Acoustic Cover

We started the band when we first heard Dan play an acoustic cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and he played so good, I almost cried, the same punk vibe, but less noise, less drama.

Acoustic Cover
Photo by Karori Production / Unsplash

by Mileva Anastasiadou

We are young and carefree and partying like it’s 1999, because the year is close and we’re heading fast to the end of the century and probably the end of days too, we say, but we don’t really believe our days will ever be over. It’s summertime and we’re all together at last, and we’re making funny moves on the dance floor because we don’t care what we look like, although deep down we’re all certain we look cool, we’re the coolest on the island and on all nearby islands too. The deejay is playing Britpop music and we’re not the biggest fans, we’re more into grunge, so is our band, but Britpop isn’t bad either, it actually sounds much better than all Greek pop music that’s trendy among the non-cool kids who are also on holidays and spoil the vibe. And then they play that other song and we cringe, because although we have nice and clean teeth and we are young and all, we cannot identify with it, it sounds like a rich kid anthem and we don’t feel rich because most of us aren’t, but also we are in many ways but we don’t know it yet. And Dan has this theory about rich people, but you’re the only exception, he tells Steve, although I’m not sure he means it, neither is Steve probably but Steve doesn’t mind, because if you’re rich you don’t give a damn if people don’t think much of you. Anyway, Dan has this theory, that all the rich are stupid, remember that line by Chumbawamba, he asks, about how they hate all popstars they’ve ever met, well that’s it, Dan never met a rich person who wasn’t stupid too.

We watch ‘Singles’ at the local cinema and we’ve watched it before but not all together like now, not under the stars while a summer breeze caresses our faces, we aren’t in Seattle, and we will never be as far as I know, but we’re from all over and currently right here, if you know what I mean. You probably don’t know though, because time flies and the world changes, but we’re still in the nineties and it still feels like the world is our playground, like borders don’t matter, and normal life is affordable, and all of the universe is our home. We aren’t that fancy either, and maybe the characters of the movie weren’t considered fancy at all, but they seem like they are to us. Or perhaps only to me, because I’m the main character here, it’s just my perspective you’re reading, and I have a vivid imagination and I imagine them fancy, I imagine their lives before the movie, after the movie, during the movie, like they had a whole life of their own, which seems fancy at the time, and it still will in the future in all truth. 

We wanted to name our band ‘Theworldsucksbuts’ because we all agree the world sucks and we’re like:

Dan: The world sucks but I’m gonna save people. (Dan is studying to be a doctor).

Anna: The world sucks but it has its good moments and I’m gonna capture those moments. (Anna is studying photography).

Steve: The world sucks, fuck it, let’s dance. (Steve is studying vaguely, nobody knows what or where).

Me: The world sucks but, period. (I didn’t study hard enough to get into college, but even if I did, my parents wouldn’t be able to support me through college years, so I already have a dead-end job at a bookstore which kind of makes a living, but I’m stuck with no prospects).

Hate to say I’m the closest to being right. Because the world will still suck in the future and Dan will save some people but in the end he’ll end up sitting behind a desk to stamp papers most of the time, and Anna will capture some precious moments but she won’t afford living on capturing them and she will end up a waitress for a food chain in her forties, and Steve won’t dance for long, but we don’t know yet, we don’t know what the future holds, we still believe that there will soon be flying cars, like in the ‘Back to the Future’ movie, we’re still a bit hopeful, convinced the world sucks but it won’t suck for long, because we’ll make it better somehow. 

Thing is that name was too edgy even for us. We chose ‘The Summerists’ instead. Because we only meet in summer and we play our music in summer, while in wintertime we spread around the globe, living our lives, Dan is in Crete, Anna in England, and Steve, oh well, Steve is all over, although we don’t really live in winter, we hibernate, we’re on autopilot, we write letters to each other, or make long-distance calls during which we share whatever experience we collect, but we don’t talk much, because these calls still cost a lot, there’s no facetime yet, or even e-mails, and by the time we are aware of e-mails, we will get bored with writing and there will be no band at all, because although we have taken the Summerists vow, no kids, no huge commitments beside the band, as if we weren’t a band but a cult, like we’ll wear flannel shirts and floral dresses and live on iced-coffee forever, because we have already seen people get married, have kids, divorce, and live the drama, and we’re still young but already aware we can’t truly invest in people, people are unpredictable, we can have fun with people and spend time with people and love and believe in people, but if you get attached, people will fuck you up, except for Dan of course, Dan won’t fuck up anyone, no matter how much power he’s granted, anyway, what I meant to say was that although we’ve taken the vow, none of us will keep our word, except for Steve, who will keep the vow forever, because Steve won’t have a choice. 

We started the band when we first heard Dan play an acoustic cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and he played so good, I almost cried, the same punk vibe, but less noise, less drama. We start all shows with this song and somehow we make it sound like a sad song, although I think the song is supposed to be rebellious and all. We try to maintain the punk energy, and I think we do well, although I suspect Kurt wouldn’t approve of the cover. Dan claims Kurt Cobain was more sad than he was punk and Anna agrees, he killed himself after all, she says. What I think but don’t say is that punk and sad go hand in hand, I mean you have to be sad about things to be rebellious, if everything looks right to you, and nothing makes you sad, you don’t have reasons to be rebellious, and when you make a powerful song sound sad, it probably means you feel not only sad, but also defeated. I don’t speak my mind because I’m not sure all this makes sense, but also because I’m shy. Steve says we have to move on and start concerts with that song Loser by Beck, he says he feels like a monkey, he identifies with the song, which is kind of hard to believe, since he’s the most privileged among us. I mean, if we have to take those lyrics seriously, he clearly belongs among the chimpanzees of the era.

We ride on rented motorbikes and I always sit behind Dan, while Anna goes with Steve, like we are couples, only we aren’t, it just comes naturally that way, like we are entitled to couple security without the commitment. We rent another motorbike when Anna’s boyfriend comes to join us and he brings a friend, ‘they follow the herd’ like lots of British in the era, they come to Greek islands for holidays, and we’re happy our land has become a trend in British pop songs, although Paul who jumps to kiss Anna the minute he sets foot on the island, will tell us later that it won’t take long before we regret it, and that the herd eats away the meadow the herd steps on. Arrangements change, Anna rides with Paul, and his friend Archie goes with Steve, and I’m glad I’m staying with Dan because he’s my favorite person in the group, I feel safe whenever I’m around him, although Steve claims Dan too, he wants me to open my horizons and meet new people, but I shrug and tell him I don’t feel safe enough with that new person Archie yet. Anna met Paul a few months ago, he’s not one of us yet, and he will never be, we only know he’s rich as fuck, he’s probably a duke or something, but he doesn’t talk about money or titles, because he knows about us, about how indifferent we are to all that. Archie tells me they may be best friends at the moment, but it doesn’t mean a lot, because that little prick is enjoying class tourism. I ask him what class tourism is because I’m not familiar with the term and I nod when he explains, like it all makes sense, that Pulp song makes sense, but in the opposite way, he’s British, and also an heir, and we are, well, we’re common people apparently. I tell Anna and she doesn’t seem to be bothered at all, because she treats reality as an observer, she wouldn’t have chosen photography if she didn’t, like she doesn’t belong here but somewhere else that she only knows, or maybe she doesn’t but her people will find her eventually. I think that’s normal in youth, but later on I will also use this method as a defense mechanism or even for fun when I’m a full time adult overwhelmed by reality. 

We leave Anna and Paul alone to enjoy some privacy and Archie is too drunk to come along and also uninterested in watching a movie with Greek subtitles, and we go to watch ‘La Piscine’ which is an old movie, but not too old yet, it feels to us like this story feels to someone reading it in present time, old but not yet historical fiction. We identify with the characters but also we don’t because they’re rich and, oh my, so beautiful, and carefree. For a short moment in time we pretend we are them, like we download their personalities and we try them on, although we don’t use the term download yet in this era. Kids do that all the time, they try on personalities they have read about or they have watched in movies, because kids haven’t yet formed a stable identity, and Steve claims that we’re like an acoustic cover of that movie, because we don’t play the characters that well, we mostly make fun of them, but Dan says that all we do is deconstruct the role models imposed on us by the mainstream media, Steve explains to Paul the Greek idiom about the fox from the myth of Aesop who couldn’t reach the grapes and walked away saying, a case of sour grapes, Paul says wow, that means you’re envious of those characters, I nod, we’re obviously envious, but Dan insists that sometimes this proverb is lame, because anything not reachable to everyone is sour grapes indeed. We all laugh, except Dan. And Steve laughs too, but he only laughs to fit in, I think, he doesn’t seem to think that was truly a joke. 

We sit around a bonfire on the beach and talk about time travel and Dan says he knows some interesting medical shit about time travel, but we all know he doesn’t know, or he doesn’t know yet at least. We don’t spoil it for him, when he pretends he’s already a doctor, like he knows it all, and he says smell is a powerful sense, we all say wow, like we’re doing back vocals and he’s the lead singer and we wait for him to go on with the song, because we live in a band-like trance all the time. He says, smell can make you travel in time, which we all think is stupid because we know time travel isn’t a thing except in movies, but he insists, he says, smell and memory are closely intertwined, and now he’s using those words to sound more scientific, and for a moment he fools us because that makes sense, even if we don’t have a clue if it’s true. And if a smell can bring you back to the past, it could probably take you back to the future as well, he says, looking up at the night sky, like there lies all truth and we all follow his glance but don’t find any truth at the sky, so we look back down and right at him. But, I say, the future isn’t yet a memory. Dan ignores me like he always does, I’m the band’s bassist and he’s the guitarist, we’re supposed to work together, but he does his thing all the time, as if I don’t even exist. This probably has to do with the fact that I’m not that attractive, I literally look like the girl in the band Whale, curly black hair and all, and an awkward smile but without the braces, and although I find her beautiful, most people don’t. We’re still in an era dominated by strict beauty standards, and Anna claims I’m cute, but I suspect she only says that to make me feel better about myself, because Anna looks really good, not supermodel good, but she’s beautiful. She’s the front-woman and she’s fucking killing it, she’s not only good at singing, but also at performing. Not that we’re given the chance to perform often, but when we do, she gives her all.  

Dan hasn’t always been named Dan, obviously, this isn’t a Greek name, like Steve hasn’t always been named Steve. I don’t even remember Steve’s real name, because I started calling him Steve when I first met him, as he reminded me a lot of the first actor who played Steven Carrington in Dynasty in the eighties, a show I never missed as a little girl. And Dan, he was named Dan after Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album, because Dan used to be a huge fan. We talk about how we’ll celebrate the turn of the century, and Anna is pretending her sandwich is a microphone and she’s singing, let’s all meet up, like that other Pulp song about the year two thousand, and we promise we’ll all be together to see the end of times, which won’t prove true, because Dan will have completed his studies and will be working as an intern and he will be on duty, and Anna will be in London taking photos at Trafalgar square, which she will unsuccessfully try to sell to a famous magazine, and Steve, oh Steve, he will be spending the holidays at a Swiss resort with his parents, and the world won’t end, or perhaps it will for one for us, and also the world as we know it will end for all of us too and we will never be the same afterwards. I talk about the famous computer bug that will supposedly cause the end of the world but Steve says, don’t be so dramatic, because we think we’re young and overreacting, and we have lived in a relatively drama free world so far, the narrative of the end of history still reigns, and we haven’t yet lived through the times when reality will be more dramatic than our own pitiful lives. Dan has brought his guitar along and we sing a simple version of  ‘Alive’ by Pearl Jam, we all sing along, and Dan plays the guitar, but this still counts as a live concert in our minds, and we are both the band and the audience and we applaud and congratulate each other at the end, because there’s no one else around to do so. 

That night around the bonfire, our rides, the swims and the dances and our music and our band, everything from that season will be stuck in our minds forever, we don’t know yet that we’ll miss these times, because we think there’s an eternity ahead of us, like the world is a stage we’ll thrive on, we don’t know yet that most of us will go through a huge economic crisis and then a global pandemic, during which we will pretend it’s still the nineties, because those were carefree times, or that we’ll drive listening to nineties music to make the fantasy more real, or that we won’t be able to write one single paragraph without mentioning a song from that era. We don’t know yet, that Steve will go missing during his winter holidays at the Swiss resort with his parents, right before the turn of the century, that he’ll be found dead a couple days later, having fallen from a cliff, we don’t know yet that we’ll keep in touch only from afar, and nothing will be the same after Steve’s passing, because meeting each other will only remind us of past times and grief, and we don’t know that when we meet again years later at Anna’s wedding, Dan will look at me with regret, because he knew from the start that I have always been secretly in love with him, even before I met him, or perhaps as soon as he said he didn’t trust anyone who didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye and that we’d live in a Spin Doctors video forever, I’ll say joking, but it was always too soon or too late, he’ll say.  And Anna will shine at the wedding beside Archie, who’ll find a job as a construction worker in Greece to stay with her, and Paul won’t come at the ceremony, even though he’ll be sent an invitation, because Paul will already be married to another heiress and will have forgotten all about us. 

We don’t know that the day after the wedding, when I meet Anna and Dan for coffee, and the ‘Disco2000’ song comes up, Anna will burst into tears and I’ll think it’s because we meet finally, but without Steve and more than twenty years after we promised we’d meet, but she will finally speak the truth about Steve, about how he killed himself during that trip after he came out as gay to his mother, who asked him to not say anything to his father or he’d have a heart attack. She asked him to wait and come out in public after his father passes, and Steve felt trapped and he called Anna. You two are so stupid, she’ll tell us, and she will blame us for not being there for Steve, because apparently she was the only one he trusted, and Steve had a crush on Dan, but Dan never noticed, neither did I, and we’ll both feel we have blood on our hands, Dan will be worse than me, he’ll break down crying and I will caress his hair to comfort him. And she will keep talking about that night when Anna picked up the phone, but she was tired, exhausted, probably high too, she couldn’t think straight, and she told him his mom was right, that his dad’s health was frail, and Steve couldn’t handle the pressure and went and hanged himself, but the family covered it up and made it look like an accident. His father paid the price, he died the following year of a heart attack, that sickening monster, Anna will say, but I won’t be able to be happy he died, I don’t think in terms of monsters, that’s because you’ve never met one so far, Dan will say, and Anna will nod, she’ll say, consider yourself lucky, but I still won’t be sure, I’ll only think of Steve, and how sad it must be to be asked to wait for someone to pass before you can fully be yourself. 

We will all agree that the nineties were our peak as a species and maybe the world ended after all in the year two thousand, and we live in hell, but I’ll keep thinking this world has already been hell for other people, like Steve and we didn’t know, or even turned a blind eye. 

We’re still friends and meet more often now that the truth is out in the open, because we are what happened to us and we need each other because we know each other well, we know what happened to us, we were actually there while it happened. And I’m not sure if this is an acoustic cover of the past, a romanticized, simple version of it, or the acoustic cover of a world we once imagined, or if I’m still high on a smell that connects me with the future, if this is all a future memory I’m trapped in, and once the effect fades out I will be back with the band and Steve. Especially Steve. 

Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece and the author of We Fade With Time by Alien Buddha Press. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as the Chestnut Review, New World Writing, Milk Candy Review, the Bureau Dispatch, and others.