The invitation came in the form of a Filofax insert. Well, it was 1989 and I was a recognised media chancer, installed in London, working for an ace music paper, influential in my own domain. And sure, I was pleased to be invited to a party in the south of France, a guest of RCA Records and the largesse of one of their most popular acts, The Eurythmics.
The band had taken a couple of years off, their sales were slackening and so it was important to get people back on their side. Which is why around 50 journalists, radio people, liggers, freeloaders, Jackeens, toadies and lickspittles had gathered at the record company office on Bedford Avenue on the morning of Wednesday August 23.
They took us to the International Ballroom at the Gatwick Hilton and then on to Nice Airport. Champagne flutes were clinked and conspiratorial winks were exchanged. The music industry was still flush and many of those present had impressive air miles accounts. Veteran writers felt there was much bravado in the trip - a "jolly" in music biz parlance. If anything went wrong, the entire mob would turn vicious and the band's relaunch would be spiked.
This had famously happened on a Brinsley Schwartz junket to New York in 1970, when their Fillmore East show had been attended by a bunch of journos who had been lost in the air and overloaded with booze. The hype had been misdirected and so Brinsley bombed. There was another absurd jape in 1984 when Frank Zappa's publicist messed up on a trip to Brussels and tried to placate the Brit pack by taking them to a brothel. Frank was appalled and launched a nasty attack at the guy from the stage. Legend!
Anyway, onwards to the Hotel Majestic in Cannes with a swell view over the Côte d'Azur, prior to our destination on the beach front at Juan Les Pins. A stage had been hammered up and the enclosure was full of Eurotrash hacks with mullets and linen jackets with the sleeves rolled up. To our cynical eyes, this was a generic character. Every week, the funny pages of Melody Maker featured an absurd foreign writer called Pepe le Punk who lacked any critical facilities. And voilà, we were in the spiritual homeland of the guy, surrounded by hundreds of grinning, irony-free Pepes.
I don't remember much of the gig. There was a surplus of saxophone solos and a backing singer bloke who was clearly auditioning for the big time. The stage clothes were expensively cut and Annie Lennox warbled around the melodies in an excessive manner. By the time all the fireworks had finished lighting up the Riviera, the Brit posse had collectively agreed that the deal was off. The Eurythmics and their new album weren't great.
Over to our left, we noticed Siobhan Fahey playing with the kids. She had once charmed us with Bananarama and was currently in the charts with Shakespears Sister. Also, she was partner to Eurythmic Dave Stewart, we noted, enviously. She was joined by Annie Lennox, looking relaxed after her exertions. I had interviewed her a few months before at the Concorde la Fayette in Paris so she came over and was gracious about the feature.
"I'm not sure about Dave though. He was a bit hurt about what you wrote about him."
Oh well. I had made a few cheap remarks about Dave Stewart and his beard. But nothing that severe. Maybe I had damned him with indifference or missed out on the nuances of the new album, 'We Too Are One'. Perhaps he thought that he had let me into his confidence - all his most entertaining stories had been off the record - and that I had not returned the kindness.
We writers had a few more refreshments, warmed our feet in the sand and idled away until the 2am drive back to the Majestic. The beach was getting empty when out stepped Dave Stewart. He wore a white suit and a matching shirt with a gull wing collar, open for take off. His bare shirt was smeared in a glitter paste and the beard was dyed raven black. He was a glam rock Jay Gatsby.
It was hard to figure out Dave's expression behind the large sunglasses but I said hello, and we chatted quietly. Then he got to the point.
"You know Stuart," he muttered in his soft, Sunderland tones, "I read your article and I'm not sure if you like me or not."
He had the sumptuous party, the handsome wife and children, the record company support, the fine villa along the coast and famously gilded friends in Los Angeles. Still, there was a vacancy in his manner. A sadness, even. I was reminded of a lyric from one of his old songs:
"There's a lifestyle, with painted lips,
Everybody wants it, but it don't exist."
I couldn't assure Dave that I liked him. There was no point faking it. We shook hands and then he wandered away, disappearing behind the fronds of an exotic plant.