ZILLA TAILS - Stories of a Jazz Monster
Illustrations by Lisa Hayden-Miller
…a fairy tale for unusual adults by Richard Niles
A word from the author (actually, 45 words): This tale was written at the tail end of 2016 when the album of my dreams was being completed and President Obama was leaving The White House. The story was told to me by Zilla himself, and I had to tell it accurately to avoid incineration.
BANDZILLA RISES And Has Coffee
The alarm rattled and BANDZILLA croaked, somewhere between a mumble and a groan, “Morning has broken and no one can fix it!”
Even through his dark glasses, cruel shards of light from the rising sun had disturbed his reptilian slumber. He had been dreaming that he was in the back room of The 3 Deuces playing three-handed pinochle with Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. He was just about to “bid and out” when Parker turned into a hog and ate Monk, using his 16 cards as a garnish.
He moaned to his daughter, Mini Zilla, “Mini! What are the two most important things in life?”
Little Mini scampered up to the side of her father’s bed with two cups of fine Columbian dark roast. “Coffee!” she chirped.
“Damn right,” he said, swilling the first cup down before he lifted his head off the pillow.
“Daddy,” asked Mini sweetly, with a slight lisp, “why do you drink coffee?”
Sitting upright, Bandzilla put a toe into his left slipper (a Croc) and put on a glove.
“Baby, I drink coffee because I couldn’t stand waking up knowing that was the best I was gonna feel all day!”
Mini warmed her breakfast in her personalized dog bowl by blowing a jet of fire on to her porridge. She felt happy as she did every morning, waking up with her loving jazz-monster father.
“What are we doing today, dear old Dad of mine?”
Bandzilla kept his coffee warm with a quick snort of flames. “Same as every day, Sweetie. We lift weights for about 15 minutes. Practice saxophone for a few hours. Then downtown for lunch with Richard Niles to talk about gigs!”
“Oh, goodie!” Mini giggled. “I like Uncle Richard. He’s silly!”
“Yeah, well I’m gonna SLAP him silly if he doesn’t get us some gigs.” Bandzilla polished off his coffee and put it on the side table. “That guy has got to realize a good band runs on its stomach. We can’t eat without a regular supply of folding green!”
Mini hopped over to the side of his bed carrying heavy stuff.
“Folding green pictures of presidents, Daddy. I know. Now here’s your music stand and your copy of the Real Book.” She snuggled down into her drum throne.
Bandzilla smiled down at her, picked up his tenor sax and licked his mouthpiece.
It was going to be a long day – but a good day.
“O.K., Darlin’. Let’s play Stella…” he began to tap his enormous clawed foot. “Up!”
LUNCH with Uncle Richard
As he stomped up the sidewalk with Mini on his shoulder, Bandzilla saw Richard Niles at the Café Antonio, directing the young raven-haired waitresses who were lugging a huge bench to one side of the table.
“Thanks, girls,” Bandzilla boomed, “I see you’re providing adequate seating for a change. We don’t want any mess this time, do we?”
“No we don’t.” Richard answered. “Size isn’t everything, but in this case, let’s face it, ‘Zilla, you’ve got a huge…”
“Hey! Language!” Bandzilla shot a volley of flames over Richard’s head. “Can’t you see there’s an innocent child here?”
“Sorry, man!” Niles motioned to the waitress who hadn’t fainted. “Now what would you and Mini like? It’s on me.”
After conferring with her father, Mini answered, “Richard will have penne al pesto with a mixed salad, as usual. I’ll have the Eggplant Parmagiana, easy on the olives, and Daddy will have the Instrument Biscotti. And plenty of espresso.”
“Yeah,” Bandzilla muttered, “and tell Antonio none of those tiny useless cups! I don’t enjoy drinking out of a thimble!”
The waitress scurried away and Antonio behind the counter prepared the 16 espressos, careful not to dip his fine handlebar moustache in the cups.
Bandzilla got down to business. “O.K. Here’s the thing. You’ better have some good news for me and good news for me is one of two things: coffee or gigs. I have a reasonable expectation based on past experience that if that’s Antonio at the espresso machine, and if he doesn’t want this place reduced to ASHES, I will get my coffee.”
Antonio moaned, “È quasi pronto. Aspetti solo alcuni più per favore cronometra, niente fuoco!”
“But from my past experience with YOU, Doctor Niles, I have an empty, cold feeling that you might be here to tell me you have no gigs for me.”
“On the other hand, Daddy,” Mini squeaked, “he might be about to tell you that he finally has an agent and that a summer long tour is being lined up right now!”
Father and daughter erupted into gales of laughter as the food arrived. Antonio had poured the espresso into a salad bowl and grandly placed it in front of the laughing reptile.
“Now THAT’S what I’M talkin’ about!” Bandzilla smiled. “This nice Italian man, with the nice moustache and the nice nose that is ALMOST as big as mine has brought me a decent cup of coffee! He has PLEASED me.”
Bandzilla, pausing for effect, fixed Niles to his seat with a gaze that would turn a more faint-hearted soul to stone. “Are YOU going to please me, DOCTOR Niles?”
Stalling for a few extra precious moments among the living, Niles improvised, “I’m definitely going to please you and I’m so glad you asked me that very question because I have so many wonderful things to tell you on this beautiful sunny Tuesday! Isn’t Antonio’s food delicious? And look, here are your special biscotti, created specially for you, ‘Zilla, in the shape of musical instruments.”
Bandzilla started popping a few trumpets in his mouth, then tried a chocolate trombone. “O.K., enough of the vamp. I’m ready. Gimme the garlic, straight in the kisser! Or you’re gonna be an ex-composer. You will be demised. Bereft of life. Pushing up daisies!”
Niles looked up sadly above his glasses. “All right. I admit it! I tried everything. But it’s a 20-piece band and all those roadies and dancers and multi-media screens! Every agent, every record label, every manager turned me down. First they broke into hysterics and then they said if I didn’t vacate their office they’d have me committed to an institution for the criminally insane. So go ahead. Do what you have to do. I’m doomed!”
Just then a rather elegant older man in a Ralph Lauren tweed jacket, a beautiful silk tie and a buff suede cowboy hat walked over to the table, tapping Bandzilla on the shoulder. The hip reptile looked him over and looked back at Richard. “Who’s the empty suit? Looks like a Bob Crosby to me!”
“Excuse me,” the gentleman intoned, “but would I be right in assuming that you are none other than Bandzilla, the hottest musician this side of the Pecos River?”
“Y’got that right,” Bandzilla sneered, “but who are you, when you’re at home?”
“I,” the gentleman intoned in a voice like coconut butter, “am Reginald Snerd. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? The Snerd Foundation For The Creative Arts, The Snerd Museum, Snerd University…”
“Sure,” Bandzilla interrupted, “I’ve SNERD of you. Fat cat billionaire and philanthropist, English, married 5 times, houses in Bel Air, Monte Carlo, Buckinghamshire… what do you want?”
“Yeah, “ Mini quipped, “What’s the word, Snerd?”
Snerd slid himself down on Bandzilla’s bench like a cat on a lap. “The ‘word’ is ‘gigs’. To get gigs you need money. I have money. Lots of it. Fort Knox, Crown Jewels, Open Sesame OODLES of it. I rather like the music you write Doctor, and I’m rather partial to young Mini’s drumming. Reminds me of Ian Palmer! And your tone on alto sax, Mister Zilla, well, even Nigel Hitchcock would be proud to sound like that!”
Niles, unusually speechless, felt he had been reprieved from the gallows. Mini danced around the Café in 7/4. Bandzilla picked up a saxophone biscotti and offered it to the Englishman. An endearing smile played around his sharp gleaming dental work.
“Snerd,’ he drawled, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
BANDZILLA Does The Business
“So, lemme get this straight.”
Penale Ladro, leaned back in his black glove-leather chair behind his enormous black gold-tooled glove-leather and ebony desk.
“You guys want Galaxy Multinational to distribute your tracks. You want us to guarantee the full resources of our Promotion and Marketing department worldwide. You want us to give you a desk here at GM for your accountant so he can check that we are spending a minimum of $3 million in the first year.”
“You seem to have been listening so far,” Bandzilla mumbled while Richard squirmed in his chair.
Ladro, slightly annoyed at Bandzilla’s tone, continued.
“ You also won’t allow us to stream any of your recordings. You only want them to be for sale as CD, vinyl and digital downloads. And you only want your videos available on your own You Tube channel – a channel where you won’t allow us to share in any advertising revenue!”
Mini looked up at her father, “I think he’s been taking notes, Daddy.”
Ladro’s voice took on an icy edge. “Then, you have the front to offer ME a 25% royalty on sales! And none of the publishing!”
“Of course. Our music,” Bandzilla answered flatly, “our money. You should be grateful we’re offering you a decent piece of the action. That’s for doing what you’re good at: international co-ordination, promotion, payola, whatever you call it these days…”
“After all,” Niles interjected with a slightly obsequious bowing of the head, “we are paying for all the recording and video costs, and paying for our own tour support.”
“Yes,” Snerd explained, “as Bandzilla’s manager, I am providing Bandzilla Productions with unlimited funds. Imagine, if you will, a sum with a number of zeros that stretches to, as it were, Alpha Centauri.”
Ladro slammed the desk with a handgun he had pulled out of his desk. “My parents were born in Sicily and I grew up on the streets of the Meatpacking District of New York. So you may think you’re plenty tough but I’m tougher!” His voice was as gruff as Ben McKenzie playing Jim Gordon in Gotham.
“You bring an accountant I’ll call an audit! You get a lawyer, I’ll get a judge! You put me into bankruptcy, I’ll put you in the morgue! You try to scare me with your claws, I’ll pull out this: It’s the Tracking Point Precision Guided Firearm. It retails for $40,995.”
Richard cowered behind the couch as Snerd arched an eybrow.
Ladro hissed, “It uses fighter jet lock-and-launch technology enabling me to make extraordinary shots on moving targets at extreme distances. So I’m not likely to miss if I pull the trigger on a big green slug like you and your little green rat of a kid! You know, I could make a nice pair of shoes out of her!”
Mini hopped up on her father’s shoulder. “Let me do it, Daddy. Please? After all, he did insult your innocent young daughter.”
Snerd concurred. “He also made a distinct threat!”
Bandzilla looked down lovingly at her sweet, beaming face. “Go ahead, Sweetie, knock yourself out.”
Mini shot a concentrated flame at the gleaming pistol as Ladro dropped it with a shriek. She intensified the heat and the expensive firearm began to transform into molten steel, setting fire to the desk.
Ladro backed into the wall like a very frightened middle-aged man backing into a wall. “I’m calling security,” he screamed, reaching for his iPhone – and then realizing that the mobile device was doing a very good impression of Joan of Arc (also known as La Pucelle d’Orléans, who was tragically burned at the stake on the 30th of May, 1431).
“Security? You can call Ghostbusters for all the good it’s gonna do you!” Bandzilla snorted small but perfectly formed fireballs, alternately out of his left and right nostrils, hitting a number of platinum disc awards above Ladro. They came crashing down on his $200 haircut. (Actually $230, including the tip.)
“O.K., please, stop!” Penale Ladro sighed pathetically. “I’ve had enough! You guys are insane!”
“WE’RE insane?” Bandzilla laughed, contemptuously. “We’re not the one’s who believe they’ve been having a business meeting with a 600 pound reptile who plays tenor saxophone!”
Mini hopped over and started warming up Ladro’s Harrys Of London Basel Alligator Penny Loafers. She couldn’t help thinking that the shoes might have been made from the carcass of a distant relative.
“ALL RIGHT! I give,” Ladro choked. “I’ll do whatever you want. Gimme the contract. I’ll sign anything!”
Bandzilla stomped out the remaining flames from Ladro’s desk and looked down on him as a confident giraffe might look at a cowering snake.
“We won’t be needing a contract. Do you know what a blood oath is, Mister Ladro?”
“Yeah, yeah. I know,” Ladro sniffled.
“Good,” Bandzilla said, “‘cause you just took one!”
Practice Makes ZILLA
4 trumpet players led by Johnny (“Indeed”) Thirkell, 5 saxes including Nigel Hitchcock, Ed Barker and Tini Thomsen and 4 trombone players led by Mark Nightingale entered Fantasy Rehearsal Studiosp. It was 9:45 and a beautiful morning in Hollywood. As they found their chairs, they glanced at the parts Richard had placed gingerly on their music stands. Their faces ran the gamut of emotions from mild amusement to heart-stopping shock.
Ian Palmer discussed the drum parts with Mini who, despite her size, was inflicting a superbly devastating barrage of polyrhythms on his kit. “I’m not sure if I can do it quite like that,” Ian said, “but I’ll try to remember all the things you’ve taught me over the years.”
Richard ran through a riff with keyboard whiz Steve Hamilton and bassist Garret Wolfe. “Yeah, that’s it,” he said, “make me look good!”
Snerd had provided a luxury space and comfort beyond most musician’s wildest dreams. The toilets were spotless. The air conditioning adjusted itself to the musician’s perspiration rate. Fresh tea and coffee with scones, clotted cream and homemade blueberry jam were served by uniformed English butlers. Lunch would be a choice of Indian, Thai food or pizza. Yorkshire lager would be served in a straight glass.
Bandzilla spoke to the sax section in an avuncular manner. “Just remember. It’s not about how fast or high or loud. It’s about the meaning of the notes. What emotion you can convey with your tone alone.”
“Thanks, man,” Nigel said, “very inspiring. But what are we going to do about this super fast unison passage at letter D?”
Bandzila looked hard at the five players and said, “Pin them to the wall! And anybody fluffs a note, and you’re…” He shot a flame over to the breakfast table, immolating a loaf of bread. “Toast.”
Mini snuggled onto Ian Palmer’s lap behind the drums. With everyone seated, Bandzilla shot a glance over to Niles and his shiny guitar.
“Downbeat, Richie Boy!”
Niles screamed, “1, 2, 3, three-and-a-half!” and the band launched into This World Is Mine. The intro grooved hard, the rhythm section providing a solid rock bed for Leo Sayer’s commanding rasp. Trumpets blasted, trombones throbbed and saxes swooped. Though he was in a rehearsal room, Leo, as usual, performed as if he were in front of thousands of fans. Little did he know, he soon would be.
Outside the studio on Sunset Boulevard, three high school girls who had skipped school were walking by, in search of a double café cocoa cluster stick butterscotch Fappuccino.
“…and I was like, WAIT… WHAT?” Kayleee squealed.
“No way” questioned the incredulous Heavenlee. “But Colton is so, soooo, like, hot!”
“Hey, you guys,” Yumi interjected. “Do you hear that? It’s coming from inside this building!”
“Yeeeah…” Kayleee replied. “It, kinda sounds like… um… I don’t know! What is it?”
“Well, it’s kind like, wait, wait,” Heavenlee begged, “I’ll get it…”
Yumi leaped three feet in the air. (She was a gymnast.) “It’s MUSIC!”
“No FAIR, I wanted to get it,” Heavenlee cried.
“But it can’t be music.” Kaylee declared. “For one thing, it’s not in our headphones!”
“True,” the other teens declared.
Kaylee asked, “And we’re not watching T.V. are we?”
“No!” Yumi realized. “And also, it has other stuff in it that music doesn’t have. I don’t know what that stuff is, but it’s not like what’s in our headphones!”
Heavenlee screamed, excitedly, “And, and… and it’s coming through that door! And music comes through headphones, or sometimes through your cellphone, but NEVER through a door!”
By this time a huge crowd had gathered outside the studio, people who had heard the music and wanted to know what was making that crazy noise. When Heavenlee pulled the door open the sound of Mark Nightingale’s trombone solo blasted their ears as they poured into the studio.
Now traffic was stopped by the thousands of people trying to squeeze into the studio. Police cars parked as close as they could and pushed their way through the crowds. Calling in backup, police choppers fought for space in the sky with heavily made up newsreaders reporting on the scene.
Now Steve Hamilton launched into his sparkling piano solo and it was a party stretching down Sunset all the way down The Strip. Even the cops were dancing while setting up a perimeter.
Yumi, an utterly scrutable oriental, had the presence of mind to video the band on her iPhone and was simultaneously streaming the whole thing live to her blog and InstaVid. The internet was heating to boiling point. People were posting from Japan, from India from Russia, even from Michigan!
Bandzilla surveyed the joyous pandemonium with a smile only a reptile can manage. He looked down at his cellphone glowing green with an incoming text. It was from Ladro. It read:
Nice work, my great big green fratu. Sorry for acting like a mamaluke in our meeting. We got ourselves a great green greasy hit!
When Sunny Gets Green
This World Is Mine (featuring Leo Sayer) was one of the biggest downloads iTunes had ever experienced. Because Bandzilla would not allow streaming, the millions around the world who had seen the news reports had no choice but to purchase it direct from the bandzilla.net website. Conveniently, this had been broadcast on every news report of the event, now known as ‘Zilla Takes Sunset’.
They could have simply turned on their radios because the song was on ‘heavy rotation’ being played on pop, mainstream, adult pop, adult contemporary, jazz, smooth jazz and rock radio. The YouTube videos, both of the ‘Hollywood Riot-zilla’ (as it was being called) and the official clip made by renowned bassist and videographer The Goat, were being streamed so much they were overloading the servers.
Twitter jittered, trending out of control making Bandzilla the biggest Emerging Artist of all time.
In the spacious new plushly decorated offices of Bandzilla Productions, Richard Niles answered four mobile phones ringing constantly on the desk in front of him. “Yes, the Hollywood Bowl might be possible on that date but I’ll have to pass you over to our manager, Mister Snerd.”
Johnny Thirkell had a huge screen in front of him displaying Twaddle, software allowing him to control 2,500 spreadsheets simultaneously, keeping track of Bandzilla’s accounts, appointments, roayalties and coffee suppliers.
Snerd fielded each call with in his charming, urbane manner, negotiating higher fees before the caller was aware of it. “There’s no rush to decide on the fine details of the tour right now, my friend. Our lawyers will work with you on that. But, broad strokes, of course you understand that for 110 dates playing to audiences of that size, say 66,000, Bandzilla would have to be grossing a minimum of $900,000,000. Do give my very best to your good lady wife.” He handed the phone back to Richard and took the next call. “Katherine, did you get the chocolates? Good, now about that endorsement deal, let’s have a chat about how this will actually work…”
Mini was working with Leo Sayer on choreography for the stage show. Dressed in a new stage outfit, she tumbled up in the air, shot out an adorable burst of flames, twirled into a tour jeté and landed on her tail. “OK, now it’s your turn!”
Leo scratched his head and looked skeptical.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to quite manage that, Sweetie. I mean, I might be able to manage the flame after a Vindaloo Curry, but the tail bit might be a problem…”
The reptile himself was enjoying every second of the adulation. He was being fitted for an enormous green shiny tuxedo with velvet lapels. Two tailors who looked like an effeminate Laurel & Hardy were carefully measuring the size of the hole for his tail.
“If I might be so bold, Sir,” Laurel hummed, “your tail is particularly complimented by the shade and shimmer of this garment!’
“Oh, yes Mister Bandzilla,” Hardy cooed, petting the tail carefully, “you shall be positively inundated with compliments.”
“O.K., cool it boys,” Bandzilla advised, “you don’t want to tickle it to much or you might have a tail to tell. You can make me another 3 suits in red, white and blue!”
“Ooh,” fluttered Laurel, “certainly Mister Zilla, scarlet, pearl and indigo. How very awfully of you! Suits you, sir.”
“Snerd!” Bandzilla barked. “Have you booked my suite at the Four Seasons yet? And I’ll need you to hire Antonio from the Café as my personal Chef. And I’ll need a secretary to handle my correspondence.”
Snerd put down one of the ringing cellphones. “I can do that, but my office is taking care of contracts and financial matters to let you take care of the artistic direction.”
Bandzilla laughed, “Artistic, arshmishtic! Richard can handle that stuff. I’ve heard about you ‘manager types’ trying to divert the artist’s attention away from the real business. This reptile wants to be paid more than SCALE! I wanna know everything that’s going on – I’ll need a personal lawyer to check everything you might be doing to take the food out of my daughter’s jaws – my own Reptile-zentative!”
“No, Daddy!” Mini squealed. “Mister Snerd is nice. He wouldn’t do anything like that!”
Bandzilla shot a short burst of flame from his nostrils. “Yeah, they’re all nice until the money starts rollin’ in and the next thing you know they turn you into a handbag or a nice pair of shoes! Wise up, kid. You’re in the big time now and the big time’s no place for babies!”
Mini’s little face went pale and her usually sunny disposition was chilled by the cold harshness of her father’s voice. Looking out on the morning sun, she felt so uninspired.
She tried to speak but a tear that had escaped from her eye dripped onto her snout and down her quivering lips.
Crestfallen but POSITIVE (but crestfallen)
The alto saxophone, had it been a historian, would have been aware that its development as a musical instrument had reached a lofty summit. Its inventor Adolphe Sax would have been proud indeed to have so many brilliant musicians devote their artistry to this curvaceous and sexy brass seductress. From Coleman Hawkins to Johnny Hodges to Lester Young to Charlie Parker, the saxophone became the very spirit of jazz. Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz and Michael Brecker had all found new areas of fire and ice to explore. But this particular saxophone had forgotten all of these great players as it felt a maelstrom of mastery blowing through its quivering body.
Nigel Hitchcock tumbled out of an elegant lick into a sensual low register note with just enough vibrato to make a hit-man cry. He lowered his panting alto saxophone and looked up to his teacher with a mixture of pride and apprehension.
Bandzilla stood over him with an arched eyebrow.
“Yeah, Nige’, you’re definitely my best student.” Before Nigel could manage the beginning of a smile, the reptile growled,
“But the rest of my students are rotten! You’ve applied all my concepts and put them together in a groovy package. You’re good. I’d even say you might be fabulous. But is ‘fabulous’… fabulous enough? It’s all so brilliant, but what does it mean?”
Nigel looked crestfallen but tried to remain positive.
“Okay. But…could we be a little more specific? What would you say was the main thing I need to work on?”
Bandzilla snorted, “I’ve told you a million times: you need more FIRE in your playing!”
He thumped his tail and shot flames out the bell of his tenor sax. Nigel quickly stuffed his alto into his gig bag and hurried out the door.
“And practice for a change, Hitchcock!” Zilla barked after him.
He picked up his cellphone. “Snerd? Have the limo ready. We’re going shopping.”
Richard didn’t want to go because he said he had to polish his toaster, but Bandzilla insisted, saying, “You’re coming along! I might have one or two musical gems I’ll need you to transcribe! They’re bound to be better than whatever silly ideas are cluttering up the atmosphere in that brain of yours!”
He listened to the radio in the stretch limo, specially re-constructed to accommodate his large green frame, Mini and two other passengers.
“But Daddy,” Mini asked, “why are we going shopping? We should be practicing for our gigs. Ian Palmer is really learning the ‘Green Groove’. And Uncle Richard has some new pieces that could be… challenging.”
“Quiet, baby,” Bandzilla interrupted, changing the channels every few seconds. “Can’t you see they love me? I’m on every station! And if they’re not playing my tracks they’re talking about me!”
Richard slumped down in his seat as Snerd interjected, “Well, technically, ‘Zilla old chap, they are talking about US.
The riled reptile rasped a burst of flame incinerating Snerd’s bow tie. “One more crack like that and I’ll send you back to England looking like a piece of beef jerky!”
Despite Snerd’s protests, they visited the jewelry shops on Rodeo Drive, bought a fleet of Teslas in every color of the rainbow and had sushi at Urasawa.
Richard and Snerd were taking phone calls when Snerd took a call that made him exclaim, “YES, SIR! Of course, sir! Bandzilla will be most happy to perform at your event. It will be an HONOUR, sir!”
“Hey, Snerd,” Zilla barked. “What was that all about? Where do you get off, accepting a gig for me without getting my O.K.? That’s it, Snerd-face! You’re FIRED!”
Before the greedy gator was able to get his jaws fully open for another barbed comment, Snerd screamed, “STOP! That wasn’t just a gig. It was President Obama. He’s asked us to perform at his farewell party.” Snerd’s moustache curled upwards as he explained, “He wants us to perform on the White House lawn in front of 60,000 people and heads of state from all over the world. To celebrate his departure from office.”
Richard and Mini began to dance and whoop with joy. Snerd pulled out his Dunhill pipe. Bandzilla grudgingly nodded his head in approval.
“Hmmm. You’ve still got a job, Limey. An outdoor gig, eh? 60,000 people? Let’s hope there’s enough of me to go around!”
The BIG Time
Preparations for the big event were like mounting a military campaign. A special stage was erected for the historic concert
and red, white and blue bleachers were moved into place on the lawn of ‘the Residence’. Bandzilla in his new green tuxedo towered over roadies and stage hands, demanding special lighting for his appearance with The President.
“Remember, I’m a lot taller than he is and I will need a bank of lights just for this pretty face!”
Secret Service men in black protected the perimeter and flanked President Obama as he and his family seated themselves. “What a way to go out! I’m really looking forward to this, Barak,” Michelle said.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “This is the first decent music the girls have turned us on to! This could be the key to world peace.
Even the Republicans like it!”
Malia and Natasha were teaching ‘The Zilla’ to the Secret Service men.
“Com’on, guys,” Malia commanded as the highly trained guards struggled with the groove. “Pop your shoulders out on 4.
One, two, three and-a-ZILLA! One, two, three and-a-ZILLA!”
Bandzilla had been rehearsing for two weeks and now they were moving their equipment on to the stage. Each member of the band had sunglasses fitted with virtual reality technology allowing their music to be projected before their eyes. No music stands meant that players could dance and groove as they wished. Above the stage performers from Cirque De Soliel in green Zilla bodypaint flew above them. In all the feverish activity no one had noticed a mysterious figure scurrying around the stage
Steve Hamilton sat behind a Fazioli grand piano. To the right and left of him, a bank of keyboards awaited his sensitive touch. Nigel Hitchcock had a quiet word with the sax section while Mark Nightingale warned his fellow trombonists to be very careful at Letter B.
Backstage, a man in a dark hood approached the great reptile. “Mister Zilla, sir, prego, they’ve delivered a special award for you and would like your approval of it before they bring it out on stage.”
“Quite right! We’d better check that the award is befitting the magnitude of the Zill-ster! We’ve really hit the Big Time now! Is it gold? Or platinum?”
“I believe so, sir. Molto shiny. Absolutely mega! Encrusted with jewels, I believe,” the hooded man said. “Follow me!”
On stage, John Thirkell spoke to his section. “The important thing is maintaining the steady stream of air in this passage. It seems completely impossible, but when you really understand what Richard’s written, you realize that it’s only absurdly difficult!”
“...and painful!” the other trumpet players added.
“Indeed!” agreed John.
Richard Niles himself held his guitar at the ready and called, “Welcome to our soundcheck!” He looked at the setlist and made sure his guitar tech had arranged his pedals properly. He made sure that he had a direct sight line to Ian Palmer and Mini on the drums.
Garrett Wolfe flashed a grimace to Richard, “Did I ever thank you for the bass line in ‘Live As One’?”
“Hey,” Richard laughed, “at least it should be some consolation that I have to play it too!”
“Hoist on your own petard,” Garrett smiled.
Snerd hurried up to Niles looking like a well-educated eel in a glass of sake.
“I don’t mean to alarm you, old bean, but aren’t we meant to be starting the show in 20 minutes?”
“No problem,” Niles said, “everybody seems ready to hit! What’s the matter? Is there a problem?”
“I rather think there might be.” Snerd muttered. “Where’s the unreasonably large green fellow?”
As If You Didn't KNOW
‘The unreasonably large green fellow' was in a derelict bomb shelter under The White House, hastily built during the Cuban Missile Crisis. To the American public, Kennedy had appeared as a tough hero standing up to the ‘Russkies’, getting them to back down, or else! In fact, he had done a secret deal with Krushchev promising to pull the US military out of Turkey if Russia pulled out of Cuba.
None of this fascinating but irrelevant historical detail was at the forefront of Bandzilla’s mind as he awoke, staring at the hooded figure in front of him. Though groggy, he could not help noticing that his arm, neck, legs and tail were all pinned to the steel wall with thick iron chains.
He moaned to the hood, “I don’t know who you are, but I have a splitting headache. These chains can’t hold me. Get me a cup of coffee immediately or I will incinerate you.”
“Try it, ya big green mook!” said the hooded figure in a comedy Italian accent.
The Zilla did indeed try it, opening his drooling jaws with some style. Unfortunately the familiar flames were not forthcoming. He tried to pull one of his arms away from the wall but was similarly unsuccessful. He felt weak as an exhausted gnat. He began to feel an unusual feeling he couldn’t find a name for.
“Aha,” the hooded figure aha-ed, “whatsamattah with you is... the unusual feeling you can’t find a name for... is FEAR! I knock-a you out in the parking lot with a tranquilizer gun filled with Dizillium 435. You’ll have trouble with your muscular coordination for hours... or is it minutes? That was laced with another chemical, a film-forming-fluoroprotein that will stop you making fire for a couple of days... or was it hours?”
Bandzilla muttered, “Oh. So that’s why you said ‘Aha’ with such confidence.”
“Exact-a-ly,” the Hood replied. “And see these-a shiny pitchforks here? I’m planning on stabbing you repeatedly with them while you’re helpless.”
Bandzilla’s ears had not been affected by the drugs and he heard the faint sounds of a funky bass outside the massive steel door. “Pitchforks. Hmm. You don’t see many of those in Target these days... So, who did you say you were again... as if I didn’t know?”
Throwing back his hood with a Neapolitan flourish (later, he would admit this was a bit too much) he exclaimed, “HA-HA! As if you didn’t know, it is I! Io sono LADRO, and this is my vendetta, my revenge, which, as you know, is a dish served hot, con zucchini and aubergine sauce with a significant amount of garlic!”
The rueful reptile sighed, “Oh yeah, Ladro. I remember you. Now forgive my being a little slow on the uptake, (it’s probably the drugs), but... revenge for WHAT now?”
Ladro threw down his hood. (Actually it was a Necromacy Costume from last Halloween with his kids, but it was the best he could do at short notice.)
“Vendetta for screwing me in that record deal. Revenge for your little bambino melting my expensive gun! Revenge for being taller than me!”
“And greener,” Bandzilla pointed out.
“And greener,” Ladro agreed, “although I don’t really envy your greenness. But la cosa di fuoco...”
“Yeah, the fire thing is fun,” Bandzilla agreed, hearing the sound of funky slap bass trying to enter the thick steel door. “Did you know that humans can learn to do this?”
Ladro would have stopped in his tracks, had he been a train. “Vero? Learn? Isn’t it a wildlife kinda thing – like only dragons can do?”
“Oh, no, we make you think that but the truth is, in the Middle Ages some monks learned the technique from a very friendly relative of mine, ZillZill. He really liked the Gregorian Chant music those monks were layin’ down, and it was very cold one winter so he showed the monks how to warm up their food when he was out flyin’ around.”
Ladro took one of the pitchforks from the floor. “So, if I stab you a few times with this pitchfork will you show me? ‘Cause that would definitely be a meraviglioso thing to be able to do.”
“Stabbing’s gonna be useless. Have you looked at my skin? Very tough and thick scales here. I tell ya, I go through a lot of Aveeno moisturizer and I might as well be using sandpaper. But I could offer you a deal, if you’re interested.”
Ladro grimaced and took a shot at stabbing Bandzilla’s foot, shattering the pitchfork as the pieces clattered onto the cement floor.
“Okay, point taken about your skin,” Ladro admitted. “But how do I know it’s not uno trucco? That you’re not hosing me about the fire thing?”
Zilla chuckled. “You don’t. And, no offence, but you’re not the sharpest paperclip in the stationery cabinet. But here’s my idea: You unchain me. You open that door. In return I teach you how to do the fire thing and I forget about all this Zilla-napping. I’m an understanding reptile. I realize you just got a little over excited because your feelings were hurt... or something.”
Ladro looked as if he were still skeptical.
“I’m still skeptical.”
(See? I was right. He WAS still skeptical!)
“Hey, autore! Basta with the parenthetical comments! You’re interrupting the flow of the narrative! Okay. I’ll continue: Signore Zilla, I still can’t help feeling I’m being hosed!”
“Well,” the putative descendant of the dragon Zillzill offered, “you’ll just have to choose between trusting your feelings or my promise. Up to you, Man. But, I’ gotta tell ya, the fire thing is really a gasser!”
“Oh, all right, then,” Ladro agreed, pulling on a lever that released the chains around the green groover.
“So show me; How do I make the fire?”
Zilla pointed, “Sorry to be a stickler for detail, but the deal was the door too. Once I teach you the fire thing, how do I know you’ll let me out, now that I’m helpless? Be reasonable. We’re both businessmen here.”
Ladro shrugged and turned a large handle and the door swung open like an enormous steel door swinging open. At that moment The Goat stormed into the room slapping a midi-bass controlling a number of black plastic synthesizers strapped to his back. The funk knocked Ladro to the floor with a thud. Behind him Mini shot flames at Ladro’s feet while Snerd hit Ladro repeatedly with a large wet fish.
Richard Niles led Obama’s Secret Service men in who cuffed Ladro and booked him.
“Mister Laydro,” a crew-cut hulk in dark Ray Bans annaounced, “you’re under arrest for Zilla-napping, gatecrashing and speaking with an unconvincing Italian accent.”
The Goat took some great pictures of the event, later reprinted in Rolling Stone and The Journal Of Secret Underground Chambers recently featured on an episode of the British television series Have I Got News For You.
Bandzilla looked down at Ladro, who whimpered, “I guess that hood thing was a bit much, no? And you were hosing me all the time. ZillZill wasn’t real? No monks?”
The emerald one spoke to the pathetic figure with a reptilian but kindly avuncular tone.
“Let that be a lesson to you, Ladro: Always trust your feelings!”
Would You Like A HAPPY ENDING, Mr. Zilla?
Thousands of lights exploded as Bandzilla walked to the front of the stage. Richard, Mini and the Goat took their places.
“Mister President, ladies and gentlemen, cats and kittens, world leaders and members of the Fourth Estate: Thank you for attending this event. I want to take this opportunity to publically admit that I have been a fool. I let power and fame go to my head, and as my head, like the rest of me, is massive, you can imagine how dangerous that can be.
I treated my fellow musicians badly, especially Nigel Hitchcock who, if truth be told, has far surpassed the ability of his teacher.”
Nigel nodded in a bygone-ish manner as Bandzilla continued.
“And I was disrespectful and insulting to our manager Snerd who got us started. And I’m deeply sorry for all of this. I was cruel to my daughter and kept her apart from the things that she loved. Man, I was mean but I’m changing my scene, and I’m doing the best that I can... ooh..”
Tumultuous applause and postcard smiles were followed by a thundering downbeat.
The concert was a total success. Broadcast on every terrestrial and internet outlet in the world, Bandzilla became the most successful musical artist the history of the Universe (except for the East Antares Starlighters who sold 17 billion records in the Nurgon Zone.)
Bandzilla himself was in a position to influence every musical artist to refuse to allow their music to be streamed until a new Zilla-International Intellectual Property law was passed guaranteeing fair payments of royalties: 20% to streaming companies, 20% to labels or master rights holders, 20% to writers, 20% to publishers and 20% to the artist.
Bandzilla turned the Musician’s Union into a much tougher organization, donating a team of Rottweiler lawyers to fight for musician’s rights. He also pushed a law through Congress that all establishments featuring live music, musicians had to be paid according to Union rates. Failure to do this would lead to an immediate visit from Bandzilla himself, followed by a visit from the fire department. (Thereafter, insurance companies refused to insure music venues against fire.)
Bandzilla also hosted seven new late-night, live music television shows based on the old series Jazz 625 and Jazz Casual, in a variety of styles: Jazz-Zilla, Rock-Zilla, Soul-Zilla, Country-Zilla, Acoustic-Zilla, Pop-Zilla and Classical-Zilla.
The reptilian pistachio philanthropist opened free universities in every state. He gave jobs to the many thousands of fine unemployed but qualified teachers. He also opened free arts schools for children introducing them to literature, poetry, music, dance, sculpture and theater.
As Bandzilla woke up on a fine sunny morning, Mini scampered to her father’s bedside (carefully, as she was bringing him two cups of coffee).
“Daddy, Daddy, Mister Snerd is on the phone. He says it’s urgent.’
“It better be!” Bandzilla groaned. “Why’s he waking me up this early”
Mini hopped up on the bed and handed him the phone.
“It’s the East Antares Starlighters. They want us to do a gig with them in space!”