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Jim Marshall – A BAMM Tribute

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We’ve been losing far too many musical icons in recent months. First came the untimely death of Monkees pop maestro Davy Jones, then – only last week – we bid farewell to all-American country legend Earl Scruggs. Now we’re sad to say goodbye to another pivotal music figurehead: Jim Marshall, the creator of the Marshall amp, and the self-made ‘father of loud’. If you’ve ever had the neighbors complain because your jamming session is shaking their floor like a tectonic plate, chances are it was because of old Jim’s technology.

Marshall Amps released the following statement:

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved founder and leader for the past 50 years, Jim Marshall. While mourning the Guv’nor though, we also salute a legendary man who led a full and truly remarkable life.

“Jim’s ascent into the history books as ‘the Father of Loud’ and the man responsible for ‘the Sound of Rock’ is a true rags-to-riches tale. Cruelly robbed of his youth by tubercular bones, Jim rose to become one of the four forefathers responsible for creating the tools that allowed rock guitar as we know and love it today to be born. The groundbreaking quartet also includes the late, great trio of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover – together with Jim, they truly are the cornerstones of all things rock.

“In addition to the creation of the amps chosen by countless guitar heroes and game-changing bands, Jim was also an incredibly humble and generous man who, over the past several decades, has quietly donated many millions of pounds to worthy causes.

“While the entire Marshall Amplification family mourns Jim’s passing and will miss him tremendously, we all feel richer for having known him and are happy in the knowledge that he is now in a much better place which has just got a whole lot louder!

“Rest in Peace & thank you Jim. Your memory; the music and joy your amps have brought to countless millions for the past five decades; and that world-famous, omnipresent script logo that proudly bears your name will always live on.”

BAMM Tribute: Remembering Davy Jones

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It’s kind of weird that the video which best captures the spirit of Davy Jones – singer-songwriter and Monkees alumni, who died yesterday at the far too early age of 66 – is the one below: an audition tape for The Monkees TV show which he carried out as a 19-year-old whippersnapper. Take a look:

It’s all there – the supernatural confidence, the winking jocularity, the desire to entertain, the way with evasion that only the most charming of bullshitters can truly grasp. Then there’s The Monkees themselves: a band who act as the perfect counterpoint to any sneering hipsters who rally against the validity of ‘manufactured music’. One spin of ‘Daydream Believer’ or ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ is enough to make anyone realise – the notion of a ‘manufactured’ act is a moot point. There are simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’ acts.

And the Monkees? They were very, very good:

And yet … the Monkees were more than ‘just’ a pop band. Despite the common image of manufactured pop being lowest-common-denominator rubbish (and since the ascent of Simon Cowell, that’s arguably a more prescient assessment than ever), there was so much more going on with these guys: an intellectual playfulness, a refusal to treat their teenybop audience like idiots.

Take ‘Head’. Seriously, just watch it again – a movie written by Jack Nicholson in which the band spiral through a metafictional, stream of consciousness odyssey focusing on the nature of free will. With great pop songs added. It’s ‘Being John Malkovich’ thirty years in advance:

And where did Davy himself come into all this? Put bluntly, he was essential. Following the sad news yesterday, tributes flooded in. Guitarist Mike Nesmith stated that Jones’ “spirit and soul live well in my heart among all the lovely people”, bassist Peter Tork said, “Adios to the Manchester Cowboy”, and drummer/singer Micky Dolenz said, “He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart”.

Here’s one of their last performances together. Enjoy:

BAMM Legends: Mazzy Star

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In our series of predictions for 2012, we quite feasibly announced that the ever-growing phenomenon of ubiquitous band reunions wasn’t going anywhere. And – while cultural mainstays like The Stone Roses and Black Sabbath are getting in on the action – it seems that a good number of cult icons are putting their differences aside too. At The Drive In have famously reunited to play at Coachella this year … and that same festival will also see firm indie favorites Mazzy Star treading the boards.

Even if you’re too young to remember Mazzy Star in their first incarnation, you’ll almost certainly know the voice of Hope Sandoval. The Mazzy frontwoman has been busy with her own band (Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions), but has also carved out a prolific niche as a great guest vocalist for acts such as Death In Vegas, The Chemical Brothers and The Jesus And Mary Chain. Her sultry modernist country-twang is instantly recognisable, even if her name (shamefully) isn’t as well-known as it should be.

Mazzy Star was where it all began, though: an alt-rock bunch of shoegazers from Santa Monica whose 1990 debut ‘She Hangs Brightly’ is easily one of the decade’s best guitar albums. It wasn’t until their 1993 follow-up ‘So Tonight That I Might See’ that they enjoyed (relative) commercial success with their crossover tune ‘Fade Into You’, however.

After years of being unfairly overlooked, 2011 saw Mazzy Star enjoy a whole new reappraisal. The reason? A video game. Gears Of War 3 featured the sublime ‘Into Dust’ on its launch trailer, and suddenly a whole new generation were Mazzying themselves into a tizzy.

Reunion rumblings had been floating around since 2010, but the 2011 popularity surge also saw the release of ‘Common Burn’, their first new material in 15 years:

Mazzy Star are also working on a new album which is due for release later this year. Let’s hope their uniquely flavorful, ambient dream-pop stylings start to gain more of the recognition they deserve – both in terms of their future work and the wider influence their back catalog has cast over rock music in general.

BAMM Legends: Rilo Kiley

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Its always sad when a great band calls it a day, and even sadder when that break-up is something that almost seems to go unnoticed. Even if you’re already a fan of Los Angeles indie-rockers Rilo Kiley, it might have passed you by that they decided to go their separate ways earlier this year. The group had already been on a creative hiatus, but lead guitarist Blake Sennett broke the bad news in July: this temporary split was to become a permanent one.

If you haven’t heard of Rilo Kiley, well, let’s face it: their catalogue ain’t gonna grow anytime soon, so now’s the ideal chance to fully acquaint yourself with one of the most underrated bands of the past few years. Fronted by the luminescent Jenny Lewis (who instantly became the poster girl for lonely indie boys nationwide), their melodic, smart, sassy output spanned four full length albums, of which the two most recent (2004’s ‘More Adventurous’ and 2007’s ‘Under The Blacklist’) solidified their sound perfectly.

This isn’t to say that they were totally unappreciated during their twelve years together. Rilo Kiley were indeed heralded by certain quarters as the ‘next big thing’ roundabout the mid-noughties, with magazines such as Rolling Stone and Word continually championing them. The fact that they didn’t become megastars makes this hype something of a double-edged sword: they could rather unfairly be seen as having ‘failed’ to break the big-time, when that was far from their primary artistic objective. That objective remained constant to the end: to make great music.

Thankfully all the band members remain active, so that Kiley magic will be sprinkled across numerous new creative ventures in the future. Still – it’s a shame that (barring a reunion, which is so often a bad idea) we’ll be hearing no more literary pop-rock from this very special band.

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