David Myhr - Soundshine

R.I.P. Emitt Rhodes

Posted: July 20th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: post | No Comments »

I was just reached by the news that the amazing Emitt Rhodes has passed away at the age of 70.  Very saddening news!

Some of you who’s reading this (being devoted fans of the genre called power-pop and/or any kind of post-Beatles pop) probably know very well who this is. He must certainly be said to be somewhat of a giant in those circuits. Or at least a very beloved “cult hero”. Others might not have a clue who he is. There was a time when I didn’t either (see below).

My old band The Merrymakers once recorded a version of my favourite song of his on which I am singing lead vocals. “Somebody Made For Me”. It’s on Spotify here. There’s also a fan-made little YouTube clip featuring a couple of pictures from our basic tracks sessions at the EMI Studio in Sweden:

Only a few months ago I got the question why we chose this particular song from Sony Music Japan (in conjunction with the release of The Best of The Merrymakers) that explains how I/we discovered his music (back in 1997). This was my reply:

That is a special memory It was after it was decided that we were going to work with Andy Sturmer (ex-Jellyfish) that we went to see him at his house in Oakland. It was a surreal experience to begin with for us to go home to our big hero and idol. We were so incredibly nervous. But excited of course! He asked us if we were beer-drinkers and we said a big collective “YES”!  So we sat down in his living room with our beers and started to talk music. Andy loved what we were doing so that was fantastic. He was about to go through our songs with us and discuss them individually to prepare for his upcoming visit to Sweden. But he also started to suggest some cover songs going through his fantastic record collection. He had two songs in mind. One that he picked out was an old ELO song that we hadn’t heard. “Julie don’t live here anymore”. I fell in love with it and we kept playing it on the rest of our California trip in our rental car. I have very strong memories of that. But the other song that he suggested was almost too good to be true. It was “Somebody made for me” by Emitt Rhodes.
I couldn’t believe my ears! It sounded so close to Paul McCartney! Unbeliavable! It was such a wonderful piece of pop music. And we hadn’t heard about the guy before. Such a treasure!

And we decided to record that song. And we also laid down some basic tracks for it during the Bubblegun recording. But Anders [Hellgren] was skeptical. He thought our version went too slow. He heard something else in his head and didn’t think it was worth finishing. And so we didn’t. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when Bubblegun was going to come out in Australia and they wanted a bonus track that I convinced Anders that we should finish the recording. So we did. I sang a lead vocal and Anders did some beautiful backing vocals. I think it turned out quite nicely! But in answer to your question – it was totally Andy’s idea from the beginning!

Since the 90’s I have never forgotten about Emitt Rhodes. I have kept his music close to my heart. And to be aware of his music has always felt like some kind of hidden treasure. In a parallell world his music should of course have reached so many more ears. I would recommend anyone to try to get hold of his wonderful debut album Emitt Rhodes (from the fantastic year 1970!) which is the one I’ve been listening to so many times without ever growing tired of it.

There was a documentary made about him that I tried to get hold of for years, that sometimes can be found on YouTube or Vimeo called “The One Man Beatles” which tells quite a lot about his story. Here’s a current link to Vimeo that may or may not last (so hurry up!):

 

This film, however, was shot before my good (and extremely talented) musician friend (and Melody and Madness tour mate) Chris Price did the wonderful album “Rainbow Ends” with Emitt. As such it’s a bit incomplete. But still a great watch obviously!

 

 

Chris Price himself just wrote the following on his Facebook:

“I am still processing the news that Emitt is gone. He was a colossal talent, a certified genius and he was my friend. When I was a teenager I listened to his records religiously, not knowing how fundamentally important he would become to my life beyond just those incredible albums. I learned a lot being around him; about life, music and even a bit of quantum physics. To those of you who only knew him through the music, I intend to keep his memory alive and well and continue to share his work with everyone I come into contact with, and I encourage you to do the same. To those that I know and love, who knew and loved him, I am thinking of you and I hope we all see each other soon and share the more personal memories. RIP Emitt Rhodes, you will be deeply missed.”

Chris Price with Emitt Rhodes

When I came over to Los Angeles back in 2018 for the Melody and Madness tour  (see “my” part of our joint show in LA here) Chris picked me up at LAX. He actually had planned a bit of a surprise for me for the lunch we were going to have. He actually had called to see if Emitt would like to join for this lunch (knowing what a fan I was…). However, it turned out that Emitt had a short answer to the guy (Jim) who shared house with him, and who had picked up the phone (since Emitt usually didn’t). He replied: “–I’ve already eaten!”. So that was the end of that. But I am forever thankful to Chris for the “almost met Emitt” experience. I am also very grateful for the first-hand account from Chris in the car on the tour about how he managed to make Emitt record again. With a little help from some friends like Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., Jason Falkner, Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, Susanna Hoffs, Nels Cline, Pat Sansone, Taylor Locke, Fernando Perdomo, Joe Seiders, Bleu, Probyn Gregory and Nelson Bragg.

Thank you so much for the music Emitt Rhodes! And thank you Andy Sturmer for introducing me to his music. And thank you Chris Price for bringing Emitt back to music. His music will remain in my heart as long as I live.