My Requiem for the Black Crowes (long…)

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Posted by painted8 ( on January 16, 2015 at 10:35:34:

(I wrote this for my Facebook page, but wanted to post it here, too. Obviously, a lot of this is unnecessary since you fellow diehards already know a lot of the shit I'm explaining here, so forgive me for that lol)

For much of the last 20 years, if asked, I’d have said that the Black Crowes were my favorite band. That would be followed by me then saying things like, “Yes, they did put out albums after ‘Shake Your Moneymaker (SYMM’)/’Southern Harmony and the Musical Companion (SHAMC)’”, or “Yes, they are still together”, or “But that doesn’t mean I like ‘By Your Side’ or ‘Lions’”  They had eclipsed Zeppelin – my previous fave – for that honor because they were a) still active and b) still putting out new music. They passed the Stones, too, because while Stones were still active, they last put out something meaningful in 1981 IMO. It was nice to love a band that was current.

I’d put the era that ran from the release of SHAMC in 1992 through the Further 1997 tour up against any bands’ best run (also called the “Marc Fucking Ford era”). You had 3 excellent released albums – SHAMC (where they moved far beyond the trite Stones comparisons), Amorica (desert island album since it is my favorite all-time album), and Three Snakes and One Charm (3snakes) – plus an album called “Tall” that was recorded in 1997 but not released until 2006 – along with a number of incredible songs that were not officially released but that rank with their best: “Feathers”, “Title Song”, “Tied Up & Swallowed”, “Exit”, “Darling of the Underground Press”, “Dirty Hair Halo”, and “Waiting Guilty”. Their live shows were amazing as the setlists were fluid and unpredictable, which was great for folks who would see 4 or so shows in a row, or who collected band-blessed live recordings, but wasn’t so fun for the casual fans who expected to hear “She Talks to Angels”, “Jealous Again”, and “Remedy”. I was happy to hear them play whatever they felt like, and I wound up seeing them play live at least 25 times (which just qualifies me as a noob, believe it or not; I’ve only seen them live in 5 different states (IN, IL, NC, SC, and CA) and never saw more than 3 consecutive performances.

They’d play any song they felt like – deep album cuts, unreleased originals, and cover songs – in whatever order struck Chris Robinson’s fancy. You’d get transcendent jams into or out of songs, which would make a tune like ‘Hard to Handle’ much more interesting. You’d get even alternate takes on released songs (like a slowed down and dirty “Sting Me”). You’d have once- or rarely-played unreleased songs like “Nothing, Love Everything, “Exit”, “Pastoral”, “Name Like Music”, and others that would make some shows really special. And nobody could authentically cover a song like the Crowes – everything from the Stones to Gram Parsons to the Allmans to CSN to Dylan to Joe Cocker to Bob Marley to Zeppelin (as when they toured with Jimmy Page and nailed all of the Zep material). Shit, even Nick Drake and (after they came out of hiatus in 2005) Devendra Banhart. It wasn’t Bon Jovi barfing out “Helter Skelter”.

At the height of my collecting days, I had easily 150 Crowes shows from their 92-2006 on CDR (plus another 50 or so on cassette from the days before CD burners became cheap and common), as well as 15-20 DVD-Rs of different performances. That sounds excessive but like I said: during most of that period, the Crowes had no set setlists. Because of the variety, it might have been an exercise in obsessiveness, but it wasn’t an exercise in redundancy.

Anyway, there were hiatuses and embarrassing periods (their glam phase after 1999’s transparently desperate ‘By Your Side’) and the albums became less vital, though each still produced at least a few songs that I’d happily add to my iTunes’ Black Crowes ‘best of’ playlist. The live shows again got awesome when Marc Ford and Steve Gorman rejoined in 2005 and became a bit less so after Old Weird Ed was booted in 2006 and then Marc bailed on them for the final time.

It’s been a great ride with that band. I’ll never forget buying Amorica at a midnight release at the Discount Den in Muncie in 1994, going home to listen to it on headphones, and being so blown away that I listened to it 4 times through before going to sleep. I’ll never forget seeing them on the 1995 HORDE tour in Indy. I’ll never forget the 1996 show at San Diego’s 4th and B, where I heard “Title Song” for the first time and Chris had an epic rant against the security and owner of the club (the show was excellent, btw). I’ll never forget Josh F. of Luna Music slipping me a cassette in 1996 that had their not-yet released album “3Snakes” on it, as well as the sublime “Feathers”. I wound up buying a live CD bootleg of their 12/5/94 Minneapolis there, which got me started on collecting live shows.

I’ll never forget seeing them at Mars in Bloomington in 1999, mostly because it was so loud that I had amnesia for a week. I’ll never forget seeing them open for Tom Petty in 2005, where I started the other 100 people in the pavilion by screaming “YES!” when I heard the drum opening to “Feathers” start up (also memorable: the hurricane that rolled through near the end of Petty’s performance). I’ll never forget the Crowes coming on dressed as AC/DC on 10/31/05 and playing 3 AC/DC covers before coming back out and playing my favorite ever setlist (Feathers AND Title Song!!! I’ll never forget seeing in on August 4, 2006 because I met my wife later than night. :)

And I’ll never forget seeing them with great friends, some ex-girlfriends, and also with some peeps I just met that day/night. And I'll never forget all the time I spent on messageboards like this one: talking shit, cracking wise, sharing stories, debating lead guitar work, etc.

The Black Crowes’ music has helped me through some rough time and have made some great times even better. It’s sad they are breaking up because of such petty and greedy reasons, but what can you do? We’ll always have the albums and the live shows. Thanks for the music, guys.

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