The Gun Club’s version of the standard “My Man’s Gone Now,” from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, trumps all other versions I’ve heard.
I started listening to The Gun Club a few years ago, and I was shocked I hadn’t discovered them before. Maybe I had been turned off by common descriptors of their music, such as “tribal psychobilly blues.” Horrifying.
After hearing their first record Fire Of Love I didn’t care what genre they were lumped into. I didn’t care that a white punk singer was emulating Mississippi Delta bluesmen. From the opening chords of the first track “Sex Beat,” I was drawn under the spell of Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a music nut who became deeply engrossed in blues, glam, prog rock, reggae- genres which amalgamated into the Gun Club sound. He wrote for Slash magazine, the L.A. punk fanzine, worked in a record store, and was the president of the Blondie fanclub.
He met Kid Congo Powers, who would also play with the The Cramps, and they began playing music under various monikers until they settled on Gun Club. Pierce wanted their music to sound like a modern version of Marty Robbins 1959 album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. You can truly hear it in a track like “The Master’s Call,” and even lyrically, Pierce was drawing from Robbins. Most of the songs on Gunfighter Ballads end with the singer either dying or getting saved by a higher force.
I’ve always loved the juxtaposition of tough-looking Marty grabbing for his “big iron” against a hot pink background.
The Gun Club went through many lineups, and Pierce had several solo incarnations, including forays into spoken word and rap. Pierce lived hard, and became a casualty of his addictions, dying at the age of 37. If I could trade the poster of Jim Morrison’s grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery which hung in my teenage room for one of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s, I would do so now. They were both losers who died too young, but Pierce makes Morrison look like a poseur. That was the worst epithet you could sling at someone when I was in high school.
I like that no attempt was made to fudge the lyrics and change the sex of the departed in this song. Here’s “My Man’s Gone Now” from the 1984 album The Las Vegas Story.
Watch the band in 1983, live in Amsterdam performing ‘The Lie.” Jeffrey is very high, but this doesn’t seem to impede his performance, in fact it probably enhanced it!