7/12/2012

Night Bird Flying - Epilogue: Ezy Rider





Johnny stood in front of the mirror, the razor in his hand.  He looked at the mane of hair on top of his head and rolled his fingers through them one final time before clicking on the razor and sliding it across his scalp.

When he walked out of the bathroom, minutes later, Uncle Chuck walked by and jumped in surprise.

"Boy, you scared the shit out of me!" he exclaimed, holding his chest tightly.  "You cut off your hair."

"Yeah," Johnny said, nodding as he rubbed his head, the spikes of the short hair prickling his fingers for the first time since he was 12 years old.

"You got a weird-shaped head, you know that?" Uncle Chuck asked, continuing into his room.

"Yeah, I think it looks good too," Johnny chuckled as he walked in the opposite direction.

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Johnny sat in the audience of the Garfield High School Senior Class Graduation with his newly shaven head.  He watched his fellow band mates receive their diplomas and watched Chase Walker, of all people, give the valedictorian speech at the podium in the center, the majority of it consisting of what the administrators wanted to hear.  Bullshit.

"...And with this new avenue of life we all must face in the near future after leaving this great school, we'll always be carried along by the weight of our memories.  And so I give my beloved school, Garfield High, one final kiss goodbye...as it kisses my lily white ass!"

Chase stepped from the podium, turned around, and pulled up his gown, mooning the entire stadium in the nude.  Everyone gasped in horror and Johnny was the first to burst into laughter at the sight.

Johnny was sentenced to only two months in jail due to the murder charges that had been pinned on him and was given the reduced sentence due to Paul's interference.  Paul's false documents that allowed them to perform the concert were miraculously never discovered, Paul blaming it on the breeze that took it out of his hands a few minutes after the concert was finished.  Will's body was found several hours later in the woods and labeled a “suicide”, liberating Chase and May from the restraints of Witness Protection.  They both had their names legally changed to their appointed ones, as they had grown fond of “May” and “Chase” for the many years they carried them.  As soon as Johnny was released, Paul revealed that he would be turning over the managerial ranks to his son, Marty, who, after a month of searching, got the band a deal with the newly redesigned Pioneer Records, the previous label of which had given birth to Guardian Avenue‘s fame.  After video of their illegal concert went viral, the popularity and fanbase that arose from it inspired Pioneer Records to take them in.  They began to work on their first eponymous debut LP, which was released the following year to critical acclaim and immediate recognition from the music world.  On the cusp of becoming revolutionaries of popular culture, Johnny B. Goode and Electric Church stood their ground through it all and the ball was now finally rolling strong.

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Johnny sat in the limousine that he'd ridden in for many years now.  It was the reunion concert of the century.  Johnny's Afro had grown back a few years after the band was signed and now, after all these years, it was his signature look.  He strummed the strings of his latest guitar, the Axis, a blue-shaded Stratocaster that he still played left-handed.  His hands were wrinkled but strong and he was surprised that he was still familiar with the beginning riff of one of his band's first songs, “Magma Dance.”  It was funny, thinking about it now.  Barely anyone had even remembered or heard of that song.  The various albums and singles that received Platinum and Diamond awards, as well as numerous Grammy's seemed to heavily outweigh that old legacy.  Only those that watched their bio-film would really appreciate the retro stuff.

The limousine stopped and the driver got out to open his door.  Johnny stepped out, wearing a pair of shades to shield the thousands of flashing lights going off in his face.  His guitar was slung across his back as always.  The afro had grown so much that it was long now, going down past his shoulders right by a fully grown beard spread across the bottom half of his face.  His face had aged a lot but he was still healthy for his age.  He flashed a peace sign at the thousands of adoring fans that jumped around, screaming, crying, and reaching out to touch him.
Once down the red carpet, he stepped back stage and was greeted by the staff.  Martin stepped up to him, gruff and bald with a beard of his own.

"Always fashionably late, yeah Johnny?" he said with a smile, adopting a bit of his father's British accent when he spoke.

"You know me," Johnny said with a raspy voice and a dazzling smile as he spotted Chase by his wife, Shelly Walker.  He was still petite, now sporting a pot belly and a sagging face, but with long hair, tied back.  Shelly's hair was still as short as ever and the two made it look as if the officials behind the concert had pulled a random individual's grandparents off of the street to perform tonight.  He waved over at them.

"Hey Chase," he shouted with a large smile.

“Johnny,” he said vibrantly, shaking hands with him as he approached.

"How're the grands?"

"As good as their ever going to get," Chase shouted, wheezing as he laughed.  "Katherine is singing now."

"Ah, I bet she'll get her first Grammy before she's 20."

"Not if Chase is her singing coach like he said he'd be," Shelly teased.

"Again with this," Chase said, turning to Shelly.  "She's going to get that Oscar because of me, you'll see."

"Oscar?  Seriously, Chase?  I think you're losing your mind, old man, we're talking Grammy's."

"Hey, shut up," he said, pushing her playfully.  “That's what I meant.”

Johnny smiled and approached them, sweeping them both into a hug.  "I'm glad you guys never changed," Johnny muttered warmly.

Through them, he spotted Joey walking up with his spiked Grey hair and sleeveless shirt that displayed two arms covered in still fresh tattoos.  Joey had rejoined the band after his five-year incarceration and continued as bass for the entire duration of the band's career.

"Joey," Johnny said, approaching them.  "Lesley and Dino ready in the back?"
"Yeah, they already opened with a few Machine Gun songs," Joey stated quickly.  Lesley and Dino split from Electric Church after a five-year run to form their own band.  Lesley was the lead singer while Dino played drums and with Johnny's help, they employed several others, including Lorenzo and Apricot, the latter of which had been forgiven for her travesties and given a second chance with this new band that called themselves “Machine Gun.”  On several occasions, Electric Church and Machine Gun teamed up for collaborative albums, the first of which was called Class of '70.  "You sure you okay this time, Johnny?  We don't want you fainting out there again."

"No, trust me, I'm better than I was back in '14 and that was my prime," Johnny said with a smile as he traveled deeper backstage and spotted a very elderly black man in a wheelchair being tended to by a nurse.  "Hey, old man."

He turned to Johnny slowly with weary eyes and smiled brightly.  "How you doin'?" he said weakly, holding out a hand to shake.

Johnny bent down so the man could hear him more clearly as he shook it.  "You didn't have to make it, Uncle Chuck, I could have had it taped and sent it back to the home for you."

"And miss what I helped create," Chuck muttered with a large gummy smile, his hands shaking with age.  "Not a chance."

Johnny chuckled and patted him on the shoulder lightly.  "Well I'm really glad you decided to come.  I hope you have a good time."

"Hey!" he shouted as Johnny started to walk away.  "Don't mess up!"

"You know me!" Johnny shouted back as he continued through the backstage area, which was crawling with young people.  They moved about busily and in a haste, trying to get the concert ready.  It was a sharp contrast to all of the band members, as everyone that was used to this kind of atmosphere was calm and relaxed.

"Johnny!" a female voice shouted as she approached him.  He turned to see a beautiful elderly woman with long luscious hair standing before him, her youth still shining in her eyes.

"Hey May," Johnny said warmly, embracing her in his arms.  "I already met up with Chase.  Where's Leon?"

"He's getting ready," May said, straightening up Johnny's shirt.  "It's really been fifty years today, can you believe it?"

"A little bit, seein' as I see a parody of that concert we did on television every day," Johnny chuckled.

"I'm sure that's what the Beatles felt when they reached your age too.  You nervous?  All you've done is sit in the studio and produce all day for the past twelve years, so I'd understand if you're a bit rusty."

"Hey, it's a hard job," Johnny said, playfully complaining.  "How do you know about what I do?"

"Well, you married me, so it's my obligation to know."

"It's your obligation to do anythin' for me as my wife."

"Damn straight," May smiled, tapping his lips with her finger.

"Hey Grandpa," a young voice shouted from behind May.  His caramel colored skin and facial features might as well have made him a spitting image of a young Johnny.  His Afro was curlier, tied to the back of his head, and he sported a goatee, but other than this, the resemblance was spot-on.  He strummed the guitar sharply and smiled.  "We're ready."

"No you're not," Johnny said rolling his eyes as he walked towards him, immediately adjusting the tuning pegs on the boy's guitar.  "Always tune before you're ready, Leon, I've told you this before."

"Oh, Sorry, Pop, I won't let it happen again."

"You're lucky, I'm lettin' your band even get up there.  I don't think you can handle that many people."

"Pop, me and my band have done countless performances like this.  Its nothing new."

"Is 3 million new to you?" Johnny asked, looking at his grandson with a serious face.  Leon's smile disappeared quickly.

"Excuse me," he muttered awkwardly as he turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

Johnny turned back to May and she laughed.  "Amateur," he said, smiling.

"We're on in 5, people," Martin shouted walking through the backstage area, repeating himself as he went through so that everyone got the message.

"All right," May said, hugging Johnny tightly as he embraced her back.  "Good luck.  Bring the house down."

"You know me," Johnny said smoothly, reaching in to kiss her on the lips as he walked away.  He turned back and winked.  She smiled and Johnny felt the love he had for her wash over as strongly as it did all those years ago.

Johnny walked back into the part of the backstage area where he'd just previously met up with Joey.  He approached him from behind and put an arm around his shoulder.  The two caught up with Chase and Shelly near the entrance to the stage.  They all embraced each other.

"This one's for Oliver," Johnny said to them, as they all nodded in agreement.  Oliver Mann, who had written over thirty of the band's most popular songs during his time as a professional songwriter, had passed away fairly recently and this reunion concert had been dedicated to him.  The band had been together for fifty years and everything they had been through, from its formation, to the near-catastrophic and chaotic roller coaster of their beginnings, to their triumphant rise to fame, had led them to this place and it was clear from the roars of the crowd outside in the stadium that it had definitely been worth it.  What had once been a simple means of survival through social oppression had turned into something much bigger entirely.  From a simple punch to the stomach, a trading of ideals between two social outcasts, and the unity of collective teenage angst, a legacy had been born.  Millions of screaming fans were chanting their names.  Music had been revolutionized by them.   Artists of today's time modeled their music through a solid foundation formed by Electric Church.  This was it.  This was Johnny's band and together, they had changed the world.

"...Without further adieu," the announcer shouted passionately into the mic in the center of the stage.  "I'd like to re-introduce to you, the most critically acclaimed band of our age, performing for the first time in over a decade.  The unbelievable, the legendary...ELECTRIC CHURCH!"

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Johnny stepped out of the bar several hours later, alone.  The concert of the century was over.  The festivities were done.  And in two days they would start again.  After each concert, even when they were starting out, he would celebrate with the rest of the band, the entourage, and the groupies for a little while but before long, he would find himself alone, deeply meditating until it was time to get back to socializing.  As with every night, the tour bus would be leaving at 2am and he needed to be getting back now.

He walked along the street that evening, passing by a homeless man who sat on the corner of the sidewalk, strumming his acoustic guitar lightly with a fedora hat on his head, obscuring his face.  Johnny stopped by the man briefly and stared down at him, waiting for the man to notice him.  He looked up and Johnny saw that he was white and much younger than himself.  He looked nothing like his father.  It was only his imagination.  However, Johnny enjoyed the music he played, so he reached into his pocket, pulled out a roll of bills, and laid it into the musician's case before continuing on.

"Thank you, sir," the man saluted politely.

Johnny nodded to him and continued along the sidewalk, reminiscing over how when he left his mother's home that night over 50 years ago, he had contemplated whether his journey would lead to endless possibilities or countless misfortune.  The end result was both.  And now that he had gotten this far, it didn't seem as distant as he might have once dreamed.  He'd done what he wanted in life.  He started a band, they excelled.  He got married and had children.  There were ups and downs to this incredible life but he still came out on top.  However, this wasn't the end.  Not by a long shot.  In Johnny's mind, he was still young.  He was still learning the rules of life and it wouldn't end until he laid his head to rest for good.  He smiled to himself.  His life was great.  No matter what happened in the distant past or what the future may hold, he knew he and his friends had succeeded in providing the world with something that would keep their memory alive for years to come.

The musician watched Johnny disappear down the street and continued to play his guitar.  He began to sing.

"Mama told him someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big ol' band,
All kinds of people come from miles around,
To hear you play your music till the sun go down.
Maybe someday your name will be in lights,
Saying 'Johnny B. Goode Tonight'."

Johnny B. Goode By Chuck Berry

Johnny B. Goode By Jimi Hendrix

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