In the morning we woke up in the parking lot of a motel in Pennsylvania and checked in–one to a room, again. John suggested that Mills and I get together again before we went to the hall at two o’clock. At ten a.m. I was on the phone to Artie to see what kind of counteroffer he had been able to come up with.
“We’re not so sure about this repackage-and-redistribute deal, Daron,” he told me. “We’d prefer to sign you to a completely new deal, let you finish out your contract with Charles River and give you tour support right away.”
“But you know BNC will buy out Charles River.”
“It could be a win-win for you and us, then, if they give your current album a big push into the mainstream and then you sign with us.”
“But I don’t know if I want to do that to Watt.”
“Well, write these numbers down.” He rattled off some advance amounts for one, two, and five album deals. “If they offer you better, come back to me again and we might be able to top these.”
“Artie, that’s all well and good, but the higher you make these advances, the more in the bucket we’ll be when the album comes out. It’s not going to sell better because you promise us more money.” Knowing they thought we were worth big numbers was flattering, but the last thing I wanted was to put us in huge debt to the company.
“You’re right. But I don’t know how else to entice you to sign with us instead of them. Offering more money’s all I can do.”
“Why don’t you like the idea of pushing the current album?”
There was a pause, then, “Maybe it’s part of the corporate philosophy here.”
“So there’s no way to convince you.”
“I personally do not think it is a bad idea, but it’s just not the way things are done here. It would be easier for them, too, since CR is one of their distribution clients.”
“What about the message I left you last night?” Watt’s lawyer had given me plenty to think about.
“About exclusivity and master recordings?” There was another long pause. “You know those are tough issues.”
“Yeah, I know.” I kind of thought I’d be willing to accept a much smaller advance, even less tour support, in exchange for those things, but really, what did I know?
“We’re afraid to cut back on tour support because you don’t have management resources. That’s one of the reasons Nomad gets full tour support from us, because they don’t have the office-power to handle it themselves. Besides, you won’t find another company who gives the kind of tour support we do.”
And on and on. We went back and forth for a half an hour, and I’m not sure which was more frustrating, the fact that Artie was one hundred percent honest with me (as far as I could tell) about what Wenco would and wouldn’t do, or the fact that I had to be second-guessing Mills all the time. In the end I had to tell Artie that I’d get back to him later, after I talked to BNC again.
I imagined Mills was also on the phone at that moment, to people higher up in the BNC corporate structure than himself, trying to see how much leeway he could have with us. But maybe he was just sitting there, waiting for us to go up there. If he really was Mr. Magic Pen, he didn’t need to consult anyone else.
I tried Remo again and this time got someone in his LA office who told me he’d just left for four days in Japan. Wow. I couldn’t think of anyone else to call so I rang up the rest of them and told them to get their butts into my room.
Christian was the last one there. I sat down in the one desk chair the hotel provided and looked at the three of them, travel-weary, a little bleary-eyed, spread out over the beds.
“We need to know. Are you in?”
Christian knew how the band worked, about our collective accounts, the extent of my managerial role. Nobody felt the need to repeat any of that here. He looked around at the three of us and looked at his hands.
I spoke softly but kept my eyes on him. “It’s now or never, bud.”
“Okay. I’m in.” He looked up with a smirk on his face and Bart shook his hand. Then we all shook hands with one another, putting on exaggerated accents (“so nize doin’ bizniz with yoo”) and laughing. That left forty five minutes to the big meeting.
I won’t drag out the suspense any longer since the wait was excruciating and the meeting itself was worse. Mills and I circled around and around on issues, and backed off, and feinted, and tried again. Lunchtime came and went. I think in his perfect world, we would have signed a multi-album deal for a big chunk of change, and we would have given up everything else we cared about. In my perfect world, I wouldn’t have had to worry about whether one of my decisions was going to screw us in the future, and the most important thing would have been to get Candlelight into the stratosphere. In the end, we each got a little piece of what we wanted. We agreed to sign over Candlelight and the album re-release plan as we’d previously discussed, and give BNC the option on our next album. That would mean more contracts, more negotiations when that time came. But it was all we could do for then. I felt drained and shakey by the end, but Mills seemed very happy once the deal was done. I knew Artie had no interest in the re-release idea, so we hammered out the details right then and there. And then it was done.
Mills cracked open the champagne and faxed all the details to the office in New York, where some underling would produce a clean copy of the contract with all necessary changes, and we’d actually sign on the dotted line when we arrived there in two days. Jonathan set up a photo shoot for us to do pictures for the Spin article, and Watt told me CR was happy with the deal. Mills put other parts of the promotion machine to work and told us they’d like to shoot some additional video footage of us in New York to go along with the live stuff–voila, instant MTV exposure. I was amazed.
Soundcheck happened on time. I broke a string on the Strat and changed it backstage. Jonathan thought that was quaint. “Until we have stage hands we hired ourselves, I’ll do it myself,” I told him. He took a picture of me doing it.
The show itself went well. Enthusiastic crowd. The lights were harsh and bright and hid the faces of the audience from us. One guy up front threw a baseball cap onto the stage and Bart put it on backwards and left it there. And as if he were proving my point of last night, Ziggy was bristling with manic energy, throwing himself from place to place on the stage while he sang; the wireless mic freed him to whirl like a dervish, to collapse at my feet. I played looking down into his eyes while he lay on his back and sang. I taunted him with riffs, exchanging looks and music until he narrowed his eyes. Whatever game we were playing he seemed suddenly sure he could win it. As he began to sing the next chorus, the look in his eye changed from maniacal to feral and the meaning of that look struck me full on as if he’d mouthed the words “fuck me” right there. I felt a surge of energy up through my spine and I closed my eyes as I went to my knees, the part of my brain that wasn’t pulling the solo out of my fingers wondering if Bowie had ever taunted Ronson like this.
Glad you could hammer out a deal that seems to have made most everyone happy-ish. Instant MTV, just add sweat.
I figure that was the record company equivalent of strewing the floor with rose petals and handing me a diamond ring, yeah. It gets hard to say no at that point.
The Ziggy Stardust concert movie came out just exactly when I was first getting into Bowie, and the Bowie/Ronson guitar move is indelibly part of my being a fan. So… even from the audience, I have an idea how that feels.
I’ve been afraid to watch it, actually. (Nothing we do is new, probably, but we need to feel like it is.)