Ken raced into the studio. The other members of the band turned their heads at the sound of him arriving.
Larry put down his drumsticks and said, teasingly, “Do you have a hall pass?”
Ken chuckled and lifted a small box in the air. “Will this do?”
Dave squinted at the box. “Is that what I think it is?”
Nate punched Dave in the shoulder. “He did say he was going to get it… My question is: do we need to test it out?”
Ken nodded his head and said, “That’s probably a good idea. Should we do it via a demo or just ask a few people to listen to us perform?”
“Which’ll be easier to set up?” asked Nate.
“Probably recording the demo,” said Ken. “I mean, all we have to do is attach the box to the mixer and it’ll work its magic throughout the recording. If we ask a few people to listen to us perform, we’d need to get it on an amp, make sure that it doesn’t interfere with anything else, and all that other stuff. Not to mention a place to perform it. With the recording, we can ask people to listen to it on their own terms.”
“So let’s set it up. What song should we do?” said Dave.
“I vote we do a cover,” said Larry.
“You always want to do a cover,” said Nate.
“Yeah, but maybe this time we should,” said Ken. “Something people know might make for a better test of the device.”
Dave chimed in. “Then let’s not let Larry recommend the cover. I mean, he’s the one who said we should do a cover of fucking ‘Convenient,’ by George Hrab —”
“That’s a great song!” interrupted Larry.
“And I’m not saying it’s not. I love that song, actually. But nobody knows the goddamn song. And when nobody knows it, it won’t make a difference to our listeners whether it’s our own, or if we co-opted it from someone else. If we want to do a cover to test the device, let’s make it one someone who doesn’t have unlimited access to your music library might know…”
Dave sighed but said, “So what should we do?”
There was a brief silence, which Ken broke by suggesting, “How about we do something by the Stones? Maybe ‘Gimme Shelter’?”
Nate said, “How about something that won’t require backup singers? I like the idea of doing something by the Stones, though. How about ‘Start Me Up’?”
Ken said, “Works for me.”
Dave said, “Me too.”
Larry looked at Ken and said, “I guess that makes it anonymous. How do we set it up?”
“Let me show you.”
The band finished their recording session and started packing up their gear, the digital recording from the session on a hard drive that Ken kept with the rest of the band’s equipment. He looked at the other members of the group and said, “Let me put ‘Start Me Up’ on flash drives for everyone.”
As he handed out the copies of the song to the rest of the members of the band, Larry said, “Do you think it’s really going to work?”
“Only one way to find out, huh, guys?” said Nate.
“Exactly!” said Ken. “Let’s meet up tomorrow for breakfast to compare stories about how it works, okay?”
Larry said, “All right.”
Nate glanced down at his watch as he took his own flash drive. “Oh, fuck! I’ve got a study session in, like, ten minutes on the other side of campus. Tammy hates it when I’m late, too. I can’t let her down ‘cause that’d mean I might get kicked out of school… I’ll talk to you guys later.”
Nate sprinted to the door, with the only thing preventing him from running out being his concern for damaging his guitar case.
Tammy was already in the library when Nate found her sitting at a desk, thumbing her way through a copy of her astronomy text. He took a minute to catch his breath and said, “Sorry I’m a little late.”
“That’s all right. I wasn’t waiting too long,” said Tammy. “D’you mind if I ask why you’re late?” she pointed at his guitar case and rolled her eyes.
“It’s no big secret. Our recording session went a little long. I’m really pleased with what we managed to do…”
“How much did you end up recording?”
“We got through five songs. One of them we did so quickly, it’s already fully mixed and ready to be played. Wanna hear it?”
“Maybe after our study session, okay? Is it anything I might know?”
“Yeah, we did a cover of ‘Start Me Up,’ by the Rolling Stones.”
“I know that song! It’s … it’s a pretty good song…”
“And I think it came out pretty good. I’d love to hear someone else’s opinion…”
“My opinion is that you’ll never be able to do something as well as Mick and Keith did.”
“We’ll see, Tammy. We’ll see.” He paused for a moment and said, “So… What’re we going to study today?”
“Let’s talk about red shifts and measuring the way orbiting planets make stars wobble.”
Once Tammy and Nate finished their astronomy work, Nate held up his thumb drive. “Ready to give it a listen?”
She sighed and said, “Sure…”
“Probably better off using headphones so we don’t disturb anyone else in the library,” he suggested. “Do you need a pair?”
“If you don’t mind…”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pair of earbuds. She took them, disentangled the wires, and plugged the end into the side of her laptop while he connected the flash drive.
“Let’s get this over with,” she said as she tapped a few spots on her computer and inserted the headphones into her ears.
He watched her as she listened to the song. If the subliminal messaging created by Ken’s device worked, all he’d need to do is say the name of his band and, well… She’ll behave in a very un-Tammy-like manner. Apart from a slight smile forming across her face, he couldn’t tell if it was working.
When the song ended, Tammy took out the earphones and handed them back to Nate. “That was pretty good!”
“I may have underestimated you. I think Mick and Keith would be pleased. What was the name of your band again?”
He smiled at the fact that he wouldn’t need to find a way of working this information into the conversation. “The Four Man Trio.”
“Oh!” Tammy started to shift in her seat, crossing and undressing her legs rapidly, and occasionally tugging at the collar of her blouse. “Um. Yeah. Heh heh. So, is it really warm in here, or is it just you?”
The following morning, the members of the Four Man Trio met for breakfast in the Student Union building. As they sat down together at a table, Larry looked at Ken and said, “Looks like your thing worked perfectly!”
Nate nodded and said, “I agree.”
Dave said, “How’d you guys work the name of the band into your conversation? I didn’t use mine with Emily because I didn’t want to just spout out the name of the band.”
Ken said, “I invited Beth to a future Four Man Trio gig…”
“You nailed Beth Hooper? Sweet!” remarked Nate. “Tammy just asked me the name of the band, so I told her.”
Larry said, “I just told Amelia how much fun the group has tog….” His voice trailed off as the piped-in music started to play their version of the opening track to The Rolling Stones’ classic [i]Tattoo You[/i] album.
Dave’s eyes widened. “Is this the campus radio station?”
Nate said, “Must be…”
Ken said, “Well, ummmm… I don’t think anything’s going to happen unless they say the band name within two minutes after the song ends.”
Larry said, “And if they do?”
Ken chuckled and said, “It probably won’t take much before they track a very public orgy back to us.”
“Should we get out of here, just in case?” asked Dave.
Larry said, “Probably not a bad idea.”
The four young men started to clean up the table and leave the Student Union building.
They were nearly out the door and in the campus quadrangle, when the song ended and the DJ came over the speaker system. “You’re listening to KMPS, your university station! I’d like to thank Miss Tammy Moyer for sending us this great version of the Rolling Stones’ classic ‘Start Me Up’, performed by our very own Four Man Trio!”
The four band mates looked at each other and said, in unison, “Fuck!”