When Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes decided to take his Boots Electric solo project on the road he realized he had a problem.
“I only wrote 10 songs for the Boots Electric album [Honkey Kong] and I’ve got to play longer sets,” Hughes tells Spinner. “So I’m covering Amy Winehouse and Olivia Newton-John. I just sort of made them my style.”
“I love Amy Winehouse,” he adds. “And I got to know her just a little bit on a festival tour a couple years ago. And I thought she was an angel and I could tell that she was
broken. While we were in Norway they had just announced that she had missed her flight and that she wouldn’t be performing. And about five minutes after that she comes stumbling out of her dressing room. And I was like, ‘That’s rock ‘n’ roll.’
“But she was surrounded by nothing but vipers and sharks. So ‘You Know I’m No Good,’ that song is so deep and so honest, man. You can’t sustain that kind of energy and inspiration without being a special person, y’know.”
Hughes covers “You Know I’m No Good” from her now-classic Back to Black album, but does it up in his own “style,” as he’s fond of saying, where he’s “trying to buttfuck George Clinton with Gary Numan using Little Richard as a dick.” In less graphic language, he’s making down ‘n’ dirty disco-rock.
That sleaze-rock vibe also works perfectly for reinterpreting Newton-John’s “Physical,” whose video confused many a young man back in the ’80s.
“My mom would always do jazzercise,” says Hughes. “And I always got kicked out of the living room when they were doing the Richard Simmons workout, even though I would hide and check out those one-piece leotards in action, believe me. You have to bend to the wills of the devil — this ain’t a bible study.”
Hughes may dig his lurid videos, but he’s still supportive of the women in rock and considers Juliette Lewis, who guests on Honkey Kong, his spirit guide. And he’s clearly genuine in his appreciation for both Winehouse and Newton-John.
Not to be forgotten, though, Boots Electric also have a version of classic rocker “Abracadabra” by Steve Miller Band worked out for their North American tour which kicked off last week.
Watch Boots Electric’s Honkey Tonk album trailer:
This story originally appeared Nov. 3, 2011 on Spinner.
There’s a lot to be uncomfortable about when watching Asif Kapadia’s newest documentary Amy, which traces the rise and fall of British singer Amy Winehouse, who died from accidental alcohol poisoning at age 27 in 2011.
The first, and most obvious point is crystallized during footage from a televised interview where Winehouse states rather simply, “The more people see of me, the more they’ll realize I’m only good for making music.” When Winehouse said those words her star was in ascension. Her Back To Black album was a worldwide hit and she had become a magnet for tabloid attention. Winehouse was in demand. Unfortunately, that demand came with a cost.
Winehouse was a singular singing talent, a unique voice weaned on jazz classics whose confessional songs about drinking, drugs, relationships and nightlife misadventures brilliantly modernized the form. But Winehouse was also frail. A delicate soul perhaps too sensitive and ill-equipped to handle the impact of the music she created once the world had decided how important it was.
Kapadia, who also helmed the brilliant Senna documentary in 2010, mines an extensive collection of home movies, concert footage and interviews with Winehouse and her friends, family, acquaintances and business associates, to weave an open-ended tale with a few obvious villains. Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse comes across as particularly odious, a stage dad dazzled by his proximity to new fame and the rewards it garners. Love interest Blake Fielder-Civil, generally considered the cause of her drug addiction, is a parasitic, enabling presence. And there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that manager Raye Cosbert had little concern for Winehouse, at least when weighed against Winehouse as a vehicle for worldwide earning potential. It’s primarily these people who kept Winehouse on the road when she didn’t want to be, and who allowed her to remain in drug and drink when it was clear these things were having a horrible, dangerous effect on her.
While they all make good and suitable objects of scorn, there’s every indication that Winehouse desperately wanted these people in her life. Her need for her father’s approval is a constant, she fired long-time manager Nick Shymansky in favour of Cosbert, and Fielder-Civil, “her Blakey,” is the compass point of romantic clarity for an otherwise scared, confused girl. What she saw in these people, what they provided her, we don’t know.
There’s another more difficult relationship to quantify in all of this, though, and that’s Amy Winehouse’s connection to the rest of us. After all, every news story that every one of us clicked through about her bloody ballet shoes, every Amy Winehouse Halloween costume we encouraged, every bizarre incident with Pete Doherty we tittered about, all these things built up a cult of personality around Winehouse that she couldn’t properly navigate.
This is perhaps the most difficult part of Amy Winehouse’s life and death for regular people to deal with. That her inner circle failed her is obvious. And that Winehouse was a troubled soul who died tragically is obvious, too. But what psychic toll did the rest of us wreak? Every concert ticket sold, every song request on the radio, every breathless click through to the latest Amy scandal, all these things contributed to her downfall. The very act of being interested in Winehouse actually made her life worse. Our fandom, our curiosity feed a machine that Winehouse couldn’t handle and because of that we’re all a little bit to blame.
Picking just The Black Ram was a bit of a technical cheat as this record was part of the three-album, one-EP Sojourner box set Magnolia Electric Co. released that year. That said, of the four discs it’s definitely the one I listened to the most. In fact, the title track, “Will-O-The-Wisp” and “A Little At A Time” all rank in my Top 25 most played songs in iTunes. What this all probably means is that because I was pretty deep in my Magnolia fandom at the time, as a conscious act to not look like such a fanatic I ranked this album lower than I felt it deserved in my heart. In truth it’s probably a top five record.
9. Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare
If I’m to be completely honest, I still don’t feel I know this album all that well. I was mostly enamored with the song “505” and had approached the band with more open ears on this album because the hype train for the Monkeys had receded to the point it where wasn’t annoying anymore.
8. Two Hours Traffic Little Jabs
I listened to this record a lot for a month or two and it fits solidly in a Can-Rockpop lineage that includes Sloan, By Divine Right, Limblifter, Zuckerbaby and their ilk. Since then, though, Two Hours Traffic have become extremely irritating to me. This is because of the disproportionate amount of times iTunes tries to play their songs when I’m listening in “random” mode. I have thousands upon thousands of songs. I’ve got the full Neil Young and Bob Dylan discographies. And yet, with peculiar frequency iTunes tries to serve me up songs from this album. The only reason I can guess for this is that one of the band members had a computer engineer cousin who worked at Apple and was in the department that developed the iTunes random algorithm. It’s the only explanation and it’s definitely tempered my enjoyment.
7. Buck 65 Situation
Buck 65 seems to suffer from a bit of Rodney Dangerfield can’t-get-no-respect-ism and Situation is a pretty good example of this. A concept album focused roughly around the year 1957, the songs on Situation deftly traverse topics like crooked cops, Bogart and obscenity trials. The fact that the subject matter is so unlikely — not just for a rapper, but for any type of modern music maker — just makes Situation all the more intriguing.
6. Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971
This show may represent the most perfect version of “solo Neil.” It’s a historic document and a brilliant setlist. In cold scrutiny, though, it’s probably not a best of 2007 album. This ranking probably says more about how much I’m willing to jockey parameters because of my Neil love than anything else.
5. Jens Lekman Night Falls Over Kortedala
Night Falls Over Kortedala is an entirely fine album, but this #5 rank is almost entirely attributable to one song, “And I Remember Every Kiss.” A soaring orchestral ballad, the song captures all the fire, all the intensity, all the passion of that nervous, electric first kiss.
4. Cuff The Duke Sidelines Of The City
Someone recently told me Wayne Petti basically tries to copy The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill when he’s singing. Fascinating, right? And it explains why I like Cuff The Duke. I don’t listen to this album anymore, though, and I don’t remember why I had it ranked so high.
3. Feist The Reminder
The sort of person who can remain unmoved by “My Moon My Man” is the sort of person I would look upon with great suspicion.
2. Amy Winehouse Back To Black
“Me & Mr. Jones” was really what hooked me on Back To Black. Here was this jazz singer going on about Slick Rick, plus ones and “fuckery” (which has since become a core swear word for me), all with an air of stumbling, drunken tragic romance. I was won over immediately.
A lot of the songs and albums and artists I love have something I’ll define as “turbulence of the soul.” The world, for them, is just a bit tougher, a bit more painful and a bit more difficult than it is for the normals. It was clear from the first listen of Back To Black that Winehouse was one of these people and it reflects beautifully/uncomfortably in these songs.
1. Joel Plaskett Emergency Ashtray Rock
A teenage love triangle that breaks up the band and breaks up a friendship. It seems like such a small narrative to build a concept album around, but Ashtray Rock, like a less morbid Quadrophenia, works perfectly. You feel there when the drunk teenagers party down at the Ashtray Rock and when you’ve got nothing more to say to these people… well, it’s like a grayscale closing scene capturing the back of the jean-jacketed protagonist walking down a slushy sidestreet. Alone.
UPDATE: Because Spinner is RIP this story can now be found in full here.
Boots Electric, better known as Jesse Hughes, the lead singer for Eagles Of Death Metal, has been letting the world know about his new funk rock solo album Honkey Kong. He’s also been talking about his live show, which includes covers of songs by Amy Winehouse and Olivia Newton-John.
Boots recently told Aaron about how he dug Amy, but the people around her were “vipers and sharks.” You can read the whole conversation over at AOL Spinner by clicking here.