Honor Thy Father: Sky Saxon, R.I.P.
Almost lost amongst the lurid media tumult over Jacko and Farrah's passing, the death on Thursday morning of Seeds frontman Sky Sunlight Saxon was the day's genuine stop-the-presses newsflash, a gloomy finale that closed the book on one of rock & roll's most influential and misunderstood figures. While a nasty bolt from the blue -- Saxon had performed a show last Saturday and had just been admitted to an Austin Texas hospital on Monday for an "undetermined infection of the internal organs," it was nonetheless somewhat miraculous that he made it this far.
Saxon, born Richard Marsh in Salt Lake City Utah on an apparently indeterminable date, was in myriad senses the most genuine of rock stars -- such an unhinged contrarian that not long after the Seeds initial burst of success most of his peers were compelled to deny him, an unhappy necessity dictated by Saxon's own notorious gimme-gimme appetites and thoroughly unpredictable behavior.
Saxon defined enigma, the cat who often performed most his show with his back to audience, the one whose appearances we flocked to and then spent most of the night scurrying around doing anything to avoid having to speak with him. But it all comes down to his mid-60's work with Los Angeles based overlords the Seeds, a brief span of minutes captured on vinyl that almost never happened; during a break on a session for their first album, Saxon drifted out to producer Jimmie Maddin's car and returned some fifteen minutes with a song that he'd written on the spot, "Pushin' Too Hard." They immediately cut it and the damn thing, along with the eerie "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," went on to spark so many careers and inform the sound of so many different bands that the impact can to this day scarcely be measured, but suffice to say that there are far more performers still attempting to expand on those brilliantly succinct statements than there are recycling "Billie Jean" or "Beat It." Sure, the Seed went on to cut plenty of crap (get an earful of the Seedy Blues album), but once you've achieved perfection, sustaining it ain't easy.
Like the 13th Floor Elevators' Roky Erickson and Love's Arthur Lee, Saxon was one of rock & roll Big Daddies, a patriarch who spawned thousands of glorious bastard children, and his ongoing and indisputable cultural relevance lay in his very refusal to accept reality, choosing instead to sculpt and loyally adhere to his own fifth dimension of alien intelligence. Despite the ravages of a seemingly perpetual existence in a psychedelic state, Saxon worked like a madman to the very end, touring overseas and in the US, than disappearing on mysterious hiatuses that almost always found him relentlessly writing and recording new material, seeking out new and unlikely collaborations, all of it conducted with a staccato spiritual overdrive that few could match.
Saxon's offbeat character blended beatific cosmological philosophy (he was a quasi-militant vegetarian and true seeker of extraterrestrial knowledge) with a wildly ornery streak; it was only a few years ago that a long simmering Hollywood feud compelled him to sneak up behind and beat down record producer Kim Fowley on a Las Vegas dance floor -- he escaped Fowley's intended reprisal for the assault by jumping onstage to sing with the bewildered band who happened to be performing. Baby, that is rock & roll -- an all but lost art form -- yet the amount of it that Sky took with him to the grave (or outer space) remains commensurate with the fiery load of elemental, essential music that he left behind.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.