Featuring Jenny Stokes
Followers of the band will remember that I first met velvet voiced Kiwi songstress Jenny Stokes several years ago in Honduras, where a chance encounter in Tegucigalpa’s third most popular nightspot led her to sit in with the band and perform the definitive version of my song, “If Only You Knew,” which can be heard here. That night, after the performance, struggling to be heard above the chorus of howler monkeys in the jungle around us, I suggested we record a duet. She looked as if she were about to agree, but before she could speak, I felt a sharp blow to the back of my head, and the last thing I saw before losing consciousness was Jenny being dragged into the cab of a Toyota pickup truck by three men, one of whom I recognized as Enrique, the fat man in the crumpled white linen suit who had been staring at her so intently all evening.
It was only years later, when Jenny and I met by chance at Elton John’s Grammy Awards after-party, that I discovered the truth about that evening. The fat man in the crumpled white linen suit was not, as I had imagined, a local drug kingpin or the lecherous uncle of a dictator of one of the neighboring countries. Nor was his name Enrique. It was Henry K Mulgrew, employed to provide the muscle for the southern hemisphere’s foremost talent agent, the notoriously ferocious Greek-Australian Anne Tipodes. Ms Tipodes, anxious to prevent her prize asset being devalued by association with a two-bit outfit like the Mysterious Beings (and more especially yours truly) had ordered Henry into action and spirited Jenny back to New Zealand, where she could keep an eye on her.
Over Elton’s champagne and amuse-geules, Jenny and I discussed the duet idea. Much had changed in the years since we last met. The Mysterious Beings were now one of the most sought-after acts in the world, while Jenny’s career had stagnated after she had been accused of using performance enhancing drugs while competing to represent the Principality of Liechtenstein at the Eurovision Song Contest, an accusation that was later disproved – her voice really is just that good. We agreed to have my people speak to her people to set up the deal. It could be just the thing to help relaunch her career.
Unfortunately, my people were Los Angeles based artist management group, Makem Paimore and Lovett, negotiators every bit as intransigent as Ms. Tipodes. After months of wrangling, the remaining point of contention was where the recording would take place – New Zealand or North Carolina. Jenny and I didn’t care – we would have gone to the moon to realize the dream of performing a duet – but we had neglected to read the small print in our contracts and it was out of our hands. Negotiations dragged on for another month until a compromise was finally agreed. We would record the song at a location equidistant from our home countries. This turned out to be an atoll in the Micronesian nation of Kiribati.
The Kiribatians are lovely people, but their recording facilities are rudimentary. If you are looking for a polished recording, look elsewhere, but if you are a fan of the special sonic quality provided by the acoustic properties of the coconut and pandanus trees used in the construction of a thatched long house filled with an audience of perspiring tribal elders, then feast your ears. We did this in one take and in rather a hurry because of an approaching typhoon. The tempest flattened our impromptu recording studio a few hours later, so this unique sound can never be recaptured. It stands as testimony to the power of the will in the face of implacable elements and equally implacable agents.