Thursday, February 21, 2008

JIM JONES (1951-2008)

I really don't like writing these obituaries, and it's even harder to put mind to pixel especially when you've actually had some sorta contact, no matter how slight, with the person you're now eulogizing but I just found out via Lindsay Hutton and his NEXT BIG THING blog (where I always seem to find out about these rock & roll deaths now that PSYCHOTRONIC seemingly went under) that former Mirrors/Styrene Money Band bassist and latterday Pere Ubu guitarist Jim Jones has died. I guess according to the PLAIN DEALER Jones had been ill for years (which prompted his leaving Ubu about a decade back) but it's like I haven't heard a thing about him being in any sort of ill health so the news of his passing is affecting me a lot more'n something like this usually would. And now he's gone, which if anything really dredges up the old memories of those not-so-glorious eighties when I was not only in contact with the guy but actually got to see him when Home and Garden hit Youngstown. That's where the two of us finally got to meet face-to-face and chitchatted for a few minutes or so, something I doubt Jones would ever remember, but for a young budding upstart in the world o' rock it was sure a memorable experience for me! And if you don't think that was definitely one of the tippy-toppest highlights of my life then brother, you don't know what it's like to be trapped in the aura of greatness!

And yeah, as the PD obit also said, Jones was an extremely nice guy to be in contact with no matter who you were. I remember this time I called him at work back when he was still at Record Rendevous and some gal who was in his employ got my phone message to him totally mangled up! Y'see, I was on the hunt for some of the rarities that Jones had in his collection including the Electric Eels session he played bass on and a tape of Mirrors' version of "Sweet Sister Ray" that was recorded around October '72, and somehow the Miss thought I was in search of some recently-released cassette tapes that were being sold at Record Rendevous that I wanted to personally buy from Jones! Anyway, Jones wrote me a particularly funny note back regarding my message asking if I was looking for some "Codger Rotters" tapes (that's "Roger Waters" to you) and that yeah, he would be MORE THAN HAPPY to dub his Eels and Mirrors cassettes for my personal listening pleasure! Whadda cutup he was! Anyway we made phone contact once or maybe twice afterwards and he regaled me with the sagas of Cleveland in the seventies with Mirrors and the Styrene Money Band...what a class act Jones was, taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to li'l ol' me! And yeah, I eventually got those tapes which helped ease me through some pretty low-energy times, and although thankfully the Electric Eels tracks have faithfully been released on a number of disques o'er the years that 19-minute "Sweet Sister Ray" remains a much-needed obscurity even to this day. If I were a conniving rat I'd bootleg this and other Mirrors rarities moiling away in my tape bin, but I won't.

I actually got to see Jones in the flesh twice in my life, the first time being when he was a member of the Easter Monkeys (who at the time were working under another name which escapes me at the moment...I believe it was Desperate Energy) at the Mather Courtyard at Case Western Reserve University June '81. (This is the same place where the final Mirrors and Electric Eels shows took place six years earlier, and judging from the photos of the stage taken in '75 and in '81 it hadn't changed much in those years!) I was there the whole day on my lonesome listening to the likes of the Wombats (pix from that show appear on their H*******d mini-album), the Human Switchboard and Modern Art Studios (not to mention that band that had Titch from Bernie and the Invisibles who did a little stage dive into the bushes) and...right when it was time for the Monkeys to play with the entire band front and center...the power was cut by the university (it was getting a bit late, but not that much!), causing some pretty caustic comments to come from the mouth of lead singer Chris Yarmock as the assembed began plotting a violent overthrow of the upper echelon. I took it as a cue to head back up to Coventry and pick up a few more albums for the pile...after all, getting caught up in a free-for-all because the authorities pulled the plug wasn't exactly my idea of a great way to cap an otherwise pleasant late-spring afternoon!

Thankfully I got the chance to see Jones again when his Home and Garden played the Cedars in downtown Youngstown 'round '86, back in the days when I still had the stamina to get up at five inna morn to go to work and party 'til the wee hours on a Friday night. I remember liking H&G at the time since they seemed like a good enough approximation of latterday Pere Ubu (this being right before I started losing interest in them and the groups they had spawned), and although I probably would just pass on that whole style of post-seventies alternarock these days it sure was great not only seeing Jim Jones perform but having a short gab with him pre-gig. He kinda reminded me of a thin Jackie Coogan whose hair was only starting to recede, and if I can recall correctly he was wearing a tank-top with the OUI magazine logo proudly emblazoned. And yeah, he was a real gent, something you don't quite see in this drugged-out, turncoat world of rock & roll!

It seemed as if everybody from the Cleveland area (and beyond) who I was in contact with back in the eighties and nineties liked Jones. Brian Sands of Milk fame was pals with him enough to release the first Foreign Bodies single on his own Bizart label, and I remember that Al Globekar, also ex-Milk as well as Andy Gerome Band and Circus ran a record store called Platterpuss with him as well. Come to think of it, I can't recall a bad thing being said about Jones by anyone, which must be a record considering the temperaments and general tone of way too many people out there in underground rock-land.

Did I ever tell you that the only time he went to see the Velvet Underground was when they did "Sweet Sister Ray" at La Cave back in April of '68, and he was sitting at the very same table with future bandmate Jamie Klimek and the hand-held Norelco (that's the Philips brand as it was known inna US) primitive cassette recorder that taped that show which we now all seem to have in our Velvets collections somewhere? And how about this story I was once told about how he caught the Silver Apples at that very same club later that year and how he thought their set was incredible, feeling apprehensive about approaching the two members of the group during intermission thinking that anybody who could make that sort of a racket must be total freakazoid axe murdering drugsots with spiralling eyes! Of course they turned out to be really nice guys and the three had a good conversation I sure wish I knew the exact details of!

And I'm sure you also know the story about how Jones, who was in England roadying for Pere Ubu back in '78, played an Electric Eels tape for Jon Savage who was impressed enough with it that he pestered Rough Trade into releasing the boffo "Agitated"/"Cyclotron" single!

Yes, another alumni of the great Cleveland "first wave" has passed on joining Peter Laughner and Stiv Bators in that great rehearsal loft in the sky. Here's to you Jones, a man of stature who fortunately treated peons like myself just as well as he would heads of state or even Jane Scott for that matter. Rock on...for all eternity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Easter Monkeys wannabe band got to play with his band Speaker/Cranker at a show in my basement. He was working his way up to the big pie in the sky the entire time. He was the kind of guy to teach you a lesson without trying.