The album was aptly named. In 1990 I found myself a known artist who was unable to operate in the music business when a High Court Injunction stopped my solo career in it's tracks only weeks after finishing the "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors" tour with a sold out Albert Hall show on July 9th 1990. It should have been a celebration instead it was a wake as my career with EMI records UK was effectively over.
My manager John Cavanagh who had been looking after me since the split from Marillion and had to deal with the switch over in contract from band member to solo artist. EMI records had the right to pick me up as a solo act and I was perfectly happy to stay with the company after a number of successful years on the label and existing solid relationships with many of the staff and executives both internationally and in the UK. I felt part of the family.
There was the problem that the solo provisions as written in the old Marillion contract suggested that the new deal was less than I had with the band deal but a flurry of negotiations set the wheels in motion and the solo adventure began in earnest. The initial deal we agreed on wasn't brilliant but it wasn't bad and I was eager to prove myself as a successful solo act, sell a shed full of albums and go back and renegotiate a better deal for the second solo project. EMI wanted to see how their new act was going to perform before committing to a second album but all in all everyone was happy and excited at the prospect of having two successful entities arising from the split of what was one of EMI's premier acts. The finances quickly dwindled away as the reality of supporting session musicians, equipping a demo studio and touring rig and all the rest of the necessary paraphernalia used to ready a band from scratch took it's toll. "Vigil's.." late release had meant I had no advances for a while as EMI waited to see how the album did before taking up the option on the second solo album. On top of that the tour had lost money as I found it hard to adjust to my new responsibilities and budget accordingly. I took a gamble that within the year I could reach the audience numbers I had gotten accustomed to with Marillion. I badly underestimated the time lag between albums. In short I'd been away too long and the fallout from the messy divorce has alienated a lot of fans. I went for an expensive concert production in order to impress the media and crowds that I was still a "big time" act. The gigs sold well but the costs were too high and the expected return to touring larger venues in the Summer and thereby recouping our losses didn't happen. I expected EMI to support another single and grease the wheels of the touring bandwagon. Everyone wanted the next album. EMI controlled the game, decided that "Vigil.." was successful enough to warrant them picking up the second solo album but decided the figures in the contract should stay the same. I was in danger of losing everything as I'd personally underwritten the tour losses and the advances due were barely enough to cover recording costs never mind my personal needs. After a series of confrontations and legal skirmishes I allowed my heart to rule my head and contacted lawyers to deal with what was becoming an entrenched situation where "compromise" was a dirty word. The elements involved all pointed to a quickly deteriorating situation as my manager was an ex EMI executive and my lawyers had been involved in brutal head to heads with the company in recent years on behalf of other artists on the label who wanted to renegotiate their deals after successful projects. At the time lawyers were perceived to be the most powerful entities in the music business and a lot of people wanted to see the tide turn. My entire case was based on a bluff. My legal team expected EMI to back down before a full blown High Court case, avoiding unnecessary negative publicity and capitulating with an offer that would give me a far more lucrative deal. They were very wrong. EMI as I was to find out were fully prepared to go all the way and called our bluff, big time!
The EMI defence was about to take me out of the game as it didn't take a genius to determine that my then current state of finances were incapable of maintaining a High Court action.
An injunction forbidding me from releasing albums until the case was settled was enough to take me out of circulation completely. My contract technically gave them full creative control so even if I could have financed an album myself if I lost the case they could have legitimately asked me to re-record a new album at my expense and shelf the prepared album. This created the problem that no-one would finance a new recording in case at the end of the day I lost and would be owe the costs to the third party who would be highly unlikely to see a repayment. There were other Labels in the wings but as soon as they saw the EMI contract they backed off to see the result of the confrontation. This scenario was too much of a risk for anyone to get involved with. The legal costs rose, outstripping my income which by then I decided had to be invested in creating a studio in order that this situation would never arise again. I again took the gamble on a successful outcome to the case which although nobody ever said it was a certainty no-one ever told me the real downside. I was soon to find out.
It was like playing poker with millionaires and they knew I was bluffing. The stakes went up and eventually I had to leave the table, tail between my legs and a huge legal bill not only from the EMI affair but also from the Marillion litigation that had been running since early 89 and wouldn't be settled until early 1991 at high cost to both parties.
During the entire affair I only attended the High Court in London once and had to be restrained by my lawyers during testimony in the initial hearing. I remember the Judge addressing the court with the immortal phrase that they were in "danger of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs". I was duly cooked! I was raging at the "injustice" of it all and took the whole thing personally I had gone from being a high profile EMI act to near bankrupt and persona non grata in less than 2 years! I took it as a betrayal at the time and my frustrations and bitterness compounded to render me useless.
In the middle of the case I discovered my wife Tammi was pregnant and that Christmas was the worst in memory as Tara my daughter must have sensed the situation and refused to come out!
I can vividly remember a few nights before Christmas the two of us lying naked on the floor of our house not knowing if we'd have a roof over our head when our child was born.
We were broke and on top of all that I couldn't even get promoters to give me a tour as there was no record company support or a new album to work. I couldn't write as my head was chewed up with "Legalese" and hatred and the building of the studio was put on hold as the bank began to put me under pressure to come to a deal with EMI and grab the meagre advance that was on offer. The situation had gone too far and any future with EMI was highly unlikely without the prospect of a big stick and total acceptance of their control over my career as far as I could envisage. I couldn't face the facts with a clear head and deal with the problems unemotionally.
My lawyers continued to fight a rapidly becoming desperate case getting paid all the way and my reputation as a viable, friendly, intelligent and reasonable artist was getting buried week by week as any opportunity I had to vent my spleen was taken. In April 91 it was all over. I'd auditioned for and gotten a part in a BBC drama called "Jute City" and it was in Liverpool on location the call came through. I was told I needed 750,000 pounds if I wanted to go to Court with this and everyone on the Legal team had to be paid up front! I was advised by all and sundry to capitulate and further meetings with "knowledgeable" individuals set up a deal to allow me to carry on with my career which by now was in tatters. Even now I don't feel comfortable discussing the case and the settlement involved but the "goose" was well and truly "stuffed". I was not pleasant company as anyone who met me at the time will testify and party invitations were few and far between!
Polydor Records stepped in after a long negotiation in the shadows. Their Managing Director, David Munns, had been an old friend from EMI days where we'd met in Canada and then in England when he took up the post as MD in the 80's. He'd brought old fellow EMI stablemates Talk Talk to Polydor and his reputation enticed John Cavanagh and myself to join him. At last I had creative control and for the first time in my life control of the recording copyrights. The personal advances paid of a lot of outstanding bills including vicious legal costs but after nearly 3 years since my last advances I was just about even again. The studio went ahead I brought in outside investors to supply the equipment as the defeat hadn't been expected and left me with a huge shortfall in the studio construction. I never wanted to be unable to record again and went ahead full steam into another crippling financial morass as the interest payments had to be made from a studio whose hire rates had been based on figures from the previous year and were now plummeting as the UK went into a recession. Polydor agreed to back the album in my own studio, now named "The Funny Farm" by Spandau Ballet's drummer John Keeble, old friend and drummer in early incarnations of the solo outfit. The equipment was still in bubble wrapping and boxes when we started recording the material that had been squeezed from very intense and stressful writing sessions over the last 9 months. The songs were all written at different times with different people and in between forays down to London to suffer legal briefings and meetings all of which wound both myself and the band up. Frank Usher took part in the writing for the first time, contributing "Just Good Friends" and "Favourite Stranger", the former to find it's true self in 95 on the re-recordings with Sam Brown guesting on vocals. Truth is I didn't know what direction I should take. I still had the "hangover" in style from Marillion days in songs like "Shadowplay" which one wag in the media described as being like a "wasp trapped in a jar". How I laughed! It had folk leanings all of which had been around me for years but had been subverted till now as my anger at all things corporate and especially London based led me into embracing the new wave of Scottish nationalism that was gripping the imagination of the country I'd returned to live in.
"Dear Friend" was another acoustically bent track to join "Just Good Friends" and juxtapose against the rockier anthemic "Credo" and the bitter and dark "Tongues", my side swipe at EMI and the music industry. At the time I needed to unleash an attack if only to feel I could land a blow from my own corner. I dedicated it originally to Rupert Perry the managing director who I was told took a few days to come down off the ceiling.
Years later we discussed the case in his office after the furore had died down and I had a more mature and relaxed approach to the old confrontation. We chilled out over a few beers in his office, more like old soldiers than anything else and he denied the wind up was successful and as we both admitted regret over the confrontation he added that he wished we could have discussed the issue personally before the lawyers got involved and turned the whole affair into an expensive circus. It made me think about who exactly in the end had benefited from the exercise! Those who had the least interest in my career had made the most from a situation that alienated me from the industry I had once loved with a passion. Even now as I write these sleeve notes I get a twinge of anger at some individuals who even now are still raking a very good living from the naive idealism of artists. I still find it ironic that sometimes the same lawyers who set up and negotiate contracts are more often than not the ones that argue their illegality years later. I rest this case. Polydor at the beginning were very enthusiastic and my signing was greeted as a major coup for the company. I felt like I had just finished a jail sentence and was in rehab! Meeting all these new faces after so long with EMI was a strange experience. Problem was that at the end of the day I'd renounced my "old ways" but found myself with another "gang". Some things hadn't changed and the relationships took a long time to build again. I was suspicious of motives and questioned everything to do with my career, much to the chagrin of my new "employers" and my manager. The suggestion of bringing in old friend and producer of the two "Big" Marillion albums, Chris Kimsey was greeted with enthusiasm as Polydor felt I needed guidance and counselling. I knew I did! Chris was skeptical about recording at the new studio and brought in"Misplaced Childhood" engineer Thomas Stiehler from Berlin to assist the project.
Chris loved the material we'd written but felt the diversity required moulding into some semblance of direction. This was to create a major production problem as the recordings compromised the natural edges and shapes of the compositions. The album became a "roundabout" rather than having an essential direction. The songs individually were all in my opinion great as is recognised by their prominence and popularity in the existing live set. "Credo", "Internal Exile" and "Lucky" especially feature strongly with "Tongues" holding centre stage in the "medley" on the 97 tour.
"Lucky" and "Internal Exile" were strong Scottish "statements", the former based around my Home town, Dalkeith, and what my destiny could have been. No matter what had happened in my career I still felt touched by the luck and I was becoming very aware of my nationality, my roots as Tara, my daughter, placed me in a position of being a link in the chain rather than an irresponsible loose end with little concern for heritage or family. I was a father and a son now!
"Dear Friend" came from this revelation as old relationships and friendships were rekindled."Internal Exile" had been written during the "Vigil.." sessions although it had originally been inspired during my time at Dalnaglar castle near Blairgowrie when Marillion had retreated to Scotland in the Summer of 88 to write and rehabilitate. Distinctly Nationalist the lyric had not gone down well and was felt to be too personal both politically and emotionally for inclusion on a band project. It was recorded during the Townhouse 89 "Vigil.." sessions with Jon Kelly but I thought it was destined for the second rather than the first solo album.
Everyone at Polydor backed it as the first single and it was released in September 91 peaking just inside the UK Top 40 before diving from the charts with virtually zero airplay South of the Border! The cover drew flak as did the lyrics with some prominent DJ's refusing steadfastly to play it because of the sentiment involved in the lyric. A general election was looming and certain institutions were paranoid about the resurgence of Scottish Nationalism. The cover with a miner "crucified" on a pit wheel against a blue background with a St. Andrew's cross didn't help allay their fears!! Elsewhere Internationally the song went down well and helped establish me further as a Scottish solo artist rather than as part of a British act. The cover was part of my homage to roots, in particular to my Mother's side of the family, most of the males having been miners in the now desolated and abandoned Lothian pits. Even Monktonhall, one of the most modern pits in Europe in the 70's and mentioned in "Lucky" is no more, the pit head demolished in early 98 after valiant attempts to keep it open by a consortium of local miners.
The song was too much for some fans and alienated large sections of the fan base in England who considered wrongly my attitude to be xenophobic. Far from the truth but when the sleeve hit the racks and the posters and ad's trumpeted the arrival of the album in October more than a few heads dropped in dismay. Mark Wilkinson designed once again but this time I went for a portrait on the cover as well as the airbrush work associated with Mark's style. As I recognised the wild differentiation of writing styles I decided to opt for a pastiche of the sort of cover I used to find on "Boys Own Stories" books, the ones you got from Auntie's at Christmas as a kid and containing all sorts of miscellaneous heroic stories printed on cheap paper but sold on the garish covers depicting critical moments from the adventures within! I used to love them and set forth instructing Mark on the symbols and emblems. It was very Scottish but then again I was rediscovering my nationality and wanted everyone to know about it! The cover was changed in the USA to a photograph taken by Andy Earl at the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Still one of my all time favourite sessions it added to the "Celtic mystery" the American record company felt would help sell both the singer and the album to what was a new territory for me as a solo artist as "Vigil.." was never released domestically in the States. The early Summer 92 release was short lived as the American company pulled the plug on the album soon after discovering all was not well with my relationship with the UK company. The USA "Exile" achieved very positive reviews but a great opportunity was wasted. I wouldn't tour America until 1997 until my next domestic release with the "Sunsets on Empire" album on my own Dick Bros label."Credo" the second single came out last week in December but again although receiving plays and relatively good reviews from the UK Rock Press vanished after flirting with the Top 40. However signs were good and I pressed for another shot at the singles charts. It took 5 months for Polydor to decide on which track. I wanted "Lucky" but the cover version of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" was also a contender. My first ever studio recording of a cover version it was chosen because of the "revolution" theme and grooved up to take advantage of the then Manchester dominated dance vibe. I'd wanted to groove for a while and Chris urged me on, both of us looking for that elusive Hit that would break the log jam and relaunch me onto centre stage again. Radio again blanked the song and to rub salt in the wound Tom Petty would have a huge hit in the USA that Summer with a far less adventurous cover of the same song! Gutted!
Why the penguins on the cover? What are they looking to the sky for? I don't remember! I was probably very drunk or inspired (or both!) at the time!! There was a collection of musicians on the album. The boys from Capercaillie, Charlie McKerron, Mark Duff and Donald Shaw provided backing to the folk element and Maryen Cairns wrapped her original vocal talents around "Tongues" and "Something in the Air". I even got a very liberated Chris Kimsey on the other side of the glass to sing!
The drummer situation had changed once again and Ethan Johns replaced Ted McKenna (ex Sensational Alex Harvey Band) soon after the sessions began. Ted was brilliant with the rock material but the diversity was causing problems for everyone and as the studio itself was ripping time from us every day as we repaired, installed, designed and redesigned the specifications and equipment in the building. Chris and Thomas took it badly at first and vast quantities of relaxant were used to pacify the "incomers". Chris eventually joined us as far as getting a kilt!
Thomas went stir crazy! One night I found them both out of their heads playing croquet stark naked on the lawn under the security lighting. Fun times! However there was friction and Mickey Simmonds enjoyed the album the least. Chris could make life very hard for someone when he wasn't happy and Mickey took a few verbal bruisings. I think this and the fact that the previous year had been tough on him as well contributed to his eventual departure. He never felt part of this album and with others involved in the writing as well his position wasn't as assured as it was on "Vigil.." Because the writing was shared with the two guitarists in the set up the style shifted. Keyboards were overall less prominent and I started to move toward a rockier and groovier approach. I was changing. The drums as always were the lynch pin and I was concerned as Ethan wouldn't get involved in touring. I knew there were always going to be changes in the future line up. The problems mounted but there was a perverse pleasure in overcoming the grief and obstacles that occurred on a daily basis. I actually began to revel in it as after the last year this was like scratching an itch rather than a serious attempt on my livelihood!
My attitude was everything could be dealt with and there was a solution to anything that threatened to take us out! The equipment problems got so bad at one time I called in a medium as I thought the building was possessed. It was given the "all clear" but it was pointed out that new buildings on the site of old stirred up energies which when combined with the frustrations and stress from dealing with the album and all it's problems could adversely affect equipment! Thomas went for a break mid-album back to Germany where he was advised to waft burning Italian sage in the studio to calm malevolent spirits. He did so and all from that point was ok! He didn't know that the original building was used to house Italian prisoners of war in the 40's!!! Thomas was glad to get home and the mixing was completed at the studio by Chris and assisted by Mike"Spike" Stent. We amazingly delivered on time much to everyone's surprise including ourselves. The relief was awesome. I pressed for a release as soon as possible to try and counteract another long time between albums. The October 91 release was fast. Maybe too fast and the promotion machine spluttered into action not fully prepared to deal with a new label artist and a project whose tapes were still warm!! More gambling.
The tour once again had a large production and rehearsals went well with Kevin Wilkinson (Ex Waterboys, China Crisis) coming in to take up the drummers role. The promotion kicked in and we were prepared for lift off! What we weren't prepared for was the UK tour promoter going bust immediately prior to the first warm up show in Elgin. Two weeks disappeared from the schedule and costs soared. I carried on knowing that the Polydor advances had just gone down a hole in the road! By the end of the campaign which misfired all the way and was spun around a short term burst of promotion and long periods of silence the album hadn't accomplished what everyone had hoped for. This was the 90's and the "accountants" carried the weight in decisions. David Munns had moved to Vice President of Polygram and Jimmy Devlin, another friend from EMI was now Managing Director of Polydor. We thought all boded well. Within weeks of finishing the tour I was once again at loggerheads with the company as my financial position became once more unstable after the touring fiasco. The Polydor hierarchy was sympathetic but refused to help bale me out as the debit balance with the company was horrific. The story continues on the "Songs From The Mirror" and "Suits" sleeve notes but in 1991 I felt that the world conspired against me. Every time I needed a break none came. Believe it or not I never gamble on cards or horses. I have taken enough with my own life and career to understand Lady Luck isn't so much a fickle partner as an ex-wife with a sick sense of humour!
"Internal Exile" I'm proud of and it was in effect my "difficult" second album. I came through the experience a wiser man and a more knowledgeable and self contained artist. The songs on this album are every bit as strong as other material in my career but the album never gelled as a whole. It was too fragmented and without a strong cohesive style and direction. The remastering has done a lot for the attack that was missing in the early incarnation and in retrospect this album deserves a lot more attention that it received on it's release.
As always time makes a wise head.
I said in the original credits "The jester is dead, long live the jester"! Well I had to have a good sense of humour to deal with all of this! It's said every cloud has a silver lining!
Maybe that's what the penguins were looking for!!
Internal Exile Sleeve notes