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TOC Files 20: Stream of Time (2/2)

Title: Stream of Time
Series: The TOC Files.
Word Count 4649
Summary Shannon finds out just where the brothers have gone--and when

Part One.



Shannon sat in Gil's lab, humming a song as she waited for him to finish what he was working on. "It must be catching," he remarked.

"What?"

"That song. Alan and Ryan were playing it the other day."

"Where did they go, anyway?"

"No idea. Somewhere to celebrate Evan's birthday."

The door opened and Eric Rader, another member of the TOC entered. "I have something for you to see." He went to Gil's computer and patched into the Archives and called up a photo. "For some reason, I had the Beatles on the brain and was going through some books when I saw this."

Shannon looked at the black and white picture reproduced on the screen. "So? It's only them hanging out at a club. I've seen lots of those."

"Look closer."

She peered at the others in the photo. "No. It can't be."

"If not, they could pass for twins."

Shannon looked at Gil. "You knew about this, didn't you? They look about ten years younger. One of your creations, no doubt."

Gil looked like a naughty child who had been caught in the act. "You found me out. Yes, it's one of my creations that allows them to look that young. But they never told me where they were going."

"But what is it?" asked Eric. "It has to be something temporary."

"It's quite amazing, if I do say so myself. It's a holographic projector that can change your physical appearance depending on how you program it."

"How long does it take to put together?" asked Shannon.

"About two months of very little sleep. Now that I know what I'm doing, a few days."

"Good," said Shannon. "Then I won't feel guilty when you make mine."

"And you think I will?"

"No, I know you will. You're never happier than when you're tinkering in your lab." Shannon smiled. Eric laughed.

"Do you want one, too?" Gil asked Eric.

"No, thank you. It's a family trip. Shane can put her neck in the noose if she wants, but I like mine the way it is."

"I don't think it'll be that bad. After all, they treat me like a little sister and little sisters are supposed to tag-along where they're not wanted." With that statement, the argument was over.

* * * *

Alan, Ryan, and Evan made their way to the Prince of Wales Theatre to catch the Royal Command Performance of 1963. They took the tube to Picadilly then walked down Coventry Street to the theatre. They went around to the back, planning to go inside and talk with the band before they had to perform. They weren't the only ones who wished to do so: hundreds of girls were mobbing the stage door. Evan pushed through the crowd and spoke to the man guarding the door. "My brothers and I would like to speak with the Beatles."

"Yeah? So would all these girls, but you don't see me lettin' them in."

"We're not just fans," said Alan. "We've performed with them in Hamburg and Liverpool."

The guard was unimpressed. "You people'd say anything."

"Okay. Will you send a note in to them?" asked Ryan. "If they say 'no', we'll leave."

"Why not?" He watched as Ryan wrote a quick note. With a promise to make sure it reached the Beatles, the man went inside.

"That was good thinking," said Evan.

"Yeah. What did you write?"

"Five simple words: The competition has arrived. Kelly."

While they were waiting for a reply, a girl in the crowd began to sing. The song started slowly, but soon became livelier and others in the crowd joined in on the chorus. It took Alan a little bit to recognize Walking Back to Happiness, a hit by Helen Shapiro. The voice, however, belonged to someone he knew very well. He and his brothers watched as she made her way forward and the Red Sea parted to let her pass. The song was timed perfectly as it ended when she reached the steps.

"Did you miss me?" she asked.

"We knew you'd show up sooner or later," said Ryan.

The guard returned saying that yes, they were allowed in. He then saw her and was ready to hold her back when Alan said, "No, she's with us. Unfortunately," he added when they were inside.

Shannon just smiled.

They were greeted by the Beatles who apologized for the hassle. "If we had known you were coming, we would have put you on the list," said Paul.

"Thing is, we really didn't know ourselves," said Evan. "We've been out of town and just arrived today."

"Where were you?" asked George.

"Greece."

"Cairo."

"Istanbul."

"That's why they didn't know I was coming to meet them," said Shannon.

"And who might you be?" asked John.

"Oh, sorry," said Alan. "This is our cousin, Shannon Flynn."

"A pleasure to meet you," she said, shaking their hands.

"How did you know where to find them?" asked George.

"I knew they knew you and would try to come here to see you. I saw them at the stage door but they couldn't hear me above all the other girls. I did the only thing I could think of." She paused, seeing if she had their attention.

"What?" asked Ringo.

Shannon looked at Alan, who grinned. "I sang," she answered.

"It must be a family trait," said John. "Are you good?"

"Her Danny Boy brings tears to the eyes," said Alan.

"She can scream out a good rocker as well," added Evan.

"We'll have to give you a listen," said Paul.

"That'll have to wait," said Brian. "You're on next."

* * * *

Two weeks later Shannon and the Kellys were in the E.M.I. Studios at Abbey Road. After the Royal Command Performance, the band had arranged for this recording session. George Martin, the producer, was a little unsure of these untried strangers. George asked him to listen. "What harm could it do?"

They had chosen a varied line-up to showcase their talents. They did a few warm-up numbers and George Martin heard for himself how talented they were. They played their own instruments, including Shannon. During one of the breaks, Shannon just looked around the studio. "I can't believe we're here. Actually recording in the Beatles' studio."

"It is amazing," agreed Ryan. "The fact that we're even recording is surprising in and of itself."

"You know, we should think of a name," said Evan.

"A name?" questioned Ryan.

"Yes, a name. What if we perform somewhere? They'd need a name to put on the bill."

"Or," added Alan, "what if this is even realized? A name needs to go on the label."

"But what kind of name?" asked Shannon. "The bands are either the Somethings or So-and-So and the Such-and-Such."

They were throwing out names when Paul and George came over. "Well, you've won George over," said George. "He was a bit skeptical at first."

"What are you doing?" asked Paul.

"Trying to think up a name," said Shannon.

"Any luck?" asked George.

"Not really," answered Evan.

"The competition doesn't sound so confident now," joked Paul.

"That's it!" cried Alan. "Why didn't I think of that before?"

"What?" questioned Ryan.

"The Competition!"

The three brothers and the two Beatles started laughing. "What's so funny?" asked Shannon. Ryan explained the inside joke and she agreed to the name.
They finished the session with Shannon singing Crazy, a country song done by Patsy Cline that they had arranged to fit a rock band. They also sang I'll be on My Way, a Lennon-McCartney original. Since they would have to promote the record, they made a point to play only major cities and venues. They weren't about to be bound to a tour, playing every whistle-stop. They also arranged for a few months off during the year--just in case it was necessary.

Still having a hard time believing all this was happening, the decided to play it for all it was worth. The Competition had arrived on the British music scene.

* * * *

After finding the photograph, Eric kept searching the archives, waiting for other references to the travelers. Reading about Lennon-McCartney songs the Beatles never released themselves, he found reference to a group named The Competition composed of three brothers and a female cousin. The group recorded many covers, the first being I'll be on My Way, by Lennon-McCartney. Eric pulled up an audio recording of the song and heard the Kelly brothers harmonize with Shannon. "This is too much."

He cross-referenced the group against the Top 100 and discovered that the group had a Top Ten single. Their other singles never made it so high. He then checked the band against all recording groups and learned that the members had bit parts in A Hard Day's Night and recorded again late in 1964. There were no other songs listed. They did, however, attend all the "in" social gatherings and they also seemed to be able to pick which struggling bands and singers would go on to success.

* * * *

After a brief stop in June 1966 for George's wedding to Pattie Boyd, a model he met while filming A Hard Day's Night, the four skipped ahead to the fall of that year. After they had spent a day becoming aware of what was going on in the world, they called Brian to let him know they were back and available. "How wonderful to hear from you. Did you have a good time?"

"As always, it seemed to go by in a flash," replied Evan. "We have a few ideas for our next project whenever you're available to hear them."

"The boys will be at the studio today and I was going to listen in for awhile. Why don't you stop by around 4:00?"

"Fine. We'll see you then." Evan hung up the phone.

"Well?" asked Alan.

"He said he'd meet us at the studio. He's going to listen to the Beatles record."

"It's Sgt Pepper time," said Shannon.

"Should prove interesting to watch the creation of such a ground-breaking album," remarked Ryan.

"Would you believe it was sparked by the Beach Boys?" said Shannon.

"I do remember hearing that before," said Alan. "Pet Sounds, right?"

"Yep. I think the fact that it was the Beatles, a world-known group, performing psychedelic music more or less announced the arrival of the Summer of Love."

"Do you know any songs we could use to cash in on this?" asked Evan.

"Most of the stuff I know hasn't been written yet," remarked Shannon.

"Maybe we should take a totally different tack," said Ryan.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Alan.

"Most of the bands will be cashing in on this, right? Why don't we go the other way?" The others looked at him puzzled. "With everyone else going forward with music, let's go backwards."

"You mean like standards--Gershwin, Porter, and stuff?"

"And who's going to break this to Brian?" asked Evan.

"You are!" they chorused.

After convincing Brian to let them record an album of standards, they stopped in to see the Beatles record. They were working on Strawberry Fields Forever and it was strange hearing it without the effects that would make it the psychedelic standard it would become.

After recording their album, including such songs as Someone to Watch Over Me, The Way You Look Tonight, When I Fall In Love, and The Street Where You Live, they made promotional appearances. In mid-May 1967, John and Paul visited their house and informed them that the Beatles had been chosen to represent Britain in a worldwide television broadcast set for June,

"That's wonderful news!" said Shannon. "It'll be like performing for all your fans at once without leaving London."

"You're going to have to come up with some message that is short, meaningful, and easily understood," remarked Alan.

"I don't envy you that," said Ryan.

"It is a great responsibility," said Paul. "I mean, we want to use the perfect song, not just some reject."

"Yeah," agreed John. "We don't want to give 'em a piece of crap!"

"Have you come up with any ideas for a topic?" asked Evan. "You'll want something meaningful."

"That's true," said Shannon. "Something with peace and love."

"I'm sure you'll come up with something," Alan told the songwriters as they left. "You always do."

Shannon looked at the others. "I think that went well."

"I especially liked your subtle remark of peace and love," said Ryan.

"It was general enough, I thought, fitting well with the time."

"I would have worried if you said something like 'All you need is something about love and peace'," commented Alan.

"That might have been a bit obvious," agreed Shannon with a grin.

"Now all we have to do is wait for them to bring us the song," said Evan.

"Do you think they will?" asked Ryan.

"They have before, at least on the ones that really trouble them," answered Evan.

About a week later, John and Paul returned, each with his own song. "We want your opinion on which song would be better," said Paul.

"Us?" asked Alan, feigning surprise. "Why would you want our opinion?"

"You always seem to have some recommendation to add or change a word that makes a whole song work," remarked John.

"Just lucky, I guess," said Evan.

"It's weird," said Paul. "Like you have some sort of insight. I'm surprised you don't write your own songs."

"It is strange. Maybe we're more like arrangers than composers. We take something that's already been written and change it to match what we hear in our heads," said Alan."

"Let's go to the studio and you can play the songs for us," said Shannon.

Paul went first. The song was good, but it just seemed to lack the necessary requirements for the occasion. John then played his song, and, even in this simple, acoustic version, they knew it was something special.

"I think you have something there, my friend," Alan told him.

"You can't get any simpler. All You Need is Love," said Shannon. "Perfect."

"How do you plan to arrange it?" asked Evan.

"Arrange it? I've just written it!"

"C'mon, you must have had an idea in your head when you wrote it what you wanted it to sound like."

"I think you should use something unique to open it, something powerful with a definite international flavor," remarked Ryan.

"Good idea," said Alan. "What country makes you think of love?"

"France," answered Paul.

"And when you think of France, what one song comes to mind?"

"Les Marseillaise," answered John after a pause. He looked at Alan. "You know, that's a good idea." He faced Paul. "George might have some ideas on how to present it."

"I think horns would be the thing," said Ryan.

They spent the rest of the visit jamming in the studio before the two Beatles had to leave for Abbey Road. As they were going, John stopped on the doorstep. "If we need any vocals, would you be willing?"

"Just try and keep us away!" laughed Shannon.

On June 25, the travelers arrived at Abbey Road to find the studio bedecked with flowers, balloons, and streamers. "Welcome to the Land of Flower Children," murmured Ryan.

"It does make you think of peace and love, thought," said Shannon. "International symbolism."

"Remember, we don't know the finished product," warned Alan. "We can't sing with it like we're hearing it on the radio."

Ringo was the first to spot them. "Great. You made it."

"Wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Evan.

"And the world is exactly who'll be watching."

"You must be really nervous," Shannon said.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. Probably as it gets closer to the broadcast."

"Maybe if you think of it as just another performance for the BBC," put in Ryan.

They went off to the side and watched as the band ran through the song a few times. The basic track had already been laid down and all that needed to be added was the chorus at the end using friends. The Competition got to hear the song a number of times while waiting and found it hard to believe how much it had changed since John had first played it for them. "This song will outlive us all," remarked Shannon. "Messages like this will always be in style."

"Sometimes you guys really scare me when you say things like that," said George. "You seem to have a sixth sense about these things."

"This doesn't need a psychic. It's easy to tell with this song."

"Not just this song. You always seem to find struggling little bands and predict great things."

"We just have great taste," said Alan. "We found you, didn't we?" George didn't have an answer for that and walked off.

"That was close," said Ryan.

Soon it was time for the broadcast. Alan, Evan, Ryan, and Shannon found places on the floor among the friends and stars that had been invited to take part. Once the horns started, Shannon felt chills on her spine. She mouthed along with the group and smiled when any of them looked in her direction. She knew the brothers were enjoying the experience as well. She felt crushed when it was over all too soon. It was time to go and the next time they would see them, the band would be on its last legs.

They made their farewells and said they would be dropping out of the music scene for a while. With their upcoming absence explained, they left.

* * * *

It was mid-January 1969, the beginning of the end of a decade and the beginning of the end of a band. They caught up on the news at the house before Alan decided to call the studio. "Why there?" asked Shannon. "Why not one of them at home?"

"And how would you choose which one to call? Tempers will flare at the slightest thing, so our safest bet is the studio."

They were lucky that the Beatles were in the studio. "It's great to hear from you," George said. "If you're not busy, why don't you come and sit in?"

"Great. See you in about twenty minutes."

On the way to Apple Studios on Savile Row, they spoke of what was going on at this point in the Beatles history. After Brian's death in 1968, they slowly began to drift apart. They founded Apple Corps., but knew nothing of financial matters and it was soon in trouble. There was a lot of in fighting over who would manage it. Also, the presence of Yoko Ono, John's soon-to-be-wife, was continuous and the others thought she was taking John away from them. "Perhaps seeing John with someone else brought home the fact that the band was breaking up and they weren't ready to face it," said Shannon. "So they blamed Yoko."

"Possibly," Evan said. "After all, they had spent years together living in each other's pockets. Maybe if they had the chance to go off on solo projects occasionally, they might have had an outlet."

"Remember," said Alan, "we want to keep everything light, no added tension."

They arrived at Apple and were directed to the recording studio in the cellar. Once there, they were treated like prodigals. "We'll have to look to our laurels, lads," remarked John. "The Competition has returned."

"Ready to sing again?" asked George.

"Possibly," answered Ryan. "We heard some 'way out' songs while in the States."

"That was quite a different sound you guys were playing," commented Shannon.

"We're going for a simpler sound," said Paul.

"Getting back to your roots?"

"We want to end our film with a concert somewhere."

"Cool idea," said Ryan.

"Could cause some headaches, though," said Evan.

"How do you mean?" asked Ringo.

"Venue, ticket sales, crowd control, publicity... The list goes on."

"Not to mention the film crew and where to place the cameras," added Alan. "It's something that needs a lot of thought."

"It would solve your problems if you could just go on the roof!" said Shannon with a smile.

"That's not a bad idea," said John. "We'll have to check with Michael on that." He looked at Shannon. "I don't think that's ever been done before."

"You four have been known to set new standards."

"Do you top-notch writers have any songs lying around we can use?" asked Alan. "Since we've been out of the public eye for so long, one of your songs should help announce our return."

"We might," said Paul. "We do have quite a backlog. Any idea of what you want?"

"Something mellow. We've got a few 'message' songs lined up already," said Evan.

"Can you hang around for a bit? We just need a couple more takes on this song."

"Not a problem."

They listened to the band play Don't Let Me Down and afterwards were taken upstairs to one of the offices where they went through a catalog of unreleased tracks. They soon decided on All Things Must Pass, a song written by George. They made a copy of the sheet music so they could rehearse it at home.

"We'll call for a studio time," Alan told them as they left.

"Okay. We'll let you know about the concert," said George.

George called on the 29th. "We're going to do the concert tomorrow. We're not sure what time, around midday I think."

"Great. We'll be there!" exclaimed Shannon.

They arrived at Apple the next day at 10:30. There was another guest artist; Billy Preston, a keyboardist the Beatles had met when he toured with Little Richard in 1962. After introductions were made, the visitors were filled in on the agenda. Billy was to play on a couple of numbers and The Competition was welcome to sing back-up as no arrangements had been made for them.

"You lads are gonna stop traffic once again," predicted Alan.

This brought a laugh from John as the group prepared to play on the London rooftop on a cold January day. It was strange, seeing them wrapped in heavy winter coats trying to play like they were in some club. They began with a couple of takes of Get Back, which was the working title of the film and album. One of the songs they performed was The One After 909, a song John and Paul had written in 1957. Ryan peered over the side and saw people walking in the street while looking up to see what was going on. Some workers in neighboring buildings watched from their windows.

The police were called in, however, and the band was politely asked to stop as they were creating a disturbance. The band complied though it was an anti-climactic ending for the movie.

Everyone went back inside, but Shannon lingered by the instruments as the roadies were packing everything away. "What's the matter?" asked Evan.

"They were so happy, playing like this. You could tell. It's so hard knowing that they won't last the year."

"I know. We can only drop little hints, but know they'll be ignored."

"We'll stay a little longer than go home," said Alan.

They stayed and watched helplessly as the band fell apart before their eyes. It was as if they were all struggling to assert their own personalities, which was killing the band.

The Competition finished recording their album and, knowing things would not be the same once the Beatles broke up, announced they would no longer record. They remained in London to promote the final album, which was a strange mix in an attempt to bridge the decades. They were there when Paul married Linda Eastman and when John and Yoko "escaped" to Gibraltar to tie the knot. They slowly faded themselves out of the music scene, but remained friends with all those they had met over the years.

* * * *

Gil found Eric staring at the computer screen in his room. "If you don't get out more, people will start to talk," he remarked with a grin.

"This is amazing. Man, we should've gone."

"Don't tell me, you're reading up on Alan and the others."

"Yeah. After the breakup of the Beatles, they hung around a bit. Alan and Ryan played with John as part of the Plastic Ono Band. Shannon and Evan showed up at George's concert for Bangladesh. And they all did turns as session artists."

"They certainly kept busy."

"That's not all. Alan was with John the day he was killed."

"Oh, Lord. That must have been tough. He must have wanted to scream out about what would happen, to warn John somehow."

"I can just imagine," agreed Eric. "I think of all of them, Alan would have been the closest to John. From what I've read, they seem to have the same dry wit."

"What happened after that?"

"I'm not sure. It says something about a memorial service, but it doesn't mention who was there."

"It's a good guess that they were. I'm glad I didn't go. I wouldn't have been able to hold my tongue. I think that will definitely be a soft spot for them. I wouldn't recommend playing Beatle songs or mentioning any of this when they come back. Let them be the ones to bring it up."

* * * *

After the service, the travelers were rather subdued. "What a way to end this trip," remarked Ryan. "We can't go back like this. We need something a bit more 'up'."

"Wait," said Shannon. "There was a tribute concert to John in Liverpool. We could go there."

"It would be a better way to remember him," said Alan. He looked at Evan. "It's your call."

His older brother thought for a moment, looking at their faces. "Let's go for it!"

They arrived a few days before the concert and when they "heard" about it, they had to take part. When the organizers learned of their interest, they couldn't do enough. The Competition was worked into the line-up near the end where the prime acts were scheduled. "I feel like the Prodigal Band," remarked Shannon, "and this placement is the equivalent to the fatted calf."

"We have to find out what songs of John's the other acts are performing so we don't repeat anything. Then comes the hard task of picking the songs. I think we're allowed two," said Alan.

After checking with the artists, they finally decided to do one Beatle song and one of John's solo works. It was hard, getting back into the performance mode and they had never performed for such a large audience. They were given a warm introduction recounting their early friendship with John and the rest of the band. The group took center stage around two microphones and harmonized Because; a song of John's released on Abbey Road. The stadium remained quiet until they were done, then it burst into rapturous applause.

"Thank you, all! We're a little rusty with our performance skills, so I hope you'll bear with us." Alan looked at the others. "As we all couldn't take the time to say how we all felt about John, I've been appointed spokesperson. John was one of the most honest people I have ever met, not afraid to speak his mind. The world suffered a great loss at his passing, but as long as people gather and celebrate his music, he will live on. This is for you, John. We know you're watching."

They launched into Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, a song John had recorded with Elton John. When they came to the line, "Don't need a gun to blow your mind', they paused a few minutes before continuing. When they were done, they received loud cheers and applause.

"Now that's the way to go out," declared Evan.

21. Time and Chance.

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