Thursday, December 29, 2011

LINER NOTES: Forever 27

Forever 27 playlist.

How often do you get to mention Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Freaky Tah in the same sentence?

Amy Winehouse's death this summer brought back to mind a morbid (and growing) "club" of rock stars who passed at the age of 27. Big air quotes around “club.” The concept of artists bonded by coincidence is as artificial as any rockist's jaw-topic can get. There is a vague suggestion of the rock cliche: to die before fading away. However, for anyone who has lost a loved one due to addiction, depression or even accident knows there is nothing glamorous about burning too quickly. Christopher Hitchens may not have regretted that second bottle, but even he had to take pause over his behavior in light of leaving his children early. How trite it is to toss off, "Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse. R.I.P."

However, for the purposes of drawing, the 27 Club makes for a strangely ideal Liner Notes session. It is filled with genius artists from a range of genres and times. So it's a chance for lesser-known comrades to share airspace with celebrities. For example, we have Brian Jones' crucial contributions to the Stones (according to Keef there would be no Stones without Jones). Of course, there is the godfather of all this rawk, blues legend Robert Johnson. Jacob Miller is crucial to Jamaican popular music, yet hardly a Marley or Tosh. D. Boon of the Minutemen epitomized DIY ethics that so many of us take for granted. Yes, I'm even pointing at you, Etsy contributor. So, the line between Jimi, Janis and Jim’s hits and Johnson, Jones and Boon becomes clearer.

Perhaps Big Star's Chris Bell encapsulates this idea. "Every night I tell myself, I am the cosmos," he sings on the title track of his I Am The Cosmos solo LP. Chris is the cosmos, as much as Linda Jones or Kurt Cobain. You need to hear all these artists, big and small, to form a more complete picture.

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