Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....
OK, Aug, set up page 69 for us.
Completely out of the blue, founding member and bit of a dictator Hans Floral Nightingale has quit the band, leaving the rest of them in a state of confusion and disarray. Rumors abound as to what has happened to him – he’s become a florist, triangle-obsessed carpenter, or a stone wall impersonator ‘inside unsuspecting pet stores’, the stories growing wilder as gossip in the music biz tends to do. Also floating around is the idea he’s heard tale of a mythical Ramones free jazz album that serves as a blueprint for the sound he wants to explore, encouraging his Buttery Cake Ass cohorts to do the same. The band are still trying to find their own sound, despite numerous technical difficulties, but here their sonic experiments begin to find focus. Followed by another wild rumor about what has become of Hans Floral Nightingale.
What The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass is about:
Two music obsessives embark on a hilarious quest to track down Buttery Cake Ass’ Live In Hungaria, an album as legendary as it is obscure. Their pursuit of one of the greatest bands ever unknown takes them down many a bizarre path teeming with grand ideas and grander egos in this ode to record shopping and what it’s like to be in your first band. Packed with puns, allusions, and references across a wide range of culture, both popular and not, the book offers up a big slice of the fun and frustration of playing rock n roll.
When we were 15, my best friend and I used to make up fake bands to ask for at record stores, and the day I heard him ask the clerk at Cutler’s in New Haven, CT if they had anything by Buttery Cake Ass was a moment of euphoric glee that I will never forget. Writing The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass was an attempt to capture the sheer joy and inventiveness of comedy back then, circa 1992, before irony seemed to set in everywhere a few short years later and the goal switched to making people groan instead of eliciting genuine full-on ecstatic laughter. In the process, I got to re-examine my own obsessive record collecting through a new lens as well as revisit the ridiculous aspects of playing in my first few bands, bringing me to a greater appreciation and love for both.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about?
Amazingly, there are reverberations of other crucial plot points on page 69, ones that I don’t want to spoil. The page does show the band in the midst of transition to what they will later become. Style-wise, I do think it gives readers an accurate sense of the work. The second paragraph kicks off one of the book’s many digressions, which are part and parcel of discussing music, especially with a fanatic. You start talking about one album, and five minutes later you’ve jumped through about 20 others, a handful of singles, and soon you might find yourself debating the finer points of the records that feature Stooks McDougal on ‘jazz bagpipes’ (Like most of the book, this is a complete fabrication. Not only do I know of no ‘Stooks McDougal’, records featuring anyone credited with ‘jazz bagpipes’ must be in the single digits.)
People wouldn’t believe how much of my real life went into the writing of a book called The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass. A note on the whole aquarium bit, and feel free to cut this if it’s too much, but I did a tour of Sweden in 2003 with my ‘rock stone’ project. It was so much fun, one of the best weeks of my life. But there was something going on amongst the students of Gothenburg that, luckily, I was warned about before I got there. A game called ‘ta på penis’, which translates as ‘to tap the penis’. A sort of handshake between male members of the community. It was very strange at first to just have people grab your junk like that and give it a quick shake. Even stranger that I got used to it after a couple days. Anyway, when I asked whoever came up with such a thing, I was told that the man who invented it had since ‘disappeared from society and would spend days on end at home watching his giant aquarium’. I always loved this phrase and was glad to have the chance to use the idea in the book.
THE BALLAD OF BUTTERY CAKE ASS
Before he vanishes, Hans Floral Nightingale shares this vital information with Hans Floral Anderson, and the beginnings of a new direction for Buttery Cake Ass take root. HFN expressing to HFA that he wishes for them to carry it on, what they’d started together... Of course with their wide musical sensibilities, even when it does come close to sounding like free jazz, Hans Floral Anderson can be heard shouting interjections of ‘second verse, same as the first’. Despite there being no discernable framework to the tune. With the oblique smile on Hans Floral Anderson’s face, one can never tell if this is a joke on his part or just supreme pleasure in the music they are making, seeing designs no one else does. Word still circulates that if you had witnessed the band rehearsing around this time, it would’ve been the most mindblowing sonic attack you’d ever hope to encounter, but that the one time they tried to record this on a boombox in the garage, the tape came out completely blank. So in an effort to appease the spirits of audio technology, they revert to writing more structured, well, what might be thought of as ‘songs’.
What is Hans Floral Nightingale doin’ now? The question persists. Perhaps it seems obvious, in hindsight at least, that with -hyde and Hydro, Hans Floral Nightingale would go into hiding. Some say that he just sits in a room all day, living solely within its four walls, one of which is a giant aquarium. No one knows if there’s anything in it, not even water. Which gets us into the debate - can it be considered an aquarium if there’s no water, no aqua, in it? Beware Counterfeit Aquariums, ya know. I mean, fools, prophets, and philosophers have
AUG STONE is a writer, musician, & comedian. Author of the comedy novels The Ballad Of Buttery Cake Ass and Off-License To Kill, as well as the memoir Nick Cave’s Bar, his journalism has appeared in The Quietus, The Comics Journal, Under The Radar, and many more sites and magazines. Aug was a founding member of H Bird and The Soft Close-Ups, and has played in countless other bands. He performs comedy as absurdist stream-of-consciousness raconteur, Young Southpaw.
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