On borrowed time

In Malandanti Susan Bekker, lead guitarist, decides she wants to sing on the new album. This doesn’t go down too well with Dee Vincent, the lead singer. Throughout the novel the tension betwen guitarist and singer builds in classic Gillan/Blackmore style.

Dee isn’t the first person you’d imagine having a crisis, but in this scene with her old Cat’s Cradle colleague Almer, she let’s rip:


“You know Susan’s problem is she doesn’t know how to enjoy herself.” Dee shouted above the racket of a stripped down rendition of Kashmir. “Takes life so seriously. I can’t remember the last time she smiled or cracked a joke.”

Two members of Cat’s Cradle found themselves alone in the studio with enough time to play a medley of old songs. All in the name of catharsis. Not that Almer was feeling cathartic, he was the monkey to Dee’s organ grinder, and she was grinding with a ferocity he never heard back in 1972 when it probably mattered. The Explorer screamed every time she dragged the whammy bar to its limit. Every unannounced tempo change brought another pulse of sweat out of Almer until the drumsticks were almost slipping out of his hands.

“Don’t just change like that, I need to swap the file over.” Almer twirled his drumsticks round his fingers in the sparse hope of catching up with the rhythm Dee had unleashed.

“Oh, fuck the files, Almer. The devil doesn’t bother with files when he’s on his fiddle.”

“I wouldn’t know. I never signed a pact with him like you did. Hang on a minute, give us a breather. I’m not as young as you.”

“You fucking old crock.” Dee played her version of Laurel and Hardy’s theme tune as Almer selected another backing track on his laptop. “I tell you what, fat man, this beats Shostakovich any day of the week.”

Almer winced. “Give him a chance. He might be as different again when he’s had some sleep. I mean, how long does it take to get from St. Petersburg to here?”

“Not long enough. Did you see the look on his face when I spoke to him?”

Almer had seen the same look on the faces of New Yorkers eating tripe for the first time. A mental denial of what was about to enter the mouth.

“What? What’s wrong? That was my way of saying hello. Pofaced fucking communist.”

“The future of Toten Herzen could be in his pofaced communist hands, you know.”

Dee played louder. “Over my dead body. If Susan wants to play in a four piece symphony orchestra that’s her funeral.”

“Just give her time. Let her develop ideas. They might work, they might not. At least let her try to come up with something different.”

“If we change direction, if we become something else, then what’s the point? Everyone in the world will see through it, Almer. We are what we are. A relatively energetic rock band with a relatively decent image and relatively healthy sales. We’re not Metallica, we’re not Pink Floyd, we were never Deep Purple, whatever Susan might have thought. I fucking hate Speed King. . . .”

“Steady on.” Almer gripped the neck of Dee’s Explorer and pulled her towards him. “Don’t hate her like that. She’s not your enemy. Give her a bit of slack.”

“I’ve been giving her a bit of slack since day one, Almer. You know that. She’s always seen this band as her vehicle on her road to fame. That’s why she never got along with Micky. It’s why she hated him in the end. Turning in ’74 gave her the upper hand. What a godsend that was. She let him have just enough license until it all went pear shaped, until he set up Lenny Harper. He was on borrowed time after that. The thing is, Almer, after Micky was gone she didn’t have a clue. She got rid of him, but didn’t know how to make it work. Then Rob appeared and a fat lot of use he turned out to be. She has ambition, Almer. She just doesn’t know how to make it work.” Dee slipped away from under the guitar strap and leaned against the kick drum. “Do you know there’s talk of legends? Rob’s put this daft idea in her head she can become a legend if this album works out.”

“What’s wrong with ambition?”

“Nothing wrong with ambition. But some of us don’t have ambitions. We’re just here for the hell of it. We don’t take any of this seriously, for Christ’s sake, Almer. Rock bands are not about being serious. It’s about being alive. That’s all there is to it. Between you and me she hasn’t got the talent to be taken seriously. It’s not enough to be a good guitarist if you want to be like Kate Bush.”

“Kate Bush?”

“Talent, songwriting, creativity, originality. That’s what you need to be a legend, not dexterous fingers.” Almer played a roll on the kick drum flicking Dee onto her feet. . . . “Oi! That went right through my pubic bone, you moron.”

“You didn’t have to move. I thought that might cheer you up.”

“What? You’ve got a dirty mind, ya dirty old pervert. What did young Sid say to Bill Grundy? You dirty fucker.”

Almer hammered his drums. “It was Steve Jones actually.” The catharsis of drum and guitar continued.

“You fucking rotter.” The grinding intensified. “Always had the right answers to the wrong questions, didn’t you?”


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