Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > Entertainment Discussions > Music Talk
Reload this Page >

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago - Wesley Willis is dead

Music Talk Discuss music in all its forms: CD, MP3, DVD-A, SACD and of course live

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago - Wesley Willis is dead

Old 08-23-03, 12:35 AM
  #1  
DVD Talk Special Edition
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,560
Rock over London; Rock on Chicago - Wesley Willis is dead

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/new....asp?nid=18568

Wesley Willis, the energetic 6'5", 300-pound Chicago street musician who parlayed whimsical, spartan keyboard odes to his favorite products and indie rock musicians into a cult following, died on Thursday night at a hospice in Illinois; he was forty.
The garrulous rocker released more than fifty albums containing 1,000 songs over the past decade, almost all of them set to the same hop-along pre-set Casio beat and overlaid with his yelping, raspy vocals. According to a press release from Alternative Tentacles, Willis was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in late 2002 and underwent emergency surgery on June 2nd to identify the source of internal bleeding; the exact cause of his death has not yet been determined.

Willis, who suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for a time, was discovered singing on the streets of Chicago in the early Nineties. He could often be found outside venues and clubs standing behind his keyboard and hawking ballpoint pen drawings of the city's streets, skyline and buses. Instantly recognizable due to his size and a head of short, unkempt dreadlocks, Willis was known for greeting fans with a hearty headbutt, which left him with a permanent knot in the middle of his forehead. Rarely seen without his beloved Walkman hanging from a bag stuffed with CDs around his neck, Willis independently recorded and released dozens of tapes, many of which he sold while braving the cold outside the defunct Lounge Ax rock club.

His self-released 1995 album, Drag Disharmony Hell Ride, was packed with homages to local scenesters and his favorite bands ("Veruca Salt," "Stabbing Westward"), with Willis singing their praises in between yelps of commercial taglines ("Budweiser, the king of beers!"), his signature phrase, "Rock over London, rock on Chicago!" and lots of lyrics about whupping ass.

The ultimate outsider artist, Willis was embraced by such stars of the city's rock community as the Smashing Pumpkins, with the buzz landing him a 1996 contract with Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. Willis released his major label debut that year, Fabian Roadwarrior, hewing closely to his minimalist style of praising other bands ("Porno for Pyros," "Silverchair"), while injecting some light political commentary ("Rock Saddam Hussein's Ass") and paying tribute to the smooth-talking A&R guy who signed him to the label, ("Dino Paredes").

A second American album, Feel the Power, was released in late 1996 and produced by the renowned Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys), though it bore little of their influence and was packed with more tributes to his heroes ("Alice in Chains," "Ice Cube"), as well as a few songs that dealt with his code word for his schizophrenic episodes, which he called "hell rides." The attention resulted in a profile on MTV that year, though Willis was soon dropped due to poor sales. He was back in Chicago later that year working with his short lived band, the Wesley Willis Fiasco, and was again releasing his albums on indie labels.

"Wesley will go down as one of the most unique songwriters and entertainment personalities in history," former Dead Kennedy's frontman Jello Biafra said in a statement. "His music, lyrics, drawings, insight and the way he put them together are like no one else. There will never be another. As I got to know Wes, what really struck me was his sheer will power, his unrelenting drive to succeed and overcome his horrifically poor background, child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and obesity among other things. He was the most courageous person I have ever known."

A compilation album, Greatest Hits, Volume 3, is slated for release on Alternative Tentacles in October.
Even though I never took this guy seriously, he was a great, great entertainer.
fallow is offline  
Old 08-23-03, 03:55 AM
  #2  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Fascination Street
Posts: 6,521


He whupped Batman's a**.
Jepthah is offline  
Old 08-23-03, 04:01 PM
  #3  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,129


He rocked the nation
Burnt Alive is offline  
Old 08-23-03, 04:44 PM
  #4  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 3,754
holy crap. I saw him in concert just three months ago.
ClarkKentKY is offline  
Old 08-23-03, 11:19 PM
  #5  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Lighten up, Francis! (Funland)
Posts: 26,856
Wow. I had to photograph him a few years back. What an experience. I met him before the show, standing outside the club. I start talking with him and he goes off-shouting obscenties and calling me a ****** hating honky. I'm thinking what the hell when a woman from the opening act comes over. He suddenly snaps out of it and says it was the voices in his head he was talking to, not me.

So then he says we have to headbutt. I didn't think this was a good idea, but the woman told him to be nice. So we did a mild headbutt.

Before the show he would try to headbutt everyone that came up to him and then get them to buy a cd.

That guy was like no other.
Buford T Pusser is offline  
Old 08-24-03, 12:58 AM
  #6  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Lighten up, Francis! (Funland)
Posts: 26,856
More info:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WESLEY WILLIS 1963-2003
A letter from one of his biggest fans, Jello Biafra:

We lost Wesley Willis some time before 9PM Chicago time August 21,
2003. Word is he died peacefully. The likely cause may be heart
failure. Wes had been battling leukemia for less than a year.

No services are planned as of yet. There will probably be a memorial
concert, or at least a gathering in his honor in Chicago in the near
future. We will let you know.

Wesley will go down as one of the most unique songwriters and
entertainment personalities in history. His music, lyrics, drawings,
insight and the way he put them together are like no one else. Ever.
There will never be another.

As I got to know Wes, what really struck me was his sheer will power,
his unrelenting drive to succeed and over come his horrifically poor
background, child abuse, racism, chronic schizophrenia and obesity
among other things. He was the most courageous person I have ever
known.

Yet through it all he had such a deep, all-encompassing love of life.
Little things, big things. He loved bus rides. He loved watching
trains. He loved writing songs about how much he loved his friends.
He loved travelling to new towns so he could headbutt new friends. Is
there any band he saw that escaped being in their own song about how
much he loved their show? He was so warm, so sweet, so giving. He
could be a handful when he came to visit; but as soon as he left, wed
miss him immediately.

As his long time friend Dennis Cooper said, "No More Demons." The
voices in Wesleys head cant yell at him and put him down any more.

Wes was deeply religious. He was afraid that if he died he would no
longer get to go see bands play. If there is a hereafter I hope hes
right up front as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, his beloved Otis
Redding and his dear friend Bradley from Sublime "storm the stage" as
the crowd "roars like a sea monster."

All opening for Wesley, of course.

It will be hard now that hes gone, but Im not going to let myself
stop enjoying the funny stuff, or the look on peoples faces when they
first hear "Rock n Roll McDonalds," or the memories of the good times
and Wesleys many adventures. He wouldnt want it any other way.

There are many down times when all I have to do is think of one of
Wess songs, something he said or simply marvel at his Wesley-isms,
and the clouds part and a smile comes to my face. I think he does
that for a lot of people. He always will.

Rock over London
Rock on Chicago
Sail on, Wes. I love you.

Jello Biafra
8-22-03
Buford T Pusser is offline  
Old 08-24-03, 08:12 AM
  #7  
DVD Talk Godfather
 
The Bus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 54,866
Looks like Death whooped Wesley's ass.
The Bus is offline  
Old 08-24-03, 12:25 PM
  #8  
DVD Talk Hall of Fame
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Louisville
Posts: 7,595
I had only heard of him a year or so ago in college from a guy in my fraternity who had about 400 of his songs.

There were a few gems in the bunch, but I think I'll have to check out the DVD released recently to see what his on-stage act was like.
DGibFen is offline  
Old 08-24-03, 03:08 PM
  #9  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 3,015
R.I.P. you crazy crazy man.

I will remember you most for your song about the cheetah's spermy d***.
Abranut is offline  
Old 08-26-03, 08:17 AM
  #10  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Numanoid's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Down in 'The Park'
Posts: 27,882
Many years ago, I was accosted on the stairs of Cabaret Metro in Chicago by Wesley. He had a box of CDs and was franticaly trying to get me to buy some for about 5 minutes. Of course, most of the time he was talking to some unseen presence and making little sense. My friend who was working with Reverend Horton Heat, warned me to watch out for him as he had been watching him walking around talking to the air for a couple of hours. Little did we know that he would later become such a cult figure. One of my "brushes with fame". RIP, Wesley.
Numanoid is offline  
Old 08-26-03, 01:26 PM
  #11  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Formerly known as Groucho AND Bandoman/Death Moans, Iowa
Posts: 16,986
Damn, I was going to go see him in April, but I couldn't convince anyone to go with me. I guess I missed out.
majorjoe23 is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.