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The word ‘overwhelming’ springs to mind as the satellites feed us seemingly never ending images and soundbites from all over the planet’s surface.
Someone sent me my own video clip to ‘Blind to the Beautiful’ and I was reminded that although the song was written in 2012 the relevance hasn’t diminished and it seems even more ‘current’ than back then.
With hurricane ‘Jose’ following up along the destructive path of ‘Irma’, typhoons raging across Asia, devastating flooding in India and wildfires lighting up the skies in America, Europe and everywhere else I think even the most skeptical of us have to admit ‘The times they are a changing’. This isn’t the place nor the time to examine that argument because it sure won’t help those citizens of the world out there that are just trying survive and recover at the moment.
This weekend I’ll be’ soul brother’ linked in to my former guitarist and great buddy John Wesley who lives in Brandon on the west coast of Florida. I called him last night to see how he and the family were coping and what their arrangements were for the oncoming storm. He was pretty chirpy as I’d expect and when I called he had the power tools out boarding up his daughter’s house. It kind of threw things in a diamond edged perspective as did this e mail from him this afternoon.
Blind to the Beautiful
The stars are fading, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
The bread we have broken, the wine we drank from tarnished cups,
And I stopped believing in miracles a long long time ago,
I lost my faith and I sacrificed my soul,
I worshipped fallen idols, chased false prophets to an end,
To where I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
The ice retreating, mountains exposed in the sun,
The earth is baking, raindrops precede the floods
And hurricanes with children’s names write our history
Signatures tracked by satellites on high,
We should have talked about the weather a bit more seriously,
More than stocks and shares and corporate wares,
We were blinded by the skeptics and their greed
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore; I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
I howled and I cried when the melody died, the song was finally over, There was nothing to say, words stole away, their meaning lost in the ether, What there was left stopped making sense, a broken up alphabet, language dispersed
I just can’t hear the beautiful anymore
The oceans are rising, islands in time disappear,
The canyons burning, forests consumed by the flames,
Wildfires rage across the plains to be starved by barren soil,
Deserted farms where seeds refuse to grow,
I close my eyes to cloudless skies I dream of what we had before,
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore I want to see the beautiful once more copyright DDICK 2013
as a big PS : maybe I completely misunderstand how it all works but I hope the corporates, companies and individuals that use some of the Caribbean islands and benefit hugely from them as tax havens will be contributing way over a fair share to help the islanders recover. It’s only fair but does fairness really still exist?
Just back from a tiring but fun London trip.Sas rehearsals in Putney went well after a long train ride that nearly never happened after I misjudged the time and ended up breaking the Studio to Longniddry station record in my Dad’s old Corsa.
The 4 hours or so on the train chilled me out then it was a slog on the underground to Putney and a long walk to the studio from the station.I hadn’t realised how rusty my voice was as I hadn’t sung down a microphone since May 2016.
It was great to see all the guys and gals again and catching up at lunch was more like being in a doctor’s surgery as we all went through our various ailments 🙂
Getting my head round singing again was a challenge and I felt a bit awkward for the first hour as I had to really concentrate on the songs.All went well in the end and although I could have done with another run through my voice needs to rest up before I do some needed warm ups over the weekend.I’m glad I have these SAS gigs as I would have had problems at our own rehearsals in November if I’d been going straight in.It’ll be fine come Monday night.
Back over the water and north to Kings Cross where I checked in the hotel, showered and got suited and booted for the evening’s on stage interview at the Islington.
Wonderful to catch up with Steve Blacknell who was celebrating his 65th birthday. The Peter Pan of interviewers we managed to get a good chin wag and open the story boxes over a couple of ciders pre show. We were joined by none other than Aylesbury legend and good mate , John Otway, who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years.He was as always in fine and fun spirits and that smile never wavers.Coincidentally the last time Steve , John and I were together was on the set for the ‘Heart of Lothian’ video shoot.
I had another lovely surprise when Judy Totten my former press officer showed up as she is working with John and came along for the gathering. Again great catching up with lost time and stories a go go played out.
As well as personal friends there were a lot of faces I recognised from over the years in the audience and the night was so informal it was easy to pose for selfies and sign items as well as have one on one conversations over pints outside before and after the event.
The evening was a great success and I intend to repeat it in other venues in more towns and cities next year when I release ‘Weltschmerz’. Steve as expected only asked about 4 questions as I bounced and circled stories and anecdotes as well as explaining the state of affairs with the new album. We did a quick hour and then a 20 minute break before the next 40 minute session. I could have gone on but Steve pulled it in and called it a night. I hung around talking to people for another hour before heading back to the hotel with very sore back and legs from a full days engagement across the city.
I had an interview the next morning before I headed back on the train. Steve Rothery was supposed to be there as it was an interview with Swedish writers who are putting together a book on Hansa studios. Sadly Steve was tied up with ‘Marillion’ rehearsals and had to call off so I was left on my own to reminisce about Berlin back in 1985 until I diddly bopped over to Kings Cross station for the long trek back home.
I arrived aching at the Studio around 7 and spent the night catching up with e mails and news. I put a call into my big buddy John Wesley to check up on how he was doing to find him boarding up his daughters house in preparation for the arrival of hurricane Irma. As expected he was staying and hunkering down with his family and I’ll be thinking of him in the coming days.
Today is a day on the PC dealing with work demands and this weekend I’ll be practicing my vocal exercises and learning lyrics for Monday and Tuesday’s SAS shows. This is the last few days I have to clear the desks and prepare for the next writing sessions when Steve arrives the following week. There’s a lot to do and time is my enemy just now.
One major project is the launch of the new web site which is being created by Rob Skarin. His brother Miles filmed the event at the Islington and we hope to have the entire night’s ‘interview’ up on the web site as it’s a pretty good overview on where things are at just now and I think there were some pretty funny and entertaining moments that will make you chuckle.
And boy in the middle of all this ‘Weltschmerz’ do we need a chuckle just now.
The photo was taken by Stuart James and features 2 of the music business’s great optimists and survivors.
I’m sorry to say that I received some really sad news last week. Thomas Stiehler who was sound engineer on ‘Misplaced Childhood’ and on ‘Internal Exile’ died in Leipzig. He had suffered a serious heart attack that left him in a coma and from which he never recovered.
I had been incredibly fortunate to have spent some time with him recently in Berlin when Steve Rothery , Chris Kimsey and I went over to film the documentary at Hansa studios for Sky Arts.Thomas had joined us in a bar later in the afternoon and we continued on to dinner and an entertaining night round the ‘story box’.
Thomas was one of Life’s great eccentrics and even turned up to the Berlin meeting wearing Harris Tweed plus 4’s! He was a fabulous character and a great sound engineer who contributed greatly to the 2 albums I worked with him on. I have fond and riotously wild memories of our days together both in Berlin and here at the Farm when he was the first engineer to use the new studio in the summer of 1991 .He hadn’t changed a bit when I last saw him and he seemed really happy with his lot in life. He still had the crazy glint in his eye and remained a highly intelligent man with great ideas and a beautiful focus.
He could be insanely serious and humorous both at the same time none more so when he was convinced there were ghosts in the studio. He wouldn’t go into the main room at night to switch the lights off and hated being alone in the control room where equipment would malfunction for no known reason.
During the recording of ‘Exile’ he took a short holiday to Italy where he bumped into a medium. He related the story of the studio ghosts and was told to waft some sage smoke in the rooms that concerned him. When he came back he set about his task with typical fervor after explaining to us in immense details what was wrong. Lo and behold all the mysterious technical problems we had disappeared and the vibe changed.
The weird thing was that the old building that was virtually torn apart during the studio construction was used to house German and Italian prisoners of war who worked on the farm. It was thought that all the energies and spirits of the area were disrupted and they were making their dissatisfaction known.
The sage smoke was attributed to calming them down and we haven’t had a major problem since Thomas’s intervention.
There’s a part of him that will always be here in the studio and anytime I ever smell burning sage I’ll know he is there.
Thomas, despite always having been a city boy loved the ocean and on September 16th his ashes, as he’d wished for, are being scattered from a boat in the North Sea .I’m not able to get to the funeral in North Germany but I’ll be raising a glass on the day on the beach where Chris and he went on long drunken walks on days off from recording.
Slainthe Thomas thanks for all your contributions to my career and for all the laughter that went with it.
He’ll be missed by many and my heart goes out to family and friends who are all shocked and saddened by his loss.
Thomas Stiehler RIP
Photo of Fish, Thomas and Chris Kimsey taken by Steven Rothery in Berlin 19th April 2017 thanks for that Steve x
Apologies for being out of touch recently but my typing finger has been rather overworked as I concentrated on finishing the sleeve notes for ‘Songs From the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’. I’ve collected all the various slides and photos and they are now in possession of Mark Wilkinson who is now scanning like a madman converting all the images to digital for the artwork design.
I spent days combing through old fanzines and documents piecing the elaborate history of 1992- 1995 together and to be honest I had to leave out so much, especially from the ‘Suits’ era, as there wasn’t the space.
James Cassidy sent me up his ‘memoirs’ from the period which amounted to around 7000 words. These had to be whittled down and spread between the album sleeve notes as they were an important addition and another great perspective.
In total ‘Mirror’ comes in at around 12 000 words and ‘Suits’ is a particularly hefty 15 000! Basically in the last fortnight I have written a novel!
I’ve sent them out to the usual suspects for review and they got glowing reports. The photos I found really compliment them and I found some fascinating long forgotten images some of which had to be shredded. 🙂
I wouldn’t have believed that so much could have happened during that period and that so many stories were generated.
The documentary for ‘Mirror’ is now being edited by David Barras and Scott MacKay and they are going through reams of footage from my personal video collection and from my friend Henk Tempelman in Holland who filmed a lot of shows over the years.We have, thanks to Henk, a full show from the 1993 Vredenberg Utrecht show that was recorded for the ‘Sushi’ album and we will be incorporating the relevant songs into the documentary. The DVD will take the longest to complete as all the songs for the CDs are now with Steve Vantsis for compilation before going to Calum Malcolm for mastering in early October. Both titles are on line and will be ready for the first week of December.
The T shirt I’m wearing in the photo I had forgotten about till the other day. This was the design given to me by ‘Viz’ magazine after they included me in a ‘Billy the Fish’ strip in one edition. After having already published a photo of me walking naked and carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels outside a venue where the band and crew buses were parked together . It had been sent to them by my ex sound engineer ‘Privet’ Hedge after a particularly drunken night in France playing ‘strip jack’ ‘Trivial Pursuit’ with a couple of local ladies who couldn’t speak English. Needless to say they lost heavily and I decided to strip off in sympathy before heading over to the other bus to get more alcohol.Young, foolish and too drunk to care at the time I hadn’t envisaged the future ‘betrayal’. For the record the young ladies got home safe and unharmed. The band and crew however were badly damaged! 🙂
It was really cool of the ‘Viz’ guys to let me use the image on the shirt and it’s still a favourite.
Mark Wilkinson and Sandy Fearful are working on the t shirt designs for the December tour. I’m keeping this simple and we most probably will have an ivory grey T with the ‘glass with flowers’ image and a black polo with a ‘glass’ embroidery design.
I’m back into clearing the decks again and with the SAS shows in the coming weeks I really need to prepare for some serious ‘Weltschmerz’ application once they are out the way. It’s been an extraordinary busy period this last month and my “heid has been birling” on occasion as there have been some heavy demands from outside the normal day to day circle of routine problems. Dealing with them and keeping focused on the ‘day job’ has been difficult but I’m getting rebalanced again.With the remasters moving into assembly and production 2 massive logs in the jam have been sent off downstream and I have a huge sense of relief.
My young niece Ellie Gibbs is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a couple of weeks to raise money for cancer research. She decided on this journey shortly after my father died last year from cancer related illness.
My dad served with the REME and was attached to the Kings Rifles in Tanzania during his national service in the 50’s. He was stationed for a while close to the mountain and once made an attempt on the slopes making it half way up till he and his friends were turned back by bad weather. It was a dream of his to climb the mountain.
I’m giving Ellie his masonic ring to place on the summit in his memory so we will always know there’s a token from his life that made the top of the mountain and that every time we see an image of Kilimanjaro we can think of him.
Ellie, the family and I would be sincerely grateful if you could donate a small amount to Cancer research UK and support her climb for this admirable cause.Your help on this is greatly appreciated.
take care, stay alive
In the last few days I’ve made an executive decision regarding the proposed recordings for the 3rd CD on the ‘Songs From The Mirror’ remaster.
I’ve decided to blow out the SAS band live recordings and the new recordings that were intended to happen in early October in favour of putting together a documentary DVD with David Barras.
The writing for ‘Weltschmerz’ is taking a lot longer than anticipated for a number of reasons one being that my creative time has been whittled away by a host of other demands.With Robin Boult in the USA gigging with Howard Jones for most of the Summer and both Steve Vantsis and John Beck involved in their own projects it’s been difficult to get all the players together. I felt that to allocate so much studio time and resources to recordings for a ‘historical’ project was not going to be as beneficial as focusing on the new writing. After discussions with various trusted consigliere I decided on another approach to the 3rd disc.
The sleeve notes for SFTM are complicated and demanding and I am already up to 6000 words out of a 9000 target and haven’t yet dealt with the recording, the reasons behind the choice of songs, the album and single release or the tour yet. Simone has read what I’ve written so far and she considers the sleeve notes the best yet.
So far they take in the loss of Andy Field, the change in band and management , the confrontation with Polydor, the ‘Toile tour’, the arrival of producer James Cassidy and the set up of the idea for ‘Songs from the Mirror’. The writing is concise and lean with no waffle and there are a lot of stories, mainly the funny ones, that have been omitted due to lack of space.
To add to that James Cassidy offered to write up his take on both SFTM and ‘Suits’ and has delivered 20 000 words on the period. He’s reminded me of a lot of elements that I missed out on especially regarding the studio time.There’s no way I can incorporate them in the sleeve notes.
David Barras is already primed for the documentary for the ‘Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’ remaster and has accumulated a lot of 8mm footage from that period from my own libraries.We’ve also found material from 92 and the tour in 93 and after discussion with David we have decided to go for a documentary on SFTM and James Cassidy has agreed to come up here to take part in a joint filmed interview where we can cover James’s take on the period and cover all the information that I can’t write up in the sleeve notes. Between the footage and the interviews there is more than enough to pack a DVD that will now be the third disc on the remaster.
This can be done in the coming weeks which frees me up for ‘Weltschmerz’ writing when I have my co writers in the country and available.It also means Calum Malcolm has enough time to work on the remasters and we can get both ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’ out on schedule for early December.
I know some of you were looking forward to new recordings but I think that this new plan makes a lot more sense in the long run and that the documentary will more than make up for any disappointment.
I’m sorry to say that the warm up show in Stirling Tolbooth has sold out in less than 24 hours. There are no other warm up shows planned.
I’ve also managed to find another 500 ‘Misplaced’ deluxe CD’s,available to buy now with delivery here on the 21st August. Parlophone agreed to make one more production run of which these units are my last allocation.As with the new order of vinyl’s we are getting these will be signed. We still have a few CD’s we kept back from the first run and anyone who orders the ‘Misplaced’ Deluxe CD together with any other album will be sent their package out now while we have stock.The rest will be sent when we get new MC stock here on the 21st August.
Also available ‘Farewell to Childhood – Live in Europe 2015-16’
I have managed to get another 350 ‘Misplaced Childhood’ limited edition vinyl’s from Parlophone. These are the last in the run and won’t be reproduced. Once again I will be signing these albums. They are up for sale now and I expect them here in the next week.
I’ll be playing a warm up show for the UK tour at the Stirling Tolbooth on Wednesday 6th December. Tickets are available now at http://culturestirling.org/events/fish/ £20 standing. It’s a 200 capacity venue so if you can make it book now to avoid any disappointment