The Killer has exited stage left, I take a look at the new Carly Rae Jepsen, and Jerry Harrison is hitting the road. All that & a whole lot more this week!
We lost Jerry Lee Lewis over the weekend.
Love him or hate him-and, if my social media feeds over the last few days are any indications, there will be all manner of thoughts & spiky takes- he was one of a kind.
He was also the last one standing from the early days of rock & roll. By the time he’d shuffled off this mortal coil at 87, he’d outlived:
And many, many more. Did anyone have him as their pick to be the last one standing? He certainly wasn’t on my bingo card.
When the clock finally struck midnight, he’d lived nine lives, every one of them at 120 miles an hour. He married seven times- including one wife that was 13 and one he may or may not have tried to kill.
So yeah…not good. But I’m not here to talk about his life offstage or rationalize any of it. For those of you cracking your knuckles and firing up your keyboards, I’ll save you the bandwidth- I agree with you. He was pretty insufferable and, by most accounts, had zero interest in any kind of redemption.
Except when it came to his career.
This brings us to his Another Place Another Time record.
By the late 60s, Jerry lee Lewis was washed up. His contract with Sun had expired a few years earlier, and he’d spent the middle part of the decade in a sort of rock and roll wilderness.
Some of that was out of his control and down to changing tastes in popular music. The first wave of rock Lewis was a part of was out, replaced first with the British Invasion and then by an era of peace, love, and weed. Not a good fit for a rowdy man with a penchant for booze and brawling.
And some of that was very much in his control, and self-inflicted wounds- not least of which was the marriage to his then 13-year-old relative.
Many of the pieces marking his passing will invariably include a clip of “Great Balls of Fire” or similar, but by 1967/68, no one was listening. He could still cut a good track on occasion but, by and large, had been reduced to recording whatever was shoved in from of him, quality be damned.
Out of contract and out of options. Lewis had nothing to lose. So he pivoted. To country—or rather back to it. One of his first singles for Sun records was a version of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms,” and he’d covered more than one of Hank Williams’ songs.
With Another Place Another Time, he went all in on hardcore country-the country of broken hearts and hard livin’- and refashioned himself as a sort of bar room ringleader.
The immediate effect of this refocus was on the charts, where both the title track and “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” made decent runs.
Of the title track, Nick Tosches wrote:
Another Place Another Time was a beautiful song of anguish
and loneliness, and Jerry Lee sang it in the studio that cold grey afternoon, January
9, 1968, with a voice of one trying to conceal rather than to reveal that anguish and
that loneliness . . . and when Eddie Kilroy and the musicians who were in the studio
that day heard that voice they felt shivers like cold crawling things up and down
their spines, and they closed and opened their eyes, breathing, as if to shake loose a
sudden inwards fright
There was no one quite like The Killer, and one of his superpowers was making every song (cover or not) sound as if it was made only for him. Even when he tackles the familiar, he makes it unpredictable, and therein lies the appeal.
Ultimately, Lewis would be a country singer for far longer than a rock singer, but this was a curveball to many at the time of its release.
The record itself is wonderful. For all the chaos outside the studio, this record sounds extremely personal and professional. He’s focused, and he’s signing with his whole heart.
Lewis clearly made a lot of mistakes in his 87 years; Another Place Another Time wasn’t one of them.
Below the jump for paid subscribers:
Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album
Shoegaze from Texas
Jerry Harrison is hitting the road with Adrian Belew
Rick Rubin on why using words to describe music is a terrible idea
And a whole lot more.
Check it out!
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