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.

Sixto Rodriguez - didn't he kill himself on stage?

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A coupe of decades ago if you had asked any white middle class liberal south African to tell you about Sixto Rodriguez they would have come up with a corker of a tale. They would tell you how embittered by the way in which his two superb albums hadn't achieved any degree of recognition in the late 60s and early 70s that the Detroit based singer had shot himself while on stage. It was of course an urban myth but it reflects the mystique that surrounds the amazing singer. If you have never heard Sixto Rodriguez, then you really need to. His music is even better than his story - and his story is so good it was turned into a cracking film last year. He released a pair of quite superb albums that were clearly influenced by Dylan, but had touch of Hendrix and even Burt Bacharach about them too. There's a whiff of psychedelia too on druggy, but very catchy songs like Sugar Man. The string arrangements on his second album, Coming From Reality even recall Robert Kirby's incredible work with Nick Drake, especially on the stunning ballad Cause. In spite of the records selling zero copies in the US they became very popular in South Africa in the 70s and 80s thanks mainly to the distribution of bootleg copies. Yet with Rodriguez completely out of the limelight all kinds of rumours about his life began to surface. These were finally scotched forever when two enterprising fans tracked Rodriguez down in Detroit and persuaded him to tour South Africa. In the intervening years he had been keeping a low-ish profile doing manual labour jobs and living modestly. Imagining that he would be playing in smaller club venues Rodriguez was apparently overwhelmed when his first gig on the tour was attended by thousands of fans. The rest of the amazing tale is recalled in the superb Searching For Sugar Man film which came out last year. Rodriguez recently played sold out concerts in London and is finally belatedly gaining some critical acclaim and popularity in his own country.