Friday, March 20, 2015

In Memoriam: Andy Fraser (1952-2015) and AJ Pero (1959-2015)

I thought I'd take the time to write up obituaries for two musicians who passed away this week. I'm putting them here in one blog post so here we go...

Andrew McLan "Andy" Fraser
July 3, 1952-March 16, 2015

Andy Fraser, former bassist for UK rockers Free, passed away this Monday at his home in California. The cause of death is unknown but it has been known that Fraser had been battling with both HIV and cancer. Fraser was 62. Fraser was a bassist who got his start playing for blues legend John Mayall. Fraser was only 15 and was also mentored by blues musician Alexis Korner. In 1968, Fraser became one fourth of Free. Along with Fraser was singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke. The band played up until their break-up in 1971 (although they briefly reunited in 1972 but without Fraser). Free found commercial success with the release of their third album, Fire and Water, which included the band's most popular song "All Right Now." The song was written by Fraser and Rodgers. For years, the song would become a classic rock radio staple.

After Free's split, Fraser joined a few other bands including Sharks and Toby, the former being formed with guitarist Chris Spedding and the latter a group formed with Sparks guitarist Adrian Fisher . Aside from releasing a few solo albums here and there, Fraser also focused on songwriting. For years, Fraser had been battling with HIV and was later diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. In 2005, Fraser came out as a homosexual. Before then, he'd been battling with his sexual orientation as well as his illnesses.   

Anthony Jude "AJ" Pero
October 14, 1959-March 20, 2015

AJ Pero, longtime drummer for New York hard rockers Twisted Sister, passed away on Friday this week. Pero had been discovered unresponsive on a tour bus in Poughkeepsie, New York as he was touring with super group Adrenaline Mob. According to Rolling Stone, paramedics rushed him over to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is said to have been a heart attack. Pero was 55. Pero was one fifth of the classic line-up of Twisted Sister. Pero joined in 1982. His bandmates included singer Dee Snider, guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda and bassist Mark Mendoza. Pero joined just in time as the band was about to record their debut album Under the Blade, which was release later that year. This was followed by 1983's You Can't Stop Rock N Roll.

Twisted Sister reached their peak in 1984 with the massively successful Stay Hungry album. The album featured the hit singles, "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." Both singles were accompanied by MTV friendly videos, staring Mark Metcalf of Animal House fame. The band's popularity began to wane after the release of the unsuccessful follow up Come Out and Play. Pero left in 1986 while the band kept going until 1989. After leaving Twisted Sister, Pero participated in several project- one of them being Snider's S.M.F's. Twisted Sister would reunite in 1997 and once again in 2001 before finally deciding to officially reunite in 2003. The day before Pero's death, Twisted Sister had been confirmed to play at the Metal Meltdown, an LA festival slated for May 30 which also features Great White, Skid Row and Extreme on the bill.

It is sad to hear of the passings of Andy and AJ. They were great musicians and will be missed by many.

Rest in peace, Andy and AJ.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daevid Allen dead at 77

Christopher David Allen
January 12, 1938 - March 13, 2015

Daevid Allen, founding member of psychedelic rock group Gong, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. Allen was 77. While Allen is best known for his work in Gong, Allen was one of the founding members of prog-rockers Soft Machine. Allen was a member from for only a year, as he was denied re-entry to the UK. Allen had stayed in Paris for too long while on tour with Soft Machine. Being Australian, he was not allowed to reconnect with his bandmates therefore forcing him out of the band. Allen returned to Paris in 1967, where he connected with Sorbonne professor Gilli Smyth. With Smyth and saxophonist Didier Malherbe, Gong was formed. 

While not commercial successful, Gong were able to attain a cult following amongst music fans. Of the albums in their discography, the band's most praised piece of work is their Radio Gnome trilogy- consisting of the albums Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You. The band went through several line-up changes, with Allen, Smyth and Malherbe as the core three members. The band would split in 1976 but would go on to spawn other Gong bands. This includes Smyth's Mother Gong, drummer Pierre Moerlen's Gong and Allen's Planet Gong. Gong reunited several times over the years (1991-2001, 2003-2006, 2007-present), with Allen at the helm along with other long-time members from the original group. The band's last album was 2014's I See You. In June 2014, Allen had a cyst removed from his neck. When it was discovered to be cancerous, Allen immediately underwent radiation. On February 5 of this year, Allen announced that the cancer had returned and had spread to his lungs. Allen chose not to have anymore surgery.  His doctors estimated he had six months to live. Allen would pass just a little over a month later. 

It's sad to hear of Daevid's passing. I had always heard of Gong and did become somewhat interested in their music but never got around to listening to it. He seemed to be devoted to his music as well as Gong's. Soon after he announced about his six months left to live, I immediately went online and listen to a few Gong albums. They were a unique band. Luckily, Allen left behind a pretty big body of work for music listeners to enjoy. 

Rest in peace, Daevid.