Russ looked around at the little group that had decided that becoming "Roadies" was more suited to them. Chance had fallen in love with the effects board the first time he'd seen Russ test it out, and kept begging until he persuaded Russ to teach him how to run it. Despite Timmy and Ricky's best attempts, no instrument could be found that William and Duke could play. Both winged companions were more than happy to provide aerial support instead, dropping drumsticks, picks, towels, and bottled water as needed. The older boys had learned to be respectful when asking for things quite quickly, as both eagles had quite good aim with the water bottles.
Over the last two months, things began to come together for the boys. DJ and KC taught their future guitar players the basics that they would need, while Austin concentrated on the various wind-driven instruments. CD worked on bass with Brandon, as well as teaching basics for the bowed instruments. Conner and Tanner had paired up quickly; Conner having years of piano experience, while Tanner had learned an amazing amount about Hammond organ operation from the church organist at the church he used to go to. With the assistance of Russ, they quickly began honing their skills on their preferred instrument as well as the electronic keyboards.
On the percussion side, Russ was actually amused at the three aspiring drummers he had. Obviously Joey refused to give up his stool; Pauly had decided that he wanted to be like Joey, so he was now on the fast course to build up his newly-turned-Vulcan muscles. Ian made up the last of the trio, and of the three he was picking things up the slowest.
Dylan ended up being a very important part of the boys learning the basics quickly. He constantly was making the rounds, placing individuals and small groups in 'time bubbles' for practice, training, and rest between training sessions. While the boys had seemed to be quite active exploring Archnania, in actuality each had averaged at least one week of training in each Archnanian day.
From the corner of his eye, Russ caught Ian taking DJ and KC off to the side. 'Okay boys, time to see if you've got it together on running a band' he thought.
Once Ian was sure that nobody could overhear him, he spoke in a low voice to DJ and KC. "Guys, this ain't working. Joey and Pauly are blowing me away, there's no way I'm gonna be ready to play. Besides, I'm just a brother-in-law."
KC quickly reached over and put a hand over DJ's mouth. "Look up diplomacy, bro!" he said with a grin.
DJ pulled KC's arm down. "Smart-ass! Thanks, go ahead and take the first shot."
KC giggled, then turned back to a now-grinning Ian. "First, you've got a lot more to learn than most of us to be a really professional drummer, Ian. The two little rats have photographic memories, you don't. It's gonna take you longer, we all know that. As far as you being an in-law, the key word is BROTHER. You're one of us; if we didn't think that, you wouldn't have been told to go ahead when you asked."
"I don't want to hold the rest of you back, though." Ian responded.
Taking KC's earlier jab into account, DJ answered Ian. "Bro, just watching all of us, I can tell this ain't gonna be something we do and then drop it. You've got time, and the munchkins love jamming with you. When you're ready, you've got a spot. Until then, just keep working on it.
"What if I'm never ready?" Ian asked.
"Then you're the most over-qualified percussion roadie in the Universe!" KC giggled.
Ian couldn't help but giggle at KC's statement. "I got it, thanks guys.
"Besides, you've got the munchkins beat on a couple of things." DJ added as he put an arm over Ian's shoulder. "They might have fun with congas and bongos, but you've got more control when you need it. That's not counting the fact that they have to run around while all you have to do is lean over!"
Ian grinned. "Okay, you've got a point there. I get the hint, you're not gonna let me give up."
"What is this 'giving up' theory he's babbling about?" KC asked DJ with a grin.
"It's something that Marc marked in your programming as emergency use only." DJ shot back.
"Oh, THAT!" KC responded. "I tried to use that once; some little punk refused to let me do it."
"Little punk?" DJ asked, his eyebrows raised.
"You heard me, Punk!" KC said as he spun around and started running.
"Excuse me, I need to disassemble an android!" DJ told Ian as he took off after KC.
Ian just nodded; he was to busy laughing to be able to speak.
Up on the stage, Tanner watched DJ and KC run outside, then turned back to Conner. "What do you think, Conner? This setup work for you?"
"I dunno, Uncle Tanner." Conner replied, continuing the teasing he'd started earlier that day. "I'm just a little guy, are you sure that synth isn't still to high?"
"Keep it up... I know where you sleep!" Tanner laughed. "Seriously, try it out, see how it feels."
Conner stood between the racks, reaching for both sides at once. "I'm still having to stretch. Let's try it a little closer."
"Okay." Tanner replied. He had been watching, so he had a fairly good idea of how much closer to move the keyboard rack. "Okay, try it now."
Conner tried again, and this time was able to comfortably reach both sides. "That works, thanks Tanner."
"Anytime, bro. You wanna run your warmups? I'll watch for you to see if anything's off."
"Okay." Conner said as he took his glasses off. Now legally blind, he ran through the warmup routine that Russ had taught both of them. At first, Russ had been confused as to why Conner preferred to warm-up without his glasses. Conner explained that it kept him from looking, instead he trusted his sense of touch and hearing to hit the right notes. His thought was that if he can do his entire warmup blind, he wouldn't be searching for notes mid-song.
His reasoning had made sense to Tanner, and with the addition of blackout goggles Tanner now warmed up the same way. It had amazed him just how much different the notes sounded when he was having to concentrate to see if he hit the right one instead of looking. Tanner's awareness of just what Conner went through every day of his life increased tremendously, along with his respect for his nephew. The experience created a very tight bond, and in the process finally proved to Conner that he was really accepted.
"Hold on a sec; let me tilt that more." Tanner said as he noticed that Conner was having a little trouble reaching one of the program buttons.
"Okay, let me know when it's ready."
"You're good, try it again."
Conner began his warmup from the beginning, Tanner watching carefully. Since Russ was wanting them to start doing things in larger groups, the two of them decided that it was time to figure out the setup they would like to use on-stage, that way they could get the bugs worked out and get used to it.
Once he had finished, Conner put his glasses on. "I dunno; it seems to work, but something don't feel right."
"Let's slide out your platform, then I'll try it." Tanner replied. "Maybe you'll catch something when you watch me."
"Okay." Conner replied, reaching down to grab the handle that allowed them to adjust for Tanner's height difference by pulling a platform out from between the racks.
Conner angled his head, making sure he was watching with his peripheral vision as Tanner ran through the warmup routine.
"Got it!" both boys exclaimed in unison as Tanner started the electric piano part of the warmup.
"Your wrist is bent; we gotta raise the entire rack." Conner added.
"Yep. That'd hurt if I did it very long!" Tanner replied.
Each of them took a side, raising everything two inches. Once they had both racks adjusted to the right height, Tanner prepared to try it again. Just as he was getting ready to start, Russ joined them and motioned for him to wait.
"Guys, why do you have the racks across from each other?" Russ asked, curiosity in his voice.
"That's how they're set up in music videos." Tanner replied.
"Yeah, just about all of the videos that Tanner and I watched had the player reaching out to both sides." Conner added.
Russ nodded. "That's what I figured. I've got a little secret for you guys; there's a really good chance that was just for show. I can count on my fingers how many artists I've worked with that can consistently pull that off. All but one have spent decades perfecting their skills and their setup. The guys you saw in the videos were probably either faking it for the camera while they had a computer actually playing their part, or they had practiced that one song using that setup until they got it right. You can usually tell the guys who can pull it off; they have racks surrounding them, and only occasionally reach across if they have to."
Both Tanner and Conner noticed the fact that Russ hadn't told them to change anything, he'd just told them what he knew from experience.
"How'd you do it, Uncle Russ?" Conner asked.
Russ smiled as he replied "You guys have already done a great job at adjusting your heights and angles; I've seen pros take less time and have to adjust halfway through practice. The only things I'd suggest trying are move your right rack to the front, then we can put a Mac Pro on a rack on the right."
"Why would we need a computer?" Tanner asked.
"This is an industry secret!" Russ chuckled as he pretended to make sure nobody else was listening. "There is no reason for you to play a part that repeats the same loop through most or all of a song. Even your video guys know this, and if they were faking they definitely used it. You use the computer to reduce your workload, it does the repetitive parts for you while you concentrate on the rest of the music."
"That might help me, but what about Conner? I'm not gonna make my job easier while he suffers." Tanner replied.
Conner moved over and cuddled into Tanner's side, thankful that Tanner had stated what he was thinking but afraid to say out loud. Russ smiled, inwardly glad the two had formed such a tight family bond. "Actually, I'm thinking that the two of you are the perfect first users of a device Ark and I adapted. I've seen how much it throws off the keyboardist when one of his band members decides to do a solo, meaning he has to quickly pause the loop. Ark reprogrammed some of it's subvocals to directly interface with a Mac using native interfaces. All we need to do is turn on the assistive support, and you have subvocal voice command and feedback in Mainstage. The best part is that it won't register on your stage mic."
"That sounds great, but if it don't make the computer work for Conner then ain't neither one of us using computers." Tanner stated.
Knowing better than to argue with his eldest once his mind was set, Russ just nodded. "Either way, what do you guys think about the other way to set up your racks?"
Tanner turned his head, looking down to gauge Conner's thoughts. When Conner nodded at him, he looked back up. "Sure, we'll try it out."
"Okay," Russ said with a smile. "I'll give you a hand getting them into their new positions, then I'll leave the fine-tuning to the two of you. You're both doing great with that part. We'll worry about the computers later."
"Thanks, Dad." Tanner said, inwardly glad that there wasn't going to be an argument in front of Conner. With the three of them working on it, it took no time to get things repositioned and reconnected.
As Russ was walking away from Tanner and Conner, he smiled at their reactions once they had tried the new layout. Both had immediately felt more comfortable, and their warmups immediately improved. Just then, Timmy ran up, obviously frustrated. "Poppa Russ! How am I 'posed to be learnin' get-tar when ev'ry one else has got backwards ones that's showin' me stuff?"
Russ chuckled as he caught the little lefty fireball. "Settle down, Timmy. Did KC and Deej try using mirrors to help you?"
"What's a mirror gonna do? An' why do they gotta play those get-tars with ev'rythin' on the wrong side?"
"A mirror makes a right-hand guitar look like a left-hand when you're watching it." Russ chuckled. "They have to play those guitars because they're not as special as you, little one."
"Okay!" Timmy replied with a giggle. "Wait till I tell them THAT!"
Russ carried Timmy back to rejoin his teachers. "KC, DJ? You guys might want to try mirrors when Timmy's watching you; it'll help his mind accept left and right handed operations."
Both boys had been discussing the very same problem, and smiled at the simple solution that Russ supplied. "Thanks, Russ; that sounds like it'll work. KC replied for them both.
"Poppa Russ says I'm more specialer than you, that's why I got the kewl get-tar!" Timmy added proudly.
KC and DJ exchanged glances, both getting evil grins at the same time. Russ noticed, and muttered 'Oh Crap' before quickly putting Timmy down. As DJ and KC started dragging him towards the nearby lake, a few of the Archnanians who had made it a habit to hang around to help the boys with their instruments joined in. The Clan dunkings had quickly become legend on Archnania, and the chance to participate in one was an opportunity that no sane Archnanian teen would pass up.
As Timmy watched Russ being hauled away, Dylan walked up and joined him. "What did Uncle Russ do this time?" Dylan giggled.
"I dunno; he just told KC an' Deej 'bout usin' mirrors to help me, then I told 'em 'bout him sayin' I was more specialer 'cuz I get a lefty get-tar an' now they's takin' him swimmin'!"
After quickly processing Timmy's comments at half-speed so that he could understand them, Dylan grinned. "Don't worry, Timmy. They're just having fun. You want to go pick out some mirrors while we're waiting for them to come back?"
"YEAH!" Timmy replied, always willing to go on a field-trip with his Mikyvis cousin.
By the time the soaked group returned, Timmy and Dylan were sitting on a new bench, two new walls covered with sheets behind them. The innocent looks that both were sporting gave warning that they were up to something, and the halos over both heads proved it.
"This is all YOUR fault, Dad." DJ quipped.
KC shook his head as he looked at Dylan and Timmy. "Okay, what'd you two punks get into this time?"
"Nuthin; we just got some mirrors!" Timmy giggled.
"Yeah, right!" KC giggled as he picked up Timmy, giving him a poke in the armpit for good measure. Once Timmy was secure, he motioned for Dylan to take residence under his free arm. Now that both boys were in place, KC said, "Go for it, show us what you got."
"Okay!" Dylan giggled, before making the cover vanish from one of the ten-foot sections. Almost immediately, everyone watching almost collapsed in laughter; the entire wall was covered with various fun house mirrors.
"AWESOME! Watch this!" DJ laughed as he grabbed a microphone and did a very bad David Lee Roth parody, going back and forth in front of the mirrors.
Not to be outdone, KC quickly released the two giggling munchkins, running over to flip his amp from 'standby' to 'online'. By the time DJ collapsed on the bench laughing, the amp was ready to go. "You got it ALL wrong Deej, walk THIS way!"
Keeping time in his head, KC played the guitar lead from 'Walk This Way' as he strutted in front of the mirrors. While he was a little rusty, not having played the song since a couple of years after it came out, you could still tell what was being played, even without listening to his vocals.
DJ and KC's antics had drawn a crowd, and once KC finished they applauded. "I wanna learn that!" Timmy announced as he clapped.
Hearing the mutterings of the other band members, KC held up his hand. "Hold up, guys!"
Everyone quieted down, wondering what KC was up to.
Now that he had their attention, KC spoke in a softer voice. "Guys, to get that song right is not as easy as it sounds; it took me six months. Thing is, after all the practicing that all of us have done, we WILL be ready to play songs like this. Thanks to our purple cookie monster brother, some of us have spent over a year of Mikyvis-time learning the basics, while others have used the same time to improve the skills they already had. We're at a point where we can start learning to work together as a band. We're gonna mess up; that is how all bands start until they get used to each other. Dilly has been taking Deej and I around various universes to find songs that we can use along with stuff we know to start working as a band. While we were going around, we found a couple of universes that had something called 'Rap'; basically it's bands that never learn to play together. Actually, I think some of them never learned to play!"
"Timmy, you remember the first day we had you on electric?" DJ interjected. "You had William covering his ears with his wings! Even then, you sounded better than almost all of those Rap twerps."
"William says y'all cheated, you had earplugs in already!" Timmy giggled in response.
"That's because we've done it too when we started!" KC replied, then waited for the laughter to die down before continuing.
"Remember our first day here, when Russ had those of us with a musical background play something?" KC asked. At everyone's nods of assent, he continued. "All of you guys who were watching are gonna be able to join in now. You'll mess up some until you get used to working with the rest of the group, but you're all ready to start working together more. In fact, I think I know something to start out with; to understand most of the modern stuff you need to understand the blues. A perfect example is the song Deej and I've been working on. Leo, you got your harmonica handy?"
"Yeah, why? Nobody uses harmonicas in music unless it's bluegrass." Leo replied. "I just play it to relax."
"That's why you're so good with it." KC replied with a grin. "Get ready, I want you to take one of the biggest parts that make this song work."
Leo shrugged as he dug his harmonica case out of his pocket. As he did that, DJ turned to CD and Brandon. "CD, you think Brandon's ready for a solo blues riff?"
Despite Brandon's nervous look, CD nodded. "Yep; KC told me what his Uncles told him back when he was learning, so I've been working with him on the roots."
"Sweet, get him set up - Roadhouse Blues." DJ grinned.
"NICE!" CD giggled. "C'mon Bran; let's get you warmed up."
Conner had overheard, and turned to Tanner. "You mind helping me get the grand ready?"
"Let's hit it!" Tanner replied as the two of them headed to the stage.
"You're on rhythm guitar, Timmy. Toby, you'll be lead on this one. Ian, could you and Joey keep an eye on Pauly in back? Austin, if you don't mind taking vocals, Deej and I will help everyone adjust to playing together."
"Sounds like a plan." Austin replied. "Calen, grab your baritone sax; after we get things somewhat in sync, we'll work with Leo to add something to it and someone else can pull vocal duty."
DJ looked around at the rest of the group. "While we're figuring out the basic song, I want you guys to think about how you could use what you play in it as well. Once we're ready, each of you are going to be added in one at a time until all of us are playing something. It won't sound like the original, but it'll still sound good if you plan ahead."
His announcement brought huge smiles to the faces of everyone who thought they were going to be missing out on the first real attempt at a group song. As they watched, the boys on stage who didn't already know it began learning by playing along with the original song. Pauly went first, beginning to play along after his second listening. Conner jumped in on the third playing. By the fourth time through, Brandon began filling in the bass, having it fairly close after a couple of tries. Leo jumped in during the fifth repeat, along with Timmy and Toby.
Now that everyone was in, Austin began singing vocals. Halfway through the seventh repeat, Russ cut the original playing, leaving the boys to finish by themselves. Once they finished, he clapped his hands as he joined them. "Great job, guys. You barely stumbled when I removed your reference. Pauly, you're going to need to pay attention now. Brandon's going to be setting the timing as he starts the song with the bass; you need to adapt to him so the rest of the band can key off of you."
"Okay!" Pauly replied as he shook out his arms to loosen up.
The rest of the boys took the hint from Russ, and paid close attention to how Brandon lead off the song. Russ moved back to his board, then signaled for Brandon to start. As Russ had expected, Brandon began the song at a slightly slower tempo. Pauly adapted when he came in, but Conner and Leo were off slightly on their first try. Timmy and Toby were fairly close, surprisingly. Austin took his prompts for the vocals from Brandon and Pauly, adjusting the spacing between words accordingly.
After they finished, KC looked around the stage. "That was pretty good for a first solo run. Leo, stretching the harmonica notes worked great with Brandon's tempo once you picked up on it. The rest of you were right on by the middle of the song. Run it again, and keep your comfortable tempo Brandon. When bands play live, it's almost never the same tempo they used in the studio; the more they play the song, the closer it gets to what was in their head when they wrote it."
The boys tried again, this time more comfortable with what they were doing. The first thing that KC noticed was that Brandon had stopped worrying about duplicating the song exactly, and in the process was now almost right on the money with his tempo without realizing it. Leo's harmonica playing was different too; it sounded more like he was playing to relax than it had before; he seemed to be putting more 'soul' into it and less effort. Without consulting with anyone else, Timmy and Toby swapped roles; KC was surprised at how the two of them sounded better in their new positions. Even Conner seemed more comfortable, and it showed in his piano notes.
Once they were done, Russ signaled them to wait. "Guys, wait just a minute; walk around and loosen up while I prep this."
They took his advice. The two guitar players joined up with Brandon for a mini-conference, Ian and Joey helped Pauly make a few minor drum set adjustments that he'd noticed while playing, and Ian compared notes with Conner on what they thought Russ was up to.
"I think that sounded pretty decent." Austin said as he joined up with DJ and KC.
"I think Dad's gonna give us a review." DJ grinned. "I liked it, but I'm not a pro."
"You're closer than you think to being one." KC giggled. "I learned that from Uncle Jan and Uncle Dean; a pro listens and learns and knows there is more to learn, while an amateur thinks they know all they need to about what they are doing. You're just working your way up the levels."
DJ smiled. "You know something, bro?"
"What's that?" KC replied.
"Two months ago, you were convinced that you couldn't be a good brother. I've watched you teach the little guys how to ride a board, I've seen you take them off to the side and help whenever they were having trouble, and I've seen them off to the side trying to figure out ways to tell you thanks. When we got here, most of our family was looking to me as their leader; thanks to you they now look at both of us equally, and are not afraid to come to either one of us if they need to. Just now, you proved why; you told me something that you learned that made me a lot more comfortable with how this is going. Thank-you."
"I'll second that; you've got a lot of unique experience in that brain of yours, and you're helping all of us by sharing it." Austin added.
"You're welcome; but I'm still learning from all of you too." KC replied with a slight blush.
KC was saved by Russ announcing "Okay guys, find a seat."
Curious as to what he was up to, the boys all quickly joined the rest of their family. Once all of them were seated, Russ walked up onto the stage. "Guys, I'm going to have Chance play back what you just did, but first I want to discuss it with you. The original recording of 'Roadhouse Blues' was four minutes and three seconds long; your last try was four minutes and twenty-seven seconds long. Before you start beating yourself up, you are well within what The Doors would consider an acceptable live performance of the song. That is impressive for any band just learning a song. The average beats-per-minute on the studio recording is 120; you averaged 108. Remember that they had multiple tries in the studio, and could piece together different tracks to make sure everyone was at the same tempo. Performing live, you don't have that option, so you have to be exceptionally aware of what your bandmates are doing. Listen closely to both versions, and then we'll discuss what you think."
Chance played the original first, then immediately followed it with the band's most recent attempt. Russ watched each of the band members, gauging their responses as they watched themselves play. As he expected, Timmy was not pleased in the least at how his performance had turned out, so Russ focused on him first once the track finished playing.
"I think you saw something Timmy. Before you get mad, let me show you guys something. I had to sign a contract that stated I would never show this video in public, but I'm allowed to use it for training. Everyone pay attention to it." Russ looked over to Chance. "Pull up the Swift Breeze folder, in the covers section. You want the video in the 'MTV Blackballed Cover' folder, use the main admin password on it."
Russ turned back to the group, and saw a huge grin on Austin's face. "Why the smirk, Austin?"
"I was there." Austin giggled. "Good choice. Watch this, Timmy!"
Swift Breeze was a late 70's rock band that had mediocre success until the New Age movement, when two of the original members, the lead guitarist and bassist quit, but were replaced with Kregg Ledoux on bass, and guitarist Mckinley Hales. The new infusion created an extremely popular mix of surf rock and progressive styles, much like Pink Floyd, with blindingly fast bass and guitar riffs more prominent than Floyds' heavy use of keyboards and synthesizers. During the video the boys were watching, something had quite clearly happened to the bass players' right hand - the one Kregg Ledoux used to pick the strings. There was a muffled part that should have been matching the exact riff Mckinley Hales was playing, and things rapidly digressed from there. Kregg obviously couldn't keep up with Mckinley for love nor money. The drummer, as the core rhythm keeper with the bassist, slowed down. The bassist and drummer could be seen sharing words and then both began laughing. The tempo kept decreasing from somewhere about 160 beats per minute to well below sixty beats per minute, and along with it the key changed in decreasing half steps from D major to E major. Finishing the classic rock tune in a completely unexpected fashion, and with the entire hysterical band now sounding like a 45 RPM record played at 16 RPM, they completed their set to a standing ovation, bowed and left the stage.
The boys were initially horrified that a mistake had been made, but at the end, they were all giggling and laughing hysterically. When the boys had calmed themselves somewhat, Russ loudly said, "That was 1981. For three years, Swift Breeze had been playing that song at every concert, sometimes 300 nights a year, but that night, the show was cut short when the bass players' hand cramped so badly, that he couldn't play at all for a month. After that month, he had to re-teach his fingers how to play fast again."
"Are you tryin' to say I did'n mess up too bad, Poppa Russ?" Timmy asked.
"Come here, Fireball." Russ said as he held out his arms. Once Timmy was securely on his side, he continued. "How many times have you played lead on that song with a band?"
"Jus' once." Timmy replied with a tilt of his head.
"If someone who has played a song hundreds of times can mess up, should you get it right when you are learning to play a new song with a band?"
Timmy shook his head.
Russ smiled. "Did you realize that you made a mistake while you were playing?"
"Uh-huh." Timmy responded with a nod. "That's why I caught up again."
"Do you think that you did the right thing?" Russ asked.
"Yeah, If I'd stopped it woulda messed it up real bad." Timmy replied.
Russ nodded. "All of you, remember that. The show must go on if you're playing live. You saw a band that adjusted to one of their members having a serious issue, yet they finished the song. When you guys are on stage, you're a team. If at all possible, either adjust or cover for one of your bandmates having an issue. I've seen guitarists who cover for each other on certain notes that they are fully aware one of them can't hit for some reason. I've seen bass players cover for a drummer with a mechanical failure on his kit by taking over the beat. A good keyboardist can cover a lot of sudden failures to get the band through a song. You saw the drummer and bassist talking to each other in the video; that is the key, let your bandmates know if you're having an issue.
The rest of the boys nodded their understanding, mentally adding Timmy's statement to their growing list of 'Timmy's rules to live by' in their heads.
Since his point was made, Russ then asked "Can you tell me why you and Toby swapped positions on that last try?"
"Toby didn' like bein' up front, so we decid'd to try it with me up front." Timmy responded factually.
"I think you guys figured out something there." Russ replied seriously. "That was a great example of band members talking. If you're not comfortable, you're going to make mistakes more. That leads into something else; as I explained to Tanner and Conner, comfort is required much more than what looks 'kewl'. There are a lot of stunts pulled on music videos that no professional would ever do in a live act. If it's not comfortable, you're going to hurt yourself or break something. If Dilly's gotta fix you, you're going to lose all of the muscle training from the point he backs you up to. I'll enforce that one; having an on-staff Mikyvis is no reason to do something stupid."
"Guys, he's right. Back when I was starting out, I pushed myself way to hard, despite what Uncle Jan and Uncle Dean were telling me." KC added. "I thought that I was immune to problems because I am an android. I was wrong; so wrong that I had to stop playing for six months, then had to start over from scratch. That is why Dilly's been limiting how often and how long you practice; he's following my instructions to keep the rest of you from making my stupid mistake."
Almost surrounded by Brandon, CD, Conner, Timmy, Joey, KC, Tanner and Ian, Dylan pointed out lines of Gold records displayed on the walls of the room. It couldn't really be said that the room was furnished; it was simply a hodgepodge of guitars and memorabilia strewn around, but there were a couple of chairs in the cluttered room. While all the stuff in the room was nice and seemed somewhat interesting, Timmy burst, "Where is he though, Dilly?"
From beyond the room, an adult man's voice shouted back, "Making my first cup of tea of the day! You bloody Americans do need to learn to slow down a tad."
"Could someone explain what 'slow down' means?" Dilly giggled softly. "After being on tour across Europe, he's been on break the last few days. Tomorrow, he's back in the studio."
The tinkling of a spoon being stirred in a porcelain tea cup could be heard. Then there was singing; "Well, come on pretty baby, won't you walk with me? Come on pretty baby, won't you talk with me? Come on pretty baby, give me one more chance, to try to save our romance? Slow down! Baby, now you're moving way too fast. Ya gotta give me little lovin', give me little lovin', ow! If you want our love to last."
KC laughed, "You sounded just like John there, Uncle Paul."
"I've known Beatle John over ten years," Paul McCartney replied. He walked into the room, carrying his tea cup, and wearing 60s 'mod' black and tan striped pants, obviously sewn together by someone with directional challenges; the stripes on each pant leg seemed to be haphazardly tossed together, without any intention of keeping anything aligned to a pattern. The long sleeve shirt he was wearing was solid navy blue. Glancing around the room of boys, Paul sipped his tea, and then shared, "Dylan told me that you lads would like to start a band?"
"Uhh huhh!" Timmy giggled. "Can you really play a geetar, are you really a leftie like me, why do all these other guys play their geetars backwards?"
Rapidly blinking and grinning, Paul answered, "Yes, yes and because they're different from us. Different is good. When I was growing up, Beatle George lived around the corner from me. George learned from me, and I learned from George, partly because we could see mirror images of what we were playing. If you want to be good, you need be different." Paul then pointed at the upright bass leaning in the corner, saying, "That's the very same bass Elvis Presley's bass player used to record some big hits. I bought it from Elvis, had it restrung and the bridge repositioned. Now it's a good leftie bass, but just a little different. Right?" Seeing Timmy rapidly nodding, Paul chuckled, "Right then!"
KC giggled. "Glad to know you understand Timmy-speak; I get headaches translating!"
"Must be right handed," Paul smirked, and then took a loud sip from his cup. Timmy howled laughing.
"See, Casey, you shoulda been ambydexdewious wike me!" Joey giggled.
"You must be a drummer," Paul smiled. While the kids broke into giggles and nudged Joey around, Paul chuckled, "Ringo's left handed, but plays a right handed kit. He can't pronounce ambydexdewious, so he just says he's confused." At the dry, matter-of-fact manner Paul spoke of his bandmate, and the easy way he reproduced Joey's speech, all the kids cracked up.
"I can't keep up with him on the skins, that's for sure." Ian grinned. "Wait until you hear him."
Paul nodded, "I intend to hear the best of what each of you can play, individually and together. We'll also work on a couple of ideas I've been tinkering with."
Tanner gasped and squeaked, "You're going to work on new songs with us?"
"I didn't say they were good ideas," Paul grinned. "Sometimes ideas need to ferment a while. 'Yesterday' was titled 'Scrambled Eggs' for the longest time."
"You coulda' made it a yolk an' called it 'Shell-Shocked', but the radio probably woulda' been chicken to play it!" Timmy giggled.
Softly chortling, Paul raised his tea cup and then emptied the cup. He waved the boys over to the upright piano in the room, saying, "One of the things Beatle John and I try to do is keep our melodies simple, with limited tonal movement." Paul put the tea cup down on top of the piano, sat down, and explained, "Drive My Car, for instance, is a song I wrote that took the idea to an extreme." He played only the melody on the piano, hitting only one key to the melody, and then played with both hands, singing the first verse of the song to the group of boys. He paused and looked around for reaction.
With Conner perched under his arm, Tanner rapidly blinked and scowled, "That sounded way different from the record."
Nodding, Paul grinned, "The lyrics were already written when I sat right here in this room on this piano to put it to music. I keep a notepad and pen with me all the time, everywhere I go, so I can jot down ideas. I may only have a single line or two to write down, or it may be most of the song, but the important point is, it's written and I won't forget it. Then I can fiddle about with the music, which may lend itself to minor changes in the lyrics. Once I have the idea, I'll bring it to me mates and they'll have more ideas. Add guitar, bass and drums, and roll the tape. Maybe our producer will have ideas, and we'll try them out too. When Please, Please Me was first brought into the studio, it was much slower, and John sang it like Roy Orbison. It was the producer's idea to speed it up. The whole point is, save the ideas and share the ideas; to act as a group and turn ideas into records. Get it?"
Watching the boys obediently nod, Paul grinned, "Right then! Show me how you act as a group." He slid off the piano bench. The seat didn't have a chance to cool before Conner and Tanner sat down on it. Paul helped Timmy set up with the guitar he had brought along. In the meantime, CD picked up a bass guitar, KC found a right handed Gretsch electric guitar, Brandon picked up an acoustic six-string guitar, Ian found bongos and a tambourine, and Joey disappeared behind a drum kit.
KC suggested, "Twelve bar blues in G," and got agreements from the rest of the boys.
Joey asked, "Fouw-fouw ow twewve-eighd, Casey?"
Gesturing an open palm to Paul, KC sniggered, "Simple four-four, bro."
"Casey! I need a bwock fow dhe pedaw!" Joey giggled from his hiding spot.
Slumping because his every attempt to impress one of his heroes was thwarted, or dhwawded, as Joey might say, KC impatiently huffed, "Ian, you're the drum roadie, so help Joey out." Turning to Paul, KC blushed and giggled, "Sorry about the challenges."
Nodding, Paul sniggered, "Dylan told me you're all kids, and I expected as much." He then prompted, "Ian, follow me to the kitchen, so we can dig up pedal extenders."
"Don't worry, bro; it'll sound better with Joey doing it right. At least he didn't try to use it as-is." CD said as he came over and slipped an arm around KC's waist to sneak a cuddle.
Once Paul and Ian left the room, KC sighed, "We'll warm up without drums." He counted off a medium tempo, and the remainder of the band jammed blues riffs.
Out in the kitchen, Paul dumped steak knives out of two small wooden blocks and onto the counter, telling Ian, "Bass drum and hi-hat pedal extenders. How to attach them, I wonder."
Pulling off the belt he was wearing, Ian giggled, "Pedal extender attachments."
"Good!" Paul cheered, "I have an Elvis doll with a belt that will suffice. Once we get back, you deal with the pedal extenders, and I'll lower cymbals so Joey can reach them too." Ian nodded, and Paul raced through the house, and went upstairs. Ian returned to Paul's playroom to get started on the pedals. About two minutes later, Paul returned to the room with a short leather belt. He handed the belt to Ian, and then began lowering the cymbals and adjusting the angle of the mounted toms for Joey.
Of course, while all that was being done, Paul listened to the remainder of the band. The bass player needed to learn to play just a bit behind the beat. Two of the guitar players, Timmy and Brandon, were playing the exact same riffs. Brandon also seemed to be struggling with a guitar that was slightly too large for his reach. The two piano players had split the keyboard and were playing fairly well for beginners, they just needed to vary their improvisation a bit more. As lead guitarist, KC was holding them all together though.
When the drums were ready, Joey started playing along. Paul went to each of the boys and shared his observations. He started with Brandon, and had the boy play higher on the neck, two octaves above what Timmy was playing. He then spent a few minutes with CD, instructing him to lock in with Joey's bass drum beats. Lastly, Paul squatted beside Conner, to show him how he could play more varied arpeggios that sounded better. He then stepped back and fiddled with an old reel-to-reel tape deck, waiting for the band to finish their jam.
As soon as the music stopped, Paul asked, "Are you visually impaired too, Tanner?" All the boys began giggling and laughing.
Taking off Conner's dark shades, Tanner grinned, "Not at all. It helps me understand my little brother, and hear instead of seeing what I'm playing."
Absorbing that and nodding, Paul explained, "I'd like to play this tape for you. It's an unreleased Beatles song; a jam at the start of the Rubber Soul sessions that was recorded. It'll help each of you understand what I meant by variations on twelve bar blues. I call it 12-bar Original, simply because it never was given a title." He then played the tape for the boys.
Going to KC, Paul asked, "You heard George's volume swells?"
"Yeah," KC smiled, "very kewl."
"That's just a little something you can implement for variation," Paul advised. "Not just that swell technique, but using your guitar's volume and tone knobs simply for change, so you're not always the same level through the entire song. Make it interesting."
"That's what Uncle Jan and Uncle Dean were trying to explain to me." KC muttered with a smile. "It makes more sense now with more guitars."
"Think of it this way," Paul prompted. "Your band has three guitars, bass, piano and drums. Almost all the tones from all the instruments are playing below middle C, so it's all muddy wash, except for occasional hi-hat and cymbal strikes. As soon as Brandon began playing two octaves above Timmy, KC began moving lower and higher, playing different licks and riffs. Conner was sitting on the left of Tanner, again playing low notes. I showed him how to vary his part and play higher, which forced Tanner to play higher, and the whole tune sprung out of the mud and into the light."
"The Beatles are generally two guitars, bass and drums," Paul reminded. "We learned early on, in Hamburg, that we all can't play the same parts in the same register. The audience becomes bored when every song sounds similar to the last. Machen Sie Show, we heard from the audience. Make a show, is what they were telling us."
KC rolled his eyes as he heard Timmy start giggling at Paul's words. "Now you've done it. You just gave the world's most outgoing munchkin a reason to show off!" he giggled.
Paul grinned, "Good. One night, we all stepped out on stage in underwear or pajamas, and John had a toilet seat around his neck. Entertain your audience, visually and with the music, and you'll gain a following."
All the boys cracked up laughing. Joey cackled, "I wanna pway on sdage in my undewweaw!" Paul went around the room, giving the boys various silly hats and artifacts that had been gathered during the world tours. Now that the boys weren't looking at him like an idol, they played more and joked around, learning from a man who was a living legend, but didn't know it at that point in time.