Saturday 3 July 2021

The Saturday List #313 - The ten deceased musicians who I miss the most

 Today is the tenth anniversary of the passing of Amy Winehouse. This is an especially sad day for me. Amy was perhaps the studio's best loved daughter. She'd rehearsed with us before she became famous. She bought the guitar she played on her first TV appearance from us. She was talking to us about recording an album of stripped back tunes, as she wanted control of her sound and had tired of the 'big production' sound she'd made her name with. At the time we had a paper based booking diary. Tippexing out her bookings was one of the saddest moments of my life. We put up a little memorial to her at the studio, on the wall of Studio 9. It has proven very popular with our artists.

It got me thinking, which artists do I miss most, who have passed away. You may be surprised that there is on Lennon, Elvis or Freddie in there. Great artists all, but I didn't really connect with any of them in the way I connected with those on the list.

1.  Amy Winehouse. A megastar, the voice of a generation. But also a lovely, sweet girl, who'd have a cup of tea with us in studio reception and was never anything other than a delight.

2. David Bowie. When Bowie passed, I felt like the world fell off its axis. The first single I bought was "The Jean Genie". I first became aware of Bowie as a seven year old, obsessed with the space race. Space Oddity fascinated me. I loved every album he recorded up to Heroes. Then I got into punk and he got into pop. What does Bowie mean to me? Well if you've never put Rebel Rebel on a Jukebox, and kissed a girl  (or boy) at the line where he says "Hot Tramp, I love you so", then I can't explain it. If you have, you'll get it.

3. Joe Strummer. Sometimes the death of a musician just seems cruel and horrible. I coudn't really get my head around a world without Strummer. Whatever Joe was or wasn't, he always seemed to me to embody the joyour experience that is life. Best known for the Clash, but also an able replacement for Shane MacGowan in the Pogues. Although the Clash were primarily a punk band, I genuinely believe their influence was more for bringing Reggae music to the unwashed masses of London. Their cover of Police and Theives on their first album is both gloriously awful as an interpretation, but perhaps the best signpost ever of what London is. The development over their recording career is stunning. Joe was not someone to let the grass grow under his feet.

4. Johnny Thunders. Never was a death so inevitable. Most know Thunders as a junkie. I've seen many gigs where he couldn't even stand up for the whole set. But when he was on form, he was a force of nature. His acoustic album Hurt Me is the most beautiful and vulnerable record ever made. Thunders not only opened up his soul to the world, he invited us in to explore the extremities of it. It isn't a polished piece of music, but songs such as Sad Vacation, a song about the death of Sid Vicious is truly extraordinary. When Thunders died, nothiong shocked me less, but I couldn't listen to his music for years as it made me cry. 

5. The Ramones. They are all dead. I probaly saw them 20-30 times. They were the band that got me into playing music. I can't really describe the debt I have to the band, other than to say I'd probably be a gardener (not that there is anything wrong with that) rather than a studio owner and guitarist if it wasn't for the band. 

6. Jimi Hendrix. My Sister Val was obsessed with Hendrix. The night after he died, I recall her having a seance to try and raise him from the dead. She had a copy of Electric Ladyland, the cover of which fascinated me. I loved Hendrix, but not his rock music. Songs like "the wind cries Mary" are beautiful. I once had a punch up with a National Front Skinhead in the Railway in West Hampstead, when I played Crosstown Traffic. The idiot objected to music by a Black Artist being played "in my pub". The governor, who was a big Irishman, heard the whole thing, slung him out, barred him, gave me a pint of Guinness on the house and put All Along The Watchtower on the Jukebox. He said "I love Bob Dylan, but Jimi makes this song a masterpiece". In some ways that moment sums up why I love London.

7. Toots. Toots was not a young man, but he was a force of nature. My daughter had a terrible accident a few years back. She was very down. I took her to see The Specials at Hatfield. Toots was the support act. She went to the gig a rather depressed and down teenager and came out affirming life and with renewed purpose. That's what music does. 

8. Richie Havens. I first came across Richie Havens at a late night screening of Woodstock at the Phoenix Cinema in 1979. I'd gone along as I was interested in Hendrix and The Who. I came out as a confirmed fan of Richie Havens, Sly and The Family Stone and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Of them all, Havens was the best. After that, I went to see him whenever I could. The last time I saw him was at the 100 club. I had a chat and invited him to play at The Mill Hill Music Festival. He said he would if he could make other dates around it work. Then he passed away. A terrible moment.

9. Mark E. Smith. The original Manchester miserablist. I think I saw the Fall at their first London gig. I loved them. They were totally anarchic. Smith was a hypnotic presence. I was always falling in and out of love with The Fall. Sometimes they were terrible. Then after a couple of years, I'd go along out of curiosity and they'd blow me away. The first two albums "Live at The Witch Trials" and Dragnet are my favourites. When Smith died, it was like the death of my Uncle George. George was someone who could be a curmudgeon, would say the least appropriate thing possible at parties, would get me drunk on Scotch at 14 and tell me salacious tales and then tell me to bugger off and stop annoying him. I cried when Mark Smith died, little tears knowing that those moments would never happen again.

10. Mick Ronson. Bowie was a chameleon. For many, his golden period was when he partnered Mick Ronson. The performance of Starman on TOTP was one of those absolute defining moments in modern culture. But there was so much more to Mick Ronson. If you listen to Transformer by Lou Reed, the string arrangements etc were the work of Ronson. One of my best friends is Boz Boorer, who plays guitar with The Polecats and Morrissey. I recall meeting Boz for a beer and he was telling me about his work with Ronson. Boz talked about it rather like a Catholic may speak of an audience with the Pope. Shortly after, Ronson was dead. It was a sad moment, Boz has worked with many people, but I genuinely cannot recall him speaking in such glowing terms about anyone. For Boz to tell me someone was a musical genius is a sum of the man. 

Who are yours?

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