RIP Guy Clark

There are some people who become type specimens.  They’re the folks who define the characteristics of the category of folks to whom they belong.  Guy Clark was — or rather, given what remains — continues to be the type specimen of the singer-songwriter.

Charles Pierce has already written his remembrance of this artist, who died today of what sounds like complications of a hard-lived, powerfully felt life:

He was a craftsman in all the best senses of the word–in the way he created his songs, and in the way he told his stories, and in the places the music took you…

That’s exactly right.  And yeah, go read the rest, and listen to Charlie’s picks of the Guy Clark songs that resonate for him.

For me?  Well, the first number I recall was his biggest mainstream hit, “L. A. Freeway” — which holds up OK, but isn’t what drew me back to Clark when I started listening to him with intent a few years ago.  This is the one that got me started, at a time (as I face again this year, dammit) when too many people that mattered in my life were dying on me:


This one got me next, and still does:*

And this is the one I think of on the day Guy Clark left us; he’s taken his place in the room he sings us into:

All of which is to say that Clark couldn’t have a good time. He loved a party** — just ask him:

The list goes on. The Hon. Pierce has it right: Clark was a meticulous song writer and a brilliant one (the two modifiers don’t describe the same quality). Dive in anywhere, and the worst you’ll get is fine fun. At his best….

Dammit — it’s been a crap year for musicians here in these United States.

I’ll leave you with one more favorite, one that captures the heart of what I love most about Clark — the way his music inhabits a story and vice versa:

Rest in peace, Guy Clark.

*And here’s a lagniappe.  Check out this tune, the one Clark sends us to in an homage and something of a statement — a recognition of the league in which Guy himself could play.

**In the old days, when it was Clark and Townes Van Zandt and some more bad boys and girls, I don’t think I could have come close to keeping up, had I had the amazing fortune to be in the right bar at the right time.  But that’s another story.  If you want to read up  on Mr. Clark — this is a fine and recent profile.

R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Per Rolling Stone, “Jefferson Airplane Guitarist Paul Kantner Dead at 74”

Paul Kantner, founding member, guitarist and singer for Jefferson Airplane and Starship, died Thursday of multiple organ failure and septic shock. He had suffered a heart attack earlier in the week, according to San Francisco Chronicle. He was 74.

The musician had been in ill health in recent years, with Kantner suffering a heart attack in March 2015, according to the paper.

With Jefferson Airplane, Kantner helped pioneer the oft-imitated psychedelic sound: simple, fuzzy guitar lines steeped in dreamlike reverb. The group formed in 1965 and, within a few years, scored hits with “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” In their first run, five of the band’s seven albums went gold, including 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow and 1968’s Crown of Creation.

Verging on a breakup in the early Seventies, Kantner recorded a solo album, Blows Against the Empire, with Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick, crediting it to Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship. The album was nominated for a Hugo Award presented to the best science-fiction and fantasy works. After formalizing the band Jefferson Starship, the band went on to greater commercial success than Jefferson Airplane, scoring platinum and gold records, including the double-platinum 1975 record Red Octopus. Kantner quit the group in 1984, but would rejoin in 1992 and continue to play with them until his death…

I’ll admit I’d forgotten that Hugo nomination. Further adventures, per SFGate:

A sometimes prickly, often sarcastic musician who kept his own counsel and routinely enraged his old bandmates — they sued him for trademark infringement (and settled) after he started his own version of Jefferson Starship in 1991 — Mr. Kantner became something of a landmark on the San Francisco music scene, the only member of the band still living in town.

“Somebody once said, if you want to go crazy go to San Francisco,” he said. “Nobody will notice.”

Mr. Kantner was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 for his work with the Jefferson Airplane during the band’s glory years — from the breakthrough 1967 “Surrealistic Pillow” album through Woodstock and Altamont.

“We never made plans,” said Mr. Kantner. “Well, we made plans, but they went awry. It was good to have a plan in case they didn’t go awry.”

He maintained a strenuous touring schedule, performing regularly with some version of the Jefferson Starship name. His group sometimes included Balin, as well as David Freiberg of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, another leading Bay Area band from the ’60s.

“When I look back on it, that’s probably longer than any of the other bands I’ve been in,” Mr. Kantner said…

R.I.P, Glenn Frey

We kind of assumed they’d alway be around, because it seemed like they’d always been around. Rolling Stone obituary here:

Glenn Frey, Eagles guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, passed away Monday. He was 67. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016. Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia,” the Eagles wrote in a statement Monday…

The Detroit-born Frey performed with groups in the Motor City area before relocating to Los Angeles in the late Sixties. Frey would eventually meet and live with J.D. Souther — his partner in the short-lived duo Longbranch Pennywhistle — and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. It was Souther who encouraged Linda Ronstadt, his girlfriend at the time, to hire Frey and three other artists – drummer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon – to serve as her backing band during a 1971 tour. When the trek concluded, the Eagles were born…

As a solo artist, Frey enjoyed a string of hits that included the Beverly Hills Cop track “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City,” a song penned for Miami Vice. “City” would go on to take on a second life as a New York anthem thanks to its association with the 1986 World Series-winning New York Mets and Jay Z’s Frey-sampling “The City Is Mine.” Frey released five solo albums during this period, and also dabbled in acting, appearing in Miami Vice and later Jerry Maguire. That film’s director, Cameron Crowe, famously interviewed the Eagles for a 1975 Rolling Stone cover story, which would later inspire the filmmaker’s 2000 movie Almost Famous

Wyeth Ruthven’s tweets led me to a 2013 Bill Simmons story on “Alison Ellwood’s epic documentary” of “The Eagles’ Greatest Hit”:

… It’s not like the Eagles are intrusive. Wasn’t that the most appealing thing about their music? As Frey points out in The History of the Eagles, Part Two, people did things with the Eagles. They could join you for any road trip, any party, any breakup, any late-night hang… Their music is harmlessly timeless, and I swear, I mean that as a compliment.

You know what else? The Eagles were significantly bigger than I ever realized. Really, there wasn’t a more successful, popular or famous American band in the 1970s. Even today, their first greatest hits album (released in 1976, almost one year before Hotel California came out) is still battling neck and neck with Thriller as the highest-selling album of all time. That dumbfounding fact alone made the Eagles worthy of a documentary, even if a 215-minute treatment was unquestionably overboard… Read more

Late Night Far-Flung Memories Open Thread

From the Guardian:

Bowie’s 25 albums produced a string of hits including Changes, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He was known for experimenting across diverse musical genres, and for his alter egos Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke. He also had a notable acting career.

His latest album, Blackstar, was released last week to coincide with his 69th birthday, and had received widespread critical acclaim…

Tributes were paid on social media. In a heartfelt Facebook post, Tony Visconti, who produced a series of Bowie’s albums, including Young Americans and his seminal Berlin trilogy, Low, Heroes and Lodger, wrote: “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.

“He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”…

“I am not a natural performer,” Bowie said in a rare interview in 2002. “I don’t enjoy performing terribly much. Never have. I can do it and, if my mind’s on the situation, do it quite well. But, five or six shows in, I’m dying to get off the road and go back to the studio.”

In the same interview, he said: “My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter. The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety, all of the high points of one’s life.”

Rest in Peace, Ziggy Stardust

And suddenly there is a little less magic in the world. From the NYTimes:

David Bowie, the legendary singer and songwriter whose outlandish stage shows and alter egos like Ziggy Stardust helped make him a music and fashion icon in pop culture, has died, his publicist said…

The multitalented artist, whose last album, “Blackstar,” was released on Friday — on his birthday — was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats. He also has a musical, “Lazarus,” running Off Broadway.

Born David Jones on Jan. 8, 1947, in South London, Mr. Bowie rose to fame with “Space Oddity,” in 1969, and later through his jumpsuit-wearing alter ego Ziggy Stardust and another persona, the Thin White Duke. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

In a post on Twitter, the musician’s son, Duncan Jones, said, “Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”…

Happy Veterans Day


Just a quick post to wish John, Soonergrunt, and all the other veterans who read and/or comment here at Ballon Juice, and those who don’t, a Happy and Healthy Veteran’s Day!

It is, however, also important to remember as Shakezula at Laywers, Guns, and Money points out, that there are over 25 homeless veterans in the US per every 10,000 US veterans! I would argue that this is both a national political and a national moral disgrace. I leave you all with Five Finger Death Punch’s take on this:

* Veterans Day image was found here.

Thursday Morning Open Thread: “Douglas Adams Made Me A Writer * “

Alison Flood, at the Guardian, on how “Neil Gaiman salute[d] his friend and inspiration“:

… Giving the annual Douglas Adams lecture last night, Gaiman spoke at length about his memories of his friend and fellow author, revealing the details of a conversation “almost 30 years ago now”, when the two were discussing the idea of ebooks.

“We were talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was something which resembled an iPad, long before it appeared. And I said when something like that happens, it’s going to be the death of the book. Douglas said no. Books are sharks,” Gaiman told a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

“I must have looked baffled because he he looked very pleased with himself. And he carried on with his metaphor. Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”

Adams told Gaiman: “‘Look at a book. A book is the right size to be a book. They’re solar-powered. If you drop them, they keep on being a book. You can find your place in microseconds. Books are really good at being books and no matter what happens books will survive.’ And he was right,” said Gaiman.

“Ebooks are much better at being two or more books and a newspaper, at the same time. Ebooks are great at being bookshelves, which is why they are great on trains. It’s also why the encyclopaedia proved not to be a shark, but to be a plesiosaur.”

And stories, said Gaiman, “aren’t books. Books are simply one of the many storage mechanisms in which stories can be kept. People are one of the other storage mechanisms for stories. And stories, like life forms, change.”…

Many charming anecdotes, and a YouTube video of Gaiman’s entire lecture [Gaiman comes on just after the 17minute mark, if you want to cheat], at the link.

(*antediluvian graffiti response: “If I get him the wool, will he make me one too?”)

Apart from fondly remembering good people who left us too soon, what’s on the agenda for the day?

(Here in the Boston area, we’re supposed to get just enough new snow to screw up everyone’s morning commute, without quite breaking the total-snowfall record. The latest definition of “adding insult to injury”!)