The title of Ariel Pink’s latest release might inspire some curiosity.
It’s called Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. If you’re unfamiliar with Jameson, you’re probably wondering what inspired a 14-song recording in his honor.
Jameson was a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, who started his career in 1963 and stayed active until the mid-’70s. In 1965, he released an album under the name Chris Lucey called Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest. Jameson’s sound was reminiscent of Love, a band fronted by Arthur Lee and fused rock ’n’ roll with psychedelic folk and pop sounds.
Jameson was poised for success, opening for The Beach Boys and Chubby Checker, and getting written up in Rolling Stone. But the artist was plagued by darkness and inner turmoil. Alcoholism, suicide attempts, and homelessness were all a part of his life.
He quit the music business and went off the grid in the 1980s. And many people assumed he was dead.
In 2007, Jameson resurfaced, recorded autobiographical YouTube videos, and maintained a blog until his death in 2015 from an aneurysm.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist Pink was turned on to Jameson’s videos by a friend. Pink was intrigued by his verbal and written words. The connection was so deep that he wanted to dedicate his 11th release to the late musician and troubled soul.
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is a record that begins at the end and ends at the beginning.
“We follow the protagonist through a battery of tests and milestones, the first of which sees him reborn into life out of death,” Pink explains, referencing the opening track, “Time to Meet Your God.”
It’s one of the less subtle tracks on the release. A rapid-fire electronic beat combines with Pink’s ominous voice chanting the title line. It’s a little scary, as one might expect a post-death march to meet one’s maker would be.
“From there,” Pink says, “he seesaws his way between the innocent love and the rock-solid edifice of childhood-worn trauma that together constitute his lifelong initiation into the realm of artifice and theatrical disposability.”
Jameson’s life journey was twisty; his beautiful talent mingled with so much grimness and despair. And the way Pink bookends the record with the more aggressive songs forcefully recognizes his existence.
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The songs in between offer the listener a steadier journey than Pink’s delivered on some previous releases, like Ku Klux Glam from 2012, where the ride is more of a rollercoaster moving between electronic folk ditties to brash rock assaults.
An appreciation for the ’60s style of pop that Jameson built his career on couldn’t be more evident on tracks like “I Wanna Be Young” and “Bubblegum Dreams.” Upbeat and reflective of the innocence still prevalent at that time, that’s also what makes the record nostalgic and hauntingly sad.
Ultimately, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is as much of an exploration for Pink — as he scaled down to create an overall sweet-meets-fragile — as it is a tribute to the late artist.
Ariel Pink is scheduled to play at Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday, November 14. Tickets are $20 to $25 in advance and $30 to $35 day of show. See crescentphx.com.