The 27 Club
Assembly, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
22 August 2012
Despite covering one of the myths of music – why do so many musicians head to the big gig in the sky aged just 27 – this show lacks rock n roll attitude for our reviewer.
When the news first broke in April 1994 that Kurt Cobain had blown his brains out, one of his mother Wendy’s earliest reported reactions was of anger that her son had ”Ëjoined that stupid club’.
The club she was referring to was the 27 Club of the title of this show wherein each member has burnt themselves out usually through drink or drugs but always via life in the fast lane. It is a strange juxtaposition to place so many tales of debauchery and the dark depths of the demi-monde as a piece of musical theatre but while the sequences involving classic songs of the deceased – especially Hendrix’s Purple Haze – are more than adequately handled the original material sounds incongruous and clunky in comparison.
Beginning with Robert Johnson’s premature death in the nineteen thirties it fast forwards to 1969 and Brian Jones – who many consider the founding member of the club and pretty much indisputably the first rock and roll casualty – and here is where the mythologies and conspiracy theories start to abound.
Hendrix, Janis Joplin ”â who is described as an ”Ëunconventional beauty’ though I am unsure just how unconventional beauty would have to be before she could be included – and probably the most iconic member of the clan, the sometime Lizard King, Jim Morrison followed Jones’s lead in an unbelievably and disturbingly swift fashion.
Things settled down for a while – amongst major players anyway – until Cobain’s suicide in the nineties and then last year Amy Winehouse joined the live fast, die young, stay pretty brigade.
The conspiracy theories which surround several of these stars are superfluous and only further the legend with little proof. Therefore rumours of Brian Jones”Ës murder by an irate builder, Hendrix’s forced intoxication or most notoriously Morrison’s totally faked death remain exactly that and no new evidence is offered up.
These people were on the road to destruction via their own choices anyway and most of them looked ravaged and older than their years. The beauty and sex appeal which made Jones and Morrison such huge icons was a distant memory at the time of their deaths.
As for the two most high profile women – Joplin and Winehouse – maybe they spend their time hanging out at the club bar bemoaning the fact they both ended their days looking like tragic drag queens; dragged up, drugged out and drunken parodies of their former strong selves.
This show skims over all these issues and serves it up as a variety show with some familiar tunes. The music is a more than passable facsimile of the classics they cover but it is more of a nostalgia trip for those who remember the seemingly unstoppable high death rate amongst musicians in the late sixties and early seventies.
It is a passable show but unfortunately, for me, it just didn’t resonate with any rock and roll attitude – there is some great subject matter within just waiting to be unearthed.
All words by David Marren. You can read more from David on LTW here.