How do you brag about one of your most resounding successes, without actually revealing exactly what it was? Because I want to brag. I’ve wanted to brag about this for over a year.
You see – I became obsessed with a voice. A voice I first heard way back in the 1960s in the middle of a pop-song that was climbing the charts at the time. Just another song, when I was 14, when pop-music only ever came out of a radio. It came, it went, and four decades rolled by.
Then I asked the internet: ‘Who was behind that voice?’ and Wikipedia gave me a one-line clue; her name. Okay: not much to go on, but Google! I discovered an obscure blog about the famous group in question and its many adventures, and it gave me one more clue: the age of The Voice at the time of recording.
A name, an age, and by deduction a year-of-birth. But girls become women and women get married and trail is lost. Maiden names disappear. But I persevered, finding myself tracking an entire family history through the List of British Peers. I had spotted a possible marriage, a possible husband, but was it enough? For all I knew I could have been tracking an entirely different [NAME REDACTED].
Then a breakthrough: I found a sad note on a discussion thread written in the original name, to a friend about their mutual loss. Three school-chums, divided by a death, now down to two. Chums who were now in their forties. The ages matched perfectly. I found more on the deceased; their school; more data-points. But it was not enough. I couldn’t go bothering The Voice without certainty. [Hey: I shouldn’t’ve been stalking her, full-stop!]
Back to the sixties. I researched the other name from Wikipedia – the step-father it mentioned. This lead to other web-sites, more stories, more clues, and finally the (likely) name of The Voice’s mother! The dates matched, anyway. Finally, I found a Births, Deaths and Marriages register with that name in it – as a mother recorded on a specific birth, but no baby’s name. Paddington, London. Perfect. It would have cost me a bunch of money to fully unpack the mystery. I felt nosy. Too nosy.
So I left it.
The trail went cold. I found nothing more. Finally, I returned to the only person on Facebook that matched the married name I’d found via the Peerage Lists. (I knew they had since divorced. Astonishing what you can discover via the internet!) So: me the stranger, sending a message to another stranger via FB. You know how that goes: straight into the category called ‘Other” – the dead-letter bin of the digital world. No reply.
Then my laptop abruptly crashed, taking my entire search, every detail – into oblivion. An entire year went by. Then another.
Then she answered: “Yes – that was me.”
I was gob-smacked; like: “OMG – I’m taking to *HER*! The voice I first heard at age 14!”
Typing, I asked questions, promised I was not going to reveal her identity, that I wasn’t a journalist, etc, etc … and little by little (for she was not that talkative), I began to realise something profound: She’d told no-one about it. None of her contemporary friends knew of her ‘fame’. The incident had been all but forgotten. Worse, it had been a small corner of a greater tragedy: A whole tragic morass of abusive step-father/family destroyed/tiny child emotionally trampled during those glorious-but-selfish 1960’s rock&roll days.
Her memories were bad memories – and there I was expecting the exact opposite. All my shiny expectations crashed around me. The person I expected …. Well she wasn’t; not in the least! Hell: I’d been lucky to get a five-sentence glimpse into that day. but all of it was treasure, including a passing mention of one of rock’s biggest stars – she’d met him! It had been the one sweet moment in an otherwise exploitative situation. Fook. What an insight; what a sad tale. Murmured my sympathies, I signed off and let her be.
So that’s my brag: I successfully stalked someone, found her, after a 45 year cold-start.
The lesson though was tougher, much tougher, and at the end of this adventure I feel prouder of the fact that I was not so crassly clumsy as to not realise what her truth really was – the very sad truth behind her brush with rock&roll history. There was no fame, except the idea of it that I had created.