Subject: Fish 2000 - The US Wrap parties!
Dear Freaks, Fishheads, Fans and the Company,
Jet lagged, tanned and a happy singer! I got back on Wednesday after a phenomenal trip to the States. It was a Fellini week and I spent some wondrous time with some brilliant Company. I checked into the Marriot in San Diego and immediately had a blinking message light on the phone. The journey went almost unnoticed due to an upgrade to Club Class. A throne with a seatbelt and enough space to have a mile high orgy, on tap Chablis and brandies with a multi movie channel personal digi TV meant I didn't sleep much but I was entertained!
Wednesday was pool-side and a night out with Brian Vogelsang and his partner Paul. A Thai meal and a lot of business talk led to an Irish bar and then a long Tequila curve in McGillicudies till late. I was unravelling!
Thursday was the meet at Shakespeares bar after yet another poolside wallow until a soundcheck interrupted my Fellini moment. Helicopters, Chinooks and Apaches, clattered up and down river all day from the naval Base with it's sprawling Aircraft Carriers and sinister stealth boats. The waterfalls collided with a water feature that Charlie Dimmockers (*) could fill with drool. It wrapped itself around the gardens and pool bar, gushing over rock formations and jumping into the cool Californian sea breeze before passing under bridges over which we staggered into the searing sunlight every morning with our welders goggles and Frapachinos.
People milled around reception and throughout the complex wearing laminates denoting their allegiance or servitude with Microsoft and carrying the logo of Windows 2000. In all that well of normality I felt decidedly Freaky! The laminates were even worn at night in the bars in town. It was obvious there was a distinct lack of Rock and Roll about as it is famously uncool to wear laminates outside your clothes when not backstage and to wear on a night out is a huge no-no! I blagged my way backstage without one on the way to Sound check in the Convention Centre, a 5500 capacity venue that on Friday would be cleared of chairs and filled with pinball machines, maidens sculpting ice with chain saws (next stage to us while we played), rock climbing walls (which I managed to climb quite proficiently after 2 bottles of wine after the show), surfboard swings that turned you into a human pendulum after descending from a tower 30 feet high, more drive 'em/shoot 'em/fly 'em mall games than you could wave a stick at and of course bars, all free and in great numbers throughout the auditorium. We were to perform on the centre of 5 stages in front of massive screens for our allotted hour. The soundcheck on Thursday was short and sweet. I only rehearsed Kayleigh as it was to be the first time we would be playing it together. Spike had asked me to consider singing it as it is still the song I'm most associated with. As most people at the Microsoft convention were not expected to be that aware of my solo stuff, Kayleigh was a safe bet. I was also scheduled to sing Lucky and the lead on With a Little Help from My Friends. We had more time on Friday before the show to soundcheck so I had an early night and headed to Shakespeares bar and grill for 7 thinking I may be late. I sat on my own at a table outside with a Guinness and a cigarette which felt like having a joint in public in Amsterdam. Due to Californian laws it is illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, hotels, airports, in fact anywhere it seems apart from outside. I was getting healthy as whenever I wanted a fix I had to walk for miles. As I mentioned on stage it was strange to be in a State that gave us Flower Power, LSD, the Doors, The Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and the whole Circus and yet here I was in the year 2000 probably capable of getting away with exposing myself Jim Morrison-style, but in danger of being arrested for smoking a cigarette. Rock and Roll whatever happened?
Something else that always amused me is the American attitude to possible lawsuits by stating the bleeding obvious and even more bizarre warnings everywhere. My balcony had about 16 paragraphs of information as to behaviour on said balcony. I expected to see directions as to not feeding giant apes should they attempt to scale the building. Even the hotel had warnings about possible carciogenic dangers on entering the building. I felt I was entering Torness Nuke farm.
Anyway I digress. The meet turned out great and more and more people arrived as the night spun on through a wave of Guinness and tequilas. Scientists (3), computer programmers and assorted PC types, architects, ex-psychologists and a myriad of other occupations all held by a multi-cultural gathering of extremely friendly and diverse personalities made for an interesting evening that contained discussions on Freemasonry, American politics, The Holocaust, soccer and of course the ideas on Fellini days, the new band and the current Cunning Plan. The bar staff at first didn't know what was happening as more and more tables went and soon after discovering who I was, the SAS ensemble trouped in. They were blown away. Customary photos behind the bar and a lot of tequila on the house later we staggered toward a dawn. Shakespeare's bar and grill is now adopted as an official "Company" bar.
The band headed hotelward but I elected to continue the curve as it was beginning to go Fellini. I ended up in a SAAB convertible, Sue Alexander driving, the vehicle owner the excellent Michael Gardiner in the passenger seat and Tony The Tiki Chief in the back seat with me, faces to the breeze and all sails to the wind, destination, Tiki 4.
Tiki 4 I will not attempt to explain here as it's too complicated, too out there, too cool, too absurd and too much of a great Fellini time that it deserves a lyric with appropriate soundtrack to capture the true essence of the experience. On the outside it's a suburban house but inside the spirit of Fellini permeates every nook and crannie. I spent the night in the 70's and woke on a mattress staring through a mesh window at a scene that wasn't my view from the 19th floor of the Marriot still fuzzy round the edges.
(Tony, Micha, Renee, Nikki Little Sioux, Mike G and Susan a personal thanks for the inspiration and the Happening. For a moment I thought I had hair again! :-)
Friday gig day, copious sleep and focusing. Soundcheck was a complete near run through of the set. No-one expected the reaction we got when the band hit the stage around 10pm. Rather than being an unenthusiastic audience committed to beer and hunting down the very rare female species we got a healthy crowd vastly populated with Europeans whose enthusiasm pulled in the edge walkers. Spike started with the jam before Chris Thomson slammed home Davy's On The Road Again and Blinded By The Light. I followed with Lucky and Kayleigh and we had 4 home runs. Suzie and Zoe hit bases with Waterloo and Dancing Queen and Paul Young brought them in with Why Me and a stirring version of Every Time You Go away. Chris hit one out the building with Freddie's The Show Must Go On and then I closed the set with Help From My Friends. The 3000 or so people in front of us lit the Convention Center and we bounced backstage to loud applause. Microsoft were gleaming as were we all and the Jimi Hendrix cover band that followed us had a lacklustre and diminishing reception to their set even with all the benefits of having a 5 panel visual "experience" backing them upon the screens. One of the biggest audiences I'd played to in the States for quite a while the reactions after the show and around the hotel next day made the whole trip worthwhile from a career perspective and even more so regarding the idea of a concerted American effort from the band in future.
We were elevated and Microsoft were already starting to talk about more shows in the US next year.
Saturday was yet another day off and the boys decided to go down the 8 mile tram track to Tijuana in Mexico for the day. How could I resist? We passed through the turnstiles at the border around 3 and immediately hit the bars for beer and Margaritas, the first being a Mariachi bar with a sparkly suited singer hitting out the National favorites to the tables who were eager to participate. This was Mexican Independence being celebrated and everyone was on a high. Lots of wandering round back streets and haggling with street vendors who wanted to sell us everything from blankets to silver and gold chains, from sombreros to pussy farms, from stained glass or pottery to sleazy bars filled with people you wanted to film or talk to or just quietly observe as they went about their lives in this seething maze of humanity most of whom were living their days with the dream of a ticket North and over the fence to Nirvana. The grass may be greener but their are a lot more snakes. It was a fascinating experience for us all. We left around 8 or so and for the first time in my life I rode a Greyhound
Bus we found idling in a side street waiting on the San Diego pick up for the border. Going back was different and US Marines on Border Duty said it all. No hassle but it reminded me of which side had the greener grass. Faces at the wire and 4 year old beggars with trained tears in city streets at night remind me of false gods.
Fellini moment of the day was having my photo taken with the raingod Tlaloc in the main drag where he lives as a statue outside a shop selling historical artifacts. A powerful symbol of an ancient religion left hustling like a mute for photos on the same street where donkeys painted as Zebras are mounted by children wearing sombreros for that exquisite family reminder of their day trip to Mexico. Tijuana is Disney land for hedonists.
We left as dark zipped the city like a body bag.
The Greyhound played Simon and Garfunkel's America as we lazed our way to San Diego. What occurred next as further tequila rocketed down our throats in the Yacht Club Bar is unclear. I was dancing, singing, spinning on my bar stool, choreographed to the wayward beat of the house band to which we were now contributing high in the mix backing vocals that were drawing attention from wary waiters and other creatures from the yacht basin gathered on the high water mark of the bar. I was called over to a threesome perched on stools further down and introduced to Judy (yep!) who turned out to be a rather attractive older lady on a mission that began with dancing. Married and evasive we ended up outside smoking and discovering our angles on life and marriage. Strangers exchanging tales examining options and confessing as only true strangers can to each other. At this and other times throughout the visit I wished I'd had the indecency to record the conversation but the dialogue lingers and the message was interpreted and saved to memory. We joined the others for some bar stool dancing and sing along before her husband picked her up and our patrol headed into a place where others dare tread.
I took point. I avoid much detail to spare the guilty and avoid persecution but as we decided to head roomward John Martyr after a crack up session that debilitated us all decided he couldn't see or walk and I was left with the duty of seeing him to the safety of his bed.
Twas just like old times as I carried him upstairs, through the reception area where I refused point blank to hold his hand, and into the elevator where he collapsed on the floor declaring himself unable to perform the simplest movement. I dragged him out of his box into the 22nd floor corridor by his collar to face two very concerned Americans who wanted to phone security. John couldn't remember his room number and there was no way he was going to be able to talk sense to anyone. I phoned reception with the 2 Americans suspicious and worried. The receptionist refused to give his number but after I explained the situation and found out she was from Leeds (her brother is a big fan). I dragged John to his room and left him on the floor. There is only so far I will go!
Next day Spike called me a bastard and that I was now the enemy. He was behind me on point and suffering badly. Tonight was gig in LA and most of the band were still coming down from the Big Curve! The drive was quiet and surreal. The hotel found easily and I turned up at the Troubadour at 4 to discover that apart from the internet promotion that there was nothing else to support the show as it had been announced too late for major press. The ad on the hoarding outside didn't mention who was in the band. It appeared as just another Sunday night hopeful. Thankfully the Company America, the Queen fan club and Fishheads and Freaks in general had spread the word and a healthy queue had formed by around 8. Sunsets shirts prevailed and it was a very relaxed and friendly vibe in the line outside the club. Old friends and new faces to known E-addresses came into frame and the night was aligned on yet another memorable curve.
All in all around 300 people came through the door and no-one left disappointed. We already have 3 gigs on offer on the West Coast for next year delivered on the strength of the performance and with Microsoft major fans of the band it appears that the SAS band have a future in the States. As always the audience size was ignored and Spike introduced the band as if it were the Hollywood Bowl and not a club gig on a Sunday night. Everyone had a bigger slot and I was handed Just Good Friends with the Fabba girls covering the Menage a Trois backing vocals to add to the other 2 songs from the previous gig. Chris Thomson delivered brilliantly and it was obvious that the crowd were willing participants from the first note played. Youngie was spectacular on Every Time You Go Away and watching him from the front (ok I admit at the bar) reminded me of just how good a frontman he is. My final contribution was Help From My Friends and it was a pleasure to have my old buddy Steve Lukather next to me again for the first in a long time. A phenomenal guitarist we talked later at the bar and it seems very probable that he will be contributing some playing on Fellini Days as a guest soloist.
The gig could not have been better and everyone who attended that I talked to had a stunning night. As it always is in these situations I was in the hotel at around 1am, reasonably sober and alone in a huge bed. Asleep in minutes of hitting the pillow and dreaming of LA girls as a Lost Boy dreams of Wendy. Waking up was a bummer after all the height and depth of the curve.
Thanks to everyone who made the journey to the city of angels and made the evening more of a convention than a gig. That is how I want to tour these days. Up close and personal and having fun on the edge with great company. Fellini nights to accompany Fellini Days.
My voice was near perfect on both nights and only having a few numbers to sing means that the SAS schedule for December is not as drastic as it seems.
Monday after the drive back to San Diego we were alligators round the pool before a farewell dinner with our benefactors from Microsoft who had made the adventure possible. I won't mention the sing a long in the VIP suite, the Tiki 4 experience in my room till 4 am, all angles and threads that only the brave dared follow. The curve had petered out in style.
In the end we accomplished more than we set out to do and at the same time I had a much-needed break and exposure to Fellini moments that are necessary to mark the entry into a new album. As Bosnia did to Sunsets, San Diego has done for Fellini days.
I look forward to editing the rushes in October
lots of love
Onkel Fish x
Ps Again thanks to the Company USA for setting up the introductions, to Kola's friend for the cookies, Tiki 4 for the time machine, Michael G for the jacuzzi talk, Michael of the Termites for being cool and for the intro to the dark side of the blues, the Lost Boy's friend, the Intelligence Courier and Warden of the East, Bubba the journeyman and master of smiles, the Yeast Scientists, the man from Internal Affairs, the Apple valley family and all the rest of the cast who contributed to the opening scenes of my new movie! You know who you are and now understand the true meaning of Fellini ! :-)))))))
(Note from Mo: Charlie Dimmock appears on a UK TV programme called "Ground Force". She's an attractive young lady who is known primarily for two things - building outdoor water features and not wearing a bra...)
Email 23rd September 2000