Upstairs Artie met us by the elevators and took us on a small tour of the offices, which wasn’t to show us the office but to show us to various employees who hadn’t gotten a chance to meet us before. Then he took me into a conference room where there was a bunch of stuff awaiting my autograph. He gave me a bunch of promo copies of my new age album on CD to give away to whomever. They had generic Wenco promo covers, not the actual album artwork, but I got to see what it would look like.
Remember back when I went to take those promo photos? What we’d discussed was that my photo was for the back of the album while they were going to use some kind of nature photography on the front, which was their standard thing.
They had decided not to do the nature thing.
They had used a closeup of my face, so close that the only thing you saw on the CD cover/album cover was one of my eyes, and most of my cheek, where in the photo you could really see the fine tracks of the scars that had been made by the stage explosion. On the back was a little inset photo of the Ovation in a stand in the studio. And in lowercase letters, spaced far apart so that my name spread across the width of the album:
d a r o n
m a r k s
t r a c k s
“What do you think?” Artie asked, a bit tense.
“Are you worried I’m going to say I hate it?”
“A little bit, yeah.”
“I don’t hate it. It’s cool.” I was holding a photo print of what it would look like. “Just a little surprising.”
“We felt the album didn’t come across as generic new age so we didn’t want to give it the generic new age package, which is sort of anonymous, you know?”
“Uh huh.” I’d been expecting anonymous but I couldn’t say I wasn’t a little pleased by this. Maybe slightly uncomfortable, probably because it wasn’t expected, but nothing bad. “What were you going to do if I hated it?”
He made a nervous noise in his throat. “Um, throw mea culpas at you and try to convince you that we like how marketable your personality is.”
That made Remo stifle a laugh.
“What’s marketable about my personality?” I had to ask.
“Your musicianship, your reputation as a hot guitar talent and musical talent. Your youth. Your story.” He shrugged. “Here’s the one we’re using for publicity.”
He handed me an 8×10 glossy of me sitting in a chair with the Ovation in my lap, my hair looking as burnished and glossy brown as the fretboard. My chin was down and it was as if the camera had caught me looking up, kind of doe-eyed.
“Heartthrob city,” Remo said, then cleared his throat and coughed. “Um, I mean, could we take a stack of those on the bus with us? Dar’, you could use them.”
“I suppose.” I didn’t argue. Artie asked his secretary to see if publicity could bring up some more, and then the three of us went into his office.
We shot the breeze for a couple of minutes and then he said, “Daron, do you mind if we talk about the album launch a little? I mean, with Remo here?”
“Not at all.”
“The launch date was set for May 5th. As it turns out, that’s the date of the show at Shoreline, and right before the break in the tour. I wanted to feel you out as to your willingness to do some publicity then.”
“On May 5th, you mean? Or during the break between legs?”
“During the break. Just a couple of days at most.”
“Isn’t that a lot for an instrumental album?”
“It is. But I think you have a shot to turn this into something more than just something they play in dentist’s offices. I sent the lead track out in the sampler tape we send to all our rock field reps and the reaction has been really positive.”
“That’s cool.” I had no idea there was any chance in hell of this getting radio play. Or sales as a result. I mean, think about it, Moondog Three’s album was played all over the radio but didn’t sell because–supposedly–of genre confusion. What would this record that wasn’t even rock do? Then again maybe it just meant instead of selling 20,000 it would sell twice that much and that was worth it. (For the record, sales of 1989 were something like ten times that and BNC considered that a flop, not even halfway to gold.) “Just tell me where to be and who’s paying for what. Or, well, tell Carynne.”
“I’ll be on the phone to her later today.” He smiled, pleased. “Now would you mind stepping out for a little bit while Remo and I talk about some Nomad business?”
Remo made a surprised sound. “Any business we need to discuss, Daron’s welcome to hear.”
Artie looked back and forth between us with a sober expression. “All right. Just checking. I’ll come right out with it. ‘Last tour?’ Reem, when did you decide that? Is this just a publicity ploy to fill the arenas that aren’t sold out yet?”
“What? No, I wasn’t thinking about ticket sales at all,” Remo said. “I just decided in the last couple of days.”
“You could’ve told me.”
“I hadn’t told anyone until I made the announcement this morning,” Remo said, crossing his ankle over his knee. “I didn’t quite realize it until it came out of my mouth.”
At that point I was thinking two things: One, I wasn’t the only one who blurted stuff like that. Two, the arenas weren’t sold out?
“I meant what I said. Ford’s a treasure. I want to spend as much time as I can with him.”
“Okay, but let’s think this over. You’re not packing in your career. Maybe it’d be better to tour more extensively now while he’s still too young to know the difference, and then pull back when he starts talking and walking.”
“I dunno, Art. It’s not just the kid I need to pay attention to right now. It’s his mother.”
“Ahhh.” Artie nodded in understanding. “Still. We really need to strategize.”
“Before we start trying to make long term plans, how about you fill me in on what you know about ticket sales?”
Artie looked surprised. “Your road manager hasn’t filled you in?”
“No, but he doesn’t bother me with things that are out of my control.”
“Well, all I can tell you is album sales are still doing well generally in all regions of the country and radio play is decent. My guess is that maybe we’re looking at some overexposure?”
“In which case cutting back is exactly what we need to do.” Remo leaned back in his chair and crossed his boot over his knee.
Artie nodded. “But you know that means we need to talk about what to do with the next album. Because if you’re not going to support it with a tour–”
“We’ll still tour. Just not for six months of the year.”
“So you’re thinking, what, two weeks here, two weeks there? Reem, the logistics of that–”
“You let me worry about the logistics.”
They stared at each other then for a couple of hard seconds, and I realized that this was the way two soft-spoken but hard-headed men had an argument.
Then they both said, at basically the same time: “Well, let’s talk about it later.” “Let’s revisit this later.”
Later, when we were on the way back to the hotel, Remo said, “Artie never stays mad.”
They’d been through a lot together, I realized, and trusted each other, almost like an old couple. Or at least like old friends.