In the summer before I started university, before the Twin Towers fell in New York City, I slept in a room on Vancouver Island. I shared it with my older brother’s ex-girlfriend (whom I referred to as my sister-in-law regardless of their romantic stare of affairs). Her son, my nephew, was quite young and slept in a large enclosure around the corner with colorful sarongs tacked up in the doorway. Above my sister-in-law’s bed was an enormous black-and-white poster of Kurt Cobain. It was not uncommon to have a restless sleep, and to remedy the sleeplessness by staring up at the poster and wonder about this famous stranger.
Now, this is going to come as a real shock, but if I were a Nirvana album I would be MTV Unplugged in New York. I don’t rock hard in the slightest. Maybe if you play something from Kylie Minogue’s Fever, I might let my hair down a little. As would a middle-aged men’s choir after happy hour on Fire Island but it’s one of the most important albums of anyone’s generation, so who can blames them? This album was scientifically engineered to make even the dead dance. It’s actually the same science behind Minogue’s eternal youth, and legs that I personally would participate in a Hunger Games style death-match to earn such tasty gams.
My older brother was a music aficionado and was my source of knowledge before the internet existed. The very first time I heard “Landslide”, was as a Smashing Pumpkins cover on a bootleg cassette tape. He listened to a variety of genres, listened to a lot of hip hop and rap, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Blind Melon what have you. In the pre-grunge era, he was really into hair bands: Twisted Sister, Cinderella, Poison, Motley Crue. He had a picture of Dee Snider on his wall that scared the hell out of me. Some of his musical choices made me feel like a forty-year old-square who said things like “This isn’t music, this is noise”. I’d never admit it, I’d always attempt to play the part. Thinking back, I was such a nerdy kid, I really wasn’t fooling anyone. Anthony was a very popular guy, athletic, cool, fun; all the things I was not. I could make him laugh, and a well-crafted wise crack was my currency. He introduced me to Tori Amos, and I used to do an impression of her that made him bust a gut. True, he was my brother, but he was also ‘Anthony Price’, and that meant something in our next of the woods. Besides, I can’t be that much of a loser if I’m making the cool guy chuckle.
We lived in a trailer, and our rooms were across a slight hallway. Almost every night I would cross the hall, tap on the door lightly, and sit on the bed for a chat. He regaled stories about parties, people, sport field trips, his new girlfriend (there was a real female fan base and the phone was always ringing). He talked about the places he was going, what his future was going to look like. We would always listen to music. He had a pretty expansive audio tape collection. He was always buying new music, and always had something new to show me. I wanted desperately to impress him, so when he said things I didn’t really understand–which was often, I would try my best to just nod with the right kind of serious expression. Perhaps in between watching black and white movies, playing with Barbie dolls for about a year too long, and listening to the Righteous Brothers, I was clocking long hours on the wild side of life.
He played a wonderful game that went like this:
“Like this band?”
“Totally…love them”. (nodding seriously)
“It’s Bon Jovi”
“Oh yeah, I celebrate their entire catalogue”
“It’s not Bon Jovi”
“Haha, I know…I was just kidding”.
“It’s Guns and Roses”
“I knew that”.
“It’s not…it’s actually Whitesnake”.
And let’s be honest, I listened to tapes I pilfered from my parent’s collection: Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand and Belinda Carlisle. I got a record player in my early teens and usurped my parent’s albums for my own use. Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Blondie, ABBA, Billie Holiday–that was how I rolled. There was a Bee Gee’s record I found when I was 13, and it rocked my world. I was so out of touch, that even the most overplayed tracks slipped past my social-consciousness. Around the time Ace of Base arrived on the scene with “The Sign”, I went on a school trip. I was perfectly terrified that the excursion would be an alienating day, but I got by with my good-humor and over-compensating compliments. All the cool girls were rocking out to that song pretty hard, singing acapella versions of the track. I just kept a smile frozen on my face, trying to earn my keep. That these girls were even tolerating my presence was a total coup. I was on social tenterhooks, I couldn’t afford to not know who Ace of Base was…or admit that I would have preferred ABBA anyway.
I finally heard it…about six months later. I saw the Queen Bee shortly afterwards and made the fatal mistake of mentioning that I had only recently heard and enjoyed a song that was now long dead to her.
I remember the first time I met my now best friend–she was performing in school talent show. I asked Evelyn what song she was doing. She said “About a Girl” and I huffed sarcastically: “That’s specific”. It shames me to admit just how long it took me to realize that it was an actual song title. Not to compare Ace of Base to Nirvana–but suffice to say, I did not have my finger on the modern-day music pulse, other than what my brother had shown me. Evelyn and her brother Rory were smart, funny, and musically talented, both had a vast knowledge of punk and indie music. Their dad had a Master’s, was in a band, they didn’t have cable, they just sat around reading books at night. They were this impossibly cool family that were the Royal Tenenbaums to my Eli Cash.
Evelyn actually listened to Nirvana, as opposed to me only hearing of him only because I read about it him my mother’s People magazine. I had heard the Weird Al Yankovic version of Smells like Teen Spirit, before I heard the original. The prime of our high-school friendship was following Cobain’s death. After all, we were only twelve and thirteen years when Cobain died. But he was very much alive in our world,despite the shotgun blast. Evelyn was Cobain obsessed; now recalls him as “her partner in teenage angst”, that he was “mysterious, talented, sexy, dysfunctional…and his music was really good…dark and awesome and grungy”. Evelyn’s love for Nirvana and Kurt Cobain was something I personally did not understand. I got that there was a mystique, but it wasn’t my kind of cologne if you know what I mean. I faulted my own uncool DNA. You know who did really rock my world? Courtney Love. She was the coolest woman ever. The baby doll dresses, barrettes dangling in messy locks, red lipstick and a mohair cardis, mixed with army boots–so effing cool. Anthony bought me a copy of Live Through This and it was a revelation. This was my kind of rock and roll.
Anthony was seeing this girl, Jenne, who in my mind, was just as-or if not cooler than Courtney Love. I remember seeing her sitting on the steps of the community hall, during an all ages show: short blonde hair tucked behind eyes, smoking a cigarette in a white tank top with a black bra. I could never pull that look off. This girl eventually became the sister-in-law I shared a room with. She loved Kurt and Courtney in equal measure. In that same town Love was there with Kevin Bacon and Charlize Theron filming a movie. I met Love at a Blockbuster video store, she was in the independent film section, and was extremely rude when I approached her. (I wouldn’t have it any other way). I waited outside smoking a cigarette, hoping to score an autograph to give to Jenne. Standing next to her as she scribbled on the back of the receipt, I thought about Kurt. This was Kurt Cobain’s widow–this woman revolutionized by teen years. I read about her in magazines, I knew things about her life. I vividly remember how only a month before Cobain died, his “accidental overdose” in Rome and this shot in People magazine.
On April 8, 1994, I was washing dishes during a commercial break on Oprah, when the news broke. Kurt Cobain found dead by shotgun in his Seattle home. Obviously, it was a dominating news-story. Suicide, drugs, celebrity, what a perfectly scandalous cocktail. A large crowd had gathered to commemorate Cobain; Courtney Love read his suicide note aloud, (and allegedly gave his possessions away to strangers, who I imagine made a killing on e-Bay years later). The news cameras were like flies to excrement, leaching every last ounce of marrow from the bone. I vividly remember a young girl being interviewed; she had never heard of Nirvana or of Cobain, but that news of his death was deeply moving. Her mother had driven her to the site, so they could drink in the mutual sorrow, though it wasn’t really their loss to share. That is a metaphor for the six-o’clock news. I couldn’t get enough of it. Even my mother was fascinated, more-so in a cautionary tale, tsk tsk, ‘this is the trouble with drugs’ kind of way. Since I had first heard the parable of poor Elvis Presley, I’ve always had a morbid fascination about celebrity deaths. Cobain’s suicide happened on an auspicious age, 27, and it drew a lot of focus on the artists that died before him at the same age.
The first noted club member was Alexandre Levy, Brazilian composer responsible for bringing a Latin flavor to classical music. He died mysteriously in 1892. Ragtime musician Louis Chauvin died from syphilis in 1908. Chauvin was a ragtime musician from Missouri who made a name for himself in the early jazz haunts of St. Louis and Chicago. My personal favorite of “The 27 Club: The Early Years” was blues player Robert Johnson, who died in 1938. As the legend goes, Johnson met the devil at the crossroads one night and traded his soul to be a better blues player. His death still remains a mystery, many claim that he was poisoned by a revenge seeking, cuckolded husband, while others insist that the devil was making good on a hellish deal. There’s Jimi, Joplin, Jim and Brian Jones, who drowned in his own pool in 1969.
The autopsy report decreed “death by misadventure”, and Jones was buried twelve feet deep in the ground (to prevent grave robbing) in a coffin that was paid for by Bob Dylan. His death was a precursor for many tragedies to come.
Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to Jones on American television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors published a poem entitled “Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased”. Both men would be dead within two years time. Hendrix in September 1970, and Morrison in July of 1971. Janis Joplin died only sixteen days after Hendrix.
Yikes. Talk about a rule of threes. All at 27. That must have blown some minds. Though as far as a stigma, or pop-culture curiosity, it wasn’t really a phenomenon, it was more of a side note or point of reference until Cobain turned the lights out. Between Morrison and Cobain there were seventeen lesser known additions to the 27 Club. A member of The Grateful Dead, Inner Circle, The Stooges, The Gits–murder, car accidents, overdoses, suicides, diabetes, you name it. There are ten additions between Cobain, and the next major player Amy Winehouse, also pronounced “death by misadventure”. She feared 27 as being a rock and roll expiration date. Of course, while these deaths are accidental, they are not accidents. Many of these people had participated in the unraveling in their own lives. Winehouse being a classic example. One does not go from this…
…to this, over night.
By the end, WInehouse didn’t know the words to the songs that made her famous–and she helped write many of them. She was such a horror-show, and her antics overshadowed her unbelievable talent and once great stage presence. Don’t get me wrong, Winehouse is actually my 27-club favorite, her death was very emotional for me. It’s troubling to me that the very things that makes one great, is quite possibly the same thing that destroys them–it’s a kind of Ouroboros, that snake eating it’s tail, representing an eternal cycle of rebirth. I hate to take Egyptian symbolism and bend it to my own will, but I’m going to do it anyway–it is an eternal cycle–talented individuals with this undefinable x-factor, that are plucked from obscurity and thrust into fame with the pressures, expectations–artistic promises made on your behalf by someone who cares only for the all-mighty dollar. For someone with mental illness, propensity for addiction, or crippling self-doubt the limelight would be like an itchy wool sweater to skin that had only known silk. Of course, narcotics and booze and excess have always been part in parcel of the rock and roll culture, but imagine the era when doctors recommended smoking and really strong pharmaceuticals were best washed down with a stiff drink. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Of course, that’s like the first bit of Requiem for a Dream before the amputations and double ended dildos, before addiction begins to erode reason, rationale, relationships and brain cells. I mean, it isn’t as if God Almighty is sitting up on his judgment cloud, striking down talented, healthy musicians at 27 just for shits-and-gigs, these artists were ceasing to function (it was maybe a bit personal with Jim Morrison because of all the whispers that he looked like a ‘Fat Jesus” ).
Around my 32nd birthday, I made a discovery about my age that gets very little press. After watching Dreamgirls over Christmas holiday, I did a little post-film trivia recon. I knew that the Broadway musical and subsequent film was based on The Supremes, but little else. The musical has a much better ending for all parties, Effie White gets her moment on the stage at the end. Florence Ballard, the woman on whom White was based, had a short and tragic run.
Born eighth of thirteen children in Detroit Michigan, Ballard was due for some hard living. Financial constraints forced the family to move all over town. Her father, who taught her about music, died when she was sixteen. She had met Mary Wilson and Diane–not yet Diana Ross while still in high-school She was lead vocalist in The Primettes, the first incarnation of The Supremes. They auditioned for Berry Gordy, who told them to finish high-school first. The others graduated, Ballard did not. As their group crept towards fame, Ballard was brutally raped at knife-point in an empty parking lot. In the aftermath, Ballard retreated inward, not leaving her house for a considerable time which worried her band-mates. Ballard shared about the incident, and then never spoke about it again. Obviously, it caused major psychological damage, and from the time on was distrustful, negative, and bitter (Um, who can blame her?). She eventually returned to the group, personally selected the name “The Supremes” off of a list and signed a record contract with Motown Records. Between 1963-1967, “Ballard contributed vocals to ten number-one pop hits and 16 top forty hit singles”.
For those who’ve seen Dreamgirls, Effie White is a big girl with a big personality and an even bigger voice. She also has a large ego, which prevents her from being a team player; which ultimately gets her kicked out of the band. Having always been the lead, she struggles to cope with playing second fiddle to beautiful Deena Jones. As in the movie, Ballard had a better voice than Ross, but Ross was deemed more attractive. Ross was being groomed as the star and Ballard drank excessively, gain weight, fighting with Gordy and Ross, and missing rehearsals and recording sessions. Ballard once had a sore throat and asked Ross to sing her signature song; People. After that night she never took the lead on the vocals again. The decline was becoming much steeper. Ballard was disillusioned; their success only exacerbated her misery. She lamented in an interview the loss of intimacy between the women now that they stayed in separate hotel rooms. She suggested that it was a mistake for Gordy to highlight Diana Ross over the others, and resented that their romantic relationship,which skewed opportunities within the group. In 1967, Ballard took a leave of absence, understanding it to be temporary. Gordy renamed the group The Supremes with Diana Ross. Shortly after her 24th birthday Ballard reported to work intoxicated–which was not uncommon. Gordy sent her home, immediately terminating her position. She was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, who had covered before in Ballard’s absence. Ballard was released from her contract, was offered a one-time payment of $139,804.94, and was told she could not use “The Supremes” brand, a name that she had approved, to promote solo work.
From there: spousal abuse, divorce, debt, foreclosure, poverty, welfare, rehab, all while raising three children. She tried to fight Motown Records for additional royalties, and lost. Meanwhile Diana Ross had gone solo in 1970 and was living large in fur coats and diamonds, with many accolades and film roles at her finger tips. Ballard performed intermittently, (she once opened for Bill Cosby), and occasionally sang with other former Supremes, once playing tambourine at Six Flags in California. She had lost her desire to sing. Following rehab, she attempted to stage a comeback. Ballard performed for the first time in five years, and was in talks to write an autobiography.
None of that was to be, the two-hundred pound, 32-year-old Florence died of a heart attack. Diana Ross made a splashy diva entrance, skipping the long, slow-moving line, bee-lining for the front row while surrounded by four burly bodyguards. She sat with the Ballard family in the front row. She was booed by the crowd, and even Ross’ own mother felt as though she was deeply unwelcome.
God love Diana Ross, what a bitch move. Making a big production of her grief. Although, at this point Diana Ross was not just a singer, she was an Oscar nominated movie star. She had already done Lady Sings the Blues and Mahogany. Naturally she can’t just walk in by herself or stand in the back respectfully. In truth, it had been nearly eight years since Ballard left the group, and Ross had been going strong after six years of solo success. There was enough water under the bridge…but that still didn’t stop Ballard’s supporters to want to hold Ross’s head under said water. Sheesh, That would have been a mighty tough crowd to face. According to some sources Ross had donated $50,000 to Ballard before her death, and opened trust accounts for her daughters after her untimely demise. Perhaps it was generosity, perhaps it was out of guilt. It was her dream, and Ross helped blacklist her. Ballard supports claimed that Florence had died of a broken heart. A month or so after the funeral Ross said to People Magazine:
Did I cry? Yes, I cried. People tried to help Florence. I tried to help her. She had it all and she threw it away. She quit The Supremes, we didn’t quit her. Don’t make too big a thing of this. Florence was very important in my life, but I’m not dead. She did this to herself.”
Shortly after Dreamgirls, I was listening to The Carpenters, (naturally, some things never change) it got me thinking about poor old Karen Carpenter. During her 14-year career, she and her brother Richard recorded eleven albums, had thirty-one singles, five television specials, and a short-lived television series.
Carpenter lived with her mother until she was 26, dated Tony Danza and Steve Martin, and was also an accomplished drummer.
Carpenter struggled with anorexia nervosa for years and weighed as little as eighty pounds at the height of her illness. She spent most of 1982 undergoing treatments to gain weight (30 pounds in eight weeks). She died at the age of 32, on the day her divorce was to be finalized. Her real-estate developer husband Thomas James Burris had failed to mention that he had a vasectomy to the family-minded Karen during their wedding vows, and their marriage crumbled almost instantly. She collapsed in the bedroom her parents kept for her at their home; before a planned shopping trip. Carpenter and her mother were off to buy her new clothes to accommodate the weight gain.
After reading all the depressing details, I couldn’t bear to listen to hear her velvety, melancholic voice. I changed the record and put on a Mamas & the Papas album…which then made me wonder about poor old Mama Cass.
Cass Elliot died after a significant weight loss (80 pounds in eight months by fasting four days a week)…at 32 years of age. Whoa. Scientists who discovered cures to diseases had nothing on me and my discovery. This trifecta connection led to a long meandering jazz riff of internet research that lead me to discovery that there is a “32 Club”. First things first–for Mama Cass it was not death by ham sandwich. What an unfortunate urban legend to haunt your legacy. During my research I came across the old joke “if only Mama Cass had given her ham sandwich to Karen Carpenter that they would both be alive today”. That’s slightly clever, granted, but it’s undermining two paralleled deaths that connect to body images and societal expectations. The circumstances surrounding her death have been made into a punchline in routines by Frank Zappa, Adam Sandler, Denis Leary, Mike Myers, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Robin Williams. Aw, Mama Cass, that rumor is unfortunate and unfair in the same way stripes don’t flatter certain figures.
Mama Cass died in London, after a sold-out solo show. She was staying on Curzon Street, in an apartment owned by singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. The young mother had a little champagne, called fellow Mama Michelle Philips, expressed gratitude about the packed houses and loving fans, that people were accepting her solo efforts–and then went to sleep and never woke up.
In 1978, now four years later, Keith Moon, drummer of The Who rented the flat. The 1970’s had not gone well for Keith, who habitually flushed explosives down public toilets and trashed hotel rooms–once was about to leave one location, claimed he had forgotten something in the room, and went back to hurl a television set into the pool. His 21st birthday was spent in a Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan and cost $24,000 in damages.
On January 4, 1970 a wildly intoxicated Moon, caught in an onslaught of over-zealous fans, struck and killed his bodyguard/driver/friend Neil Boland with his Bentley. Close friends claimed that he was forever haunted by the incident, but it didn’t really give him a new lease on life on the straight and narrow. I apologize to any Keith Moon fans out there, but Christ Almighty this guy sounds like he was as bad at living as he was good at drumming. Even then, percussion was a bit of a trial for him –during an incident in 1973, after a heaping portion of tranquilizers and brandy, he passed out behind his kit during “Won’t get Fooled Again”. Eventually Moon was carried off stage, given a shower and a shot of cortisone.
Thirty minutes later, he was back on track….or rather slumped behind the drums with damp hair. After passing out once more during “Magic Bus”, Pete Townsend put a call out to the audience: “Can anyone play the drums? – I mean somebody good?” Scot Halpin, a drummer from Iowa came up and played the rest of the show. In 1973 Halpin was recognized by Rolling Stone magazine’s “Pick-Up Player of the Year Award” for his historic performance. Moon sounded like a messy, monstrous man, inconsiderate and unprofessional. He alone was responsible for driving The Who into mountains of debt. After calculating all of his losses following a 1975 UK tour, he was owed a whopping £47.35. By the late seventies, The Who could nary get through a show without major incident. He was costing a fortune, whilst making a mess of their collective success. He had caused a death, ruined personal relationships–another thing he couldn’t recover from was his 1973 divorce, where his long-suffering wife left with their daughter Amanda. She later spoke of Moon as being incapable of parenting because he was a child himself .
While many of you like to start your morning with toast and coffee, or maybe a fruit smoothie, for Keith Moon he liked to blend champagne, Courvoisier and amphetamines before he started any day.
“I always get up about six in the morning. I have my bangers and eggs. And I drink a bottle of Dom Perignon and half a bottle of brandy. Then I take a couple of downers. Then it’s about 10 and I’ll have a nice nap until five. I get up, have a couple of black beauties [also known as Black Birds or Black Bombers and are a combination of Amphetamine (Speed) and Dextroamphetamine], some brandy, a little champagne and go out on the town. Then we boogie. We’ll wrap it up about four”.
How can one live like that? Short answer? You don’t. Come late 1978, he’s off the booze, and has been prescribed sedatives, 100 Heminevrin as means to cope with alcohol withdrawal. He and his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax stepped out with Paul and Linda McCartney for the film preview of “The Buddy Holly Story”.
Following the film, they returned home, where he asked for steak and eggs. She apparently declined the task, to which he uttered his last words: “If you don’t like it, you can fuck off”. Real classy send off, Keith.
He died in the same bed as Mama Cass, at the same age, with thirty-two pills in his system.
Annette was heavily sedated for the funeral, and collapsed during the service. Jim Henson immortalized Moon by creating the drummer Animal. In 2012, thirty-four years after his death, some dumb-ass from The London Summer Olympics committee–contacted The Who’s manager about Moon performing at the games. In an interview Bill Curbishley said he replied: “I emailed back saying Keith now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to The Who’s anthemic line ‘I hope I die before I get old’.
After Moon died Harry Nilsson immediately sold the house, for fear the house was truly haunted. Nilsson was no stranger to rock and roll excesses; once in a recording studio he opened his mouth to sing and blood poured out instead of lyrics. The copious amounts of cocaine caused his throat to rupture, but Nilsson was so far-gone that he didn’t even notice. If you were Harry, the house would be the last thing you’d worry about. Two years after Moon’s death, another drummer met his demise.
Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was found dead, having choked on his own vomit after consuming forty shots of vodka in twelve hours. Led Zeppelin had spent the day rehearsing, and were about kick of the first tour since 1977. The father of two was 32. Bonham was in a bad place, thinking that his drumming abilities were sub-par, when really…in the spirit of Keith Moon and all the others who fell before him, perhaps his addiction was getting in the way of his talent.
Led Zeppelin, inventors and innovators of ‘cock rock’ were the kind of men you wouldn’t want to clean up after. Collectively, between cocaine, booze, tight pants, huge egos and extremely willing sexual conquests, Led Zeppelin were dangerously out of hand. Writer Simon Hardeman examined the gritty underbelly of John Bonham.
The most unsettling member of the band itself was Bonham, whose other nickname was The Beast. The American journalist Ellen Sander describes how on the last night of Zep’s second America tour, band members, led by Bonham, ripped her clothes off, “shrieking and grabbing”. She goes on: “They were in a frenzy. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to be raped…” Zep’s former-nightclub-bouncer manager, Peter Grant, bodily pulled Bonham off her. She describes life with the band as like being inside cages at a zoo where “you get to smell the shit first-hand”.
Another terrifying Bonham incident occurred aboard the Starship, the Boeing 720 passenger aircraft that the band fitted with luxurious bedrooms for their 1973 and 1975 tours. Plant says his fondest memory of the craft is “oral sex in turbulence”, but one stewardess will have a different take. Stephen Davis describes how Bonham, after drinking a bottle of whisky, appeared in a robe, grabbed the attendant, bent her over forwards in an arm lock and announced that he was going to “have her from the rear”. He then threw open his robe. At the girl’s screams, Cole and Grant appeared and dragged him off.
Maddox said Bonham was the nicest guy in the world when sober, but a maniac when drunk. Once, in a Los Angeles bar, a woman looked at him and, apparently recognising him, smiled; he went over and punched her in the face. And in 1977 he, Cole, Grant and a former London gangster called John Bindon were arrested in San Francisco after a security man was beaten unconscious and left in a pool of blood. A $2m legal action ensued, and the night lives in Led Zep legend as “The Oakland Incident”.
And we shan’t forget the ‘mudshark’ incident, with Bonham once again at the helm. The band were fishing from their window–and had caught a mudshark–or a red snapper, depends on who you ask. Either way, a pretty red head arrived on the scene, red snapper jokes ensued, and ultimately she was tied to the bed, and her cavities was then stuffed with bits of fish in a room filled with people. I’ve heard this story before, and it’s rather hard to take. Before I got the details I just thought it was your average one girl, ten guys, a motel room and a mudshark kind of situation. The fact that it’s just bits of meat really drives me over the edge. Oh, those boys, they seem like they could gets their female fans to do just about anything–with dogs, octopuses, the mind reels. Led Zeppelin were the Kings of excess, and were hardly gentlemen to a huge number of the female population. They burned girls with cigarettes, cut their hair, and generally abused because they could. They were stars–Rock Gods, the rules of human decency don’t apply. How degrading and unhygienic. Just think of all those grandmother’s and pensioners out there with some unbelievably filthy stories.
Phew! Let the record show that I have never spent so long researching a blog before. And like a Led Zeppelin groupies, I could just go on all night. This entry is going to be longer than a Bonham drum solo, and some famous penises, if you ask Cynthia Plaster-Caster–a groupie who apparently never wanted to forget a phallus. She started on Jimi Hendrix…who was apparently flying at ‘half-mast’ and was not pleased with the final result. Nonetheless, it became a fun hobby, great way to get into someone’s pants without looking slutty or over eager, just write it off as an art project, and see what you can get cooking on an extra curricular level.
I’ve fallen down numerous rock n’ roll rabbit holes–each figure I’ve mentioned merits plenty of attention. My intention was to spend more time with Kurt Cobain, who originally inspired the thesis of this piece. Of course, he is a part of a great cosmic web of excess, self-destruction and wasted life. Like others before him, Cobain was someone’s husband and father.
For Cobain, he felt the same way about music as Charlie Brown did about Christmas: things had gotten far too commercial. Cobain’s suicide note references his lack of passion for the craft–he felt as though he needed to punch the time clock before stepping onstage.
Clearly, there are a whole host of issues at hand, addiction, crippling stomach pains, mental anguish, a tortured soul. Why this man couldn’t just bow out of the limelight and leave the business is beyond me. The pressures, contracts, obligations to band-members, who knows the what and the why. A need to burn out than to fade away. Which brings us back to April 8, 1994–twenty years ago, when I walked across the hall to my older brother’s room. He was sitting at his desk, listening to Nirvana. “Isn’t it weird to listen to this now?” I ask. “It’s different…sad” he said. We didn’t talk much, I didn’t really know what to say. Kurt Cobain didn’t belong to me. I wondered if this was how people felt when Elvis died…he had been on his way out as well, shadow of his former self. Yet people grieved as if he was “Love Me Tender” guy, not “Bloated, pill popping, awkward high kicks, and sequined jumpsuit” guy. Cobain wanted to be the former, not the latter, and so he is forever 27, the tortured artist who never wanted to be a star. When tragedy strikes, endless possibilities and speculation grows like a giant tree, each branch individual versions of what was, what could have been, what could have been different, if only. Life ends, and the legend begins, but really it would have been nice to hear just one more song.
Images Courtesy of Google