Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Jeffrey Lee Pierce - Flamingo (1985)

Jeffrey Lee Pierce died on March 31st, 1996 - just over 17 years ago, so now seems as good a time as any to post this little oddity that I picked up during a recent trip to Palma de Mallorca.  I first heard Jeffrey's band, The Gun Club, in the mid '80s when I was around 14 - same time as I was hearing Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch.  Coming from a, what seemed to me, desolate and depressed small town in the North-East of England, I was fascinated by the dark tales of self destruction and the glamorous nihilism of these artists, but of course at that age I had little understanding of the possible consequences:

"In 1996, Pierce died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of thirty-seven. Pierce was HIV positive, while also suffering from cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis, at the time of his death. His health had been poor for some time, and he suffered further from prolonged use of opiates ("I beat scars into my arms waiting for an early death").

In a reflection on Pierce's death, the deceased musician's friend, musician Mark Lanegan, stated in an August 2004 interview for Loose Lips Sink Ships:
    In early 1996, he went to Japan, and right before he left, he and I were at his mom's in LA [Los Angeles, US] writing songs. He seemed in really good health—sometimes he wasn't in such good health, sometimes he could barely walk because he was so fucked up. When he came back from Japan, he left me a couple of messages on my answering machine. He sounded completely out of his mind, though not like he was drunk. It was strange, like he'd gone crazy; finally I got hold of someone, and she told me Jeffrey had come back, that he'd been drinking while he was gone, his liver had poisoned his system, and he was experiencing dementia. The hospital turned him away saying, there's nothing we can do for him, his liver's shut down, he's dying. After this, I get a call from him; he was up in Utah and he sounded normal. And I said, what the hell, man, everyone's saying you're going to die. And he said, they always say that. And a week later, he fell into a coma and died.
Pierce spent time with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds during the recording period of the latter's album, Let Love In. Mick Harvey, former Bad Seeds member, has recalled, "He was sat on the couch during much of the recording ... He'd come almost every day and just sit on the couch and then he'd come out to dinner with us and just mumble away. He was very hard work. He was very unusual and a very unique guy." Pierce then joined the band on-stage at the Shepherds Bush Empire venue, during the "Let Love In" tour in 1994, to sing on the Cave/Bad Seeds song, "Wanted Man". Harvey has also disclosed his personal perspective on Pierce:
    I love a lot of his songs but he was pretty hard to connect with at first. I suppose he was pretty out of it with drink and drugs and so kind of difficult to communicate with. Most of the time it was difficult to work out what he was talking about. But he was always very nice and very gentlemanly.
Cave was in contact with Pierce prior to his death and revealed in a 2012 interview:
    He looked increasingly ill, I mean, we all did, but Jeffrey looked particularly so. His pallor, you know. He was physically suffering. And then he went to Japan. I think he got involved in some kind of relief work ... Helping earthquake victims. This seemed to have a positive effect on him, you know, spiritually. Then he went back to the states. The phone calls that I got from him there, he seemed really well. Or comparatively well. And happy, you know. And then, I think, [Henry] Rollins phoned me to tell me that he died."
For me, Jeffrey Lee Pierce was as exciting and talented a songwriter as any of his contemporaries and I hope his music continues to be celebrated, including this strange and slightly incongruous record which includes a Jimi Hendrix cover, a short piece that seems strongly influenced by New Order's Blue Monday, as well as a dancefloor friendly mix Love and Desperation and some kind of free-improv-noise-skronk business.



01         Get Away       
02         Fire   
03         No More Fire         
04         Love And Desperation (12" Midnight Mix)         
05         Flamingo (Part 1)       
06         Flamingo (Part 2)

Get it HERE.


Anonymous said...

"Coming from a, what seemed to me, desolate and depressed small town in the North-East of England, I was fascinated by the dark tales of self destruction and the glamorous nihilism." That's damn right. Plus The Gun Club had that bit of Las Vegas glamour that Bishop desperately needed. I read an unpublished novel set in London about 15 years ago (can't remember title or author) in which Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a named character; living in a squat in Brixton trying hard to come off smack (and failing). Anyone else remember this?

Anonymous said...

Hey, nice article! But the link is broken :<
Can you fix it, please ? This is the only (mini-)album of the Gun Club that is missing in my collection.

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