Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Friday, August 9, 1985. 9:43 PM": A story based on "The Needle Has Landed" by Neko Case, as suggested by musician Mike Lust of Tight Phantomz (4/100)

Friday, August 9, 1985. 9:43 PM

I: Sparrow

Sparrow pointed at the radio station and told the driver, “Right there is fine.” She walked around the building a few times checking for renovations, security updates. She stood facing the street with her hands in her pockets, kicking her heels against the steps to the front door. Then she turned around and walked into the building, past the receptionist, and into the sound booth. The DJ didn’t want to tell the police he had been physically removed by a gangly redhead in a white leather jacket, so he stayed silent and in the hallway.

She locked the door and dug through the records. She found singles of “Carmelita” and “Cherry Bomb” and stacked them. She slipped the LP of Small Change by Tom Waits underneath. The pile was growing. She picked up the 45 for “The Boys Are Back In Town,” put it back, and then grabbed it again. She was talking to herself as if trying to remember the items on a grocery list left at home, saying things like “Did he like KISS as much as I did?” and “Is ‘Memory Motel’ a bit chintzy in a situation like this?” The DJ was watching her through the window. She turned to the door and started asking him the questions. “What was playing when he left me at the bus station?” The DJ didn’t even shrug, just stood there defeated. “Oh,” she said to him, “‘Magic Man.’” She paused for a second to hear the song that was playing, then looked back to the DJ and said, “Peter Gabriel sucks.”

Sparrow had worked at a station in Minneapolis years ago, and ran the controls effortlessly. She cleared her throat and said, “Hello, Tacoma. This will be the last time I come back for the last time.” She laughed and dropped the needle.

II: Hudson

Aside from a few gaps here and there, Hudson’s left arm was already covered in tattoos. That night was the blackout. Wrist-to-shoulder with nothing but black. Usually former Nazis get it to cover all their swastikas and SS logos. Two other tattoo artists were getting ready, putting on their gloves, prepping their machines. Hudson was shaving his arm. They had a tray full of ink, all of it black. Hudson was going to start at the bottom and the other two were going to start at the top. They were going to meet near his elbow, and between the three of them, they’d use all the ink.

He got his first one the night he dropped her off at the bus station, his truck sputtering in the cold and kicking smoke as he pulled away, barely giving her enough time to slam the door. It was 1976 and the closest tattoo shop was fifty miles way. He floored it and still managed to drink a twelve pack by the time he got there. He picked an eagle off the wall of designs, one in mid-flight and going down. It took up his whole bicep. When she came back for the first time two years later she walked into his trailer and when Hudson stood up he grabbed the thing nearest him to throw at her. It was a bible. He threw it just like a Frisbee and hit her right between the eyes with the base of the spine. He went out a week later and got a cross on the bottom of his forearm. When he pointed at the ground it was normal and chaste and when he pointed at the sky it was inverted. By the next time she came back, Hudson had his own tattoo shop. It was 1983 and she stayed the whole summer, the two of them going out to the air force base and lying in the bed of his truck, the planes flying fast right above their faces. When summer was over, he got the 446th Airlift Wing inked into the top of his forearm, moving in a straight line toward his fingers.

“You ready, Hudson?” said one of the other tattoo artists.

“Yeah, just shut that damn radio off. I hate Peter Gabriel.”

Someone behind him clicked the radio off and they sat there in silence until Hudson started his machine. “All right,” he said, and then laughed as he dipped the needle into the ink and pressed it to his skin.


Neko Case is redhead from Virginia who is an honorary Canadian and Washingtonian. In addition to performing in several punk bands earlier on in her career, she has put out albums with The New Pornographers, with Carolyn Mark as one half of The Corn Sisters, and as a solo artist. Her song "This Tornado Loves You" is my favorite song ever. I have written a heroic crown of sonnets about a fabricated relationship with her, which is admittedly creepy, though I know a guy who used to draw pictures of my friend Ashley as a topless mermaid killing herself with a sword, so it could be a lot worse, really. Neko currently lives with her dogs in Tucson, Arizona.

Mike Lust lives in Chicago, Illinois and plays guitar/vocals in the rock band Tight Phantomz. He is often in need of a haircut. He used to play in the band Lustre King, who were pretty badass. I once convinced original TPz drummer Jay Dandurand that Vinnie Paul of Pantera plays in cowboy boots and records all his tracks with quarters taped to the beater of his kick drum pedals. I will forever be in debt to Mike for writing the song "Hash Sisters," which ranks only slightly below "This Tornado Loves You" on my list of favorite songs. For the past few years, Tight Phantomz have been trying to release Silk Prison, a massive, ridiculously great double album whose delayed distribution has led it to be called "the Chinese Democracy of our times" by followers of the band. Though Silk Prison is currently unavailable outside of a few CDR copies (one of which I would love to have), you can get your fill of riff-filled debauchery by picking up the 2004 EP Nightfool and the 2005 full-length Crazy When Wet.

"Sickening" from Split with Tornavalanche/Silk Prison

"There Goes My Protege" from Silk Prison

"Ahead, So Gone" from Silk Prison

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Hyper Ballad" by Björk, as suggested by writer Benjamin Rosenbaum.


  1. When are you going to publish that heroic crown? I feel privileged to have read it, but I feel selfish that few others have. Needs to get shared, man.

    This whole series is shaping up really well, Ryan--I know you're only four stories in, but you haven't had a misstep yet. All four have been really strong work. When you publish these as a collection, do we all get discounts as early fans? (And will the collection come with a soundtrack, or are 100 songs just too many to squeeze onto an accompanying double-cd?)

    Keep kicking ass. Totally enjoying this.

  2. I was ranting the other night about how Peter Gabriel is a stupid asshole. I really hate him...especially seeing him singing this bullshit:

    Phil Collins is okay, though. Also I like this story.