Sunday, 24 March 2013

New Day

A new video (shot by Price Harrison) from the new album by my friend Mark Harrison (a.k.a. "Snakehips"), who was kind enough to give me a lift home from a wedding reception back in January in Memphis. He is a great guy, and it was a fun ride. I really like the Bucksnort, Tennessee, reference here, though it's almost certainly lost on anyone who has never driven between Memphis and Nashville.

Snakehips "New Day" from Price Harrison on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


I've been thinking for some time of covering a Madonna song, and narrowly avoided doing so on last summer's runaway smash success trans-gender project. There's so much in her work that is crying out for subversion/perversion/inversion, but "Borderline" has always really been my favourite. Until I settled on this song and began researching it, I had been completely unaware of the Reggie Lucas connection (which, sweetly, leads us to Mtume and Miles Davis - isn't life grand?). Anyway, one morning recently, I was lying in bed, less-than-half awake, and in my sleep-addled brain, somehow I formed a connection between this song and Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over."

One Sock Missing

Dang! Turn your back for just a moment, and suddenly it's the 20th anniversary of a classic album. The Grifters were either feeling very charitable, or possibly masochistic, when they invited me and a few other primitive/non-horn players to perform on the bonus track (or "bogus track"), "I Arise." Hardly my finest recorded moment, but I do remember it was a fun evening in the back room of the flower shop at Poplar and Mendenhall where Dave Shouse worked as a delivery driver, and where the Grifters rehearsed and recorded. And it was such a nice and talented group of people in that room that night, even if the "Skronkadelic Orchestra Unlimited" didn't cover itself in glory.

I'm reliably told that, in honor of the 20th anniversary of this seminal gem, an individual video for each track on the album has been/is being produced, and here's the first, "Bummer." I miss the Grifters.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Let's Go Back to Bed

A good candidate for universal theme song of the recently unemployed, and I speak from personal experience.

In Memphis, no one can hear you scream

I was a huge sci-fi fan as a child and a young man, but nothing could have prepared me for the release of "Alien." It's one of those films which has been so influential that those who can't remember a time before "Alien" couldn't possibly appreciate just how shockingly different it was at the time. (It even inspired The Clash to appropriate the film's tag line, etching "In space... no one can hear you Clash!" on the inner groove of the "Sandinista!" album.) I saw it with my parents, at either the Paramount or Park Theaters (both of which are long gone) in Memphis, on its first release. My dad was so shocked and scared by the "chest-burster" scene that he hit the floor of the cinema and stayed there until he was convinced the coast was clear. We still laugh about it today. This is an interesting documentary on how the film came into being, though, as with so many great works, it sounds as though there was also every chance that it either wouldn't have been made, or would have been made badly. Imagine a world without this beautiful and terrifying vision of the future.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rock in Peace, Mick Cock

At the risk of sounding like a boring old git (which, by the way, I am), I think it's entirely true to say that life brings a lot of revelations as one gets older. Some have to do with decisions made which could have been better, others with roads not taken, still others with the often sizeable gaps between what we think we need in life and what we really need, and some with people we should have gotten to know better. The latter seems to be a particularly relevant theme in my own life, and the passing of time, and of a friend, only underlines this. Sometimes we don't have the time, sometimes we don't make the time, and all too often life pulls us in different directions, despite our better judgement.

Today, in Memphis, Michael Cupp, a.k.a. Mick Cock, left this world after losing a hard-fought battle with liver disease. To those who knew him, or his work, I don't need to explain anything. For the other people reading this humble bloglet, the best analogy I could make would probably be a three-way head-on collision between Iggy Pop, George Clinton and a redneck bastard child of Frank Zappa. Even that description is a massive disservice to him.

With the various bands Mike (he was first introduced to me as Mike, and that's how I always knew him) fronted over the years (the ones known to me are Cock Rock [so far ahead of the curve for Memphis, I can't even begin to describe], Four Neat Guys [in which I had the pleasure of playing with him a few times], Eraserhead, Voodoo Village People [the name a brilliant portmanteau of The Village People and the misunderstood Voodoo Village community in Memphis], Florescent Butt Jam, The Menstruls [a drag band in which I was the drummer on one or two occasions], and Whateverdude), there was always a common thread of spectacle, genre satire, self-deprecation, and fairly gentle mockery of others. Some found it offensive at times, but it was never malicious. I tend to think of Mike as court jester, satirizing everyone and everything around him, but typically placing himself in the most absurd context possible.

However, what I observed about Mike's work was that it was always done with the utmost passion and attention. Even though I only played with him a handful of times in the mid-80s and early 90s, my recollection is that he was the first "amateur" or "primitive" musician I ever played with who impressed me as having a genuine sense of professionalism and confidence. As I noted in my post on the Four Neat Guys, whenever Mike was in the mix, the band sounded much better, more together, with greater drive. He wasn't flashy, or pushy, but upon reflection, I think he understood (even at that young age) that he was a natural and extremely charismatic performer, with a very solid musical talent. His sense of humor spoke for itself, as it will now forever, beyond the grave.

Apart from all the obvious reasons to mourn Mike's passing, I have another. In the autumn/early winter of 2009, I was in a bad place emotionally. My marriage had ended, I was living apart from my kids for the first time, I had taken a sizeable financial hit, and my career was in the throes of the financial collapse (as well as a bit of my own lack of judgement). We had become friends on Facebook at some point I can't recall, but I hadn't actually seen him since the early 90s. One day, for some reason still not clear to me, I got an instant message from Mike on Facebook, engaging me in conversation.

Though we'd known each other socially for years in a fairly superficial way, as a function of playing together sporadically, we'd never really had anything resembling a serious conversation, that I could recall. Yet, in 2009, he was on Facebook instant messaging, asking how I was doing, because, for whatever reason, he was concerned. I explained the situation, and where my head was at. He was entirely sympathetic and was similarly open and transparent about the impact of losing his beloved wife Sylvia, and raising their son, Jarek, on his own. He expressed very poignantly how much he loved Jarek, how proud he was of him, and how close the two of them were. And he was reassuring in his message to me, to stay positive and focus on the people and things I loved, and the things in life which I could actually control.

This was all a bit of a revelation for me, because, in my limited exposure to Mike, I'd always thought of him as someone who tended to deflect things through his sense of humor. Maybe that was the case. I will never know, because I didn't know him well, and that's a regret I feel deeply right now. However, at that moment (in truth, it was a number of IM sessions over a few occasions), his kind words and concern, and the strength he'd found in enduring his crisis, gave me a source of strength. Yes, I had very close friends and family around me, doing and saying wonderful things in my time of need; however, in this case, here was a person who had no real investment in me, still reaching out to see if I was okay, and offering what he could by way of consolation.

I was moved at the time, and I am very moved now, and full of regret that I didn't get to know this man better when we were both much younger, let alone alive. I told him that I was due to play a "comeback" show, with Linda Heck and posse, on New Year's Day, in Memphis. This was New Year's Day, 2010, and not only did he come to the show, but he brought me a Whateverdude t-shirt and handed it to me between sets. We had a brief chat, and that was the last I ever saw of him.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, collaborators, and fans.

  Gift from Mick Cock