Five sad tales of musicians who went AWOL

Ashley features, Gallery, Music 1 Comment

up-manicOn February 17th 1995 police found Richey Edwards’ Vauxhall Cavalier abandoned at the Severn View service station. They reported that there was evidence that The Manic Street Preachers’ guitarist had been living in the car.

As for the car’s owner, well nothing has been heard from him since. There have been alleged sightings in Goa and Lanzarote, while there are those believe that he took his own life and jumped off the Severn Bridge. I guess we will never know.

Edwards, however, wasn’t the first rock star who decided that they had had enough of their old life and wanted to start anew. Various members of Fleetwood Mac disappeared in the late 60s and early 70s to be discovered in the cradle of slightly iffy religious groups.

There are others too and I have rounded up five stories of musicians who, for one reason or another, completely disappeared. Some, like Richey, are missing presumed dead, others are just keeping an incredibly low profile while working on that magical next album. Then there’s the tale of Rodriguez, a singer whose life was shrouded in mystery before a film was made retelling his amazing tale.

The other thing about all five is that each of them has created some wonderful music, which in four out of the five cases, deserves to be much better known.

Jim Sullivan - whisked away by aliens?

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Perhaps the most dramatic tale of a musician going AWOL ever the Jim Sullivan story still intrigues everyone who hears it. The story has an added poignancy as the album that Sullivan released in 1969, UFO, is a special one that has recently been championed by a new wave of folk stars like Laura Marling. Anyway back to the story. In the late 60s Sullivan was a talented singer songwriter in need of a break. He got one when an actor friend of his, Al Dobbs, decided to fund his album. That record, UFO is minor classic - a perfect mix of dusty folk and Gothic country, yet with some strong pop undertones. Dobbs had ensured that only top notch musicians played on the album including several of Phil Spector's legendary Wrecking Crew band of session hacks. It really is quite an astonishing listen. Take Rosey, a delicate, gently picked ballad taken to new heights by pizzicato and then soaring strings. It sounds like the sort of track Lee Hazlewood would have written on a very good day. Most intriguing of all is the title track UFO, where Sullivan shares his obsession with aliens in an eery way that some believe was a psychic prediction of the fate that was soon to befall him. Sadly the album stiffed - it has been reissued by Light In the Arric Records and these days is hailed as a classic of its genre - and Sullivan went back to playing bars and busking for a living. Then in 1975 he decided to leave his wife in California and head eastwards to start a new life a session musician in Nashville. He never got there. His car was found abandoned in the desert while all his possessions were left in his hotel room. The last time he was seen was on the ranch of a family with mafia connections. The case is still unsolved, but there are some folk who believe that the UFO watcher's dream finally came true and he was whisked away by aliens. Others take the view that he may have been murdered and the body never recovered. Either way Sullivan left behind one superb album and an enduring myth which one day really ought to be turned into a film.