|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
Looking up at the earnest young music reporter in my dressing room, I came to a decision. For twenty years Fish and I had never told anyone our real story. Yet by any reasonable standard, it was a tale that needed to be shared. We had carved out a genuine niche in music history, after all, and been on the tops of the charts for most of two decades. Didn't we owe our fans the truth? "Son," I began, "This is your lucky day. Let me take you all the way back, to when our band was formed amid the stench of the purest failure... ."
As was usual on a Monday afternoon, we were gathered for practice in the basement of the house Fish and I rented from his parents.
"I tell you, if you ever want to make any money playing music, you're going to have to get off your high horse!" The Fish was right in my face again. "Why don't you ever loosen up a little bit and have some fun, man! I mean, I love romantic ballads as much as you do, but there just isn't any market!"
"Market!" I snorted. "Tell me about the mass market! They're a bunch of painted no-talent clowns!"
"Maybe so, but they are RICH painted no talent clowns!' Then Dan-San slammed down his drumsticks and threw his two cents worth in. "Come on, Rabbit! You know we just aren't cuttin' it, man! I mean, we're goin' nowhere fast, like!"
"Going nowhere?" I replied just a bit testily. "Going nowhere? Look at the great review we got in the paper last week?"
"Heh!" Christian snorted. "Yeah, it was a great review all right. But the critic was ten percent of the audience."
That stung, because it was true. "All right, already! So times are hard! But we sound GREAT together, and we get along. We're just one break away from making it big!"
"Humph! Rabbit, that break ain't gonna come in time to make my next rent payment, man."
Dan sounded more disheartened than I had ever heard him. It was time for desperate measures. "Then move in with the Fish and me. We've got room." Carefully I avoided looking my closest friend in the eye. I was already a month behind on my own share of the rent.
Dan sighed. "That's real nice of you, but it's just not going to work. We're dead. Through! No one wants to listen to romantic stuff anymore." And with that, Dan-San got up and walked out. This was big trouble, I knew. Our drummer was the cheeriest and most optimistic of any of us.
Christian seemed to agree. "I'm looking for a job. If you land a gig, call me. Otherwise, I need to get a few bucks ahead." I nodded, and he left me alone with Fish.
Things looked dark indeed. Even I felt "Rabbit and the Romantics" were about to die, and I cared more about our group and our music than I had ever cared for anything in my life. Fish put his hand on my shoulder as I watched the best guitarist I'd ever known go walking out the door.
"Rabbit, there comes a time when you just have to let the past go," he said.
"But Fish! Man, we've got chemistry! We're tight! Everyone who hears us knows it, too. It's such a waste!"
"It is that," he agreed. "I love you guys like brothers. We all feel that way about each other. If we could even just come halfway close to making a living... "
At that I kicked the sofa. "I just don't get it! How can people be so dense? Don't they have any sense of taste of all?"
"Marilyn Manson," my friend replied in a formula we had been through many times. "Kiss. The Sex Pistols. Alice Cooper... "
"All RIGHT already! Point made, point made... "
Fish laughed, as he always did at this moment in the conversation. "Come on. Let's have a beer."
We had several beers. Then we had several more. There was much talk about life and music. Presently, I felt my face grow numb and my tongue loosen. "ANYONE can get rich in Rock music!" I declared with alcohol-induced solemnity. "Anyone can! You just have to be willing to lower yourself that little bit more than everyone else."
Fish had not been keeping pace with me. He was staring at me rather intently. "Anyone?"
"Anyone who can keep a beat at all. Hell, if we were willing to make fools of ourselves, we could be rich too!"
"Why not?" he asked, still holding my gaze. "Why not go for the money?" Had I been more sober, I would have realized that he had been subtly trying to get me to think along these lines for weeks. And that both his comment and my intoxication were carefully planned.
"Waddya mean? Are you turning musical whore on me too?"
"Not musical whore, no. But Rabbit, we gotta score some cash, man. Or the band is history. And that would be a damned shame- you're absolutely right about that. Is it whoring to make a little now, so we can play quality stuff later?"
"Whoring is whoring!" I declared drunkenly.
"OK then," the Fish-man declared. "But just for fun, how exactly would you go about whoring your talent? That is, if you were going to actually do it. I mean, I've seen you work and know you well. And I have faith that if you really wanted to you could make us bigger than, say, The-Performer-Formerly-Known-As-Prince."
I snorted derisively, then got interested in the question despite myself. "Hmm... Interesting question- never really thought about it. First thing, is you need to be different than everyone else. Different in an interesting way, in a way that shows up well in a photo. Then, you gotta play really crappy music really loud. That's all there seems to be to it."
"Really crappy music, huh?"
"REALLY crappy music. With a lot of bass and guitars and feedback. And a vocalist that screams instead of singing."
"And you need a gimmick, of course, something to really hook 'em in. But that's easy! Look at that Strafford guy, and the money he's making off the rabbit-thing! Hell, it's been my nickname all my life, and you haven't seen ME try to cash in like that!"
"Of course not," Fish soothed. "Rabbit, I know that you're a really talented songwriter, and a great band leader. But just for fun, what kind of crappy song and cheap gimmick do you think you would put together- IF you were whoring yourself, of course. Not that I think you ever would... "
"Heh!" I declared, "That is so easy it's pathetic... ." I began scribbling lyrics, and throwing about wild ideas.
That afternoon, I laid out the plan that made us all rich.
The Church of the Transmutated Mind is about as far from rock music as you can get. But they were interested in promoting transmutation into psychologically and spiritually "improved" forms. And what I had in mind was right at the very top of their short list. "So, Mr..."
"Rabbit. I've always gone by 'Rabbit.'"
"That could get a tad confusing around here, you know. Lapine is one of our preferred forms."
"I know, Reverend. But I came by it honest, long before Jack Strafford made his big change."
"Yes, of course. Anyway, you say that you are part of a rock band, and that you seek our help?"
"Precisely. You see, I think we can help out your Church in terms of popularizing some of your beliefs. We've always been interested in transmutation, and I've got a picture of Strafford on my bass. With my nickname how could I not?"
"Anyway, if we get transmutated and go out and play, it will help promote your agenda. We promise to follow all your teachings."
"Hmm. Including our teachings about mind alteration? About having some of your more aggressive traits submerged in powerful herbivorous instincts?"
"Of course." After all, the only way we were going to get the loans was to agree to the fine print.
The minister thought for a moment, his scaled skin changing color slightly as he considered what he had heard. "I DO have certain discretionary funds available to me," he said at last. "And we DO wish to promote our agenda for EVERYONE, not just the intellectual elite... "
And I knew the battle was won. "Thanks!" I said, meaning it.
Now, I just had to get the Fish-Man to help me convince the rest of the band...
It wasn't easy, until they saw The Song. Then, they realized I had NOT gone crazy after all.
"Geez!" Dan-San said once he finally got the full picture. "It might actually be WORTH it! I mean... "
"Of course it's worth it!" I declared. "We'll be rabbits for five years. That's the minimum safe period in lapine form. During that time, we'll make enough money and get enough name recognition to play whatever we want to for the rest of our lives."
Chris was more doubtful. "Rabbit, I have a relationship... "
I couldn't help him there. "It's going to have to be your decision, of course. But don't you think that you two could wait a bit if it means becoming rich? I mean, wouldn't your lady friend rather live in something besides a cheap trailer park? Isn't a wealthy future worth waiting for?"
In the end, everyone agreed, of course. Chris got married, and the Church agreed to make the new Mrs. O'Kane a loan as well. Back then the Church was really pushing lapines. We all went through our six months of prep together, wearing special rabbit suits 24 hours a day and practicing radical and crazy stage moves with our new big feet. Actually, we had a blast.
Still, I must say that the mandatory "real life test" is no substitute for transmutation itself. Waking up that first time is traumatic for all lapines, and we were no exceptions. All of us had to be restrained for several days until we gained a bit of control over our newly-powerful flight reflexes, and none of us left the Clinic for several weeks. But that was to be expected. We were now rabbits, after all. It was natural for us to be a bit cautious.
Our first practice session, once we got back on the outside, was a disaster. I kept twitching at every drum beat, Fish found singing around his front teeth far more difficult than he had bargained for, and Chris and I almost had to relearn guitar from scratch. We made it through the tough times, though, by eating summer grass and all moving in together. Crowding was pleasant for rabbits, we discovered. And eventually of course, we recorded The Song...
Marketing "Love Carrot" proved ridiculously easy. All we had to do was crowd together into a cab, and appear unannounced at a record studio. They would take one look at us four white bunnies, and start talking contract without even listening to our stuff. And when they heard our cheesy, tasteless lyrics they went wild! The music was exactly the sort of stuff they had wanted all along, that they knew best how to market and promote. Eventually I hired an agent, who earned his percentage and more the first week by making the big boys bid against each other. Everyone was in a hurry to strike a deal first, before other groups or record labels stole our idea. Still, we had a clear lead of at least a year before anyone else could possibly get through transmutation and retraining, and that year proved all we needed to make a lasting name for ourselves.
"Love Carrot" hit number one, and stayed there for months. Even Strafford came out of his self-imposed exile to congratulate us, and to appear in our video.
We especially excelled at live performances, though of course a "no flashbulb" rule had to go into effect. Our high hops and ridiculous stage antics were intended to parody cheesy acts of the past, but people stood in long lines to see something they perceived as "new" and "different". The critics hated us now, of course, but the public paid far better than the so-called experts ever had.
I'll never forget the very first time Fish broke into "Love Carrot" live. We sold out our maiden show, and the crowd was nearly hysterical as they sensed themselves part of Rock history. Our album had already gone gold, and there was a sense in the air that the music industry would never be the same. The band wound up tight as always, I laid down the simple beat, and then:
Oh, you know I love ya honey
Cause you make me wanna grow
A love carrot for my bunny
Special for my doe!
Powerful carrot of love! High-powered carrot of love!
Oh, you know I'd share my kibble
If I thought it would make you purr
But it's my carrot you must nibble
While I stroke your fur!
Powerful carrot of love! High-powered carrot of love!
Oh, why don't you share your burrow
You know inside I'd go!
I'd love to plow your furrow
And make your garden grow!
Powerful carrot of love! High powered carrot of love!
Watching the does out in the crowd faint as Fish ripped out the overblown lyrics was pretty rewarding too, in its own way. Much more rewarding than dry praise from a cerebral critic, for sure. And once I mastered a very high Pete Townshend inspired combination scissors-kick and windmill during my solo bit in our signature song, I managed to impress a few does myself...
Even more, we found that we LIKED being rabbits. It's fun to be able to leap and hop about like a mad thing, and the Church is right. When you change the body, the spirit changes as well. Rabbits are much more pleasant creatures than humans, most ways. Why should we not take what is best from them and incorporate it into ourselves? I haven't gotten into a nasty, pointless argument in over twenty years. And I don't miss them, either. Sure, I'm a lot less assertive. But I'm much nicer, and make friends a lot more easily. Friendships are a lot closer, too, or at least they are with fellow lapines. The tradeoff is a good thing. Or at least it is for the band and me. We spend all our time together, and wouldn't have it any other way. And once we became happy with ourselves, doing Art our way just didn't matter so much anymore. We just want to be creative, and to have fun. Let others fight over trivia.
So it is that twenty years later, we members of "Rabbits, Ltd." are still together and still bouncing madly around the stage like young bunnies, and I am continually writing new and better and cheesier and more offensive songs. But of all our works, the crowd still wants to hear "Love Carrot" the most. Fish even had to get retransmutated once, because his voicebox was cracking under the strain of screaming out those lyrics in curtain call after curtain call. Every album we've ever made has gone gold, or platinum, or even a few times double-platinum. All except our romantic ballad collection- that one was DOA...
Some things just never change...
Love Carrot copyright 1999 by Phil Geusz.
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