I first met Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers while sat on the toilet trying to read Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe. I was being worried by the Cellar Spider that had placed her haphazard web in the corner behind the door. What she was mainly worrying me about was my reading choice.
Don’t know why you bother with that crap, she said. Better off getting a good Clive Cussler down you. Moaning. That’s all that is. Moaning about this and that from cover to cover. No plot either. It’s just rambling. Good bit of story is what you need. Get the pages turning. Get the old blood pumping, all excited. I love me a good Clive Cussler, especially those Dirk Pitt novels. Adventure. Intrigue. Conspiracy. Proper stories.
I’m not taking reading suggestions from a Daddy Longlegs, I said.
I’m a bloody Cellar Spider, I’ll have you know. Bloody cheek of it. Coming in here, making yourself at home, reading crap in front of me, and then going and insulting me, like I’m a gangly freak with six legs. You find one of them things in here and you’ll find me with breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’ll tell you.
I’m just trying to read, I said.
Reading crap, she said.
I was starting to lose patience. This isn’t my first choice, I said. It’s just what I found when I sat down. Neal must have left it.
So, she said, you’d rather read some literature than have a natter with me who lives here? I am livid. No. More than livid. I am gob-smacked, and a little bit full of feelings of retribution and vengeance. How would you like it if I came into your home and just started shitting and reading all over the place without even a how-do-you-do? I know what you’d do, you’d kick off, big time. At least Neal gives me the time of day, asks about my kids, that sort of thing. You. You just take the biscuit, you do. I’m speechless. Bloody speechless.
This is my home, I said.
Oh, right, like that is it. She was strutting to-and-fro on her web, waving a leg at me like a drunk who lost all their money on a duff horse, waving his fist at the gods. I’ll have you know I keep the other spiders away. I sort out any fly situation you have and if some moth comes in here, I will fuck him right up. I’m useful, friendly, and I keep to my little corner. Better than Neal. All he does is eat out of your fridge and take up space on your sofa. What has he done for you? What pests has he got rid of? If anything, he’s bringing pests in from all over. Not that I mind. Keeps me fed. Still. What was I saying? I’m livid, but I’m losing the thread of why. It’s that bloody Sillitoe.
In Sillitoe’s defence, I said, he knows how to craft a sentence.
Anyone can craft a sentence. Crafting sentences is your basic bit of crafting if you want to write a book. Sillitoe might be able to ‘craft a sentence’, she used her legs to make air-quotes while the disgust on her face was apparent. But, watch him craft a plot. He can’t. Couldn’t tell a story if he found a pot full of them. Crafting bloody sentences. It’s like being able to craft a brick but knowing fuck all about building a house, or cement, or even how to pitch a roof. I’d like to see the twat build a web. He’d probably take three years to get one strand sorted, and he’d be dead by then. Crafting sentences? Crafting a load of old toss from his arse, more like.
I was finished on the toilet and was half listening to the spider and wiping myself with the good toilet paper, the one that smells of lavender that I bought from Marks and Spencer, when the whole room was bathed in a blinding light. I covered my eyes, and when I uncovered them the ghostly form of four men hovered in the air in front of me. One of them stepped forward, which was difficult considering the size of the bathroom.
I’m Jonathan Richman, he said, and we’re the Modern Lovers.
I’m in the middle of something, I said, trying to pull up my trousers.
He was talking to me, shouted the spider from the corner. You bloody ghosts can get lost. Flies can sense you. I’d have to move my web. Here, she said, turning to me. Go get the vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum cleaner? I asked.
Sorts ghosts right out, she said.
We aren’t ghosts, said Jonathan Richman. We are communicating to you from Mount Othrys. We need your help. Well, to be fair, Francis Bebey needs your help.
Francis? I said. He got eaten by some tentacled thing in R’lyeh. Cthulhu said he was fucked.
Far from it, said Jonathan Richman. Francis is trapped in Mashu, and we need you rescue him. Come to us. We will give you what you need to find him and fight the forces that are keeping him trapped.
Now this, said the spider, is no Sillitoe. Something is happening. I’m loving it. Cussler would be proud. Intrigue. Expeditions to mythical mountains. Ghosts in your toilet.
We’re not ghosts, said Jonathan Richman.
Apparitions. Whatever. Great stuff. A story to sink your teeth into.
Shut up, please, I said to the spider. I turned back to Jonathan Richman. How will I reach you?
Get a plane to Greece, said Jonathan Richman. Walk from there.
Walk? To a mountain?
Or, get a taxi. I don’t know. Hang-glide for all I care. Just get here. Quickly.
Like, now? I asked.
When else? said Jonathan.
Thing is, Shaun Ryder is coming over in an hour. We’ve got tickets for Too Much Sun this afternoon.
The fate of the world is at stake, said Jonathan Richman.
Bit clichéd, said the spider. Fate of the world is always in balance with these things. Happens every time. Why the fate of the world? What world? This world? Or, some other version of this world? I think we’ve established we’ve got all the worlds around here. It’s a bit ambiguous. And fate? I don’t believe in fate. You make your own fate. This ghost is a bit off, if you ask me.
Seriously, I said to the spider, I have this.
Suit yourself, said the spider. Just saying, you’re no Dirk Pitt.
I can come after the film, I said to Jonathan Richman.
The Gods are waiting, said Jonathan Richman.
I’ve already paid for the tickets, I said.
Wait a second, he said, turning to the other three members of The Modern Lovers. They conferred, voices low so I couldn’t hear them. They seemed to reach some sort of agreement. Jonathan turned to me. I guess we can wait, he said.
Is that all they’re here for? said the spider to Jonathan Richman. Your mates just hovering about with you, not really doing much. They aren’t exactly adding to the conversation. At least I’m here piping up every so often, giving something to the whole scene. What are they here for?
They’re in the band, said Jonathan Richman.
In the band? The spider was incredulous. A bunch of ghosts in a band? I never heard something so stupid in my life. Who heard of a ghost band?
We are not ghosts, said Jonathan Richman. How many times do I have to tell you. We are astral projections.
Well, how about you astrally project some instruments so we can see what kind of band you are, then.
I don’t think that would be-
I don’t care what you think, cut in the spider. Sort us out a tune. You owe us something for just turning up out of the blue during a conversation in an intimate environment. Rude. Properly rude.
Now, make with the instruments. You’re probably shit anyway.
Look, I said, you don’t have to-
No, it’s fine, said Jonathan Richman, in a tone of voice that meant it wasn’t that fine.
The Modern Lovers astrally projected their instruments into the small bathroom. Guitar, bass, keyboards and a full drumkit. It was a bit cramped, but they managed to play a pretty good rendition of I’m Straight from their self titled debut album(1976).
I enjoyed that, said the spider. You guys are fun. Best ghosts I’ve had play in here for weeks.
We are not-
She’s just trying to wind you up, I said. I’ll get over to mount whatever it is later this afternoon. Thanks for the song.
It was our pleasure, said Jonathan Richman, before fading out with the rest of the band.
I was finally able to pull up my trousers. I’d been sat on the toilet so long I couldn’t feel the bottom half of my legs.
I didn’t expect that when I woke up this morning, said the spider. Little impromptu concert from a bunch of ghosts. Neat stuff. You see all sorts from this corner. By the way, you did notice that they didn’t smile once the entire time they was here? I did. Noticed it right away. Like someone had a gun to their head. Normally, you get these musician types and they’re all friendly and that. And, if it was really that urgent, he wouldn’t have been all happy for you to go see that godawful Robert Downey Jr. film. If you ask me, it seems a bit off. And, he mentioned gods. That sounds fishy as Cthulhu himself. Gods can fuck right off.
You may be right, I said. You’re not bad to have around. What’s your name?
Oh, now you ask? she said. About bloody time. I’m Charlotte. What do they call you, Babe?
No, I said, they call me-
I’m kidding, I’m kidding, she said, laughing. Sorry. Spider joke. Cracks me up every time. Just call me Nancy.
Nice to meet you Nancy, I said. I’ll make sure I get you a Clive Cussler book. Which I did, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Read about how Francis Bebey was caught in R'lyeh HERE.
Read about going to the cinema with Shaun Ryder HERE.