Kicking at the Perfumed Air

Kicking at the Perfumed Air

A Chapter by Dork

Primarily known as the activist and humanitarian organizer of Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 (involvement in such charitable activities leading him to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II), Bob Geldof originally gained fame as the lead singer and main songwriter for the Irish rock band the Boomtown Rats. ‘The Rats’ were never very popular in America, having only one song that charted in the states. “I Don’t Like Mondays”, the first single from their third album, limped to #73 on the Billboard Hot 100 List in the summer of 1979. The song tells the true story of an elementary school massacre that took place that past January in San Diego. The shooter was a 16-year-old girl who lived across the street from the school, killing two people and wounding nine others with a rifle she had received as a Christmas present the month before. When asked at the time why she went on this shooting spree, she shrugged and replied, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”


I was a big Boomtown Rats fan, having purchased all of their vinyl LPs and, about 10 years ago, managing via eBay to get their second and third albums (the two best by far), A Tonic for the Troops and The Fine Art of Surfacing, on CD for transfer to my iPod. The second single from Surfacing, “Diamond Smiles”, completely failed to chart in the US. This song tells the fictional story of a middle-aged woman who commits suicide. The title character in the song defines herself strictly by her appearance and ability to be sexually attractive to men, Diamond now well past her prime as the aging process has taken its toll on her looks and ability to seduce the opposite sex. The last verse in the song is:


“She went up the stairs,
Stood up on the vanity chair,
Tied her lame belt around the chandelier,
And went out kicking at the perfumed air.”


My old high school and college friend Jay died in his sleep on May 24, 2009. He was a musician of some success, best known for being Second Banana in Wilco during what was their creative peak, the years extending from Being There through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. He was gradually moving his way up from Second Banana to Co-Grand Poobah when Jeff, the official Wilco Poobah and sole owner of the band’s recording contract, unceremoniously fired him in 2001. The details of the breakup were captured – and manipulated for narrative effect – on a documentary movie made about the band during the recording of YHF. The film unfairly paints Jay as an OCD head case, clearly making him the villain in the contrived narrative. It certainly wasn’t going to help him launch a solo career.


Jay could be his own worst enemy at times, perhaps the most stubborn person I have ever known and also someone with substance abuse issues. A mutual friend of ours who kept in much better contact with him than I during his last few years explained it best. If Jay was thin and looked good, he was doing lots of coke. If he looked fat and bloated, he was probably clean and relatively healthy.


Jay’s solo career was prolific but creatively uneven and not terribly profitable. He released five albums, the first (and best) a collaboration with an old friend and then four proper solo recordings. The first four were released on CD by actual record labels. The last was distributed over the internet for free via his MySpace page, this to me signaling a dwindling fan base. Most of the obituaries mentioned that he was working on yet another solo album at the time of this death, tentatively titled Kicking at the Perfumed Air. Only a few reporters made the Boomtown Rats connection, but there were clearly parallels between Jay’s life and that of the fictional Diamond.


Toward the end of his life, Jay had developed severe arthritis in his right hip, most likely the result of an injury sustained years earlier while “stage diving” during a concert. He posted about this on his MySpace blog at about the same time that information about a lawsuit he filed against Jeff became public. The same blog entry also mentioned that he didn’t have any health insurance. The damages sought in the lawsuit, $50,000, would appear to be in the same ballpark as the cost of the hip replacement surgery he so badly needed. I thought connecting the dots was pretty straightforward.


The initial autopsy was inconclusive, and I immediately assumed that he had overdosed on illegal drugs, either intentionally or accidentally, and with this distinction perhaps not able to be made. As with all such deaths, toxicology testing takes weeks to be completed. I was quite surprised to learn that he died of a Fentanyl overdose, this a pain medication given by patch. While prescription pain relievers are often abused, pain patches typically aren’t. The drug is released slowly from the patch, getting high with this approach quite impractical unless one is willing – and able – to put 20 or so all over your body at the same time. I am certain that Jay was fat when he died, as the published autopsy results describe no other drugs and his body was found with a single patch. Unfortunately, this just makes everything that much sadder.

© 2009 Dork

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Added on July 17, 2009
Last Updated on July 17, 2009



Near Chicago, IL

I am probably the furthest thing imaginable from a writer by day, but that has never stopped my love of words, my desire to tweak and twist them always strong. And at night when I'm alone with my keyb.. more..

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A Chapter by Dork