“If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it’s Beefheart,” “I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I’ll hear more echoes in records that I listen to this week.”Â John Peel
It seems odd to feel compelled to write in tribute to someone who stopped making records when I was 11 years old, but normal rules never applied when referring to Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart. A quick check of his Wikipedia entry lists the musical genres he worked in as follows:
Experimental rock, blues, blues-rock, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, protopunk, surrealist, outsider
although anyone familar with his work will find even this sprawling list inadequate to describe the Captain’s work, mainly but not exclusively encapsulated on 12 studio LP’s recorded between 1966 and 1982 after which he did what so many of his 1960′s contemporaries failed to do and decided that he had said all he wanted to say and retired from music to become a respected artist.
In this sense, this is the second time that we’ve lost him and I always felt that the blow of his eventual demise would be cushioned by the fact that as a “Beefheart fan-boy” (in the immortal words of Tez Burke) I had long since resigned myself to not hearing any new music from the great man.
Ellie Greenwich is not a name which will immediately fall from the mouth of most people when asked to list the World’s greatest songwriters, and yet she has left an indelible mark upon pop music.
Not only is she credited with discovering Neil Diamond – for whom she also sang backing vocals, but her writing partnership with Jeff Barry (whom she would marry and later divorce) produced some of the most enduring moments of pop genius in tandem with the now chokey-dwelling producing genius Phil Spector.
Tracks written by Greenwich with Barry and /or Spector include Leader of the Pack for the Shangri-Las, Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron for The Crystals, Be My Baby for The Ronettes and perhaps most tellingly River Deep, Mountain High for Ike & Tina Turner.
River Deep Mountain High
Such was Spector’s frustration at River Deep, Mountain High’s failure to chart in the US – where it peaked at No 88 – that it effectively ended the Wall of Sound label, and Spector stopped working for a considerable period.
To Britain’s eternal credit, the track did much better on this side of the Atlantic, reaching No. 3.
River Deep, Mountain High features at No 33 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Greenwich-Barry writing partnership features more entries in that list than any other writer.
Ellie Greenwich died of a heart attack on 26 August 2009 after being admitted to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, New York City for treatment for pneumonia.