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Song In The Wrong Key by Simon Lipson

July 11, 2012

Simon Lipson is here today and he is sharing an excerpt from his latest release, Song in the Wrong Key.


Michael Kenton is a middle-aged man living in middle-class comfort with wife Lisa and daughters Millie and Katia. Drifting complacently towards retirement, Mike’s world is turned upside-down when he is thrown unexpectedly onto the career scrapheap.

While Lisa’s career sky-rockets, Mike slobs around in his track suit playing guitar, rekindling his teenage love affair with pop music. Knowing Lisa wouldn’t approve, he plots a secret ‘comeback’ at a grimy Crouch End bistro where music executive Ben, desperate and out of time, asks if he can enter one of Mike’s songs into the Eurovision Song Contest. With nothing to lose, Mike focuses on Eurovision but quickly finds himself staring down the barrel of low level fame. His crumbling marriage now page five news, he must choose between his musical dream and mending his broken family, a task complicated by the re-appearance of ex-love of his life Faye.

A laugh-out-loud comedy about love, family, friendship and Euro- tack by acclaimed stand-up and comedy writer Simon Lipson.

Excerpt from Song In The Wrong Key

Mike is studying the Facebook page of Faye Lester, the girl he fell in love with at Brunel University but hasn’t seen for 21 years. Sitting opposite him in his grubby office – where Mike works as a computer repair man – is Marcus, Mike’s large, nerdy, 23 year old boss.

Even at eighteen, she was completely together, the antithesis of the dissolute drunkards who posed as young adults on a quest for knowledge. She seemed older and more sensible than the rest of us, without forgoing her girlishness when the occasion demanded. You could have a proper chat with Faye, and a proper laugh. Of course, I mainly wanted a proper fuck with Faye – as a precursor to a serious relationship, you understand – but I wasn’t alone in that ambition. To the massive disappointment of every straight (and, I daresay, half the gay) guys at college, she settled into a relationship with an unremarkable engineering student called Ray for a couple of years, which effectively stymied every attempt I made to make her see the light. She probably knew how I felt from the start although, if she didn’t, I’m pretty sure the night when, through an alcoholic haze I said, ‘I really love you, Faye. And I want to stroke your breasts,’ she got the message. I continued to flirt clumsily with her for all I was worth, but she batted me away with affectionate, sisterly charm. We were close, but not nearly close enough for my liking. We lost touch in the third year as our respective courses diverged and I found myself in a non-exclusive, predominantly sexual relationship with a rake-thin posh girl called Rula (which, for me, remained resolutely exclusive, albeit not for the want of trying). But at a final party to celebrate our graduation, a party at which Ray was not present and Rula was non-exclusively surgically exploring some bloke’s windpipe with her tongue, I had one last go at making something happen. Uncharacteristically, Faye was drunk as opposed to her usual in-command-tipsy and, bolstered by Blue Nun courage, I extended an arm in a mock-gallant gesture and swept her onto the sticky carpet as Kool and The Gang’s Too Hot blared from an overworked ghetto-blaster. I swirled her around in something I imagined to be ballroom fashion, then reeled her in, pressing myself into her luscious body. I was immediately betrayed by an erection which took the edge off my ham-fisted little show and forced me to move off to the side, left thigh against left thigh, so she wouldn’t notice. ‘Have you got a stiffy, Mikey?’ she slurred. She’d rumbled me, but I took it as a one time only invitation to kiss her, so I did. And she kissed me back, her sweet alcohol breath and busy, moist tongue sending me to the very limits of consciousness. Pushing my luck and misreading the signals, I suggested we go somewhere quiet. Turned out it was a surrogate fuck, a pity-kiss. She stroked my hair, smiled and said, ‘Have a great life, Mike.’

And that was the last time I saw her.

So that photo of Faye on Facebook was oft-visited during my fallow period at home and even now – especially now – as I whiled away the hours holed up in the Crouch End shitter between call-outs, I frequently clicked to her page to study her pert nose, limpid green eyes and wistful smile. My own profile bespoke my happy marriage to the wonderful Lisa, my successful career in high-end IT systems maintenance/sales and my continuing interest in music. Run that through Google Translate and you get ‘tedious fucking bore’. Perhaps I should have added my hobbies and interests – cinema, sport – to highlight the sorry blandness of my existence as I waited to die. I felt uncomfortable about sending a friend request; we weren’t friends any more. It would be pushy, presumptuous, voyeuristic. Maybe I should just send her a message. But what if she didn’t reply or, worse, didn’t remember me?

But, the day after the gig, as I sat ruminating between call-outs to fix the letter ‘J’ on the keyboard at the hairdressers over the road (Mane Attraction – hair clip stuck underneath) and replace a bit of cabling at the police station in Hornsey (PC Dildo tried to fix it himself with that special non-stick Sellotape and electrocuted himself), I decided to take the plunge. With breathless trepidation, I started typing:

Hi Faye. So what have you been up to these past twenty years! 

That exclamation mark had to go. In fact the whole sentence had to go.

  Hi Faye! I was just having a gander around Facebook and found your profile. The years have been good to you! You look younger if anything! Unlike me! 

Ok, total shit. Total shit. Exclamation mark overload, witless, stupid. I had to do better. I needed to calm down, be a little more business-like. She wasn’t that sweet, innocent girl any more, was she? She was forty-two, a grown woman who’d lived a life, done stuff, maybe got married, had a career. I couldn’t get away with tweeness or lame, mirthless quips. If she remembered me at all, I didn’t want to reinforce her perception of me as a gauche little chancer.

Dear Faye. Last time I saw you was at a party at Brunel (I think). A lot of water under the bridge since then. It’d be nice to hear from you.

Oh for fuck’s sake. The (I think) was a dead giveaway; ‘water under the bridge’ beyond prosaic. Cretin.

Dear Faye. Remember me? Hope you do. You popped into my head the other day because I was singing this song at a gig and – this’ll make you laugh – I remembered that I actually kind of wrote it for you and…

  Are you out of your fucking mind?

I couldn’t believe I was about to do this but, devoid of inspiration, I decided to ask Marcus for his input. Desperate times…‘Yoh, Marcus,’ I called out. He looked up from a specialist magazine for diode fanatics, the remnants of a Flake tumbling lazily through the filaments of his fuzzy, schoolboy beard. ‘Say you hadn’t seen someone for twenty-odd years, someone you quite liked. How would you write to them without sounding tacky or desperate?’

‘Twenty years? I’d probably say something like, remember that rattle you nicked out of my pram? I want the fucker back.

Marcus laughed like a bear choking on bark. ‘Yeah, ok, I know you were really young twenty years ago. But imagine you were my age, ok? however appalling that might be. Come on, give it a shot.’

Marcus looked up ruminatively at the suspended ceiling which had more gaps than tiles and stroked his beard with a grubby, food-soiled hand. A painful minute passed. ‘Ok. How about Hi. It’s been a while. Fancy getting together for a coffee?

Blow me if the big lump hadn’t absolutely nailed it.

Simon Lipson Bio

Simon Lipson was born in London and took a law degree at the LSE. After a spell as a lawyer, he co-founded legal recruitment company Lipson Lloyd-Jones in 1987. In 1993, Simon took his first tentative steps onto the comedy circuit and has since become an in-demand stand-up and impressionist across the UK, as well as a regular TV and radio performer/writer. His broadcasting credits include Week Ending, Dead Ringers, Loose Ends and Fordham & Lipson (co-wrote and performed own 4 part sketch series) on Radio 4; Interesting…Very Interesting and Simon Lipson’s Xmas Box on Radio 5 and And This Is Them on Radio 2. He is also an experienced voice artiste who has voiced hundreds of advertisements as well as cartoons and documentaries. His first novel, Losing It, a thriller, was published by Matador in 2008. Simon is a columnist for Gridlock Magazine ( next novel, Standing Up, will be published by Lane & Hart in Autumn 2012.;

Twitter: @SimonLipson

Buy links – paperback and Kindle:

My show, The Accidental Impressionist, is on at the Camden Fringe 20 – 23 August @ 8pm. Everyone welcome! Details and tickets here:

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 11, 2012 6:48 pm

    This book sounds pretty good.

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