Obituaries, Nov. 17, 2022

(Julian) Keith Levene, Public Image Ltd and The Clash guitarist, died on Nov. 11, reportedly of liver cancer, aged 65. The news was broken by author and writer Adam Hammond.

Levene was a member of both these influential bands, though he left The Clash before their debut album was released. In 1978 he then teamed up with Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon and Jah Wobble to form PiL, considered one of the most important post-punk bands of that era.

Hammond claimed "there is no doubt that Keith was one of the most innovative, audacious and influential guitarists of all time," adding that "as well as helping to make PiL the most important band of the age, Keith also founded The Clash with Mick Jones and had a major influence on their early sound. So much of what we listen to today owes much to Keith’s work, some of it acknowledged, most of it not.” 

After roading for Yes in the early 1970s, Levene founded The Clash in 1976 alongside Jones, famously persuading Joe Strummer to leave his band at the time – The 101ers – and join the band. Although he left The Clash before they began recording, he co-wrote What's My Name, featured on their first album.

He then formed Public Image Ltd with John Lydon after the breakup of the Sex Pistols. Levene played on a Travis Bean metal-neck guitar, and he was involved in the writing, performing and producing of PiL's early albums: First IssueMetal Box and Flowers of Romance.

Levene left PiL in 1983 over creative differences concerning what would eventually become the band's fourth album, This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get. In 1984, he released the original versions of the songs on his own label under the title Commercial Zone which was the original working title of the album. In 1985 he moved to Los Angeles where he formed a company with his second wife, journalist Shelly da Cunha.

In mid-1986, Levene was asked to produce demos for the album The Uplift Mofo Party Plan by Red Hot Chili Peppers at Master Control in Burbank. Also in 1986, Levene worked together with DJ Matt Dike, experimenting with sampling techniques and hip-hop for Ice T and Tone Loc on their early recordings for Delicious.

In 1989, he released his first solo release, Violent Opposition, on which members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed. In 2003, Levene contributed to industrial rock supergroup Pigface's album Easy Listening.  He has since released several solo records, among which was the Killer in the Crowd EP in 2004.

 In 2011 Levene contributed to three tracks on the album Psychic Life, a collaboration between Wobble and Lonelady. In early 2012, after some planned Japan gigs were cancelled because of visa issues, Levene and Wobble played various venues in England, Wales and Germany as Metal Box in Dub. This was followed by the release of a four-song EP, Yin & Yang

In the spring of 2014, Levene went to Prague to record Commercial Zone 2014, an album backed via a crowdsourcing campaign funding website at Indiegogo.

Those to pay tribute to Levene since news of his death was announced include PiL bassist Jah Wobble. Andy Bell of Ride posted this: “RIP Keith Levene – a guitar tone like ground up diamonds fired at you through a high-pressure hose.”  Sources: The Guardian, Wikipedia, NME

Rab Noakes, a Scottish folk singer/songwriter, has died aged 75. No cause of death has been reported.

A founding member of Stealers Wheel, he was also a solo artist who released more than 20 albums and performed at festivals such as Celtic Connections.

Before setting up his own production company, Noakes was a senior music producer at the BBC.

He was a regular collaborator with other musicians, including Barbara Dickson, who described him as "my dear and old friend". 

In the early '70s, he performed with Lindisfarne, whom he supported on a national tour in 1972, and recorded his songs Turn a Deaf Ear on their first album, Nicely Out of Tune, and Together Foreve" on their second, Fog on the Tyne. Barbara Dickson also recorded Turn a Deaf Ear on her album Do Right Woman, on which Noakes also performed.

Noakes also sang backing vocals and played guitar on the first solo album by Gerry Rafferty, Can I Have My Money Back.  After these sessions he became an early member of Stealers Wheel, although he left them before they recorded their first album. Noakes made his own debut solo recording Do You See The Lights in 1970. One of Noakes's best-known recordings, Branch, was released as a single in the summer of 1974 from his album Red Pump Special,which was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, and produced by Elliot Mazer.

Noakes became the senior producer for music programmes on BBC Radio Scotland.

In 2015, he released the album I'm Walking Here, his 19th solo release. Sources: BBC News, Wikipedia

Gary (Garrick) Roberts, an Irish musician best known as the lead guitarist with The Boomtown Rats, died on Nov. 9, age 72.

In a statement, Boomtown Rats declared "It is with very great grief that the members of The Boomtown Rats announce the death this morning of Garry Roberts their old friend and great guitarist. The remaining members of the band, Pete, Bob and Simon, extend their deepest sympathy to his family and friends. On a clear Spring evening in 1975, in a pub in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Garry became THE founding member of what turned out to be a great rock’nroll band and driven largely by that sound of his, a storm of massive considered noise that punched out from his overtaxed amplifiers and which animated not just the rest of the group but audiences he played to around the world.
For fans, he was The Legend - and he was. For us, he was Gazzer, the guy who summed up the sense of who The Rats are.
We have known Garry since we were children and so we feel strangely adrift without him tonight.
Safe travels Gaz."

Roberts formed the band in 1976 with Johnny Fingers, Pete Briquette, Gerry Cott, Simon Crowe, and singer Bob Geldof.

After The Boomtown Rats disbanded in 1986, Roberts worked with Simply Red, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Flesh For Lulu in the role of sound engineer on tours in the UK and US. He avoided playing the guitar in public for ten years, after which he and Simon Crowe played together for four years in the rhythm and blues four-piece band The Velcro Flies.

After having worked successfully as an Independent Financial Adviser for fifteen years, he had become disillusioned with the life insurance industry and became a central heating engineer to keep himself occupied between gigs. Roberts and Crowe, with Darren Beale, on second lead guitar, and Peter Barton, on bass guitar and lead vocals, were playing together as Boomtown Rats Roberts and Crowe and performing material from the Rats' first three albums across Europe and the UK. Sources: The Telegraph, Wikipedia

Nik Turner, a saxophonist and the co-founder of the British space-rock band Hawkwind, died on Nov. 10, aged 82.

He also played in Sphynx, Inner City Unit and Space Ritual

A statement on his Facebook page said: “We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nik Turner – the Mighty Thunder Rider, who passed away peacefully at home on Thursday evening. He has moved on to the next phase of his cosmic journey, guided by the love of his family, friends and fans. Watch this space for his arrangements.”

Turner was one of the founding members of Hawkwind, which formed in 1969, alongside Dave Brock, John Harrison, Terry Ollis and Mick Slattery.

He played with the band for seven years, including with Lemmy, who joined in 1971 and would later go on to be the frontman for Motörhead. Turner left the band in 1976, before returning in 1982 and playing with them for another two years.

Hawkwind is best known for the song Silver Machine, which reached No 3 in the UK singles chart in 1972, as well as Urban Guerrilla and Shot Down in the Night.

Motörhead’s official Twitter account posted: “We lost Lemmy’s old bandmate Nik Turner today. Play some Hawkwind nice and loud! Brainstorm here we go!”

Between his two stints in Hawkwind, Turner travelled to Egypt and recorded flute music inside the pyramids. The recordings became the basis for a group called Sphynx, which released the album Xitintoday in 1978.

Turner also recorded songs under the names Inner City Unit, Nik Turner’s Fantastic All Stars, and Space Ritual.

“I have a very casual attitude to all this – to me, it’s entertainment,” he told the music website the Quietus in 2013. “But entertainment with an agenda, really. Of spreading joy and love and that sort of thing. I mean, I worry about being too overtly hippy, but peace and love are not fashionable sentiments in some quarters and I think they should be.” The Guardian

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