‘YOU WANTED THE BEST? YOU GOT THE BEST! THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND!!’
May thirteenth, 1976, the Free Trade Hall up town. The night my parents met… nine months later, I was born! How cool am I? Conceived at a KISS concert!
Tonight, KISS are back in Manchester again. I’ve been checking and re-checking my ticket in its paper sleeve from Rip-Off-Line, like when you go on holiday and you keep checking your passport. Cost a fortune… It cost my parents two quid to see them back in the day. I’d better check my ticket again. I say ticket, it was originally tickets plural, but Maxine, my so-called best friend ruined my fortieth earlier this year. We were meant to be going out round what is left of the metal scene, where Rockworld used to be, wearing fancy dress as KISS. Maxine ruined it. She turned up at mine in a dress from Debenhams. Said she was worried that people might see pictures of her on Facebook. What did she think was gonna happen? I was already Kissed-up, of course, wearing a fake leather from Primarni. I’ve avoided looking at social media since my birthday because of Maxine and her Debenhams dress. I’d better check my ticket again.
Right… I remember going to Wembley in 1988 with my Dad, I was only eleven. He pretended he’d lost my ticket and I’d have to wait outside until the show was over. Just before I started crying (and streaking my face paint) he pulled my ticket out of his stonewashed jeans pocket! I cried anyway. It was mint. Gene Simmons was breathing fire and everything! My Dad was always doing things like that, sort of letting me know that the world isn’t safe, but he’d be there to protect me. We only saw each other at weekends, him and Mum split up, I think because she stopped being a metaller and started listening to Duran Duran.
At the last minute, I decide against the studded leather codpiece. I check my ticket again and set off. I get on the tram I’m all spandex and platform boots. A woman dressed as a man wearing makeup. OK, I admit it, I’ve set off really early to hang around and see if I can meet KISS. The tram is packed, there is nowhere to sit down. Everyone looks at me, in broad daylight, wearing black leather bat wings. Strangely, no one is talking, the tram is usually really noisy. I clearly hear an office worker whispering to her mate “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!” They both laugh and I know they’re talking about me. I wish Dad was here, I wish I hadn’t gone around telling everyone I was Starchild’s offspring because my Mum was a groupie. I didn’t mean it, I was just a teenager, I’d upset him just before it happened; The bomb going off near Manchester Arndale in 1996. It claimed no victims, on the day, but I think that’s what killed him. He was a security guard and had a massive heart attack soon after. I blame the bomb. I can’t bear to watch the news since. I found out at his funeral he’d bought us tickets to go to Donnington, KISS were headlining. I wish Dad was here. I get off the tram at Victoria and walk to the Arena. My platforms catch on the metal grills on the floor. I wonder which entrance they’ll be going in at? Where are the tour buses? Then I see it. The whole area is cordoned off with police tape.
“Whoa, stop young man!” A policeman is waving his arms. Is he talking to me?
“I’ve got tickets… to see KISS!” I cry.
He hears my voice and realises I’m a woman.
“Sorry, love, you can’t come any further, it’s all shut here still because of the bomb last week, Take That cancelled too you know, didn’t you see it on the news?”
No, I avoid the news.
I turn around and head back for the tram. I sit down and look at the internet on my phone for the first time in months. I learn all about the devastating incident that happened in Manchester last week, at a concert filled with kids… kids just like me going to Wembley with my Dad. Then, I see a message about cancellations and ticket refunds. There is a message from KISS that reads something like ‘We are heartbroken, a cancelled rock show seems of little consequence’. They are right… How could I be so insensitive? Wrapped up in my own safe little heavy metal world? I feel so selfish but sorry for myself, and realise I’m in tears. When I get back on the tram, I am joined by some daytime drinkers on their way home. The noise has returned, but I don’t feel like talking after what I’ve just read. A bloke about my age wearing a Happy Mondays T-shirt breaks away from his mates and sits next to me.
“You ok, love?” He says, taking a sip of his can of beer. I say nothing. “Sorry, it’s just that you look sad, I thought I’d better say hello, make sure you’re alright”
“Yes, I’m… I’m sorry” I don’t know what to say. The bloke shouts to one of his mates, who turns out to be his brother.
“Brother! Bruv! Got another can in your pocket? This lady…” He gives me a sideways glance as if to check I’m female… “She needs cheering up!”
One of them shouts over, pulling the sign of the horns “Aww it got cancelled didn’t it?” like we’ve got something in common. They all come and pile on the seats around me. They’ve been to a tribute do for the victims. I feel even more guilty now. The first bloke puts his arm around me, my hair gets tangled in my studded jacket.
“Don’t worry, we’ll cheer you up. We’re from Manchester, and this is what we do, innit?”
He starts singing, and they all join in. It was a cover version, but I’ll allow it because KISS made it famous.
‘God gave rock n roll to you, gave rock n roll to you, put it in the sou-oul of everyone!’
Samantha Henthorn copyright 2018.
(A short story written in memory of last year’s events with the spirit of Manchester)