Hiya 🥰 Please excuse typo’s, I’ve done my best, but it’s so long…
“Mr Fitzgerald…Do mine eyes deceive me?” grinned the stocky bloke standing with an elbow propped on the receptionist’s desk. His sandy hair was well-cut, his clothes, designer casual. Not too showy, but none too shabby either. “Now there’s a sight I never thought I’d see this side of six…unless you’re under the impression it’s actually Tuesday.”
“Cheeky blighter. I am well aware of the fact it’s Monday, thank you very much, Mr Harris. Mac…this is Adam. Adam…My bad-ass. Quite why I’m faffing with introductions when that’s like a lamb chop introducing a shepherd to a cleaver, I know not.”
“Lamb Chop? I can only think of one similarity, but Shari Lewis would turn in her grave.” They hadnae been here two minutes and a Glasgow kiss would suffice by way of greeting. Adam turned to Mac and extended his hand, “Thanks for coming, It’s good to meet you, Mac.”
“Glad I did,” Mac kept to facts. Ignored Joe’s snigger. Gripped Adam’s proffered hand.
“Are the lads here, Adam?” Joe scratched at his head, neck, inner elbow, scoring his skin with ragged nails. Gone was the fluid, gawky grace Mac had grown accustomed to. The long lines of Joe’s body were strung tight with tension; every twitch staccato, unscripted.
“It’s not even half-three.” Adam pointed out, nodding at the clock on the wall. “They’ll probably turn up at around five…expecting a three hour wait.”
“You said four o’clock,” Joe frowned.
Mac had to suppress a snort, because the crumpled brow and pouty lower lip were priceless. If not as justified as they might’ve been, had Joe’s band been bastards for deeming it a fine idea to arrive at five, for a four o’clock session. That might commence at eight. If their luck was in.
“I did. Fully expecting you to arrive four hours later, if there was a fair wind and favourable weather,” Adam smirked.
“Adam.” His name sounded as crisp as a very different four letter word. “We’d never met, so I’ll assume those expectations were founded on previous form…rather than my proficiency.” Mac raised an enquiring eyebrow, regarding Joe’s manager with a daggered glare that spoke more eloquently than ‘tosspot’.
“My apologies. It was more a case of…mission impossible, than casting aspersions.” Adam did, at least, have the good grace to appear abashed. Perhaps having recognized how insulting his assumptions had been…if say, it was your job to ensure that Joe turned up at the designated hour. On the right day.
Mac wasnae pissed off, but he thought it expedient to point out that he had every right to be. Might have been, had the issue of efficiency—or lack of it—not concerned whothefuckis Joe Fitzgerald. Nevertheless it wouldnae hurt to keep Adam on his toes. Mac didnae have to answer to Joe’s manager, the record company was footing the bill. He’d been employed to ensure that his charge arrived when and where he should be, in a fit state to function. It was not part of Mac’s remit to appease Adam. He would play nice, if shown the same courtesy, but he sure as shit didnae intend to take any crap from Joe’s…entourage. No matter how high up the food chain they believed themselves to be.
“Fair enough,” Mac nodded, cranking his lips in a smile as tight as his temper was wound. Way out of proportion for the threat Adam posed, when he seemed a decent enough bloke. It wasnae so much his lack of faith in Mac that irritated him, more his…general air of presumption. Towards Joe, in particular. Was this how everyone treated him? Like a recalcitrant child who must be pacified, coerced and cajoled into behaving as required?
This was a lot to assume in a short space of time, but the evidence was undeniable. Not least in the patronizing tone Adam adopted when speaking to Joe—or about him, on the phone—albeit disguised as good humoured forbearance. As intensely annoying as this was, the peril it placed Joe in, was worse. Pillock. The miscreant was far too sharp not to use being belittled thus to his own end.
“Which room is booked, Adam? I need to get some stuff down, I’m not fussed how long the lads will be. I just want someone to twiddle knobs ’n’ stuff.”
“Studio B…everything’s set up ready. You’ve been writing?” Adam seemed surprised, and yet Joe had been scribbling away all weekend. Between sex and smack fixes, at least.
“‘Course I have. Is my rum in there? Oh, before I forget, I need a tux. A white one. For the gigs.”
“A white tux,” Adam repeated, nonplussed.
“You said that as if I’d requested a tutu and dog collar,” Joe noted. Accurately. “The latter wouldn’t be a bad idea, now you mention it. Or, a padlock on a chain. Either will do. Fucknows why I’m still standing here gassing, I have stuff t’do. My rum?” he reminded Adam, in tones that suggested ‘do keep up, dear…’
“Yeah…it’s in the studio. A tux and a dog collar. Or a padlock. On a chain.” Adam repeated. Again. Strewth. Mac sure couldnae beg to differ on the do-keep-up front.
“Yup…and don’t forget Mac’s sugar. With black coffee in it.” Joe winked his way. “I’ll be in Studio B, if anyone wants me…” The latter was tossed over his shoulder with an impish grin.
Mac did his damnedest to smother a smirk as Joe weaved his way over to a nearby door, singing softly to himself. Fucknows how long he might continue to be amused by his own rug-tugging technique, but the next few hours would do. For now.
“May I have a word in your shell-like, somewhere more private?” Mac requested, turning back to Adam when Joe had disappeared through the door.
“Sure. I hope he hasn’t given you too much grief? How the fuck you managed to get him here—early—beggars belief.”
“I have my methods.” Mac shrugged, answering the latter and ignoring the rest.
“I’ll say. Come through to the kitchen, I’ll make us a cuppa.” Adam agreed, readily enough, before indicating a second doorway leading from reception. “I haven’t seen him this…I dunno…switched on? For months,” he sighed, heading straight for the kettle when Mac followed him into a kitchenette of sorts. The way Adam invariably referred to Joe as ‘he’ or ‘him’ was really starting to chap Mac’s ass.
“Joe was plenty ‘switched on’ when I arrived on Saturday…you’d only just left, surely?” Mac asked, seating himself at the table and extracting his cigarettes from his jacket pocket.
“Yeah, but that was diff’rent, I’d sat sentry all night, so I doubt he had time to get…lost en route to let you in the front door.”
“You don’t seriously expect me to swallow that, do you?” Mac snorted. “Joe is quite capable of getting ‘lost’ in a portaloo…and well y’know it.”
“Well…I had perhaps pointed out that you were…”
“The meanest mo-fo in the business? Or, the bad-ass sent to whip his arse into shape?” Mac enquired, dry as dust.
“I…um, might’ve mentioned the former…”
“The latter is Joe’s interpretation of it,” Mac finished for him.
“Yeah,” Adam sighed, turning to pour boiled water into the two mugs he’d prepared. “Does he actually call you that? My bad-ass?”
“Indeed. I find it…amusing,” he lied, knowing that Adam would consider this a ‘quirk’ Mac had deemed harmless enough to indulge. Not least when condescending appeasement tended to be Adam’s go-to method of ‘handling’ Joe. A fact gleaned in person and through Joe’s offhand remarks over the weekend.
“He likes nicknames. Between you an’ me, it’s…promising that he’s given you one.” Adam confided.
Mac found himself all-too willing to likewise confide that Adam was pissing him the fuck off. Patronising prick. However, letting Adam sense his distaste, rather than drilling it into his head was more tactical, for now. Regretfully. Suspending Adam in a state of ‘edgy unease’ would suffice, when Mac had more immediate concerns to impress upon Joe’s manager.
“Glad to hear it.” His tone implied that he couldnae give a shite. “Thanks,” Mac nodded when a mug of coffee was placed before him. “Can I have a copy of Joe’s itinerary for the rest of the year? I need to know which bookings have been confirmed, and which are just pencilled in as possibilities.”
“Sure. Everything in the diary for the rest of the month has been booked to promote the album. That’s released next Friday, the five gigs this week are a warm up for the tour proper.”
This was news to Mac. He’d asked Joe whether the gigs had been arranged to promote a new release, but the conversation had segued elsewhere. Nor did Mac have the foggiest idea whether the forthcoming album would be Joe’s second or seventh.
“So, we’re looking at five dates in small venues? To promote the album before the full tour. And, Joe is on board with all of this—by which, I mean—has he agreed?”
“Yeah…” Adam nodded.
‘Agreed’? Or informed when Joe hadnae been able to recall whether he’d eaten for a fortnight? Let alone care if he had a future to fret about. Mac wanted to discuss the imminent dates with Joe before making any further judgements. Far more pressing were the diary entries that had only been pencilled in, as yet. Mac had every intention of scoring through as many of those as possible, at least for the foreseeable. Joe needed a few months freedom from ‘expectations’ to just bloody breathe. Without anyone else breathing down his neck.
Barring one exception.
“Do you happen to have this diary handy? I need an overview…the long range forecast, if y’like…” Mac explained, reprising Adam’s quip to dress up the deck scrubbing in some shipmate camaraderie. A successful voyage aboard the good ship Joe apparently being dependent on ‘a fair wind and favourable weather…’ Rather than competent Captaincy…and the skill to chart a feasible fucking course. Other than that, life on deck was clearly swimming along just fine.
“Yeah, I’ll go and fetch it so that y’can have a gander.”
While Adam scuttled off to procure said oracle, Mac drained his coffee and lit another cigarette. A gander. F’fucksakes. He was hard pressed to think of a less fitting term for ‘meticulous attention to detail’. Nor, a more befitting one for motley crew methodology.
“Sorry to be so long…” Adam apologised, finally returning a second smoke later. “I stuck my head in the studio door to see if all was well—”
“Was it?” Mac interjected, hackles on high alert, which was absurd, because Adam didn’t seem agitated, or even concerned. In fact, his expression hovered somewhere between bemusement and the smug satisfaction of a man who’d handed over fifty pence for a packet of rizlas and received a fiver change.
“He was playing a song I’d never heard before…bloody brilliant, it was too. He was so wrapped up in it, he didn’t even notice I’d come in. It was like walking in on a flashback to the first album. Fuck. It used to feel as if there was nothing, nothing except that melody and the words he was weaving through it. For him, I mean.” Adam shrugged, lips twisting in a wry, regretful smile.
Okay. Mac could—for the first time—understand why Joe might’ve selected his manager. What the hell had happened to Adam along the way, that he’d become such a willing cog in the machinery Joe despised? Money, success…the caché he now enjoyed in the music business? By virtue of the very client he feared would blow it for him? It was, in all fairness, a ruthless game. One in which the major players were frantically trying to sustain their cash flow in a world afloat with multiple means of accessing free music.
“Thank fuck for that. I’d begun to wonder why the hell Joe ever believed you had his back.”
“What…what d’you mean? Of course, I’ve got his back!” Adam protested, with slack-jawed self-righteousness. “I get battered left right ‘n’ centre, as he does his damnedest to destroy every dream we had!”
“We? From where I’m sitting…there is no ‘we’. There is Joe. Then, there is you/them. It doesnae matter a damn what I think though, it’s Joe’s truth that matters: which side of the divide he feels that you’re serving,” Mac clarified. “Cannae you see that? Or, have you blinded yerself to whothefuck keeps you in Rolex’s?” He flicked a glance at the gleaming gold affront to discrete wealth and taste squatting on Adam’s wrist before continuing:
“For what it’s worth…I think you’ve acquired a mindset that considers Joe a potential problem. For you. A fly in your fancy ointment. He’s not an investment in your future. He is a far from perfect person, like the bloody rest of us. All I’m asking is that you remember which side your bread’s buttered…and afford Joe’s feelings the same respect as every other fucker’s in the industry.”
“Are you suggesting that I’m about to find myself out of a job? Has he sai—”
“No. You are.” Mac interrupted. “Joe hasn’t indicated that he’s dissatisfied with your managerial efforts,” he smiled. Reassuringly. Rather as an alligator might. “Right, let’s have a gander, shall we…?” Mac flicked the A4 diary open and leafed through the pages, giving each a cursory glance before flicking to the next. “How many festivals do you have in mind?” he asked idly, after happening on a second, a scant few pages after the first. They hadnae been marked as bookings, yet. Only the name/location of the event had been noted.
“Has Joe agreed to play four…maybe five?” Mac’s tone sounded as tart as a nettle sting, but he didnae give a toss.
“We haven’t really discussed—”
“Then don’t bother. Too much bloody hassle for too random an audience.”
“But there’s less hassle,” Adam protested. “He pretty much just has to turn up and play—”
“Just?” Mac glanced up to shoot him a daggered stare from beneath glowering brows. “Forget it.”
“But he loves playing Glastonbury!” Adam squawked. So convinced of this did Joe’s long-time manager seem, Mac found himself willing to consider a compromise.
“Okay, if that’s the case…” Mac extracted his phone from his inner breast pocket. “I’m a reasonable man, Mr Harris. Glastonbury, it is. If Joe agrees.” He turned his attention to the screen and affected checking his messages. Waiting…
“Didn’t you say his phone was probably in Marlborough? It’s pointless anyway, he never answers the damn thing.” Adam sat back and folded his arms. Satisfied that he’d finally attained terra firma.
“I’ve given him my backup phone,” Mac shrugged, tapping speed-dial.
Joe…please answer the phone, f’chrissakes, or I’m going to look a right prat. You promised. Four…five…six... Mac was debating whether to slit his own throat, or Adam’s— on eradication of witnesses grounds—when a breathless voice gasped:
“Mac…? Sorry, I didn’t hear it, I had m’headphones on.”
“No problem. Joe, do you want to play Glastonbury this year, or not. Your call.”
“Mine?” One word that spoke volumes.
“Yeah…yours,” Mac rasped.
“Well…would you come with me…” That so-soft voice was hesitant, as if Joe were asking for the bloody moon. His amendment was worse. “…if you haven’t left already?”
“’Course I will…”
“Will you stand at the side of the stage, so I can see you?”
Mac could all-too clearly picture the oh, so persuasive puppy dog eyes that accompanied this plea. As lethal as they were irresistible, even as a ghostly imprint on the back of Mac’s eyelids. “If you want me to,” he confirmed.
“Okay then…if you promise.”
“Done. D’you wish to play any of the other festivals?” Mac asked, shooting a ‘Joe’s call, not mine’ glance Adam’s way.
“Do I have to?” Words so wary they were an answer in themselves.
“I don’t really fancy it very lots. It’s a faceless mass of people who haven’t come to see me. There are always peeps I recognize—know by name—in my front rows. That feels…comforting, but the festival crowd makes me all fidgety. I think they’re hoping I’ll throw a strop, or set fire to m’self…”
Mac bit back the urge to knock Adam the fuck out, which would be as self-serving as the tosser seated opposite.“No problem. Just Glastonbury, sorted. I’d better let you get on, sorry for interrupting.”
“I…nuffin’. Thank you.”
“Then.” Mac assured him, in response to…nuffin’.
“Then…” How the hell Joe had made the same word sound as if he’d sighed it while sinking into a jacuzzi, Mac couldne fathom. Not without crippling himself.
“Okay. Glastonbury it is.” Mac told Adam, tucking the phone back into his pocket. “As y’can see, I’m happy to compromise, as long as Joe’s well-being isnae in jeopardy. I’m not an unreasonable man Mr Harris, but I dinnae give a shit about corporate crap, or people pleasing. I can get Joe wherever you wish—whenever you want me to—but cannae guarantee he’ll be ‘fit to function’. Unless you back me on this, or…I cuff him to my wrist twenty-four/seven.” Moving swiftly on…
“I’m not here to score points against you. I’m just doing my job. I will do that, and well. The way I see fit. My way. You’ve employed me to ensure that Joe arrives where and when he’s scheduled to. In a fit state to function.” It bore repeating. Ad infinitum.
“Every stipulation has been proposed in a bid to ensure that’s physically possible. Joe will fulfil every booking for the promotional period you’ve outlined. After that…? The three of us can discuss the diary for the rest of the year. In the meantime, make no further bookings, but rest assured, you need not worry on the writing front. Melodies and lyrics were tumbling forth all weekend. Joe wanted to come in today and get them down. Everyone else appears to want exactly that, too. Product. But he’s not a fucking machine. He’s fragile, and he will break—if you don’t give him just that—a break. Joe needs you and I to take care of all the crap, so he can concentrate on doing what he does best. That’s not much to ask of us.” Mac girded his loins and bit the bullet. In for a penny… “I need your help as much as you need mine. If we work together, we can pull off precisely what we’re being paid to provide: Joe Fitzgerald.”
What a crock of shite the tail end of that was. Two days with Joe and Mac had turned into Mary bloody Poppins. He’d wind up with ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ as a sodding ringtone if matters progressed apace.