Daniel Johnston is Dead.

Sometime in the late 80s I had, with partners, a film company. People would send us tapes of their films, in hopes that we could find a way to help them get their film distributed. In any case, a guy from Chicago sent me a film, I think it called Reconstruction, and I think I liked it just fine. I think that now because I got to the end credits, under which played a simple song simply arranged sung in an innocent and tuneful bleat. I watched through the credits to find out that the singer was Daniel Johnston. The song wasn’t this one:
Johnston went on to have an interesting career as an indie artist, one known for his struggles with bipolarity and the charmingly appealing art he made, as well as many collaborations and tributes by admirers such as Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits. For more you can read his obit in the Guardian here. My period of Johnston fandom was fairly short, the sound of innocence and wonder wear down after a while, but this song is a keeper:

Robert Frank is Dead.

Frank created a book of photographs called The Americans back in the 50s. It’s a terrific book of strikingly straightforward and revealing images full of, um, Americans.
Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to The Americans, an obvious choice at the moment On the Road ruled the world. Kerouac also wrote and narrated Frank’s first film, a shambling tale of New York City’s bohemian lives, called Pull My Daisy. You can view it here. Frank, of course, took the photos that made up the collagey cover of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street.
Frank also made a tour documentary with the Stones at about the same time. It is called Cocksucker Blues and the Stones, who have said they thought the film was excellent, sued to keep it from being released because its explicit sex and drug scenes were too much even for them. A deal was reached that allowed Frank to show the movie five times a year provided he was in attendance. I remember one year leaving the Rolling Stone magazine Christmas party early to see the film at the Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. You can find the film in pieces on You Tube, from time to time. Frank clearly wasn’t policing the copyright, nor were the Stones, as evidenced by this music video that uses some of the film.
Frank also made some dramatic films that drew notice, though the only one I saw was a shambling road picture featuring a who’s who of cool rock dudes in the late 80s (I’m talking guys named Johansen, Waits and Strummer, plus Leon Redbone).
This is the trailer with French titles.
This seems to be the whole film with German titles.
Final bonus video with Frank’s Super 8 film of the Stones.

Donnie Fritts Has Died

I’m always feel badly when I learn way too late about a songwriter who wrote a song I really like. Donnie Fritts wrote Breakfast in Bed, which was recorded by Dusty Springfield, with Eddie Hinton. He also wrote, with Hinton, the Box Tops’ Choo Choo Train. There is an obit here, an interesting guy who led an interesting life, never finding the fame but being famous all over.

Gary Duncan Has Died

I didn’t know Duncan by name, but he was a vocalist and guitar player in the Quicksilver Messenger Service, one of the great San Francisco bands of the late 60s. Quicksilver made a great impression on me with the brilliantly adolescent and epic first song on their first album.
QSM were nothing if not quintessential hippies, living on a commune, jamming constantly, living on health food and drugs, as this obit describes. But Duncan had an earlier incarnation as a musician in The Brogues, whose I Ain’t No Miracle Worker was included on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection.

Dr. John, Danse Fambeaux

I seem to have posted only once about Dr. John here, back in 2014, when Mac Rebennack played piano at Louis Armstrong’s old house in Corona, Queens, NYC. But Tom wrote a piece about him, which he reposted today, because Dr. John has died at 77. Too young for sure. There were many Dr. Johns over the years. The original was a Mac construction that he wasn’t even supposed to perform, but when he did it stuck. It led to hits, like Right Place Wrong Time, and the theme to the Curious George movie, but the shtick didn’t always serve the elegant and weird music Mac was making at the beginning, like Danse Fambeaux, and made throughout his career. Voodoo? Sure. But also lovely music that avoided the anthropological labels the Dr. John persona brought with him..

Little Sun Glover Has Died

I first admired Tony Glover’s writing in Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. He wrote a great story about a man who claimed to be the world’s oldest man, a story I think of often. In his obituary in today’s New York Times Glover’s writing is mentioned, and he’s quoted saying of Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix plays Delta blues for sure — only the Delta may have been on Mars. Glover reviewed the first New York Dolls album for Rolling Stone, too, which certainly turned me on to that great band. It’s a review that ranks the Dolls with the Allman Brothers as great real bands of the time, which is very true and not at all obvious, which is what we look to writers to do. One of my favorite obscure records, one of those that not many know, is Ashes in My Whiskey, the record Glover and Dave Ray made in 1990.

Lawr Michaels, Have Fun Til the End

I became friends with Lawr, like most, because of our mutual loves of baseball (real and fantasy) and rock ‘n’ roll, but much of our chatter when we would get together was about literature and storytelling, or food and cooking, or politics and wishing.

For most of the history of the Fantasy Baseball Guide Lawr put together the Mock Draft, assembling All-Star casts from his wide circle of friends and experts. Back in the early days his wife, Cathy, worked as proofreader and copyeditor on the Guide. She passed away not long after from cancer, and as one got to know Lawr one learned that his grand passion and enthusiasm for doing things came from a shadow of tragedy that trailed after him his whole life.

In 2011 he released a full album of original songs called Downward Facing Dog. I reviewed it on Amazon, where you can now find a copy for $32 cheap, to support my friend but also because I think it’s a terrific piece of work. 

Lawr was diagnosed a few months ago with some potentially serious problems and set himself on an even better diet than the good diet he already followed, and he tried to strengthen up by taking care. He said he would work on the Guide this year, but then stepped back. He passed on our Tout Wars meetings, and said he had Rock Remnants pieces to write but had to get better first. When I heard he’d taken a turn for the worse a few days ago I thought of his love for the Kinks and Richard Thompson, but when I’d heard the bad news this morning I thought of this Lawr original song.

Well, I thought of the studio version, which is neater, but this rougher version has video of Lawr himself, which is just a moment of comfort at this sad time.

.

Pete Shelley is Dead.

One of the best records I ever bought was Singles Going Steady, the Buzzcock’s compilation of their 45s. On the other hand, I realized today that I played that one over and over and didn’t hear them all. Which is too bad.

This one is up third on the original SGS vinyl. I don’t mind. Great songs, great band.

https://youtu.be/MPcnXBj8Msw