Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BOB WELCH joins The Ghost of Flight 401

Bob Welch is the one member of Fleetwood Mac not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though he scored hits for the band, his tenure would be fleeting. His mediocre luck in being a fairly unknown member of a legendary band would be matched in his his solo work, where critics panned his commercial pop-rock and rock-disco releases in the late 70's though he managed to chart a few singles before becoming dollar bin disposables. And since the blog is noted for poor taste, and "too soon" won't apply after a while anyway, it's hard not to notice that the re-designed Bob on those glam album covers looks a bit like Nancy Kulp ("Jane Hathaway" on "The Beverly Hillbillies") trying to transgender into a rock star.

Yes, few of those albums sold for a buck since the 1980's because those album covers were so horrendously trendy and so quickly dated; the androgyne make-up, silly accessories, and those "if I'm with sexy models, I must be sexy" poses…all a far cry from the appealing, normal-looking guy who was playing good guitar in a mainstream band just a few years earlier. Oh well...even Jagger had his make-up and Lennon had his leisure suits during those terrible years of rock-gone-fashion conscious. As for his career from the 80's on, it was known mostly to ardent fans and Mac compleatists. The sad news of his death being the biggest news on him in years.

A few weeks ago, it was "Here Comes the Night" for Bob ((August 31, 1945 – June 7, 2012). He committed suicide, in despair of suffering the same genetic spinal problem as his father. An operation failed to correct the malady. His memory scarred by his father's long, lingering illness, Bob didn't want to put his wife through the same agony, time consumption and expense. Which is exactly what he wrote in the note he left behind.

Mr. Zevon, when asked by David Letterman if he had any wisdom to impart after learning he was terminally ill, said: "enjoy every sandwich." But what if that sandwich has to be put in a blender first, and spoon-fed to you? What if it produces a burn in the throat, intense stomach pain and turns to spitting lava in your colon and you can't even get out of your chair to excrete it? Maybe you Welch on your bet and shoot your way out.

Fans mourning Bob have embraced the solo albums they grew up with, still loving what were, after all, solidly commercial love tunes and slick dance efforts and ballads. They also go back to the Mac material. The logical choice for this blog to remember him by, is the more atypical "The Ghost of Flight 401." Somehow it snuck onto the "Three Hearts" album, to occupy grooves between predictable guitar-greased productions that bury Bob's weak vocals deep in the mix, and some pointless cover versions of old hits. There was a pretense in the late 70's and early 80's that "power arrangements" and gloss made everything better. Not so with Bob's take on (the non-Mac) Fleetwoods' "Come Softly to Me" or The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There." But on this track, there's restraint in the arrangement and Bob's voice isn't double-tracked and sounds pretty damn good.

Our chosen tune starts with a prophetic line: "You've heard about The Flying Dutchman…" (Yes…no relation to the Crying Dutchman, the compulsive music thief attention seeker who has haunted blogs for six years, not making very good use of the time he has left). In this ghost story, there's the inference of life after death: "I'm not saying they were puffs of smoke…They were real as life, it ain't no joke…"

Well…even Mr. Zevon, in his infamous tune "Life'll Kill Ya," left some wiggle room: "Maybe you'll go to heaven. See Uncle Al and Uncle Lou. Maybe you'll be reincarnated. Maybe that stuff's true"

Maybe that stuff's true. Some are questioning whether Bob should've picked the suicide hotline over the firing line, but they weren't living in his body as it began to deteriorate. Many of those close to Bob Welch have accepted his choice, even if it's hard for them to live with it. Fans are remembering Bob as a great guitarist, an important member of one of rock's most popular bands, and the solo artist who touched them with tunes they played at their weddings. The guy may be plain gone, actually resting in peace, or jamming in celebrity heaven with his choice of band members. He might be reincarnateed into a new body and soul, or he just might have joined THE GHOST OF FLIGHT 401 in swooping the planet for eternity. The music stays behind.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suicide hurts no one, but the ones that love you.

Support the effort! Get Bob Welch into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame