Rest in Peace, Andy Hummel of Big Star

July 19, 2010

Right on the heels of Alex Chilton, Big Star bassist Andy Hummel has died at 59.

Hummel didn’t write a lot for Big Star, but he did contribute one of their best–the glorious “Way Out West.”

Rest in peace, Andy. I hope you are enjoying the reunion with Alex and Chris and working on some material I can check out when my time comes.

Big Star – “Way Out West”


Rest in Peace, the Mighty Ronnie James Dio

May 16, 2010

Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.

- Wendy Dio

Well, that sucks.

Dio was responsible for Rainbow’s great “Man on the Silver Mountain” before doing something almost no one has ever done–successfully joining a popular existing band that had lost a charismatic frontman. Heaven and Hell is acknowledged by metal-lovers as standing proudly side-by-side with the classic early Black Sabbath albums with Ozzy Osbourne.

His solo career produced at least three classics: “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” and my favorite metal song of all time, “The Last in Line.”

In my imagination, I picture the Mighty Dio going to hell with his broadsword and slaying numerous devils and demons before his final confrontation with Satan himself. Slay, Dio, slay. Rock, Dio, rock.

Rainbow — “Man on the Silver Mountain”

Black Sabbath – “Neon Knights”

Dio – “The Last in Line”

Oh my goodness, do I love this song.

And I suppose this obituary wouldn’t be proper without acknowledging the greatest video in the history of videos.

Dio – “Holy Diver”

Did you know that Dio is largely responsible for popularizing the “devil horns” hand of rock? Is there anything awesome Dio didn’t do?


Rest in Peace, Malcolm McLaren

April 10, 2010

One of rock’s oddest and greatest characters left us April 8, and his passing should be noted. His impact was more than deep on the punk and New Wave music that he encouraged and that has influenced, well, hell, just about everyone. He even made a legitimate splash in the then-embryonic world of hip-hop.

I’m saddened and pleased to present examples of all three genres. Rest in peace, Malcolm!

Sex Pistols – “Holiday in the Sun”

Bow Wow Wow – “C-30, C-60, C-90, Go!”

Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team – “Buffalo Gals”


A Celebration of Alex Chilton

March 22, 2010

If you’re reading this, it’s likely I don’t have to tell you who Alex Chilton was and why his death on March 17, 2010 is being mourned by lovers of music everywhere. So I’ll just jot down a few thoughts.

I have no idea how I first heard of Big Star. I think I just sort of absorbed the knowledge that there was this hugely influential band in the 1970s that didn’t sell all that many records. This was just the sort of thing that music lovers, particularly fans of what used to be called college rock, knew, like they knew about the Velvet Underground.

I picked up Big Star’s three albums when they were reissued on CD in 1992. I remember the awe they put me in, particularly their astonishing third album, alternately known as Third and Sister Lovers.

Sister Lovers is a stunning musical achievement. I don’t think another album exists that is so majestic and yet so heartbreakingly human. From the rousing opening, “Kizza Me,” to the depths of despair of “Holocaust,” to the joy of “O, Dana” and “Stroke it, Noel,” to the delicate closing admonition to “Take Care,” Sister Lovers takes its listeners through the panoply of human emotion. It is an exhausting but hugely rewarding experience. It is also at the absolute pinnacle of rock and roll music, standing right up there next to works as towering as Exile on Main St. and London Calling.

My singling out of Sister Lovers should not be read in any way as denigrating Big Star’s first two albums, #1 Record and Radio City, which are classics as well (how did “September Gurls” not set the world on fire?). Big Star put out an amazing body of work, and it’s Hall of Fame worthy.

I made a decision not to seek out Chilton’s subsequent solo work. The reviews were, at best, mixed and I didn’t want to tarnish Chilton’s legacy in my mind. It must be said that seeing Chilton live sometime in the 1993-1994 area did not increase my desire to explore further. Now that he’s gone, I think I’ll dig around a bit in his solo stuff and the Big Star revival partially staffed by members of Big Star disciples the Posies. I’m sure there are some gems buried in there, and now I want to find them.

God bless you, Alex. Your music means the world to me and will so long as I live.

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) eulogizes Alex Chilton on the floor of the House of Representatives

Big Star – “Nightime”

Big Star – “My Life is Right”

The Box Tops – “The Letter”


RIP, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse

March 7, 2010

Mark Linkous, prolific recording artist and main force behind the band Sparklehorse, has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 47.  Details can be found here.

Here’s “Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” from Sparklehorse’s great 2006 album Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain.

Sparklehorse – “Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away”


RIP Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., aka Jay Reatard (May 1, 1980 – January 13, 2010)

January 13, 2010

News came down today that Jay Reatard has passed away at the tender age of 29.  Reatard was a controversial figure in rock, not just because of his name, but also his on and offstage antics, which involved picking fights with his audiences and firing his whole band at will, among others.  However, Jay was a truly prolific artist who released tons of material, whether as a solo artist or member of tons of other bands.  And it all just kept getting better and better.  The man was surely in the prime of his artistic life, releasing killer song after song (many later released as singles compilations) and two brilliant solo albums (2006′s Blood Visions and 2009′s Watch Me Fall).  It’s a shame to lose such a promising talent so young, and many rock fans will be left to wonder what greatness they have missed out on with his passing.

I only dedicated one short blog post to Jay Reatard back in 2008, but I aim to correct that soon.  Watch this space for posthumous reviews of each of his solo albums as well as his singles compilations.  RIP, Jay.  To quote one of your song titles, “Oh, it’s such a shame.”

Jay Reatard – “Always Wanting More”


Rest in Peace, Vic Chesnutt (“Isadora Duncan” by Jolene)

December 26, 2009

I was saddened to learn that Vic Chesnutt died yesterday. He had been in a coma for a week after an apparently intentional overdose of muscle relaxants.

I’m no expert on Vic Chesnutt, but I’ll write about my limited experiences.

I saw Vic when I was an undergrad in either late 1992 or early 1993. He was the first opener for Soul Asylum, at the peak of their popularity during the Grave Dancers Union tour. (Second on the bill was the Goo Goo Dolls, back when they were a pretty good rock band and not making shit-tons of money writing made-for-prom ballads.)

Vic was an odd choice for the bill. On a night of rock, out rolls this crippled dude in a wheelchair, accompanied by a female singer (I think his wife) and another musician, and they play some acoustic folky singer-songwriter stuff. I know the crowd thought it was strange, and I don’t think they liked it much. I, on the other hand, was intrigued.

A semester or two later, I received a promo of his album West of Rome. I was taken by its wry lyrics, and bon mots like “someday I will transcend / Just like Jane’s Addiction.” (Somehow he made it rhyme.)

Somewhere along the way, I lost my copy of West of Rome. I always meant to replace it, and further explore Vic Chesnutt’s catalog, but I never quite got around to it. I suppose that now that he’s gone, I’ll do the usual thing and gruesomely dig in. Better when Vic is late than never.

My favorite Vic Chesnutt song isn’t performed by Vic Chesnutt. It’s a cover by the obscure alt-country band Jolene, from their gem of a debut, Hell’s Half Acre (which I really ought to get around to reviewing). Without further ado, here’s “Isadora Duncan.”

Jolene – “Isadora Duncan”

Rest in peace.


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