Jim. “Who’s coming tonight John?” “My friend Robby, you know, you met him at the meditation class? He was supposed to come for an audition but he never turned up?” I can’t believe that after months of waiting around for that freakin’ Robby guy, he’s coming to audition on the very same night as the bar guy. I can’t explain the issue to John, who’s not supposed to know about the bar guy in the first place. The only option is to get Jim to sort out this mess.
But when I get home Jim’s already gone. And so I spend the afternoon checking out every single place where he likes to hang out. Obviously, he’s nowhere to be found. He always spends his afternoons at the apartment or at one bar or another where he writes his poetry. But not today, of all days. No, today he’s decided to be a complete liability and disappear after having booked two guys for an audition. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Time to go to the beach rehearsal place and see what happens.
It’s two o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep. Dorothy can’t sleep. Jim can’t sleep. And so we’re hanging out in the living room of the apartment, smoking one cigarette after another, talking like there’s no tomorrow. That’s it, the missing element has been found and we’re ready for whatever it is destiny has in store for us. We’ve got our guitarist. Robby. The only one of the two guys who actually turned up for the audition. And it clicked. It just clicked.
Robby is our fourth musketeer. He completes us and he gives us meaning. We’re not going to sleep at all tonight, Jim, Dorothy and I.
It was fifty years ago. Fifty years. Fuck me. Jim died six years after this audition, in a bathtub in Paris. And now it’s my turn to die, surrounded by my family in a hospital somewhere in Germany. What destiny had in store for us, everybody knows about it by now. Fifty years later and people still listen to our music, buy posters – of Jim, mostly – read books about us, watch documentaries about us. I don’t think we ever were more famous than the Beatles or the Stones, but we weren’t far from it. We were different, most certainly. And now, at death’s door, I’m pondering. What would have happened if the guy from the bar had turned up for the audition? What if he had been a great guitarist, and Jim and I had been swayed and decided to go for him? And suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear Jim’s voice in my head, this slight Florida tinge in his accent: “Ray, man, why do you think we would have gone for this guy, even if he’d turned up for the audition? We had to become the Doors, man, that’s all."
"That, really, is all.”
French-born Carole Bulewski is a writer, scientist and musician who made London her home over 15 years ago. Music, in one form or another, plays an important part in all her writings. Connect with Carole on Twitter.