Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Pipes of Pan, though not Peter

Not sure why, but I suddenly remembered the Rolling Stones' original rhythm guitarist, recognized as the founder of the band, who became a drug casualty long before we fell in love with the doomed glamour that such a term can often denote in rock music circles.

Brian Jones, the guitarist who, together with Keith Richards (I'm not sure Keef knows anymore if there's an 's' in his last name or not-his record company doesn't) and Mick Jagger, created the self-proclaimed world's greatest rock and roll band ended his life face down in the swimming pool he'd built behind the main house on the estate of A. A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, a property he'd purchased with whatever money left he hadn't yet blown on women, musical instruments and any and every controlled substance known to man, and a few not yet widely known.

A maniac with an ability reportedly to be able to pick up any instrument and coax music from it on his first attempt, Jones burned brightly and briefly across the rock and roll heavens before falling to earth. The off-kilter piano after the sound effect of the jail door slam on We Love You was his; as was the ethereal arabesque in the fade of Street Fighting Man.

His band's success enabled his life of excess and by the time he was invited to leave the band, he'd been reduced to sitting in a sound booth with instruments not even plugged in, adding embellishments to tracks that existed only in his head. Another wreck on the human highway.

I thought of him because he had the first release on Rolling Stones Records, an album that I not only purchased as vinyl (this was the 70's, okay? And with regards to Ashton Kutcher, not even close, punk) but as a cassette (stolen from my VW Kafer in Offenbach as my wife and I shopped near the Ott & Heineman store) and, wait for this, on eight track (I still own the 8-track even if the player/recorder is somewhere in our basement buried under 16 and half years of American lifestyle).

The album was entitled Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka and all I can say about it, as a description, is that it seemed like an excellent idea at the time. I was going to school full time, working for a rock FM station in NYC full-time, at night, and dating a young lady at Boston College full-time. I went to sleep with the album on the turntable, programmed to repeat in an endless loop and drove back and forth from New Brunswick, NJ to Chestnut Hill in Boston MA, with it in the player for months.

All of that was, for me, another lifetime ago (the album came out in 71) and I spent my kids' elementary school years afraid they might take the elpee to show and tell on a day the DARE Police Officer Bill Nash, now an Alderman on the Norwich City Council, was on duty. Talk about finding out there are worse things than being sent to the Principal's office.

I smiled as I typed all of this even though I have no idea where in the world Sally may be--don't even want to think about what happened to my 1972 Ford Pinto (attention Ralph Nader: mine didn't blow up) and have no knowledge of the whereabouts of any of the folks I worked with or of my classmates, except for Nat. But I had me a time, yes I did.

I'd regret the passage of those years even more if I could remember them. Perhaps, there's a small mercy in forgetfulness. And he who stammers out an answer is lost.
-bill kenny

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