5 Asadha - Year 1931
Summer's barely a week old and the casualties are mounting, at least from the 'sleb' world. it seems 'Mistah Death' has been busy the past 6 days. Farrah Fawcett, one of the original Charlie's Angels, succumbed to cancer a few days ago. She was pretty much a 70s icon, at least in the U.S. Everyone knew someone who had that red bathing suit poster on their wall. She dropped off the radar in the 80s, but made a few appearances in TV and films in the late 90s and early Noughties. The last thing I watched with her in was Robert Altman's not-so-great Dr. T. And The Women. Farrah turned in a decent performance as the Dr.'s wife, who suffers a nervous breakdown.
Sky Saxon, leader of the seminal California psychedelic garage band The Seeds, also passed away this week. They're probably best known for their 'hit', Pushin' Too Hard, which featured on every cheapo 60s/psychedelic compilation ever made--plus some good ones, like Nuggets. Sky continued on through the decades, long after the original Seeds split. With a garage punk revival happening lately, Sky's work has been re-examined and found to be quite worthy by the youngsters (perhaps after reading some Lester Bangs columns). He was touring again and was going to present a package tour, featuring The Seeds and other psych/garage/punk bands from the 60s.
Another 'underground' figure who left the planet in the past few days was Steven Wells, or "Swells", as he was called. He started out as a sort-of 'punk comedian' in the late 70s, then moved on to writing for the NME. To my estimation, he was a bit like an English Lester Bangs, skewering sacred cows with doses of funny profanity and dry wit. He would've hated my record collection and I strongly suspect if I had read a lot of his reviews in the 90s, I would've found him quite irritating. He emigrated to the U.S. and wrote for the Philadelphia Weekly. I've since read some of his columns for the P.W. and while I don't agree with everything he wrote, I can see the talent in his choice of words. Still, he was a scribe who wasn't in the pocket of the major labels and that's something to be commended.
Andy Hughes, sometime Orb collaborator, also died a couple of weeks ago. He appeared on The Orb's mid-90s albums - Orbus Terrarum through to Cydonia (2001). His biggest contributions were to the excellent Orblivion record, released in 1997. He left the band during the "Cydonia" sessions and some of the music was re-worked after his departure. He gave The Orb their final truly great period of creativity and while new albums have been dropped into the shops, their quality doesn't match that of the Hughes era (in my opinion, anyway).
...and, of course, the self-proclaimed "King Of Pop", Michael Jackson, passed away earlier this week (I'm writing this on 29th June). There'll be hundreds, if not thousands, of tributes and essays and eulogies. The tribute albums will flow like rivers after too much rainfall. Concerts will be staged and the tabloids will have fodder for the next months...and beyond. The man did achieve a level of fame in the 20th Century only equalled by The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, this led to a constant media-circus, especially where his private life was concerned. The excesses of fame seemed to drive him into a sensationalist existence and deprived him of being 'himself' (whomever that was).
Me, I just remember in the summer of 1983, being on vacation in Maine. Wanna Be Startin' Something was still going strong and it was on heavy rotation on the radio...and I mean heavy. It was being played literally every hour. My parents had gone out for the night and my older sister and I used to sing along with it, just belt it out--that was fun. I also remember being a tiny bit creeped out by the Thriller video. When I first heard Billie Jean on the radio in my father's car in 1982, I thought it was a female singer. I liked the funkiness of the tune. It may have been one my first exposures to R&B or 'soul music' or whatever you want to label it as (though I may have heard some Motown stuff when I was very young). I lost interest in M.J.'s stuff shortly after Bad was released. The music seemed to get blander as his personal life got weirder, though I do like Smooth Criminal and even Black Or White seems pretty catchy. There'll be conspiracy theories and debates about what actually killed him, or who and why. File it under another Kennedy assassination, 9/11, Area 51 and all that. No-one will ever find out the whole truth. There's no denying that MJ was an 80s icon. It seems a shame that he slipped so far down the tabloid route.