Sunday, September 27, 2020

Obituary - Walter Lure

On Saturday 22 August 2020, Walter Lure, best known as the rhythm guitarist and co-songwriter in JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS, passed away. He was aged 71. The cause of death was due to complications arising from liver and lung cancer.  
Lure was born Walter Charles Lurh Jr on 22 April 1949 in Floral Park, in the Queens borough of New York City, the son of Eillien Luhr (ne: Kealy) and Walter Lurh, a retail banker. He grew up in Queens Village while his teens were spent in Floral Park, Nassau County. 
On graduating from Fordham University - where he majored in English and minored in Chemistry - he tested safety products for the Food And Drug Administration in Brooklyn. 
In 1975, after playing in a number of cover bands, he joined THE HEARTBREAKERS. In his autobiography published earlier this year, To Hell And Back: My Life In Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, he wrote of his meeting with the band at Richard Hell’s East Village apartment where his hair was cut off and Jerry Nolan cooked up a shot of Heroin: “Everything I would experience during that period, but especially throughout the life span of the Heartbreakers, would ultimately be refracted through the lens of my addiction.”
He had distinct opinions on how a Rock ‘n’ Roll band should sound, writing in the same autobiography: “It was as if everybody was so concerned about somehow sounding ‘unique’ that they forgot that, sometimes, the kids just wanna rock. That was the niche that the Heartbreakers slipped into, and that was why they’d excited me so.” That was directed to his NYC contemporaries TALKING HEADS and TELEVISION. 
Within THE HEARTBREAKERS, he performed on and wrote several songs on what became one of the late-70s most iconic, influential and down-right enjoyable albums, ‘L.A.M.F’ - this included taking over lead vocal duties on such classics as ‘One Track Mind’ and ‘All By Myself’. The band played all of the NYC hotspots of the era, plus the infamous ‘Anarchy’ UK tour of 1977 with SEX PISTOLS.  He left the band in 1978 but returned a number of times through to 1991.
Post-HEARTBREAKERS he scored a job as a stock broker on Wall Street running financial date for a computing company - a job he supposedly garnered via his father’s connections. This lead to a position at a brokerage firm overseeing a team of 125 and a long career in finance that lasted until he retired, in 2015.
In 1988, he managed to sober up and dry out after years of drug abuse. Throughout this time, he intermittently played several HEARTBREAKERS reunions, continued to work with JOHNNY THUNDERS on his solo work, augmented RAMONES on both ‘Subterranean Jungle’, ‘Too Tough To Die’, worked with the bands THE BLESSED, THE HURRICANES and THE HEROES  plus his own band, WALTER LURE AND THE WALDOS which released its debut album in 1994 with ‘Rent Party’ and a final album in 2018 entitled ‘Wacka Lacka Loom Bop A Loom Bam Boo’.
The last surviving member of the iconic HEARTBREAKERS line-up, Lure passed away peacefully in hospital surrounded by family and friends. 
Lure is survived by his son, Damian Da Costa, a brother William Luhr, twin granddaughters and his partner, Mr Andy Le. 

I never got to see Walter Lure live. I am a massive Johnny Thunders fan and have watched a lot of videos, listened to a lot of records (official and bootlegged) and, without a doubt, Lure was the best accompaniment for the Thunders talent.  He seemed to provide a bit of grounding, with his centre stage position. It’s also clear that his tracks on ‘L.A.M.F’ gave it that extra dynamic that pushes it into a different league.  And let’s face it, if Johnny Ramone can allow him to cut guitar parts on three RAMONES albums, then the talent speaks for itself. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Obituary - Tim Smith

On Tuesday 21 July 2020, Tim Smith, best known as vocalist, front man and main writer of CARDIACS passed away. He was aged 59. The cause of death was a heart attack. 
Born Timothy Charles Smith on 3 July 1961 in Carshalton, Surrey, England, he had formed his first band by 1975 with some school friends while 1977 saw the formation of THE FILTH with his brother Jim. 
By 1979, he had formed CARDIAC ARREST releasing its first single, ‘A Bus For A Bus On A Bus’, before taking over vocals the following year for the ‘The Obvious Identity’ cassette album. In 1981, the band had morphed into CARDIACS for the release of the cassette album, ‘Toy World’.
In 1983, Smith married Sarah Cutts, who had joined the band three years prior. 
Smith created the Alphabet Business Concern in 1984, a carefully constructed myth of an exploitative organisation that dictated CARDIACS activities and held them to account. It debuted with ‘Archive Cardiacs’ that compiled the two previous cassette only releases. All future CARDIACS material, bar a rare exception or two, was released on Alphabet Business Concern. 
CARDIACS was a unique band and virtually unparalleled in a live setting. Fusing the abrasiveness of Punk and the musical exploration of Prog Rock, the band created a truly original sound be it on the minor hit single, ‘Is This The Life’ (minor as in reaching #80), through the majestic ‘Heaven Born And Ever Bright’ album (which opened with symphonic ‘The Alphabet Business Concern {Home Of Fadeless Splendour}’) through to the epic double album ‘Sing To God’.
Smith had a few side projects also, including the solo album ‘Tim Smith’s Extra Special OceanLandWorld’ which was recorded between 1989 and 1991 and saw release in 1995, while THE SEA NYMPHS was a side project that featured his ex-wife Sarah and William D. Drake (both of whom had been in CARDIACS), and played a gentler, lighter sound featuring greater emphasis on keyboards, vocal rhythms and brass. 
Two lesser known roles included performing with Jo Spratley in SPRATLEY’S JAPS in 1995, playing on and producing the band’s 1999 album ‘Pony’, and touring solo in support of GINGER AND THE SONIC CIRCUS in March 2006.
Outside performing, he also owned the recording studio, Apollo 8 in Wiltshire, producing several artists including LEVITATION, EAT, OCEANSIZE, SIDI BOU SAID and former WILDHEARTS frontman Ginger. 
He was also recognised as a video editor, working with bands as disparate as SEPULTURA and THE FRANK AND WALTERS, along with CARDIACS. 2008 saw the film, ‘The Wildhearts Live In The Studio: A Film By Tim Smith’ which featured THE WILDHEARTS performing their self-titled album along with some surreal intervals.   
A final CARDIACS album, ‘LSD’, remains unfinished. 
Tragedy struck on 25 June 2008 when Smith suffered a heart attack and stroke (after a MY BLOODY VALENTINE concert) and underwent a long period of rehabilitation, which included a second stroke in hospital. He experienced a lack of oxygen to the brain during cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with dystonia, which causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. To aid his on-going recovery, three events named The Alphabet Business Convention were staged in 2013, 2015 and 2017 while in 2016 a one-off gig in Preston named The Whole World Window was staged. 
A fundraiser set up for his care in 2018 read: “This condition has affected Tim’s movement, his dexterity, his ability to speak, and it has added painful muscle tone and spasms that are a permanent feature of his life these days.” Just the year before, Smith is quoted as saying of his condition, “Imagine if you were wearing a skintight bodysuit made of fishnet all around you, with electrical pulses going all the time. This is what my body feels like unless I fall asleep.”
On 25 October 2018, Smith received the degree Doctor Of Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which brother Jim accepted on his behalf. 
Smith’s passing was announced by his brother Jim and bandmate Kavus Torabi stating Smith had “passed away peacefully at around 10.30pm”. 

My memories of CARDIACS go back to seeing them on Channel Four’s The Tube in 1987, when the programme aired the ‘Tarred And Feathered’ video. I didn’t have a clue what it was, whether I liked it or hated it. The Tube, from memory, played more CARDIACS stuff - and I got a taste for them. 
I finally got to see the band when they played Ipswich Caribbean Club in March 1992. The Caribbean had a reputation for bad sound but CARDIACS made the place sound awesome - the only band I ever saw that managed it.  I caught them again at Colchester Arts Centre around 1996 on the ‘Sing To God’ tour and a final time at the, I think Highbury Garage (although it might’ve been the Camden Falcon - I know it was cold though!) in early 1999.  
CARDIACS gigs were joyous, distinctly British (as in fusing hymns and music hall into their sound), chaotic, celebratory and frequently laden with make-believe cruelty (witness Tim’s goading and near bullying of his bassist brother, Jim). But never once was I not impressed, or even amazed that such complex songs could be played so efficiently and when the jarring, fractured sounds exploded into a joyous, heavenly symphony of sound, it was a truly beautiful thing.  
Where Smith’s muse came from, I cannot begin to imagine but I feel intensely fortunate that it touched me deeply and I got to experience The Leader Of The Starry Skies in all of his fadeless splendour.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Obituary - Ken Chinn

On Thursday 16 July 2020, Ken Chinn (also known as Mr Chi Pig), best known as the frontman of Canadian Punk band, SNFU passed away. He was aged 57. No official cause of death has been announced. 
Born Kendall Stephen Chinn in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on 19 October 1962, he was the son of a German mother and Chinese father and the second youngest of 12 children. His childhood was traumatic, much of it related to an unstable family life and which would later be diagnosed as schizophrenia. According to Chinn’s early-teen friend, Cameron Noyes, who lived with Chinn at the infamous down-town Edmonton house, Nosedive, they were also the last family in Edmonton to have no running water. 
In 1981, along with brothers Marc and Brent Belke, he formed a band called LIVE SEX SHOWS. This was a short-lived band, but the trio would soon form the band that has become synonymous with Chinn, SOCIETY’S NO FUCKING USE - better known as the acronym SNFU.
Chinn was renowned for high-octane, enigmatic, rather mischievous and frequently airborne performances which often included masks, puppets, outfits and other props and this helped lead the band to release its first records on YOUTH BRIGADE’s BYO label before a splitting in 1989 due to exhaustion and in-fighting. 
Chinn moved to Vancouver, Canada and fronted another short-lived band in THE WONGS which released a solitary EP in 1990 and then split the following year. An even more short-lived band in LITTLE JOE soon followed. Vancouver also provided Chinn’s gateway to a long battle with a number of hard drugs and his coming out as homosexual. 
Late 1991 saw SNFU reform and sign to Epitaph Records in 1993 - producing what was the band’s highest-profile period. However, the label didn’t renew the band’s contract in 1997 and by 2001, there was another hiatus. 
As before, Chinn formed another short-lived project in SLAVECO before SNFU returned to action in 2003 before another split in 2005. This time, Chinn had a down-turn with periods of depression, poverty, addiction and homelessness leading to a complete mental breakdown at the time his mum passed away. Somehow, he also managed to work on an as-yet unreleased solo album. 
2007 saw SNFU reform again and generally stay active from that point on. 
In March 2010, Chinn was the subject of a biographical film in Open Your Mouth And Say... Mr Chi Pig (review here).  The following year Chinn suffered extreme pneumonia along with bouts of cachexia, a wasting syndrome related to chronic alcoholism and malnutrition. The band also became the subject of a book - Chris Walter’s ...What No One Else Wanted To Say - which is pretty much the defining, in-depth analysis of the band and Chinn as a person. 
2013 saw Chinn perform some solo shows as DNFU (Distortion’s No Fucking Use). 
Most recently, Chinn inspired the Edmonton event, Mile Zero Dance Society’s Second-hand Dances for the Crude, Crude City in January - an exploration of what it means be to Punk or alternative in today’s world. In the work, choreographer/dancer Gerry Morita channelled the frustration, violence and catharsis of the early Punk scene.
Outside of the band, he often held court at Vancouver’s Pub 340 or perhaps The Cambie Pub, liked steak tartare, loved to travel, and had read chef Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential repeatedly.
It was reported in November 2019 that Chinn had been medically diagnosed as having only one month to live.  
In the wake of Chinn’s passing, childhood friend Noyes is part of a small Edmontonian group (which includes local venue the Starlite Room) that is working on a pitch to the city to have a mural painted and a statue erected in honour of Chinn, and also to organize an online memorial for him.

I got to see SNFU twice - both crackers - one with a younger Chi, the other with an older version of the same man.  First time was down in Brighton at, I think, the Richmond back around 93/94. It was December, cold and I missed the band’s gig at the George Robey (with SNUFF...). I’d long had at least the first two of those three classic debut albums - it was a time the band was already on Epitaph if I recall. Chi was stunning - energised is one word but not sufficient.
The second was way more memorable - in the band’s home town of Vancouver, Canada during a visit in 2016.  I saw a flyer in a local record shop, got directions (and it was a ten minute walk from where I was staying!) so off I went.  I recall it was an awesome venue with typical Canadian hospitality.  The band blazed, but Chi looked old, damaged but still enthralling.  On the merchandise stand was that biography mentioned above.  Given I was on holiday, I bought it and the seller suggested that, if I hang around after the gig, Chi might sign it - “no promises... Depends on his mood.”  I’m not really an autograph seeker but, SNFU in their hometown and only a ten minute walk home? OK... I waited.
Chi finally appeared and the seller on the merchandise stand (who had retained my book during the gig), pointed me out and gave Chi a pen.  A big signature was scrawled (and on the flipside of the page, so was Chris Walter’s). Chi suddenly grabbed my head, kissed (a bit too noisily) my ear, drawled “thanks man,” and off he went.  It was quite a moment (Good? Bad? You decide!) - both touching, engaging and surprising - just wish I had got a photo somehow!!
Mr Chi Pig - a legend in every circle of Punk Rock and one that set the bar high while succumbing to just about every low imaginable. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Obituary - Steve Hanford

On Thursday 21 May 2020, Steven Hanford (also known as Thee Slayer Hippy), best known as the drummer in Portland based band POISON IDEA, passed away.  He was aged 50. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Hanford was born in Walla Walla, Washington in 1969 before moving to Portland with his family at the age of two. He was playing drums by the age of eight - the same age he allegedly started smoking pot. After playing in a few bands (including Portland’s MAYHEM), he joined POISON IDEA at the tender age of 15, making his recording debut two years later with the album ‘War All The Time’ which not only featured Hanford’s drumming but was also produced by the then-teen.
Come 1990, ‘Feel The Darkness’ heralded what is arguably the greatest of all POISON IDEA albums featuring classics like ‘Taken By Surprise’ and the monumental ‘Just To Get Away’. Again, Hanford produced, this time with aid of the band. It was with this album that the band’s reputation for excess became legendary, with Hanford not being left behind!
Following another intense album in 1993’s ‘We Must Burn’, the band split.  Hanford soon formed a new band, GIFT, with POISON IDEA’s vocalist Jerry A, which released a single album in ‘Multum In Parva’.
He also lended his production skills to albums by Portland post-Hardcore band HEATMISER and indie two-piece CARDINAL.
His addiction, both to drugs and alcohol, lead to a failed suicide attempt and to him spending over seven years in jail (at Oregon State Penitentiary and then Pendleton Correctional Facility) following a succession of pharmacy robberies.  This was in October 2008 and followed an abortive attempt at rehab in which private information was made public by one of the staff.  It wasn’t exactly wasted time though as Hanford joined various inmates and apparently recorded 13 albums with various bands, including two on which he sang lead vocals. 
On release, he collaborated with fellow inmate Sam Redding who started a music programme at Pendleton, on a BLUE OYSTER CULT tribute record and in 2016 went on tour as a hired sticksman with Chicago doomsters, SKULL. More importantly, he stayed clean following his release.  
Coming right up to date, Hanford’s latest project, FETISH, released its debut album ‘World Eater’ in 2019 and included ex-POISON IDEA members, Eric Olsen and Brandon Bentley.
A mere month after that album’s release saw Hanford join THE ACCUSED AD as touring drummer and produce Nick Oliveri;s MONDO GENERATOR’s latest ‘Fuck It’.

It’s kind of a tragedy that I saw POISON IDEA just twice - once at the London Astoria in, I think, 1994. I’m pretty sure the ball of flying hair behind the drumkit was Hanford - surely sounded like it! The second time was several years later at the Highbury Garage - around five years later I guess.
A truly stunning drummer with a fine ear for sound quality, hence his production credits.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Joe Strummer Foundation

I’m sure everyone reading has heard of JOE STRUMMER, the legendary frontman of THE CLASH, solo artist, short-term POGUE, writer and actor. Many have had the tag ‘legendary’ attached to their name, but few deserve it more than Strummer.
What you might not have heard of is a charitable collective in East Sussex, England called JOE STRUMMER FOUNDATION. Its aim is to provide opportunities to musicians and support to projects around the world that create empowerment through music. 
This is achieved via various projects and fundraisers, the latest of which is a rather smart split digital single of CLASH tunes.
The Foundation has three main objectives, being:

  1. The prevention or relief of poverty, particularly of young people, anywhere in the world by providing: grants, items and services to individuals in need and/or charities, or other organisations working to prevent or relieve poverty.
  2. To promote, improve, develop and maintain the education of the public in the art, culture and science of music in all its aspects for the public benefit, in particular young musicians, including by the provision of funds for the purchase of musical instruments and studio rehearsal.
  3. To promote, improve and advance the arts, including music, for the public benefit including by the presentation of exhibitions, public events and concerts.
Their latest project in raising both funds and awareness is a split digital single featuring DIY stalwarts NOSEBLEED and THE ZIPHEADS, both of which cover a CLASH song. It was released on 8th May as a joint venture with Joe Strummer Foundation and Bomber Music, raising funds to support musicians in these incredibly difficult times.
You can get the digital single via Bomber’s bandcamp page with all proceeds going to the JSF, and find out more about the Foundation HERE.