wed 29/06/2022

Music Reissues Weekly: The Gun Club - Preaching The Blues | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: The Gun Club - Preaching The Blues

Music Reissues Weekly: The Gun Club - Preaching The Blues

Smart box set of singles honouring the singular musical vision of Jeffrey Lee Pierce

The Gun Club assemble at The First Baptist Church Of Hollywood, 1981. Left to right: Ward Dotson, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Terry Graham, Rob RitterEd Colver

“The Gun Club were true originals and Jeffrey Lee Pierce a genius. They were the inspiration behind many bands, I myself never thought about being a singer until I dropped the needle on Fire Of Love and in that instant I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Jeffrey was funny, smart and generous. He taught me so much about songwriting that I could never repay.”

Mark Lanegan’s tribute to Jeffrey Lee Pierce – who died in 1996 at age 37 –and the band he co-formed is revealing as it makes plain an often unacknowledged truth. Now it’s said, it’s obvious. The spirit of Pierce, his LA-born band and Fire Of Love, The Gun Club's 1981 debut album, has coursed through Lanegan from when he fronted The Screaming Trees to now.

The Gun Club - Preaching The Blues cover_ Ed ColverLanegan’s words appear in the book accompanying Preaching The Blues, a smart box set of seven seven-inch singles. Further tributes come from John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of Gun Club near contemporaries X, Thurston Moore, Henry Rollins and Dan Stuart. Prime amongst their memories of Pierce are recollections of him talking to them about John Coltrane, The Cramps and John Lee Hooker. Pierce had to communicate he was a fan of music. (pictured right, the cover of Preaching The Blues with its Ed Colver image of Jeffrey Lee Pierce)

Fittingly, Pierce had been – although it was slightly different take on music – the East Coast head of Blondie’s fan club (Blondie’s Chris Stein produced 1982’s second Gun Club album, Miami). He wrote for LA magazine Slash during the high punk years and hid nothing. His love of blues, reggae and rockabilly was unambiguously telegraphed. Pierce bonded with Canned Heat’s Bob Hite – a massive record collector – over their shared love of blues. When the Gun Club emerged, they were not about on-going trends. Instead the band drew from Pierce’s vision of a music with the power and sharp edges of punk, and the otherness of blues.

As it’s about the singles, Preaching The Blues distils The Gun Club. Where appropriate, each record in the box comes in a repro of its original sleeve. Included are the six singles issued while various versions of the band were active: “Ghost on the Highway”/“Sex Beat” (UK only, issued July 1982), “Fire of Love”/“Walking With the Beast” (UK, August 1982), the three-track Death Party EP (UK, April 1983), “The Great Divide”/“Crabdance” (France, 1990), “Pastoral Hide and Seek”/“Black Hole”/“Emily’s Changed” (France and Germany, 1992) and “Cry to me”/“Give up the Sun” (US, 1993). The seventh record is a newly assembled coupling of “Carry Home” and “Brother and Sister,” demos for the Miami album first heard as bonus tracks on a CD reissue.

The Gun Club - Preaching The Blues posterThe geographic spread of where these records were originally released emphasises The Gun Club’s scrappy trajectory. Pierce was erratic, record labels came and went and, correspondingly, there was churn in the band line-up – amongst the members were Dee Pop (also in Bush Tetras), Patricia Morrison (from LA punk legends The Bags and later in, for instance, The Sisters Of Mercy and The Damned), Kid Congo Powers (who went on to The Cramps and much more), Rob Ritter (45 Grave) and Nick Sanderson (Earl Brutus). An extraordinary role call testifying to the attraction of Pierce and his outlook.

What was created is at its most potent, most passionate on the best of Preaching The Blues. “Fire of Love,” “Ghost on the Highway,” “Sex Beat,” “Walking With the Beast” and the Death Party EP are essential documents of a post-punk America getting to grips with musical roots which didn’t immediately suggest themselves as ready for integration into a new perspective – one that was edgy. The early Gun Club was always close to detonation. The energy and intensity Pierce brought to the band defined it. He sought like-minded individuals for the cause; individuals who only took the heat for so long though. In this respect, Jeffery Lee Pierce is analogous to Mark E Smith – another rockabilly fan – and his ever-changing Fall.

Rather than being released by a record label as such, Preaching The Blues has been issued by a London gallery specialising in music posters, prints and related memorabilia. This is an artefact rather than a standard reissue. As well as the book and records, the package includes a postcard, badge and a repro fanzine. The Gun Club are treated with the conscientiousness Jeffrey Lee Pierce treated the music which, in turn, inspired him. Just as it should be.

@MrKieronTyler

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