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Unfortunately only one of them made the national news in the United States. While Gerry Rafferty had some unique hits on the music charts in the '70s, the other musician was, in my opinion and that of many musicians themselves, far more accomplished. Musicianship cannot be measured on a Top 40 chart.

British/Cyprian bassist Mick Karn passed away from cancer on January 4th. He played the fretless bass in a very unique way and although the nature of the instrument itself makes it sound different, Mick took the instrument where no one else could go, as creative, if not more, than renowned jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius.

John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran, posted a wonderful tribute on their website. 

"January 4th, 2011
It is with great sadness we read of the passing away of Mick Karn, Japan bassist and super-sideman, one of the great visual and sound stylists of the late-seventies/early-eighties.

Nick and I first saw Japan at Barbarellas in Birmingham on their ‘Obscure Alternatives’ tour and were blown away. They were so fresh, while every other band in town were tripping over each other in a rush to play the same three chords, Japan were brave in many ways. When I think back to that night the image that first comes to mind first is beautiful Mick, red hair and Ibanez bass, shaved eyebrows and ballet shoes, shuffling around the floor like a docile robot, playing also with great beauty and verve, punching delicate holes in the fabric of the songs; in Mick Karn’s basslines no notes were ever wasted.

It is a great tragedy to me that the members of Japan were never able to quite get over themselves and find a way to work again together, as Japan. The Rain Tree Crow episode was a disaster, more-so if the rumors about David were true, changing his mind about calling the project Japan, once the album had been started and he held all the cards.

I did not follow Mick’s work past Dali’s Car, but got to speak to him last year as we both made contributions to the David Bowie tribute, ‘We Were So Turned On’. We made tentative plans to meet in London, and Duran discussed Mick contributing to ‘All You Need is Now’. It never happened.

Mick changed my life in a good way, ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, ‘Adolescent Sex’ and ‘Tin Drum’ are amongst the best recordings made during the post-punk era in my view. Mick’s sax playing also was always interesting.

He shall be missed."

In 2009 Mick published his autobiography, almost as if he knew his life was soon to end. It is the story of an exceptionally talented musician who worked in a world not as appreciative of his talents as it should have been. He barely lived within his means and had to move back to Cyprus to provide a decent life for his wife and young son. His experiences made him cynical of the industry and many in it. 

One of his most telling recounts is about the Princes Trust concerts in which he participated at the urging of his friend Midge Ure.

Mick was entirely self-taught and could not read music. For the concerts he played bass for several different acts, such as Joan Armatrading,  Pete Townsend, Kate Bush, even Bryan Adams at a subsequent one. He had to have them provide him tapes of their songs before he could play for them! George Martin was the producer and completely aghast - "That means no bass until the day of the show!"
Pete Townsend helped compile the tape and Mick remembers him fondly. 

I found a video of Townsend performing "Slit Skirts" on the show, which Mick describes as the highlight for him. The sound is not good, his bass isn't very distinguishable, but if you're familiar with the song it is a bit different. Midge Ure is playing guitar and Phil Collins is on drums. Mick is shown a couple times, you can easily pinpoint the 4 tuners on the neck of his bass. 


 

And here is Kate Bush with Mick, much better sound. Mick tells about the straps on her dress breaking! I'm providing the direct link so you can read some of the comments from people searching for these videos now that Mick has passed.

www.youtube.com/watch

What a marvelous time we live in that I can share these performances with everyone. Please check out some of the related videos to the right of the page, one of the things I love about YouTube.

Mick was also a sculptor. He hosted a sculpture video in 1983. His playing can be heard as the background music. www.youtube.com/watch 

And he played other instruments and wrote marvelous music. Lastly, here is a beautiful song, "The Forgotten Puppeteer," which he wrote for his cat, Kashmir.  www.youtube.com/watch 

May you never be forgotten. R.I.P. Mick Karn.  


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