27s Club

Amy Winehouse died yesterday from causes that “have yet to be determined.” It was drugs. It pretty much always is. It’s a shame.

Note the advertisement to the right.

“All great songs were written on drugs, man.” For some reason the myth of drug inspired artistic greatness persists. I guess there is a history of rock n’ roll and pop stars using drugs, but I’m pretty sure that this myth confuses correlation with causation. Not only is there no real evidence to support the assertion that drugs somehow help songwriters create and performers perform, but it seems like most of the anecdotal evidence suggests that drugs actually impede creativity and limit output.

Is it more likely that people are rock stars because they do drugs, or that people do drugs because they are rock stars? OR could it be that people that want to be rock stars are also likely to get into drugs? I would imagine that being a rock star is a bizarre, confusing, and kind of sad life. You’re cut off from normal life and regular human interaction. You get whatever you want whenever you want it, and a lot of times you want drugs.

Without a normal job, and life, there’s less reason to NOT take drugs. You don’t have to get up at a certain time for work, you don’t have a real family, you have money to spend, people to get EVERYTHING for you, and you’re almost expected to be a mess. So why the hell not? I mean, except that it might kill you. Even if drugs don’t kill you they can ruin your creative spark, and your life. Syd Barrett (the original leader of Pink Floyd), Skip Spense (Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape), Brian Wilson, and Roky Erikson were all casualties of the 60s. What if Syd Barrett had been able to stay in Pink Floyd? What if Brian Wilson had been able to record another Pet Sounds, or at least finish Smile properly before the 21st century? Golly, that could have been great.

And what is it about 27? Is that the point when everything finally adds up and becomes overwhelming? Is it the point where your body finally has had enough? There were also a lot of big names that either didn’t make it to 27, or barely made it past- Gram Parsons, Nick Drake, Jeff and Tim Buckley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Hank Williams, Cass Elliot, Elliot Smith, Ian Curtis, Jon Bonham, Otis Redding… (Some of those people died in accidents, and so did some of the 27 club, being a pop star certainly seems like a risky business), but the peak of the rock and roll death bell curve is definitely at 27.

Here they are- 12 representatives of the 27s club.

Track 1- Love is a Losing Game/ Amy Winehouse. The newest member of the club. Probably should have gone to rehab. Not glamorous y’all.

Track 2- Crossroads/ Robert Johnson. He became the founding member of the 27s club when he was Poisoned to death in 1938. Even if you don’t know much about Johnson you probably know a lot of his songs, like this one about selling his soul to the devil that Cream covered. He was massively influential.

Track 3- Peace Frog/ The Doors. Blood in the streets!! Jim Morrison, the maniac that influenced a million rock and roll maniacs, Iggy Pop being a key example. This song isn’t usually on The Doors’ greatest hits collections, but I think it should be. It’s my favorite. I went to Jim Morrison’s grave in Pere Lachaise the first time I went to Paris when I was 16. Also, LA Woman is one of the best scream-along karaoke songs, especially here in LA.

Track 4- The Star Spangled Banner/ Jimi Hendrix. It’s not Jimi’s fault, I call him Jimi because we were boys back in the day, but he inspired a lot of wank. He inspired a lot of great stuff too, and good lord was he a creative guitar player. Just listen to this and try to imagine how mind blowing it was to hear in the 60s.

Track 5- Talk to Me/ Nirvana. This is how great Nirvana and Kurt Cobain were, they shrugged off songs like this. This song would have been the best song by almost every band that has ever existed, and Nirvana didn’t even bother to record it. Kurt Cobain’s death is the one on this list that I remember. I loved Nirvana, and it was devastating. This guy could have written many many more great songs.

Track 6- Second Skin/ The Gits- Featuring the great Mia Zapata, who was raped and murdered in Seattle in 1993. Her murder galvanized the riot grrl scene and stole a great singer from a rock scene that was just blowing up. The murder case itself was also very interesting and was the subject of a documentary- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463028/

Track 7- Yes/ The Manic Street Preachers. Generation Terrorists! This is the first track off the last Manic Street Preachers album with Richey James Edwards. Richey got crazier and crazier until he “disappeared” in 1995. He is presumed dead. The Manic Street Preachers were out of step with the Madchester and Brit Pop scenes that existed during their lifetime, which kept them from being huge stars, but they were still infamous.

Track 8- Carona/ The Minutemen (turn up the youtube volume). They jammed econo and helped found the American underground/ indie rock scene. They were “hardcore punk,” but incorporated jazz and folk into their sound. One of god’s true originals. D. Boon, the fat guy in green singing and playing guitar, wrote this song that you may know as the “Jackass” theme. It is off the super great “Double Nickles on the Dime,” double album. D. Boone died in a car accident in 1985.

Track 9- No Matter What You Say/ Badfinger. One of the few hit songs Badfinger recorded that actually became a hit. Pete Ham was so disillusioned by Badfinger’s lack of success, and the constant problems within the band and with their management that he got drunk and hung himself in December 1975. This band and this guy had tragedy written all over them.

Track 10- Speed of Sound/ Chris Bell. In a way Chris Bell was the American version of Pete Ham. Both were members of early power pop bands, and both were extremely disappointed by their lack of success and mismanagement. Chris Bell never had a hit like Badfinger and Ham. This song was one of many that Bell recorded between leaving Big Star and his fatal car accident. A collection of those songs wasn’t released until 15 years after his death.

Track 11- Trust Me/ Janis Joplin. Holy Christ this song is devastating. Janis Joplin is a mythic drug overdose 27 club member. Her legend also feeds one of the other great myths about artists- that soul comes from suffering. Could she have sung like this if she didn’t have a horrible life growing up as the ugly freak in a Texas town? I don’t know, but however it happened side 2 of “Pearl” is a fucking knockout.

Track 12-Stupid Girl/ The Rolling Stones. Featuring Brian Jones, founding member of “the greatest rock and roll band in the world,” multi-instrumentalist, and namesake of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. He died “accidentally” in his pool in 1969. His death paved the way for Ron Wood to have one of the greatest runs in rock history with The Jeff Beck Group, The Faces, Rod Stewart, and The Rolling Stones.


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