R.I.P. Malcolm Young

Malcolm Young

06.01.1953 – 18.1.2017

Rock’n’roll lost another legend recently – the one and only Malcolm Young of AC/DC.

I’ve been a fan of AC/DC for a very long time – they were one of the very first hard rock bands that I listened to.  “Who Made Who” was the first song of theirs I heard and was absorbed by.  Later on the “Blow Up Your Video” album came along and I was hooked.

A couple of years later, in a rip-off Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin, I heard the “Highway to Hell” album and was re-introduced to the earlier AC/DC recordings.  I was that enraptured by the title track that I went out and bought a copy the next day – I couldn’t wait to return home to buy it.

I’ve still got that vinyl album now, along with many others.

I could write all day about my favourite AC/DC albums and songs; write list after list and enthuse forever about how great this band are.

Malcolm Young was the anchor of AC/DC – the perfect bridge between the super-tight rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd and the upfront lunacy of Angus.  Angus, the younger brother – along with unforgettable Bon Scott and good old Brian Johnson – were the focus, but Malcolm was the heart.

Malcolm held it all together, and not just playing live – he was essential to writing of all the band’s material and developing their entire simple-but-effective ethos.  He’s been called the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time, and I agree.

Thank you for the riffs, Malcolm Young.  High Voltage Rock’n’Roll forever.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

20.07.1964 – 18.05.2017

Writing this memorial piece is a hard thing to do.  I was a massive fan of Chris Cornell and had been for many, many years.  I was left stunned, then in disbelief, and finally great sorrow when I stumbled on news of his death early that morning.

I had discovered Soundgarden with their “Louder Than Love” album back around 1990.  Music back then was shifting; I’d been listening to what would become “alternative rock” for some time and Soundgarden fitted right in with my tastes.  Along with other bands of the time like Jane’s Addiction and Mudhoney, I liked these bands that were able to meld classic heavy rock with a punk approach.  Bands like Soundgarden threw influences across the musical landscape into one pot.

When “Badmotorfinger” was released, I became a full on Soundgarden devotee.  The band soundtracked the ups and downs of my student life, the good times and bad.  The excellent “Superunknown” album cemented this noise in my affections even further.

Their sound evolved as Soundgarden explored and developed.  The riffs could still be inhumanly heavy, but there other sounds filtering through – from the whimsical to the psychedelic.  Listening to those albums was an experience that took the listener on a journey through different sounds and textures, feelings and emotions.

And of course, there was that amazing voice.  Chris Cornell could croon soothingly or wail like a tormented banshee – an awe inspiring ability that added yet more colour to the band’s sound.

Following Soundgarden’s split, I followed Chris’s musical journey through his solo endeavours and work with Audioslave.  I also loved his Bond theme – “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale.  I’ve played that many times to psyche myself up before a challenging situation, I can tell you.

I’ve tried to edit these recollections down, but revisiting some of the touch points in my life – where the music of Chris Cornell (and band mates) has been integral – goes some way to understanding the respect I have for the man and his legacy.

Sadly, now he’s gone.  I never saw Chris Cornell live (I went to Reading festival in 1994 but Soundgarden pulled out at the last minute) and I’d been looking forward to more music in the future.

It’s heart breaking to know that Chris is gone, and there’s no more music.  We’ve reached the end of that journey.  But what a legacy he’s left.  I’ll revisit those records again and again.  Though full of reminiscences of my past, those songs and performances are immortal.

I won’t speculate on the nature of Chris’s death, it’s not my place.  There are dark places that the human soul can go to.  It’s just incredibly sad.

Thanks for the music, Chris Cornell.  An exceptional musician who has left an indelible mark on millions of us.

“Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you anymore”

In Memoriam – Carrie Fisher

carrie-f

Carrie Fisher

21.10.1956 – 27.12.2016

It is with great sadness that I write this blog post, regarding the passing of Carrie Fisher.  Carrie was a great actress, writer and producer and had an immense impact on my life.

Carrie Fisher was from Hollywood royalty, and had a very successful and creative career both in front and behind the camera.  Without neglecting her many achievements, there was one role that outshone all the others.

Of course, Carrie Fisher was particularly famous for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies.  Anyone who knows me will know that I have been obsessed with Star Wars since I was five years old, so to lose someone who has been part of my life for so long has been heartbreaking.

The importance of the Leia character cannot be overstated.  The Princess was no stereotypical damsel in distress – rather she was fiesty, confident and in control.  She held a position of authority as a leader in the Rebel Alliance and was at the forefront of all the decision making and events.  She was tough and skilled (ever see her miss with a blaster?) – but also showed compassion and humour.

All of those qualities were massively important and showed me – and other boys of my generation and since – that women could be strong, dynamic and powerful leaders.  Leia was a role model for a generation, not just male or female.

Princess Leia was adored by women the world over and rightly so – she showed the girls that she could be just as brave and heroic as the guys.  She was intelligent and committed and she stood up for what she believed in.

This character was embodied perfectly by Carrie Fisher.  Carrie knew she was part of a big boys club and had fun with it.  In doing do, she created a figure in popular culture who will be admired and respected for generations to come.  Carrie was not without her demons – she would fight them constantly through out her life – but this tenacity was embodied in her portrayal of the Princess at the centre of the galaxy, fighting for a better life.

It’s very disheartening to note that I began my writing in 2016 with two memorial pieces for personal heroes who passed away.  It looks like my last blog of the year will be about another.

So let’s remember what Carrie Fisher – and Princess Leia – represented to so many.  Courage, faith in your beliefs, and the desire to make things better.  Those are qualities that we will all do well to take with us into the future.

R.I.P. David Bowie

Bowie

David Bowie

08.01.1947 – 10.01.2016

Unbelievable that my second blog post of 2016 is another in tribute to a musical hero who is no longer with us.

The recent passing of David Bowie caught us all off guard; I for one thought it was some cruel internet prank at first.  Not so – a quick trawl of the internet confirmed the sad news.

Back around 1990, my uncle let me borrow a bunch of records from his collection – an absolute buzz for a music obsessive like me.  There were records by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, The Stranglers, Devo and more.  I saw a copy of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, and asked if I could borrow that too.  He kindly agreed and I made off with my temporary haul.

Right from the start, listening to the “Ziggy Stardust” album was something revolutionary.  I knew I was hearing something special.

The reason I’d wanted to become more acquainted with Bowie’s work was the high regard some of my other favourite bands held him in, mostly due to his friendship and support of Iggy Pop.  I was already a massive Stooges fan.

From “Ziggy Stardust” I continued exploring David Bowie’s considerable catalogue.  Some songs were instants classics, some challenged me.  All of it was worthwhile taking the time to investigate: classics from “Hunky Dory” and “Low” being favourites.  All of those songs inspired me, and gave insight into how many artists of different genres had been inspired by his work.

In fact, the greatest legacy that Bowie’s work has left, for me at least, was that constant pioneering exploration.  I was encouraged to expand my musical horizons and accompany Bowie on journeys into different sonic territories.  It’s thanks to that spirit that I have the wide ranging taste in music that I have today.

Thank you, David Bowie, for taking us on your adventures in sound.  I will continue to admire and study your legacy for years to come.

R.I.P. Lemmy

Lemmy

Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister

24.12.1945 – 28.12.2015

A huge part of growing up is buying your first Motorhead album.  For me it was the compilation album “No Remorse”, which I wanted because it had “Ace of Spades” and “Killed By Death” on it.  With that purchase, I took a step into a bigger world.  Motorhead were a gang, not just a band – and with buying that record I was subscribing to a whole new way of life.

The first time I encountered the rabid monster that was Motorhead was when they performed the legendary “Ace of Spades” on the Young Ones episode “Bambi”.  Lemmy was there front and centre, a living icon in mirror shades, mutton chop whiskers, and thunderous bass guitar; bellowing into a mic that was stretched to the ceiling.

Motorhead’s music was a raucous, fast burst of adrenaline and I played that album every Monday morning before school.  It was the best way to get into the zone and face the start of the week.  Total take no prisoners, take on the world music.  Of course, real life wasn’t so harsh, but Motorhead made you feel like you could do anything.

Lemmy himself was always the uncompromising rock’n’roll figurehead.  His gruff demeanour and his reputation for fast living only cemented his status.  And Motorhead were always cool.  When I developed a taste for punk rock, Motorhead were still cool.  Lemmy and Motorhead straddled the otherwise impossible crevasse between punk and metal.  He had roots going back to early rock’n’roll and the classics of the 60’s with the Beatles and Hendrix.  Lemmy was part of rock’s DNA.

Over the years I collected their albums, bought the t-shirt and Lemmy’s autobiography, and saw them live.  I even met the guy once.  One day I’ll write up the story of that night, which I was always going to call “The Greatest Night Out of My Life”.  Suffice to say that I met Lemmy in a strip club in Liverpool after a Motorhead gig, totally by chance.  I hung out with him all night.  He was extremely gracious and funny.  He was tolerant of drunk fans because he knew how much the music meant to us.

As much a gentleman as a warrior, the world has lost a real original with the passing of Lemmy Kilmister.  He was a pioneer, an innovator.  We knew he’d go one day, but it’s still unbelievable.  I’ll miss Motorhead.  Raise a glass to the great man and yell:

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”