Thinking further on the death of Kevin Ayers a few days ago, I am reminded of another statement of his that I’ve always found noteworthy.
Ayers’ Wiki entry quotes him as saying that he had “virtually no recollection” of recording several of his albums in the early to mid-1980s, due to his drug and alcohol abuse. (The quote is attributed to a 1992 interview Ayers did with the BBC.)
Ayers is not the only performer to have made such a claim. Alice Cooper, who had a similarly debilitating addiction to alcohol, has said he has few if any memories of recording three albums around the same time.
There’s an obvious wisecrack here, and I won’t resist it: I wish I could forget most of what went on between 1983 and 1986, myself.
Getting past that, though, I cannot imagine how chronically messed up you have to be to blank out weeks or months at a time, particularly where a major personal creative project is involved. There’s no party-hearty rock n’ roll spirit at work there … just slow death.
(I’m taking their comments at face value, by the way. It could be that what they really meant, between the lines, was that they remembered very little, but more than they wanted to. Still, I take them at their word.)
Ayers’ and Cooper’s experiences also represent a sort of contradiction to the romantic notion of Album as Coherent Artistic Statement.
Not every artist goes into the studio with a grand plan, theme or vision. Some are just lucky to stay upright until the tape stops rolling.
And the music they make in that state doesn’t necessarily touch a raw nerve, or spill out their tortured soul, or any of those other cliched artist-in-pain images.
Sometimes it’s just numb and hollow and empty … like a thought you feel like you should know, but can’t clearly remember.