The Devil And The Songbird

This is a little introduction piece to my Junkyard story "The Devil & The Songbird" If it gets some good reviews, I'll keep going. If not, I guess I'll just stick to playing guitar!

Ultimate Guitar


Albany has a population of roughly 100, 000 people. It's kind of too small to be overwhelming and too big to be underwhelming. The people are less intrusive than in small towns, but more familiar than in the city. It's a nice in between. It has several theatres, an orchestra, a ballet and the downtown bars don't have bouncers harassing obvious under-age drinkers for their fake identifications. Local bands are interesting, and the odd 'relatively popular' band comes along every once in a while; Andrew Bird and Born Ruffians both played there recently, and Sufjan Stevens played about a year ago.

But I'm not a member of any orchestra or ballet. I'm a girl who didn't go to those concerts and never had a fake ID. I haven't even been to the downtown bars and I do not live in Albany. I live a half hour drive outside of Albany in a deathly quiet pit referred to as Hastings. It has some population, mainly the retired and my three friends, the only living people in the town.

My parents, willingly subdued in this spacious, confined zone of the grandiose USA, insisted on my schooling occurring not in Albany, a place of some culture and excitement, but the utterly insipid and financially crumbling institution of Rosedale High.

Rosedale was equally depraved of interest. It had a dwindling population and it's inhabitants fell into three categories, or the three p's as my friends and I described them. Basically. 12-16 = Porn. 17-25= Potheads {anybody not under the influence of drugs would have left long ago} and 25 and older = prejudiced. Yes, culture was not welcome in Rosedale, nor was any burgeoning music scene or flourishing creative arts headlined by the youth of today. Not in the least.

Amazingly, all of the other children seemed to be much in the same boat as us. They lived far out of Rosedale or Albany and had no interest what'soever in the activities of Rosedale and envied forever the freedom of New York, New York. Or even Albany for f--k's sake. Was it that hard to move thirty minutes into the city? Apparently. Furthermore, all the children who went to school and lived in Rosedale were; to use a very popular term out of my own personal demographic, 'honkies'.

But my friends and I had one personal, secret vice. A very healthy one. Salvation, if you would. About two years ago, when I was fourteen, and very much a baby, I discovered that my grandfather had left his guitar to my father, who had absolutely no interest in music what'soever. Now, my grandfather's taste in music may have been limited to Hank Snow, Hank Williams and doubtless countless others called Hank Something-or-rather, but something must have crept through the gene pool of my father and into my skinny teenage blood, because as soon as I set sight on the hand made wonder I fell instantly in love. The grain of the neck seemed to be confused as to which way it should head, I'm quite sure the bridge was bend, the action terrible, the hole too small and the frets almost impossible to distinguish, but a raw beauty captured me wholly.

Much against my father's wishes, I persuaded my more benevolent mother to give me the guitar in place of selling it and I got to work playing music immediately.

I had no idea what I was playing, I was simply making sounds. Up until my uncle {an absolute hero by the name of Max who stood seven feet tall and almost as wide} tuned the guitar and fixed it up I had absolutely no idea what on earth I was playing. But from then on, fortnightly I would get lessons from Max. I would travel into Rosedale, or he would come out to visit his father {whose disinterest stung me into annoyance, in fact I swear I heard him say one time that he didn't feel it was right for a girl to be interested in guitar} and we would work through the chords. G to C. A minor to C, the simple progressions on which all great songs are made. I learnt Bob Dylan songs that I can play chord by chord now, but could never ever remember the name of and we learnt the subtle art of jamming. I would play chords over and over and he would run his massive fingers over the neck of his Gibson as if it were some beautiful lady and then we would swap. He let me play his Gibson, and my fingers were so sore and decrepid from the old battered 'swamp monster' that I owned that the Gibson would feel like heaven, like dipping hot hands in milk. I was always wroth to let it go at the end of the day, but the comfort of Eleanor {as it was later named after the Beatles song} was like nothing I had ever experienced.

Max urged me to keep learning new songs on my own accord, but the truth was I had no knowledge of music at the tender age of fourteen. My mind was still dwelling on Smash Mouth and trying to make sense of Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith, who meant nothing really to me; so I raided my parents record collection and every fortnight, Max would give me a CD which he held in esteem and in the space of a year I had learnt to love the classics. Max gave me everything from the Sonics to the Clash, from Bert Jansch to the Pixies. Somehow, he encompassed everything which music was. He taught me to respect the music I hated for what it was and where it came from; I was adopted, almost, into his childless arms and I held him in the highest esteem.

Of course, being the miser that my father was, his disinterest turned from me abandoning my chores, to a deliberate vendetta against all music I was interested in. I remember once stealing 'Rubber Soul' from his limited collection and listening to it in my room. He came by and sneered What is this? Nirvana? Depressing if you ask me.

I politely informed him that he was an asshole and that it was his record and Nirvana sound nothing like the Beatles. He was none too content with me after that.

Even less content were my friends, who had hung around at Macca's impressing the older guys {not hard to do in Rosedale} who felt rather threatened by my excitement in hearing Neil Young for the first time. Soon our friendship was held by false threads of nostalgia and I found familiars in three people especially.

David was incredibly tall and hairy. He was lean and rather grizzled looking, which belied his intelligence and kind-natured character. He was upfront but never rude. He was a great listener and looked almost as good if he had ever cared to try. Not only that but he played about seven instruments and absolutely idolised Patrick Wolf. I remember once he mixed Vivaldi with the Zutons. An interesting mix for sure.

Laura was a bad girl, or seemingly so. She broke the law often, however, for some reason she always had the most profound, hypnotically convincing excuse based on morality over legality, how she would never break her personal moral laws {she was rather righteous and preachy at times} but would ignore all 'real laws'. Of course, the police were not hypnotised by this and she would often find herself in the back of a police car being taken back to her parents. {Everybody knows everybody in Rosedale and hence nobody is ever really charged on petty crime, simply given a talking to.} Laura's ultra-conservative parents would tut and shake their heads and then sink back into denial reading their newspaper. Laura would only listen to Patti Smith, the Clas, the Stooges and the Sex Pistols in her spare time. She was rather unconvinced by any other bands.

Finally, Sam. I was deeply in love with Sam, as were most people in Rosedale. Polite, courteous, intelligent, self-aware, confident, good-looking and completely nonchalant about the whole business. He wrote and wrote and wrote. Poetry mainly; the most of which was disturbingly brilliant. It would capture you in it's verse and not let you go until long after you had finished. He was a pillar of strength in every way possible. He had always done everything right against the odds of everything that had gone against him. Orphan, his foster-parents died in a car crash, and he had moved on again until winding up in Coney Island with an old lady and a foster-brother who was a slave to the needle. One story he told me about having to save this guy from jumping seventeen stories out of a study window. In the end he had to wrestle him down and knock him unconscious. People across the hall had called the police, hearing the noise, and Sam was taken in to custody for assaulting his foster-brother. He was so jacked up on horse that he didn't know what the f--k had happened. In the end it was all cleared up and Sam was moved to Rosedale where he had kept to himself in his early teens until meeting Laura and David and myself.

It was beautiful and my happiness unfolded like a stale sheet. It was the first time I had been happy and aware of my surrounds.

26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this could go somewhere but i have no idea where develop it, although i might hazaerd a guess to say you could have difficulty given the setting and restriced number of characters. It might be a while before any real action takes place as you might need to go in depth into the character development regardless, keep writing
    Very kickass. I'm from Stony Point which is probably the NYC equivalent of what Rosedale is to Albany; half an hour away from the action surrounded by hicks and hippies, so I can relate on SO many levels. Would LOVE to read more.
    ouvrotpoep wrote: i like this, but i'm tired and drunk..
    Haha. and honest. it's good. out of curiosity... are you an english major or something? it sounds very - not american-style english. certainly older english at least, but well written nonetheless. sounds like it has at least a few more good possibilities. keep writing!
    I like it so far. The fact that you limit the main characters immediate surroundings gives your an interesting amount of room to explore your character development; already they each have an interesting sub-plot.
    i absolutely love your style of writing, please i beg you to continue with this!!
    I think this is one story I shall be following. Great, refreshing use of english. I love the somewhat autbiograhic style of the prose. Keep it up!
    Honestly, I don't like it. Some rough phrasing, and that's coming from a fellow American at that. While the plot isn't bad, I just don't like the style. It's more just personal opinion than anything else. It seems too constricted, with the step-by-step description of the characters.
    el toro DKiAB
    Sorry for my english, I'm french I meant ''At last'' not least. And sorry for double post, doesn't look like there's any edit button.
    this is the best story that anyone ha posted on UG in a long time. please, please keep it up, even if just for me.
    el toro DKiAB
    This was very good. At least, someone able to write good (I mean syntax and the like, not storylines). I'll follow as long as you keep up the good work !
    The best story I've seen on UG yet. Your writing style is magnificent. (As were your transition.) PLEASE keep writing. I'm intrigued.
    its a girl's perspective.. if the author's a girl.. and a girl on the computer... now that's scary
    girls perspective. should be interesting, considering most of the stories ive seen on ug involve guys in punk bands when they've had too much too drink.
    Icarus Lives
    . . .I knoe EVERYBODY compares the new writers to Nolan, but I was thinking for a minute this could be better than Nolan's. I loved it anyway!
    GSD N3
    I liked this. The fact that it is a prologue only, should promise more action and character development, I think. also, the point of view is different. It's from the main character rather than alot of stories on UG (mine included) are narrated by some godlike figure watching all of it happen. That's what really got me more than anything, and the complexity of it.