Sunday, October 11, 2015

Steve Mackay: A Tribute

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I had a full evening of projects planned, but when a musician as important as Steve Mackay dies, plans change. As soon as I got in, I put on The Stooges' Have Some Fun: Live At Ungano's. If you've never heard this album, you need to check it out immediately. While everyone in the (then) six-piece band is on fire throughout the recording, Steve Mackay is clearly the star of this show. Years before the great John Zorn began incinerating his sax on stages around the world, Mackay was using the instrument for a similar assault, adding even more fuel to The Stooges' already incendiary machine. Just listen to the guy's playing on “Have Some Fun/My Dream Is Dead.” I can't even put that into words. Nobody can. That's shit you have to FEEL to understand. The man was from somewhere else.

It's hard to take in the reality that we will no longer hear new sounds come from Steve's soul. It's also deeply sad that a player of his history and stature had to have a GoFundMe account launched to help pay off his medical bills. While there is some solace to be found in the fact that many Stooges fans were able to contribute to the fund and give their thanks and support (after all, the man's music is in our collective DNA), the truth remains that humanity has a terrible habit of failing to truly honor and support its living treasures until it's too late. The man should not have had to worry about money. He earned and deserved more than he ever received.

The version of Live At Ungano's that's playing (yet again tonight) in the background as I write this is the vinyl pressing released just a few months ago for Record Store Day. A 45-year-old recording is absolutely peeling the paint off my walls. It's almost TOO good. How many bands hold up that well? And damn...I just realized while listening to these great instrumental parts that those making them -- all five of these cats -- are now gone. I'm sure Iggy realizes that, too. Fucking hell.

But at the same time, it's comforting to know that Steve Mackay went out on top. Two of the best albums of 2014 – James Williamson's Re-Licked and Sonny Vincent & Spite's Spiteful feature his incomparable contributions. Those records wouldn't have been half as amazing without him. And I bet you anything that there will be people picking up Stooges records in 2030, 2050 and beyond and getting their heads blown off by what these men created.

The grooves on those records will never die. The Stooges are immortal. And so is Steve Mackay.

My condolences to those who worked with and loved the man.


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