On the 23rd of January I woke to a traditionally cold damp dark Monday morning. Unwilling to face the beginning of a working week I took the unusual step of checking my twitter account to discover immediately that Jaki Leibezeit had died. A few seconds later I was presented with the news that Pete Overend Watts had also passed away. While checking out the inevitable cut and paste obituarys a few hours later I came across the additional information that Mike Kellie had also checked out a couple of days previously.While the above names might not mean that much to the general public all three were significant figures in the melting pot of music which was the 70’s.Watts and Kellie were member of two significant bands on the Island label being the bass player with Mott the Hoople and the drummer with Spooky Tooth respectively. Musically in their lumpiest of British second division rock days they were not that distinguishable from each other. Over time of course Mott developed into one of the more credible glam rock cross overs with ‘Overend’ distinguished as much by his silver hair and matching platform boots as his bass playing. Kellie subsequently joined The Only Ones and that’s his drumming on hit that never was ‘Another Girl Another Planet’
Leibezeit, on the other hand was one of the most influential drummers of all time being the founder member of Can and a pioneer of a metronomic machine like playing which pathed the way for the introduction of drum machines. He was a musician whose influence was enormous but would still be found packing up his own kit at the end of a night’s work. Watts and Kellie had also been active in the last few years but mainly playing nostalgia gigs with their old bands (I caught Kellie with the Only Ones and he was still a quality player).
They were all musicians who had had some influence on me in my youth, I’m sorry they’ve gone. The world is a poorer place without someone who used to wear silver thigh length boots on Top of The Pops, really.
Increasingly though, the world of music seems to be getting emptier. 2016 was notable for its cull of cultural icons but really that is just the taster of things to come. The golden age of rock has long passed, that’s not to say that there won’t be great music to come but we have lost our innocence. Now music is, for most of us, a consumer pastime on a par with television, social media, eating out or going to the cinema. It is a sobering fact that almost every great rock band is no longer capable of performing with the original members. We got used to the idea that we couldn’t have the Beatles back due to Lennon’s assassination but just consider the list of non reformable bands, The Who, the Kinks, The Faces, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, The Clash, ELP, Mott The Hoople,T Rex, Traffic, Lindisfarne, the list goes on and on.(I do realise that The Who will probably keep on going until Townsend and Daltrey are replaced by holograms but most bands have a bit better respect for their history).
The fact is that musicians are dying in increasing numbers because they are getting older. The grim reality is that in the next 10 years were are likely to lose The Stones (Keef of course will live for ever), the remainder of the Beatles and just about everyone from the swinging sixties. It’s a sobering thought.
And when most of them pass the best they can expect is a standard bio that will be reprinted across the internet in which a couple of tweets from ex colleagues will be included adding all the insight and poignancy that 140 characters can allow.
Already there’s a risk that this blog could simply be about obituaries from now on, it’s probably clear by now that my interest is in the path less well trod, the minor players, the oddities and curios of rock and pop.
I don’t want that to happen but I do not want the Kellies the Overends and the Leibezeits to disappear without some acknowledgement of what they meant to me 40 odd years ago.
So here is some examples of their work.
And at the end of the day both the pawn and the king go into the same box.
We will follow them into the dark