J.C. Hibbing Meets the Big Time
J.C. Hibbing, Queen of Northlands Folk, skipped up to Process Dawn Records strumming her guitar and whistling a tune-in-the-making titled “Love the Love and Live.” The long, auburn tresses bouncing up and down on her shoulders went suddenly still when she stopped before her destination (temple of musical destiny), looked up and took the sight in.
It was vaguely disappointing, honestly. Rather cold and businesslike. Indistinguishable from any of the other offices around. Process Dawn Records didn’t even have a sign, if you could believe that.
What else had she expected from the place that would produce her first album? She didn’t know, really. Something like a golden monolith bathed in flowers, probably.
She laughed at the thought and at herself. She didn’t mind being silly and naïve. Not for a little while, anyway. This was her time. Her day. Her first recording contract.
I mean, dig it, baby. Dig it.
The interior of Process Dawn Records was even less expected than the exterior and she thought she’d actually gone to the wrong place. It was dark inside and the receptionist desk was empty. Bizarre symbols and images of farm animals, barely visible in the darkness, lined the walls.
She almost turned right back around into the open air but noticed faint light down a long hall. The dim orange light of candles or some other kind of fire emanated from a doorway.
Jack Terry, son of dead movie star Tracy Terry, famed for his sexual exploits as much as for his musical ones (and those were famous indeed), emerged from the fire-lit room and bopped down the hall towards her.
“J.C., baby, you made it,” Terry said.
He was being nice and friendly but even in that there was the quick sweep of hungry eyes over the delectable young folk musician who’d just come into his office.
“Sure is dark in here,” the delectable musician said.
“We got to summon the right energies for art, baby.”
He led her back to the source of the candlelight emanations, which turned out to be the control room of a recording studio. Leaning against a wall inside, almost invisible in the shadows at first, was a man in a black suit.
His manner was loose and easy, but something about him made J.C. slightly uncomfortable. Horny, too. The guy had a strangely powerful presence that required no words at all.
The man flashed a smile.
“You’ve only got to catch one soul to make the whole long weaving worth your time.”
J.C. felt herself start to tremble a bit. Excitement or fear? She didn’t know.
“It’s a poem I wrote.”
“You’re a poet?”
“Among other things.”
Terry jokingly butted in. “Ol’ Jack Swan’s got his spooky fingers in all kinds of jars.”
J.C. laughed uncomfortably.
The man Terry called Jack Swan (and even in that moment, through her confusion, J.C. knew Jack Swan wasn’t his real name) just grinned. He stood up and crossed the floor to hand her a sheet of paper.
“Here’s the lyrics to the music we asked you to practice.”
“‘Hey There Dreamy Girl’? Yea, I’ve been practicing it. I’ve got it down good. Honestly though I wanted to talk to you about that. I’m more of a songwriter, not a cover artist. I don’t much like doing other people’s songs.”
“I know that, J.C., and the whole album will be absolutely chock full of your songs. But it will also have this one. This whole deal depends on that.”
“I know.” She’d agreed to do someone else’s song because she’d been so excited to cut her first record. She’d regretted it immediately after consenting and she regretted it now. “I’d just like you to check out my other songs, first.”
“We will. We have a long relationship ahead, my dear. But, this song right here,” he held up the lyrics sheet, “this one comes first. This is the one we absolutely have to get out there. It’s non-negotiable, love.” He flashed another killer smile. “And it’s non-negotiable love.”
J.C. had to think a moment to make sense of that last line but then she got it and laughed a little more nervously than she’d have liked to. Add wordplay to his talents, too. Oh, the power of a single comma to alter a sentence.
At some point in the conversation she’d entered a dreamlike mental state — almost hypnotized. This realization struck her as she realized that through their discussion the man that wasn’t really named Jack Swan had led her into the sound room and behind a microphone.
Even with the dim understanding that she was moving without conscious intent, she remained outside herself as she unslung her guitar and started tuning.
The man that wasn’t really named Jack Swan watched, grinning, from a few feet away.
J.C. set the lyrics sheet down on the stand before. The words were kind of dull. Cheesy, even. Until she reached the last line.
“Hey there, dreamy girl,” she read out loud, “watch waves of blood splash upon the golden shores.”
She looked up at Not-Swan in confusion.
“Strangely out of tune with the rest of the happy vibe, isn’t it?” Not-Swan asked.
“Yea. That’s straight Samhain stuff. I mean, Dylan gets kind of creepy with his lyrics sometimes, but not like this.”
Not-Swan walked to within a couple steps of J.C., folded his arms over his chest and tilted his head down to grin up at her. “Why do you think you’re here, J.C.?”
It seemed like a rhetorical question at first, but he actually waited for the answer.
J.C. didn’t know what to say.
“You’re talented. You’re naturally pretty and even sexy in a country girl kind of way. But there’s a whole lot of talented, country-girl-sexy women out there, J.C. Countless, in fact. We chose you because you’ve got the light. You’re not just in this for fame or the money. You believe. Belief has power. In fact, belief, amplified on airwaves, can change the world.”
J.C. felt herself completely absorbed in the way that Not-Swan said these things. There were all kinds of acid-freaks in Southern California saying that sort of stuff in burnt-out zombie tongues, but Not-Swan was this straight-laced guy speaking with absolute certainty about terms most squares would find woo-woo and goofy.
Everything about the man was terrifying and irresistibly fascinating.
“You think you’re awake, J.C., but that’s only because you’re one level more awake than the primates out there. If you really want to wake all the way up to the tippy top of the spiral staircase, I’ll take you there. More than fame, J.C. More than money. I can give you knowledge.”
J.C. felt herself swimming through reality and back into her head enough to ask, “You really think I can change the world?”
“I do, and it all starts with this song.” Not-Swan tapped the lyric sheet. “Just remember, no baby is ever born without some bloodshed. Blood is part of giving birth. Always has been. Always will be.”
Not-Swan turned and walked out of the sound room, closing the door behind him. Through the window between sound and control rooms, J.C. saw Terry at the mixing board, smiling.
“Ready to roll, baby,” Terry’s voice said through the intercom.
J.C. strummed her guitar. She was not longer thinking about doing her originals or doing someone else’s song. This whole scenario was like a strange dream, and she wondered at the mysterious, far-out world she was joining.
She’d felt possessed by muses before while onstage performing, and she felt that way now. More so. A powerful light blossomed inside her.
She’d do her other songs, too. They’d promised. First, though, there would be “Hey There Dreamy Girl.”
A message. A spell to transform the whole world.
J.C. opened her mouth and felt the music pour out.