Thanks to my very dear friend Marina Kelly for her help with the story and her wonderful editing skills. Thank you MK.
So that was it my life now needed to move forward. I guess like a lot of people when they finish college, we find ourselves at a crossroads. I definitely felt that way. As the old adage says as one door closes another opens, that may be true but I needed to find the right door to wrest open.
As always life doesn't always run smoothly and the road isn't always marked clearly or straight, it twists and turns and there are always choices to make. Beverly's phone call was one such moment. It was moms sixty fifth birthday and she was holding a party for her and she wanted me to go home for it.
That was a no brainer of course I was going, but she floored me when she said mom asked her to invite Molly as well. That hurt, I didn't know why mom wanted her there but I didn't want to ruin her big day by turning it into a battleground. My one saving grace was the hope that Molly would have the curtesy not to go.
Not having set work hours or days meant I could go home early and help with the party. I guess my dress style had changed recently, not having to wear the outrageous stage costumes and didn't have to maintain the presence meant I could try different things. For the trip home I decided on a country style knowing it would please mom, especially since the hem finished just above the knee. I hated hiding my legs because I always thought they were my best asset. When I rocked up at home mom met me with a huge hug and a kiss. She made me do a pirouette as she cast her eyes over me. "Marion sweetheart I love your dress, so much nicer, but you are not looking after yourself or eating properly, come on, I will make you a sandwich before dinner."
I helped her in the kitchen and as always, we talked, "Marion what really happened between you and Molly?"
Cringing I muttered, "Sorry mom I don't want to get into that, let's just say she and I have a different understanding about how relationships work. I don't want to spoil my trip home arguing about her."
"But sweetheart the pair of you were so in love and I know she misses you."
Intrigued I asked, "And how do you know that mom?"
"Honey we talk every day or so, you're not the only one who loves that girl, she is part of our family now and that ain't gonna change. You know she is coming tomorrow don't you?"
Taking a huge bite of my sandwich I felt my tummy twist I didn't realize how hungry I was, "I know she's been invited, but honestly mom I hoped she would have the good manners not to come."
"Heavens above, Marion I asked her to come, I invited her...please do not make her feel unwelcome, now that would be bad manners."
I ended up spending the day mowing the lawns and raking leaves, doing general yard work making the old place look good. It was weird the place was super tidy, the lawns weren't long and there was no junk laying around. I knew with mom's hip she couldn't do it. I guessed Mark must be helping out.
At dinner Bev and her tribe turned up and the place erupted as it always did with her kids running around noisily and to give mom some peace I ended up taking them outside and we kicked the ball around in the yard.
At dinner it was impossible to escape the constant stream of questions about what I was going to do. The short answer was I didn't know. They all had their own suggestions but none worked for me. Music was my thing I just needed a way to make it work.
Saturday morning and the cars started rolling up. Sue turned up although on this visit she was alone. Then Sandy and April arrived unfortunately they brought Molly with them.
When I saw her climb out of the car my stomach flipped and my pulse raced, my heart went into a mild arrhythmia. Sandy rushed up and her arms wrapped us both in a huge cuddle. She kissed me and said, "Wow you look super hot." She gave a little giggle, "Although you look right at home here in Dodge in that outfit."
April slipped in beside her and we hugged, "She's not wrong Marion, I swear girl you get prettier every time I see you." She leaned in close whispering, "Are those titties getting bigger?"
I gave her a scowl and she broke into a cheesy laugh. As they stepped back Molly gave me a hesitant restrained little wave, "Hey Mi."
I raised my eyebrows in acknowledgement without replying. At that point mom came scurrying out and they fell into a huge hug, the biggest she saved for Molly. We all ended up around the table eating a huge spread Bev and mom had lain on. I was a bit shocked when Mr. Peterson from up the road turned up. He had been one of dads best friends although after dad passed he stopped coming around.
If his arrival shocked me, the kiss he gave my mom completely floored me.
They stood at the head of the table hand in hand and mom made a sheepish guilty announcement, "This weekend isn't just about my birthday, it's also about Fred and me. We are getting engaged."
The girls all jumped up and swamped her with hugs and kisses including Molly. Fred got a few kisses as well and he looked a bit taken aback by it all. I didn't move, I couldn't I sat staring open mouthed. When mom spotted me and cried out brusquely, "Well Marion don't just sit there, don't I get a hug?"
Pushing back my chair I stumbled around to stand in front of her. She hugged me close and whispered, "Are you going to be OK with this?"
"I'm just shocked, why didn't you say something?"
She led me by the hand outside, "Honey I have been lonely, at first Fred came around to help with maintenance. His wife Sandra died three years ago and he was as lonely as me, well at first that's the way it was but as we got closer we started keeping each other company and it sort of snowballed. Honey we are in love, it's not just for you young kids you know."
I gave her a kiss, "Mom if he makes you happy then I am happy to."
She smiled holding me out at arm's length to gaze into my eyes, "Thank you honey it's important for me because you are the man of the house and I need you to welcome him in."
I laughed with a derisive snort, "Man of the house, c'mon mom I haven't been the man here for a long time."
"Maybe not physically honey but in my heart since your Pa died you have and will always be the man of the house. Please honey just let him know you're OK with it."
When we walked in I walked up and shook his hand, "Fred I guess all we can say is god help you and welcome to the family."
I could see he was in a quandary not really knowing what to say, he had been my baseball coach and now he didn't know how to act around me. Did we hug? Shake hands? I didn't know I was as confused as he was.
We all sat back down with Fred sitting beside mom and the conversation went back to what everybody had been up to. When mom asked Molly about what was new in her life she explained she now worked for Gloria promoting gigs and managing artists.
She glanced at me as she proudly explained her role. Of course, it was accompanied by lots of back patting and congratulations. I saw her give me a sideways glance as she said her current project was getting the lips debut album recorded. When I heard that I wanted to shout out, 'WELL THEY BETTER NOT USE MY SONGS.' But I didn't want to make a scene. It was much later as the drinks were flowing when I patted Molly on the back, "Molly can we talk please?"
She gave me a funny look but followed me outside. "Molly I hope the lips aren't thinking about using any of my songs on this album."
She frowned, "Of course we are, those songs belong to the band."
"No, they don't Molly they are mine, I wrote them and legally they are mine, the fact while I was in the band we performed them doesn't change who they belong to. They are my intellectual property, I still have copyright on them. If you try to use them, I will sue."
She gave me a totally disbelieving angry glare, "You have got to be kidding." She looked around as her feet kicked at some invisible stone or something. "Mi, everybody knows they belong to the band, we already have recordings using them."
"Molly if you try to use them, I promise I will sue! They are mine."
She slumped back against the side of the house, "For the love of god, please don't be an ass over this. Why can't you just be happy for the girls?"
"I bear no grudges against the girls...I wish them well, but those songs are mine, remember the first time you asked me if they could use them. I said they can play them but they belong to me."
"Oh for heavens sake, c'mon Mi, they're the bands...everybody recognizes them as the bands. Don't let what happened between you and me spoil it. Those girls still love you...they would have you back in a heartbeat."
"Yeah well that ain't happening. You better tell them Molly because I am going to see a lawyer on Monday. If I have to I will take you to court, I will get an injunction."
"Girl...now you're being ridiculous, you can never win that. Holy shit Gloria is very wealthy, you can't afford to fight her. Her Company has their own corporate lawyers."
"I don't care if it costs me every cent I have I will lock them up for years, I might lose in the end but I know how long it takes for these things to work through the legal system. I can prove I wrote them and they will be released on my album long before the Lips can release them as covers."
The look on her face was bewilderment, frustration and anger, but that slowly changed to a look of stubborn determination, "Marion, you can't win this, we are recording those songs."
I walked back inside sulkily I found a corner to quietly fume in. I watched Molly come in and Mom saw the tears in her eyes, she gave me a withering glare before she wrapped molly in a big cuddle. That vexed me but as I looked across and saw Fred talking to Sue I remembered he used to be a lawyer and I wondered if he might help, he might be retired but he was a still a lawyer after all and if nothing else he might be able to offer some advice. That night when we got a moment alone he listened to me rant about my problem. He did say he was no expert on copyright but would do some study for me tomorrow. I did ask that he not say anything to Molly as she was part of the group I would be fighting.
I tried to enjoy mom's party but it seemed everywhere I went I bumped into Molly. In the end I feigned a headache and went to bed.
Catching up with Fred at his place we sat down at his computer and he started his research. The first question was had I registered the copyright. Luckily I had, they were part of my assignment at school which meant I had to follow the legal procedures. It was easy to prove all of those songs were legally mine.
As we researched the law, he gave me the bad news, I probably couldn't stop them from recording them but they would have to pay a mechanical royalty and list me as the owner/ writer.
As we did some more research, he found a clause whereby I could issue them with a cease and desist order which would give me time to decide on an action. He agreed that he would draw something up for me and get it notarized through the system.
As we sat, he asked, "Marion is this something you really care about, I mean from what I understand those girls were your friends, god knows I've had to sit through hours of videos of you performing with them."
Smiling at his snip I mumbled, "This means a lot to me because they are stealing my intellectual property, they haven't even asked if they could use them."
He gave me a funny frown, "Marion, I am going to give you some advice and you can take it or leave it, I am asking you to think very carefully about this, I can see the anger on your face and let me tell you decisions made in anger or for the wrong reason seldom work out the best."
I sat pondering his statement and he added, "Let me ask you something is it really worth ruining what was obviously a very wonderful friendship? I mean you were engaged to marry that girl. I think if you go ahead with this action you will kill off any chance you have of a friendship with Molly or those girls. Is that something you can live with?"
I sighed laboriously, "I know it seems petty and maybe it is but our relationship is already way past the stage of reconciliation."
He shook his head smiling weakly, "I don't believe that for a minute, I don't know much about life but I can see it on that girls face. When you're around her eyes follow you everywhere and she hangs off every word. I don't care what you say, that girl loves you."
"Sorry Mr. Peterson but I think you're wrong. All I want to do is protect my property."
"It's your call Marion, they still have to request your permission. That's part of the formal process. We can fight it but it will be costly. Can I make a suggestion?"
I nodded and he said, "If you want the world to know these songs are yours and not the bands, why not release your own album with all the songs on it. Beat them to it and then everyone will associate them with you."
I went home feeling a little dejected. Molly was pacing around the front yard with her phone glued to her ear and it was a very animated conversation as she kicked up a dust storm. She was angry and who ever she was talking to was angry as well. When she saw me walk in through the gate she glowered, turned and walked away so I was out of earshot.
When I went inside mom was waiting in ambush. She gave me her saddest look and invited me to sit with her out back in the swing chair.
As we rocked to and fro she wrapped her arm around my shoulder the way she used to when I was feeling down, "Honey, you are making Molly real uncomfortable and so sad. Why not let bygones be bygones? Would it be so bad if the girls recorded your songs? They've been performing them with you and they are your friends."
"It's not that simple mom, those are my songs, I wrote them, they mean a lot to me and no we aren't friends anymore, Molly especially. No I will take them to court and I will fight them every inch of the way."
She held me tight and purred, "Honey if you do you will lose that girl, she loves you we all know it, but if you push this you will lose her for good."
"Yeah well if she loved me, she would be on my side, not theirs."
"Honey she thinks she's doing the right thing letting people hear them. She is doing it for you as well, she wants people to hear your songs. She wants the world to take notice, regardless of what happened she is damn proud of you."
I chuckled evilly, "Oh don't you worry mom, they will take notice all right. Sorry but I have to leave tomorrow, I have work to do."
"Honey please don't act out of malice, your Pa always said think before you act. Think about your actions, don't wreck your chances at love."
"There will be no reconciliation mom, we are done and dusted."
She just held me as we rocked back and forth her warm loving embrace at least taking away some of the pain.
On the drive back to Lawrence I started to formulate a plan. Music streaming was a new concept and the money made from it was pathetic but that was a bitter pill I would have to swallow.
The first thing I had to do was record every single song properly and get them released.
Fred stayed in touch, he prepared a cease and desist order and it was ready to go, but couldn't do anything until they formerly asked permission to use them. There was no option for them, they had to request permission to record or perform them in any paid environment unless they were going to try and claim ownership.
I spent the week at the school using the studio recording all of the songs I didn't have decent recordings of. It meant long nights because I had to wait until the studio was free. By the end of the second week I had the new recordings mastered. Some as a soloist and some as a band with me playing all the instruments. That was going to hurt the band, their egos would be bruised if nothing else because I was more than competent and when I listened to them I smiled. Yeah they sounded every bit as good as if the Lips were playing, maybe better with two strong guitar tracks.
They did have a different sound though without Mel's vocals, I didn't have her gravelly voice. Rather than copy her style the songs now had a cleaner more pitch perfect quality and I had added two layers of harmony so the vocals weren't thin.
The next step was to set up my own web page, thankfully a guy who I had become friendly with helped design it and helped me with the registration. That was the first step, but at least now I had a web page and all the songs uploaded, with a pay per-view set up.
Next was the other online streaming services. They were all new but I released them officially on Spotify and I tunes. Listing myself as the independent artist.
OK I wasn't making a fortune from them but they were out there for the world to hear. It took only a few days after they were released before Molly rang me angry, "God damn it Marion, why did you do that, those songs belong to the band. For heaven's sake you have so many wonderful songs why couldn't you just leave the lips ones out?"
I laughed, "By now you will realize that's not true, they're mine and you know it."
"Marion, you're being petty and malicious, you're only doing this to get back at me, I never knew how petty and mean spirited you could be."
"Mean..." I griped, "You think this is petty, wait until you see what happens if you try and use my songs."
"Jesus Marion, don't be pathetic, act your damn age, you should be grateful that the songs will get out to a wider audience."
I hung up cutting her off. My days were filled with contacting streaming services, I uploaded all the songs onto YouTube and every other portal I could find. I knew they wouldn't make a lot of money but I did pick up some advertising dollars from them which helped and I watched with joy as the watching numbers clicked over and the really nice comments they were attracting. Some I knew would hurt the band, ones like, 'SORRY WHEN THE BAND BROKE UP BUT SO GLAD TO KNOW THE SONGS ARE STILL ALIVE...THANK YOU'.
As the digital popularity racked up I started to get some airplay on Student Radio and that built a little more momentum, it was all gathering nicely. OK it wasn't going to make me wealthy but it was earning money and building my solo rep.
The next week the battle began in earnest. I received a legal request seeking permission to record the songs. I contacted Fred and he agreed to act on my behalf and issue the cease and desist order.
That caused a furor and I got swamped with calls. Mom pleaded, well beseeched really to stop being silly and let it go. April got on board as well. She and Molly had become friendly again and even she was taking her side.
Strangely it was Sue who came out on my side. Being in business she saw the value in protecting my property and even offered to help financially.
Fred called to say Gloria was trying to get a court date set to clear the cease and desist order.
Busking became my release, an opportunity to get away from the fight and just play music and sing, and of course it gave me spending money.
That joy did take a hit and I got a huge shock. Having just finished a productive lunchtime busking session I was packing up getting ready to go home on a cold windy Wednesday afternoon. As I stood up from coiling leads and packing my guitar there was Gloria standing in front of me, "Hello Mimi, could we go somewhere and talk?"
I shrugged knowing there was no escape and maybe this had to hapopen, "Yeah, there's a coffee house around the corner."
We sat in a little table in the window, "Mimi, I was hoping that we could settle our differences amicably, eliminate the lawyers." She sniggered softly, "I don't want to bankrupt you."
Sipping my piping hot latte, I muttered, "Don't worry about that Gloria, I'm prepared and I do have a lot of financial support." When she gave me a quizzical confused look I added, "There are a lot of people who don't like the way the music industry treats artists. Some very big names have got on board, you might be shocked if we ever go to court." Yeah I was bluffing but she didn't know it.