Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,
Monday and clear skies after a stellar party to launch the album. A few million brain cells missing, two broken glasses and a compacted lawn appear to be the only damage after over 200 or so friends and family joined me to close a day in my life and open a new door on my future.
Friday was, to say the least, emotional. It started with an 8.30 interview for XFM's Glasgow morning show about Hib's chances in the league this year and plugging the September shows and the new album. I was up soon after and trying to keep myself busy and my mind diverted from dwelling on the phantom wedding.
Early arrivals drifted into the studio later that afternoon and Steve and I were waiting like expectant fathers on Calum delivering the first complete mix. He eventually arrived short of 8 o'clock. Meanwhile quite a crowd had assembled and were draped around the sofas. I originally sat on the main couch but after a few tracks I had to move as it was too intense. I found myself listening to my recent Life unfold in front of me
The album is brilliant, if I say so myself, and I could not be more proud of this project. Calum has done a sterling piece of work and his production is without a doubt the best I have ever had in my career. It is amazing and even though I am so close to this I cannot stop playing the album.
"Circle Line" opened the night and the room was tense with expectation. This was the first playback and the ten or so people were frozen into silence as the "13th Star" cascaded from the speakers. No one said a word for the next hour.
I was trying hard to detach myself from my emotional ties with the songs but as "Arc of the Curve" opened I started to fall in and I couldn't catch myself. I had to leave the room and sat in my bedroom for a while with a lot of pain for company. It was an incredibly cathartic moment and the release was immense.
I recomposed myself and stood at the back of the main room until "Where in the World" and again had to slide out as the emotion took control. It is an extremely difficult album for me to hear and took at least 6 listens until I could hold myself together and deal with the intensity of the performances that Calum has captured.
At the end of the playback there was a silence then as people realized it was over there were huge smiles and an out-rushing of breath as they came to terms with what they had just heard. And then the applause. Steve and I were beaming. It is as good as we thought.
As more arrivals drifted in the album was again put through its paces and again everyone was delighted. I was too busy dealing with ghosts to really take everything in. As the night slipped through into the next day I was balancing the fact that I had probably the best album in my professional life in my hands and at the same time I was dealing with one of the most traumatic occurrences in my personal situation for a very long time, if not ever.
I became a bystander in immediate conversations and eventually retired to the greenhouse with a dry Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and the album. I was joined by Andreas and he sat in quiet respect as I again went on my curve. It was now officially the 4th August. I inhaled a deep and shaky breath. I was in bed, emotionally exhausted, just after midnight.
Saturday I woke up around ten to sunshine blistering my window. Elspeth was - as she was the entire weekend - unflappable, constantly organising and running around making sure everything was OK and that everyone was happy. I couldn't thank her more for the huge effort she put in to make it all happen. I wasn't allowed to go near the marquee where my Mum and sister Laura were working with Elspeth decorating tables and adding that finishing touch to the venue.
Andreas, Nick and Carol Barrett, Tosh and others were blowing up balloons on the decking under a welcome umbrella on a day which could not have had more perfect weather. It was to be an eye in an otherwise cloudy and wet weekend and I couldn't have picked a better day.
Paul Kinnoch came up to activate the Tyneside bar and we were treated to the first pint of the day around midday. The album was played a few times that morning and continued to draw accolades to the various groups that gathered in the studio, glad to get out of the sun. It was buzzing in the garden as friends and family turned up in dribs and drabs. The marquee was stunning with tables adorned with tea lights and gold stars floating in glass bowls filled with blue dyed water. Elspeth had organised the entire tent to perfection with the new "13th Star" key rings and coasters laid out on tables and blue balloons floating in the roof. Thanks to my Mum and Dad the garden looked beautiful. The dahlias shone in the borders which Chris Brown my lighting engineer was decorating with up lights and ultra violet lamps and gels which would combine with the flaming torches in the flower beds to create a magical atmosphere later that evening.
Elspeth's nephew Gregor and his friend Greg had combined to lay on a brunch spread that would prove a saviour as the wine flowed freely. By 2 o' clock there were around 40 or so friends from various walks of life scattered across the lawn and the kitchen garden and I was aware of the "wedding clock" ticking away in my head. I should have been standing in St Mary's at the end of an aisle. Steve V and I had a few knowing glances. I decided to get dressed for the party and came out with my new kilt of "Dick tartan". It looked splendid and with my Argentinean gaucho "Sgian Dhu" (a small knife worn in the kilt sock) and a large dirk attached to my belt (which had been given to me as a wedding present by one of my best mates Kenny Greenan who was supposed to be an usher) I looked pretty imposing to some of the wee kids! The t-shirt proclaimed "I'm not dead yet!" and my smile did the same.
Overall I think the playback of the album the night before had allowed me to let a lot go and I was facing this day a lot lighter than I had been the entire previous week. At 3 o'clock I had my toughest moment when I should have been on my way back to the house as a married man.
A moment on my own and the letting go.
Frank Usher gave me a huge hug on arrival. It was also his 58th birthday. By now there were around 100 or so guests and we were gathering speed. The album was on constant play in the studio which had originally been meant to be off limits. It was all so cool and relaxed.
I bounced around conversations and brought people into the playback sessions, popping in to see how it was going down. Gavin had an early hearing and was grinning. Chris J arrived later around 4 and managed to listen in to most of it as more and more people arrived. It seemed every time I went outside there were another dozen new arrivals. Inside the house Tom Russell the legendary DJ from 96.3 Rock Radio was visibly moved as he listened to "13th Star" and Spike Edney was blown away. It was moving towards the introductory speech time and Elspeth dragged me down to the marquee through throngs of people. “Montana" a local band booked for the original event had been on stage since 6 and the party was starting to liven up.
I walked up to the mike to an uplifting round of applause. No script, no plan. I just went for it thanking Elspeth and my family and everyone for attending before introducing Frank for whom Elspeth had ordered a huge cake (actually the bottom slab of the wedding cake :-D) decorated with the "13th Star" logo and "happy birthday Frank" on the reverse side. Frank and I duly cut the cake with my dirk, had a huge hug, and then I introduced the album. Well, I should have done but I forgot and had to return to the mike minutes later :-D
It wasn't as if I was particularly the worse for wear as I kept on putting drinks down and forgetting where I left them, resulting in a continuing trek back and forward from the studio or the marquee bar for new ones! (Unwittingly pacing myself I ended up in a pretty good state at the end!)
"13th Star" was duly played to the marquee and afterwards Calum, Steve and I were over the moon at the response especially from some people who were relatively unaware of my solo material. It was all so positive and focusing on the future with a great album took the sting out of the recent past.
Soon after Mark Wilkinson took me aside and unveiled the artwork. I was stunned. It is without doubt the best piece of artwork he has ever done for me. I cannot and will not explain it as it will be up on the site in parts next week sometime and you can be amazed yourself. It is absolutely in tune with every lyrical observation and fits the entire mood of the album perfectly. He is, without doubt, a genius! :-)
The only disappointment on the day was that the catering hadn't arrived due to a breakdown and when they did set up they were undermanned and relatively unprepared for the onslaught of ravenous hordes. (I was just about to order fish suppers for 200 people when they arrived on site!)
I bopped around conversations until I was dragged up for versions of "Boston Tea Party" and "Night by Night" (Steely Dan) with the Border Boogie Band aka my first band "Blewitt". We would have liked to have played ourselves but Foss was away on holiday and the rest of us were, I think, glad we could just relax! ;-) The bands were all great and the sets were just right for the crowd. "Roadhouse" closed the night and, as a Le Mans 24 hour pit stop of taxis rolled up the drive, it was over.
One in the morning and the garden started to empty just as the rain drizzled down on the smouldering candles in the flower beds and the huge up lights illuminated the house and gardens. Everyone was smiling.
Great new friendships had been made and old ones re forged. It had been a perfect day.
I couldn't believe how smoothly it had all gone. The security had ended up being unnecessary. There were no rolling drunks, just swaying ones with big grins! All so peaceful and happy throughout the entire night! I don't think it could have gone any better.
I retired to the greenhouse with the dawn patrol and we sat and drank champagne as the rain washed the garden and extinguished the final flames of the garden torches.
I hit my room at around 6.30, drained. It had been a truly wonderful day.
I was up around one to be met with the last stragglers including Steve V and his partner Helen, his Dad and a couple of friends wandering aimlessly and in a wee bit of a haze. Only one thing for it! :-)
As the afternoon rolled on I disappeared into the "warm" zone and floated away from all the responsibilities of dealing with the party's aftermath. The PA and lights rolled out and we bid farewells to the last combatants.
I was finally on my own at around 8 o' clock. It was still raining. Tara was gone for the night and I headed for an early bed.
At least that was the plan. I couldn't sleep and around 3 in the morning I went out to the greenhouse with the album, a bottle of good wine and a large smoke. The rain had stopped, leaving a fine drizzle and a mist that wrapped the entire garden with its attendant marquee and the wraiths of flowers glowing in the long beds. It was a strange light and as the tracks moved through to "Arc of the Curve" I held my breath, let myself go and walked with ghosts for a while.
I sat in silence for a long time at the end of the album and drained the last gasp of wine. I could sleep now.
That's what I kind of remember of it all. It was a brilliant weekend and I couldn't have spent it with better company.
As a launch party it was fantastic. It would have been a perfect wedding day. On a personal note there's still a lot I have to deal with within myself and it will be a long time before I ever feel ready to embark on another relationship. The hurt is still there but I think that the events of the weekend went a long way to burying a lot of pain that had been holding me back in recent months. I was reminded that I have a lot of treasured friends who care for me and their answer to the call on Saturday can never be fully appreciated in simple words from me.
All I can say is thank you to all of you who did attend and who made it an occasion to remember for all the right reasons.
And now onward!
The album will be polished and ready to go to production next Monday and I only have a couple of overdubs on Thursday to complete my contribution. I hope to have clips up next week on the MySpace site so you can hear what everyone is talking about.
I will let you know next week about the release date and the ordering process.
I am finishing writing this on Tuesday as my Monday evening was graced with the opening derby game of the season and a call to The Railway Tavern for a Hibby night out watching the game on Setanta. We won away from home 1-0 :-D
This could be our season! :-D
Lots of love
Onkel Fish xx
"The days are long, the nights are longer"