Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jeffrey!

Pierce near the end of his life.

Well, lordy. It's just about what would be Jeffrey Lee Pierce's 53rd birthday, and, as with any brilliant songwriter/bandleader, he's already snuffed it. So, fifteen years after his death, I'm going to celebrate him by posting some of my favorite Gun Club songs from their best records.

The unfortunate thing is that by the time Pierce died, I was only 11 going on 12, and too busy with Bush and Nada Surf to find out that the Gun Club had existed. So, they were an early adulthood discovery. But my first time hearing Fire of Love was a thrill - god, it was exciting to find such a record in existence. Even as an adult, where nothing is forbidden and all the things that seem exciting in childhood become anticlimactic, Fire of Love is a record that, on both first listen and most recent listen, makes me feel like I'm sneaking a listen to something that no one else knows about. It's like the most thrilling secret I could struggle to keep to myself. And when I listen to it in the privacy of home, and share it with no one, I feel like the coolest fucking person on the planet. It's just that good. And it holds up so incredibly well, thirty years in.

The only thing better than discovering Fire of Love, in fact, and this altogether genre of cowpunk that I'd never before placed in a genre, was discovering that 1982's follow-up, Miami, was even better. More cohesive, more mature both musically and a bit lyrically (and, I suppose, the lack of that forbidden "n" word found on Fire of Love, which would be absolutely banned today, made me more comfortable listening to Miami). Not to mention that great version of CCR's "Run Through the Jungle," the only occasion on which I've found success in liking a CCR song. And beyond this record, to find 1987's Mother Juno, and discover that Pierce and his rotating lineup could not only throw down country and blues with an untouchable punk spirit, but that they could also offer a song as unexpectedly lush and delicate as "The Breaking Hands."

The Gun Club became a favorite as soon as I heard them, and they'll probably stay in my top five for a good number of years. I'd be an idiot to idealize Pierce, because the truth of the matter is that he drank himself into a coma and died at 37, and he spent his childhood in places like Montebello and Granada Hills, which aren't exactly glamorous much. But he reminds me of the spirit I recall Los Angeles having in the '80s, something it's lost since, and his music was nothing short of brilliant. So, I'm going to call it a night and say, "Happy Birthday, and thanks for giving me that rare something to get excited about."

If you don't own Fire of Love, Miami, or Mother Juno, you ought to. Go buy them. Fire of Love comes out on vinyl July 5. And for superfans, Early Warning has great versions of their stuff, including a marvelous acoustic version of "Promise Me."


sr-71 said...

what, no love for The Las Vegas Story???? for shame!

China said...

Ah shucks, everyone has their favorites. For what it's worth, I thought Mother Juno was way too dated when I first heard it, and now I can't stop listening. So maybe I'll come around.

China said...

Okay. A few weeks later I've revisited The Las Vegas Story. And you're right, it's fuckin' good. Forgive me!