I first saw BB King in 1969, at The Royal Albert Hall in London.
There was this party for Release – the organisation set up by Caroline Coon and pals to assist in the legal defence of people who were getting busted – and suddenly Sgt Pilcher and his drug squad were pouring in, the smell of hash suddenly overtaken by the smell of bad vibes.
“Where’s George? Where’s Eric?” Pilcher wanted to know. Pilcher was told that George Harrison and Eric Clapton had left. “They’re gone, mate”. On hearing that his pop star targets were no longer present and now there were no big names to fry, Pilcher and his forces withdrew immediately and everyone started skinning up again.
George and Eric had gone to The Albert Hall, to worship at the alter of BB King. Seemed like a good idea. At the backstage door a bunch of guys were trying to scam their way in, telling the aged fellow guarding the door in his uniform that they were in a band too and loved the blues, they simply had to get in.
The stage doormen in those days seemed like relics from the Boer War, doddery old codgers, mostly sweet but not much of an idea about this rock’n’roll thing. Better at handling opera punters.
“Excuse me, would you be kind enough to show me to the dressing-room?” you say authoritatively to the old geezer, waving your briefcase at him. “Oh certainly sir” says he, not a clue as to who you are or who you aren’t, ushering you in past the Fleetwood Mac chaps still trying to get in.
And BB King was amazing.
BB King – Live At The Regal (1965) Complete album
BB King ‘Live At The Regal’ in 1965 opened the door for me. I loved the rougher guys – Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf – but B has this sensual caress to his guitar-playing like no-one else. He flew and even when he cried the tears of his music elevated you and washed away the pain. And what a singer – listen to BB and Bobby Bland together on ‘The Thrill Is Gone’…
BB King & Bobby Blue Bland – The Thrill Is Gone (1977)
BB is gone now too. I am blessed to have seen BB in many different settings, from riding the monster with U2 and their ‘When Love Comes To Town’ to following him around Mississippi for four days as he tithed the money from the four gigs to the Medgar Evers Foundation, something he did every year, The King Of The Blues BB King playing what was left of the down-home chitlin’ circuit where the sheriff on the horse was black.
God bless you, B. You were a gentleman. We salute you. Fly on, sir.
Sept 16th 1925 – May 14th 2015
Ian McLagan died suddenly last December in his adopted home town of Austin. Today would have been Mac’s 70th birthday.
A bunch of his friends gathered at SXSW this year to pay tribute to their pal, this very loved man who’d been the keyboard player in the Small Faces, The Faces, with the Stones and in Dylan’s band and so much more, so much more.
On the panel – singers BP Fallon and Patty Griffin both of whom Mac recorded with, bass-player Jon Notarthomas of Ian McLagan & The Bump Band who played with Mac solo too, KUTX radio personality Jody Denberg, Jo Rae Di Menno who did Mac’s press and David Fricke Senior Editor of Rolling Stone.
Says BP Fallon here – “What is stardom? Stardom is generosity of spirit and the joy of life made contagious and in that context Ian McLagan was as big a star as anyone”.
BP talks about Mac watched by Patty Griffin and David Fricke. Photography by Radek
David Fricke & BP Fallon & Jody Denberg & Jo Rae Di Menno & Patty Griffin & Jon Notarthomas. Photography by Radek
Ian McLagan with Patty Griffin ~ ‘Never Say Never’ ~ The David Letterman Show
Ian McLagan & BP Fallon during the recording of the BP Fallon & The Bandits album ‘Still Legal’. Photography by Radek
Even in the dark Mac was a beacon of light. Recording at Red Horse Ranch Studio ~ BP Fallon, Hector Munoz, Clem Burke, Ian McLagan & Aaron Lee Tasjan. Photography by Radek
Ian McLagan’s home in Austin. Photography by BP Fallon
Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan
May 12th 1945 – 3 Dec 2014
Rest In Peace, Mac. And thank you. We love you x
On the 24th anniversary of the death of the great Johnny Thunders, we present this reflective and moving piece by his former manager BP Fallon. From the book ‘My Generation: Rock’n’Roll, An Imperfect History’ (Lilliput Press 1996).
The New York Dolls, particularly their gutter peacock guitarist Johnny Thunders, they were gods to the whole of 1976 punk, and The Sex Pistols, The Clash, they carved themselves from the shadows of
Iggy And The Stooges, Lou Reed and The Velvets, Bolan and Bowie and The MC5 and a boy called Johnny.
You meet Johnny in 1972 in the after midnight of a dentist’s surgery in Harlem. He’s a flash peacock in rags of glitter, platform boots and a jet-black plumage of shoulder-length backcombed hair as if a buzzard has been nesting on his head. On-stage upstairs at Max’s his streetwise Italian face pouts as he poses, a cross between Keef Richard and an urban subterranean gutter glam outlaw. A punk. Plus of course Johnny plays the bestest, most exciting, powerful vicious guitar in town.
Come ’76 The Dolls have collapsed in a storm of too much drink and too many drugs, rejected at large for their Neanderthal rock’n’roll, and Johnny is in England fronting The Heartbreakers, he and The Dolls’ second drummer Jerry Nolan. The first, Billy Murcia, he accidently OD’d on Mandrax. Johnny and Jerry, they’re junkies and they celebrate their stupidity with songs like ‘Chinese Rocks’ and ‘Too Much Junkie Bizness’. The Heartbreakers collapse.
At a party for Patti Smith, Johnny Thunders asks you to be his manager. Listen, heroin is the horrors, the darkest of darknesses, a hole into which junkies pour their very life. If you wanted an ad against heroin, Johnny Thunders was it to a T. A rock’n’roll genius turned into shambolic mess. We managed some gigs at The Speakeasy, Steve Jones and Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols playing with their hero. Sid Vicious got up once. He idolized Johnny and wanted to form a group with him called The Junkies. One gig was billed as ‘The Living Dead’.
In interviews, Johnny has kindly said that I was responsible for putting together his best LP, the album ‘So Alone’. Loyal musicians who lent their support came from The Sex Pistols, The Only Ones, The Heartbreakers, even Traffic. Chrissie Hynde sang backing vocals. On the storming version of Derek Martin’s R&B classic ‘Daddy Rolling Stone’, first Johnny, then Phil Lynott, then Steve Marriott sing a verse. Phil, he was concerned at Johnny’s health. “He’s too out of it, knowarramean?” And then there was Johnny’s most beautiful, sensitive tragic song. It was titled ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ but Johnny, he always sang it “You can’t put your arm around a memory”. Christ, Johnny.
BP Fallon & Johnny Thunders 1990 by Paul Murphy
Sunday afternoon at the tail-end of April 1990 and Johnny is over at your house. He’s been in Ireland a week or so and the previous night appeared in Dublin at the New Inn. Naturally, it was chaotic. And sad. And brilliant sometimes, like when Johnny’s into a rambling blues and he’s saying “And there’s you kids, the reason, the reason why. I tell ya, if it wasn’t for the kids!” and the guitar, it cries, a flurry of notes weeping the blues. Johnny is playing his heart out.
Sunday afternoon, sunny, we sit here and play records and talk and Johnny plays a tape of some new stuff he’s recorded.
Heroin? Naw, he’s just on methadone now he says, gets it on prescription. Doesn’t do heroin, no not never. Well… hardly ever.
He’s hoping for a record deal somewhere. His wife Julie is back in Michigan with the kids, has been for years. He’d been living with his girlfriend Susanne in Sweden but that … well, that isn’t happening either.
And then you put on The Shangri-La’s song ‘Give Him a Great Big Kiss’ from Johnny’s So Alone album and Patti Palladin, her voice all Noo York sass like all of The Ronettes chewing gum, she teases “Well I hear she’s pretty bad” and Johnny, he responds “Well she’s good bad but she’s not evil”, and sitting here now Johnny’s lived-in face, the mouth grins lopsidedly and there’s a twinkle from under the drooping eyelids and for a moment he looks so happy and so vulnerable, the wounded artist touching the sunlight for a moment and you understand again why you love him.
Johnny’s leaving now, leaving for the airport. He has no home, no number. Says maybe he’ll go to New York after he’s played in London, maybe go back to Paris. Says he’d like maybe to live in New Orleans.
Johnny gathers his plastic bag of medications and in the street we hug. Once, he’d had a muscled torso like Iggy. Now underneath his pinstriped suit he seems suddenly frail. This battered artist who sings from the slums of his soul is on the home run.
Six days short of a year later, Johnny Thunders is in New Orleans. He’s just done a tour of Japan. Two days ago he’s recorded with the group Die Toten Hosen, recorded his Heartbreakers favourite ‘Born To Lose’. He’s thirty-eight years old. And he’s dead. The police find vials of methadone, and in the toilet a syringe. The coroner’s report says the cause of death may have been drug-related.
Bye bye Johnny.
– BP Fallon 1996
Johnny Thunders ~ So Alone (full album). Produced by Steve Lillywhite. Directed by BP Fallon
Johnny Thunders July 15th 1952 – April 23rd 1991
Billy Murcia October 9th 1951 – November 6th 1972
Jerry Nolan May 7th 1946 – January 14th 1992
Arthur Kane February 3rd 1949 – July 13th 2004
Chris Wood June 24th 1944 – July 12th 1983
Phil Lynott August 20th 1949 – January 4th 1986
Steve Marriott January 30th 1947 – April 20th 1991
John ‘Irish’ Earle 1944 – May 8th 2008
Billy Rath 1948 – Aug 2014
This radio programme was broadcast April 20th 2012 on the 21st Anniversary of Steve’s death, bless him
Wang Dang Doodle Artist Of The Week – from London
– Steve Marriott 21 Years Gone But Not Gone (2012)
Steve Marriott Jan 30th 1947 – April 20th 1991 RIP
00:00 Hi And Happy – BP & Tara & Ashley 4 play
00:21 BP Fallon’s Wang Dang Doodle – Ronnie Drew
00:31 High And Happy – Steve Marriott
03:05 Love Interruption – Jack White
05:36 The Kids Don’t Dance – The Happen Ins
09:30 American Beat – The Head Cat
11:07 BP verbal
12:34 Louisiana Blues – Steve Marriott
16:16 You’re Not The Only One – Black Pistol Fire
20:00 Love Is Dead – Kopek
23:58 Street Rat – Steve Marriott
26:39 BP rabbit
27:36 Bluegrass Interval – Steve Marriott
31:33 Never Say Never – Ian McLagan & Patty Griffin
34:58 New Year’s Eve – Tom Waits
39:22 New Year’s Eve At The Gates Of Hell – Ray Wylie Hubbard
42:51 Mother Blues – Ray Wylie Hubbard
48:43 The Eagle Flies On Friday – The Head Cat
52:00 Hambone – Steve Marriott
54:44 BP au revoir
56:17 Lord Let Me Hold Out – Steve Marriott
59:40 And the jingles jangling go auld triangling