1991 had been another stormy year. The first album on Polydor, "Internal Exile", hadn't fared well and confidence was at an all time low. The record company were nervous and so was I. Tammi and I headed off for our first real holiday since 1988 leaving behind the fracas and debris of the "Exile" tour which had struck a rock even before the main tour production was loaded into the trucks at the first warm up show in Elgin. The UK Tour promoters, "Bandstand" went into liquidation leaving us with 2 weeks with no gigs and the others to be honoured with reduced income. It was a shambles and I was advised not to attempt a legal battle due to recover the money. Not that I was particularly enthusiastic after taking a sound beating at the hands of EMI lawyers earlier in the year. The end result was a massive tour loss which knocked me back into financial oblivion just when the heavy advances from the Polydor deal had put us back on course. The studio equipment had to be funded by investors and as we were in a bad bargaining position the deal wasn't as fair as it could have been. I was taking gambles on every front that the album would have scored highly and taken me to a level where I could easily have confronted the debts that were rising quickly. The UK was in recession and it wasn't a good time to be running a studio as rates plummeted and bookings were hard to find. Time to fall back and regroup. Everybody I dealt with in the music business seemed to be wearing a suit. My life was being taken over by business decisions and as my overall position became weaker the more it seemed I was being taken advantage of. I was frustrated, angry and frantically trying to get the ship back on even keel. The stress was numbing and I knew I had to get as far away as possible in order to recharge and deal with the situation effectively and as unemotionally as possible. I chose Kenya. The day after the last show at the Dome in London I was on a plane to Africa. We stayed in Mombassa most of the time but spent a week on safari in Northern Kenya. The feeling was incredible. The wilderness, the wildlife and all that space went to my head and ideas formed quickly. It was while visiting an exhibition at The Kenyan Natural History Museum in Nairobi that I came across artefact 1470, the oldest skull ever to be found in the Rift Valley, the acknowledged area on our planet where the first evidence of Man was discovered. The skull was part of a display containing waxwork tableaux of how those days might have been and I was captured by the simplicity and the wonder of Life the images represented. I started taking photos of the skull and became mesmerised. I tried to imagine what he'd think of us all today with our stressed out, materialistic, paranoid, obsessive lifestyles. I realised we had gone badly wrong somewhere. But at the end of the day I was staring at a long lost relative and that's where the idea broke. Suits became the title and the album started to form. The cover was supposed to represent the spirituality and the jacket on the needle with the surrounding buttons draped around the impaled rib cage the obsession. The tattoo fixation which would develop on Sunsets on Empire began here as the embellishments on the jacket which was intended to look like human skin! We never quite got the texture right!! Kenya was not all fun. When Tammi and I arrived back from safari we took the phone call that we'd been dreading for some months. Andy Field, my production manager and one of my longest best friends had finally died after a long battle with cancer. I'd been at Mount Kilimanjaro when he passed away and as we couldn't get back from Africa for the funeral I spent the afternoon of the service on a drift dive in the Indian ocean, staring at passing coral reefs 40 feet down beneath the waves. It was a tough one to take. It seemed everything was falling apart and the benefits from the recuperation in Kenya evaporated in one single stroke. I had not only lost a great friend and Guru but also a good luck charm. Andy's death recognised the end of an Era. I arrived back in Scotland to be met with more bad news. Mickey Simmonds, also broken hearted at Andy's loss decided to quit the band and weeks later I lost my publishing deal which I'd hoped would give me the funds to see me through that year. This was a hellish time and I decided I had to find a "cunning plan" to get me out of this wreckage. I auditioned keyboard players and found through Frank Usher a local player from Bonnyrigg. Foster "Foss" Patterson had all the necessary capabilities and techniques I needed and he lived down the road from me. Kevin Wilkinson had come in on drums on the Exile tour after getting through auditions (including Dave Stewart my present drummer who I turned down then due to lack of experience!!). I at least had a band and 1992 was marked as a touring year. The only way I could sort the mess out was to raise money on the road. The wheels were set in motion. It's at this point that everything becomes blurred as the Songs from The Mirror project and the Suits project fused together. The relationship between Polydor and myself quickly soured as I determined to bring the Mirror project forward and leave the album of New material as the third Polydor album. I'd toured the clubs and pubs every long weekend that Summer writing material with the band while at the same time recording the cover versions for Mirror. It was a slow process and when the Mirror Tour came along everything was dropped until I discovered that Polydor didn't require my services any longer and the next cunning plan unfolded. I was aware that my actions surrounding the EMI affair and the subsequent commercial failure and recriminations at Polydor had given me the title of "Difficult Artist" which made signing to another Major label unlikely. I accepted this with trepidation. The only alternative was to embrace the Independent label scenario and after a meeting with a Spiritualist the way forward was clear. Bill had been at the studio during the "Ghost" problems in 1991 and phoned me up out the blue to tell me that he had to see me. During the session I received a "message" from my Grandfather William who told me to "take my business all the way through to finished goods and sell them yourself". Certain other elements of the reading convinced me that this was the way and in respect of the advice I decided to name the new record company Dick Bros after the garage my Granddad owned with his two brothers Johnny and Robert in the early 1900's through to when my father took it over in the 50's. The garage was on a hill in my home town, Dalkeith and to this day it's still known as "Dickie's Brae".
I used the only existing photograph we have of the three of them as the logo for the company and the first release was the live double CD from the 1993 tour, Sushi. This together with the "Official Bootleg Series" kept me afloat through the initial period and helped fund the recording which as with Mirror was made in the middle of a touring schedule I named the "Toile Tour", Toile being the rough cut out or dummy copy of a Suit made with cheap cloth. We were rehearsing and writing and recording at the same time!! The theme was obvious. My experiences over the last two years dominated my thinking and with James Cassidy involved not only as producer but as a co-writer as well the songs and the album took shape. The subject matter spun around lifestyles, attitudes and abuse of power and money, false prophets, broken dreams and disillusionment - fairly standard topics for me!!!
The culmination of the frustration and the disappointment of recent years came out most strongly on Raw Meat. My Ode to the Road. It was difficult maintaining the fight and the positive attitude over time and this song was the declaration of intent. It is Andy's song. Lady Let It Lie was inspired by my wife. It was difficult enough in earlier times but now with a family to support and be responsible for the awareness of my own mortality and limitations were immense. I was getting older and the opportunities were getting fewer. My past was littered with cunning plans. Tough to take for everyone involved. I wasn't particularly graceful in my acceptance of the fact and didn't like being reminded. Somebody Special, Emperors Song, No Dummy and Jumpsuit city were all about differing attitudes to "Getting on in life", the female in the first (based on someone in my murky past) uses her guile and manipulates her way up the ladder, the second is the artist tempted with the "sell-out", the third shoots his way to the top with the knowledge that everyone needs some "muscle" sometime and the last lyric was found in Hamburg on the Toile Tour. We'd been gigging near the Reeperbahn, the City's infamous Red Light district. It was late Winter and all the girls working the streets were wearing jumpsuits, one zip, easily removed and warm when hanging about doorways. One girl in particular caught my eye as we sat in a bar opposite her patch. The observation was acute. Ironically most of the working girls were from Bosnia and at the time the Reeperbahn was becoming less of a tourist trap and sadly more like it's old self. Little was I to know that I'd be touring their homeland soon. Fortunes of War was the second single from the album after Lady Let It Lie performed admirably well and charted in the UK, our first position as an independent company. Lady had Black Canal as a b-side. A song born in Ghent in Belgium while hanging around the backstage area of the club which was a turd's throw away from the polluted waterway that ran through the city and had provided the means for the mercantile success of the inland port. It is now nothing more than an open sewer whose smell invaded the bus as we slept outside the venue. Cue lyric on the price of commerce! Fortunes of War had a far darker theme, the real cost of War. The idea had been around since 1987 when I spent an early morning by a river bank in Grand Rapids in discussion with a Vietnam Veteran after a rigorous session in a club. The single was released late 94 as a 4 CD single box set containing nearly an entire acoustic live concert (thus avoiding the passé "Unplugged" titles that were commonplace at the time!) My hopes were that the CD's released over a 3 week period would artificially keep the title in the UK singles charts which are notoriously unstable and unforgiving to new releases. The problem of independent promotion was making itself known to us. Radio support was minimal and the single died a quick death when shops couldn't understand the release schedules and started to sell the box set as an album package and forgetting to "swipe" the bar codes as 4 single sales!!! Another cunning plan bites the dust!! If Bandwagon indicated the up side of touring then Pipeline was the antidote to the naive positivism. Based on a childhood incident when I was dared to cross the Esk river by a sewage pipe 20 feet above a perceived raging torrent after negotiating my way around spiked collars covered in barbed wire. For years I didn't have the nerve until one day I crossed over into the sprawling woodlands of the "Dukes" estate with all their associated adventures. My pipeline was here again in another form but this time others made the decisions on when I could cross. Out Of My Life was written for a compilation album of young Scottish Musicians with the project title of Outpatients. This was the first number in the catalogue of releases on Dick Bros but had been previously released on the short lived forerunner company, Fishy Records Ltd. Although written during the Suits period it wasn't in the same vein as the rest of the material and emerged as an extra b-side on the Lady single. It was to become a favourite on the acoustic tours of 94-95. Promotion was expensive and hard to find and the limitations of putting out my own material became self evident. The only option was to tour and work the press and media as much as possible around the dates. I found myself on a hamster's wheel rather than one of Fortune! I was constantly reminded of Woody Allen's quote on a relationship being likened to a dead shark. I began to feel that if we stopped touring and took the time off to write another album the income would dry up and everything would go down. It wasn't far from the truth. I didn't want to "die" just yet so I kept moving. In retrospect I think I could have been braver with this album. The writing and style had to change after Internal Exile but my great leap forward was hindered by the lack of confidence installed since the Polydor deal had collapsed together with my awareness of new found responsibilities in both a personal and business capacity. I was moving toward a new direction. More song orientated structures and less clichéd Progressive approaches to the production and overall sound. James Cassidy helped move me into that new area and the awareness of rhythm came more to the fore with the band grooving on stage rather than plodding through material. This was an essential album to make and it pulled me back into line as a songwriter and singer. I started to rediscover myself and although it wasn't a recognised album back in 1994 it's position as a pivotal moment in my career will stand the examination of time.
PS. I actually look good in a suit! I just never get the attitude right!
Suits sleeve notes