Kifffarces (5): Kiff in Amsterdam (en)

The day after a successful gig in Amsterdam, the lads from the Creepsterrock-formation Kiff had a day off. They decided to spend it in the Dutch capital because, as everyone knows, Amsterdam offers a fine selection of exciting and mischievous experiences that might not be truly illegal back home, but that undeniably have a high potential for developing into awkward and embarrassing situations. This was, of course, completely in the vein of our Terrifying Foursome: it does not happen every day that the useful and the pleasant can be combined in such an elegant manner.

Therefore, the four Horror Music Icons could be seen sauntering over the Damrak in an excellent mood (explanation: the term “excellent mood” in this context is somewhat misleading and needs some elaboration: because the members of Kiff (both by nature and by contractual obligations) tend to a nurkish and grumpy disposition, every trace of glee and unconcernedness is perceived by them as negative and undesirable – to avoid getting tangled up in technicalities, let’s just say that they made less of an argument than usual).

Even though they were dressed in their usual outfit – black polyester harnesses bristling with frightening barbs and sinister split skulls, menacing iron pins protruding from their elbows and their faces painted in their dreaded black and white war colors – the urban public seemed to ignore them completely.

The bass player, the most talkative of the four, turned to his companions. “Isn’t that odd!”, he said, looking around in amazement, “… nobody seems to notice us …  that’s unique!”

“Wla shlashâh hwlôglôsh”, the lead guitarist spoke, shrugging his shoulders, so that the iron points of his outfit jangled.

“You think so?” the bass player replied. 

What they didn’t know, of course, was that it would take considerably more than our Freaking Frightening Foursome walking past for people to take notice – maybe something like a derailed streetcar heading their way. Decades of tourists looking for thrills, but especially the flood of increasingly imbecile stag-parties that had been scourging the city in recent years had dulled the attentiveness of the average Amsterdammer to the level of a sea cucumber.

“Well, it’s fine with me …”, said the bass player, rubbing his leather-gloved hands together. It sounded like a leather-clad Hell’s Angel sitting down heavily on a leather sofa. “I can miss those signature hunters like … like … like a cheerful Salvation soldierette with a tambourine … on steroids! May I suggest we start off by getting liverishly stoned in the first ‘coffee shop’ that we come across … and then let’s scoop around in the Red Light District for a bit … what say?”

“Hwlôhlâwl ahlâghz.”

“OK.”

*Grunt* *spit* *bah*

“Hwlaah ohehlah uhheel?”, the lead guitarist spoke as the quartet was moving ahead again with much spike-rattling and polyester-clatter.

“I looked at www.amsterdammit.nl this morning”, the bassist replied smartly, whipping out his HorrorPhone. He tapped the screen of the gadget, that was decorated with little angry-looking skulls. He squinted and held it at arm’s length: “… we’ll have to turn left … there!”, he pointed to the traffic lights ahead. 

“That’s the route to the Red Light District … we’ll definitely find some of those so-called ‘coffee shops’ along the route. That’s where they sell dope around these parts. Thus we slam two cherubs in one fell swoop!”

The others sniggered.

They reached the intersection and pressed the button of the pedestrian light.

Pizza-delivery boys roared past with rattling plastic cubes mounted on the back of their mopeds; sloshed stag parties staggered by, vomiting and jabbering incoherently; and serious-looking, bespectacled Japanese tourists immersed themselves in travel guides – but no one took any notion of the Scariest Musical Act of All Times.

Finally the light turned green.

“Hâh! Cânt yâh fâppin wâhtch yâh stâhps âhshâl?” The bassist could only just jump aside for a pizzaboy who completely ignored the traffic lights. 

“Er. Quite a peculiar lot, these folks”, he muttered approvingly “… our kind of people, I’d say. Nice and rough, what say you, guys?”

*Grunt*

 *rhaâh* *rRâchh* *spit* *bah*

“Whla hlehd hlellôbl hlôl.”

The first coffee shop loomed almost immediately after they had entered the street across. 

“Hey! Get the Boy Scout Convulsions!”, the bass player pointed.

On the façade there was a sign saying “DE Koffiez” and another one with “Nezzprezzo, forâll yâh cuppiez”.

“Hlublieh?”

“Beats me”, the bass player answered.

They stood in front of the shop window. It did not look very dopey: tastefully arranged coffee-making gadgetry, displays with pictures of honestly paid South American coffee farmers posing with a laughing child on their arm, heavily chromed espresso machines and the like.

“Wow. They sure put a lot of effort in camouflage here.”

*grunt*

*snôrt* *snûrrft*

The bass player opened the door and the gentle tinkle of a civilised store bell sounded. He gestured his colleagues to follow him, and the Soul-Maiming Minstrels of Despair disappeared into the establishment.

A few minutes later they emerged again, empty-handed.

“‘We only sell coffee’. Yeah. Right.”

*Grunt*

*Rrhâcht* *gurgle* *spit* *bâh*

They continued on their way to the Red Light District: they turned right at the first canal and stood still for a moment to take in the view.

“Look, lads!” The bassist pointed to a house across the canal that had a patchy plexiglass display box attached to the façade, reading ‘Trippy Space Emporium’ in the sloppy typography that is so characteristic of the seedy side of the retail sector. 

“I swear I’ll become a Mormon if we can’t score dope there”, he grinned.

The drummer and percussionist sniggered in unison, but the lead guitarist pointed to the steel barbs that adorned the boots of the bass player and remarked: “Hlâz hlaah hlol hedlûh hlôhdûhz!” 

The other two started to guffaw loudly and the bassist stuck out a leather middle finger at them. Nonetheless, after a short stroll they found themselves in front of the Space Emporium. The windows were blackened on the inside, so that the place resembled one of those lugubrious gyms where tracksuits with shaved necks are being taught the noble art of disabling subversive elements to the miffed rhythm of boom-clap music. 

“Whoa. Classy joint eh!”

Clanking and clattering, the Four-headed Electric Reinforced Iciness got up to the door, that turned out to be locked.

“Hey!” The drummer jerked at the door handle. “What the hell?”

“Hlôhleeh ehhel hlahn!”, the lead guitarist pointed to a sloppily mounted doorbell button. A note under it said “Members Only”.

“Aha.” The bassist tapped a long-drawn ‘shave-and-a-haircut’ tattoo on the doorbell that was sure to annoy the living daylights out of anyone within audible reach.

The Sonic Underworld Shatterers assumed the famous PR pose in which they were generally seen on album covers: legs apart, arms folded, head confidently raised and an arrogant, piercing look in their eyes.

Then suddenly, the door was thrown open and the characteristic, reverberating silence fell of someone who had been planning to burst into a tirade, but who had changed their mind at the last second.

The Frumiously Freakazoid Foursome did not move. They knew how remarkably effective it could be to stare at someone for a minute in silence.

Finally the doorman said: “Well, have you …” He turned around and shouted: “Harry! Hey! Harry!

And, to the posing Lugubrious Musicians: “Please don’t leave gents, excuse me for a second …”

After he had withdrawn in the door opening like a disturbed barnacle, the lead guitarist whispered softly “hleyhv hlaah, hlied ahlhâw dhleh.”

Behind them a stag party was waltzing by. 

“Hey *hips* look *hiccup* *bhoohwÂrftt* …. now!”, one of its constituents remarked, pointing with a trembling finger at the Chilling Quadruplet standing there on the sidewalk before the open door.

“That’s … *bhÔrft* terribly sorry, Fritz … that *hiccup* that … oh yeah ….”

“Sheesh! What … what’s the twaddle about, Jan-jeuris?”

*BhrâÂaaaaps*

“Well sheesh *hiccup* that … band! Y-you know.” *ha-brôps*

“Whuh. What. *Brâps* *Bhorft* Aw, Christ!” *Bbrôps*

Meanwhile, the doorman had returned and beckoned Lucifer’s Lugubrious Houseband inside. They relaxed their PR-pose and clattered through the doorway, while their host held the door opened for them with a grin on his face that would have made the milk instantaneously sour.

Once inside they were received by a mustachioed gentleman with bad teeth and sunglasses. “Welcome … welcome! What a most … charming coincidence! Would you believe that our guests were talking about you not even fifteen minutes ago?”

He gestured furiously at the doorman who was stealthily taking pictures. “Go make that call!” He hissed at the man.

And, returning to the Advocates of Sinister Musicianship, he immediately switched back to the broadest possible grin. “Hahaha, ah, personnel …” He made a dismissing gesture. “You undoubtedly know what it’s like.”

“What about that Space tripping?”, the bass player asked, being cautioned by their earlier setback.

He clapped his hands together. “Oh! That is daily fare for everyone here!”

“… also for the customers?”, the bass player inquired.

“Oh, only for the customers, evidently! We – “, he pointed at himself, “… we only fulfil a supporting role and this requires us to keep the ol’ legs … ” he lifted a foot and pointed at it, in case it was perhaps not entirely clear, ” … firmly on the floor!”

He stomped his foot on the carpet, producing a small cloud of dust.

“But let us abandon this idle banter,” the man continued, “if you gents would be so good to follow me to our recreation room?”

He pushed a red curtain aside, revealing a short corridor that lead to a larger room, and gestured to the foursome to follow him.

The bass player, always the most flexible of the troupe, followed the man, rubbing his hands. In the corridor the man turned back and whispered, a finger to his lips: “Wait here for a second! I am going to announce you to our visitors!”

“Oh, never mi-“, the bass player started, but the man had already slipped through the curtain. And then, he noticed a peculiar sound: short beeps, interspersed with tinny voices … it sounded familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it yet.

“You guys hear that, too?”, he asked, turning around.

“Hlêhd hwlâwld whlôld wheluiwld?”

*snôrrt*

*rrâch* *spit* *bah*

A deep frown appeared on his brow. What the hell was that beeping again? He couldn’t stand it, so he walked forward and pushed the curtain aside. He thrust his spookily-painted countenance through the opening and blinked.

The space was lit by black-light lamps only, so that it took a while for his eyesight to adjust to the brilliantly fluorescenting light-blue and purple-tinted shapes against the jet-black background of velvet curtains. Hundreds of plastic “glow-in-the-dark” stars, stylised comets and planets adorned the ceiling, and when the large bright blobs had swam into focus he realised that he was looking at people dressed in spotless white NASA space suits. There were at least ten of them! Some had a funnel stuck in the top of their helmets; and in one of them a waiter was currently pouring a bottle of Southern Comfort. It sounded like a draining wash basin. 

Others had a large reefer stuck in the hole on top of their helmets, occasionally glowing up bright red, adding a welcome contrast to all the blue and violet hues around it.

The room was filled with a continuous murmuring of radio voices, interspersed with beeps:

‘Roger that Houston {BEEP} everything A-OK here, I repeat: everything A-OK {BEEP}’

Gamma Tango Zulu Three Two Three {BEEP} chchcht Hello Expeditionary Group, Hello Expeditionary Group, this is Houston base calling, please answer CHCHT {BEEP} Yes, hello Houston, gamma tango Zulu three two three is temporarily offline but everything under control … I can record the message if necessary CHCHCHT {BEEP}’

‘{BEEP} Far out, man, fààààr out … grooooovy, baby! … {BEEP} chchct What was that, Delta Omega Seven Three, over? chcht {BEEP} Oh, nothing, Houston … I merely admired the view … you know, stars, and that sort of thing… {BEEP}’

‘{BIP-BEEEEEEEP} Hello Houston, hello Houston, confirm please, we have some generic data for you {BEEP}’

The bassist was vaguely aware of his three comrades-in-musical brutalization behind him, muttering impatiently and poked him in his back – as far as the polyester armor allowed.

He turned and shouted “Hey! Let’s get out of here … this isn’t for us!”

He tried to shoo the others back and away, but they didn’t pick up the hint.

‘Hey! Get a-moving, thick-stringed stick-in-the-mud!” 

The drummer worked himself past him, barely avoiding for their mutual spikes to become interlocked like Velcro, and the other two followed. The bass player sighed and rolled his eyes demonstratively while he heard his Frightening Brethren gasp as they recognised their company*:

“GASP!”

(* see all previous Kifffarces)

The astronauts had turned to look at the members of The Rock Music-playing Platonic Bogeyman-Ideal – though it was hard to tell for certain. The mirror-coated glass fronts of their space helmets were at least all turned towards them. The be-sun-spectacled manager of the Space Emporium who evidently had introduced them to the audience, wore the long drawn-out grin of a circus director who had just announced Bozo the Clown in an act involving pouring buckets of whitewash down someone’s trousers.

Time seemed to flow like maple syrup, punctured by the occasional reefer on top of a helmet lighting up like a beacon light, or a bubbling noise escaped from a funnel. The surreal scene had a perplexing effect on the Touring Turbo-Diabolical Artists, so that it took the Freak-a-Boo-Half-Octet some effort to regain their theatrical reflexes.

“As I said to our valued clientele,” they heard the manager say in a well-oiled tone, “… it is a great privilege to announce the unexpected visit of one of the Greatest Gardenerrock-Acts of All Times!”

“Huh!?! Garde-what-rock ??! What the ef-” 

The lead guitarist quickly slapped a leather hand across the drummer’s mouth, the most up-and-coming of the four, while a plump-sounding applause from insulated teflon-space gloves was heard, interspersed with the occasional CB radio beep.

One of the reefers wobbled and fell to the ground, but a waiter quickly rushed to the accident scene, picked up the fun-cigarette and stuck it back into the helmet.

“Hlahl hlôl hlobhlôl blôl!” The lead guitarist scolded the drummer. He was right: “the show must go on” – always and everywhere.

“Our guests have all”, the manager continued, “been attending your Concert last night, and we were sitting here quietly reminiscing, enjoying a drink and a smoke, when the bell rang. “Who can that be?”, we said to one another … did we not, gentlemen?”

He turned towards the astronauts, who nodded in agreement.

“You see, our customer base consists almost exclusively of NASA employees, apart from the occasional Russian cosmonaut. And they all land on the roof, of course. The front door is only used by the staff – who in their right mind would be so daft to try and enter a Space Emporium on street level? Am I right, or am I right?” He rubbed his hands surreptitiously, like a second-hand car dealer approaching the sucker he’s going to sell the Lemon of the month to.

‘Okay …’, said the bass player, his mind back on track “… but, why not just go to ‘Werner’s Sloshing-Pit” or ‘The Galloping Geek’ in Cape Carnival … Carnaveral … or whatever the place is called these days? Why Amsterdam, of all places ?”

“Sir!” The smooth-talking entrepreneur put his hand to his chest. “Let’s not call one another ‘Didier’ shall we … spoken between men-of-the-world … and cértainly as Horticulturally Educated Gardenerrockers, I can safely assume that surely you know where Archibald the Wooden-Shoe-Wanderer gets his greens..? ‘

He grinned and wobbled knowingly with his eyebrows, while the bass player feverishly tried to unravel the meaning of that last sentence. Eventually he decided that the way the man had pronounced the word “greens” was a good-enough hint.

He gestured “It’s OK” – fist closed, index finger and pinkie stretched, to his Fellow Skull-and-Bones-Rockers, who were still in the process of emerging from their bewildered state.

“Hah! Say-no-more! But still … Amsterdam, I mean, that’s not exactly next door, right?”

“Ohhh, but not in those snazzy little Space-Shuttles and Moon-landers! You can hop right over in just fifteen minutes I’m told; at least – “

“Hlâbl hliehlh hlôblo blol!!”, the lead guitarist interrupted his discourse.

“Er, excuse me?”

“What he means to say, is that you were referring to “greens” a minute ago … we wouldn’t half mind to go ‘Popeye’ ourselves, if you catch my drift!”

“Ho-Ho-Ho hôh-ho …!” the man laughed in a display of shocked mock incredulity, “well, we’ll undoubtedly be able to arrange …” he paused for effect and raised his eyebrows “… sómething cough …”

“Hlahld ùhh eyhluhl”, the lead guitarist snapped contemptuously.

He’s saying “Ah, that would be great”, the bassist lied. He noticed that the manager had been getting increasingly nervous, casting glances at the entrance every few seconds.

Suddenly the man slapped himself audibly on the forehead: “But – what an absolutely dreadful host I am ! Come this way!” he directed the Mephistotelian Musical Monster League towards an empty table.

“Please, do take a seat! Here, this table is just perfect for you … oh! Just a moment …”

He quickly picked an imaginary speck of dust from a chair and gestured his guests to sit down. 

‘Let’s start with a drink to wash the dust of the city away! What can I get for you?”

‘Hrlghâsh lblâbl hloohl’, the lead guitarist grumbled as he lowered his frame into the chair to the sound of creaking polyester armour.

“It’s not my business, I know …” the manager whispered in the bass player’s ear, “but would a visit to a speech therapist be a really mad suggestion?”

“Useless,” the bassist answered from the corner of his mouth. “He has had his tongue extended to 30 centimeter, you see.”

“Ehhhhh? Thir-TY … centimeter? But … why?”

The bass player shrugged. “Image. Showbizz, you know. Image is everything. Put him in for a Bloody Throatmangler with a straw, and give him there a triple whiskey and an aspirin. The drummer only drinks buttermilk with a teaspoon of salt. And three beers for me.”

He snapped his fingers. “Waiter! Take order!”

At that moment, the doorman emerged through the curtain. “Hey Harry! Done! I’ve found those guys, complete with camera- “

“Aaaaahhh!”, The manager interrupted, hurrying to meet him. He manoeuvred the doorman back through the curtain and together they disappeared to the foyer.

“What a strange dude!”, the bass player said.

‘Uhmhlâhw hwlôhlie hwlôlblôl’.

*snurrrftt* *snuff*

*Grar* *spit* *bah*

‘Your drinks, gentlemen …’ the waiter put a couple of glasses and a salt shaker on the table with knife-edge efficiency honed by many years in the job.

The next minute only slurping and leathery squeaking was heard, against the background of radio traffic between the astronauts and Houston.

Suddenly they heard the manager’s unctuous voice again, as he entered through the curtain, followed by the doorman. He emplaced himself before the drinking Rhythmic Demon Summoners, clapping his hands together in the manner of a kindergarten teacher who wants to get the children in the right frame of mind for a brisk walk: “Gentlemen! … and of course I also mean our esteemed NASA- clientele … “

He nodded benevolently to the lounging spacemen.

“It turns out that our primary weed supplier has been experiencing certain … inconveniences …. but please, do no panic!” He lifted his hands in a theatrical-calming gesture.

“As an alternative that I’m sure you will even prefer once you’ve heard me out, we are offering you a free mini-cruise through our world-famous canals, during which we will visit our backup provider. We will therefore end our little tour in … high spirits!”

There was some unrest among the astronauts. One of them stood up with some difficulty, his reefer like a wobbly portside light on top of his helmet.

‘{BEEP} Eh … {COUGH COUGH} … what about us? I don’t just yet see how we can manage something like that {BEEP} CHCHT Omega Beta Six-One … stand-by, I repeat: stand-by chchcht {BEEP} ‘

“Everything has been thought of!”, the manager spoke glibly, as he opened the curtain. A couple of bored-looking, lanky adolescents with expensive-looking equipment hanging from their shoulders and necks came walking in, each pushing a wheelbarrow. They parked their wheelbarrow each next to an astronaut and helped them to get into their improvised wheel-chairs.

“Ah! Would you perhaps be so good to each take care of one astronaut? There are more wheelbarrows in the hall …” The manager beckoned the Berserking Beëlzebuddies to follow him.

“It would be such a shame to have to leave them behind”, he said, as he gestured at the four bright green painted wheelbarrows. “They‘re the nicest guys you ever met: friendly, a good sense of humour, helpful, classy taste, well-read, educated, and they’re true gentlemen: I’ve never even heard them raise their voice, ever! And good money to spend, too! The caterer’s delight, I sometimes call them affectionately. Would you believe that Buzz Aldrin himself was here a few years ago?”

He babbled on continuously to not let any awkward silence fall through which the Inferno’s Instrumentalist’s involvement could escape.

“Moreover, those wheelbarrows are just your style, right? We take the decline, so turn left in the hall.”

To their own amazement, the four Monoliths Of Abundant Fear obeyed without protesting and they each escorted an astronaut to take a seat in a wheelbarrow.

And so, a few minutes later, one could witness a spectacle on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal that could only take place in Amsterdam without hitting the headlines in the national news: a procession of gawks and demons, pushing wheelbarrows with astronauts in white spacesuits, several of them with a reefer inserted in a hole on top of their helmet.

After one hundred meters the procession halted and, manoeuvring carefully, they boarded a flat barge via a gangway. Several other people were already there, busily setting up a podium, arranging chairs and the like. A man in a black suit resembling Sjef van Oekel could be seen trying to orchestrate the operation, gesticulating energetically.

The astronauts were unloaded and seated in chairs around the stage and someone seemed to be pouring something from a bottle in the top of the helmet of a few of him.

While the astronauts were all seated and provided with refreshments, the four demonical  figures could be seen standing defiantly on the podium wide-legged and arms akimbo, while the posture of the gesticulating man in the black suit, who was supposedly trying to talk them over, suggested that he had chosen a slightly sycophantic strategy.

“Come on, then do it just for them …!” he said. “They are all such loyal fans of yours at NASA!”

*Grar*

“Hlâh hlewweh hle hlewhlehld hlôl! Blôl!”

“Yes, we noticed … several times”, the bassist translated. “Every now and then we run into one of the gentlemen. But unplugged is not really our thing, you know. And besides, today’s our day off.”

But the manager of the Trippy Space Emporium did not give up that easily. He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his nose so that he could peek over it, leaned conspiratorially toward the bass player and quickly glanced around him. Then he opened his jacket quickly, so that the reluctant Blasphemous Brethren of the Screeching Skull beheld the ample plastic bag full of AAA+ premium doped weed that was pinned there.

“That is for you, if you play three songs for us while we’re sailing”, he hissed, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

The members of the Quadraphonic Megaphone of Doom looked at one another.

“Hlôl blôl”, the lead guitarist judged eventually.

“Sir?”

‘We agree. Three songs for that bag.”

“Splendid! Splendid!” the manager wisely suppressed the urge to slap the Devil’s Troubadours on the back in a gesture of amicable approval after a glance at those steel spikes.

He clapped his hands. ‘Come on! Action!

A few people ran back up the quay and quickly returned with props like a tiny drum kit, garden tools, a dozen garden gnomes, and a few wheelbarrows full of soil. In no time, they had decorated the stage in a rustic Hank-the-Helpful-Horticulturalist style. Someone else put big straw hats on the helmets of the astronauts, and those lanky men were busy folding out tripods and clicking cameras on top of them.

“Hlâhl whlôhlee blâh?” The lead guitarist pointed ominously at the camera crew. 

“Oh, that’s nothing … nothing!“, the manager intervened, smooth as an eel. “These are my … nephews, they are making a home video to show to their … disabled great-aunt … yes! She’s such a darling. Oh, just a moment … “

He answered his phone. “Yes, speaking … I see, great, well done, but I’ll also need a couple of Leonora-the-Learned-Landscape-Artists, or I’ll have the gender neutrality squad on my doorstep first thing in the morning … you know what it’s like these days … yes, make it snappy… we’re sailing in five minutes!”

“Ah, personnel …” he said, winking impishly at the bassist. “You know what it’s like. But why don’t you take a seat and have another drink?” He gestured invitingly to the podium and snapped his fingers for the waiter.

The stage was already set up for them. The drummer climbed behind his kit, but the other three looked bewildered at the strange contraptions that they were supposed to be playing: bright green guitars shaped like lawn-rakes and a baby-pink bass guitar that looked like a spade. With faces dripping with disgust, both guitarists reluctantly picked up what were supposedly their instruments, but the bass player laughed and pretended to be digging a hole with his instrument.

The lanky camera crewmen watched the proceedings from within a thick cloud of condescending boredom. It was now clearly visible that their equipment had ‘SBS’ written all over it in large white letters, but fortunately, the meaning was eluding the four Nightmare Soundtrack Interpreters.

The manager handed them a piece of paper. “This is what I had in mind for the setlist!”

And before anyone could comment, he turned around to welcome some newly arrived guests: a flock of steadily chewing-gum-chewing local ladies dressed in dungarees and straw hats were boarding the barge, giggling nervously as they balanced on the narrow gangway.

‘Welcome! Welcome!” Fussy and smooth, the man darted like a large black honeybee over a shrub profuse with flowers. He directed everyone to his or her place and made sure that their glasses were kept filled to minimise the incentive to cause complications.

Meanwhile, the Hell’s House Band stared at the setlist that contained, as they had feared, songs taken from the repertoire of Hark Cloggo & The Clodboys: “Digging a dunkin ‘pond”; “Listless Lawns & Pretty Petunias” and, of course, “Sixteen Tons”.

And then the barge rocked and began to sail. The astronauts were of course used to a lot more than this more and also had their built-in gyroscopes to stabilise them, but the rest of the passengers quickly took hold of something to not to fall over, and there were some suppressed shrieks and giggles. One of the cameras almost tumbled overboard but the responsible churl caught it just in time, prompting a disproportionate amount of Beavis-and-Butthead sniggering and jeering from his colleagues.

The drummer growled and tried to play a fast break. There was a sound as if he was opening a pair of tupperware trays:

trrap tappadap tap tok PLOK dappadap tap trrrarapadap

“Hell’s tar pit!” he cried, and he stared at his drumsticks, took one between his teeth and bit in it.

“Barfing Boy Scouts! They’re made from rubber!”

‘Hjlâl hoowlee wâh’, the lead guitarist spluttered, his tongue writhing, trying to elicit a screaming riff from his lawn rake.

There sounded an Assurancetourix-like twing katongg k-kkringg

Preungg tonc twârpp, the bass player’s spade produced. He held the instrument at an arm’s length and leered at it.

“Come on! We’re doing it for the dope, remember!”

“Lhoolhâl wlâl hlôl blôl!”

*grâr* *sssnÔrrrt* *snurft-thpât*

*spit* *bah*

“Hey!” The bassist shouted to the manager of the spaceman-relax-institute, who was busy working out the optimal seating arrangement of chewing-gum ladies and astronauts “We’re all set!”

“Oh … that’s wonderful … wonderful!” He grinned like a shark on his way to a cocktail party as he threaded his way between tables and astronauts. He gestured to the camera crew: “You guys ready?”

There sounded the condescending sniffing that remains after every trace of involvement has been removed from a confirmation.

“Go ahead!”, the manager clapped put hands together as he sat down, beaming with anticipation.

The lead guitarist, wide-legged, raised his solo lawn rake menacingly: twaiiÏÏNnggg

plokka-clap tagada ploc  padaclop-clap, the drummer produced, his eyes rolling in embarrassment.

KRIIEEEENGGG sounded the rhythm-lawn-rake as the guitarist played ‘windmill-style’, his outstretched arm mowing around full-circle: KRIEEENG KRIEENG KRRRIIEEENG krieng krienggg

*snOrtt* *grgg* *râhh*

tonk toonka TANGG toongg toonggg

ONE TWO THREE FOUR

tragadap trrabadap padAp padAp kaplokkedeeplok-plok-plok

The lead guitarist twisted his tongue like a furious rattlesnake and the four Fell Fear Projectors, with grunting death growl, launched into what might very well be the first and the last unplugged death-metal rendition of “The Rake’s Progress” ever:

“Ah-well-ah- *grÂhrr* ah-well …”

“You can be diggin ‘holes… ”

TWAINGG

“an’ shovellin’ earth …”

KRIENGG KRRIIENGA-KRRIIEENG

“But the rakin’s dah best *grArr* of them ah-hall … “

KRRIENGG twangg KRIENGG

tragadap trrabadap padap padap bAppa top bap tap tappadap tapa tap tap tap

KRIENGG KRRIIENGA-KRRIIEENG

*screech*

“An’ when da day *grâr* gone…” 

twènk ploinca-plingg twangg

“Without da rakin’z *grunt* done…”

“It ah-ain’t-ah half as sweet …”

tappadap-tappadap-tappadap tap tap tap

“For any-o-one!”

*SCREEECH!!* *growl* *GRARRR*

On that very moment, the barge entered under the bridge at the Grimburgwal, so that the “unplugged” blast-beat reverberated in an unexpected satisfactory manner after all, accompanied as it was by a Basso Continuo of NASA intercom-beeps and squelch sounds:

dikkadikkaDIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKAdikkadikka

{BEEP} chcht {BEEP} {BEEP} {CHCHT}

*grÄHRRrr* KRIENGG plonka-plonka-plieng

The astronauts, familiar as they were with the repertoire of Hark Cloggo & the Clodboys, were waving and nodding along with the song, to the extent to which their spacesuits allowed for. But now that they heard the chorus coming, some of them stood up, the funnels and reefers on top of their helmets wobbling, and struck a pose as if they were raking their garden; and when the chorus came they air-raked enthusiastically to the rhythm of the chorus while the Amsterdam canal houses reflected ironically in their helmets.

“So that’s-a-whah-ah-we’ll … “ toiïnk-sproink

“Rake rake *GRHRR*ake yer booties off!”

“We’ll rake ya *GRRUNT* night lo-honggg …” *SNORT*

“We’ll rake-rake” *SCREECH* “dah countryside …”

“‘Till the walls come a-tumb-bah-lin doh-hown …!” *gggrraaÂHRrrrr!!*

{BEEP}

Dikkadikadikkadikkadikkadikkadikka

*grÄHRRrr* KRRIEENGG kaplonggg twiânggg

Tragadap trrabadap pada-da tap TAP TAP plok

KKRIEEENGGG

{BEEP} chcht {BEEP} {BEEP} chchct ‘Tango Zulu, Tango Zulu, everything A-OK with your gyroscope? Please reply chcht {BEEP}

There was an unexpected applause and yelling from the shore. Apparently the spectacle had crossed some sort of attention-drawing threshold in terms of sheer unusualness, and the unplugged performance of Satan’s Oracles and their high-tech entourage now suddenly attracted the attention of the local populace.

The Faustian Ambassador Quadruplet reflexively jumped in their Infamous-Intimidating PR pose, leering haughtily at the photographing rabble on the Rokin.

However, the SBS camera crew was duly unimpressed. They had been sniggering  in Beavis and Butthead-fashion most of the time, because these terminally pampered urban nincompoops naturally gyrated towards a lanky, narrow-minded and condescending disposition; an attitude to life that could only be combined with what is commonly known as “arrenbee-music”. They were now neighing and simpering, imitating the Soul-Sinking Sonic Scourges, using tripods and microphone rods as pretended instruments.

It didn’t go down all that well with the four Sphinxes of Fate. They bent their piercing glances under ominous creaking of polyester and leather towards them, and after a brief exchange of looks among themselves they clattered from the stage and grabbed the SBS employees by the scruff of the neck. 

The owner of the Trippy Space Emporium tried to intervene with a “But please! Let’s solve this like gentlemen! Please! -“ but he was cut short by the splashes with which equipment bags, cameras, accessories and personnel joined the ducks and the bobbing stag parties.

An icy silence fell.

Then, a hesitant but approving applause from the shore was heard. The manager however, watched in despair with wringing hands, as the equipment sank to the unfathomable depths of the Rokin taking the registration of a unique unplugged performance of “Hark Cloggo” with it.

The camera crew itself was assimilated by one of the passing stag parties, so that the SBS lank bags’ cries for help were gradually lost in the bowdy hollering and the unsavory biological sounds.

The doorman who was piloting the vessel headed to a jetty at the Oude Turfmarkt on the other side to avoid the crowd that had formed on the Rokin. The four Brain-Freezing Heralds of Dread, who had reflexively jumped back into their PR-pose during the applause, decided that ‘too much is enough’ and got ready to disembark. The bass player tapped the failed music mogul on the shoulder, who was still staring over the water contemplating what might have been.

“Pay up.”

He turned towards the bass player, who held out a leather-gloved hand in a collecting gesture. Slowly he unpinned the plastic bag from his jacket lining and handed it over, because he wasn’t too keen on joining one of those stag parties.

The bass player turned around, and with a jerk of his head he beckoned his Brothers-in-Diabolical-Showbizz to follow, and together they left, stomping and rattling over the gangway, but not after they had quickly snatched the reefers out of the space helmets to have a quick smoke for ‘on the road’.

Puffing and grunting like a cyber-punk steam engine from a Mad-Max movie, they disappeared into an alley, followed by a string of chewing gum-chewing ladies, who had concluded that while it wasn’t exactly their cup of tea either, these guys were  in any case a lot more exciting than those astronauts.

The manager stood motionless on the rocking deck barge and oversaw the astronauts, some still adorned with straw hats, who had gone back to the usual business of exchanging technicalities with Houston.

He sighed, while he pondered what his video might have led to – tv shows with unplugged Metal, opening up a whole new market for this specialised music genre … it could have been his lifetime chance. 

Our inner eye now slowly zooms out, while in the background the Adagio Lamentoso from Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony softly plays.

A dry, nasal voice-over comments: “… and thus, dear readers, we see how vain all our efforts are! Occasionally, as with the Manager of the Trippy Space Emporium, a carrot is dangled in front of our nose, only to be snatched away again as we reach for it. Wouldn’t it be much better if we were to limit ourselves to stories in which everything is doom and gloom, just like in reality? For instance, take “the Throne game” or “the Wandering Dead” and the like, that render such a fine impression of life’s cold reality. I would also like to-“

===========================

%%%%% £ $ CHCHCHT {BEEP} chchcht

Five – 4 – Three – 2 – 1 {BEEP}

The image of the Amsterdam canal flickers and distorts, and is then replaced with an astronaut who, despite the mirroring glass of his helmet, manages to make a spry and cheerful impression.

CHCHT Good afternoon {BEEP}’,

his voice sounds tinny over the comm radio.

‘We from NTV – NASA Music Television – have the pleasure to present a real scoop: an Unplugged version of “The Rake’s Progress” by none other than … Hark Cloggo & the Clodboys! – live from the canals of Amsterdam! {BEEP} ‘

He leans back, visibly satisfied in the realisation of a job well done.

‘{BEEP} chcht This recording has just been assembled from the live video and audio feeds from the employees of our field staff. (BEEP) .. for an optimal viewing and listening experience we recommend to set up your headphones with the volume full open {BEEP} chcht thanks Houston, over chchcht

We see Hark Cloggo standing wide-legged. He raises his guitar, shaped like a lawn rake, and plucks a string. It sounds like twaiiÏÏNnggg

plokka-clap tagada ploc  padaclop-clap, the drummer produces, his eyes rolling.

KRIIEEEENGGG sounds the unplugged rhythm-guitar – also styled as if it were a garden implement – as the guitarist plays ‘windmill-style’, his outstretched arm mowing around full-circle: KRIEEENG KRIEENG KRRRIIEEENG krieng krienggg

*snOrtt* *grgg* *râhh*

tonk toonka TANGG toongg toonggg

ONE TWO THREE FOUR

tragadap trrabadap padAp padAp kaplokkedeeplok-plok-plok

The lead guitarist twists his tongue like a furious rattlesnake and the four Fell Fear Projectors, with grunting death growl, launch into what might very well be the first and the last unplugged death-metal rendition of “The Rake’s Progress” ever:

“Ah-well-ah- *grÂhrr* ah-well …”

“You can be diggin ‘holes… ”

TWAINGG

“an’ shovellin’ earth …”

KRIENGG KRRIIENGA-KRRIIEENG

“But the rakin’s dah best *grArr* of them ah-hall … “

KRRIENGG twangg KRIENGG

tragadap trrabadap padap padap bAppa top bap tap tappadap tapa tap tap tap

KRIENGG KRRIIENGA-KRRIIEENG

*screech*

“An’ when da day *grâr* gone…” 

twènk ploinca-plingg twangg

“Without da rakin’z *grunt* done…”

“It ah-ain’t-ah half as sweet …”

tappadap-tappadap-tappadap tap tap tap

“For any-o-one!”

*SCREEECH!!* *growl* *GRARRR*

At that very moment their barge enters under the bridge at the Grimburgwal, so that the “unplugged” blast-beat reverberates in an unexpected satisfactory manner after all, accompanied as it is by a Basso Continuo of NASA intercom-beeps and squelch sounds:

dikkadikkaDIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKADIKKAdikkadikka

{BEEP} chcht {BEEP} {BEEP} {CHCHT}

*grÄHRRrr* KRIENGG plonka-plonka-plieng

The astronauts in the audience, familiar as they are with the repertoire of Hark Cloggo & the Clodboys, are waving and nodding along with the song, to the extent to which their spacesuits allow for. But now that they hear the chorus coming, some of them stand up, the funnels and reefers on top of their helmets wobbling, and strike a pose as if they are raking their garden; and when the chorus comes they air-rake enthusiastically to the rhythm of the chorus while the Amsterdam canal houses reflect ironically in their helmets.

“So that’s-a-whah-ah-we’ll … “ toiïnk-sproink

“Rake rake *GRHRR*ake yer booties off!”

“We’ll rake ya *GRRUNT* night lo-honggg …” *SNORT*

“We’ll rake-rake” *SCREECH* “dah countryside …”

“‘Till the walls come a-tumb-bah-lin doh-hown …!” *gggrraaÂHRrrrr!!*

{BEEP}

Dikkadikadikkadikkadikkadikkadikka

*grÄHRRrr* KRRIEENGG kaplonggg twiânggg

Tragadap trrabadap pada-da tap TAP TAP plok

KKRIEEENGGG

‘{BEEP} Roll the credits! chchcht {BEEP}’

You have been watching

HARK CLOGGO UNPLUGGED ON A BOAT IN AMSTERDAM

produced by

NASA MUSIC TELEVISION

in association with

TRIPPY SPACE EMPORIUM AMSTERDAM

The end

{BEEP}