The view from here.
I posted a slightly abbreviated version of this open letter earlier on FB in response to the usual innocuous stories regarding the band’s beginnings and break up courtesy of our overlord. The question isn’t about the relevance of the band or otherwise it’s about the suffering caused by a man who thought it was all fun and games until it came to the question of finances. Friendships were broken, some of which were self inflicted, resulting from temptations offered up to the hearts and minds of the susceptible. There’s many an aspect to ‘truth’, no one perspective. But when the majority speaks with a unified voice, you can be certain something was amiss. I’m painfully aware that to most this is of no significance outside of a little geeky gossip. But for the four of us, we’re talking about the direction of our lives and, more importantly, the pain inflicted upon one another. I’m placing a few cards on the table without showing the full hand. There’s far too much that could be said and there’s no need for most of it to go public.
“simon, have you forgotten the dinner prior to your hearing Tin Drum in which you told me to break up the band? That you’d been talking mick into believing he was ready for a solo career and I should be thinking along the same lines? You were still playing puppet master. ‘You’re in danger of becoming a band that everyone’s heard of but no one’s actually heard’ . I insisted we’d recorded our strongest album, you doubted this. Hedging your bets you said ‘Of course, if you’re right I’ll be persuading you to stay together’. A conversation you possibly lived to regret. I spoke with mick and he said you’d been whispering in his ear about a solo career and that he wanted to go for it (he’d been telling yuka the same but with no animosity aimed at me as there was none between us. She said he only ever spoke respectfully. He just wanted to find his own voice) but would like to keep the band together (as a safety net). I asked him to choose one over the other and he claimed he couldn’t, so I chose for him. If everyone was pulling together for the band it made no sense to have someone hold back and start writing for themselves, not at that stage in our development when the songwriting was beginning to open up. It was you who sowed the seeds of discontent because I’d stopped listening to your ‘advice’. You only enjoyed management when it was like a chess game, moving pieces on a board. To place yuka, who has never publicly defended herself, never will, in the middle of all this, upsets me greatly as she remains my dearest friend (at no time was she anywhere near the Tin Drum tour. These deviations from the truth seem like simple fabrication for the sake of after dinner chatter but it has actually impacted all of our lives). After trying to work on his sculpture and music, and without okaying it with me, mick said he couldn’t work with yuka around and asked her to ‘go over to david’s house’ (as you know, we all lived in the same Square). yuka didn’t wish to intrude so she’d walk around London, window shopping, until it got dark and too cold for her. She’d then asked me if she could kill a couple of hours until she could go home (6pm being the set time). Mick sent her to my home repeatedly after that, again, without ever speaking to me about the inconvenience or otherwise. yuka did her best to stay away until the November cold got to her then she’d perch on my couch and drink tea whilst I worked. Eventually, mick asked her to move out permanently. She came to me in tears and I said ‘stay’. (I knew the implications of that decision, I’d known mick since we were 13 years of age, but the decision re: the band was already set) It was that simple, but it’s been made into a drama when, anyone who knew mick knows this was, or became, his modus operandi. Ask his partners to leave and, once gone, claim them back. Plus he could never have been described as a monogamist. It got him into some deep water over the years. I could offer a lot more on the subject of mick’s mental state or instability, which’d include his creative flexibility (made for good studio exchanges. He was highly talented but benefitted deeply from a producer’s guiding hand), his unbalanced temperament (smoke played an important role), which could turn him from someone profoundly wounded and wounding (those closest have knife wounds in their backs whether they feel them or not), into the funniest man I/we’ve ever known. It also allowed him to become a bulldog for whomever was working his deep set paranoia, his own irrational prejudices. For example, his intolerance for one member of the band whom he fought to have removed from day one until the last sessions of Tin Drum (even during the recording of RTC he told me he was ashamed that the old resentment was returning). But everyone, myself included, forgave mick because he was at the mercy of his own demons. This was profoundly clear to all who knew him. He very rapidly moved onto his solo career just as you’d advised him. (“mick will be a star because he’ll do all the things you refuse to do. Saturday morning kids shows, page 3, etc.” And, regrettably, because I think he was better than that, he took your advice). Some members of the public feel the need to take sides on the issue of my friendship with mick but it’s no one’s business but our own and those who, for many years, stirred the pot behind the scenes. The last time I saw mick alive was just prior to my mixing RTC. Must’ve been 90/91. He asked to meet for coffee at The Dome, which used to stand on a corner of King’s Rd, a short walk from my place in Chelsea. During that conversation he told me three things I’ll never forget. ‘You did a great job producing RTC (no one had acknowledged I’d done any such thing until that moment)/You bring out the best in me/would you consider producing my next album?’ .. I was flattered and happy to be asked and said ‘absolutely’. I never saw him again and was denied a place at his deathbed due to the interventions of others (one message apparently reached him before he passed, that I’d referred to him in an interview as my brother as, despite everything that’d gone down between us, he was. I was told this was well received “at last”). This is my story, my truth if you will. It’s something I’ve not shared until now (I’ll not tell the full stories behind the making of the band as it’d hurt too many people. Assured of my silence, others have felt emboldened to fabricate all manner of ‘truths’). You did ask me to keep the break up of the band from the press for one year until a final tour in ’82. I agreed based on your explanation that the band would need an influx of cash to help them get on their feet after we (publicly) broke up. That you took your percentage from the gross income from the tour and not the net denied the band having any earnings to speak of once the tour was over. I confronted you on this matter and you said, as ever, with a smile, that it wasn’t your concern how much we spent on lighting and set design and you were within your rights to skim from the top. I disagreed with you then and do to this day. It was immoral for you to go back on your word. You worked on the razor’s edge of legality. I’m not sure how much would stand up in court today. So much to be said, and yet I’m told I’ve already given my side of the story. But hearing this nonsense touted as truth, allowing it to stand in for the facts, wears me down. You walked away with money one way or another. Because of the way I’m made, I hold no grudge, but that’s an easier position for me to take than for others for obvious reasons. You’re a storyteller, it’s what you now do (and of course you know full well why we could simply walk away from one another come the tour’s end, you’d orchestrated the break. From our very first meeting you told me you didn’t want the band. A solo act or nothing. I fought back. “but I’ll only deal with you, the band’s your problem”. If only you’d left well alone). But you’ve been fucking around with the real lives of others, you’ve impacted them positively but also profoundly negatively. You have to own that before you too take your leave. We don’t need more books on the subject as they’re so far from reality as lived. (I’m reliably informed they’ve little or no respect for facts, timeframe, objectivity, or continuity). Let’s leave things be and not perpetuate yet more erroneous myths to which you’ve all too readily contributed. You must be aware that I know more now than I did before about what went on behind closed doors, and I knew a fair bit back then. Sleeping dogs (LIE) and all that.”
Maybe I should add a footnote: SNB had no wish to manage a band so he had to contend with me which wasn’t a problem per se. Once we’d reached some sort of plan or compromise, I’d disseminate or discuss with the band. During the recording of Tin Drum I took the decision to reject calls from SNB. Invariably he’d call the studio but his potential interference, and he’d have to interfere, would’ve been unwelcome. My tolerance level for his ‘ideas’ was at rock bottom. I returned none of the messages he left at my home, I banned his physical presence from the studios. As he couldn’t reach me he decided to prey on mick who, it could be said, was both a little naive and susceptible to such advances. mick stopped attending the sessions on a regular basis but we’d no reason to be suspicious even though this was a rare occurrence in all our years together. SNB had found a way to manipulate the workings of the band from within by playing with mick’s ego/ambitions, call it what you will. This is where the story begins. The dinner mentioned above was my first meeting with SNB post recording. This isn’t to say that mick, or any of us for that matter, shouldn’t have had his own ambitions. I believe mick did. It was the poor timing that was at issue (I don’t believe this had been mick’s personal agenda) and the insidious highjacking of mick’s goals to suit SNB’s own ends. Because he couldn’t leave artists be he was now making plans for two solo ‘careers’ and therefore, potentially, two forms of income (“the other two, well, they’ll likely find something to do”). Like the greater percentage of SNB’s plans, this too failed.
© d. sylvian,
Responses on Facebook:Original article on davidsylvian.com The article Simon Napier Bell that resulted in this response by David