PICKING AT THE CORPSES:
WHERE POP STARS GO WHEN THEY DIE
It's a real big shame when pop stars die because, well, because pop stars are great. However, while it's a shame for us when our favourite recording artistes bite the bullet (often literally), it's an even bigger shame for their record company. See, the record guys invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in signing the biggest names, and when that big name goes and chokes to death while having a wank on a door, that investment literally goes up in smoke. Or gets buried in a hole in the ground and eaten by maggots.
But wait! Sometimes it isn't always bad news for the men in pop suits; sometimes the dead guys leave stuff behind. Sometimes it's whole albums, other times it's rough demos, and other times - such as with Kurt "Nirvana" Cobain's Unplugged and From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah - it's live recordings. Whatever, you can be sure that the accountants who run our record industry won't leave any corpse un-tampered, and will squeeze every last scent out of a rotting cadaver.
In the wake of Jeff Buckley's Mystery White Boy live set, here are half a dozen (well, technically "five") more other posthumous record releases that may, or may not, be worth listening to. And hey - you won't find the word "genius" in this article (unless its preceded by the words "was not a…")
MICHAEL HUTCHENCE - MICHAEL HUTCHENCE
Though he hanged himself with a leather belt while having a wank on the door of a Sydney hotel room in 1997, INXS singer Michael Hutchence had already more or less finished his debut solo album. Though the 12 songs were written, and Hutchence's vocal tracks had been laid down, they required finishing off by producer Danny Saber.
With the aid of former Gang Of Four axeman Andy Gill, and Bomb The Bass tunesmith Tim Simenon, Saber helped add a tinge of dance/funk to the Hutchence's tiresomely INXS-esque songs. Self-financed by Hutchence, and recorded over a span of two years, the eponymous album is peppered with poignant - probably unintentional - foreshadowing of the singer's imminent demise.
"Get me out of here", "Don't save me from myself" and "Just keep breathing" are three sample lyrics that - given the circumstances which followed - become loaded guns (likewise "I think I'm going to have a wank on that door" and the power balled "I Like Tightening A Belt Around My Neck (While I'm Having A Wank On A Door").
Doubly ironically, Hutchence's final recorded performance - prior to this recording - was on the all-star BBC version of Perfect Day, in which Hutchence uttered the line "You keep me hanging on". Triply ironic, a year before his death he appeared in a low-budget Australian movie, Limp (oh man!), in which he appeared as an A&R man who obsessed over dead rock stars. Christ.
JOHN LENNON - MILK AND HONEY
Released in 1984, four years after Lennon was shot by deranged fan Mark Chapman, this mostly forgotten posthumous album preceded last year's four-CD anthology. Though comprising mostly unfinished songs, the album was dressed up by EMI, with the help of Lennon's widow Yoko Oh-No, to resemble nothing less than Double Fantasy: Part 2. Though he'd spent much of the 1970s being rubbish and drunk, and being a dad (and, according to a new biography, masturbating himself to sleep with obsessive regularity), 1980s Double Fantasy saw a semi return to form.
Though to be honest, on the strength of the tracks on Milk And Honey, anyone who believed Lennon would've reinvented rock and roll during the 1980s for a second time, was sorely misguided. Admittedly, the tracks are only there in the rawest form - and many of them have Yoko's unlistenable wailing over the top - but they're a weak mix of wishy-washy ballads, and the occasional heavier frug. But Lennon circa 1980 was hardly working at the pinnacle of his abilities. He was too busy wanking. Albeit not on doors, as far as we know.
QUEEN - MADE IN HEAVEN
Recorded between April and September 1991, Made In Heaven was recorded as the once flamboyant Freddie Mercury succumbed to AIDS. On the days when Mercury was well enough to work, he'd enter Queen's Montreaux studio, sing what he could into the mic, and the band would worry about adding music later - two years later, as it happened.
Undoubtedly the most personal album of Mercury's career, the lyrics on certain tracks are almost unbearably sad. For the album's final song, It's A Beautiful Day, his voice is noticeably failing, but he sings defiantly: "It's a beautiful day/The sun is shining/I feel good/And no-one's gonna stop me now."
Generally, though - sad as it is - it's not a great record. The music is as overwrought as Queen ever is, and once you separate Mercury's impending fate from the lyrics, they're a bit simple and, well, rubbish. Now imagine the record Lennon could've made if he knew he was going to be shot…
JIMI HENDRIX - CRY OF LOVE
Later re-released, and re-compiled as First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, Cry Of Love would've made up one half of Jimi Hendrix's double fourth album. Had he not died. Unfortunately, Cry Of Love, released in 1971 a year after he choked on his own vomit, after over-doing it with the barbiturates (and hey - who hasn't!?!), suggests the overrated Hendrix was heading for a creative fall. And don't you listen to po-faced nonces who tell you otherwise.
Full of self-indulgent riffing and solos, the moments where Cry Of Love does managed to hold together a proper song, they're little more than dull, blues-rock tedium. It's all well and good calling some dead guy a genius, but it's only well and good if that dead guy really was a genius.
LINDA MCCARTNEY - WILD PRAIRIE
Pilloried by the media for decades because, frankly, she didn't eat meat and looked like she was a bit whiffy under the armpits, Linda McCartney was nevertheless hailed as a heroine upon her death from cancer in 1998. "Saint Linda" the ever-hypocritical tabloids may have called her post-death, but not no one could bring themselves to praise this dire album of unreleased songs.
Recorded over a 26 year period, Wild Prairie confirms everything everyone suspected about the former photographer's musical abilities: namely, that she didn't have any. Put together by her husband, it's a near-unlistenable blend of cod-reggae, droning cover versions, and semi-novelty songs, all with Linda's tuneless wailing at their core. There is even a pair of inevitable right-on anti-animal-bashing tracks co-written by Carla Lane. And that's probably all you need to know.