It is normally customary at this time of year for Real Gone to put together a brief round-up of the year’s high points, detailing our top ten releases of the previous twelve months and drawing attention to a few more great recordings that didn’t quite make the cut.
This year – 2016 – has been somewhat different. Somewhat challenging, to say the least. That’s not to say there hasn’t been good music, since there has been various gems to be discovered throughout the previous twelve months (and we shall be sharing our thoughts on such things with you in due course), but most of the positive feelings surrounding the year have been clouded by the spectre of death.
2016 has been a year like no other for saying goodbye. It may seem somewhat glib, but its been increasingly difficult to look at the outcome of the previous twelve months without hearing Norman Lovett revealing the fate of almost everyone aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf…
“Everybody’s dead, Dave…”
Proving how life can be extremely cruel, Architects’ guitarist Tom Searle lost his battle with cancer at age twenty eight. We lost downbeat troubadour Leonard Cohen, a man who’s baritone vocals and gift for storytelling paved the way for artists such as Nick Cave, Mark Kozolek and many others. We lost ex-Rainbow/Dio/Wild Horses bassist Jimmy Bain and Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill. Sharon Jones, soulstress and best-known DapTone affiliate lost her battle with cancer. The flamboyant Pete Burns of Dead or Alive died unexpectedly on October 23rd, followed by rock ‘n’ roll face and Crickets collaborator Bobby Vee just a day later. Leon Russell – an oft overlooked 70s star who was a driving force behind Joe Cocker’s grand ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ project and whose own Shelter label was sometime home to blues man Freddie King – left us in November aged 74.
The Parliament/Funkadelic spaceship flew onward, leaving behind the great Bernie Worrell. We parted ways with Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, a genuinely gifted songwriter and amazing singer. The world lost Earth Wind & Fire man Maurice White and ex-Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin. The year saw the deaths of prog rock legends Keith Emerson and Greg Lake… Record label boss and Bee Gees associate Robert Stigwood, Blue Oyster Cult’s Sandy Pearlman, ex-Fairport Convention man Dave Swarbrick and ex-Megadeth drummer Nick Menza…all gone.
We said goodbye to two members of Jefferson Airplane: founder Paul Kantner, a great visionary who steered the aircraft through many guises and styles between the mid 60s and beyond…and original Jefferson Airplane vocalist Signe Toly Anderson. Gong’s Gilly Smyth would drink tea no longer; “Fifth Beatle” and the world-renowned record producer George Martin, passed away at the grand age of 90…
This list, by no means complete, would already make some pretty depressing reading, but the year dealt two utterly devastating blows. Not even two weeks into the year, on January 10th, musical chameleon and legend David Bowie lost a secret battle with cancer. Just days before his passing, his ‘Blackstar‘ album took fans and critics by surprise with its depth and complexity, a record that took on new meanings following David’s death. The passing of Bowie touched almost everyone in some way…and in a collective outpouring of grief, perversely, the internet actually became a far more tolerant place on that January day. If that wasn’t enough, we waved our last goodbye to the legendary Prince, a man who still amazed, frustrated and surprised us all until the very end. He was a man with big ideas…and there was a feeling that he could still have a masterpiece somewhere up his sleeve.
The fact that we’ll hear no more brand new music from Bowie or Prince still feels rather bizarre as 2016 draws to a close.
On top of all of that, Rush drummer Neil Peart announced his retirement from live performance and AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams also decided the time was right to take a final curtain call.
On a more personal note, Real Gone discovered that one of their favourite websites, Ramone To The Bone, was to close its doors for the last time. Over the years, RTTB had done a fine job in rounding up the best Ramones influenced releases from Bandcamp and other places. It can be hard to discover great music among the sea of noise and site editor Boney always did a fine job in sorting the wheat from the chaff. Early in 2016, Boney announced that he had terminal cancer and was too ill to keep the site running… Gabba gabba hey, our friend, wherever you are. We won’t forget what you did for the punk scene.
Much closer to home, Real Gone head honcho Lee lost his dad to cancer, too. Gordon wasn’t a musician, but his record collection is the very reason we have detailed reviews of Creedence’s ‘Cosmo’s Factory‘ and Status Quo’s ‘On The Level‘ dropped in among the new releases from the underground. That record collection – especially in the late 70s – paved the way for a love of rock music…and even though this site prides itself on drawing material and reviews from different genres, it’ll always have a rock backbone to keep things solid.
2016 has, by and large, been horrible and we’ve yet to speak to anyone who thinks otherwise. We understand, as well as anyone, that those heroes we looked up to during our teen years are forever getting older and eventually leave us, but this year has been absolutely unrelenting. We’re grateful for the opportunity to discover new music almost constantly and will continue to spread the word, but for now, it’s time to put a particularly grim year to bed. Let’s hope ’17 is kinder to the music industry as a whole…and, in some way, kinder to each of us.
In the meantime, as always, thanks for sticking with Real Gone. We might not always take the populist route when it comes to music coverage and we’ve often shied away from the easy click-bait rubbish peddled by others, but, for those who crave the smaller details, we’re still here…and we’re ready to tackle another year. There will be a truckload of new bands and music to share with you over the course of ’17. Stay tuned…
Be seeing you.