I do Dolly Parton, he does Tom Jones; me on the Friday night and him on the Saturday.
“We’re still weekenders,” he tells me, as we stand outside the hotel smoking, “even now, that counts for something. When we’re Monday afternooners, that’s when we should worry.”
It’s that new Sinatra that’s got to him. The Beyonces and the Lady Gagas and the Britneys he can handle, but Blue Eyes? No. There’s only room for one crooner in this town.
“We’re not getting any younger,” he tells me, looking in the mirror at his crow’s feet. “We need instruments love, to get taken seriously; make it big, before it’s too late.”
I like us as we are: our Thursday night Bingo; our flat by the seafront; our mantelpiece full of cards from elderly fans.
But “yes babe,” I say.
We go the music shop. He stomps in and grabs a guitar by the neck, awkwardly, like it’s a ferocious chicken that would peck his fingers off if given chance.
“The instrument chooses you,” he says, swapping for a black heavy-metal electric that’s all points and angles and lightning bolts. “I'm yours,” he says to it, taking it to the counter, picking up a copy of Guitar: The Basics on the way.
We have egg and chips for dinner. We usually have steak. But we’re saving up, preparing for our future.
The guitar sits untouched in the corner of the room, a beautiful, exotic woman that he hasn’t got the balls to chat up.
“Give it a go then, babe,” I say. His Adam’s apple bobs up and down, and his face scrunches up. He looks like he does just before he goes on stage.
“Maybe just start at the beginning, learn the strings?” I suggest. He smiles, nods, opens the manual, relieved.
“Every Apple Does Go Bad Eventually?” he reads, brows furrowed. Then he beams. “E-A-D-G-B-E! It’s one of those memory-thingies, love; a what-do-you-call-it?”
“It is babe!” I say, confused.
Our headboard bangs against the wall like a metronome. “Elephants All Dine Generally Before Eight,
'” he mutters, between pants, and I hope he’s not on about my thighs. He slumps forward, rolls off. “Entertainers And Dreamers Grow Bitter Eventually,” he moans into his pillow.
He carries the guitar around the town; strolling up and down the promenade, trying to look profound, enigmatic; all side-profile and scowl. Then he just starts carrying the case. The guitar’s too heavy; it makes his knees crack and his back ache.
His shows suffer. ‘Delilah’ lacks passion’. ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ is a mew, not a roar. The pensioners who are awake clap more slowly than usually. Nobody throws their knickers.
He comes home one afternoon with a bandage on his wrist.
“Carpal tunnel, love” he says, sadly, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, such is life, eh? I see that the guitar is back in its case.
“Yes babe,” I say. I kiss him on the cheek. “Steak?”
published 18 January 2012