Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An appeal on behalf of Chris Sheehan

A few weeks ago, while I was on my way to New York City one morning for a weekend of fun, my phone buzzed, indicating receipt of a new email message.  I took a quick glance at it to see who it was, and practically ran off the road when I saw the addressee - none other that Mr. Chris Sheehan himself.

For longtime readers of this blog, you'll know that Chris Sheehan was the driving force/sole member of The Starlings, a "group" that released a couple of fine albums in the early '90s, 1993's Valid and 1994's Too Many Dogs - both of which I wrote about at length here back in 2010.  Before his work with The Starlings, Sheehan was a longtime member of the legendary and popular New Zealand group The Dance Exponents (joining the band when he was only eighteen).

After being unceremoniously kicked off of Dave Stewart's Anxious Records in the mid-90s in the contentious wake of the commercial failure of his first album and his spleen-venting, label-attacking second album, I wrote that Sheehan's personal commercial viability had ended, and since that time he had been "working on fringes of the music industry" as a musician-for-hire, playing with such as The Sisters of Mercy and The Mutton Birds.  I was pretty sure that what I wrote regarding Sheehan's career was pretty accurate (I do try to put in some research into the things I write!).  Still, as excited as I was to receive the first note from an artist I'd actually posted about, I was a little nervous about reading his message - I thought he might be a bit P.O.ed with my characterization of him.  I pulled over at the first rest stop I came to and, with some trepidation, opened my email to read his message.

Well, my fears were completely unfounded; as it turned out, his email couldn't have been more pleasant.  Here's what he wrote:
Hey, great stuff.  I sneaked off and released 2 albums as Chris Starling: Planet Painkiller in about 2000 [ed: actually, 1999], and Sounds Like Chris Starling in 2002.  P.P. was on my own label and sounds like as well but it came out thru Pop Child in Europe.  Haven't squeaked a note since the last record and have lived abroad for more than 10 years.

Thanks for writing about the records
Relieved, I wrote him back immediately:
Dear Mr. Sheehan -

I saw that I received an email about an hour ago, and when I looked at who it was from, I practically fell out of the car!  Wow - Chris Sheehan himself!  I'm very excited and honored to hear from you!

I'm glad you had the opportunity to read my screed regarding your first album - as I said, I LOVED pretty much every song on it . . .  (BTW - over the years since I wrote this, I've sometimes imagined that you read the part about Too Many Dogs being a "Fuck You" masterpiece at the label and laughing your head off…!)

. . . Well, this is all very, very cool!   Thanks tons for contacting me.  I look forward to hearing from you again soon.  Until then, 

Best wishes always - 
And of course, I couldn't resist asking him:
. . . I hope that my assessment of your life and situation with Dave Stewart's label at that time was accurate.  Please know that everything I wrote was from the heart, and not a slam on you at all; the label screwed you on that first album, which should have been HUGE . . .
Chris's immediate and succinct response was perfect:
Don't worry, you were right!
Since that first exchange, Chris and I have written back and forth a couple of times, and we've 'friended' one another on Facebook.  In his notes and in the few posts he's made to his Facebook page, he's seemed relatively happy and settled with his wife in his current life - at least as far as I could tell.  I was sort of sad to hear that he had been out of music for the past decade, and in one of my notes to him, I wrote the following:
I hope that, when the yen strikes you, you get back to making more music - I have a feeling that there's still plenty within you, and lots more you want to say . . .
I didn't think much of it when he didn't respond to that.  Yesterday morning, I found out why.

Just before heading off to work, I made a quick check of my Facebook page, and found a new post by Chris, for a site called Fundrazr.com, a crowd funding site where people and organizations can raise money for charitable, entrepreneurial, political and personal causes and projects (it appears to be a pretty successful fundraising application; since its founding in 2009, the site has raised more than $20 million for its users). 

The title of Chris's appeal jolted me: "1 Last Album Despite Incurable Cancer".

Here's the narrative he wrote to explain the motivation behind his Fundrazr drive:
I can't justify any of my limited income to be spent on my own non-profit activities. Stage 4 metastatic nodular melanoma. Clinical trials and palliative treatment only. Wife terminally ill. Dozens of rescue animals. I don't own a computer anymore and would like a good laptop and software to see what comes out. I will not divert money from my family for selfish artistic urges. Maybe someone who enjoyed a Starlings record at sometime is flush. The closest I've been is flushed. Anyway if no one helps I'm off the hook so nothing to lose. Ta Chris.
For the second time in less than a month, Chris Sheehan had jolted me again.  Now I know why he was so reticent to discuss a return to recording.  If you check the link to Chris's Fundrazr.com account here, you will see photos posted of the surgery that he has already undergone in an attempt to combat this disease.  It's sad enough that he's going through what he's going through; the fact that his wife is also terminal just compounds the tragedy.

Folks, I don't want to be melodramatic about this - but this is real, and no B.S.; Chris Sheehan is seriously ill.  There's no easy way to put this . . . but there's no getting over what he has.  But during the time he has left, he just wants to have one last opportunity to make available to the world just a small amount of the music he has left within him; a final testament and legacy for his friends, family and fans to remember him by. 

I've never felt the need to include dramatic appeals of this type on my blog before.  I have no lofty goals, aims or aspirations for this site beyond making some good music available to like-minded readers, and making a few friends from amongst you along the way.  And it's rare that I serve up anything high-minded or profoundly philosophical in my writing - I usually just pen silly, lightweight stories that tangentially relate to songs and albums I have enjoyed throughout my life.  But if there was ever a time for me to set all of that aside for a moment, and use this blog as a pulpit to hopefully help out a really good guy like Chris Sheehan, who could really use a hand at this time, NOW is the time for me to do so.

So please, if you can, check out Chris Sheehan's Fundrazr site.  If you're willing and able, please contribute what you can to his appeal.  And also, if you can, leave him a note - he's always happy and appreciative to hear from his fans.  If you haven't heard any of his music, click on this link for my Starlings posting from three years ago, and contact me for a link to the album - I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

I'd also appreciate it if some of my fellow music bloggers could pick up Chris's link as well - the more people know of this, the more success he'll be in meeting his 5,000 Euro goal.

Thanks -

All the best to you all from Pee-Pee Soaked Heckhole


  1. Thanks to everyone who read this post and who contributed to Chris's cause. As of today, he's reached almost 90% of his goal - in less than ten days! You guys are the best! Thanks again!

  2. Hi there! I just found your blog. I am a long time fan of Chris Sheehan, as well. This news has been heart-wrenching. We corresponded a few times over the past few. I posted a sort of best of called The Goodest Ones over at http://asidesbsidesandseasides.blogspot.com/

    Perhaps your readers would enjoy some rarities from the chap. (...and the cover that I did of That's It You're In Trouble which he gave me a thumbs up for. Teehee!)

    I'm pleased that the goal has been reached and look forward to that bittersweet final product. It is hard to be too excited about in the traditional sense. Surely, it will make for a treasured album for us.