Subject: Fish 99 - Farewell to Doc
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,
In Pittsburgh I met a man for the first time that I'd known for years. A powerful prison handshake and a deep blue penetrating stare from eyes that had seen more than I could imagine or read about in a hundred books on life introduced me to a guy who would enter my life and leave indelible marks. We talked like brothers who had been separated from birth. We talked conspiracy and dreams. We ate candy and drank beer before I walked to the stage with the band through an audience under a canopy of 52 balloons that drifted to the ceiling and clung there throughout the show unable to get a break through to the skies above that pelted rain on to the only building on the block that evaded a local powercut. Powerful Magic was in the air that night.
This was Doc incarnate. The man who had sent me letters and photos over the years and who had introduced me to another Brother called 52.
He had arrived down the phone line with a mantra from the Underworld, allowing me access to a story that would take both of them into the land of legends.
Doc in my eyes was already a living legend and he followed us all over the States on that 97 tour becoming our good luck token and overall protector. He loved the vibes and the people and all who met him were touched by his tenderness and a vivid and diamond clear perception of a life that he wallowed in with loud abandon. He trailed us with a grey RV that he'd got in a deal with a local bail bondsman from Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he'd set up home after moving from Oklahoma. Every day that RV rumbled into the hotel lots or shadowed our bus into towns. Somedays we'd wake after a bivouac on a street where we'd been wondering if this would be the night of storms that would wash him from our tail. The mobile tattoo parlour never failed until the last night in LA when they had to leave it on a highway and find alternative transport for the final party down in a city of angels. That would be the last time I would see Doc alive. The giant hug at LAX was the last embrace.
We were to get together again on the tour this year. We knew that we didn't need to write or phone. Not our style. It would happen as always. When the tour was cancelled I wanted to write and explain the last 2 years. I wrote the letter many times in my head but it never hit paper. We'd missed each other on phone calls and as always it didn't matter as we would be seeing each other soon. I have never regretted anything as much as today.
On this tour Doc was to tattoo my right arm above the Native American armlet. We never managed last time as Yatta hogged the chair and his design wasn't completed till the final night in LA. A cluster of wonderful deviants and loosely assembled characters in the "Riot House" trading stories, crystal and angels as the needle purred and the vodka washed away the tears of blood that oozed from the Mayan design on Yatta's upper arm. There was Connie, their daughter Kayleigh, a family they'd picked up on the road between San Fran and LA and an Alaskan hitchhiker who was on the run from her trucker boyfriend and who had come over the border without papers. And then there was Doc and his "bodyguard / driver" revelling in the scene, all of us holed up against the dawn.
I can't explain what Doc became to me. He was an alter ego, a big brother, a guardian angel, an analyst and a general all wrapped up in a wisdom you can never find in books and an energy that only comes from discovering the true meaning of life in all it's glory and wonder.
We spent hours talking backstage before gigs and in the RV with it's shrine to 52 amongst the Fish and Marillion memorabilia and the library of tattoo designs that we pored over as we planned the ultimate canvas. He held court after shows, counselling and mesmerising the fans who held him in awe and all the time watching over the band and crew like a wolf with it's young.
I have never in my life met a man like Doc and probably never will again.
On Monday the 16th he died of cancer of the liver after being diagnosed only a few weeks before with liver failure. He was only in hospital a couple of days before he passed away peacefully on a cloud of morphine.
The world has lost another great character and I have lost another great friend. I'm sure any of you who met him on that tour will have your own powerful memories of Doc's immaculate soul. Raise a tequila to him tonight under the moon and next time you see the Bandidos ride watch the shadows in their wake. You'll catch him there.
"One mans thoughts on another mans skin, we are lover, warrior, magician, Kings"
"But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous Roman Candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
Jack Kerouac - On The Road 1957
Email 17th August 1999