Subject: Fish 99 - Fogbound and the beginning of the Third Act!
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,
I had expected that my next post to you all would be in about 4 days time on my return from Cambridge. Sadly this is not the case and I sit here in my office under a grim halo of dense fog. The show in Nottingham was cancelled on advice from a local doctor who diagnosed the trachyitis as viral not bacterial. This means that the infection that I have had for over 3 weeks is unaffected by antibiotics I have been taking and that the only solution is complete rest. I tried everything known to man to save the shows and had asked the doctor if a cortisone shot could save the gig. I was told that he could shoot me up but that in the end I would feel great but still have a problem which would be worsened by the effect of yet another performance on a damaged voice. He advised me that in order to protect my voice on a long term basis and to avoid permanent damage that I should cancel the show and seriously examine the possibility of at least 3-4 weeks total rest with at least a week before returning to a stage as a minimum time period. He told me that my case was not unique and that he was dealing with similar infections on a daily basis all of which he had given the same advice on recovery.
The main problem has been that the Italian doctors diagnosis from the lost Genoa show had been mistakenly read as bacterial. With antibiotics and the 5 day break it could have been rectified. As a viral attack the Swiss shows I had fought through had compounded the issue adding more strain which with the continuing infection weakened my voice to a state of being near impossible recovery. The break before the French gigs had allowed me to return to some degree of control but after the Lille show there I was behind the 8 ball again. The MCM TV show in Paris removed all the positive elements obtained by the break and when I hit The Plan at Ris le Orange I was in trouble. Thankfully great monitors and PA at the Plan, Luxembourg and Brussels allowed me some lee way and gave me a crutch to deal with the gigs but physically and psychologically I was on a hiding to nothing. The 5th gig in a row at Brussels was so close to being pulled on the morning it was only the fact that I had cancelled the last Belgian show in 97 that pushed me into going for the performance on the night. Again a doctor was called out and I was presented with yet another course of antibiotics combined with massive doses of Vitamin B compound, aural sprays and lozenges together with 1000 mikes a day of paracetemol. The gig for me was a total nightmare and I travelled back to the first UK show in Wolverhampton with the knowledge that to reach the end of the tour without blowing gigs or my voice was a near impossibility. The day off only put a band aid on a sucking chest wound. I was getting so stressed out by the whole thing that I was unable to sleep. Without the rest the recovery was impossible and as Wolverhampton was the first hotel we had slept in for 7 days I had not had a decent nights sleep since leaving the Farm. The "day off" was a joke as we arrived at the hotel at 8am and had to wait till 1pm to get into the rooms. We sat in reception surrounded by our luggage until the rooms were free as there had been a race meeting on the track next to the hotel the night before and all the guests had checked out late. I watched the rugby in the afternoon and then headed for the sports bar in the centre to watch the Hibs v Dundee United match on the big screen TV. It was ludicrous as I watched the boys beat United in a thrilling 3-2 match. I couldn't risk using my voice so there I was jumping up and down like a crazed mute as the action rolled back and forth and Hibs came back twice to win. The traditional curry followed and I was in bed at 10.30 to hit deep sleep for 3 hours before waking with a heart starting electric jolt to stare at the ceiling till 8am. I had headaches and was finding it hard to breathe. The anxiety attacks came in waves and I became so paranoid that I was thinking of checking into the local hospital. I crawled in and out of sleep till the bus arrived at 12 to take me to the gig. Another visit to the chemists and a bucketful of remedies and lozenges. Sending in the cavalry against tanks.
The gig was slightly better than Brussels. Another "short set", nearly 2 hours with no "Sunsets on Empire", no "Goldfish.." and a lot of banter and comedy routines including "The Beerhunter", one heavily shaken beer can amongst 8 and opened Russian Roulette style against the head after all the band and 2 fans invited on stage had picked a tin each. To let you know how my luck has been we have played the game 6 times on stage and every time I have been the recipient. It was becoming too spooky to laugh at!
But the bottom line is this. It's all very well having a laugh and singing drastically changed melodies with a voice that is shot through to the point of being in some cases unrecognisable. People who are coming to the shows paid to hear me sing. They didn't pay for the comedy. At the end of the day I am not delivering and the loyalty that is being shown by fans is not being repaid.
I was leaving the stage in deep depressions and needing to blow off every night. When I arrived back from the doctors in Nottingham I entered the building to see the crew and band set up and ready to go. I walked into the graffiti strewn dressing room and wanted to smash the whole place up. There was nothing there to trash and past experiences of punching mirrors out taught me that there isn't much sense in adding broken knuckles and crazy stitching to the catalogue of problems.
I was feeling embarrassed when fans came up to me after shows and announced how much they loved the gig. I felt as if I was cheating them. I exited Rock City to be met by a couple of stragglers who had left the nearby pub which I was in no mood to face. The band were in there with Karen my secretary who had just travelled down from Haddington for the show. I couldn't find a smile to hide my emotions.Tony came on the bus with a Mexican flag for me to sign. That was the final nail. What do you say to someone who has travelled that far for a show? How do you explain or apologise?
The journey back to the Farm was intolerable and I never closed my eyes. We all knew the game was over.
There was positive talk about going for Bolton and maybe saving Guildford with a final show in Cambridge. This is not happening. I arrived at 3am and woke this afternoon at 3pm to the reality that none of the 3 remaining shows are going ahead. There is no way even with the greatest will in the world that I can recover from this and present a performance anywhere near quality or value for the admission price.
I have to think seriously and selfishly about my future. My theatrical agent phoned me in the morning as I lay in my bunk on the bus outside Rock City. My voice was barely audible as I croaked out responses to his utter disbelief that I was still on the road as he knew about the ensuing problems. That was my wake up call. He told me that it was "ridiculous" that I was still trying to fight my way to the end and insisted that I cancel the dates in order to protect my voice in the long term and avoid permanent damage. I knew in my heart that he was right.
In the mid eighties I promised myself that when I was going on stage thinking only about the ticket money and the merchandise sales that I would give up the road. That is where I was getting to on the last shows. I wasn't enjoying the gigs and the motivation was becoming principally financial as I attempted to make sense of the figures and avoid another traumatic loss. In the end I have probably broken even with this tour. The accounts will be sorted in the next week. By cancelling these last 4 shows I have effectively lost my wages for the tour as the fees covered the costs and the expected merchandise revenue represented my profit. As the insurance covers the contracts but not the merch income I find myself once again at the end of the road having spent 7 weeks working for nothing. It's hard to swallow and I admit to being extremely depressed at the situation.
However at the end of the day I retain my integrity. I refuse to continue just for the money and going through the motions on stage in an insincere manner.I have to repay the loyalty to the people who have supported me this far and to have played the last 3 shows in the manner that I knew was unavoidable would have been insulting.
So the tour is now over.We are all so gutted at the outcome as we are all feeling lost and depressed that the unit disbands without the climactic exit of a satisfying conclusion of a recognised last show.
The bus sits outside the farm and Yatta who is still not fully recovered is on the train from Wales to help clean up the fall out.The US dates in January are still on but as far as Europe is concerned I am finished. Another organised effort such as the one we have negotiated is not even being considered and my agent has been told not to look for anymore shows.
Spike Edney has some SAS shows in December and the US shows will be worked on this month. But as far as European dates next year apart from potential special events there is nothing planned.
The cancelled shows will not be replaced as Wes has to leave the country on Tuesday and to consider bringing him and the equipment in for 3 dates is impossible to make sense off.
I could not face another debacle such as the one that we have just dealt with. As I said before in previous posts this tour was the question over my future touring activity. The question is answered. Organised prolonged touring is now over for good. I accept defeat graciously.
Well it seems as if destiny draws my course for me. I got the role in "Black and Blue" the Inspector Rebus drama which is being shot for ITV on November 28th and 29th in Edinburgh, ironically nearly 4 weeks away giving me the period of rest the doctor ordered. It's only a small role but it's a major drama and brings me into the limelight.
The "Genesis man" is also now under consideration by ITV and seems likely to go ahead giving me 14 weeks work beginning August next year. Next week I begin writing the screenplay that's been waiting in the wings for over a year and I hope to start hawking that around by December in order to find a commission to develop it further.
It's taken me a long time to make this decision which to be honest has been made for me. Music will now be made for fun and will back up other activities. The next time I stand centrestage at a gig it will be with a beaming face and with a relaxed attitude.I will be there because I want to be there not because I have to.
I understand that there will be many of you disappointed by this decision not only in the long term but also in the immediate short term. I apologise to anyone who has been let down by the cancellations and especially to those of you who have made arrangements or journeys or who have lost out after high expectations over the UK shows.
To those of you who supported this tour I can only thankyou for being out there for me and for buying that merchandise which did keep us going while we were on the road. There were great times and wonderful memorable shows as well as dark down moments.
The fog will now hopefully clear and the sun start to shine on my wee part of the World.
I hope it shines on yours too!
lots of love
Onkel Fish x
Email 4th November 1999