Co-Editor In Chief
Brian Futter entered a new year of his life on a day as mysterious as it was festive.
The Catherine Wheel guitarist’s birthday party in Great Yarmouth came to a halt Thursday evening with the mysterious appearance of what singer Rob Dickinson could only describe as “a goblin.”
Needless to say, this wasn’t how Futter had hoped to entertain his CW friends.
“I’d hoped it would be an enjoyable celebration,” Futter said. “I think I’ve been known too long as the introverted, somewhat surly-tempered member of the bunch, and I was looking to change that. I was planning all sorts of exciting party activities… and for a while, things were really going well.”
The festivities began when bass player Ben Ellis arrived at the Futter residence cradling a seven-gallon jug of Kentucky bourbon in his arms. He never had a chance to use the liquor as he intended, however.
“I’d some fook’n’ plans f’ th’t joog,” Ellis later complained. “Me’n Foota’s waif, we w’z g’na poor’t int’a book’t ‘f lur rud app’ls, ‘n’ put on s’m fook’n’ Poolka ‘n’ lit th’ fook’n’ gud times rool, y’noo, black rooba boots ‘n’ oll’, mikin’ applesauce. Stompy stompy!”
Ellis added that he’d already arranged for drummer Neil Sims to bring tumblers for the party. Sims went the extra mile, also bringing a bushel of orange wedges and half a dozen wetsuits. “Better than Ben’s bog gear, I assure you,” Sims said.
The group, already having sampled some of the bourbon, was laughing heartily as Dickinson’s Porsche pulled in, bottoming out on Futter’s driveway. Dickinson emerged sheepishly.
“Nice driving, Rob,” someone said.
“Sorry,” Dickinson replied. “I’d probably drive better if you-know-who weren’t such a backseat driver.” The passenger door opened and band manager Merck Mercuriadis climbed out.
“Quiet down,” Mercuriadis said, “or it might be time to reinvent your face.”
“You’re 37, Brian, just like Heinz ketchup,” Dickinson said cheerfully.
“Ketchup?” Futter replied. “I think you mean 57.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Dickinson said, slapping Futter rather awkwardly on the back. “Well, I guess you’ve got a few more years to go, then! Hang in there!”
“Since we’re out front anyhow,” Futter said, “Might as well check my mailbox.”
Futter’s mailbox, strangely, did not contain its usual heavy load of mail. In fact, there was nothing inside but a small, grey object: a guitar pick, with a red coating on one edge.
“I think it’s blood,” Mercuriadis said.
“No… it looks like… ketchup,” Futter answered.
The group went inside and quickly forgot about the mysterious pick. But from then on, as Futter claimed later, the party was doomed.
“It seemed like everything we did was cursed. First, I got cake frosting in my hair. Then we all started having horrendous luck with ‘pin-the-disc.'”
The latter remark refers to a game in which each of the players is blindfolded, then instructed to pin a platinum record on a silhouette of Dickinson. But despite guidance from all the other participants, each partygoer inexplicably pinned his or her disc on a copy of the Oasis album What’s the Story (Morning Glory) that Futter just happened to have lying nearby. When everyone had taken their turn, Futter said, Oasis had gone sextuple platinum, while Dickinson’s silhouette remained bare.
“It’s inexplicable,” Mercuriadis said. “Oasis? It defies logic.”
“What a bloody nightmare!” Dickinson fumed. “And they stole ‘Live Forever’ right out of my songbook as well!”
It was roughly at that moment, according to Futter, that a deep rumble began to shake the house.
“I couldn’t tell where it was coming from,” Futter said, “but it sounded familiar, like I’d heard it before in a song.” Then a cloud of smoke filled the room, he said.
“Of course, there are so many of us who smoke that we all started yelling at each other to put it out,” Futter said. “But it wasn’t cigarette smoke.”
The cloud condensed toward the middle of the room, and a shadowy figure began to form. “A goblin!” screamed Dickinson.
“Y-y-yooouuuu….” said the shadowy figure. “Yyyyeeessss, I’m talkiiing to yyooouuu, blissful celebrators. You think you’re having a lot of fuuuunnn, don’t you?”
The room was silent.
“I could be having fuuuunnn, too, you know,” the shadowy figure continued, “But of courssssssse, I wasn’t inviiiiited, was I?… Loooooook around yyooouuuu. Is there anyone you perhapssss forgot to invite?”
“Oh, my God,” Dickinson said. “My girlfriend!”
“What girlfriend?” Sims said.
“Oh, yeah!” Dickinson replied. “Never mind.”
Futter looked at his guests, then back toward the figure. “We’ve forgotten no one I can think of, good spirit.”
“SILENCE!!” bellowed the figure. “You haaaaave forgotten someone. Someone very imporrrrtant, and for that, you must pay.” A deafening roll of thunder followed this remark.
“Please listen,” Futter said, stepping forward. “I’m the man of the house. These others are my guests, and they had nothing to do with the invitations. If you have been slighted, sir, I accept the responsibility and the punishment. Leave the others alone.”
The figure seemed to pause a moment in thought.
“Very well,” it finally said. “This curse shall be upon your family alone, Brian Futter. Listen well.
“Your lovely daughter, whom you love so dearly, will grow into a beautiful woman, very beautiful indeed, and admired by all. But her beauty will be short-lived, mark my words. For her time will come quickly, as surely as night follows day.
“For on the day of her sixteenth birthday, your daughter, the object of your devotion, the pride and joy of your life, will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel—and she will DIIIIIIEEE!!! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!!!!!”
Then the shadow turned back into a cloud and dissipated, Futter said. There could be no mistaking the rumble it made on its departure: it followed precisely the intricate bass line of “Salt,” from the Catherine Wheel’s 1992 album Ferment.
“Fook’n’ wanker!” Ellis reportedly shouted into the air as the sound died away.
“Don’t worry,” Dickinson said, turning to Brian. “Your daughter won’t die. She’ll just drift off into a long, long sleep—one hundred years long, in fact, at the end of which—”
“What are you talking about?” Futter asked. “I don’t have a daughter.”
“Oh, yeah!” Dickinson replied. “No daughter! Exactly!… Take that, you bloody wanker goblin, you!” Dickinson shouted at the ceiling.
The party laughed, but it was a nervous laugh, Futter said. They quickly said their goodbyes and left.
Futter turned toward his wife: “What a scare, eh? Glad it was a bloody joke.” But to his surprise, his wife didn’t respond.
“She didn’t say a thing,” Futter recalled, his voice wavering, “just stood there with her mouth open, pointing at my hands.” When Futter looked down, he saw that his fingers had turned green.
Needless to say, the band now has a new respect for the goblin’s words.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Sims said. “All kinds of weird things have been going on since the prophecy. Brian’s got green fingers, Ben can’t seem to defecate no matter how hard he tries, and Rob has been having these strange vision problems. It’s all very spooky. What an unusual birthday it turned out to be!
“As for me, I just hope I can get some Beano before I blow a goddamned building over.”