Down but not out
Winehouse, Cobain, Hendrix, Joplin – some of the many stars who died aged 27. Jack L has tapped into the music of this ‘27 club’ for his latest show. He talks to a slightly worried LOUISE BRUTON(aged 24)
KURT COBAIN, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse, to name but a few, are bound together by their deaths – all at the age of 27 – and their outstanding back catalogues of music that Irish singer Jack L has tapped into for his latest show, The 27 Club.
The show which he describes as a “musical time machine” had its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is on its way to Dublin. The idea came to Jack last year when he was presenting the Lyric FM show, High Fidelity. “It was the history of recorded song and it went from Edison to the iPod and the recurring number was 27. It was reoccurring from Robert Johnson, who died in 1938; and in the 1960s you had a whole load of pioneers such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones. And then you moved up to the 1990s, you had Kurt Cobain and then Amy Winehouse last year. The show is an homage to the people who died and it’s also a history of music.”
The club has given him the chance to perform favourites from Hendrix, Echo and the Bunnymen, Canned Heat and Nirvana. It has also presented other acts to him in a new light. As a self-proclaimed “Beatles man”, he has developed an appreciation for The Rolling Stones through Brian Jones’ membership, and an even greater appreciation for a more recent member, Amy Winehouse.
“It’s been a thrill to sing Amy Winehouse’s songs and look at how good they were. They would be fit for Sinatra to sing,” he says. Winehouse’s music is practically perfect, says Jack.
“When you look at his [Sinatra’s] songs, in architectural terms, they’d be known as the ‘gold circle’. They’re perfect. The lyrics are perfect. The arrangements are perfect. From a songwriting point of view, you can see why they’re classics, and looking at Amy Winehouse songs, you can see the same quality.”
Jack’s theory behind the 27 Club is that death can strike at any time, but with the lifestyle of a musician/rock star, hedonism can unfortunately get the better of some. “I think that people die at every age. Maybe that’s the point in your life [aged 27] when you’re going as hard as you can, maybe you’ve been caning it for a few years and that’s when it falls asunder, but I don’t know really.”
“You’re approaching 30 and you feel you have to completely consume your youth. You’re pushing it, maybe. I think, with all these things, it’s just bad luck.
“The music business is a tough business. It is an alternative lifestyle and an alternative approach to seeing life and the world. You’re out whenever you’re working. It’s a social occasion for everyone else, so you can be on the piss the whole time, if you want. It will slowly grind you down and maybe you just get unlucky and you join the 27 Club.”
However, he tends not to focus too much on the conspiracies because it always brings you back to the one thing – the Illuminati.
“If you look it up on the internet, you will eventually arrive at the Illuminati and that the Illuminati killed them all. But if you look at anything long enough on the internet you’ll get to the Illuminati. The internet will drive you crazy, if you let it. You’re better off to go stand in a field and look around . . .”
With a career spanning more than two decades, Jack’s approach to performing reflects the fragility and unpredictability of life.
“Everybody likes to leave a movie or a gig on a high, and that’s all you try to do when you do a gig. You just try to shift reality so that people forget about everything and get lost in the moment. That’s what music does. It sounds corny, but I sing every gig like it’s my last gig because it might be.”
“As with the 27 Club, you’re only here for a short time; you don’t know when you’re going to go, so you’ve got to do what you do. Since I can remember, music has been in me and it’s the only thing I’ve wanted to do. That’s what keeps me going.”
Jack L performs The 27 Club at Dublin’s NCH on August 18th 19th