Tag Archives: R.I.P.

The 27 Club Gets Another One

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.

Not exactly a surprise, considering her lifestyle. Even the Vegas books took her off the board in “Dead Pools” more than once. But it’s yet another tragic end to what could have been a dynamic career, and unlike most of her 27 Club predecessors, the culture of the times says she should have known better.

But she didn’t want to go to rehab.

(Hey, I wouldn’t want to room with Lindsay Lohan, either.)

From my perspective, as talented as she was, her legacy is too slim to rate alongside club peers like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and Jones. But she had friends, and she had family, and she had a boatload of fans. And for them it’s as difficult a day as it was for a young Stones fan when that body was found floating in Winnie The Pooh’s pool.

Who’ll be the next in line?

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Not A Good Rock Birthday…

You can search just about every day on the calendar and find a plethora of musicians and actors who share a birthday. On occasion I’ll run a column blogging about a few when some noteworthy ones share the day. And when looking over the lists last night, I discovered something.

July 15th is cursed.

If you’re going to light a candle for these birthdays, they are probably in church rather than a cake. Johnny Thunders was born in 1952 and left us back in 1991; his last recordings possibly were the sessions he did right in my town along with The Chesterfield Kings.

Ian Curtis, the poster boy for depression, was born four years later and left Joy Division behind in 1908. Even Artimus Pyle, born in 1958 and still alive, went down in flames with Lynyrd Skynrd and survived only to be tossed out of the band afterwards.

So maybe before anyone else born on July 15th sings “hope I die before I get old” they might want to think twice.

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Five Angels, Four Years

It seems like yesterday and it seems like forever ago.

My daughter graduated high school four years ago, graduated college this year and is about to embark on the next chapter of her life. For five families in my town – including two who are neighbors and friends – their daughter’s chapters ended four years ago in a fatal automobile accident.

Every year, we try to make something positive out of the negative. For some it’s charitable events and community service. For others, a time of reflection and an appreciation of what really matters in life. For still others, a motivation to be a better person.

I don’t understand why things like this happen, nor can I imagine what it is like to get up every day and have that cold slap of reality hit you in your first waking moment…she is gone. I don’t know if I would have the strength to get out of bed. But my friends somehow do.

I don’t expect you even to experience a sliver of what’s going through my mind today. But look around your own street, your own neighborhood, your own social circles. Can you do one thing better than before? Can you forgive one person? Can you help one person?

Can you make something organically positive happen?

It’s never too early. But if you wait it might be too late.

They would have graduated this year and have gone on to their next chapters. Instead, they will live on in other people’s hearts. Five angels, four years.

Bailey’s Book

Katie’s Closet

Hannah’s Hope

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R.I.P. Peter Falk

With apologies to Philip RothGoodbye Columbo.

Peter Falk passed away yesterday at 83. Probably most famous to most people for his longtime role as the rumpled but intelligent Lt. Columbo, Peter Falk had a long and storied career as a film and television actor. In fact, his breakout role was as psychopathic hitman Abe Reles in 1960’s Murder Inc., an Oscar-nominated performance.

Video: Murder Inc. trailer

I’ve always appreciated Falk’s versatility. He could play serious or demented characters, but also excelled in comedy roles in Murder By Death, The Great Race and The In-Laws; even his cab driver cameo in It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World was memorable.

He was great friends with John Cassavetes and made several films with John, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassell and Ben Gazzara. Husbands and A Woman Under The Influence got bigger press, but my favorite Cassavetes collaboration was Mikey and Nicky (directed by Elaine May), a story about a tragic and twisted friendship.

Video: Mikey and Nickey trailer.

And following on yesterday’s TGIF about Boston criminals, I would be remiss in not mentioning The Brink’s Job. Falk could do it all.

Just one more thing…goodbye Peter Falk. Thanks for a lifetime of great work.

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Rock and Rap Confidential

Yep, it used to be Rock and Roll Confidential. Times change.

Still an amazing read, and it’s free by email, although a donation to the tip jar wouldn’t be a bad thing. Interesting pieces, good links, some decent truths…albeit skeptical, but really, what truths aren’t?

You can read the classic Steve Albini piece about major label deals, often reprinted as “Some of your friends are probably already this fucked“. In a recurring column called “Why Do We Need The Music Industry?” you can read comments about the state of the industry from Tom Petty and Tommy Womack and Ice-T.

And there’s often a brilliant piece, like the essay that Holly Gleason wrote about the late Steve Popovich. I thought I paid him a nice tribute, but Gleason’s essay blew me out of the water:

I’m in a shitty hotel room, chattering and chilled to the bone. I’ve driven all day, and it doesn’t even matter. Sometimes you do what you have to do – even when it doesn’t make sense to the people that know you. It’s not irrational. I know exactly why I’m here — shivering, waiting for the heat to actually kick in. And it’s not just the funeral for an iconoclast with a huge heart and bigger balls, even though that’s why I’m here. It is about the world in which we live, the vineyard in which I’ve toiled going on thirty years. It’s the way I spent my life and the beliefs I’ve held. Especially at a time when doing the right thing, fighting for greatness, believing the music matters is at best quaint, but most likely is viewed – no matter what “they” say – as chump stuff.
Steve Popovich, who passed away June 8th in Murfreesboro, TN, would disagree. He’d tell you to fight for what’s right, to stand up for what’s different, believe in the music, not the business or the politics or the egos… to know great, no matter the guise, and make sure it gets heard. Steve Popovich was that kind of guy. That’s how he lived… right til he died.
That kinda guy… big, bottomless heart. True believer. Fearless advocate for what he believed. Tireless in pursuit of great music – be it progressive polka bands like Brave Combo or Michael Jackson, Boston or David Allen Coe. When Meatloaf sold 200,000 copies of his first album and Epic Records informed him they’d done all they could do, Popovich went market-by-market and created a sensation, making Bat Out of Hell the biggest selling record that year.
That’s the thing about true hearts and big dreams… they don’t let go. They’ll haunt you. Take hold and keep holding. Rarer than rubies, when you encounter one, you never forget. They will make you do things you can’t believe you’re doing…Like driving 10 hours dead exhausted at the end of a record launch and an Oscar winner on a red carpet… to sit in a church where I know barely anyone… to honor a legacy so many would never understand. Because it’s just not done that way. Not any more. Not to the point where people even understand why it matters.And yet, if you know, experienced, saw or even glimpsed Steve Popovich in action, there was no way you could turn away. How could you? To see passion, raw and unfiltered, 250 proof and looking for matches… that was the kind of thing that left people speechless.Only Steve Popovich would never settle for that. He wouldn’t let people stand by mute. He’d cajole and engage and encourage. He wanted you to know… for sure… but he wanted to know. All about you. And every single you in the room, the street, the world. What did you think? need? feel? what makes you thrill? ache? rage?

And that’s just an excerpt. Things like this get emailed to subscribers all the time. Email me if you want the whole piece, because it’s not on the website yet. Or subscribe for free and ask them to send it to you. It’s a great read. It gives me faith that in an age of content, there are still writers who give a shit.

Kudos, Holly Gleason. Gotta love someone who once wrote “…in the end, there is no substitute. You can talk all you want, but you either rock or you don’t.” And that’s why you come here, right? For the occasional moment when I earn your support with a decent essay? So today I repay your faith by asking you to sign up – for free – and double your odds.

As of today, 900 posts in the Prescription, and I’m still going. Please keep visiting. I’ll try to get my batting average higher.

Rock and Rap Confidential

Holly Gleason’s website

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R.I.P. Wild Man Fischer

One of the great things about college radio – at least back then – was that you could play anything you wanted to. I had a late night radio show where pretty much anything hit the airwaves depending upon my mood, whether it was progressive rock, powerpop or comedy. Since there were no commercials – and since I refused to play the news that was recorded and scheduled for the top of the hour – four hours of programming was a shape-shifting blob of whimsy.

Except for times when I would play a lengthy prog tune (often an entire album side) to buy myself time for a snack and a bathroom break, the world was my aural oyster. The station was serviced by most record companies, although thanks to collegiate theft, we usually had to bring our own vinyl. The station was usually staffed by the DJ and no one else, so many of the classics disappeared not long after their arrival.

One album that didn’t was An Evening With Wild Man Fischer.

Look at that cover. And this was an effort blessed by Frank Zappa? If you’re a college DJ in the early 70’s, you have to put that on the turntable. And when you did, the first thing you heard was a deranged man yelping the refrain of  “Merry Go Round” over percussion supplied by paint buckets and tambourines. You really don’t want a song like this stuck in your head:

Come on, let’s merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.
Boop-boop-boop.
Merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.
Boop-boop-boop. …

Video: “Merry Go Round

And it just got stranger from there. Of course, when you’re young and immature, you’re not thinking to yourself  “here’s a guy who’s obviously suffering from a mental disorder; this is sad“. No…you’re playing this for anyone who will listen and laughing your asses off in disbelief that anyone this atonal actually had a record deal. Given the times, an itinerant street poet dumping his thoughts into a microphone was perfectly acceptable. This was the counterculture, after all.

Video: Wild Man Fischer on the streets

But in reality, Larry Fischer was a man suffering from both acute schizophrenia and manic depression who had been institutionalized as a teen and now took to the streets selling songs for a dime whenever he felt the pep (his word for muse/inspiration, likely when his manic side kicked in). Soon his window of fame with Zappa would close, although he would later get more notoriety via Dr. Demento and by collaborating with Barnes and Barnes; he was also immortalized in comic form.

A quarter century later, on a much bigger stage, the entertainment industry would use William Hung for its own amusement in a far sicker display of public humiliation. But then again, as all television producers have learned, Americans will do anything to get on television, including debasing themselves, in pursuit of what is mistaken for celebrity. Several of the most popular shows on television are based upon the concept of people exposing their faults or fabricating a lifestyle to feed the voyeuristic, isolationist society that we have become. H.L. Menken once said that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public“. I don’t think he realized an entire industry would be created in the process.

But these celebretards are all too eager to volunteer. Larry was drafted.

Knowing all that I do about Frank Zappa, what was once a benign thought is now a curious question. Was Frank simply flipping the bird to the pop culture establishment by posturing Fischer as a street poet genius while putting some coin in his and Larry’s pockets? Or was Frank so prescient about the banality of pop culture that this was simply another absurdist cash cow, a latter day Elephant Man who would be carnival-barkered to the public for a short shelf-life and then disposed of when done?

Larry released three records for Rhino, but this original album has never been issued on CD because Gail Zappa owns the rights. (Apparently, Larry once threw a jar at her daughter’s head, terminating his relationship with Frank. Gail can hold a grudge.)Ironically, last week I stumbled across a documentary about Larry’s life entitled Derailroaded. While waiting for my copy to arrive, I hit the Internet on Friday in search of some reviews and comments about the film, which is how I learned of his passing on June 16th.

Larry Fischerdead at 66.

The words rest in peace have rarely been more appropriate.

"My name is Larrrr-y..."

***

And just as was set to release the above post, I learned that The Big Man has sadly left us as well. Clarence Clemons died last night from complications following a recent stroke.

I’ll let Bruce Springsteen’s words say it for me:

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

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Life’ll Kill Ya

It was on another long car trip this week that I slipped some Warren Zevon into the player, this time Genius, the collection issued in 2002. I knew every song, of course, and sang along loudly as I navigated the car through The Berkshires at night, my warble interrupted only by the occasional smack of a huge bug against the windshield and fenders. (I don’t know what flies around there at night, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t driving a convertible.)

Of course, no single disc could contain Zevon’s genius, and is the case with most veteran artists, seeing a show or listening to a collection always leaves you wanting more. So when I got home, I made a beeline for this one.

I really, really miss Warren Zevon. I can only imagine what he’d be writing about these days.

From Consumable Online, February 2000…

Some see the glass as half-empty, while others see the glass as half-full. Warren Zevon sees the glass as broken – some of the contents spilled all over his pants, and the rest rolling around on the floor.

With superb backing from longtime ace Jorge Calderon and drummer Winston Watson, Zevon continues to avoid the “big sound” for a more stripped down folk’n’roll approach. Naturally, focus then shifts to voice and words, where Zevon is king. “I can saw a woman in two/ but you won’t want to look in the box when I do,” he says in the Springsteen-ish “For My Next Trick I’ll Need A Volunteer,” which features Chuck Prophet on guitar. Taking the theme of “life sucks, then you die” to a new level, he explores the frailty of human existence and the quest for some sort of spiritual affirmation…which of course he’s skeptical about. And, just for good measure, some songs about S&M and the self-inflicted demise of Elvis Presley.

Having suffered the slings and arrows of a professional musician, Zevon’s weather-beaten attitude could be self-righteous or pastoral. Instead, underneath the surface of the crusty observer, you know he’s got it figured out; life’s too short to let the posturing and bullshit cramp our style.

You know I hate it when you put your hand inside my head/ and switch all my priorities around,” he says in “I’ll Slow You Down,” a tale as applicable to religious uncertainty as it is to relationship angst. Maybe we can settle for a simple “don’t let us get sick/don’t let us get old/don’t let us get stupid, alright?” Even the record’s lone cover, Steve Winwood’s “Back In The High Life Again” at first seems an odd choice, but in the context of these takes on the inevitable, it’s an ironic inclusion.

You can dream the American Dream,” Zevon says, “but you sleep with the lights on/and wake up with a scream.” Acerbic and clever as ever, Warren Zevon remains a unique treasure among American songwriters.

Listen to clips and purchase here.

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