Queen of the Funkin Drums
– episode 2 –
Alice Wickham and Joanne Ruocco – New London Writers

Thanks for beeing back to read the second and last episode of this short story about JJ Rock, a female drummer in the town of Twackham in London that we started to love. Thanks again to Alice Wickham and Joanne Ruocco, who wanted to share this adventure with the readers of Planet Drum.

photo by Adrian Mills

JJ answered the phone. It was Owl. Owl described what had gone down at the meeting.
‘Wait a minute, what gives him the right to decide the line-up?’ JJ asked.
‘He sourced the venue so he thinks he should lead on the night,’ Owl told her.
‘And you agreed?’
‘Not me,’ said Owl.
‘Idiots.’ Said JJ
The following Saturday, an envelope dropped in the hallway of JJ’s flat. JJ saw the familiar club envelope with its logo of a pork-pie shaped guitar. Reggie was inviting her to Murky’s tribute event. JJ scanned the list of names performing on the night, but her name was not listed. Instead, Reggie had chosen his nephew, Hercules, to play drums. There were a few headline acts from the 1980s to accompany him on stage. All acts that she had played with, back in the day.

JJ was livid. She phoned Owl. ‘Alfie love, did you get the notice from Reggie?’
‘Not yet,’ said Owl. ‘What does it say?’
JJ read the list of names.
‘Losers and has-beens,’ said Owl, it’s pants.’
JJ agreed. ‘Hercules on drums? Is he serious?’
The kid is a moron.’ Said Owl.
‘What a joke! Murky couldn’t stand Reggie. Look, we need to talk. What time can you get here? I’ll put the coffee on.’
‘I’m on my way.’ Said Owl.

Louise had had the brilliant idea of decorating the Royal Alfred for the event. She wanted pink, luminous mushrooms, hanging in lurid rows up on the ceiling. Louise told Reggie, ‘Murky loved his mushrooms, all varieties, especially the psychedelic ones. The press will love it!’
Reggie found a way to convince the organisers at the RAH to go with Louise’s idea. He offered them more money from the takings and reduced the artist’s fees.

When JJ, Alfie and Bonnie arrived at the RAH, they saw giant mushroom cups hanging upside down from the ceiling.
Owl burst out laughing. ‘Trippy or what!’.
‘I love it, though!’ Said Bonnie.
JJ did not share their enthusiasm. ‘What planet is that Reggie on? And look … what’s that up on stage?’
At the back of the stage set, they saw a giant holographic image of Murky seated on his famous leather stool.
JJ was not impressed. ‘I bet that cost money. Who’s paying for all this stuff?’
‘It better not be coming out of club funds!’ Exclaimed Owl.

The three took their seats in the stalls. When the lights dimmed the giant mushrooms glowed in the darkness. Reggie appeared on stage, sleek as a lizard in tight-fitting jeans and a black leather vest. The greying hairs of his skinny chest poked out from the lapels of his waistcoat.
As soon as he opened his mouth to speak, a garment flew at Reggie from the dim auditorium. Reggie was dismayed to find a triple-D-cup bra tangled in the straps of his guitar.

As Reggie peeled away the massive bra straps, a gruff voice called out from the audience, ‘I love ya, Reggie!’
Certain members of the audience were laughing hysterically. Reggie could guess who they were.
The audience listened to Reggie’s monologue about Murky’s glorious life as a blues artist. JJ resented Reggie’s exaggerated talk. Murky had not enjoyed the last years of his life. After all the years of booze and cigars, he was plagued with ill-health. But Reggie droned on with his exaggerated biography. Bored, JJ found herself gazing at the spectral image hovering above the stage. It was more fun for being that holographic image than a flesh and blood Murky, she reckoned.

When Reggie sang the blues, his voice wavered in all directions. The sound was awful. JJ hoped for some relief from 80’s guitar-legend Dickie Potter, but Dickie was playing it safe. The night belonged to Reggie, and even Dickie wasn’t about to step out of line with any razzle-dazzle. His guitar-playing was mediocre at best. Reggie’s nephew kept missing the beat on drums. JJ suspected he was stoned.

She turned to Owl. ‘If I played like that, my mother would disown me.’
Owl pointed at the holograph. ‘I bet Murky is spinning in his grave.’
‘It ought to be me on those drums, not that pimply boy!’ JJ said.‘

Up on stage, Reggie recounted poor Murky’s alcoholism. He said that after a night’s boozing, Murky’s hands shook. ‘It affected his playing.’ Reggie informed the audience.
JJ turned to Alfie in despair. ‘This is absolute rubbish. Murky never had a note out of place! No matter what state he was in!’

Reggie started a Murky classic, but Hercules was out of sync on drums, and Reggie had to start over.

JJ could stand it no more. She yelled up at the stage. ‘Play properly you sons of bitches!’
Bonnie clapped her hands with delight. When Hercules screwed up again, JJ was breathless with frustration. ‘Laying eight and quarter notes on two and four! Is that the best he can do?’
‘Do I detect some professional antagonism?’ Asked Owl.
‘Damn right! That kid is straight out of nappies. Listen! I played with all the A-listers over the years!’ JJ listed them on her fingertips. ‘Mike Bucknall, Red Stone, Pat Boots! The whole fricken nancy boy’s club!?’
‘Damn right!’ Owl said, getting into the spirit at last. ‘You are the queen of the funkin drums!’
‘You bet your ass I am! I could wipe the floor with that bozo!’

Owl began punching the air with his fist.
‘But you shoulda slept with Reg’, said Bonnie, a look of innocence on her face. ‘You’d be up there now instead of Hercules!’
‘I don’t get turned on by faggots!’ said JJ
She looked in disgust at Reggie, who was attempting a Jagger move on stage. ‘Who does he think he is? The Knight of the living dead?!’
Bonnie burst out laughing. Then Hercules messed up again.
JJ put her head in her hands. ‘This is an insult to Murky’s memory! An insult I tell you!’
Hercules skipped another drumbeat. Owl saw the outrage on his friend’s aristocratic face.
‘Enough of this torture!!’ Said JJ. She leapt to her feet, and a second later, she was off, tearing her way through the seats to get to the aisle.
‘You go girl!’ Yelled the Owl. ‘Blow his ass off those drums!’
Bonnie yelled out. ‘Get this fricken party started!’

JJ reached the stairs at the side of the arena, where a goon tried blocking her exit but failed.
JJ barrelled up onto the stage. The audience gasped as the tiny figure hurtled towards the drumkit and yanked Hercules down off the stool. As Hercules lay sprawling on the floor, JJ jumped in his place and smashed into the skins. The crowd roared with delight. Reggie looked thrilled, mistaking the audience’s reaction as approval for his singing. As his father preened and bowed, young Hercules clambered to his feet, and skulked out of sight. Dickie Potter broke a sweat trying to keeping pace with JJ’s wild drumming. Finally, a look of confusion stole over Reggie’s face. He turned, and to his horror, he saw JJ sitting on the skins, instead of Hercules.

At the back of the set, Murky’s image flashed on and off rapidly. A loud crack came from the ceiling. Everyone looked upwards. The pink mushrooms were wobbling furiously. One by one, they exploded into an effervescent storm of atomic particles, and began drifting down into the hushed auditorium, like confetti. Murky’s image faded, and in its place, Owl saw the image of JJ seated on drums. Above JJ’s holographic presence, pink neon letters glowed in the darkness; JJ, ‘Queen of the Funkin Drums’. There was a short silence as Reggie Fitzwilliam, chairman of the Oily Pie Club, fell to his knees in despair. It was then that the crowd erupted and the stampeding began.

Bonnie and Owl were ecstatic. It was the best performance ever!