MELVIN passed wind and rolled over.

A couple of hours later he opened one eye and realized it was probably time to get up.

About an hour after that he rose and made his way to the bathroom where after completing his ablutions, he stared at his face in the mirror.

 

 

It wasn’t an attractive face. Melvin sported wispy fair hair which only loosely covered his dome, he had a pudgy nose, a generous scattering of spots courtesy of his burger-led diet and hadn’t shaved for several days.

Vague memories of the karaoke at the Queen’s Head last night drifted into Melvin’s awareness.

He usually needed several pints to summon up the nerve to jump on the stage and crucify some pop classic with his hyena-like howls.

Last night had been one such occasion and even Melvin had to concede that his singing had been bloody awful.

“Get off you muppet!” was one of the more polite responses from the Queen’s Head crowd and Melvin was halfway through an excruciatingly bad rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing when the level of abuse reached such a level that he conceded defeat and slumped back to his seat at the far end of the bar.

Which made it all the more difficult to explain why on this particular morning, from somewhere deep in his Melvin’s mind came an irresistible desire to sing.

After scratching his crutch for several seconds followed by his customary early morning farts and belches, Melvin opened his mouth and began to  sing Marvin Gaye’s classic soul song What’s Going On?

But the noise that came out was not what you would expect from a 27 year old overweight, acne-riddled Yorkshireman, currently on the dole, but previously employed as a carpet fitter.

No he sounded word for word, note for note, like a black American soul music icon, sex god and socially aware superstar who was shot dead by his father on April 1, 1984.

“Bloody hell our kid,” was all Melvin could say.

 

TONE was a bus driver. He had just finished his early shift and reached Melvin’s in record time after his pal’s crazy phone call.

“Go on then.”

“What?” said Melvin.

“Sing you pratt, you know, like Marvin Gaye. Come on let’s hear it.”

After listening,Tone slumped down onto the settee, pushing aside the empty lager cans, the noodle pot and telly programme magazine.

“Well, what about that then?”

“Bloody hell our kid,” was all Tone could say.

 

TONE had coughed up some cash for a new suit, haircut and aftershave for Melvin.

“Trust me, it’s all part of the package,” said Tone. “Just regard it as an investment on my part.”

The usual crowd were in attendance at the Queen’s Head, including Glenys.

Melvin had being trying to get off with Glenys for about three years. Although at 45, she was much older than Melvin, she did look pretty fetching in a short skirt. She worked as a saleswoman at the carpet showroom where Melvin was employed until he had to give it up because of his back.

Well that was the official line Melvin and his boss Frank had agreed upon to explain his departure. The real reason was that Melvin suffered from excessive sweaty armpits which were so bad that word had got around and customers were ringing up saying they would cancel their orders if Melvin was the fitter.

Frank was an understanding sort of guy and so as not to humiliate Melvin any more than necessary, told everyone that a bad back meant he could not continue.

Of course Glenys was not immune to the pong of sweaty armpits and Melvin had been spectacularly unsuccessful in his attempts to woo her.

However on this night she was sat near the front of the stage with her mates Brenda and  Tash, consuming cider at a frightening rate.

There were the usual groans and moans from the Queen’s Head crowd when Melvin took to the stage and grabbed hold of the karaoke mike

But I Heard It Through The Grapevine had them well and truly gobsmacked.

When Melvin finished the crowd was utterly silent for a moment before breaking into tumultuous applause. At the back of the room, Tone, who also had had a new suit, haircut and aftershave, quietly chuckled to himself.

You’re on a winner here son.

 

WITHIN a few weeks Melvin was ‘on tour’, doing the rounds of all the karaoke competitions in a 50 mile radius.

Tone had installed himself as his ‘manager’ but his battered Ford Ka was not the most elegant of transportation. It was also a bit cramped what with Melvin’s costumes, make-up etc and …. Glenys.

After about the third or fourth time Melvin appeared, Glenys came up to chat.

As well as new aftershave, Tone had splashed out on some very expensive deodorant, shower gel and other assorted smellies from Boots. According to Tone, Melvin now smelt like a ponce.

But with the stench from his armpits subdued and with his new-found ‘talent’, Glenys found him a much more attractive proposition.

“How do you do it Melvin?”

“Dunno” was his honest reply. He didn’t have a clue.

“Well, it’s dead sexy,” said Glenys, who licked her lips in an extremely provocative manner.

Like Tone she could sense gold.

One night on the road, whilst Tone was getting the kebabs, Melvin and Glenys had their first fumble in the car.

Melvin enjoyed it immensely and a week later he cracked it fully after singing I Want You to Glenys back at his flat.

He was a bit put out that Glenys screamed “Marvin! Marvin!” at the height of her passion but he was past caring by then and very soon was shouting “Glenys! Glenys!” with equal vigour.

 

WORD began to spread about Melvin and the money started to roll in. He moved on from the karaoke circuit and began performing in small clubs and bars. Newspaper and radio interviews followed by regional television.

Tone jacked in his job on the buses and Glenys became a full-time groupie, a career change which made Brenda and Tash very envious.

“I think we have to be proactive,” said Tone one day.

“Yeah,” said Melvin. “What does that mean?”

“We’ve got to aim for the stars kidda.”

Glenys, who was painting her toenails bright purple and smoking a cheroot, looked up and said: “He’s got to go on that TV talent show, you know the one on Sunday nights.”

So that became the game plan. Tone sussed out when the next round of auditions were and in the meantime the three of them continued to trawl around the clubs.

 

ONE of the peculiarities about Melvin’s ‘gift’ was that he didn’t have to learn the lyrics to the songs, they just appeared in his mind and he sang them.

He had whole back catalogue to call upon which meant his performances could be as short or as long as Tone decided. The only requirement was that Melvin could have plenty of Ribena (his favourite drink) on hand and at least one toilet break.

Tone awarded Melvin an allowance from the money he was earning but suggested that the rest of it should be invested in property and investments and the three of them moved into a smart, two bedroomed semi. Tone said that he would take care of that as he knew far more about money matters.

Tone bought Melvin a brand new computer and some smashing games but curiosity got the better of him and he started to find out as much as he could about Marvin Gaye.

Glenys was still around but she and Melvin didn’t fumble much these days. She seemed to be spending much more time with Tone who said he was training her to become a backing singer.

This apparently involved hours of private tuition. Melvin didn’t mind too much because he now spent a lot of time in his bedroom on his computer. He was becoming very clued up on Marvin Gaye.

 

NOT surprisingly Melvin  sailed through the auditions for the TV talent show. The producers seemed to be very excited about him but Tone was very protective.

“Any record deal goes through me, that’s right ain’t it Melvin?”

Melvin nodded but didn’t look at all interested in the proceedings. Tone was slightly worried because his prize asset had become very withdrawn and subdued over the last few weeks.

Maybe he was upset about Glenys. Maybe she needs to go back to him, thought Tone, maybe I need to get myself a classier bird, her mate Tash doesn’t look too bad.

 

THE big day came and Melvin stood by the side of the stage waiting for his entrance. His fame was widespread by now and as he walked out there were screams of excitement from the packed audience.

The judges beamed at him with delight and Tone had assured him beforehand that he was a cast-iron certainty to win the competition and pick up a massive record deal.

“You and me are going to get stinking rich,” said Tone whose eyes kept blinking manically, a mannerism he had acquired recently.

 

THE lead judge smiled and said: “Well, Melvin, you’ve got a golden opportunity, a live show, huge TV audience, so what are you going to sing for us today?”

Melvin smiled back, a confident, relaxed smile.

“Nothing,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” stuttered the judge nervously.

“I’m not going to sing anything.”

“But that’s why you’re here….isn’t it?”

Melvin took the microphone off the stand, moved forward several steps and stared directly at the TV camera in front of him.  He caught a glimpse of Tone in the wings, open-mouthed and eyes full of horror. Glenys was by his side but she was texting frantically to Tash and was oblivious to what was going on.

Inspired by the environmental warnings expressed in Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me,

Melvin spoke eloquently about the dangers of oil pollution, radiation and overcrowded lands.

It was a powerful eco message delivered with conviction.

“Yes, quite,” said the judge who by now was sweating profusely under the intense TV lights and obviously very keen for Melvin to vacate the stage. He looked around anxiously for assistance.

Melvin then produced a badge from his pocket and proudly pinned it on his chest.

It was an ‘anti-Afghan war’ badge and using Marvin Gaye’s “war is not the answer” theme from What’s Going On, Melvin began to launch a passionate tirade against the military conflict.

At that moment he could see Tone and two other men rushing out towards him.

 


MELVIN was in that confusing land between sleep and waking up. But he was sure he could hear Marvin Gaye's voice in his head singing “Anybody here seen my old friend Melvin?”

Melvin stirred sat up, the bedroom was empty but he said: “Yes, I’m here.”

The deep American voice in his head was soft and comforting: “Hey dude, you done good” it said before fading away.

Melvin got up and went to the bathroom. He carried out his normal morning routine and then thought he try a quick lung-tester in front of the mirror.

Only this time there was no Marvin Gaye voice, just Melvin’s and it sounded bloody awful.

© Patrick O’Connor 2010