After the meeting at Artie’s we dropped by the WTA offices so Carynne could pick up some stuff–or maybe it was send out some stuff, whatever–and we ran into Ziggy and Barrett in the elevator on the way up. Ziggy looked exhausted. The moment the doors closed and we were the only ones in the elevator, Ziggy threw his arms around me and exhaled.
“Long day?” I rubbed between his shoulder blades with the palm of my hand.
He didn’t answer, but Barrett did. “We just came from a meeting with Megastar.”
“And just talking to those people would tax any sane human,” Ziggy said, into my shoulder. “God, I need a … cup of tea.”
Barrett covered his eyes, smirk-wincing where Ziggy couldn’t see. “I have Lipton up in the office, I’m sure.”
Ziggy lifted his head and sneered. “You do realize if I’d said I needed a drink, this is like you saying you have Everclear up in the office.”
Barrett shrugged. “You’re the first client I’ve had who’s turned to tea instead of drugs or religion. Speaking of which, should we talk about hiring a yoga instructor for next tour?”
“I bet if we do our dance recruiting right we can find someone who’d be happy to do it for some extra cash,” Ziggy answered. “But–” The elevator reached the office floor. “Let’s talk in the office.”
My and Ziggy’s photos had joined the others on the wall in the lobby long ago. In mine I’m shirtless and sweaty post-show and I’ve still got a guitar, but I’m posing with Little Steven Van Zandt. I don’t actually remember taking that photo but I’m going to guess it was at some show in the metro area. But maybe LA? I dunno. I can’t even tell if it’s an M3 or Nomad show. I don’t always strip off my shirt, but sometimes I do before an encore. Show high is still the best high.
I felt a twinge walking past that picture. When was I getting on stage next? When was I getting back on that horse?
Apparently we were all taking part in the meeting in Barrett’s office. Barrett’s secretary Suzanne came to Ziggy’s rescue with her stash of Celestial Seasonings and within a couple of minutes we were all drinking mugs of some slightly sweet, red-colored tea. Ziggy perked up a bit after finishing his off and tucked himself next to me on the couch.
Barrett had taken his suit jacket off and hung it over the back of his desk chair. “I should bring you guys up to speed on what’s been going on.” He sipped the tea curiously. “BNC has balked pretty badly on releasing the album here in the States. As you know, it’s going great guns in South America. Japan just keeps getting bigger even though we haven’t been there. In Europe there’s keen interest but they haven’t released yet.”
“Because they’re waiting for the US release?” Carynne asked.
“Partly. Mostly they’re waiting to find out when we can, um, schedule a tour.” Barrett cleared his throat and avoided looking at me. “I’m not worried about Europe right now. What’s happening right here in the States is a bigger worry.”
Ziggy said nothing. I held my tea mug with my left fist and didn’t dare move.
“So what is happening? Or do you mean lack of what’s happening?” Carynne asked.
“There’s a bit of a fight going on within Megastar,” Barrett explained. “They need to position Ziggy in another Hollywood vehicle, but they don’t want another Star Baby experience. It needs to be a big, commercial moneymaker. They want the album to be part of the push. I can understand that.”
“Okay, but won’t that take, like, another year?” Carynne asked. “What about all the momentum built up from ‘Do It?'”
“Not to mention the publicity hit from ‘Breaking Chains,'” Barrett said with a sigh. “The marketing and publicity people loved that, but development, not so much.”
“Mills, you mean. Mills not so much.” Carynne got a bitter, snarly look on her face that mirrored what I felt inside whenever someone mentioned his name. “Wasn’t that his idea, though?”
Barrett shook his head. “No. It was me and Patty who cooked that up. With Jordan Travers, of course.”
Ziggy crossed himself.
“I seem to recall the main thing Mills liked about ‘Breaking Chains’ was that using my riffs on a BNC track was somehow sticking it to me?” I remembered the phone call with Mills that Barrett had put on speakerphone right here in this office.
“Yeah, well. It boils down to this. Mills and the folks in A&R and development want to go in a dance and pop direction. The marketing and publicity folks want to go in a more rock direction. And what’s going to ultimately break the deadlock might depend on what film project Ziggy gets packaged into.”
Ziggy kissed me behind the ear. “You hate the whole idea of this, I know, dear one.”
“You don’t?” I asked him.
“I do, but it’s politics. It’s business. It’s just the way it is and I’ll ride it out.”
“It’s only ‘politics’ because Mills is an ass who wants everything to go his way,” Carynne said. “He’s the one who now wants a dance direction, while simultaneously he wants you to be less ‘ethnic’ and whiter?”
I felt Ziggy grimace–or maybe bare his teeth in a feral but silent growl.
“He’s reading the writing on the wall that the international market is a pop and dance market,” Barrett said. “And that’s the direction we’re headed elsewhere. But here in the States? It’s a crowded market. And hard rock is suddenly ascendant. Grunge has flipped everything upside down. It’s the death of disco all over again.”
“Has it really?” Ziggy asked, voice dripping cynicism.
“Well, no, but that’s how they are acting in a lot of the executive suites of the major labels,” Barrett said with a sigh. “I mean, I get it. Nevermind only took two months to hit platinum and it’s still selling that speed.”
“Still?” Carynne asked.
“Quarter-million copies a week,” Barrett said. “It’s hilarious. People at their record label are still so shocked they almost resent the success.”
Quarter million copies a week. Jeezus. Imaging going gold every two weeks. In case you’re unclear: gold is 500,000 copies sold. Platinum is a cool million. For perspective, look how long it took for “Candlelight” to hit gold. And to think Artie had been pleased as punch that Tracks might hit 100K sales after a year. Numbers don’t lie: Nirvana was selling 250,000 albums a week, me 2,000. My balls may have shriveled a little thinking about it.
“What was that, Daron?” Carynne asked.
“Sorry, did I say that out loud?” I was thinking about too many things at once and I guess I hadn’t even noticed I’d said one of the thoughts. What I’d said was, “‘And they said the guitar was dead.'”
“Hilarious, right?” Barrett sipped his tea with a shake of his head. “Here’s the thing. The marketing department is the music marketing department. They want to play on the whole ‘Breaking Chains’ business and push for a move in that direction. Which would mean a pretty different album from what’s out there in the rest of the world, but that would be fine with us. But the media division doesn’t want that album. They want pop star.”
“And they think I can’t do both,” Ziggy said with a yawn.
“More accurately, they can’t do both,” Barrett said. “Give me a break.” He sighed again.
“I’m just tired after a three-hour meeting we didn’t get anywhere,” Ziggy said. “Three fucking hours and we’re right where we started.”
“Well, at least I know what I’m doing next,” Barrett said. “I’ll fly to LA tomorrow and I’ll shake the trees there.”
“You really think that’ll help?”
“WTA represents numerous directors, screenplay writers, actors–you get the idea. Someone’s bound to be developing something that will be a fit.” He looked into the bottom of his mug. “You know, this stuff is pretty good.”
Barrett’s phone buzzed. He picked it up, said, “Thanks, Suzanne. I’ll take the six a.m. if it’s available,” then hung it up again. “So that was our meeting. How was yours?”
Carynne and I looked at each other. “How much are we allowed to say?” I asked. “I mean, these were lawyers we were talking to, after all.”
“I’m pretty sure we can say this much.” She hadn’t really touched her tea and it was sitting on the coffee table in front of her looking very bright red in a white mug. “Everyone wants to sue Digger, and it looks like everyone’s going to.”
“Which is fitting since he’s suing everyone else,” Ziggy muttered. “Now I’m starved. Can we go eat?”
“If you all want to go out on the company dime, I’ll book you somewhere,” Barrett said, “but I’m going home to pack and getting take-out.”
“Do you mind company?” Ziggy asked. “We could go back with you.”
“What do you guys think? Take-out party at Barrett’s?”
Carynne and I both thought that was a perfectly fine idea, and the four of us trooped back down to the street to hail a cab.
Ziggy and I got into the first one that came, while our two managers got into the second one. We quickly became separated from them in the flow of traffic headed downtown.
“Hey,” I asked, as a thought occurred to me. “If Barrett’s got various different clients, how come you’re the only one who lives in his building?”
“I’m special?” Ziggy chirped.
That you are, Zig. That you are.
(It’s just a coincidence this song is called “Tennessee.” -d)