Get Jack Dempsey
Jack Dempsey, the reclusive musicians-musician who vowed long ago to never record an album, finally recorded an album. And in keeping with the tragic nature of everything connected to him; someone stole the hard drive in late May and put the entire thing on-line.
Entitled 24 Hour Rock Star the collection of seven songs was then uploaded to iTunes in early June with little to no fanfare. I got my copy from a bootlegger on Haight-Ashbury two weeks ago (with a pretty funny photocopied cover of some Asian guy in a Jack Dempsey punch-top-hat) and have not stopped listening to it since.
The album begins with a single guitar smothered in Dempsey’s signature Maxwell Street distortion playing a riff that is at once both whimsical and lethal; and then ushers you into his world (and troubles) with the opening lyric, “So many have tried to tame me; many think I could’ve been their ‘one’.”
From that first song you’re lead down a dark and seductive path that seems to be trying to tell you something, almost like a warning: That listening to this will somehow make you see the world the way Dempsey does – and that ain’t good; but it also ain’t so bad.
No one knows too much about him; the only real glimpse of what he’s actually about are in the few quotes attributed to him and those don’t really help either. The most famous Dempsey quote, “everything you need to know about me is in my music; and none of it is true” leaves you wondering if he’s trying to hard to be cool or not enough.
But regardless, the experience of this album is unlike anything that’s come out in recent years. This is an album that would have fit perfectly in 1972 – arguably the most honest year in rock history. That was the year that some of the biggest acts in music brushed off the ‘wall of sound’ and got real. Aretha Franklin released Young, Gifted and Black; the Stones put out Exile on Main Street; Al Green created cross over with Let’s Stay Together; Ry Cooder redefined blues with Into the Purple Valley; and Paul Simon and Jackson Browne put out albums simply entitled Paul Simon and Jackson Browne.
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I once got to ride in a 1968 Mustang GT 390; 24 Hour Rock Star reminds me so much of the experience. The key is turned and the engine comes to life; the gearshift is strummed into first and you are instantly thrust forward in what is both a thrilling and terrifying joy ride. And in the end you walk away feeling some how you know something about life that other people will just never understand.