Michael Jaymore was on a roll. He was a mildly successful songwriter and musician starting his solo career after almost a decade playing the drums and providing backing lyrics to songs with some success. He was still in the band, and had no intention of leaving but he always wanted to start a solo career to have complete control over his work. He was respected, and it was the start of a new decade; 1980. Plenty of opportunities, he thought. Should he fall in line with the New Wave movement? Perhaps progressive rock like he had done before. Surely not disco.
Of course, Jaymore had his personal demons. He was in the middle of a nasty divorce, one that threatened to take everything away from him. Many of the songs he had already written were related to this, but he knew not to over-do it. People don't want personal feelings; they want songs about things they can relate to, or simply rock their heads to. And then there were his finances. While they weren't exactly in the red (there was no room for bums in a moderately successful rock band), they did need a bit of topping up.
Michael had left for Los Angeles in June 1980 to record some songs and find inspiration for others. Twinkle Town, Glitter City, the City of Angels, whatever you wanted to call LA, it always seemed to have an effect on Michael and not a good one. It brought out feelings of insecurity, and along with it unhappiness. If it were up to him he would've kept writing and recording in England but his company had sent him to Los Angeles to meet up with some partners, although Michael didn't know much about them. Thinking about them gave him a slight hint of displeasure; sure, he wasn't the best in the company but they could at least give him the basic stuff.
Michael was now sitting in his hot apartment with his pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Lyrics, he thought, I need lyrics. And music. Well, anyone knew that. Even the Eskimos in the Arctic who had only heard icicles drop as music knew that. He looked out the window and saw only cars on the street, pedestrians on the sidewalk and buildings staring right at him. He took a huff of his cigarette and then gently relaxed his lungs, making it all better. After sprinkling the ash into his new, clean ashtray, he went back to his dilemma again. Michael was half-surprised he hadn't gone crazy here after having to deal with the pompous bastard Mr. Reeve, his so-called "boss" in the industry, his family back home in England, not to mention his ex-wife who was still having her lawyer call up to ask for everything Michael owned. On a few occasions he had slammed the phone on her lawyer, the asswipe he was. It was only a matter of time he would be meeting him in person.
After about ten minutes of smoking and thinking, Michael made a call to Mr. Reeve. He had been meaning to call him for a while but never "got round to it", or more accurately "didn't want to because Reeve is a terrible excuse for a human being." He fumbled through the directory services since Reeve was still in England, enjoying some vodka with his mates, Michael suspected. Eventually he got to Reeve's secretary. "Hello, Darren Reeve's office, how may I help you?" (trying not to use any enthusiasm), "Hello, this is Michael Jaymore calling from Los Angeles, is Mr. Reeve available to speak?" he asked, patiently.
"Let me just check…ah, yes Jaymore, he's been expecting a call from you since Tuesday, where've you been?" What the fuck do you care, bitch was the first thing that popped into his head, but he pushed the thought away, "I've been away." he replied feebly. "I'll put you through." she said, again with little enthusiasm. Michael waited a few seconds and closed the blinds, blocking out the LA sunrise. "Darren Reeve." he heard on the line.
"Mr. Reeve, it's Michael Jaymore."
"Jaymore, how are things in LA?"
"How are our wonderful partners?"
"They're good." although Michael wasn't even sure of that.
"How's that smash solo debut album coming along?"
"Not brilliantly. I'm struggling over here."
"Well, you're gonna be there a long time." Michael heard him take a swig from a drink. A bottle of vodka he joked, holding in the giggles. "I know sir."
"Geez, Jaymore just get it done. This is an experimental time. Yesterday people liked disco, today New Wave, tomorrow God knows, classical perhaps, just get the damn thing done."
"…Yes sir." was all that could squeeze out and he hung up since he sensed another argument coming along. He couldn't stand the asshole and the asshole couldn't stand him.
He got off the sofa he had been sitting on all this time and lit another cigarette. At the moment, he kept a packet within safe reach of where he was. At least he wasn't drinking badly. At least when he's not at a party. Still, despite these problems, he sensed a great source of inspiration within himself; he just needed the right moment and situation to open it up and unleash the spirit. After all, he was on a roll.
The following day, Michael visited the recording studio his company was using in Downtown Los Angeles. It was fairly close to the big financial district, which just seemed to get bigger every day. Still, Michael was no sucker for this stuff; he had asked for the cheapest place possible, which still seemed expensive. He had taken the subway (cheaper than a cab, limo etc.) to Union Station and walked over to Olvera Street, the birthplace of LA. This brought out a bit more inspiration in him, but not enough to take his mind off his divorce, the barrier of emotion.
It was nearly a two mile walk to the studio, which stood on the corner of 7th and Broadway Downtown. Michael had designed this walk for more thinking as he walked under Highway 101 (with most of the traffic heading for Hollywood and the intersection with Highway 110) and down Main Street where the Los Angeles city hall stands, glimmering in its white coat and standing strong even though it was over 50 years old already. It said something to Michael: authority. Should you stay in line with authority, he thought, or should you flunk? He wasn't sure whether he liked these thoughts coming up, but he preferred them to scrounging ground on his divorce. He walked another mile to 7th Street and through to Broadway, where the recording studio was, City Musicians. He had no intent on recording today, hell what was there to record? Oh sir, I've got a hot new single called "My Ex-Wife is a Bitch." It will certainly shoot to #1 on the Hot 100. No. Today he just wanted to talk about his deadlines and expectations. He stepped inside to a moderately busy reception and walked reasonably quickly to the receptionist; he didn't plan on spending any time here longer than he had to. "Name?" she asked, without looking up.
"Michael Jaymore from Reeve Recordings. I'm here to see Chris Johnson."
"Sign this." she replied, once again without looking up. Even though it was rude overall, Michael preferred it. He wanted the day to walk around and think. She passed him a sign-in sheet which Michael filled in with varying quickness.
"Ok…Mr. Jaymore, please take the elevator to the 3rd level and take a seat in the area marked waiting area."
"Thank you." he replied, but got no answer.
He took the elevator up as he was instructed, with some painfully calm music playing during his journey. He got out and immediately saw the area marked "Waiting Area". Shit, it was packed. Full of blown-out musicians, most of whom were smoking cigarettes. Michael never smoked outside his home, but he wished he had a pack now. He began a wait of three hours to see Johnson, the man contracted to record the remains of Jaymore's solo debut album, appropriately titled Stolen Hearts. He had met up with him to record three tracks, all of which Chris had said were good, but not 1980 good. He was fairly critical of his work, but Michael didn't mind that. It was better than working for Darren Reeve; Chris didn't live off vodka and esteem bashing. The three hours were spent reading the largely off-putting music magazines around the place. One had a cover picture of Pink Floyd, one had The Talking Heads and another had Blondie. Various music tracks were playing quietly in the room which was almost unheard amongst the sounds of huffing. If you listened carefully, you could pick out Lipps Inc's "Funkytown" or Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" not that Michael cared, he simply wanted this over with.
When he was finally called in, he awoke from his deep sleep and dragged himself into Chris Johnson's office. After the normal formalities, it was Chris who spoke first, "So, Mike. What have you got for me today?" he asked with a grin, even though he probably knew the answer was nothing. "I have listened to the eight tracks you recorded in England. They're good but…"
"…not 1980 good?" Michael interrupted. Chris smiled again, showing a bit more embarrassment this time around. "I'm not here about recording today Chris." Michael said, with a bit of nervousness in his voice. He still needed a killer track and he had failed as of yet. "Well, Mike I have you for 3 more weeks in LA. I don't want to send you back to Darren with three tracks, that wouldn't look good on my record or yours. So I'm giving you two weeks to write something and it doesn't need to be a killer track; your solo debut doesn't need to be a huge explosion. We can give that another go next year." Michael bit his lip. His fears had come true, but he still needed to ask something important, at least to him. "Chris, how well do you expect this album to perform?" Chris' eyes shut for a moment, then opened again with an answer as if he had read the future, "Given your experience and fame, it will do well as an album, it will be no Rolling Stone cover story, but it will do well. I'm not so secure about the singles but it's a hit or miss."
"Thanks." Michael exaggerated and shook Chris' hand. He was about to leave when Chris asked him a question, "Mike. I'm doing some recordings now, wanna listen?" What answer could he give? Sorry, I better get back and do nothing. So he stayed, gaining little inspiration and little esteem. By the end, he bid Chris farewell and Chris bid him good luck on his final song, which he was now stuck on.
He finally left the building at 6pm into LA twilight of a summer evening. He started slowly back towards Union Station and the Red Line subway feeling depressed. He passed the big buildings again, filled with a richness he couldn't put his hand on. As he looked through office windows, he felt the air inside and the smelt the new carpet smell. But he was a musician, and a musician he shall stay for the rest of working life. Deep down, he knew he could work this all out, but it needed unlocking with a key some dolt dropped down the drain. He asked the Sanitation Department but they say it's pointless. The Downtown area seemed so small, due to the large city he had been brought up in. He could've walked around for hours, but he knew that would do nothing for inspiration. If he had stayed, he would not see what was to be the deciding point in his career.
There had been a crash on Temple Street and Highway 101 was jammed. The police had the area so tightly under control; even pedestrians couldn't directly pass through the area efficiently. Most surrounding pedestrians just headed north at the next intersection to get underneath the highway, but Michael thought if he had to do a detour, he would go by the Los Angeles River, somewhere he had not visited yet. He looked out into the river once he had made his way down there. It didn't smell too good but it was okay. It was surprisingly deep at the moment; when Michael looked into it, he saw his wobbly reflection staring back at him. He listened to the sound of soft summer breeze across the river and the sound of seagulls off the Pacific.
Seagulls? No. It was something else. A person. He looked carefully to his right and saw a man in the river. He was trying to yell for help but there was no one but Michael around and Michael and never learnt to swim in his landlocked home. He looked around quickly for home in a panic when he noticed something extremely eerie. There was someone else here. There was a man on the bank, and he was refusing to help the drowning man. Why? What are you doing? Michael thought. He looked at the struggling man and noticed something else; he was wearing a piece of rope around his waist. To keep him afloat, was the first explanation, but he followed the rope with his eyes and his worst fears were confirmed; the man was holding the end. He wasn't going to help because he was drowning him. Michael decided to stay out of sight, and watch the grizzly situation, which lasted a full fifteen minutes.
After the fifteen minutes, a brilliant idea struck Michael. He quietly followed the man back Downtown, where he visited a local sandwich joint and bought one. Michael walked past the joint non-chalant when the man eyed him, and suddenly Michael felt more nervous than ever. The man walked out the joint and approached Michael, Oh My God he knows thought Michael. "Hey." the man said. "Are you Michael Jaymore?" Suddenly Michael's nerves were calmed.
"Yes, yes I am. How did you know that?" but Michael already knew, and this was a stroke of luck for him, the best he'd had in weeks, maybe months.
"I'm a big fan. I saw you with your band in Chicago, 1976."
"Really?" asked Michael, pretending to act surprised. "Did you know I'm writing a solo album?"
"Certainly. It was in the magazine I read."
"Well, how would you like a front row ticket to my first show, right here in Los Angeles?"
"Oh, wow, I'd love that..."
"Give me your details and I'll get I fixed up." The man took the risk, since he was still slightly spellbound by Michael's question.
"See you there." Michael said as he walked off with his details, back towards Union Station.
Michael now had a choice. Turn the man into the cops; the easy option. He had a better idea, and he got working on it as soon as he got back to his apartment.
The album was released in February 1981, following the release of the "killer track" in December 1980. It had performed far better than Michael had imagined, gaining a #2 in his home country and a #1 in Sweden. It was certainly a good start to his solo career, which would blossom in the next few years.
His divorce ended exceptionally well. With the money from Stolen Hearts he could afford a lawyer that bested his ex-wife's. She still had the home but he kept all his possessions and his new apartment in Los Angeles, where he now worked for Chris Johnson on a regular basis. He never had too much trouble writing songs again after this and life was on track.
As for the man, he went to Michael's first show in LA. He sat on the front row as Michael had promised. However, there was one thing he wasn't expecting. At the beginning of the show, all the stage lights were switched off, engulfing the audience in darkness. Suddenly, a single light was switched on, showing Michael on the stage and only him. He began singing his killer track which was entitled "The Call".
Can't you hear that man, calling out loud?
What's he done wrong?
You could've saved him. Why didn't you save him?
Michael stepped up towards the man, and lowered himself to his level.
It was bloody murder.
"Police, arrest this man for the drowning of a man in the Los Angeles River." Michael called through his microphone. The man looked surprised and attempted to fight the cops but it was all in vain. He was taken out in five minutes and the concert continued.
The drowned man was never identified.