The old cliche about rock stars being self destructive is kind of true. The problem is that we’ve moved out of the age of rock into the age of hiphop. The old stars are few in number now and are not being replaced. Prince is gone, Bowie is gone, and others are on the wane. Here are three who crossed my path and made a big impact on me. Firstly Nick Drake, who was really a folkie but with the status of a rock star after his sad demise at 26 (from an overdose of amitriptyline), and his mysterious absence from anything other than his three albums. No footage, few gigs. Just gorgeous very English music. Most people have never heard of him. He should have been massive but he was reputedly angry at the lack of interest. Accompanied here by John Cale on various instruments. Never felt magic crazy as this.
A friend, for a while, of Nick Drake, was John Martyn, during his time in Hastings old town. John was the archetypal self-destructive artist, but a very bizarre combination of, well a bit of a lout really, and a singer songwriter of incredible sensitivity. This video sums up the whole of this strange human contradiction, a live performance of his song about Nick Drake, Solid Air, where he starts in Cockney John mode, then breaks a string, fixes it rapidly and just glides into the best version I have heard of one of his best songs. I had a friend, Paul Richardson, who built a guitar for him and once played bass with him at a gig somewhere in Scotland. Paul couldn’t bear him in the end – when he drank he was vile, but at the moment he started playing it went somewhere else entirely. I was really upset when he died, but I did get to see him on the final tour in Cambridge.
Steely Dan were the cleverest band in the Seventies, but Little Feat were the coolest. Lowell George was one of the best slide guitarists of that era, and combined some excellent songwriting with just the most funky, jazzy sound which seemed to involve everyone playing something different but all slotting together magnificently. The drums on this track are phenomenal and hold it all down. Lowell crashed and burned at the age of 34, of a heart attack caused by an overdose of cocaine