It started with a crash and a bang – a very loud piece with many instruments – the stage lights faded up to reveal the collection of musical instruments – the stage revolved slowly to reveal me on the stage floor singing Razzle-Dazzle.
“Hello everybody. Welcome to my new show Just Me and Some of My Friends. That’s Just Me for the first half up to the break. And Some of My Friends in the second half.”
“So how come I got twenty musicians playing on the intro number? It was Just Me recorded twenty times on twenty different instruments. So now I’m going to the back of the stage and pick up an instrument to play.”
The stage was littered with musical instruments. I picked up a keytar and hung it round my neck. It’s a synthesizer with a keyboard and looks a bit like a guitar. I launched into Talking about Things, the first song that I wrote for 9gals! just after they kidnapped me in Blackpool. And then my brother’s best song You Hate to Love Me Only, which I also wrote.
I swapped the keytar for a 12‑string and played some more of my stuff.
“So what is this?” I was pointing to a shallow wooded box lying on the floor. It was beamed up on a big screen so that everybody could see it. “Have you ever looked at a church organ or a large organ? All those keyboards and stops and pedals and things.”
“So what is this? It’s a synbox, it’s set up as a pedal keyboard for the bass pipes of a church organ. I played the opening bars of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor just with my feet.”
“But that’s not all. If I kick this footpad I get a completely different sounds, like drums, zylophone, cymbals – smash, crash, just like a marching band.” I played John Philip Sousa’s The Liberty Bell.
“I play it with my feet and I’m free to use my hands for some other instrument and sing. So I’ll kick the footpad again and...”
I ended the first half with a very slow and loud Eloise using the oddest collection of instruments – bongos, didgeridoo, Glockenspiel, bass clarinet and, of course, tubular bells, together with my 12‑string and my voice.
The stage was now empty, I walked on playing a ukulele. “Welcome back everyone. So I expect you’re wondering who my special guests are. 9Gals! perhaps? No, they’d take over the show. But there is someone in the audience, a special person from the...”
Several voices called out the name Jolly…
Three musical instruments descended from above and stopped just in front of me. “Change of subject. What are these. The middle one looks like a saxophone, it is, an alto sax. The left one looks like a huge saxophone, it is a bass instrument, a contrabass saxophone. And the right one looks like a flute or a clarinet, it isn’t, it’s a sopranissimo, a piccolo saxophone.”
“I once heard Gerry Rafferty announce a ‘saxophone solo’ in the Frankfurter Alte Oper, so here is my ‘saxophone solo’.” I grabbed the middle sax and played Baker Street, at least the saxophone part.
I reached for the bass sax with both hands – it is effing heavy – I played the same part, but several octaves lower. It did not sound great, at least to my ears. The sopranissimo part was easier.
“He’s behind you.”
“It’s Trace, turn around.”
I couldn’t see him. If I looked over my left shoulder Trace moved right. If I turned right Trace moved to the left of me. The audience went wild shouting at me. I stopped and looked stage left. Trace stopped and looked stage right.
“The only Trace I know looks like Margaret Thatcher and makes music for 9gals! Trace plays better than I do. Is that you Trace? Are you that Trace?”
“I have brought you an orchestra, Jollity. Watch!”
Twenty violinists each looking like Margaret Thatcher walked onto stage left, cellists and double basses onto stage right.
“Strings!” announced Trace and the strings played the first two bars of Colonel Bogey.
A collection of flautists, oboists, clarinettists and bassoonists wander onto the back of the stage.
“Woodwinds!” announced Trace and the woodwinds played the first two bars of Colonel Bogey.
A troop of horn blowers, trumpeters, trombonists and a tuba player wander onto the back of the stage.
“Brass!” announced Trace and the brass players blast out the Colonel Bogey fanfare.
Two guys with sticks wander onto the back of the stage.
“Percussion!” announced Trace. Kettle drums, snare drums, a bass drum and a gong are lowered onto the stage. They were heavy, you could see that, but odd it was, they were invisible, just like all the other instruments. That and that all the musicians looked like Margaret Thatcher.
“Grand Piano!” announced Trace and something very heavy and invisible was lowered onto the front of the stage.
The leader of the first violins walked up to the piano and played one key, A4. How do you press the right key out of 88 on an invisible piano? The musicians tuned their instruments.
I sat on the invisible piano seat and the orchestra and I played the six-minute version of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor.
I climbed onto the piano and cupped a hand around my ear. “I can hear Eloise again. Can you?”
The audience roared “Yes, it’s Eloise!” But it wasn’t, it was Harlequin singing Eloise.
We hugged on top of the piano. “Great, it’s Harlequin. Trace and Harlequin are great, both in the 9gals! team like me.”
Two bobby cars with trailers driven by half-sized Margaret Thatchers roared around the stage. They were loud, good that we two were safe on the piano. They drove between the grand piano’s legs and stopped.
We climbed onto the trailers and waved to each other as I was driven to stage left and Harlequin to stage right. A twenty strong choir of Margaret Thatchers was lowered onto the middle stage between us, forming a line-up of 22 singers. We sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz and Amazing Grace.
And as an encore Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan:
They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom For tryin' to change the system from within I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin