It was utter carnage in January, especially if you add all the thespian deaths to the reaper’s music victims!
In the In Memoriam series I like to feature little-know artists who have died, such as English singer, songwriter and actor David Bowie who started off his career as Davie Jones, made a name for himself as an occasional painter, as leader of early 1960s band The Konrads and eventually as the husband of supermodel Imam.
Well, to be honest, everything that can be said about Bowie has been said. The tributes were glowing and generally paid due respect to the master’s lifetime achievements, right down to his refusal to accept medals and knighthoods from the queen of England. Alas, all that honour will be brutally urinated upon at the Brits later this month. For the occasion a “supergroup” has been put together. Noel Gallagher, Bono, Damon Albarn, Coldplay and Adele on one stage beating the career of David Bowie with sticks. I can hear Bono intoning: “Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with [insert gratuitous lyrics change here with reference to other twats on stage]…” The Oasis goon will perform Suffragette City with that whiny voice, stripping the song of its explosive energy. Coldplay will play… sorry, I forgot, I fell asleep just imagining it. And Adele will foghorn her way through Life On Mars, holding long notes at inappropriate moments. There’ll be an acoustic version of Let’s Dance before they all go on to slaughter Heroes (of course, Heroes!) and do the “we’re not worthy” shtick — bowing for Bowie, so to speak — that always indicates that they think they are in fact very worthy indeed. Bowie’s cremated ashes will flurry in their urn like glitter in a snow globe.
Exactly a week after Bowie, Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died, aged 67. The band, of course, got their breakthrough thanks to a Bowie track, All The Young Dudes. Bowie had known Hoople bassist Peter Watts and upon learning that the band was going to split due to their lack of success, he offered them Suffragette City. The band turned down the track (luckily so: where would ‘70s pop be without Bowie’s frenzied “aaah wam bam thank you ma’am”?). Bowie took the rejection, graciously sat down on the floor and wrote All The Young Dudes for them. It came out just three weeks after the Ziggy Stardust album and was a huge hit. Drummer Griffin, who went on to produce many John Peel sessions for the BBC, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the disease that eventually killed him, at the age of 58.
Colin Vearncombe, who has died at 53 after being in an induced coma following injuries sustained in a car crash in Ireland, was best known by the moniker Black, under which he enjoyed a couple of UK hits in 1987. One of these was the beautiful Wonderful Life which was accompanied by a gorgeous video that looks like a coffee table book of exquisite black & white photography. If you’ve never seen it, you will want to (Click here). He had some success with the follow-up albums to Wonderful Life, but then left his major label to record independently. Last year he released to good reviews an album, Blind Faith, which was financed by crowd-funding. Buy it HERE.
The unlikely figure of the Georgian-born, Swiss-raised Giorgio Gomelsky was instrumental in the success of the Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. It was his blues club, the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond (near London), where the young blues fans that would spearhead much of British rock first congregated. The unknown Stones were his houseband. When they left for bigger things, he replaced them with The Yardbirds, whom he also managed and produced (including their biggest hit, For Your Love). Other acts that played at Crawdaddy included future stars Led Zeppelin, Long John Baldry, Elton John and Rod Stewart. In 1967 Gomelsky set up the Marmalade Records label which gave starts to Julie Driscoll & Brian Auger and Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley and Lol Crème, who’d become central parts of 10cc.
With Jefferson Airplane, the band he co-founded, Paul Kantner played at the five most important or famous music festivals of the 1960s: The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival (the first-ever real rock festival) in June 1967 , Monterrey (held a week after), Woodstock and Altamont in the US in ‘69 plus the Isle of Wight festival in 1968 in Britain. The band’s dynamics were complicated at the best of times. In the late ‘60s Kantner was in love with Grace Slick, but she was with drummer Spencer Dryden. But in 1969 Grace split up with Dryden and hooked up with Kantner, with whom she ended up having a daughter, actress and former MTV vee-jay China Wing Kantner (he had two more children). They split in 1975 but would collaborate further musically. Kantner died at 74 from a heart attack but might have gone twice much younger: In the early 1960s he survived a serious motorcycle accident, and in 1980 he recovered, against the odds, from a cerebral hemorrhage.
I don’t think it has ever happened: two members of a band passing away of natural causes on the very same day. But so it was this month with the deaths of Paul Kantner and Jefferson Airplane’s founding singer Signe Toly Anderson, both on January 28. Anderson sang on only the first album in 1966, leaving the band after a final concert on October 15, 1966 at The Fillmore, mainly because she was pregnant and because the other band members didn’t get on with her husband. She was replaced by Grace Slick. Anderson, who had a series of health problems starting in the 1970s, lived in Oregon and performed for nine years with a ten-piece band, Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company.
The name Otis Clay will be known to some soul fans, but two of his songs crossed over into the pop charts in cover versions. His 1972 song Trying To Live My Life Without You, recorded on the Hi Records label, became a US #5 hit for Bob Seger in 1981; his 1980 song The Ony Way Is Up became a UK #1 in 1988 for Yazz and the Plastic Population. Both originals are featured here.
And if it’s originals you want, this lot also includes that of the early ‘70s hit Mamy Blue, written by French songwriter Hubert Giraud, who has died at 96. More significant than that slice of Euro pop was his 1951 co-composition of Sous le Ciel de Paris, one of the loveliest songs about the city and a staple in Edith Piaf’s repertoire after she recorded it in 1954. In 1958 André Claveau won the Eurovision Song Contest with his song Dors, mon amour. Although he made his name as a composer, Giraud started his career on stage, as part of Django Reinhardt’s jazz ensemble in 1941.
The recent documentary on the Eagles confirmed that Glenn Frey was not an invariably lovely fellow to his colleagues. Of course, I have no idea whether the docu was an accurate representation of the man; he came across as thoughtful man in interviews. I like me some Eagles from time to time, and many of my favourite songs by the group were written or co-written by Frey: Take It To The Limit, I Can’t Tell You Why, Tequila Sunrise, Lyin’ Eyes, Take It Easy, After The Thrill Is Gone, New Kid in Town, Best Of My Love, Desperado… But I do detest his big solo hit: The Heat Is On.
With the death of Kitty Kallen, a voice that began to be heard as long ago as 1936, on US radio, has fallen silent. As a girl Kitty once won an amateur competition and came home with her prize of a camera. Mr Kallen did not believe his daughter had such talent to win singing contests and punished her for stealing the camera. The truth was revealed when neighbours came over to congratulate the family. I hope Kitty took a photo with that camera of her father’s astonished face. She made her recording debut as the singer of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, scoring a #1 hit with Besamo Mucho in 1944, and had two further chart-toppers in 1945 with the Harry James Orchestra. She enjoyed a million-selling hit in her own right in 1954 with Little Things Mean A Lot, followed by more big hits with Chapel in the Moonlight, True Love and If I Give My Heart to You. She retired in the 1960s due to lung disease.
Impresario Robert Stigwood left his mark on popular culture in many ways by making sure stuff happened. In the 1960s the Australian managed Cream and the Bee Gees, turning the latter into stars. He produced the mega hit movies Saturday Night Fever, which turned disco into a phenomenon that would burn itself out, and Grease. Both soundtracks were million-sellers on Stigwood’s RSO label which, apart from the Bee Gees, also had artists such as Eric Clapton, Yvonne Elliman and Player on their books. RSO released more soundtracks, including those for Times Square, Fame and The Empire Strikes Back. But Stigwood also suffered failures, none more public than the much-derided Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. There was an irony in that: in January 1967 Stigwood merged with Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises management company. At one point Epstein mooted the idea that Stigwood might become Beatles manager, only to face a rebellion from the Fab Four who disliked Stigwood. Epstein learnt to do likewise, though Stigwood left NEMS only after Brian’s death in 1968 — and went on to form his multi-faceted entertainment behemoth RSO.The bassist of what Kerrang! once named as the greatest heavy metal album of all time is gone. Scottish-born Jimmy Bain played on Rainbow’s Rising album in 1976. By early 1977 Ritchie Blackmore had sacked him. In 1978 Bain formed Wild Horses who went on to release two albums in the early 1980s while also doing session work for the likes of John Cale, Thin Lizzy, Roy Harper and Kate Bush (playing on Sat In Your Lap, Leave It Open, and Get Out Of My House on The Dreaming album). He also worked with Phil Lynott, co-writing his Old Town which became a big hit in the 1990s for The Corrs. In 1983 he was close to joining German heavy metal band Scorpions; instead he joined Dio, reuniting with former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, with whom he co-write some of the band’s best-known songs, including Holy Diver.
To people who have lived in Britain in the past four decades, the name Terry Wogan will mean something. Although well known as an avuncular chat show host or radio presenter or charity fundraiser, he probably was most famous as the commentator of the Eurovision Song Contest, which over the course of more than 30 years the Irish-born entertainer treated with a certain measure of disdain and sarcasm. Among the many one-liners he’d shoot off, the best might be this from 2007: “Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually, I do. I’ve seen the rehearsals.” The irony is that his foray into the British charts, 1978’s Floral Dance, was worse than many of the songs this decent man commentated on. I won’t inflict it upon you; if you must, watch it HERE.
The world’s porniest singer, perhaps alongside the exhibitionist Rudy Ray Moore, is gone with the death of Blowfly, whose record covers tended to feature ladies in states of undress while he wore nightmarish masks and outfits. Among the charming titles of Blowfly songs are: “Can I Come In Your Mouth?”, “Too Fat To Fuck”, “Electronic Pussy Sucker”, “Spermy Night In Georgia”, “My Baby Keeps Farting In My Face” and “The Sperm Is Gone”. In his defence, he did those only for fun, and some of them have killer grooves. Clarence Reid, as Blowfly’s mom knew him, had a serious side: he recorded under his own name and also wrote for and produced artists including Betty Wright, Sam & Dave, Irma Thomas, Gwen McCrae, Wilson Picket, Jimmy “Bo” Horn, Bobby Byrd, Dusty Springfield, Timmy Thomas and KC & the Sunshine Band. Needless to say, the featured Sesame Street Theme is NSFW!
Mark B, 45, British hip-hop DJ and record producer, on Jan. 1
Michel Delpech, 69, French singer-songwriter and actor, on Jan. 2
Michel Delpech – Pour Un Flirt (1971)
Jason Mackenroth, 46, drummer with Henry Rollins Band, Blue Man Group, on Jan. 3
Paul Bley, 83, Canadian free jazz pianist, on Jan. 3
Robert Stigwood, 81, Australian music, theatre and film impresario, on Jan. 4
Cream – White Room (1967, as arranger)
Bee Gees – My World (1972, as co-producer)
Long John Hunter, 84, blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, on Jan. 4
Long John Hunter – She Used To Be My Woman (1953)
Long John Hunter – Lone Star Shootout (1996)
Achim Mentzel, 69, German musician and TV presenter, on Jan. 4
Nick Caldwell, 71, extravagantly bearded singer with The Whispers, on Jan. 5
The Whispers – Never Again (1964)
The Whispers – Here Comes Tomorrow (1972)
The Whispers – Love Is Where You Find It (1981)
Alfredo ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros, 87, Cuban-born trumpeter, on Jan. 6
Amy Regan, 30, folk-pop singer, on Jan. 6
Troy Shondell, 76, pop singer, on Jan. 7
Troy Shondell – This Time (1961)
Kitty Kallen, 94, vocalist, on Jan. 7
Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra – They’re Either Too Young Or Too Old (1943, on vocals)
Kitty Kallen – Little Things Mean A Lot (1954)
Jit Samaroo, 65, Trinidadian steelpan musician and arranger, on Jan. 7
Otis Clay, 73, soul singer, on Jan. 8
Otis Clay – Trying To Live My Life Without You (1972)
Otis Clay – The Only Way Is Up (1980)
Red Simpson, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 8
Red Simpson – Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves (1967)
Brett Smiley, 60, glam pop singer and songwriter, on Jan. 8
Brett Smiley – Va Va Va Voom (1974)
John Berry, singer and guitarist of Indie band Idaho, on Jan. 9
David Bowie, 69, legend, on Jan. 10
Davie Jones & The King Bees – Liza Jane (1964)
David Bowie – Ragozzo Solo, Ragazza Sola (1970)
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (demo) (1972)
David Bowie – Heroes (French version) (1977)
David Bowie – Rebel Rebel (1985, at Live Aid)
Jack Penland, 79, bluegrass singer and guitarist, on Jan. 10
Giorgio Gomelsky, 81, impresario, band manager, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 13
The Yardbirds – I’m A Man (1965)
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – This Wheel’s On Fire (1967, as producer)
George Grant, 78, lead singer of R&B band The Castelles, on Jan. 14
The Castelles – Over A Cup Of Coffee (1954)
Pete Huttlinger, 54, country guitarist (John Denver), on Jan. 15
Gary Loizzo, 70, singer of The American Breed, record engineer and producer, on Jan. 16
The American Breed – Bend Me, Shape Me (1968)
Hubert Giraud, 94, French songwriter, on Jan. 16
Edith Piaf – Sous le Ciel de Paris (1954, as composer)
Ivana Spagna – Mamy Blue (1971, as composer)
Dale Griffin, 67, drummer of Mott The Hoople, on Jan. 17
Mott The Hoople – All The Young Dudes (1972)
Mott The Hoople – The Saturday Gigs (1974)
Mic Gillette, 64, brass player of funk band Tower of Power, on Jan. 17
Tower Of Power – This Time It’s Real (1973)
Mic Gillette Band – Put It Where You Want It (2015)
Clarence ‘Blowfly’ Reid, 76, soul-funk musician, songwriter and producer, on Jan. 17
Betty Wright – Clean Up Woman (1972, as co-writer and producer)
Blowfly – Sesame Street Theme (1974)
Ramblin’ Lou Schriver, 86, country musician and radio broadcaster, on Jan. 17
Glenn Frey, 67, member of Eagles, singer-songwriter, actor, on Jan. 18
Eagles – After The Thrill Is Gone (1975)
Glenn Frey – The One You Love (1982)
Eagles – Take It Easy (live 1994)
Alec Wishart, 76, member of New Zealand band Hogsnort Rupert, on Jan. 22
Curtis Potter, 75, country musician and record label owner, on Jan. 23
Curtis Potter – I’m A Real Glad Daddy (1957)
Cadalack Ron, 34, rapper, on Jan. 23
Jimmy Bain, 68, bassist of Rainbow, Dio, on Jan. 24
Rainbow – Starstruck (1976)
Philip Lynott – Old Town (1982, also as co-writer)
Dio – Holy Diver (1983, also as co-writer)
Zarkus Poussa, 40, drummer of Finnish electro-jazz band RinneRadio, on Jan. 24
Black/Colin Vearncombe, 53, British singer-songwriter, from car crash injuries on Jan. 26
Black – Sweetest Smile (1987)
Colin Vearncombe – Wonderful Life (live, 2001)
Bryce Rohde, 92, Australian jazz pianist and composer, on Jan. 26
T.J. Tindall, 65, session guitarist, member of MFSB, on Jan. 26
The O’Jays – Backstabbers (1972, on guitar)
The Trammps – Disco Inferno (1976, on guitar)
Joe Harris, 89, jazz drummer (Dizzy Gillespie), on Jan. 27
William E. Martin, musician, songwriter and screenwriter, on Jan. 27
Harry Nilsson – Rainmaker (1969, as co-writer)
Paul Kantner, 74, guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of Jefferson Airplane/ Starship, on Jan. 28
Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers (1969, also as co-writer)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Wooden Ships (1969, as co-writer)
Signe Toly Anderson, 74, singer with Jefferson Airplane, on Jan. 28
Jefferson Airplane – Chauffeur Blues (1966, on lead vocals)
Terry Wogan, 77, Irish-born broadcaster and entertainer, on Jan. 31
(PW in comments)
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