Edgar Froese founder of Tangerine Dream, and Kim Fowley, the music producer/songwriter/professional creep, both died this week. They both had long-lasting careers on the edges of rock n' roll. These two artists couldn't be any more different, yet each had enormously prolific outputs that have influenced culture directly and indirectly. There are excellent obituaries on both men by real journalists. These two careers that cannot be summed up adequately in short order.
Edgar Froese died January 20th of complications regarding pulmonary embolism. He was 70. Froese is known as the founder and constant member of Tangerine Dream. He was one of the architects of electronic music and has a recorded a number of records I love, as well as many I've never heard. While Froese was teetotaler, his output attracts psychedelic enthusiasts from all over the world who lose themselves in the warm, ambient, futurism of his work.
Tangerine Dream made epic records that always felt like they were a search for a cosmic spirituality. Records like Phaedra, Rubycon and Zeit all speak to the corners of my LSD-addled nervous system. There was a cerebral side to the bliss of the 1960s, which Froese embodied. Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and the kosmische bands pointed pop artists, such as my beloved David Bowie, to challenge themselves and their audiences. The 1970s were an expansive time for rock, especially in Europe where both "rock" and "roll" were abandoned in search for something else.
History seems to erroneously agree that punk rock came along and smashed all the prog, disco and more expansive sounds for an austere rock minimalism. It's bullshit, because we know that Tangerine Dream and many others were doing important work at the same time as The Ramones. It seems that this punk revolutionary myth is being corrected over time.
One of the original punks; Kim Fowley died on January 15. He was a very different artist than Froese. Tomorrow, I am going to pick up his autobiography Lord of Garbage to learn more. I didn't know it existed until the obituaries started to emerge. He was 75 and died of bladder cancer.
Fowley has always been interesting to me. I bought Fowley's Frankenstein and The All Star Monster Band in a used record store a number of years ago because the record cover was so cool and looked like of my early short films. He embraced the psychedelic like Froese, yet his version of psych rock was a sinister product of LA. Underneath the California sunshine pop is a mysterious bad trip lurking. Fowley knew that and embraced being King of the Creeps.
"Kim Vincent Fowley" is the last song on his last record Death Trip, and it is a brilliant final statement. It's a song about dying of cancer, not having friends or children, bad credit, not having a car and being a creep. The more you read about him, the more you realize you don't know. He is known for many records with many people under several pseudonyms. He recorded with Frank Zappa, discovered the Runaways, wrote songs for KISS and allegedly discovering Hanson. Then he oddly appeared in a Beyonce video, and n his deathbed, he worked with Ariel Pink on his excellent new record pom pom -- among hundreds of other things you may not know. I tend to obsess on artists who remain interesting as you peel away the layers.
From the New York Times Obituary: "I'm an enabler, a mentor, a catalyst," Mr. Fowley said in an interview with Uncut magazine. "I'm so empty that I don't have distractions. If somebody has substance or has developed something, I have the time for them."
In a bizarre Fowleyesque twist, he had made arrangements for his corpse to appear in a fetish magazine called Girls and Corpses. Due to complications with his widow, it never came to be, but it's a great final work by a legendary media prankster.
These two artists are both products of the great social experiment that was 1960s counterculture. I may be wrong, but I think that they would both be horrified by being forever linked together after dying in the same week. A chapter closes.
"There is no death, just a change of cosmic address," said Edgar Froese.
Postscript: Right before posting this I learned we also lost the great Joe Franklin. Rock has had a tough week. Rest in peace, Franklin, Froese, Fowley and A$AP Yams.