John Murry bio His emails are all aptly signed with the Mark Twain quote, "As soon as you realize it's all insane, it all makes sense". In an industry filled with heroin-shaped prima donnas and blood-leeching businessmen, Chuck Prophet is a thorn tree. He's a thorn tree in the gardens of a game that he's played and that's played him; ultimately refusing to give up on what makes him breathe: rock and roll.
Chuck Prophet's career in music began much like the careers of others. He was a kid with a guitar. Here's the difference: by the time he was fifteen years old he could do more with it than most would be able to do in a lifetime. Dickinson simply replied, "What do you expect from somebody who got his cherry popped at the funny farm when he was fourteen? He almost immediately joined the seminal cosmic country rock band Green On Red and spent 8 years and as many albums playing and touring with them. He wasn't yet 21 years old. Hell, he wasn't even He was still a teenager. Once called by the New York Times "By far one of the best bands in the United States for almost an entire decade", he spent his youth touring Europe and the US; watching himself grow up on the road.
He became a teenage junkie. Trial by fire?
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Horse shit. He was a kid; a kid who could play and sing and write like a musical time bomb and he kept himself alive long enough to find crack cocaine, the drug that finally brought him to his knees ten years ago. He's been clean ever since. They say 'cleanliness is next to godliness' but one can't be so sure when measuring Chuck's manic activities. He was saved from addiction but he's far from being saved from himself. You want stories? They're everywhere. Chuck, over ten years ago, once jumped from one San Francisco rooftop onto another and fell three stories through a skylight onto the cement floor of a mechanics' garage; all in an attempt to impress a girl and get into his apartment that he had locked himself out of.
He was high. The stories are endless. His long-suffering wife and musical partner Stephanie Finch can assure any disbeliever of that. You get clean and you cut it out, right? Chuck simply tells me, "I don't want to embarrass my parents anymore than I already have. He can't get it right. He signed to New West records in and was promptly dropped in How does Chuck feel about it? Who knows? He's no Ryan Adams. Mike Lembo, Chuck's manager from through stole all of Chuck's publishing rights from underneath him. To add nothing but insult to injury Lembo threw away all of Chuck's master recordings. Chuck eventually got his publishing rights back.
How does he feel about the whole thing?
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Broken glass and cement floors hurt much worse. So what did hurt? Mike made Chuck lie about his age, forever keeping him several years younger for the sake of press. In talking to Chuck you can tell it's not the "making" him do it that bothered him so much, it's that he went along with it. Chuck Prophet is 43 years old. There, now you know. But he's still a fucking kid. A kid with a guitar and some songs. Chuck's encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll and The American Songbook at large is weighty and impressive. He's not a student, though. He tells me he doesn't "understand why people are so down on Dylan's eighties records" with heart.
He's not drawn to the stories and music because of any intellectual need to know; he's drawn to it like a moth to flame, like a razor to the vein. He can't live without it and has never quite figured out how to live within it. He does, though. He wrestles the demons that have pursued him since he was a kid and he brilliantly strangles his guitar in protest, sings his own repentances, and writes like a man who, like William Faulkner suggested, should "only seek to outdo himself ".
His fans within the music community are vast. He played to audiences of between 10 and 15 thousand people for two months. On one fateful night he was served papers.
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He was served papers onstage. He means so well, but he can't help but embarrass his folks a bit. He's written songs with Dan Penn and innumerable others, has been recently writing with Alejandro Escovedo, produced the most recent Kelly Willis record who once said "If I could sing like anybody I'd like to sing like Chuck Prophet" - in response Chuck almost blushingly says "I'll have to straighten her out on that one" , and has had his songs recorded by the likes of Solomon Burke, Kim Richey, Jim Dickinson, and even Heart.
In writing on what he was currently listening to in , Stephen King that's right, Stephen King , wrote of Chuck's tune "Rise": "What does this song mean? I have no idea. But it's lovely, incantatory and mysterious. God bless Chuck Prophet. He has released seven previous solo records, his last being the brilliant "Age Of Miracles" in His new album, titled "Soap and Water", is objectively his best.
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Of course, your not supposed "objectively" make claims such as this, but it is. Because, like Seth Morgan writes, Chuck's been jailin'. He's learned to sleep when others couldn't and in the process has written what others can't. In "Would You Love Me?
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No, fuck that, I wanted to make it with him". Alex has found and lost himself repeatedly over the years, but he's never stopped being Alex Chilton. Today this presents a surreal scene, with children clambering all over the tombs, and with groups using them as tables for sandwiches, and no one having the faintest idea as to what they were.
When I told them that here lay a kinsman of Princess Diana's, there was as much excitement as if she herself had materialised. Of all the cultural crossovers between Britain and the Caribbean, none is more evocative than Greenwood, a house that was built around by Richard Barrett, cousin of the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and which is loved and looked after today by Bob Betton, who having spent most of his working life in London, has returned to his native land.
The house is filled to the rafters with intimate Barrett possessions.
You have to rub your eyes at such sights as Edward Barrett's Eton diary of Then there is The Jamaican Pocket Book of , with such tempting advertisements as the Brox Outfitting Establishment selling ladies' riding habits for the Caribbean, in tweed as well as flannel. Steep yourself in the atmosphere of Greenwood - watched over by busts of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to the accompaniment of a polyphone tinkling away with such tunes as Pansy Faces, or the barrel organ thumping out Daisy Daisy - then step out on to the 71ft-long veranda.
It's designed to be cool, and cool it is; a claim and a half for the Caribbean. Sit there and look out to sea, with the horizon so wide that you can see its curve. Greenwood was built as a place for entertaining. The Barretts were big noises in Jamaica. Edward Barrett - great- grandfather of Elizabeth - laid out the town of Falmouth in the late s, and it survives largely intact beneath the Caribbean colour and culture of today.
With vistas of colonnades and very little monstrous modern development, its modest Georgian buildings still reign supreme, giving a most satisfying sense of the 18th-century scale of the place. Falmouth is at the vanguard of the restoration movement in Jamaica, with the Custos Rotulorum - the old English term for the governor's representative, still in use today - and Royland Barrett leading the way.