SONGS FROM THE MIRROR

STUDIO ALBUM // 1993

Songs from the Mirror is the third solo album by Fish, released in 1993 as his final album for Polydor. It does not contain any original material; instead it is a cover album featuring Fish’s versions of songs by artists who inspired him before his career started. It reached 46 on the UK Albums Chart.

Derek W. Dick (Fish) – vocals
Robin Boult – guitar, background vocals
Foster Paterson – keyboards, background vocals
David Paton – bass, bass guitar, background vocals
Frank Usher – guitar
Kevin Wilkinson – percussion, drums
Mick Wall – voices
Lorna Bannon – background vocals
Jackie Bird – background vocal
The core line-up on this album is the same as on the 1992 tour. Since the recording of Internal Exile, keyboardist Mickey Simmonds had been replaced with Foster Paterson, while drummer Kevin Wilkinson had taken over from session player Ethan Johns. The spots for guitars (Robin Boult, Frank Usher) and bass (David Paton) had remained unchanged. Other than that and backing vocals, only two tracks (“Solo” and “Jeepster”) feature an additional guest musician, Ben Molleson on violin and tin whistle. Fish tried to get David Bowie to play the saxophone solo on “Five Years”, but he didn’t manage to get hold of Bowie, and the saxophone solo was skipped. The album was mixed and produced by James Cassidy, who Fish had met while recording guest vocals for Jeff Wayne’s musical Spartacus. Cassidy would also produce and co-write Fish’s next album Suits (1994).

TRACKLIST

“Question” (Justin Hayward) (The Moody Blues, from A Question of Balance, 1970) – 6:41
“Boston Tea Party” (Alex Harvey, Hugh McKenna, Zal Cleminson) (Sensational Alex Harvey Band, from SAHB Stories, 1976) – 4:22
“Fearless” (David Gilmour, Roger Waters) (Pink Floyd, from Meddle, 1971) – 6:15
“Apeman” (Ray Davies) (The Kinks, from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, 1970) – 5:57
“Hold Your Head Up” (Rod Argent, Chris White) (Argent, from All Together Now, 1972) – 3:47
“I Know What I Like” (Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford) (Genesis, from Selling England by the Pound, 1973) – 4:17
“Solo” (Sandy Denny) (Sandy Denny, from Like an Old Fashioned Waltz, 1974) – 4:46
“Time and a Word” (Jon Anderson, David Foster) (Yes, from Time and a Word, 1970) bonus track – 4.24
“The Seeker” (Townshend) (The Who, from Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, 1971) bonus track – 3.16
“Five Years” (David Bowie) (David Bowie, from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972) – 5:19

SONGS FROM THE MIRROR

THE REMASTERS

Songs from the Mirror is the third solo album by Fish, released in 1993 as his final album for Polydor. It does not contain any original material; instead it is a cover album featuring Fish’s versions of songs by artists who inspired him before his career started. This 3CD remaster is mastered by Calum Malcolm; and comes in a 48 pages hardback book designed by Mark Wilkinson and over 8000 words of sleeve notes by Fish.

A full history of the album including James Cassidy’s extensive anecdotes and Fish’s 10 000 word sleeve-notes can be found on the 2017 remastered album together with a DVD featuring a 90 minute interview with Fish about the song choices and stories from that period.

SHOP ‘SONGS FROM THE MIRROR’

ABOUT SONGS FROM THE MIRROR

1992 began with a series of personal and professional disasters for Fish. While on his first holiday for years in Kenya he was informed that one of his closest friends had succumbed to a long term battle with cancer and had passed away. Andy Field had been his production manager since leaving ‘Marillion’ with him and had been the other half of his management team together with John Cavanagh, a former EMI executive who had also joined Fish in 1988. On his return from Africa Fish discovered he was dropped by his publishing company, ‘Hit and Run’ and shortly after his main co-writer and keyboard player resigned and left to join Mike Oldfield. The three events combined to create a massive problem which came just as he had finished the tour supporting his second solo album ‘Internal Exile’, released on October 28th 1991 only a few months before. His record company wanted a new album but as far as Fish was concerned there was still work to be done with ‘Exile’. With promotion now pulled promoters were reluctant to support further touring and Fish had to return to old familiar grounds, booking himself into small club venues throughout Scotland in order to pay the bills and wages to keep his band together.

Losing the publishing deal created a huge hole in his finances as the advance on his third album was intended to pay for the writing and recording. Most of the Polydor advance from when he signed the previous year had gone to pay off legal fees from his litigation with EMI and the acrimonious ‘divorce’ with his former band ‘Marillion’. Fish had also decided to build his own recording studio at his house in East Lothian and had ploughed the rest of his finances into the building and borrowing money at unfavourable rates to equip it. He had taken a big gamble and found himself trying to establish a commercial recording studio in the middle of a recession when studios were going bust all over the UK. His reasoning was that with his own recording facilities he would never be reliant on advances from record companies to buy studio time to make albums as had been his problem with the EMI contract. The irony was that he now needed the advance to pay off the loans taken out to build his own studio, now named ‘The Funny Farm Recording Studios’.

Losing principal co-writer Mickey Simmonds also created a problem but he was replaced by keyboard player Foss Paterson (Julia Fordham, John Martyn) after being recommended by long standing friend and serving guitarist Frank Usher. Drummer Kevin Wilkinson (Waterboys, China Crisis) and bassist David Paton (Pilot, Kate Bush, Elton John) who had come into the band for the ‘Internal Exile’ tour, stayed on as did guitarist Robin Boult who had been with Fish since the ‘Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’ tour. Apart from Kevin everyone lived locally and so it became relatively easy to put together touring in Scotland and begin writing at the studio.

The new album was to be called ‘Suits’ but the writing process was laboured and it became quickly obvious that it wouldn’t be finished until much later in the year. Fish was struggling as the bitterness of his fallout from both ‘Marillion’ and ‘EMI’ had warped his creativity and the financial pressures on him were enormous. He was not only in danger of losing the studio but also his house and he needed to buy time and find head space to create.

He came up with the idea to put together an album of cover versions as a stop gap. The studio hire paid for under his Polydor contract would ease the pressure from the loans he was paying out on the equipment and the advance due on the delivery of the second album to Polydor would enable him to keep the band together and write the ‘Suits’ album in a reasonably quick turnaround as both albums would be worked simultaneously. Combined with occasional touring there was enough money to be found to save the situation but it all required Polydor’s blessing. Fish did have a trump card up his sleeve which he didn’t want to play as it would mean potentially losing his record deal. Unlike the EMI contract Fish had made sure that in the new deal he had full creative control and the company had to release the recorded material they were provided with.

The idea of the covers album was put to the record company in Spring 1992 and they tried to convince Fish to make an EP rather than a full album. After much discussion a meeting was called in London in May and Fish explained his predicament to an unsympathetic Polydor hierarchy. Being told to sell the studio and get rid of the band was not what he wanted to hear. Losing the studio meant losing his house and losing the band meant an inability to tour and write. Fish proposed restructuring the record contract to take into account the ‘Suits’ album and thus creating a 3 rather than 2 album deal as well as cutting back on the studio and session fees and advances. Polydor weren’t interested although they agreed to an EP they demanded the next album be an original rather than a covers project. Fish walked out the meeting and decided to play the trump card. It was a matter of personal survival.

He came up with the idea to put together an album of cover versions as a stop gap. The studio hire paid for under his Polydor contract would ease the pressure from the loans he was paying out on the equipment and the advance due on the delivery of the second album to Polydor would enable him to keep the band together and write the ‘Suits’ album in a reasonably quick turnaround as both albums would be worked simultaneously. Combined with occasional touring there was enough money to be found to save the situation but it all required Polydor’s blessing. Fish did have a trump card up his sleeve which he didn’t want to play as it would mean potentially losing his record deal. Unlike the EMI contract Fish had made sure that in the new deal he had full creative control and the company had to release the recorded material they were provided with.

The idea of the covers album was put to the record company in Spring 1992 and they tried to convince Fish to make an EP rather than a full album. After much discussion a meeting was called in London in May and Fish explained his predicament to an unsympathetic Polydor hierarchy. Being told to sell the studio and get rid of the band was not what he wanted to hear. Losing the studio meant losing his house and losing the band meant an inability to tour and write. Fish proposed restructuring the record contract to take into account the ‘Suits’ album and thus creating a 3 rather than 2 album deal as well as cutting back on the studio and session fees and advances. Polydor weren’t interested although they agreed to an EP they demanded the next album be an original rather than a covers project. Fish walked out the meeting and decided to play the trump card. It was a matter of personal survival.

Fish had met James Cassidy in September 1991 when he was asked to provide vocals on Jeff Wayne’s ‘Spartacus’ project, the follow up to the immensely successful ‘War of the Worlds’ album. James was the recording and mixing engineer and Fish found a comrade in arms with whom he discussed future collaborations. In 92 James was approached to produce the ‘Mirrors’ album and to get involved with the ‘Suits’ production and he arrived in July to start recording at the ‘Funny Farm’.

Originally the ‘wish list’ of cover versions was around 23 tracks but it was whittled down to 13 for an album that had the working title of ‘The Guddler’.

‘Guddling’ is a Scottish term for catching fish with bare hands from a stream and the working title was inspired by a charcoal drawing Fish had bought from Scottish artist Keith McIntyre in 1985 which portrayed a young man in the undergrowth of a river bank with his hand enveloping a trout in the water. Keith explained to him that it was all about the magic and mystery of discovering something new and alive and Fish related that to his discovery of music as a teenager. It was found that some people couldn’t pronounce the title and so it was changed to ‘Songs from the Mirror’ which related to a wardrobe in Fish’s former family home in Dalkeith in front of which he would mime his favourite songs that blared out from his bedroom stereo while posing in the mirror using a pole as a mike stand. The songs on the ‘Mirrors’ album all had meaning to the teenage Fish and this project would be a celebration of when he was originally captured by the magic of songs. After all the darkness of the legal battles and his recent disillusionment with the music industry ‘Songs from the Mirror’ would be a process of rediscovery. As this wasn’t an original album Fish opted to go with Keith McIntyre’s charcoal drawing as the cover rather than use long term collaborator Mark Wilkinson whose style was synonymous with Fish’s cover artwork. It identified the album as being something different to fans who might have expected new songs on seeing a Mark Wilkinson creation. (Keith McIntyre would also create the ‘guddling hand’ backdrop for the tour).

John Cavanagh had been relieved of his duties soon after the Polydor meeting as with no commission available of any note it was impossible for him to continue. He was experienced and highly thought of to find work in the music industry relatively quickly but Fish in the late summer of 92 needed a new manager as the record company were reluctant to deal direct with the artist. Enter former ‘Yes’ and ‘Asia’ manager Brian Lane who would deliver the ‘Mirrors’ album to a record company still expecting an EP. Commission from a merchandise deal and forthcoming tour was attractive enough for him to take the position.

The first single from the album, ‘Hold Your Head Up’, written by Rod Argent and a favourite on the dance floor at Dalkeith High School discos, was one of the first songs that Polydor heard and they were impressed. However the mood quickly changed as it became obvious there was an album about to be delivered. Brian Lane loved the idea of a covers album and suggested a collaboration with guitarist Steve Howe on ‘Time and a Word’, a ‘Yes’ song Steve hadn’t been involved with originally but which he had always wanted to record. The recording happened too late for inclusion on the album as happened with ‘The Seeker’ by the ‘Who’. Both these tracks are now on the 2017 remaster.

The album was delivered to Polydor on the 20th September but the proposed December release was put back to January 93 with the compromise of ‘Hold Your Head Up’ released as a single on December 12th with ‘Question’ by the Moody Blues, ‘5 Years’ and a radio edit on the disc. An EP!

The release and promotion with the tagline ‘Never mind the bullocks’ as an allusion to it being a ‘bullshit free’ release with no gimmicks and sold cheaply, misfired. At number 78 it was the lowest chart position in the UK since ‘Marillion’s’ first single ‘Market Square Heroes’ and with virtually no plays at radio or on TV with the video the single died seemingly together with Polydor’s enthusiasm for the overall project. The large advances on signing to Polydor coupled with disappointing sales of ‘Internal Exile’ that didn’t match the heights of his first solo album, meant that he had a large debt at the company and it appeared they weren’t willing to make any investment on the promotion of the covers album outside of a basic service.

Fish was also disillusioned as he felt that a lot more could have been done with ‘Internal Exile’ and that the company had given up on it too soon.

‘Songs from the Mirror’ was released on January 18th, one week before the advertised official date and without any promotional fanfare. It charted in the UK at number 48 but lacklustre reviews and lack of advertising meant that the album was off most fans’ radars and quickly disappeared.

The tour supporting the album was ironically his best for years and the album was getting some great reviews in mainland Europe. He was also getting airplays and playing some major venues. The live album ‘Sushi’ released in 1994 was recorded at one of the 2 sold out shows in the Vredenberg Hall in Utrecht (the live footage on the remasters DVD has rare Hi8 footage of this show) and across Europe the reaction to the covers album was a lot more positive than back in the UK.

In April, 2 months after the album’s release the timer ran out on Fish’s contract with Polydor. There was no animosity and both parties recognised the relationship wasn’t working. The album had sold 130 000 albums in the first 2 months of release but it wasn’t enough to influence a decision which had probably already been made the previous summer. For the first time since 1982 Fish was without a record contract. The situation could have been a lot worse. He could have just been dropped after delivering an original album which would have meant writing an entire new batch of songs. However he already had sufficient demos already written and all he required were the funds to record it.

After the tour Fish went straight into completing the writing sessions for the next album which he had to turnaround quickly for a release early the following year. ‘Songs from the Mirror’ had bought him time and the response in Europe to the live shows had given him the confidence to start an entirely new era in his solo career.

‘Songs from the Mirror’ shouldn’t be dismissed as an album that fulfilled a record contract commitment as some saw it at the time. There are some genuine moments of magic and many great performances on the album with James Casssidy bringing something very special to the production.

The most important thing was that Fish cleared out the darkness from the previous years and discovered his love for song writing again. ‘Songs from the Mirror’ was something of a rebirth and a voyage into his past to be able to stare into the future. He was re energised and ready to take on his next challenge.