Featured

overview

Let’s take a look at why so many great young rock talents die at 27 years old.  Was it money, fame, suicide, or just plain old drug abuse?  I have been tracking this phenomenon for at least 20 years.  Long before Kurt Cobain, Shannon Hoon, Amy Winehouse, and Brad Nowell died at that tragic age… I was watching.

Sure, there is the ‘big 3’ of Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin.  All 27, and all dead within a year of each other.  Before that, though, we had:  Brian Jones, Robert Johnson, Pigpen, and list goes on.  I want to look at all of them, as a whole.  This will involve sweeping generalties.  Be aware of that up front.  I am speaking on the whole, at the meta level… but it will all be backed up with specific examples.

For now, I am breaking the site up in to themes around the main concept.  Each discussion theme has it’s own page up top.  This is my way of working in an outline to keep my thoughts organized.

Were they just… done?

**** editor’s note.  Please read this piece LAST.  This piece is the culmination of all the other pages.

chair

Yes, I think so.  This is where I want to really explore.  I am going to explain, and back up as best as I can, why these folks were just done.  Spent.  Exhausted.  Out of great ideas, out of money, out of luck, and out of fans. If you look at the top selling albums in history, the median age is 24.  Is a rock star done at 27?  But… I guarantee they feel it.  Songs don’t come to you anymore like they did.  It used to be magic… the muse… after your early 20’s, you learn it’s a craft.  Songwriting is work.  You are thinking the fan won’t like these new songs because they feel manufactured.

We are really getting to the meat of my thesis here.  In fact, read this page LAST.  Seriously.  I wasn’t sure how to organize the site, but I figured separate pages to look at separate issues.  However, all pages lead to this one.

The greatest creative work in rock music (and perhaps in all disciplines, I don’t know) happens between 21 and 24.  I do not think, on any level, that any artist is creatively spent by 27.  HOWEVER… I think it is extremely possible that they think so.  Let’s play with some examples, and ruffle some feathers.

Jimi Hendrix was young, and a creative genius.  We can only assume crazy amounts of amazing guitar work would have continued to come for decades, had he lived.  What if Jimi didn’t think so, though?  Jimi’s ENTIRE recording career was 14 months long.  That is it.  All he ever recorded, that was released in his lifetime, was done in a year.  Jimi only had 3 albums.  You can buy about 30 now, but there were only 3:  Are you Experienced (August 1967), Axis: Bold at Love (Jan 1968) and lastly Electric Ladyland (Oct 1968).  Jimi lives another 3 years, and doesn’t release a goddamn thing.  How is that even possible?  How could shit out three of the most influential records in history in a year, and then not put anything out ever again?  Was Jimi done?  No, of course not.  But… did perhaps Jimi think Jimi was done?  It’s possible.  Remember, his manager was one of the worst people in history, and very possibly killed Hendrix himself.  When I call Jimi’s manager ‘one of the worst people in history’… it is with all respect to Allen Klein… who probably holds the title.

Axl Rose – how, and why, the hell is he still alive.  Let’s look at him as if he were in the 27 club.  Here is what you get from an Axl pre-27 years old > Lies, Appetite for Destruction, Live like a Suicide.  Here is what you get after > Spaghetti Incident, Use your Illusion.

Kurt Cobain writes Nevermind when he is 23.  Know what he did after that?  With 4 years on top in the biggest band in the world… they mustered 1 more studio album – In Utero.  Everything else was compilations and concerts and hotdog parts (lips, assholes, demos, outtakes) etc.  You know how after a band dies, the record company mines ALL that shit to release?  Well, like Hunter S Thompson… the band was already mining that garbage in their heyday.  Again, I don’t think Cobain was done writing great music at the time he died, but I betcha he thought that.

Was it the drugs?

No.  That’s too easy, and to lazy.  It wasn’t the drugs.  But… let’s look at the drugs, shall we?

Ok, yeah… it kinda was the drugs.  I say it wasn’t, because that isn’t the underlying cause or driver… but it is definitely an impact we have to look at.  Let’s say you die at 27, and it is associated with drugs.  Odds are, you have been doing drugs for a good ten years.  This means it takes you a LOT more drugs now, then it did then, to get off.

I used to a little but the little wouldn’t do it so the little got more and more. I just keep trying to get a little better, said a little better than before

Now contrast that with the fact that your body isn’t 18 anymore.  You are doing more drugs, on a more fragile body.  Your body isn’t great anymore when you are 27.  There is a reason why you send 18 year olds to go to war.

Now, you have more free time, too.  Why?  Because your band isn’t as big as it was, and it likely will never be gain.  Maybe if I get a little high, I can chase that inspiration that made me so great when I was younger.  What have I got to lose?

Was it Suicide?

Yes.  I am not talking about the ‘obvious’ suicides, either (like Cobain).  I am talking about unconscious, and accidental suicides.  Yes, accidental suicides (mostly drug related).  Is that a thing?  With a decent background in psychology, I am going to say it’s a thing.  What do I mean?

What I mean is an accidental suicide being, on some level, on purpose.  I am talking about the subconscious.  It’s the Freudian piece of your personality you refuse to acknowledge… but will still find a way to manifest.  This very often manifests (shows up) in your dreams.  Basically, you can’t betray who you are or what you think.  Not to yourself, bubba.

They talk about attempted suicides being a ‘cry for help’.  This is exactly what I mean.  Sometimes. The suicide ‘attempt’ works.

Artist, many of them anyway, are fragile creatures.  Remember Jim Morrison?  You know him as a drunken asshole bully, right?  You should, he was.  However, go find footage of him at the beginning of the Doors.  He really is a delicate young kid.  Being super rich and famous just destroyed him.
Am I saying ‘oh poor baby rich rock star has it SO tough’?

Yes.  Yes, I am.  We broke that guy, and we made that monster.  He didn’t help, of course.  There is no question Jim was a monster at the end.  Morrison was a colossal drunken asshole by the end who didn’t give a shit about fans, his band, or himself.  It’s why he dropped everything and disappeared to France.  I don’t think he meant to die, though. Not like that.  I think he wanted to shed everything… fame, his drug and alcohol problem, his band… everything.  Disappear for a few years and get some perspective.  France was absolutely the best place to go, too.  I’ll explain that later (remind me if I don’t.  I have a lot to say about France as the choice)

Ed note:  I wrote a separate piece on Jim years ago on my music site.  It addresses a lot of these thoughts.  Here is a short cut for you above.  You know how they talk about being President takes disproportionate years off your life?  How about being a rock star?  Let’s look at Jim pre-fame… and post fame.  This isn’t 40 years, though it looks like it. It was less than 5 years.  This looks like Jim, and his grandfather.

91097478b684d8bfae3af9a71f334741

Jim_Morrison

I don’t think Jim or Janis or Jimi wanted to be dead, either.  However, they were all pretty fucking spent by the time they died.  They weren’t just the biggest rock stars on Earth… they were mostly on that downside of that fame.  For Janis, you may think she was JUST fresh off her biggest success by a mile with ‘Me & Bobby McGee’.  In fact, it was her only hit.  Guess what, like Bradley Nowell (Sublime, and another 27’er***) she died just days before the breakthrough album came out.  So, she never saw that success.  It breaks my heart.  Neither did Bradley, who was several mediocre albums in with Sublime, when he died just a few days before releasing one of those most impactful rock albums EVER.  Another similar sad side note – Otis Redding died right before ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ came out.  We don’t count him in the club, though.  His age was right (26), but it was a plane crash.

*** editors note to self – Bradley was 28.  Still counting him in the 27 club.

What is worse than being the biggest star on Earth?  Having BEEN the biggest star in the world, and knowing that’s over.  For EVERY SINGLE ONE of these dead 27 year old rock stars… do you know that they had ahead of them?  They sure do!  Everyone of them knows they have the next 50 years to play state fairs, try and ween off drugs, and play that same goddamn song every fucking night.

So… death isn’t necessarily their intent… but it certainly is an option.  “better to burn out, than to fade away”

Was it murder?

No.  That is just the mind trying to put order and sense to these things.  Since Hunter Thompson committed suicide in 2005.  Too many people felt it was a murder to cover up Hunter’s interest in the 9/11 attacks.  They think he knew too much, and was too influential, to be allowed to tell his story.

While it was nothing to do with rock stars, or being 27, it speaks perfectly to the larger issue.  By the time Hunter died, he hadn’t written a proper long form book for 25 years.  His last long form work of fiction was 1980’s ‘The Curse of Lono’.  Everything after that was collections of letters, short stories, and unpublished works.  Just like a rock star who dies at 27 watches their catalog quadruple after their death.

By the time of Hunter’s passing, he was of virtually no influence to popular culture.  He was more myth than person, which always bothered him.  It was also 100% of his own creating, too.  If you wanted to silence Hunter, you would do it in 1972, when he was eviscerating Richard Nixon, the most powerful man in the world, weekly in Rolling Stone magazine.  Not a 65 year old drug addict sitting in his cabin in the woods who says out loud “I don’t trust GW Bush”.  No one does.  No one did, and no one ever will.  Wait… how in the hell did Hunter not make the 27 club?

BUT… with all that said

The answer, of course, is much more complicated. There are some VERY shady deaths, and a few straight up murders. Robert Johnson was murdered. Poisoned by an angry and jealous husband. There is really no question about that.

But let’s look at some the ‘big three’. Supposedly, Jim Morrison drank himself to death in a Paris hotel room. It never sounded right. I knew it wasn’t the whole story. A few years ago, a story broke that on some dude’s dying bed, he said Jim did NOT die in that hotel room, in the bath. He died in the bathroom stall of his bar across the street. Makes sense, Jim was always there. Apparently, Jim took a speedball (shooting up a mix of cocaine and heroin) and it stopped his heart immediately. Not wanting to deal with the cops, or be famous for the being the shitter where Jim died, they dragged him across the street and dumped him in the hotel room before calling the cops. This makes sense, and I believe it. It also explains why there was no doctor present, no paramedics called (just a coroner) and there never was a death certificate. People thought all these administrative loose ends were proof Jim was still alive. No, they were just covering the real cause of death.

Now… speedball is a killer. That is what got River Phoenix, and John Belushi. The question to me is; did Jim mean to be taking a speedball? Apparently, it is quite common that victims of speedballs think they are only getting one or the other (coke, or heroin). We’ll never know.

Janis Joplin. We knew she was sad and lonely. Odds are, with modern technology, she would be treated for chronic and serious depression. That she drifts off in a happy place and wants to be numb… well that all makes sense. Except, Janis was not known to be a druggy. It wasn’t she was against drugs, it was that she was afraid of them and didn’t like them. In the great psychedelic heyday of the San Francisco hippy scene, her best friend was Pigpen from the Grateful Dead (who also died at 27), They spent all the time together because they were both terrified of acid, and both BIG fans of drink. Had Janis drank herself to death (like Pigpen) it would have been no surprise. Heroin, though? Weird. Out of character.

Janis update Dec 2016 – there is a terrific new doc about Janis called ‘Little Girl Blue‘… and they openly and often talk about Janis and heroin.  Truly, this was news to me.  However, they people they engaged were in her inner circle… so I trust them completely.  Shows you what I know!  I will always update this page as we learn new things.  This is an evolution and a bit of freelance psychology.

Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy’s death is a lot like the Kennedy assassination. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I am about positive it is not what they are telling us. The story goes as such: Jimmy had just played Isle of Wight festival. He was super tired and broke and just exhausted on every level. He went to his girlfriends’ house in London, Monica Danneman (or was it Kathy Etchingham? He had too many gals to count)***. He takes a few of her sleeping pills, he just wants to sack out. Next morning, Monica wakes up, sees Jimmy is sleeping. Goes to run errands. Comes back and Jimmy appears dead, she call the medics. Her story has changed a LOT over the years.

*** editors note to self – it was Danneman

She is was not a pleasant person, and was VERY possessive of Jimi. There are folks who believe she killed him with the whole ‘if I can’t have you, no one will’. Do I think this was possible? Yes, very possible. Everything I have seen from that chick (interviews, written accounts, second hand stories) tell me this gal is psycho stalker girl. Do I think that is what happened, though? No. I think it was probably a terrible accident. You have to think of that scene in the Sopranos, though, where Christopher dies. Tony doesn’t exactly kill him, but when the opportunity arises, he doesn’t exactly save him. That absolutely could have been something that happened.

Then, once again, a new development came up about a year or two ago. Jimi’s ex manager, Michael Jefferies, confided on his death bed that he killed Jimi. Like Col Tom Parker with Elvis, Jefferies was the psycho Svengali that controlled everything over Jimi. He was a horrible horrible person who ruined Jimi’s life. Even if he didn’t kill him, he killed him inadvertently by forcing him to stay on the road . Told Hendrix has deeply in debt and he had to work every single day playing to keep up the costs of Jimi’s passion ‘Electric Lady’ studios.  Jefferies literally worked Jimi to death.  Not to mention that he knowingly, and admittedly, once dosed Jimi with bad acid right before he went on stage.  Jefferies is dead, now, and assuredly in hell.  He’s a regular Allen Klein.  Allen Klein doesn’t show up on this website for killing at artist yet… but I assure you he is involved somewhere.  He’s the guy who broke up the Beatles and stole the Rolling Stone’s entire catalogue.

*** Update Dec 2016 – since then, stories have emerged that Jefferies confessed  to actively killing Jimi that night in that apartment.  Is he guilty?  Well, just look at this face.  As the supreme court of public opinion, I pronounce this guy super guilty.  Just google the word ‘skeezy’ and this guy would come up.

Know that old coal miners diddy “load 16 tons, and whaddya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St Peter don’t you call me, cause I can’t go… I owe my soul to the company store“. It is VERY pertinent. The trick was this, the miners money was paid directly to the store, since that was the only place they could spend money. Well, the stuff you needed was always conveniently just a bit more than what you had. Always. So, you can’t quit, or go somewhere else. You really owe your life to that county store man, who is kind enough to float you week to week, instead of sending you to debtors prison. What the workers never knew was that the mine owners and shop keepers were in careful cahoots to keep the miners in debt.
What did young Alex say in Clockwork Orange after beating all this droogies half to death. “give them enough that they appreciate you, but no so much that they no longer need you.” So, do I think Jefferies had a hand in it? I don’t know, and we’ll never really know. I wouldn’t put it past him, though.  Not with that f

How about Kurt, and Courtney? I know the stories, I have read the documentaries. I believe Courtney had the motive, opportunity, etc etc. Yes, she is capable of doing something that horrible. Did she do it, though? Nah, probably not.  If some new evidence came forward, though, and proved she did it… would anyone be that surprised?  Btw, full disclosure – I am somewhat obsessed with Courtney Love.  First thing, she  is sometimes wicked hot.  Second thing; she is crazy…  and an asshole.  If you want to know about my journalistic history with Court, and maybe see some boobies, too… click here.  Link goes to my main music writing page.  That page, like this one, and this one, is 100% me.

Brian Jones – this is my favorite tragic death. You have heard the name, he was in the Rolling Stones, but was bounced just as they were breaking. He was basically out in the late 60s. you know his music, though. He gave us Under my Thumb, Mother’s Little Helper, Ruby Tuesday, and Paint it Black. You want a great conspiracy? This is why I say it’s my favorite, because of this. His cause of death is listed as ‘death by misadventure’. In short, he was found upside down in his swimming pool. Awfully suspicious. Entire books have been written about it. Here is what we DO know for sure. He had a very serious drug problem. He had recently been fired by the Stones. Like everything else, we’ll never know what happened that night. I just love the sentence ‘death by misadventure’. Sounds like a Hunter Thompson-ism.

Then, we have to look at Keith Moon, drummer from the Who.  Nuts.  Mostly, in a beloved way, but nuts.  When he played drums, he went SO spaz , they had to literally duct tap his headphones to his head.  Listen, I don’t believe me either, so here is a picture.  You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

But… his death is what we are here to talk about.  His death was so tragic, and yet so perfectly… Keith Moon.  Only Keith could die this way, and it should be named after him.  Keith had a BIG drinking problem.  Think ‘John Bonham’ size drinking problem.  He was sweet and funny and childlike and loved, until he got drunk.  When that happened, everyone hid from him.  The band would move to entirely different hotels and change their names… just so Keith wouldn’t show up at night and put a cherry bomb in their toilet.

They quickly realize he will drink himself to death.  He has already accidentally driven over his chauffuer, and killed him.  At a later date, he managed to drive a Rolls Royce into a pool.  On purpose?  Who knows?  Who cares?  So… they put him on meds designed to keep him off alcohol, Hemeverin..  He ODS on those.

 

How did they not 27?

I had to wonder, how did some of these guys not die at 27?  Axl? Slash?  Weiland?  Eddie Vedder?  Greg Allman?  Dicky Betts, Everyone in Aerosmith?  Ozzy?  Anthony Keidis?  Jerry Garcia?  Eric Clapton? Nikki Sixx? Layne Staley?

Layne made it to 35.  How?  I mean, sure… Keidis and Clapton dabbled in acknowledging drugs in songs like ‘cocaine’ and ‘under the bridge’… but Staley wrote an entire album about heroin.  No subtext here:  Sick Man, God Smack, Junkman.  Just a great and beautiful and powerful album all about smack

What about Keith fucking Richards?

I mean… come on – how is Keith Richard alive?  How is the ’27 club’ not simply called the ‘Keith Richards Memorial Club®’?  They each deserve their own paragraph page about how the hell they aren’t dead (or in the case of Weiland or Garcia… how did they make it past 27… or even to 27?)

There will be more here, and more about here.  This is just to get you, and me, thinking.

Eddie Vedder

The first time I saw Pearl Jam, they were unknown… literally.  I saw them in 1990 opening for Chili Peppers and Nirvana (Chili’s were the headliners.  Nirvana was touring on Nevermind… but just breaking at that moment.  They would never open again).  Pearl was the opener behind them two.  I knew the name, but nothing more.  I think ‘Even Flow’ (their first single) was just breaking on MTV… but we didn’t have cable.

clvqbx3

In fact, if you see that video, you see how he was.  He would climb the stage rigging and then hang upside down and sing.  He did this at that first show.  He would also stage dive.  Not in a club, mind you, but into the floor of an 18,000 seat arena.  I remember a lot about that show 25 years ago… and almost all of it was about Pearl Jam.  My god, they burned SO bright.  Ed would also come out from the wings during the other band’s sets… and stage dive.  That night, I became a life long Pearl Jam fan… even though I didn’t know the band or the songs.  I saw them 4 times on that tour in Phx… always smaller crowds.  For example, when they played Lolla 2 the next summer, they went on at 2 pm on a week/school day.  NO ONE was there (yet).

Being the odd student of rock history, I knew all about the 27 club even way back then.  After the triumvirate of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison in the early 70s… people started taking notice.  By 1990, it wasn’t a secret.  Too bad it just kept  happening over and over.

I knew that night that Eddie Vedder would never get to mature into an elder statesman of rock.  We now know it is mostly drugs and alcohol that kill the 27.  Eddie wasn’t deep into that, which is how he is still alive.  That night, though, I knew he would be dead within 2 years.  His insane recklessness and lack of personal safety regard told me he was a self destructor for sure.  That night, having only known of their existence for 25 minutes (being openers to openers, and having only one album out, their set was short)… I was already pre-mourning the death of Eddie Vedder.

Look at this intensity.  That was young Eddie Vedder.  Even on SNL he managed to convey that terror and intensity.  Over the years, the band has often been asked if they feared for Eddie’s safety… and would they be left without a singer (again).  They always answer a resounding ‘yes!’