A few of my musician friends have recently been on tour, and some of my author friends have written books about bands, or have a background in the music industry. When writing in the wee small hours, I often listen to the more mellow songs put up on social media, and this old favourite was the inspiration for this story in my song title series. There were several versions released, including one by Adam Faith in 1964.
Martha was a sweet girl, but a bit too staid and respectable for me. There were plenty of other girls around, ready and willing to share the wild life I craved. I knew she had a crush on me, but I wasn’t the type to spend my Sundays listening to the church choir. She did have a good voice though, and I enjoyed accompanying her on my guitar but insisted she sing rock, rather than dreary ballads or romantic rubbish.
Deciding there was nothing for me in this little hick town, I took off for the big city to find an agent for my band. Bob and Mitch were happy to come along, but not so keen when I suggested we have Martha join us.
‘Little Miss Goody two-shoes? You must be joking,’ Mitch said. ‘You gonna rename us “The girl guides” or something?’
‘Yeah,’ Dave chipped in, ‘just as well I’m not coming with you. I’m not shaving my hairy legs for any female.’
‘If you’d stayed with us, Dave,’ I told him, ‘we wouldn’t be looking for another singer. I can handle the vocals. You stay here and waste your life, but don’t come begging when I’m rich and famous, and you’re still panicking how you’re going to pay the next bill.’
As it happened, Bob’s girl got pregnant and he decided to stay behind and support her. When he heard the news, Mitch changed his mind about coming, so I was on my own. They probably did me a favour; I’d have more chance without those deadbeats holding me back. Martha and I would have made a great duo, but her parents wouldn’t allow it, and she insisted she needed to finish her exams first.
‘You know I’d love to come, Zak, but it’s almost impossible to make a living in a band. At least if I had some other qualifications to fall back on, I could get a job and carry on singing as a hobby at the weekends.’
‘Please yourself, but don’t say I didn’t give you the opportunity,’ I replied. Although I had guessed what her answer would be, I was still disappointed. The first few years were tough, dossing in flea-bitten hotels as I travelled all over the country for small-time gigs in pubs and clubs, but gradually things improved and I built up a good reputation. Still, it would have been no life for a lady in those early days.
Eventually, I got myself an agent, and the money became more regular and the venues better. Although not rich, I started thinking of buying a place to settle down. The strain of being constantly on the road was beginning to show, and I wasn’t getting any younger. Brian was a decent guy, and although he took his 20%, his expertise saved me being ripped off on several occasions and he earned his cut. The only thing we disagreed on was my style.
‘You’re not a kid anymore, Zak, and Rock and Roll isn’t in favour these days; you need to move with the times. You’ve got the voice and should consider a more cabaret style. That’s where the future lies. Ditch the leathers, get a tux, learn some ballads or easy listening and you’ll never be out of work. You can throw the odd rock song into the act, but don’t make it all you do. Diversify and I can get you plenty of bookings. Stay as you are, and it’s not worth my time. All I ask is you give it some thought.’
It was a hard decision to make as Rock and Roll was my life, but I swallowed my pride and my career took off. Instead of begging for work, Brian was able to pick and choose which engagements we would accept, and negotiate bigger and better fees. Perhaps I wanted to show off and prove how successful I had become, but for the greatest show of my life I sent a message to Martha, including a best-seat ticket, and invited her to join me as my guest. I was delighted when she accepted, and on the night, I was more nervous about seeing her again than I was about facing a crowd of thousands of adoring fans. The show was a fantastic success, but I had given my all and was totally drained when Brian came into my dressing room.
‘Lady to see you, Zak,’ he said. ‘One of your biggest fans.’
‘Brian, you know my rules by now. I need some peace, a few drinks, and to discuss how it went before I face the public. Let me unwind a bit and invite whoever it is to the after-show party. For now, I need some space.’
‘Hello, Zak. Sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I’ll catch you later.’
It took me a moment to register that the gorgeous female standing in the doorway was my old childhood friend.
‘Martha! You don’t count. I mean, come in,’ I stuttered like a schoolboy as I felt myself blushing at my crass remark. ‘You’re a friend not a fan. It’s wonderful to see you. How have you been? Are you still singing your Holey, Moley stuff?’ Talk about both feet first but she smiled as she took a seat in the crowded room.
‘Thank you, you too, great, not exactly and you were fantastic. I’m so pleased you achieved your dreams,’ she laughed as she answered my barrage of questions.
We only had a short while to chat before I had to go to the party, and although I encouraged her to come, she said she had an early start the following morning, so wouldn’t be able to stay. When I looked for her later, Brian told me she had already left. I realised nearly all our earlier conversations had been about me; she was such a good listener but I felt bad I hadn’t asked if she was still singing, or what she was doing now. Over the next few months I had no time to think about anything except the next record, the next sell-out tour. Whenever I had a moment I would send a message to Martha, but they tended to be about my latest success and never about her. She always replied, but only once did she mention she had a performance of her own coming up at a famous venue, and how excited she was.
‘I must remember to ask her all about it,’ I thought, but the following week I was off on tour again, and the message never got sent. Returning to the hotel in the early hours of the morning, after another exhausting but sell-out show, I was dozing in the back of the limousine when a screech brought me wide-awake. The next thing I knew the car was turning somersaults, and I blacked out.
‘Nurse, I think he’s coming round.’ A quiet voice I recognised drifted into the fog of my brain.
‘About time too,’ someone responded. ‘I’ll call the doctor.’
‘Martha. What are you doing here? What happened?’ I asked as I recognised her standing by my bedside.
‘You were in an accident. I was on my way to do the show in Vegas when I got your message, so came straight here instead.’
‘Vegas? Why didn’t you tell me? I’m fine, go and catch your plane.’
‘Zak, you’ve been out of it for ten days. They’ll be other opportunities for me, but I couldn’t leave while you were in a coma. It was odd about the message, though. It told me what happened and where you were, but when I looked for it again I couldn’t find it. Perhaps it got deleted, but I knew you needed me.’
A shiver went up my spine at the thought of all she had given up for me.
‘Martha, I never sent any message.’
© Voinks April 2019
Thanks for reading. See you next week.