It had been nearly three years since the members of Catherine Wheel occupied the same room together. But with the careful plotting of [former] CW manager and walking PR machine Merck Mercuriadis, the unthinkable was arranged in the form of a birthday party for [former] CW lead singer, Rob Dickinson, held at Mercuriadis’ home.
The party started off slow, with only Dickinson, Mercuriadis, and REM vocalist Michael Stipe in attendance.
Briefly shedding his reputation as a hermit, Stipe’s outing came as a surprise to many, but not to his good friend Dickinson—and certainly not to Catherine Wheel’s seasoned manager.
“Michael digs Robbie, so he would show up,” Mercuriadis gloated.
It is not known how long Stipe had already been in attendance, or how Mercuriadis even coerced Stipe out of his home.
One hour into the fiesta, Stipe informed Dickinson that he had something in his car for him, and suggested that Dickinson follow him outside. It was at that time when Mercuriadis grew nervous.
“The thought of the two of them out together,” Mercuriadis shuddered. “I was afraid they’d miss some later-arriving guests!”
Fortunately, Stipe’s request didn’t take long. Fifteen minutes later, both men returned with huge smiles on their faces.
“Merck, you’ll never guess what Mikey gave me!” Dickinson exclaimed, unable to walk straight after his good fortune. He then reached into his pants pocket.
“Look! It’s my ‘Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck’ demo! I’d left it in LA when I played it for Mike in his car! It’s been so long since I had this!”
As Dickinson happily chatted about his long-lost demo tape, Mercuriadis let out a sigh of relief.
“I’m just glad Rob wasn’t out that long.”
Just then, the doorbell rang. Mercuriadis fetched the door, and there stood Catherine Wheel drummer Neil Sims, guitarist Brian Futter, and bassist Ben Ellis. Sims was the only one with a gift in tow.
“Sorry we’re late!” Sims chirped. “We experienced some minor difficulties,” he said, alternately glaring at Futter and Ellis.
“What?” Futter spat. “Merck said to bring Presence. I’m fucking HERE, aren’t I?”
Unfazed, Dickinson beamed, “I’m 40, Brian! Just like you!”
“No, I think you’re 39,” Futter dryly answered.
“Oh, yes, of course! No sense in rushing towards 40 faster than I need to! I positively DREAD that day!”
With that, Futter wordlessly slumped into a nearby chair and stared at the floor.
Ellis finally admitted, “Ee’jis kem’fir th’boos!”
“Anyway,” Sims continued, “Happy Birthday, Rob!” and handed Dickinson a cookbook.
“Quick Dinners for Two!” Dickinson exclaimed. “Neil, how did you know!”
“Well, I figured you already had dessert covered,” Sims replied with a knowing grin. “Plus it’s my way of domesticating you. Minus the wife and kids. And house. And real job for that matter.”
Sims and Ellis bounced to the kitchen, hungry and thirsty, respectively. Once again, Mercuriadis, Stipe and Dickinson were left to mingle with each other.
“Merck, what if no one else shows up?” panicked Dickinson.
“Don’t worry!” Mercuriadis assured. “I have everything under control. I am a professional! I am a CEO! I can do simple tasks! Have I ever let you down?”
“No, I guess not,” smiled Dickinson. “You’ve always been my Greek warrior.”
As if on cue, the doorbell rang once again. This time, the new arrivals were Billy Corgan, Tim Friese-Greene, and a large box with little arms wrapped around it, later reported as those belonging to Tanya Donnelly.
“Who IS this guy,” Corgan immediately complained, referring to Friese-Greene. “He thinks he’s some studio wizard. Everyone knows *I* am GOD! Oh, here. I thought you could use some GOOD music by a REAL artist: ME.” Corgan presented Dickinson with the entire Smashing Pumpkins library.
Dickinson looked over the CDs and replied, “I think you accidentally gave me two copies of Siamese Dream…”
“No,” Corgan argued, “One is Siamese Dream, and the other is my new Zwan album.”
“But they appear to be the sa—”
“Look, I don’t make mistakes.” Corgan finished, and then stomped off, finally allowing Friese-Greene to approach his friend.
“I did not bring a gift for you,” began Friese-Greene. “I have nothing left to offer.”
“Not even any words of wisdom?” asked Dickinson.
“I don’t even go outside anymore.”
“What’s the smallest room here?”
“That coat closest over there, I believe.”
And like magic, Friese-Greene cloistered himself in the coat closet.
Dickinson aimlessly stared at the closet door but was interrupted by Donnelly, whose entire body was obstructed by the large box she carried.
“It’s nothing special, really,” Donnelly apologized, “but I’ve had this box sitting in my attic for some years.”
Dickinson opened the box and unveiled hundreds of “Judy Staring at the Sun” CD singles backed with “Capacity to Change.”
“I thought you’d like the CD’s—all 995 of them—in case you need to sell them on eBay one day,” Donnelly explained. “If Merck will allow you to, that is.”
Dickinson graciously accepted each gift. However, he remained slightly disappointed that he hadn’t received exactly what he wanted.
“Such strange gifts people are giving me…” Dickinson thought to himself.
As the partygoers quietly conversed, Mercuriadis was unable to relax. A few guests and the birthday cake still had not arrived.
“Um, yes…the fun should begin any minute, now,” Mercuriadis convinced himself. “I did everything I was supposed to. Nothing will go wrong. I can follow directions. I am a CEO.”
Mercuriadis was in such deep thought, he barely heard the doorbell ring.
“Cake, cake, cake,” he meditated before opening the door. Instead, Mercuriadis met eye-to-eye with Dickinson’s cousin Bruce, lead singer of Iron Maiden.
“Sorry I’m late,” apologized cousin Dickinson. “I just finished some commentary for VH-1. Then I have to fly a plane. Then I have to quit Iron Maiden. Then I have to write a book. Then I have to perform heart surgery. Then I have to rejoin Iron Maiden. Then I have to slay a dragon. Then I have to build a nuclear reactor.”
He handed the younger Dickinson a tattoo parlor gift certificate. “So, I can’t stay long.”
“What in the hell are you going to do with that?!” shrieked Mercuriadis, pointing at the offensive gift.
“Why, get a tattoo with the initials ‘MS’, of course!” exclaimed Dickinson.
A hush fell over the crowd.
“Whoooaa, you better give that back to me,” the Iron Maiden singer nervously said.
“Yes, I don’t think it’d be good, for PR reasons,” Mercuriadis added.
“What? I happen to like Microsoft!” Dickinson whined.
Futter lifted his head from its slump. “Rob, you don’t even own a computer,” he flatly sighed from his chair.
“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Dickinson. “Well, then! I guess I’ll have to get that butterfly tattoo in honor of my favorite play, M Butterfly! Oh Merck, when will you take me to see that again?”
“We’ll discuss that later, Rob,” frowned Mercuriadis.
The doorbell rang once more. Mercuriadis ran to the door, eager to greet the next arrival.
This time, it was the cake; a 3-tiered cake that stood five feet tall. Mercuriadis wheeled in the looming cake.
“Inside this cake,” Mercuriadis puffed, “is my gift to you. Take a look around. Is there anything that appears to be missing?”
Dickinson’s eyes scanned the room. “Oh, my God! My girlfriend!” he screamed.
Futter emerged from his sulk once more. “Goddammit, Rob, WHAT girlfriend?!” he sighed, thoroughly exasperated.
“Oh, yeah! Well, nothing’s missing, then!” Dickinson affirmed.
Suddenly, the body of none other than former Catherine Wheel bassist Dave Hawes popped out of the center of the cake. The crowd gasped in disbelief.
Dickinson stood shocked and motionless, pointing at a cake-caked Hawes.
“Oh Merck,” he stammered. “This has been haunting my dreams for years, and now it comes to life before my own eyes!”
The object Dickinson referred to was not the Hawes-and-cake scene, but instead a pair of boxer shorts with the words “Rock Star” printed on them, which Hawes happened to be sporting.
“I hope this means Rob will stop borrowing my boxers,” deadpanned Stipe.
“So, you like them!” beamed Mercuriadis.
“This is the best present I’ve ever gotten! Oh pleeeeeaaase, may I try them on now?” begged Dickinson.
“Not quite yet,” Mercuriadis warned. “There is something I need you to do for me, first. But we’ll talk about that tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll do anything!” cried Dickinson. “As long as I get my hands on those boxers I’ve been coveting for years!”
The crowd’s tension eased once it saw how pleased Dickinson was with his gift. The festivities carried into the wee hours of the morning, proving Mercuriadis’ talent as a bonafide party planner.
“Rob’s birthday was a success!” Mercuriadis bragged. “It was my ingenious way of conveying to Rob that in order for his dreams to come true, Dave must be present.
Mercuriadis paused. “I don’t think Rob actually saw Dave in the cake, or even remembers who Dave is. But we’ll begin the reacquainting process tomorrow morning.”
Mercuriadis then grew thoughtful. “Now, if only I could find Tim…”