The Toad’s Scrotum
(first appeared at booksandpals.blogspot.com on 6/27/2013 and in the anthology Alternate Hilarities)
Just because you’ve never gone back in time, don’t assume that’s true for everybody. I realize that there are certain laws of physics that seem to indicate that it’s impossible but you have to remember that this is the first and only time you’ll be taking this ride through reality so to presuppose that the rules are the same for everyone is a bit shortsighted.
Now before you get all in a twist, just know that the only person that goes back in time in this story is Gary and it’s ok because there is no danger that he will upset the time/space continuum … or whatever it is that everybody seems to worry about in situations involving time travel and the dangers thereof. There is no such thing.
It’s like saying there are things you can’t do near a black hole. We simply have no idea what that list would be.
Let me tell you a few essentials about Gary.
When Gary went back in time when he was 38. The year he left was 1998. The year he arrived at was 1980.
Gary was a failed musician. In 1998 anyway. He was the lead singer of a band called The Toad’s Scrotum. I doubt you ever heard of them. They got together in 1980 with the intention of taking the world by storm playing New Wave music. They had electronic drums and the kind of keyboards that you played like a guitar and enough hair gel to allow a man to slide from New York to Los Angeles without stopping if he got a good running start. They released their own album in the fall of ’84 entitled Perpetual Emotion Machine with a picture of the five members dressed in assorted tight pants and skinny ties. To support the release they toured a few neighboring states and rented a smoke machine and enough strobe lights to make a choking horse look cool.
In ’86 they opened for The Motels and Adam Ant. In ’87 they got opening gigs with Flock of Seagulls, Falco and Kajagoogoo. It was a good year. Near the end of it they released another album with the unfortunate title of Going Into Nobody’s Business For Ourselves.
In ’88 the drummer left and was replaced. In ’89 the guitarist left. In ’90 the drummer that replaced the first drummer left along with the bass player. ’91 saw everyone who had replaced the original members depart except for the keyboard player who died suddenly of an allergic reaction.
The Toad’s Scrotum played on. Gary would not quit. While musical tastes changed the Scrotum sound did not. Every night was 1980.
And then it was 1980.
In order to keep things moving allow me to mention that Gary went to bed every night from about 1995 onward wishing that he would wake up and be back in 1980. That’s not to say that he willed himself back in time or that there is magic somehow involved in this tale, only that it bears mentioning. He had imagined it at least a thousand times and in each of these imaginings he saw his band climbing to the top of the charts playing the greatest New Wave hits one after another.
When he awoke in 1980 and realized that he no longer had a receding hairline and a mortgage that was under water he almost fainted. Once the initial shock wore off he went straight to work.
He got the band together and they spent a couple weeks learning a whole new set list. The other band members had no idea what was going on. They just thought Gary had a crazy burst of inspiration. Like everyone on the planet in 1980 they had never heard this new bunch of material but they sensed a certain excitement in their lead singer as he booked their next gig.
Finally the night arrived to unleash these songs on the world. And by the world I mean a dance club called The Melody down by the interstate. It held 100 and was always filled to the rafters with kids with spiky hair and torn jeans.
The opening riff of I Ran (So Far Away) began to pump out of the speakers. The spotlight hit Gary. I Ran (So Far Away) was now a The Toad’s Scrotum song.
The song ended with polite applause.
Love My Way came next followed quickly by Blue Monday. If it were possible for someone to die of joy then Gary would have expired then and there. His smoke machine belched forth and his strobe lights began to work their collective asses off.
It was only after a spot-on rendition of It’s My Life that Gary realized that people weren’t going crazy. They were listening and talking and clapping and drinking but no more or less than when he was playing his own material.
“Are you out of your god damn minds?” he asked them. “This shit is awesome. Don’t you hear what we’re playing here?”
Even his own band mates thought this was a bit arrogant of him.
He thought to himself he’d better turn it up a notch.
“This one is called Relax,” he said and waited for the great swelling of applause that never came.
He played the extended dance mix. Of course, as it was the first time it had ever been played nobody knew that and thought of it only as the way Relax was supposed to sound.
The song ended to a smattering of hands banging together and beer bottles rattling.
“Are you shitting me?!” Gary asked a little too pointedly. “That was Relax!”
At least a couple hundred eyes looked at him with a little confusion and at least a couple of those couple hundred wondered when they were going to play a Toad’s Scrotum song they knew.
“Listen. These are great songs,” he continued, trying to have some patience with the crowd. He took a deep breath.
“Ok. Brace yourselves. I’m pulling out the big guns.”
And with that The Toad’s Scrotum launched into a version of You Spin Me ‘Round (Like A Record) that would have had Dead or Alive bouncing their heads up and down in appreciation.
In his head Gary had already thought about what he was going to do for all the bands whose songs he was going to steal. How he was going to make it up to them.
He needn’t have worried.
One of things that have not been brought up so far is the fact that Gary had a crushing lack of charisma as a lead singer. He’d never been a bad songwriter, he’d always been a bad frontman.
This point would have been hammered home had there been anyone watching the show from 1998 but, alas, there wasn’t. TTS ended up playing She Blinded Me With Science, Cars, Goody Two Shoes and Turning Japanese before ending the set with The Safety Dance. Despite spending an inordinate amount of the song forming the letter S Gary was unable to get anyone else in the crowd to follow suit.
“That went well,” noted one of the other Scrotum members in the makeshift backstage area after it was over.
Gary just glared at him.
“Maybe we should have played some of our old stuff,” suggested another band member.
“Yeah,” agreed the first, “We should have ended with Perpetual Emotion Machine.”
This might be a bad time to mention it but Gary did in fact mess up the space/time continuum and by year’s end had killed the entire New Wave movement.
Thanks Gary. You dick.