The Grim Reaper must be into numerology.
But now he has an assistant. Jack Kevorkian, occasionally called “Doctor Death” because of his years of commitment to physician-assisted suicide, died Friday at the age of 83. Ironically, no one helped him; it was a combination of kidney failure and thrombosis (clot-related ailments). An odd pop tangent is that Kevorkian’s lawyer was Geoffrey Feiger, brother of the late Doug Fieger of The Knack. Their courtroom battles – Kevorkian was never convicted when Fieger was his lawyer – are the basis for the movie You Don’t Know Jack. (Don’t confuse that with this).
James Arness, legendary as Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke, finally rode off into the sunset on Friday after 88 years on this dusty trail. Gunsmoke aired for twenty years and 635 episodes and made Arness a household name. The series, and the character, still finish high upon any list of the best in television history. Like his friend John Wayne, Arness was an imposing authority figure, although reserved and artistic in his private life. Many also know that his brother was the late Peter Graves.
And if Friday wasn’t already bad enough, Andrew Gold died after a heart attack at the too-young age of 59. Gold had hits in the 80s with “Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being A Friend“, as well as the theme from Mad About You, “Final Frontier“. But in my haven of liner notes, he was better known for being embedded in the SoCal scene where Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and Jackson Browne were all over each other’s albums. Like J.D. Souther – to whom he bore a slight resemblance – he didn’t often get the front-line credit for his effort, but was an integral and dynamic contributor to a generation of music.
Less is usually said about his later career, when projects like Wax UK and The Fraternal Order Of The All gave him vehicles for his love of Beatles and Beach Boys song structure and melodies. Copy Cat was a covers album featuring ten Beatles tracks, Green Day, Elton John and even covers of his own songs. A great talent who will be missed.
Video: “Lonely Boy”
Pretty hip, even for Hip-O.
Under the radar and a blast from the past…and playing at my house today. Not much to add to my original take (below) and although I can’t rate it alongside deliberate tribute albums, it’s well worth a listen.
Hip-O’s tribute collections gather previously recorded versions of an artist’s work rather than commission current bands to take a whack at the catalogue. So where the latter project might have the benefit of one-upmanship as bands try to come out on top of the pile, the older versions were done individually as true tips of the cap, especially when you consider the caliber of the artists involved. Like Meet The Covers and Chuck B. Covered, this gathering is as eclectic as Hip-O’s Beatles and Chuck Berry discs.
While many have heard Linda Ronstadt‘s tepid version of “Tumbling Dice”, few will have heard Sugar Blue‘s jazzy harp-laden “Miss You” (he played harmonica on the original cut). Ditto a nice collaboration between two of the better guitarists on Earth, Charlie Sexton and Ron Wood. And while I miss Devo‘s unique attack of “Satisfaction”, soul legend Otis Redding sounds a lot more like a man in need than Jagger did. White soul shouter Mitch Ryder issued one of the most intense rock albums of the era with Detroit; the inclusion of his growling “Gimme Shelter” is the best thing on the record. Dueling soul Queens Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner are here also, with Ike and Tina ironically offering “Under My Thumb”!
Country blues is the bastard father of rock and roll, and while Jason & The Scorchers rip it up with “19th Nervous Breakdown”, Johnny Cash‘s 1978 version of “No Expectations” sounds like “Folsom Prison Blues” with different words. Steve Earle and Johnny Winter (with Rick Derringer blazing alongside him every step of the way) close out the disc with live versions of “Dead Flowers” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, respectively.
There are fourteen songs, and besides the Ronstadt cut, the only mistake that Hip-O made was in the liner notes which begin: “Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may not be thought of as one of the great songwriting teams of the modern era…” Maybe not on your planet! As a die hard, long time, watched-them-on-Sullivan-as-a-kid fan, I’ve known better all my life. Even during that period of the 1960’s when the unwritten rule said you had to choose between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (couldn’t – gasp – like both!), I knew which side my rock was buttered on. So does Hip-O.
Album now out of print but cheap used copies available.
Also check out the Chuck Berry and Beatles tributes referenced above.