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.
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 he bang 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. Actually, funny thing is… Allen Klein was also resourceful enough to actually copyright and own that title had he chose.
Many will look back at Jimi and think ‘he was just a kid, man. He was just getting started!’ We can see that in hindsight. Here is what he saw by 1971: he was broke and deeply in debt, his iconic band (the Experience) had been broken up for years. He hadn’t released an album in three years. This was back when you put out 2 albums a year. Or, as Hendrix did… 3 albums in just 14 months. I don’t think Jimi killed himself. Well, I don’t think he consciously meant to kill himself. He ODd on sleeping pills. Not heroin, or blow… sleeping pills. He was so goddamn tired. He had just gotten off another grueling and crushing set of dates, and told his girlfiend*** he just wanted to sleep it off. Sleep what off? Everything. His girl problems, his money problems, his career problems, his creativity problems. *** above, ‘girlfiend’ is a typo. Or is it? I have nothing nice to say about her, and she FAR from innocent in all of this.
As for all the great guitar work ahead of him? He was over it. He had truly mastered it at a young age, and it wasn’t doing anything for him anymore. He told folks his interest was in producing. Now you have whom most consider to be the greatest guitarist in history admitting that guitar doesn’t do it for him.
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.
What did he give us after Nevermind? Not much, really. We got only one more album, Incesticide. It’s not great. Think of it, the entirety of Nirvana’s studio work was 3 measly albums: Bleach, Nevermind, In Utero. Just like Hendrix. You can probably buy about 30 albums from these bands now. In their time, though, they only put out 3 albums.
Bradley Nowell – Sublime
This one is a challenge, as so much doesn’t fit anything I have been talking about. Or… does it? Sublime has just finished a masterpiece. Not their masterpiece… but more than that. A masterpiece. A perfect album. An ‘Appetite for Destruction’. Surely, Brad couldn’t have been depressed. Plus, he was a druggie. How does he not know the strength. Well, Brad dies 2 days before the album comes out. Sadly, he never got to see any of the love or accolades it would bring. He and the band was also super duper duper broke. His record label spent millions trying to get him clean. His record company spent so much money trying to get Brad clean that the band still has not seen a penny of profits from that record.
Brad had to know he could make the greatest gen x record in history, go multi-platinum… and still never see a penny. Nor would, perhaps more importantly, would his band. His band would be broke for life because of his demons. Hardly seems fair. Fair reason to be depressed. Let’s be honest, those first couple Sublime albums are not good. Not even a little. No big whup, though. Chili Peppers first few albums are just un-listenable drivel.
OOOHH – another parallel. Hillel Slovak from the Chili Peppers dies at 26 from heroin OD. He, too, never got to see the HUGE success of the Chili Peppers. He is also close enough to call him 27 club as well. I certainly don’t think he wanted to die. Unless… he was forced to listen to Freakey Stiley or Uplift Mofo Party Plan.
I think they are dead from a combination of things that uniquely hit around age 27. Your career is in a dive. Had they lived, we would look back and simply call it a ‘valley’. In their eyes, at the time… they career was stalled to say the least. Making music is a chore. You are broke. Your last refuge for piece and quiet and release just may be drugs. Problem is, your tolerance is WAY off from what it was. Lastly, your body doesn’t handle drugs like it did 10 years ago.
We see SO much for them to live for when we look back. I think in their eyes, they saw nothing much all. Not a suicide per say… but not not a suicide, either. It is a perfect storm of everything we have discussed. It almost looks inevitable.