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Written by Bertie
Read by Natasha
Illustrated by Chiara Civati
Music by Gabriella Burnel
Proofread by Claire Deakin
Music Recorded and Produced by Auburn Jam
Hello, this is Natasha, and I am here with some big celebrity news: Gladys, the heroine of our story about a girl band, is BACK! And she’s recorded five new songs which we shall hear in this series about her dream to become a pop singer in her own right.
Wow! If you like music, you'll simply LOVE this story.
It’s been a few years since we gave you the Gladys and the chiX series, so let’s have a little catch-up.
Our Gladys grew up in Teddington, which is a town on the Thames, just outside London. Her older sisters, Mandy, Laura, and Sam formed the girl band, the chiX, which had a string of hits before breaking up last year.
The lead singer of the chiX, Laura, is enjoying a successful solo career and now lives in Los Angeles.
Although Gladys was never in the band, because she was too young, she wrote their early songs before they were famous.
Gladys is sixteen and has just finished her school exams, called GCSEs. Everyone expects her to go into the sixth form, and then to a top university.
So now you know everything you need to know about Gladys and the chiX. Were you one of the people who cried when the news came out about your favourite girl-band breaking up? No of course you weren't. You're not a big softy like that - but it was kind of sad. Quite a few fans blame Laura. They say she was only ambitious for her own glory; but the truth is that Mandy and Sam did not want to carry on with the constant touring, the responsibility to the fans, the press tittle-tattle, and the trending hashtags. They weren't even that good at singing and dancing. Laura was the one with the looks, the voice, and the talent. “Let her get on with being famous,” they said.
But what about Gladys? She still lived at home in Teddington with Dad.
One Friday, towards the end of May, she stood in front of the hall mirror. She was about to head up to town to have a TV dinner with Mandy and Sam in Clapham.
“Hey-ho, I’ll always be the little sis of the family,” she thought to herself, “but I’m not a child anymore. Nobody can tell me what to do with my life.” She applied a dash of bright red lippy and blew a kiss at her reflection. “Is my face pretty?” She thought. “Hmmm… Well yes - pretty ordinary, actually. But don’t be fooled, world. That’s only the way I look…”
Later she sat on the train as it trundled past Berrylands, fragrant from the sewage farm that stood by the side of the tracks, then Wimbledon famous for the Wombles and tennis; next Raynes Park and the big Victorian undertakers’ shop that filled the view from the train window, and eventually to Clapham Junction, where a sign boasts that it is Britain’s busiest railway station.
She walked through the passenger tunnel, and onto the hilly High Street lit by headlights and shop windows, and buzzing with Londoners heading out for Friday evening. Her sisters' flat was a few streets away. It took up two floors of a white fronted old house. They had a garden at the back, but the evening wasn’t quite nice enough to sit outside.
"So how did your exams go?" Asked Mandy as she cut the cellophane off the Vulcan Veggie pizza and turned the oven to 200 centigrade.
"Don't ask silly questions,” said Sam. "If she didn’t get straight A’s, then her name’s not Gladys Cooper.”
Gladys thought quietly to herself, “Well it isn’t anymore, because I’m changing my name.”
"I'll find out in August," she said modestly. Most people would have been surprised if she had got anything less than A for everything - but she wasn't quite sure about her chemistry.
"Are you looking forward to being a big girl win the Sixth Form?" asked Mandy.
"No," said Gladys.
"What do you mean 'no'? It's far more fun in the Sixth. School stops being like a prison. You can hang around in the common room and you can go out at lunchtime. The teachers call you by your first name. There will be more parties. You'll meet more boys - older ones, not just the drips in your class."
"I mean," said Gladdy, "That I'm not going into the Sixth Form. I'm leaving school."
She had just dropped a bombshell, but it hadn’t quite exploded yet.
"Like straight to Oxbridge University?" said Sam. “Oh Gladdy, you always were the smartest. “
But that wasn’t what Gladys meant. Her mouth was a little dry. She felt stressed saying this. It sounded a little brittle.
"Not to any university or school. That's it, I'm done with exams."
Now she had dropped it good and proper - The bomb had gone off. Both her sisters were trying hard not to look shell-shocked.
"So what are you going to do?" Asked Mandy.
"Sing," said Gladys. Her cheeks went hot. However resolutely she spat out the word, it sounded reckless and silly. She knew what they were going to say next - They were going to say, "You're throwing your life's chances away. You don't want to sing; singing is a tough business. Take it from us, we know - we’ve been there, done that. You're far too smart. Get your exams first and then decide what you want to do."
Actually, Sam and Mandy were so astonished that neither of them said anything for a while. In a way, their combined silence was more terrible than if they had actually started giving her the benefit of their elder sisters’ wisdom. Mandy chopped some extra mushrooms to put on the pizza. Sam set out the kitchen table with napkins and candles and chose some progressive rock for the music system.
Then the flack began to fly...
"You don't want to sing, really, do you?" Said Mandy.
"Yeah, Gladys, you're throwing your life's chances away, you're far too clever to do a thing like that,” chipped in Sam.
"But truly, all I want to do is sing," pleaded Gladys. Her precise premonition of what they would say had not helped her dream up any sassy and convincing replies. She had already told her teacher about her decision, and that had been an even more uncomfortable interview. She had felt the weight of her mentor's disappointment pressing down on her. Her father had been easier. He had said,
"Are you sure Gladdy?" Then, "Well, you're a smart lass. Do what you think is best." That was the sum of his parental guidance and support. Well, he was busy at the time, sorting out his old vinyl record collection.
But Mandy sounded far more like her teacher had done. "Get your exams done first, and then decide what you want to do, that's my advice,” she said; not mentioning that she herself had only lasted a year in the Sixth Form before being chucked out. The school didn't like lazy failures in exams - so they got rid of them before they had a chance to mess up their statistics.
Gladys knew that if she followed the path everyone expected her to take, through the sixth form at school and then university, she would be 22 years old before she got started in life - and that was so grown up that it was ancient. You could never be too young to make it in music. Maturity and wisdom are weights around your neck in the stormy waters of pop.
"I can see why you might feel envious," said Sam. "Your big sisters swan around the world enjoying fame and fortune while you stay at home with Dad and his motorcycle. But look, neither Mandy, nor I ever got that famous or that fortunate or that rich. We did all that work, and now all we can afford is this little flat in Clapham. That’s it! Laura’s the one who has all the attention because she's got long legs and a big mouth, and you can't ignore her. But you're not like that Gladdy. You're - well - clever, and nice, and a bit shy. I can't see you out there on the circuit, night after night, plastering your stage makeup on in the dressing room, squeezing into outrageous outfits, and prancing around with a radio microphone strapped to your head like you were some sort of alien. It's just not you Gladys."
"How do I know?" Said Gladys, feeling upset, and wishing she could keep her cool. "I haven't tried yet."
Sam pressed her phone and changed the music on the sound system.
"Oh not that!" Exclaimed Mandy, as the first few bars of Laura's latest single began to play.
Their sister's voice wrapped out,
"I'm your queen, you love me mean. I’m the cruelest lover you’ve ever seen."
Gladys hated those words. She reckoned the record company had given them to Laura to harden her image.
Sam was actually twerking, pointing her rear end at Gladys. "Come on Glad,” she said, "I thought you wanted to do this." In her time with the chiX, Sam had a personal dance instructor, and she had learned some slick steps. Still, wriggling one’s bum, however skilfully done, never looks that dignified. Gladys had never been that comfortable dancing just normally. She remained seated in her chair. She sat there thinking, "They don't believe that I can sing my way to the top, but I will do it because I want to do it, and when I want to do something I set about doing it properly, and nobody or nothing can stop me."
She caught the last train back to Teddington. It was full of office workers who had hit the pub at 6pm and were now slumped in their seats and in danger of sleeping past their stops. Some of them were plugged into headphones with the bass thumping louder than the clackety-clack of the train.
"Are these the people who will download my songs?" Thought Gladys. "Will they have my voice playing in their heads? If this was a year from now, and if that guy sitting opposite opened his eyes, would he see me and know that I'm Gladys? Would he know my songs, and my words, and my feelings that I had sung about, even though I wouldn't know anything about him? Is that what it means to be famous? To be known, but not to know those who know you? Hmm, perhaps he might even fancy me, even though he had never met me, wouldn't that be funny?"
When she got home, she sat crossed legged on the bed and strummed her guitar. She found it soothing. She was more of a pianist really, and was just learning a few chords, but she felt that a singer-songwriter should be able to play the guitar, because it looked kind of clever and independent, and cute.
She sang, "All I want to do is sing!"
And a few minutes later, she reached over to the table for a pencil and paper, and scribbled down some words and some chords.
Yes, she, Gladys, was going to stand up in front of the world and sing.