Fw: The Whootles again........

John Hughes pureneasy at tesco.net
Sun Jul 18 04:25:20 CDT 2004


Comment: Jeremy Clarkson: Stars staying alive is really killing rock'n'roll

When I heard that Morrissey was to reform the New York Dolls for a concert
in London this summer, I must confess that I raised a bit of an eyebrow.
The Dolls, when they met in the early 1970s, had absolutely no musical
ability whatsoever. None of them could sing, none of them could play an
instrument and perhaps as a result none of the albums they released was what
you would call a commercial success.

Today, however, they are seen by many as one of the most important pieces of
the rock'n'roll jigsaw.

In essence, they are credited with being the bridge between glam and punk
rock, the band that spawned the Sex Pistols and the Clash in England, and
the Ramones and Television in America.

They were punks before punk rock had been invented so it was only right and
proper that Morrissey should invite them over for a reunion gig. What
puzzled me was how he intended to do it because, put simply, most of them
were dead.

First to go was the drummer Billy Murcia who, while supporting Rod Stewart
on a tour of England, decided that it would be a good idea to make a
champagne and mandrax cocktail. While unconscious, his friends put him in a
cold bath and poured so much coffee down his throat that he drowned.

Undaunted, the Dolls replaced him with a chap called Jerry Nolan who could
actually play the drums. This caused so many rows that he left the band and
moved to Sweden where he died from meningitis.

Meanwhile, the guitarist Johnny Thunders had expired in a blizzard of drugs,
which brings me back to this reunion gig in London. Who, exactly, was going
to be on stage?

Well, Arthur "Killer" Kane, the original bass player, was there but only
just. He was completely bald and apparently heavily sedated. This was seen
as normal. In the early days he was often so drunk that he had to mime not
being able to play the bass while a roadie actually did play it behind a
speaker stack.

It wasn't normal, though. Unfortunately Killer was suffering from leukaemia
and last week he went west, too.

Often there are documentaries on ITV called The Most Dangerous Jobs in the
World, but it's hard to conceive of any that are quite as perilous as being
in the New York Dolls. In fact, being in any band in the 1960s or 1970s made
19th-century tunnelling look safe. The Who lost their bassist and drummer
and the Beatles their guitarist and song writer. Maybe they should team up
and form the Hootles. It's an idea.

Then you have Phil Lynott, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, Jim
Morrison, Marc Bolan, Eddie Cochran, Brian Epstein, Duane Allman, most of
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cozy Powell, Alex Harvey, Ricky Nelson, Pete Ham and Tom
Evans from Badfinger, Tim Hardin, Steely Dan's drummer, Bon Scott from
AC/DC, half of the Grateful Dead, Chas Chandler, Johnny Kidd, Rory
Gallagher, James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon from the Pretenders, John
Belushi, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Brian Jones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Terry Kath
from Chicago, and Sid Vicious. Even the Carpenters weren't a safe haven.

Of the 321 well-known musicians who died prematurely in the glory days of
rock'n'roll, 40 were taken by drugs, 36 by suicide and a whopping 22 by
plane or helicopter crashes. Thirty-five died in cars, 18 were murdered,
nine drowned in their own vomit and five in their own swimming pools.
Picking up a guitar in London in 1972 was more lethal than picking up a
rifle in Stalingrad in 1942.

Coming home from school back then and saying you were going to be a Formula
One racing driver would have prompted a sigh of relief from your mum: "Well
thank God you're not going to be in a band."

Now, though, things are different. With the notable and noble exception of
Kurt Cobain, who blew whatever it was he had inside his head all over the
wall with a shotgun, and Michael Hutchence, who went to meet his maker with
an orange in his mouth, today's rock stars seem to be in rude good health.

So far as I'm aware, nobody in Duran Duran is dead and the last time I
looked all of Busted weren't. Pink is in it and even Oasis have managed to
steer clear of their swimming pools.

Perhaps this is the problem with music today. Perhaps the declining audience
for Radio 1 and dwindling album sales have something to do with a lack of
danger. Back in 1975 I would rush to see a band partly because I liked the
energy of a live concert and partly, subliminally perhaps, because there was
a sense that they would all be dead by the following week. Usually they

You certainly don't get any of that from Will Young. I saw him perform at
the Cornbury music festival last weekend and while the tunes were perfectly
jolly there was no sense that he might be found the next morning in a hotel
room full of hookers and cocaine.

I see him as a perfect role model for my 10-year-old daughter. But I suspect
she'd like him more if he filled his head with heroin and flew his private
jet into an oil refinery.

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