Nick Knox – RIP

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Dal 1977 al 1991 il batterista dei Cramps. Il fantastico batterista Nick Knox (Nicholas George Stephanoff) è morto all’età di 60 anni. Prima di entrare nella seminale band californiana Knox aveva fatto parte degli Eelctric Eels ed è proprio del fondatore John D Morton la conferma della tragica perdita: My friend Nick Knox shuffled off the mortal coil last night. I saw a self portrait of the artist Tseng Kwong Chi in front of the Eiffel Tower except his figure had been cut out. It was explained to me as a custom of remembering the dead by removing them from photos”. Knox nei Cramps aveva sostituito Miriam Linna (nella band dalla fine del 1976 a metà 1977. Successivamente la ritroviamo anche in Nervus Rex e The A-Bones…) e dalla stessa batterista arriva il ricordo più toccante:

GOODBYE DEAR NICKY
I’m writing this now before I have time to think logically. I feel so regally let down by time and fate, that it’s difficult to do much more than marvel at the preposterous puppetmasters that act on whims and fancy to mess with our visions of perfection. That’s me-me-me/ it’s all about me railing the fates. It helps a lot to blast the Kinks and write down some thoughts, so bear with me please. I know you all are going have great memories of him in the eels and the Cramps- go to it, but for me it’s the time before any band stuff, 40 years ago, and most recent history, when he picked up and called me on Feb 4, 2017. This is a start on a longer entry for kicksville66 I’ll write some more about meeting up on October 13 of last year at Franklin Castle, and him doing his darndest to A&R a young band he knew, Archie & the Bunkers for Norton. For now, here’s what I’ve got. Read it and weep.

I last saw Nicky – Nick Knox- – who most you know as the drummer of note for 70’s bands the electric eels and the Cramps, last weekend, in intensive care at the Cleveland Clinic. It was heartbreaking, as I had spent a few great days with him at the end of April, when I went out to Ohio to hunt down photos from George Shuba and meet with Wally Bryson regarding the record we were about to issue on his great band, the Choir. Nicky had seemed well and happy at that time, all charged up and ready to go. We had a ball with George, and it was great listening to the two of them talking about every rock n roll show that had ever happened in Cleveland, it seems. Somebody asked about my friendship with Nicky, how it all happened. Some of you may not know that we were friends before either of us were in bands; that after summer of ’77, we didn’t see each other for 40 years; and that we became great friends again last year. 

I received a phone call from Nicky, out of the blue, a year and a half ago, three months after Billy’s passing and four months after my own brain surgery. When he said it was Nick calling, I thought it was Nick Tosches, who was the only Nick I knew of. He was offering condolences and I thought, why would Nick T say this stuff- he had been at the funeral. So I asked “Who is this?” And he said “It’s Nicky, Miriam- Nick Knox.” I nearly fell out of my chair. I had not heard from him in 40 years. I was in the midst of what you might call high grief, complicated by thick sleepiness and post-gamma knife brain fog that came, as predicted, after the new year. It had me in a state of panic and fear, matched with various parts of loneliness and despair, and narcoleptic sleepiness. To say I was despondent is putting it lightly. That phone call saved me from falling into a well.

After that first call, we soon came up a plan to talk on the phone every day at 11:11 AM, and we stuck with that, basically a mutual check-up call, always cheerful, at least on alternating sides. He knew, somehow, what I was dealing with, and said that I was, “like the little sister I never had”. He ended every call the same way, “Miriam, I love you, I love you, I love you.” I have a feeling he dispensed the love x 3 line to his many younger relatives who adored him, as well, because it’s the kind of thing you’d tell a child, and there’s some baby in each of us when we’re not feeling perfect. I looked forward to the daily check up calls, and I soon realized that he needed the pep talks as well. 

Nicky and I had been friends since the early 70’s, when my sis Helen and I started coming into Cleveland to see bands. In 1973, we saw the Dolls at the Allen Theatre and then the Stooges and Slade in January of ’74. When I say “we”, I mean every Cleveland no-count between the ages of 14 and 24. It seems that every person in NE Ohio who ended up in a band was at those shows. I cover a lot of this stuff in my Kicksville66 blog, so let me just get to recent happenings. Nicky was a voracious reader- he read every rock n roll biography and autobiography – checked out from the library, and he had the benefit of a near-photographic memory, and an astonishing ability to recall dates and places, and really minute details. More than any book, though, he was addicted, still, to his beloved MAD magazine, and also to the little game schedule of Indians games. He gave me one of those pocket scheds and said, “I am not available at game time.” So strict!

A friend gave me back a letter that I wrote in 1975 where I describe a trip to New York with a carload of friends, including Stiv, Babs, James and “Nick who looks like a Kink”. The Kinks were by far his favorite band, and I gave him the Anthology CD set for his birthday this year (for the car). Like myself, he had seen them at their first appearance in Cleveland in December 1975, where he got the famous Mad magazine clipping autographed by the Davies brothers. He had laminated it with the ticket stub and it had vanished in with his 45s for decades. It turned up this spring and he brought out to show me in February. I took a photo of it, enlarged it, and Dave Davies autographed for him it again on April 3. It meant a lot to him, a real lot. The Kinks thing runs so deep in all serious fans, and for myself, speaking with Nicky every day reminded me of the really fantastic days of fandom and record hoarding, and it set me on a return mission to mayhem with them. 

Nicky hated attention from strangers, even when they were well meaning fans. When he came out of the woodwork to DJ that first time Oct. 13, then on Feb 23 and again on April 28, he refused photos and autographs from nearly everyone. What he did take to like a fish to water was DJ’ing. When we were goofing around about having a DJ battle, he called in a panic to say he couldn’t find his copy of the Grasshoppers “Mod Sox” and could I bring along a copy. I thought, WOW! The Grasshoppers, this is gonna be fun! And it surely was. He brought along a lot of surprises, and always the rockers- for the last gig, he asked, “Can I just bring all Larry Williams?” The end of the night at that gig, the room was empty except for myself and Kitty and Pascal, our friends from Franklin Castle. The record players were still set up and the lights were low, and I asked him if he wanted to spin some more. He smiled and said, “Ooohhhh, YES”, and I offered to help. “Go dance,” he said, and for a long while, it was magic. Kitty and Pascal and I dancing along the black and white tile patterned floor, with twinkling lights and us cheering Nicky on with each new record. We’d wave at him, and he’d wave back. It was one of the happiest moments ever, being back in the land that time forgot, and seeing my old friend having a great time—with 45’s in hand. That night there was a full moon- all four of us thought that made it extra special. Many people will have great memories of Nicky. These were some of mine, set down on the morning after his passing. I thank God that Nicky was a friend of mine. He was one of the kindest, funniest, most amazing human beings ever and I was very lucky to have been in his orbit. Much love to Jeanne and the family, who he loved so much, and who have treated me with such love. And also, love to Ernie.

Kid Congo PowersNick Knox Coolest of the cool. R.I.P. Glad to have played to your boss Beat. Meet you on the mystery plane .Nick said on his last email to me a few months ago “don’t take any wooden nickles or $20 bills with Reggie Jackson on ‘em. Your friend and mine .” Already missed