Another great gone.
Was going to post Holocaust, but decided that was far too gloomy. Better the bittersweet reminiscences of Thirteen recorded in 2008.
For me, the first two Big Star albums are fine but it’s the sprawling mess of Sister/Lovers that’s the band’s work of genius. Ramshackle and nightmarish with the odd moments of serene beauty – even the ‘fun’ rock ‘n’ roll covers seem to come from the edge.
The great TP died of colon cancer on January 13th aged just 59. One of my favourite soul singers even if a lot of the eighties stuff was a little too smooth for my taste.
“Love TKO” – my favourite song of his solo stuff. Naff dancers mind.
And here he is with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
Fucking hell. Just learned about Rowland’s death from liver cancer on December 30th.
Here’s a couple of videos. “Shivers” was written when he was 16, and although Nick Cave hogs the limelight in this video, Rowland can be glimpsed two minutes in. A classic song.
“Shut Me Down” was recorded almost exactly a year ago at ATP, Australia.
Depressing news. He was a truly unique artist. It’s also a damning indictment of an American health system which is well nigh barbaric.
Full story here.
Perhaps not an appropriate song given the circumstances, but a perfect example of his passion and black humour.
I first came across Vic when he supported Kristin Hersh on her Hips and Makers tour. I saw a few shows on that tour. The first night in Warrington I didn’t really get it, but after that I was swiftly converted. His shambolic, impish stage presence belied songs that were full of rage and mordant humour. I bought all the Texas Hotel albums after that, and saw him live many times over the years – the last at Primavera in Barcelona a few years back. He’d lost none of the power to make you laugh and despair in equal measure, often at the same time.
Ironically, in recent years he’d found a label in Constellation that totally understood and supported him which resulted in some of his very best work.
Ska pioneer Byron Lee has died from bladder cancer aged 73.
Lee was a crucial figure when it came to spreading ska to the United States and beyond. He formed his first band in 1959 and signed to WIRL Records, then run by the country’s future Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Lee’s outfit quickly became one of the hottest in Jamaica, and was chosen to play during a scene in the first James Bond movie Dr. No which was shot on the island. The film, and the band’s appearances on the accompanying soundtrack album, resulted in world-wide exposure. In 1964, Lee and his band together with Peter Tosh, Eric Morris and Prince Buster appeared at the New York World’s Fair where the new music went down a storm. Earlier in the year, Lee had bought WIRL from Seaga and renamed the label Dynamic Sounds. While in New York, he negotiated a deal with Ahmet Ertegun which gave Atlantic the US rights to his label’s material, while Dynamic Sounds got Jamaican rights for the American company’s output. The first fruit of this relationship was a single by Lee’s own Ska Kings (“Jamaica Ska”).
Lee’s second and final Atlantic single included a great ska version of Herbie Hancock’s jazz classic “Watermelon Man”. An album was released on Atco in 1966 called Jump Up, but Atlantic’s flirtation with the sounds of the Caribbean was fairly short-lived.
Byron Lee’s Dragonaires continued to record prolifically back home in Jamaica. Although many purists now sniff at his material, comparing it unfavourably with the likes of the Maytals and the Skatellites, he enjoyed much commercial success. His Dynamic Sounds studio had a great reputation which spread beyond Jamaica’s shores to the extent that the likes of the Rolling Stones, Roberta Flack and Eric Clapton would record there in the seventies.
In 1989 Lee was instrumental in establishing the annual Jamaica Carnival which has been running successfully ever since. The Dragonaires still performed until recently, although in the last twenty or so years they were mainly associated with soca – the Trinidadian music that blends Indian rhythms with Caribbean calypso.
Four Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs died yesterday (Friday 17th) aged 72 after a long illness. He’d had a stroke in 2000, and later developed cancer. Of all the great singers at Motown during its golden era, none had quite the emotional power that Stubbs had. His voice had a pleading, passionate quality that turned three minute pop tunes into high melodrama, and yet it was always believable - he never over-egged it, or lapsed into scenery-chewing.
One of the remarkable things about the Four Tops was their longevity. They’d already been together ten years before the hits started coming in the mid sixties, and were still charting after thirty, with the same line-up that had been together since 1954. Lawrence Payton and Obie Benson died in 1997 and 2007 respectively, leaving Duke Fakir the last Top standing.
There’s a full obituary here.
“Baby, I Need Your Loving” from some unknown European TV show in 1965.