Within the past hour I have learned, first, that Pat Fish (a.k.a. The Jazz Butcher) had released a sprawling compilation of B-sides and rarities, including a bunch of things I’ve never heard before; and then, mere minutes later, that he had died — apparently of a heart attack — back in October.
So I am feeling a bit of whiplash.
Butch has been a favorite of mine ever since, looking for material for my radio show at KZSC in Santa Cruz (circa 1986), I slapped an album called Bloody Nonsense on the turntable. So it is possible that the first song I heard was “The Human Jungle”; though I feel like it was probably “Death Dentist,” which would mean I started with the B side. In any case, I was immediately smitten.
From that point on I followed his career through all its twists and turns, of which there were many. He was that rare artist who could be funny in a serious way; quintessentially British but also universal. He made some great records and some lesser records, but he devoted his life to the cause.
I saw him live a couple of times. The first time, at Slim’s in San Francisco, I barely remember due to especially heavy imbibing. The second time, somewhat randomly, was at a little bar in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles. My friend Dan and I stood close, trying to hear the music over the clamor of indifferent patrons. Later the peanut gallery quieted down a bit, then Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets fame showed up to play drums, and it was on the whole a pretty miraculous night. Fortunately a bit of video survives:
So long, Pat, and thanks for all the Fish.