This scene looks at Clarice ramping up her first band, Ignition Corps. She’s still very young in this sequence, living with her parents and still willing to make compromises in the way that she makes music. We’ll see the domineering artiste emerge quickly from here. This scene also gives us another glimpse into Clarice’s domestic life. Not every driven auteur comes from a broken home or a grinding tragedy.
This scene was originally the close of chapter two.
7. Pandora’s Bomb
Clarice wanted to rehearse every night, but the others thought two nights a week was plenty. Some dickering ensued; Clarice agreed to two rehearsals for the first couple of weeks, then three if it seemed to be working out.
Alan’s garage made an ideal rehearsal space. It had lights and power and a passage directly into his living room, where he kept a well-stocked bar. He owned only one car and kept a drum kit set up in the vacant berth, so the band could walk in and start up with a minimum of fuss. Ignition Corps spent the first two rehearsals playing rock standards: Chuck Berry, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Metallica, the Rolling Stones. Clarice added some Blackhearts, some Banshees, some Pat Benatar and Lita Ford songs, but she was very pleased with the way Brenda interpreted male vocals. They’d all played the songs before in other bands, and nobody had a lot of difficulty with any of it.
Clarice warmed up the third Ignition Corps rehearsal with a couple of covers, then, without warning, she spun up the volume and launched into some free-form riffing. “Let’s see what you boys and girls can do,” she demanded.
Alan had no trouble keeping up, changing time signatures and tempos whenever Clarice asked him to. Samuels proved better able to handle Clarice’s key switches and tempo changes than she’d expected–he’d been practicing, although he denied it. Brenda took a back seat during the jam sessions, singing wordlessly or adapting bits of other songs the band had practiced to the music. It was good.
Clarice called an end to the rehearsal and pulled Brenda aside. “We need to get together and talk about some lyrics,” she said.
“Sure,” said Brenda. “I got lots of lyrics.”
Clarice had about a dozen songs written carefully in a small black notebook, alongside riffs and solo ideas. She hadn’t considered that Brenda would want to write.
When Clarice didn’t respond immediately, Brenda said: “I been writing poetry since I was in third grade.”
Clarice didn’t like the word ‘poetry’, but she decided to hold her peace until she had seen Brenda’s work. She invited Brenda over to see what as what.
Brenda came around to Clarice’s house carrying a 12-inch square box hat was covered with pictures of horses. The corners were reinforced with yellow duct tape.
Amy was in the kitchen, doing the ironing in front of the TV, still wearing her police blues. “What’s in there? A bomb?” she asked.
“No,” said Clarice.
“Songs,” said Brenda.
“Someone brought a bomb?” Ray had wandered into the living room without anyone noticing. He was wearing slippers and a stained old t-shirt. His sleeves were rolled up and his hands were caked with dried oil paint.
“It’s one of those jack-in-the-box fists,” said Clarice.
Ray leaned over the box. “Let me see.”
Brenda opened the box.
“I don’t see any kind of fist.”
Clarice slid forward and unwound a back-fist at that stopped about a centimeter short of his nose. “POW!” she yelled.
Ray’s eyebrows shot up and he jerked his head back.
Clarice batted her eyelids at him.
He shook his head and stepped away, trying to conceal his grin. “She’s your daughter, Amy,” he told his wife. Amy went on ironing with a smirk on her face.
Brenda smiled tolerantly and shuffled her feet.
“Alright,” said Clarice. “Out of the way. We got work to do.”
“Yes,” said Amy, looking up. “You do. Your finals are coming up.”
“What do you mean, ‘covered’? You haven’t done ten minutes’ study.”
“I mean, it’s covered.”
Clarice and Brenda went into the dining room and shut the door.
“Are you still in high school?” asked Brenda.
“Not for much longer,” said Clarice. “Now let’s have a look at what you got.”
Clarice was very pleased to see Brenda’s collection of song lyrics–she refused to think of them as poems–had been plainly typed onto letter sized paper. Dividers grouped them by year; within each year they were in alphabetical order. “Pick one,” said Clarice.
“Well,” said Brenda, “That’s kind of a hard. It depends how I’m–”
“Show me the best one,” said Clarice. “Your favourite song out of all of them, right now, today.”
The song Brenda chose was a terse four-verse song about a girl who falls for a mobster. When the girl finds out that he’s cheating on her, she kills him.
“It’s good,” said Clarice. “It’s our first song. Now let’s look at the rest.”
Clarice didn’t see much else that she liked in Brenda’s collection. The singer was good at preserving scansion and rhyming sensible words, but most of the material was sappy love songs or complaints about loneliness.
“These are okay,” Clarice hedged, “but nothing else is jumping out at me.”
“I can write some more.”
“Sure,” said Clarice. “I like the ones with stories in them.” Pause. “Want to look at some of mine?”
Brenda scowled. “I thought you played the guitar.”
Clarice smiled thinly. “Fair enough.”
She would just have to try to guide Brenda without stepping on her toes too much. Clarice’s first priority was, indeed, playing the guitar, and her second priority was to keep the band together. It had taken her a lot of effort to find three good musicians, she didn’t want to ruin it over this. She was already convinced that they had what it took.
Some compromise was par for the course in any collaboration, Clarice supposed, but she didn’t like it.
She didn’t like it at all.