Tuesday, June 08, 2004


I'm not usually one to mope around over the death of some musician I never even met, but for Robert Quine, I'll make an exception. He was, to put it succinctly and correctly, one of the finest "rock" guitarists of the last 35-40 years, and I only put such a word in inverted commas because his musical style crossed many borders. Quine, at least on pretty much every record I've heard him play on, was always the highlight of the music. He wasn't a frontman as such, but his forceful, imaginative playing inevitably brought him to the fore. Look at it this way: where would his two most celebrated collaborators have been without his contributions: Richard Hell and Lou Reed. Blank Generation, fine as it may be, wouldn't have registered a blip without Quine's scattered, frenzied guitar work, and as for Lou's efforts... well, he's always been fairly useless when left to his own devices (his sans Bowie/Cale/Tucker/Sterling/Quine albums being near unlistenable), though for my two cents, as many people would agree, his Quine-era material remains his post-Velvets benchmark (excluding Metal Machine Music, which is in a weird league of its own), due mainly, of course, to the presence of Quine himself.

A natural outcome of his musical heroes, Quine's treble-y wail, based mostly on notes and not chords, was the perfect combination of Chicago blues, Sonny Sharrock, Roger McGuinn, Lou Reed, Pete Cosey and '69-era Keef. I can't figure for the life of me why he wasted the last 10 years of his life doing session/live work with useless nudniks like Matthew Sweet and Lloyd Cole, but I guess such is the life of an itinerant muso. For the record, his presence on John Zorn's great, and under-rated, Taboo & Exile CD from '99, is spectacular and one of his finest recent moments. And, yes, you can also thank him for the existence of that cool Velvet Underground "Official Bootleg" box set that came out a few years back.

More than all this, unlike some of the flaming assholes in the music scene whom I have a bizarre fondness for (insufferable fuckheads like Miles Davis, Greg Ginn and, yep, Lou Reed), Robert Quine also seemed like a really cool guy. If there's any doubt, read here. A rare combination of a talented muso and a decent human being? For that he'll be missed.

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