1972. Glasgow, Scotland
After delays on the traffic-clogged Scottish roads, Shadowlands arrived at Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow in the chill mid-afternoon.
A gaggle of boys in school uniforms - Rosalie felt they were a gaggle more than a posse, given that the majority had yet to fully smash puberty - were gathered by the stage door with pens, autograph books and LPs ready.
They bundled at Shadowlands, who were more than happy to sign things, chat to the boys and pose for photographs. Much noise and merriment followed as the boys did their best at showing-off and one-upmanship.
Rosalie busied herself with assisting Charlie in his efforts to unload the gear while Shadowlands basked in some very pleasing fan adoration.
As she passed back and forth between the bus and the venue, Rosalie noticed one boy hanging back on his own. Although he looked to be the same age, he was smaller than the others and bit his lip nervously as he shifted back and forth on his feet. His uniform was a bad fit - the trousers were too short and the blazer was a little too tight around his thick midsection - and his dark hair stuck up in awkward tufts so all-in-all he looked just wrong.
Rosalie’s heart went out to the child, so visibly ill-at-ease with himself and his surroundings and clearly not truly part of the gang. An outsider, a loser, a misfit.
She’d always had particular affection for misfits, having always felt of that persuasion herself. Shadowlands were the same: they belonged together because they didn’t belong with the Normals.
She pondered the scene: if he wasn’t careful, the boy would miss his chance to get autographs in the little book he clutched in a visibly tight grip. Should she go over and prompt him to? That might just make him more shy.
Before she could think of it any further, Liam pulled away from the larger group. She thought he was coming to her, but his object was the boy.
‘Hi,’ he said softly. ‘Did you want that signed?’
The boy nodded, gaze firmly on his shoes. Liam gently slid the book from his grasp and opened it at a blank page.
‘Who am I signing it to?’
‘C… Cr…’ The boy took a deep breath and finally looked up into Liam’s friendly face. ‘Craig.’
‘OK Craig…’ Liam wrote carefully in the book. ‘What song do you like best?’
‘Mojave Desert.’ Craig pronounced it “Mo-jay-vuh” in his thick Glaswegian accent and Rosalie bit back a laugh.
‘Oh, why’s that?’
‘I like the riff.’
‘That’s all Twain.’
‘Yeah. I wanna be a guitarist like him when I grow up.’
‘You got a guitar?’
‘Not yet but my mother says I might get something for Christmas.’
‘Well when that day comes, there’s only one thing you need to be good: dedication. Practice until you can’t keep going, then do a bit more.’
Craig took this on as if receiving wisdom from Solomon and took his autograph book back from Liam.
‘And one last thing,’ Liam said. ‘It’s “Mo-Hah-vee”.’
Craig flushed a deep, embarrassed red. ‘Sorry-’
‘Don’t be. Sam still calls it “Edin-berg.”
Craig giggled and an impish smile broke out across his face as he relaxed at last. Rosalie’s heart melted a little. Liam took it as a chance to ask the kid some questions about himself. By the time Craig left them, he seemed to have grown three inches in stature and three miles high in self-esteem.
Rosalie’s first opportunity to speak to Liam came just before the show. He paced the corridor between the stage and dressing room trying to release some of the nervous energy thrumming through his body.
‘That was really kind of you,’ she said.
‘Yeah. That you even saw him.’
‘It’s always easy to spot your own kind,’ he said softly, coming to a stop beside her. He leaned against the wall and set his gaze upon her face.
‘I’ve seen pictures of you at his age. Don’t look a thing like him.’
‘I was as uncertain and afraid and alone as he is. The courage it took him to dare come along with the other boys…’
‘Not his friends?’
‘Not really, no. I used to be that kid.’
His mood was spiralling downward at the very worst moment and she needed to do something about that.
‘You aren’t anymore.’ She punched him very softly on the arm. ‘So there’s all the reason in the world to think he’ll be just as fine as you are.’
Liam said nothing but raised his right eyebrow high.
‘Fair point. He’ll be fine. He has the memory of today to cling to during the bad times.’
‘You underestimate the power you have over fans, Byrne. They love you and even if you forget them, they’ll never forget the moment they met you.’
‘I don’t forget them.’
‘ROSALIE!’ Sam’s voice tore from the dressing room. ‘I CAN’T FIND MY PANTS!’
Rosalie rolled her eyes and resumed her pre-gig chores.
Shadowlands arrived in Glasgow on a wet November afternoon. They were already six hours later than intended due to a combination of factors which included a discreet pumping of one a roadie’s stomach; Sam’s now-everyday need for pharmaceutical assistance in rousing and moving under his own powers of locomotion; a shrieking groupie who wasn’t happy about JD ditching her after one evening; a scuffle with a promoter who was trying to skim off the takings for their Manchester shows…
Rosalie was already exhausted when they arrived at the Apollo. She’d been up all night talking to another band in the last hotel with The Runaways. They were an odd bunch of young girls and she could see they were already unravelling amid drugs, egos and simply being very young and unprepared for the world they’d been thrust into.
All that said, it had been beyond wonderful to spend time with other women who were also into music.
Just to spend time with other women was a luxurious novelty, but their shared work gave them much to speak on, and they did. Her voice was raw just from talking non-stop and her head ached with lack of sleep but she regretted nothing.
JD had taken a shine to Cherie Currie at first but had fallen into talking about guitars with Lita Ford. He looked ready to attempt a score when Liam reminded him how young they were, and that they had a chaperone. He’d then acquired the groupie who’d caused such a fuss the next morning.
Rosalie slipped on the bottom step of the bus and would’ve landed on her arse were it not for the intervention of a young man who’d been standing nearby.
‘Thanks. That was nearly hilarious for everyone else.’
‘You’re welcome.’ The young man was tall, still adolescently gangly and though he looked familiar she couldn’t place him. She saw so many faces in so many places that it was a common sensation.
‘May I… get your autograph, Miss Cochran?’ He offered his book to her.
‘Yeah, if you like. What name?’
‘OK Craig… you coming to tonight’s show?’
‘Yeah, can’t wait.’
‘Good. We love the audiences here- I remember you!’
Craig went very red.
‘Liam!’ Rosalie called out. He came over and recognised Craig at once.
‘Craig, isn’t it?’
‘You remember me?’
‘Of course. I mean, you’re much taller.’ Liam grinned as Craig shuffled on his feet. ‘Did you become a guitarist like you said?’
‘Yeah. I’m in a band!’ Craig perked up, confidence returned to him. ‘We’re called The Bleeding Scabs!’
‘A punk band?’ Liam asked, eyebrow raised sceptically.
Craig nodded eagerly. ‘Yeah. We’re… not very good.’
‘You don’t need to be to play punk.’
Rosalie elbowed him. ‘Liam, play nice.’
‘But I still love Shadowlands. You’re brilliant! I can’t believe you remember me, man! It’s… just, wow.’
‘I remember the special ones,’ Liam replied honestly. ‘Good to see you well.’
‘I am. I…’ Craig went nervous again for a moment, then recovered. ‘I’ll never forget what you did for me that day.’
‘What I did?’
‘You saw me. Nobody ever noticed me before. It… I wouldn’t have done any of it without that.’
Liam blinked once, twice. ‘You… I…’
‘Just say “you’re welcome”,’ Rosalie muttered sotto voce.
‘You’re welcome.’ Liam clasped Craig briefly by the shoulder. ‘Enjoy the gig.’
Liam hurried away, leaving Rosalie with Craig.
‘Keep at it,’ Rosalie said. ‘And don’t let the-’
‘Bastards grind you down.’
Rosalie followed Liam indoors and was struck - not for the first time - by the awesome power held by people such as themselves. Why was it so? There was only one real answer: the music.
The gig that night was one of the best they’d played during the whole tour.