Category Archives: Rock and Roll Heaven

Rock & Roll Heaven: Keith Moon

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Moon at the drums on stage with The Who in London, England during a March, 1977 concert

 

The legendary rock band known as The Who had originally evolved out of a band known as the Detours, which featured three members who would become well-known to music fans over the coming years and decades

Roger Daltrey was the founder and driving force. Pete Townsend became the lead guitarist. John Entwistle provided the pulse as the bass guitarist.

However, the fourth member of The Who classic lineup was not their original drummer. The first man to provide the percussion back-beat for the band was Doug Sandom.

When the band received an audition with Fontana Records in the early-1960’s, an executive there simply didn’t like Sandom’s drumming. The Who began to audition stand-ins, and during that process met Keith Moon.

Moon was born in northwest London on August 23, 1946 and grew up in Wembley, England. At age 12 he took up playing the bugle, but quickly switched to the drums. He particularly loved the music of The Beach Boys.

In 1961 at just age 14, Moon joined his first band known as the Escorts. Then in 1962, Moon moved on to become drummer for the Beachcombers. These were part-time bands, with most of the members also holding down day jobs to make a living.

It was in April of 1964 that Moon auditioned for The Who, and he won the gig replacing Sandom in the emerging band. With Moon now on board as the new drummer, the classic lineup was set, and The Who began to craft both their sound and on-stage persona over the course of the mid-late 1960’s.

Technically, Moon moved from a four to a five-piece drum kit during 1965. Towards the end of that year he began to endorse Premier Drums and remained loyal to the brand for the rest of his career.

Also, Moon’s girlfriend Kim Kerrigan became pregnant during 1965. The two were married in March 1966, with their daughter Amanda born on July 12. “He had no idea how to be a father,” Kim later said in a 1998 biography from Tony Fletcher. “He was too much of a child himself.

In 1966, Moon began to utilize a setup with two bass drums. He and Ginger Baker, founder of the rock group Cream, would become pioneers in the early use of that type of drum kit setup.

Moon had a problem with alcohol and drugs from his early teen years. Developing a worsening amphetamine addiction contributed to Moon frequently clashing with each of the other band members, including physical altercations.

Entwistle and I used to have fights – it wasn’t very serious, it was more of an emotional spur-of-the moment thing,” said Moon according to Dave Marsh, who wrote a bio of the band in 1989.

With those internal pressures repeatedly erupting during the mid-1960’s, Jeff Beck recruited Moon to play with The Yardbirds, essentially trying to get Moon to quit The Who and begin playing regularly with him. However, despite playing with Beck a couple of times, Moon resisted, and the band played on together.

It is believed that Moon had another major contribution to rock music history during this late-1960’s period. During one of his dalliances with leaving The Who, Moon is said to have floated the idea of forming a super group to include emerging guitarist Jimmy Page.

The idea of that group never panned out, with Moon having said it “went down like a led zeppelin” in front of Page. The guitarist remembered the phrase when forming his own now-legendary band in 1968.

During one of the early performances of The Who, Townsend accidentally broke his guitar and smashed it up on stage out of frustration. The crowd loved the display, and Moon decided to join in by kicking over his entire drum kit. This would become a signature for the band, destroying instruments on stage to the delight of their early fans.

A breakthrough came for The Who in 1966 with their first major American appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. There, the on-stage style of The Who, which included smashing their instruments, clashed with much of the peaceful hippie style of the rest of the festival.

That appearance got The Who a gig as the opening act on a tour of America for popular Brit rockers Herman’s Hermits. Moon bonded with the Hermits, who introduced him to cherry bombs. During the tour, Moon became fond of blowing up hotel room toilets with those cherry bombs.

During the celebration of Moon’s 21st birthday while on tour in Flint, Michigan in 1967, the band caused thousands of dollars in damage to their hotel room at a Holiday Inn. It was a wild time, but Daltrey would later say that this tour helped bring the band closer together.

During that same year of 1967, Moon was among those who contributed backing vocals for his friends, The Beatles, on the “All You Need Is Love” record.

During their next tour of America with Eric Burdon and the Animals, a television appearance was arranged for The Who on ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’. During that performance, Moon bribed a stagehand to plant some explosives in his drum kit.

When they detonated during performance of the song “My Generation“, the force of the blast blew Moon off his drum riser, singed Townsend’s hair, and damaged studio equipment. A video clip from this performance would later be used as “The Kids Are Alright” documentary opening more than a decade later.

During the late-1960’s the band recorded what would become a signature classic LP, “Tommy“, which would be released in May 1969 as their fourth studio album. That piece of music combined with their improving and evolving stage act to begin gaining not only increased popularity, but also increased respect for the band.

During the summer of 1969, The Who were recruited to play at the now-legendary Woodstock Festival. Due to delays their set did not begin until 5:00 am, and they played the entirety of “Tommy” as part of their contribution.

Just a few weeks later, the band would perform back home at the Isle of Wight Festival, which further cemented their status as one of the biggest and best rock bands of the era.

In August of 1971, The Who released their LP “Who’s Next” on which many felt Moon displayed the best drum playing of his entire career. The album contained hits in “Baba O’Riley“, “Won’t Get Fooled Again“, “Behind Blue Eyes”, and “Bargain“, and is considered one of the greatest rock albums of all-time.

Over the next few years during the early-1970’s, the popularity and influence of The Who only grew as they worked on and released the album “Quadrophenia“, the tour for which would spawn a notorious incident.

On November 20, 1974 at the Cow Palace in California, The Who were more than an hour into their show when, while playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again“, Moon passed out over his drum kit.

Carried off the stage by roadies, the drummer was revived and returned to the stage a short time later. However, during his first song back “Magic Bus“, Moon again passed out. This time he could not be revived.

Townsend would say during a later interview that Moon had consumed large tranquilizers which were actually meant for animals, washing those down with large amounts of brandy.

The band played on as a threesome, and after receiving tremendous applause, Townsend told the audience “I think it should be us applauding you”.  He then surprised the crowd by asking, “Can anybody play the drums? Can anybody play the drums? I mean somebody good!

Sitting just off the stage, 19-year-old Scot Halpin was volunteered by his friend. Legendary concert producer Bill Graham, asked Halpin “Can you do it?” When Halpin said that he could, the young man received the thrill of a lifetime. Having not played in over a year, Halpin took over the drums and played well over the final few songs.

The band took a bit of a break from touring and performing during 1974, doing just a few shows as they turned “Tommy” into a motion picture for which Townsend would receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.

During 1973, his wife Kim had left, taking their daughter Mandy with her, feeling that no one could help Moon with his addictions. She would sue for divorce in 1975, eventually marry Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, and died herself in a car crash in 2006 at just age 57.

As the divorce was filed in 1975, Moon released what would be his lone career solo LP. “Two Sides of the Moon” was not well received by critics or the public. It included covers of songs including The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright“, The Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby“, and “In My Life” from The Beatles. Ringo Starr even contributed backing drums.

In late 1975, a tour by the band resulted in The Who setting a record for the largest indoor concert when more than 78,000 attended their show at the Pontiac Silverdome outside of Detroit. This tour during the years 1975 and 1976 is considered by some to have been the greatest series of live performances in the history of the band.

At the conclusion of the U.S. leg of that tour in Miami during August of 1976, a reportedly delirious Moon was treated in Hollywood Memorial Hospital for eight days. The band would eventually move into Canada, and on October 21, 1976 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, The Who gave their final live public performance with the drummer.

Moon held the dream of becoming an actor, and was able to land a number of roles during the 1970’s. He joined Starr by appearing in “200 Motels” in 1971 and “That’ll Be the Day” in 1973, along with “Stardust“, the latter film’s sequel in 1974. In 1978 he appeared with Starr and Alice Cooper in the film “Sextette“, which was also the final film appearance of Mae West.

Three years after their previous studio album, The Who began recording “Who Are You” in January of 1978. Moon’s addictions had caused a tremendous weight gain and his play to deteriorate to the point where the band considered firing him.

However, the drummer briefly rallied. In May while filming a segment for what would become their “The Kids Are Alright” documentary, which wouldn’t be released until 1979, Moon’s performances were strong. They would also prove to be his last with the band.

That year, Moon moved into a room which he rented from Harry Nilsson. It was the exact room in which ‘Momma Cass’ Elliot had died four years earlier at age 32. Nilsson was reportedly concerned with bad luck in renting Moon that room, but the drummer is said to have told him that “lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice.”

Attempting to dry out and stay off alcohol, Moon began to take prescriptions for the sedative clomethiazole in order to help the withdrawal symptoms.

The prescribing doctor was not aware of Moon’s drug addiction history, giving him a bottle of 100 pills with instructions to take no more than three pills per day and then only when he felt the urge to drink.

Who Are You” was released in August of 1978. Five days later, Moon celebrated his 32nd birthday. Two weeks after that birthday he would be dead.

On September 6, Moon and his 30-year-old girlfriend, Swedish model Annette Walter-Lax, joined Paul and Linda McCartney at a preview showing of “The Buddy Holly Story“, a biographical film of the late rock star played by Gary Busey in what would prove to be an Oscar-nominated role. The two couples then went to dinner.

On returning to their apartment, Moon asked Walter-Lax to cook him steak and eggs. Tired after their long nigh tout, she refused and Moon replied, “If you don’t like it, you can fuck off!” These would be his last known spoken words.

Checking on him the following afternoon, Walter-Lax found Moon dead. It was later determined that he had consumed 32 of the prescription pills.

Fletcher wrote that a particularly rapid deterioration in Moon’s health had begun during The Who’s lengthy hiatus from 1972 through 1973 in preparation for recording “Quadrophenia“, as a hard-partying lifestyle with no touring and no drum playing took a hard toll on his body.

In addition to self-destruction, Moon had developed the habit of destroying not only drum kits on stage, but hotel rooms and even friends’ homes while off-stage. Fletcher quoted him as follows:

When you’ve got money and you do the kind of things I get up to, people laugh and say that you’re eccentric, which is a polite way of saying you’re fucking mad.”

The Who would ultimately replace Moon with a series of drummers, beginning at first with Kenney Jones of The Faces. Simon Phillips, who would later become the longtime drummer for the band Toto, took over for touring during 1989 after Jones left the band.

In 1996, The Who hired 30-year-old Zac Starkey, son of The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, as their new drummer. He has remained a member of the band ever since.

Clem Burke of Blondie, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Neil Peart of Rush are among many drummers who have publicly stated that Moon was an influence on their drum stylings. It is believed that Jim Henson based his Muppet character ‘Animal’ at least partially on Moon.

The Who of the 1960’s and 1970’s have left a sound and a rock legacy that live on to this day. Is Moon now playing the backbeat for some heavenly band? Like the others in this “Rock & Roll Heaven” series, talent was never the question.


NOTE: This is the continuation of my”Rock and Roll Heaven” series of pieces on musical artists whose careers where cut short by their personal demons, the first in nearly two years.

The series now includes features on Keith Moon, Chris Cornell, John Bonham, Ty Longley, Karen Carpenter, Jim Morrison, Michael Hutchence, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.

It will now continue from time to time into the future. Past articles in the series can be enjoyed by clicking on the below ‘tag’ category, or by visiting the dedicated section under the ‘Entertainment’ category of the website toolbar.

Rock & Roll Heaven: Chris Cornell

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After a nearly seven year break, this piece marks the return of my “Rock & Roll Heaven” series, which began nine years ago.

It was originally intended to be a week-long mini-series of articles. That first week included pieces on Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, and Jim Morrison. However, I also offered that I might consider continuing the series with additional occasional pieces. 

After receiving positive feedback, the series continued over the next two years. The musicians highlighted after the original mini-series were Karen Carpenter, Ty Longley, and John Bonham. All articles in the series can be enjoyed by simply clicking on the series ‘label’ at the bottom of this piece.

Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin who Rolling Stone magazine has ranked as the top drummer of all-time, died in September of 1980. He was just 32 years old. The alcoholic Bonham died after a two-day drinking binge.

That factor is a hallmark of my series. All of the artists portrayed were icons in their generation, and died young under controversial or dramatic circumstances. 

Icon of his generation. Death under controversial circumstances. That perfectly fits the loss earlier this year of Seattle grunge band icon Chris Cornell. The lead vocalist for Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell’s death on May 18, 2017 was ruled a suicide. He was known to have suffered from substance abuse issues and depression.

Like many popular rock artists of the early 1990’s, Cornell emerged from the Seattle, Washington scene. He was born in Seattle on July 20, 1964, and so was less than three years younger then me. 

He helped form Soundgarden in 1984, and by 1990 the band was receiving a Grammy Award nomination for their debut album. They continued to record and tour together through 1996, and their 1994 album “Superunknown” won the band a pair of Grammy Awards.

One of those 1994 Grammys was “Best Hard Rock Performance” for the song “Black Hole Sun”, perhaps their most well known among the wider music-listening public.


Of those early 1990’s years with Soundgarden, Cornell stated the following:

“Nobody came to Seattle to sign a band or write about you or put your song on the radio, so everything there was very genuine. I’m privileged to have been in that place at that time. I also put a lot of energy into that. We really had to beat the doors down.”

In 1990, Cornell had to cope with the death of his close friend and roommate, Andrew Wood. A fellow musician from Seattle, Wood died in March 1990 following a heroin overdose. In an interview with Jim Farber for The Guardian just a year ago, Cornell stated: 

“I’ve always had really difficult time with loss. I didn’t deal well with Andy’s death. After he died, numerous times I’d be driving and I would look out the window and I thought I saw him. It would take me five minutes to update to the moment and realize, ‘no, he’s actually dead.”

Cornell recorded a 1990 tribute album to Wood with a project band known as Temple of the Dog. This band included members who would go on to form Pearl Jam. 

Temple of the Dog featured the first recordings by Eddie Vedder. Originally from San Diego, his friendship with Cornell helped legitimize Vedder in the Seattle music scene. The two would remain close friends, and Cornell would go on to work with Pearl Jam a number of times over the next two decades.

In 1985 at age 20, Cornell began dating Soundgarden’s manager, Susan Silver. They married in 1990, had a daughter in 2000, and divorced in 2004. Later that year he married Vicky Karayiannis. The couple would have two children, a daughter born in 2004 and a son a year later.

His Irish-Catholic father and Jewish mother were both alcoholics according to Cornell. If true, that propensity towards addiction was already going to be a factor at some point in his life.

Cornell stated in a 2006 interview with Dorian Lynskey for SPIN magazine that his early life had been “pretty great.” But then a bad experience after trying PCP at age 14 left him with panic disorder and he slipped into depression through his teen years.


In a December 1994 interview with Alec Foege for Rolling Stone magazine, Cornell stated that he took guitar and piano lessons as a kid. 

He has also stated that he believes that drums purchased for him by his mother may have saved his life during those tough teen years. “It was the only thing I had an attention span for,” he said per Foege: 

“When you’re young, playing drums is immediately satisfying ’cause whether or not you know how to play anything, the bottom line is that you’re pounding on something, so you’re happy about it.”

It wasn’t until his late-20’s that he succumbed to his parents alcoholism. That eventually led him to prescription drugs, and then harder drugs. 

Internal conflicts regarding the band’s creative direction led to the Soundgarden breakup in early 1997. Cornell released a commercially unsuccessful solo album in 1999. Then in 2001, Cornell joined three former members of the band Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. 

Over the next half-dozen years, Audioslave recorded three albums of material, all of which proved commercially successful. Their 2002 self-titled debut LP went triple-platinum, and their second “Out of Exile” in 2005 went platinum. The band broke up when Cornell decided to leave in early 2007.

In 2006, Cornell co-wrote and performed the song “You Know My Name” for the James Bond film “Casino Royale”, taking home both a Satellite Award and World Soundtrack Award.



During the Audioslave years, as well as both immediately before and after, Cornell worked on a number of solo and side projects. He also contributed music and vocals on the work of other artists, including Slash, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins.

On the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 Islamofascist attacks on America, Cornell performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the popular Conan O’Brien late night TV show. He would later release a version on his acoustic live album “Songbook” in November 2011.

Whispers of a Soundgarden reunion began in 2010, and in April of that year the band verified by announcing they would play that summer’s Lollapalooza concert. The band would remain together, recording and touring over the next few years.

In April 2013, Cornell gave the introduction speech for Heart when that iconic band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the speech, Cornell stated that Ann and Nancy Wilson had been role models for him and numerous Seattle musicians and singers. Cornell joined in a version of Heart’s classic hit “Barracuda” along with the Wilson sisters and other musicians.


In 2015, Cornell recorded the solo LP “Higher Truth”, which would prove to be his final album. 

As Soundgarden was breaking up in 1997, his marriage to Silver falling apart, Cornell slipped into a depression that lasted for years. He turned to OxyContin at one point before finally checking in to rehab in 2002. 

In a 1996 interview with Robyn Doreian for Metal Hammer, Cornell had first publicly mentioned the idea of suicide:

“I know what it feels like to be suicidal, and I know what it feels like to be hopeless. There is some point where I learned enough about myself to know that I don’t have the tolerance to create other hurdles as well.”

“If I would have ever started taking drugs when I was younger, I would never have lived. I would have gone out quick. I don’t have the tolerance to live in that emotional and physical pain and not have anything positive or good around me.”

On May 17 of this year, Cornell performed with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Sometime after the show, Cornell returned to his room at the MGM Grand. His wife later stated “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”
 
He was found on the floor of his hotel bathroom by his bodyguard, an exercise band wrapped around his neck. An investigation, confirmed later in the coroner’s report, ruled that the death came by suicide. Only therapeutic amounts of prescription drugs were found in his system, but there were a variety of those.
 
In a public statement released to the press and reported by Rolling Stone, his wife Vicky stated:
 
“Many of us who know Chris well noticed that he wasn’t himself during his final hours and that something was very off. We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system. After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind. Something clearly went terribly wrong and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back. We very much appreciate all of the love we have received during this extremely difficult time and are dedicated to helping others in preventing this type of tragedy.”
 
Yet another tragedy in the long history of them in the rock and roll world. This time we lost a man who readers of Guitar World had voted as “Rock’s Greatest Singer”, and who Rolling Stone ranked as 9th on their “Best Lead Singers of All Time” list.
 
Singing lead vocals in Rock and Roll Heaven, or a place in hell? For Christians, the answer isn’t as simple as suicide leading to eternal damnation. That is not the teaching of any reputable Christian church, including Catholicism


The more relevant question is, where was Cornell at the time of his death in regards to his personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Same goes for anyone else covered prior in this series, or who we will cover in the future, on Rock and Roll Heaven. 

Cornell frequently wore a cross on a chain around his neck. If that was not just a fashion statement, then I think that I know the answer in the case of Chris Cornell.

Rock & Roll Heaven: John Bonham

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The late John Bonham was the drummer for Led Zeppelin

 

Sometime on September 23rd, 1980, John Bonham began to drink. This was not an unusual event in Bonham’s life. He was a big drinker.

But the binge that he was about to undertake was a big one even by his standards. Over the next day and a half, Bonham, would take approximately 40 shots of vodka in a drinking binge that would end his life.

John Bonham was the drummer for the legendary rock band ‘Led Zeppelin’, and he was universally considered one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music.

As he undertook that final late September alcohol binge, he and his mates in Zeppelin were in preparations for their first world tour in over three years, a tour that would never take place.

The legendary original Led Zeppelin lineup was born as a band in London, England in the latter half of 1968, at the height of the 1960’s ‘flower child’ and ‘hippie generation’ crazes. Jimmy Page, who was and is universally regarded as one of the greatest guitarists on the planet, and his band ‘The Yardbirds’ had just broken up.

Page met up with singer Robert Plant and began to consider putting a new band together. It wasn’t long before the talented Bonham, who both men knew from studio sessions, would be recruited heavily and agree to join the band.

With the addition of bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones the four men originally set out as ‘The New Yardbirds’, but following their first touring effort it was obvious to all that they had little in common with that original band. The band’s name was changed to ‘Led Zeppelin’, and the rest is music history.
Zep’s hard-rocking guitar-fueled style is often credited as being at the forefront of what is now known as ‘heavy metal’ music, but they did much tremendous acoustic work together as well.

During the 1970’s, Zeppelin grew into one of the most popular, successful, and influential rock bands in music history. The band became known for extravagant clothing and wild partying during touring.

The band’s classic hits released during these years included “Rock and Roll“, “Going to California“, “Black Dog“, “Houses of the Holy“, “Immigrant Song“, Chase Utley’s signature theme “Kashmir“, and a song widely acknowledged as one of the greatest in rock history, “Stairway to Heaven“.

Bonham had a couple of brief acting turns, first appearing as a drummer in 1974’s “Son of Dracula“, and then in an action drag-racing scene during the Zeppelin vehicle “The Song Remains the Same” that was set to “Moby Dick“, his signature half hour-long concert solo.

Bonham had been married since before the Zeppelin years. He and his wife, Pat, had a son born back in 1966 named Jason Bonham. Jason would go on to drum himself for bands including ‘Foreigner’. During the height of Led Zepplin’s popularity, the couple added a second child when daughter Zoe was born in the summer of 1975. But as a rock and roll star, his life was far from that of the typical family man.

On July 23rd, 1977, following a Zeppelin concert in San Francisco, Bonham became involved in a controversial backstage incident. The band’s manager, Peter Grant, had his son helping with the breakdown job. The son apparently took down a dressing room sign that was not band property, and got into an argument with a member of the promoter’s staff, who slapped young Grant. Bonham saw this and ran to the kid’s aid, beginning an attack that ended with the staffer badly beaten by members of the band’s entourage.

This was just one incident in the downward spiral of Bonham’s life. In one episode, Bonham is said to have ridden his motorcycle through a hotel. During a June 27th, 1979 show in Germany, Bonham collapsed while on stage and was rushed to the hospital. It is widely believed that his collapse was caused by his continued misuse and abuse of both alcohol and drugs.

On September 24th, 1980, Bonham was well into his fatal final drinking binge when he attended a rehearsal session for what was planned to be the first Led Zeppelin tour in almost three years. The session ended in the evening and the entire band along with some of their crew and entourage went back to Jimmy Page’s home. At some point after midnight, a drunken, passed out Bonham was put to bed and placed on his side.

The next day, John Paul Jones and the band’s manager went to try to wake Bonham, and they found him dead. A subsequent autopsy found no other drugs in his system, and ruled that he had died an accidental death, the result of his having vomited, inhaled it, and dying as a result from asphyxiation.

Dave Grohl of the band Foo Fighters, who had to deal himself with the personal tragic loss of his own former ‘Nivana’ bandmate Kurt Cobain, is quoted as having said “John Bonham played the drums like someone who didn’t know what was going to happen next – like he was teetering on the edge of a cliff.” It can be said without exaggeration that Bonham lived his life that same way. A great way to drum, perhaps, but perhaps not the best way to live.

John Bonham was just 32 years old when he died from the alcohol abuse. That old adage of sex, drugs, and rock and roll can be extended to include booze as well, a substance that Bonham abused regularly and voluminously. Does he now play the drums in some all-star ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ band with Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain on guitar and Janis Joplin at the front? We may one day get to find out for sure, but one thing we know now is that his life ended too soon from his own choices involving one of the usual suspects.

NOTE: this is the return of the ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ series of articles here at the www.mattveasey.com website, all items of which can be read by clicking on that Tag link at the bottom of the article. 

Rock & Roll Heaven: Ty Longley

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Members of Great White perform tribute to Ty Longley

 

Seven years ago tonight one of the greatest tragedies in music history happened. At about 11:05pm on what was a Thursday night, the band ‘Great White’ took the stage at a Rhode Island club known as ‘The Station’ and began to play the opening strains of their song “Desert Moon”.

For 99 of the bands fans, and one of it’s own members, what appeared to be the beginning of a night of great music would instead turn out to be the final moments of their lives.

As Ty Longley blasted into the opening chords of “Desert Moon” with his bandmates, the 31-year old was enjoying all that the rock and roll life had to offer. He was young, playing the music that he loved in front of enthusiastic fans for a living, and had a beautiful girlfriend who was expecting the couple’s first child.

The Sharon, PA native Longley had joined Great White just three years earlier, well after the band had enjoyed their greatest success during the big-hair ‘glam rock’ days of the late 1980’s.

Back then the song “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” was heard across radios everywhere and the accompanying music video was an MTV staple. By that fateful night in 2003, the band was struggling for survival.

Great White had formally broken up during the period of 2000-2001, but original members Jack Russell and Mark Kendall decided to put on a tour together. Doing classic Great White songs and some of Russell’s solo work, the band actually billed itself as “Jack Russell’s Great White”. Some of the original band’s fans simply referred to them as ‘Fake White’, and it was this group that Longley joined as a guitarist and keyboard player.

Along with Russell, Kendall, and Longley the band on the night of February 20th, 2003 consisted of bassist Dave Filice and drummer Eric Powers. The group exploded into “Desert Moon” to the roar of their fans at the small club, both literally and musically.

As the band began to play, tour manager Daniel Bichele set off some pyrotechnics for dramatic effect. The display was intended to look like a shower of sparks flying off in every direction, principally around the rear of the band by the drummer area. As the sparks flew off, they struck soundproofing foam that was on both sides of the drummer’s alcove, and a small fire began which many thought was part of the act.

The fire quickly got out of control, spreading to the ceiling and sending smoke billowing through the club. The band continued to play for a minute, not knowing what was going on, when they suddenly realized something was wrong. As they stopped playing, Russell commented “Wow, this ain’t good” and fire alarms began to blare in the club.

Realizing now that there was an emergency situation, the band and their crew starting fleeing towards an exit off to the side of the stage as the crowd began to stampede towards the main entrance.

Crushing one another in the small entry way, many from the audience were trapped. Of the 462 fans in attendance, 99 died and another 130 suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Ty Longley and the band had apparently escaped out the side exit to safety, and to this day a couple of the band members have no idea how he died.

However, witnesses say that Longley was out safely, but then went back into the club to retrieve his guitar. That would prove to be a bad move, because the fire spread so rapidly and the smoke grew thick and overwhelming quickly. Any action other than immediately exiting and staying out was a fatal act.

Just four days earlier, 21 people had died in a similar nightclub stampede at a club known as ‘E2’ in Chicago. As an ironic result, on the night of February 20th, local station WPRI-TV of Providence was at The Station to do a report on nightclub safety.

Their cameraman and reporter captured most of the tragic incident live as it happened and released footage to national news media in the immediate aftermath. The cameraman, Brian Butler, later said: “I never expected it take off as fast as it did. It was so fast. It had to be two minutes tops before the whole place was black smoke.”

There were some claims that Butler and reporter Jeffrey Derderian were obstructing the escape routes for some by trying to record the incident. WPRI was among the numerous targets of law suits and criminal complaints in the aftermath.

Bichele and the club managers all eventually received prison sentences, and all have subsequently been released. The club itself is now an empty lot where surviving family members and friends still leave crosses and other memorial markers and items.

While the fire at The Station was not the worst of it’s kind in U.S. history, it was one of the worst, and it was the worst in recent history.

The tragic lesson for fans who attend concerts, especially at small arenas, is to make sure that you know where the emergency exits are located. There were apparently at least three under-utilized emergency exits at The Station that night as fans streamed for the main entrance at which they had entered.

As for the band, it took awhile but the original Great White got back together and is performing now. In the immediate aftermath, some of the bands shows were shut down by protesters. The band took to observing 100 seconds of silence for awhile, but has moved on from that practice, as well as the refusal for a few years to play “Desert Moon” on stage.

Acey Ty Christopher Longley was born to Ty’s girlfriend Heidi Peralta on August 12th, 2003. Family, friends, and band management set up various funds in his name over the years, with a trust known as the ‘Baby Longley Fund’ having raised money from benefit concerts and a Ty Longley t-shirt.

Ty Longley himself and the 99 fans of both the band Great White and music in general have been lost forever to Rock and Roll Heaven.

NOTE: this is a continuation of the “Rock and Roll Heaven” series, all entries of which can be enjoyed by clicking on the Tag below this article

Rock & Roll Heaven: Karen Carpenter

 

Karen Carpenter at the White House in 1972
(Photo: Robert L. Knudsen via Wiki Commons)

On February 4th, 1983, one of the most beautiful voices in the history of modern popular music was silenced forever when Karen Carpenter was rushed to a California hospital and pronounced dead. She was only a month shy of her 33rd birthday. The cause of death was heart failure brought on by a long term battle with anorexia.

Back in November of 2008, I began what was to be a series of articles called “Rock and Roll Heaven” that would examine the controversial deaths and lives of artists in the modern music world. At that time the series began with articles on Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, and Jim Morrison. This examination of Karen Carpenter continues that series.

Karen and her brother Richard were born and raised in Connecticut, but their parents moved out to California in 1963. Richard became a piano prodigy, but Karen was more of a tomboy into sports and showed little interest in music as a young girl. On entering high school she joined the school band, and from that developed an interest in playing the drums.

Karen fell in love with the drums and became an outstanding drummer. She joined up with Richard and a friend named Wes Jacobs, and the three became ‘The Richard Carpenter Trio’, playing mostly jazz at local clubs. They also played with a band known as ‘Spectrum’ and recorded numerous demos, but they had little recording success throughout the mid-1960’s.

Karen and Richard finally were signed to a recording contract by A&M Records in 1969, and then in 1970 released their second album and first big smash titled ‘Close to You’. The album and the two hugely popular singles “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” proved to be hits, the songs becoming modern masterpieces.

As the band moved through the 1970’s, Karen was pushed by her label to get out from behind her drum set and perform at the front of the stage.

She loved the drums and was more than good at it. The greats of drumming such as Buddy Rich considered her outstanding, and in 1975 she was voted as the Best Rock Drummer of the Year by the readers of Playboy magazine. Richard said that she always considered herself a drummer who sang.

Back when she was 16 years old, Karen had begun a rigorous diet program because she thought that at 5’5 and 145 pounds she was too heavy. She was under a doctor’s supervision and dropped to 120 pounds, which she maintained for years.

As anxiety over her career direction began to mount in the mid-1970’s, she developed what would later be confirmed as the beginnings of anorexia nervosa, a now well-known but then little-understood illness. With Karen battling anorexia and Richard battling an addiction to Qualludes, The Carpenters cancelled many of their concert performances.

Karen’s personal life proved difficult as well, as she moved in and out of relationships including one with comedian Steve Martin, and an especially difficult breakup with songwriter Tom Bahler. After their breakup, which came because he fathered a child with another woman, Bahler penned the song “She’s Out of My Life“, which became a hit for Michael Jackson.

The Carpenters performed live for the final time in Brazil in 1981, which was also the year the Karen ended what had been a one year marriage to real estate developer Tom Burris. In April of 1982 she recorded her final song “Now” and then returned home to her parents house in California. The family was startled by her appearance and low weight.

After a hospital stay that forcibly put 30 pounds on her via intravenous feeding, Karen left the hospital and went back to California. Here she made her final public appearance as a singer when she performed at her godchildren’s school singing Christmas standards.

The strain on her heart after years of binge dieting had taken it’s toll, however, and she returned to her parents home where she suffered the heart failure that led to her death.

It was well known that Karen exhibited many of the deceptive eating, purging, and medicating practices of those with eating disorders during her lifetime. In the wake of her death her family started up the “Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation” to help raise awareness and research funds to combat eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. It is now known as the “Carpenter Family Foundation” and provides funding for the arts as well.

With songs such as the previously mentioned ‘Close to You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, as well as hits like ‘I Won’t Last a Day Without You’, ‘Only Yesterday’, and ‘There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)”, as well as the immortal Christmas classic “Merry Christmas, Darling”, Karen Carpenter left an indelible mark on the music-loving world.

But perhaps as much as her music, her talented drumming and her lyrical voice that caused Rolling Stone magazine to rank her as one of the 100 greatest singers of all-time in 2008, we remember Karen Carpenter for her death as a direct result of anorexia. As someone who has experienced the devastating effects of an eating disorder within my own family, it is one of the greatest challenges that an individual and family can face.

Where is the origination of a true eating disorder? Is it the same as a drug addiction, an alcohol dependency, a sexual disorder? Are they all part and parcel of individual human beings who simply cannot cope, for whatever reason, with life’s challenges, and at some point make a conscious choice to take a known alternate route to find that happiness they so greatly crave?

NOTE: This is the continuation of the series ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ begun in 2008, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on to that Tag below.