Ariel Pink is hell-bent on making obscure musician Bobby Jameson famous
“To Whom It May Concern,” begins a post on the late musician Bobby Jameson’s blog. “In 1985 I finally gave up trying to be in the record business. I couldn’t get paid, and I couldn’t get anyone to release anything of consequence regarding my work.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, but Jameson never quite hit it big. After a failed career in the ’60s due to mismanagement and self-sabotage (read: drugs), the once-promising Jameson shrunk away before his music had a chance to fully bloom. Long thought dead, an embittered Jameson reappeared in 2007 to remind everyone he was still around and had outstanding invoices through a bizarre series of blog rants and YouTube videos. The sheer amount of work he did create while on the up did manage to find a small but dedicated fan base. However, to call him cult would be an overstatement. Ariel Pink is now trying to make him posthumously famous.
He is the subject of Pink’s upcoming album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. Having only discovered the singer-songwriter after his death by aneurysm in 2015 at the age of 70, Pink also found inspiration in the wistful story, and from that came an album that feels very true to Ariel Pink the individual, not Ariel Pink the personality. There are parallels in the careers of Pink and Jameson: plagues of controversy, possible misunderstandings, and now, finally, a moment of calm.
Tim Burgess, frontman of U.K. indie rockers The Charlatans, counts himself among the small pool of Bobby Jameson diehards. This isn’t the first conversation between Burgess and Pink. Longtime pals, the pair has laid plans to put out a Christmas song together. But that’s for later-right now, Pink is hell bent on giving Bobby Jameson his due.
ARIEL PINK: How’s it going?
TIM BURGESS: I’m doing great, I’m doing great. How’s it all going?
PINK: I’m doing good. I’m in Barcelona right now.
BURGESS: Doing press or are you playing?
PINK: No, just an actual romantic getaway. It’s my second holiday ever, I think.
BURGESS: Wow, that’s great. And how long are you there for?
PINK: I’m there till the first [of September].
BURGESS: I’m not big on the holiday thing myself.
PINK: Where are you right now?
BURGESS: I’m in London now. I’m going to the festival later on today, that’s about it for the weekend. So I’ve got to interview you.
PINK: Yeah, just fire away, man.
BURGESS: The first question, and I think it’s a standard one-not too crazy. Who is Bobby Jameson and what is his story?
PINK: You know a little bit about this.
BURGESS: Yeah, I bought one of his records after talking to you last time.
PINK: Oh really, which one?
BURGESS: I got one as an MP3, which is just Jameson, I think that’s the second one. And then I found one on vinyl, the first one, Too Many Mornings.
PINK: Wow that’s a rare one, is that on Talamo records?
BURGESS: It’s 1965.
PINK: Is it on Talamo?
BURGESS: It’s on Joy.
PINK: That’s a different one, that’s the second label he was on I guess, but that’s amazing. That’s great-you found it on eBay I take it?
BURGESS: Yeah, discounted. But I only know a little but about Bobby Jameson because of the conversations that we had in the past. I think it would be great if you told the story-and then the world will know.
PINK: Well Bobby Jameson was an L.A. musician; he was around in the early ’60s. He was poised to make it. He was poised to be the next big thing and the way fate dealt his hand was quite sad. From the get-go he was kind of screwed.
BURGESS: Yeah, by his manager.
PINK: His manager was a psychopath whose actual recorded output is probably more well known and sold better than anything he did, just by virtue of being a religious cult. Tony Alamo just died several months ago at the age of 82, serving a life sentence for almost 200 years for being a child molester. But, before that, he was a pot-smoking manager in Hollywood. I guess his first and only discovery, as far as I know, was Bobby Jameson.
Bobby Jameson was supposed to rise to stardom, but he was just mishandled the whole way-not least of all by himself. He got messed up with drugs and the story’s a classic fall from grace except there’s nothing to fall from. He just never made it. And he could never figure out why, and was left scratching his head and going up to people on the sidewalk talking about how badly he was mistreated. It seems like everybody he’s had collaborations with went on to do great things and he was just relegated to the sidelines of his dream-until today.
BURGESS: Until this moment now, when you put out a record dedicated to him.
PINK: They better pay attention now.
BURGESS: I did look on the internet and I found something-when he discovered the internet-and I thought it was amazing that he was sticking up for himself and he was going to stick it to the man. Did you know him at all at this point?
PINK: No, I didn’t know him personally. Sorry I’m going to be shoveling wonton soup in between my explanations.
BURGESS: That’s okay, I’ve got an apple in my pocket!
PINK: [laughs] So he went online to complain and found himself locked out of forums and chat rooms and stuff, and told that he was a nuisance. I totally know the feeling, he’s going in there and he’s like, “I’m Bobby Jameson”, and they’re like, “We’re big fans of your stuff”, and he’s just like, “Well I got fucked on all my stuff”, and then they’re just like, “Well you ought to be happy.” And these just general, younger latter-day fans who didn’t know he was alive or anything until recently. His complaints continued unheeded as if no time had passed.
BURGESS: Had he studied law or something like that?
PINK: I found out about him way after the fact, after he died and everything, so I felt like I had really missed the boat. And he got very into some of the legalities of music publishing.
BURGESS: That’s what I heard! He started to fight back.
PINK: Yeah, he started reading all these law books and… I think it’ll help him square away or get something from Kim Fowley. Fowley had been involved in the acquisition of his music at some point.
BURGESS: So when you were making your new record did you have a concept?
PINK: I read the blog and I basically came up with the idea of naming my record Dedicated to Bobby Jameson on the spot, well before writing music for it, so it was one of the first things that I decided. Then I set to the task of writing songs not having a song named Bobby Jameson or anything like that. But once I started writing the songs, I found one song I could give that title to. I never really intended on making a themed record because I can’t really write themes across songs, I’m not that kind of songwriter.
BURGESS: No I get that, but it does sound like all the songs belong on the same record.
PINK: I think our brains do that after the fact.
BURGESS: Maybe. If I was completely honest, I think the first track could be on Mature Themes maybe or pom pom, but then the rest of it sounds really cohesive, like a new plane.
PINK: The sequencing was really the tough part.
BURGESS: So who was the first person that you played it to?
PINK: I’ve got my friends, my trusted people. I sent the whole track to R. Stevie Moore when it was still a solid track, not even the first master for the vinyl.
BURGESS: What did he think?
PINK: No comment. But generally with him if I hear anything it’s a delayed reaction, down the line when he’s absorbed it. Have you spoken to him lately?
BURGESS: Only on Facebook.
PINK: I’ve been trying to keep in touch with him more regularly.
BURGESS: I’ve got his number and everything. What he did think of us meeting up?
INK: I’m sure he was jealous. But he was super, super psyched. The guy loves to be thought of at all. I think he gets lonely in Nashville, and how could you blame him. If I were him, I’d want people to be reaching out to me all the time. I think he deserves it.
BURGESS: So what else have I got? pom pom was Ariel Pink. This is Ariel Pink. Is there a new lineup when you play live?
PINK: This record’s not going to have the same lineup. There’s going to be Kenny and Don, but not some of the others, it just doesn’t really make sense.
BURGESS: It’s a new launch.
PINK: Yeah, it’s a new launch: You need some fresh blood to have new energy in there.
BURGESS: I was going to ask when you’re playing in London.
PINK: Look it up!
BURGESS: Okay, is there something you want us all to know?
PINK: I love Madonna! I truly do, I hope she knows this. I hope she retweets this on Twitter.
BURGESS: I love Madonna.
PINK: I like Grimes too.
BURGESS: I like Grimes.
PINK: Where is she?
BURGESS: I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since Austin, Texas, at a festival two years ago.
PINK: Maybe my next record will be dedicated to her: “Where is Grimes?”
BURGESS: Is this a good time to talk about our Christmas song together?
PINK: It’s gonna happen this Christmas hopefully, if we have our shit together.
BURGESS: Is R. Stevie Moore getting involved?
PINK: That’s a good question. I sent it to him. I guess it depends on if he’s healed up or not. He really misses recording. He’s been out of the loop.
BURGESS: We should go out there and see him.
PINK: We really should.
BURGESS: Was it difficult or satisfying making this record?
PINK: It was deeply satisfying, deeply enjoyable and relaxed. It’s usually a bit more frustrating-and costly too. I did it at home.
BURGESS: I love the idea of having a studio as part of the record. I think it’s like a member of the band.
PINK: It is.
BURGESS: You bounce ideas off of it; it bounces them back. Does that work for you, then?
PINK: It works for me. I hadn’t done that in a while, and it’s where I used to spend most of my time. Of course I was in a different apartment back then. The whole idea of not needing to punch clock or call somebody to listen to something, just having it in my living room: you could get into it at all hours. It seems like a majority of the time at the studio you’re left twiddling your thumbs, and I could just do that at home.
BURGESS: I love twiddling my thumbs!
ARIEL PINK WILL RELEASE HIS NEW ALBUM, DEDICATED TO BOBBY JAMESON, ON SEPTEMBER 15, 2017. GROOMING: ALICIA MARIE CAMPBELL AT SEE MANAGEMENT.