INTERVIEWER: Cooter MacKnair, your fans everywhere are dying to know: why did you call your band Anus Kidney and the Macaroni Rocket?

MACKNAIR: Well, it’s a funny story, love. My mate Annie Dusky and I were talking one evening, yeah? Just jamming. And she was slamming the Guiness, really kicking it back, yeah? Coz it’s her muse. And I says to her, I says, “Annie, you’re going to pop a kidney soon and have a transplant.”

INTERVIEWER: Ann Dusky, your bass player and vocalist?

MACKNAIR: Natch. So Annie says to me, she says, “Cooter, I’d rather die than to have a big old nasty scar on me side like that.” Annie’s a lil bit needle-phobid, you see, otherwise I’ve have just said she could tat over the thing.

INTERVIEWER: Unlike you.

MACKNAIR: Cor, that’s right, you know I’ve got more ink than a squid with the trots. But anyway, I says to Annie, I says, “Well, they could go in through your bum, you know, with a long pair of tweezers and a lil camera and do it that way. Slip you a new kidney right up the back nine.”

INTERVIEWER: I see.

MACKNAIR: Then Annie says to me, she says, “Cooter, don’t be mental. They couldn’t do that, they haven’t got the tools.” And then I says to her, I says, “Yes they do, they go in through a little hole all the time with a camera and whatnot.”

INTERVIEWER: Endoscopic surgery, I believe it’s called.

MACKNAIR: Yeah! So I told her that and Annie says, she says, “Well, even allowing for the possibility that they could, I’d die of sepsis from a ruptured colon if they tried to stuff a kidney up me bum!”

INTERVIEWER: And what did you say?

MACKNAIR: Well, I allowed that she was right, it’d be a real danger to life and bum. But I says to Annie, I says, “Even so, you have to allow it’s possible, love.” Maybe not easy, maybe really hard, maybe really dangerous. But she wouldn’t allow for it!

INTERVIEWER: Is this where the macaroni rocket comes in to play?

MACKNAIR: Cor, exactly. I says to Annie, I says, “It’s like a rocket made of macaroni. You could get it to the moon if you wanted. It’d be mental to do it, real hard and real expensive, but you could do it! Just like you could transplant a kidney through the bumhole.

INTERVIEWER: How, exactly, would a macaroni rocket work?

MACKNAIR: Well, you’d need to build it in orbit. Use a lot of the stuff. But if you gave it a rocket and some momentum in a vacuum, and it didn’t whang into a meteorite, it’d get there with time.

INTERVIEWER: And what did Annie say?

MACKNAIR: She said it’d be a good name for a rock band, love!

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

We are the dead salesmen of this world
But that does not mean that we are without
Our various and sundry pleasuures
Every evening a vacation destination
Every vacation a far better one
Than any family truckster could bear
When you go to your Acapulcos and Cancuns
Does everyone know your name, your drink
Our vacations, nightly, are all music
Our vacations, nightly, are all merriment
A live band in our ears, vivid and raw
Cigarette smoke in our nostrils, burning
Our favorite drink in our throat, burning
You go ahead and scrimp and save
Fret and worry about Europe or Asia
Cruises and getaways with wife and kids
Our vacations are every night
And we never remember them
Because they’re always the same

Inspired by the song ‘Willie Lomans’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“Tee Hicks was the master of jazz fusion,” said Arringer. “Not just the usual sax and percussion, he had a goddamn synthesizer on stage that he would modulate with a foot pedal to do everything from a Moog pipe organ to just wild static.”

“That sounds…deeply unpleasant,” said the stranger, swirling his liquor. “Don’t people usually try to avoid static?”

“If you do it right, though…perfectly timed and perfectly executed…it’s just another part of the improvisation.” Arringer took a pull from his cup and wiped his lips. “This stuff, your losers on stage playing at being jazz stars? They’re not fit to serve Tee Hicks’ drinks.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a powerful grudge against my boys,” said the stranger. “You think your static-y jazzman was any better?”

Arringer set his jaw. “At the show in ’77, Tee Hicks used static as a duet with his alto sax improv. Blew my goddamn mind.”

“Counterpoint,” the old stranger said.

“What?”

“It was counterpoint, not a duet, when I played the Orpheum in ’77.” A raised eyebrow. “I should know. I dropped out of Juliard.”

Inspired by the song ‘T’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“Totalitarian Robot Televisions have been in the Top 100 for month, the Top 10 for weeks, and #1 for five days. And you’re telling me that they’re being sued?”

“That’s right, sir. The drum loop and samples that they used for the bass line came from Concussion Statuette’s 1977 album Without Makeup. Used without permission.”

“What do they want?”

“They want a million dollars, sir.”

“What?”

“Per minute, sir.”

“…how long is the song?”

“8 minutes and 13 seconds, sir.”

“Put on something soothing and morose from the back catalog. This is going to hurt.”

The Penitent Barrister Original Motion Picture Soundtrack it is, sir.”

Inspired by the song ‘813’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

The stadium was full and loud as the latest indie pop rock crossover sensation, Granny and the Robots, finished playing their set.

“Thank you!” the lead singer cried. “Thank you very much!” The crowd, overwhelmingly young women, screamed and pressed forward so much that the security line buckled and a few were able to get their hands on the stage, where their idol slapped them with stinging enthusiasm.

It took three encores, but the band eventually got off the stage and into their trailer. Once the last member, the drummer, was inside, the door closed and triple-locked.

“Well, that was a hell of a performance,” said Bertha Neumeier, unhooking herself from the virtual reality control panel interface. “Think they’re any closer in figuring out the band name?”

“Negative,” said UXP-491, pulling the android control cable from its data port.

“0100111001001111,” croaked Binar-Tron, doing the same.

“WE ARE STILL 20% ORGANIC COMPONENTS WHICH IS MORE THAN THE STONES,” added W473R-WH331.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

A small but still capacity crowd had gathered in the Cyril Theatre in Hopewell that evening to hear The Garbage Fries. It was perhaps a recognition of how far the group’s star had fallen since its late-1990s heyday that it has been booked into such a small venue. Then again, it could just as easily have been a savvy agent who could claim that The Garbage Fries were still playing to packed houses, even if said houses could barely hold 2000 people on a good day.

Most of the audience were students who appreciated The Garbage Fries for its retro and ironic appeal thanks to their prominent inclusion in once-contemporary movies that were now seen as adorably dated. The lead singer and lyricist of the Fries, Julida Patil Veblen, had decorated countless adolescent boys’ sanctums and fantasies and been a fashion icon for their female compatriots as well. There were not-insubstantial members of those original, older fanbases in attendance.

The Hopewell show would have been like any other, a mix of old hits carefully calibrated to appeal to both the ironic and the sincere devotees–Julida was a smart cookie, even if her star had long since faded. But as the evening wore on, a problem quickly emerged.

The Garbage Fries never arrived, and their tour bus hadn’t been seen since departing from a show nearly two days before.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

There was pandemonium in the waiting area between the stages; band members, roadies, burly security personnel, and every species of stoner known to man mingled in a gigantic mob.

“I’m here to see Dinky Gazebo. I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since they got their start in a Cascadia college bar!”

“Woo! Garbage Mashers on the Detention level for life! I have all their albums and bootlegs and bootleg albums and albumen bootlegs!”

“Does anyone know when Bad Pastel Paintings plays its first set?”

“Where’s Stage D? 10-Hour Flight Delay was moved there and they start in 10 minutes!”

“Yeah! Best Don’t Eat the Lobster concert ever! Even better than the 2010 tour!”

The Bands With Stupid Names fest 2013 was off to a strong start.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

The acclaimed songwriter behind the 1970s pop ballad “My Dear Lovely One” is another example. Stanley McManus had been an art student at the University of Leeds and roomates with Herbert Tretheway, better known by his later stage name “Cordoba.” Cordoba was in the process of assembling his first musical group, and had approached McManus to draw posters for them. The young student had done so and, in gratitude, Cordoba and his band gave him a blanket pass to their engagements.

McManus, shy and retiring, attended out of a sens of obligation even though he had no real regard for the music. He would bring sheafs of paper with him to doodle on and often composed small poems to women in the audience–things he regarded as doggerel and never actually delivered. After one performance, McManus forgot a stack of poems and Cordoba found them. Intending to return them to his friend, he read them and was inspired to use them as lyrics in a song that the group sang as an encore.

The reaction in the dingy club was ecstatic, and within a month the song was getting local airplay. Cordoba and his bandmates were careful to credit McManus as songwriter and when they were signed by EMI for a self-titled debut album, they signed away a portion of their royalties to him. “My Dear Lovely One” went on to become an international smash, charting at #2 in the UK and #1 in the USA, and McManus was quickly overwhelmed with offers to write songs.

For his part, McManus bitterly resented the circumstance. He regarded himself, first and foremost, as a visual artist and dismissed his poems and other writing as worthless. The notoriety made it impossible for him to sell his artworks or to find a career as a commercial artist after graduation, as prospective employers were all convinced that a “songwriter” couldn’t possibly have the artistic chops they sought.

Though he cashed the royalty checks, and didn’t deign to sue when Cordoba turned more of his poems into hit songs (though once again fully crediting and compensating him), McManus eventually withdrew from the world. He purchased a large country home with his royalties and set out to paint on his own terms. But even there he wasn’t truly isolated: throughout the tumultuous rise and drug-addled fall of Cordoba and his various groups, there was no shortage of fans and aspirant musicians to seek out the “lyrical genius” behind Cordoba’s earliest and best-regarded songs. Even after McManus disconnected his telephone, admirers still found their way onto his property.

An intruder who climbed through his bedroom window in 1987 was apparently the last straw for McManus; he overdosed on sleeping pills and died in his home. Cordoba, long past his prime and mired in a cycle of addictions that would take his own life in June 1990, paid for the funeral and a lavish headstone from his already dwindling funds.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“It’s…it’s haunting,” said Sielger. “I know people have said you’ve been coasting lately, but…wow. How did you do it, and are you sure this picture is worthy of it? I’d hate for the director to throw such a beautiful melody out in favor of a crappy pop song.”

“It’s a love theme,” the composer coughed. “I’ve been holding it back for years, until my very last hour of need when inspiration and creativity fail me. It’s a love theme for myself, and it’ll probably be the last thing that every has my name on it.”

“Why hold it back?” Sielger. “How long have you been sitting on this thing?”

“I wrote it in the summer of 1969 to be a proposal of marriage. She said no, and I locked away my finest composition out of sheer spite.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“We’ve got an hour and we need someone who can sing,” Tyrone said. “The band’s there, it’s ready, and we’ll pay you what we were gonna pay Hedge. But it’s gotta be something other than Elvis.”

Tatum sat down heavily, pompadour and sequins glistening under the harsh lights. “I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Our makeup guy can…undo this whole Elvis thing you’ve got going,” Tyrone said as if he thought that could help.

That awful night onstage thirty years ago was vivid before Tatum’s eyes. “I said I don’t know if I can do it!” he cried. Elvis had been safe, a warm blanket that he could rely on to deflect criticism and those horrible rowdy boos. To do anything else…

“Look, I need an answer right now,” said Tyrone. “I wouldn’t even ask somebody like you if it wasn’t an emergency. Now either man up and sing something that this crowd will like or slink on back to your bachelor party and bar mitzvah scene.”