Sometimes genius isn’t recognised the first time around. It took until the year 2035 for the world to appreciate the song-writing force that was Shakin’ Stevens. Since his reign in the rock and pop charts, music had become formulaic and contrived.
Media platforms were awash with algorithmic melodies, sung by artists using business-models to build their brands. But their offerings couldn’t stand up to the vibrant originality of ‘Green Door‘ or ‘This Ol’ House’. What’s more is that the public knew it and had grown cynical, leading to a dramatic fall in download sales and subscriptions. The music business was in an existential crisis and was desperate to sign up the next king of rock and roll.
Their experts analysed his work and tried to unpick what it was about his songs that resonated so much with the public – what was Shaky’s secret? Assembling a crack-team of veteran songwriters (consisting of heavy-weights Ed Sheeran, Adele, Heather Small and the bloke from Coldplay), they were sent to a care home somewhere in leafy Kent to find out.
Shaky was bed-ridden. Having fallen between two bumper cars while holidaying in Weymouth, he had suffered a devastating brain injury. He was unable to walk, but the most debilitating thing of all for him was that he had lost the ability to speak. Fortunately, he was still able to manage the ‘leg tremble’ that he had become known for in his performances. Using the same technology that had enabled Stephen Hawking to send emails using just a twitch of his face muscles; through his leg movements Shaky was able to communicate his thoughts and have them displayed on a monitor by his bed. He had kept in touch with old friends this way and also written many poems. Word had it that he had been writing his autobiography.
Shaky was old-school. His room in the care home was simple and uncluttered. There were no platinum records on the wall or blown-up photos of him performing to sell-out stadiums. His only extravagance was a record player and a small collection of Elvis 45’s, which at his request would be spun by a buxom nurse who it had been said he’d once had a ‘thing’ with. She had adapted his hospital gown for him, adding to it collars – which he wore turned up at all times. His hair was still a natural jet-black. Shaky still had it.
The team from the music label arrived to the punchy intro of Jailhouse Rock. Shaky welcomed them with a smile, but they could sense that he had little time for the corporate music business. Combining their creative minds, they used a plethora of tactics to prise the secret of his success from him – including trying to soften him up with gifts of nostalgic 80’s confectionary. But despite his love of Lemon Sherbets the king remained tight-lipped. Then one day they were refused any further visits after Sheeran went a step too far; offending him by dying his hair black – Shaky could spot a fraud.
Over the year that followed, pressure grew for him to reveal his secret. Press camped outside the care home and there were endless visiting requests made from musicians and record company representatives, all of which he turned down. One morning he took a turn for the worse. The prognosis was that he wouldn’t see the day out and he was to make an announcement.
The corridors flooded with news teams, clambering over each other to get into his room. The footage was to be streamed on every TV news channel and online media platform. What he was about to announce had the potential to inspire and unleash a generation of musicians onto a world hungry for a new cultural icon. The nurse propped him up on the bed and with her fingers, swept back his fallen quiff, before planting a soft kiss on his forehead. His legs began to twitch, and the world watched as one-by-one the letters appeared on the screen…
’You’ve got to do the soul work’
Then he blinked a slow blink before looking directly at one of the cameras, and with his lip curled and caked in dry white spittle, he shook his legs one last time, typing ‘I ain’t gonna need this house no longer’. He was gone. The king was dead.
The search was on for this ‘soul’ he spoke of, and an emergence of programmes such as Britain’s Got Soul and Soul Factor filled the TV listings. His lip curl was adopted by artists across all genres, from Hip Hop to Opera, and the word ‘Shakin’ became synonymous with anything deemed of high quality. Coldplay named their new album Soul Man in the hope of scooping up some of his fan base. Yet still Shaky’s authenticity cut through, his music still sounding relevant, making everything else appear dull and manufactured. Nothing had surpassed him. Shakin’ Stevens had pointed us in the right direction but had left us to do the leg-work, and all without compromising his gift. Now that’s integrity.
Banner Image – Pixabay.com
Image – Google images.