One of the records I’ve been playing the absolute hell out of these last couple of weeks is The Graceless Age, the new album by John Murry, who Uncut regulars may remember from World Without End, a sensationally bleak 2006 collection of contemporary murder ballads he made with the Memphis singer-songwriter Bob Frank. The Graceless Age, like World Without End, produced by Tim Mooney, the former American Music Club drummer, at Closer Recording, the studio Tim owned in San Francisco, at 1441 Howard Street. The more I played it, the more The Graceless Age sounded like one of the best things Mooney had been involved in, as either producer or musician, a dark and festering masterpiece.
Because I’m reviewing the album for Uncut, I was actually listening to it last week when I got an email from my friend Chris Metzler at Décor Records, home of AMC and the label that put out World Without End in the UK. Chris said he had been about to write to me with details of a new album by AMC’s Mark Eitzel, but instead had sad news for me. Tim Mooney – second from left in the picture above of AMC – had died suddenly, at the age of only 53, from a heart attack.
Tim, who’d previously played with Bay Area punk bands like Negative Trend, The Sleepers and Toiling Midgets, joined AMC in 1992, just as it looked like they were finally going to make what’s usually called the big time after signing major label deals in America, with Reprise, and the UK, with Virgin, for whom they recorded two albums, Mercury and San Francisco. Neither sold, and the band split, reconvening almost a decade later for 2003’s Love Songs For Patriots, which Mooney played on and produced. In 2007, AMC split again, with Eitzel and guitarist Vudi relocating to Los Angeles. Mooney stayed in San Francisco, where during AMC’s 1994-2003 hiatus he had worked with Red House Painters’ Mark Kozelek.
“I knew Tim Mooney for over 20 years,” Kozelek wrote on his blog last week. “As many Red House Painters fans may know, American Music Club was very helpful in giving Red House Painters our start. Later on, Tim played drums on my first solo album, Rock’N’Roll Slinger, and then on Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts Of The Great Highway. We shared many long days and hours together. Tim was a peaceful, patient and incredibly talented person. The last time I saw Tim was in 2009, in Petaluma, he was having ice cream with his daughter. He was as happy and contented as ever. I’ve been overwhelmed with memories of Tim since learning of the news yesterday. My heart goes out to his family, his many friends, and to the members of AMC.”
Mark Eitzel also remembered Mooney in a blog: “I haven’t seen Tim for a few years now but that still didn’t lessen the impact of his passing. He was the drummer of AMC for many years. He was absolutely instrumental in whatever sound we had. His style was absolutely unique and as an artist no one could match what he did. He was a good friend to so many people and will be missed. What an absolute loss. I wish all the best to his wife Jude and his daughter Dixie. I have spent all day in a fog thinking about him.”
In a separate email that Chris Metzler has passed on to me, Eitzel added: “We were always surprised that Tim wanted to play with us. Before AMC he played in a band called the Toiling Midgets. (If you can find it check out their album ‘Sea Of Unrest’ – It’s a masterpiece). He took all our disparate musical ideas and tied it them together with a style that just cut through. The collision of Tim’s playing with Bruce’s pedal steel and Vudi and Danny was something I had never heard before (and won’t again). Tim was a good and sweet man and in music a true believer. I was lucky to play with him and have him in my life.”
Chris also forwarded me an email from Vudi, who wrote: “I was a fan of Tim Mooney some years before our friendship. Though just a kid, he was already rock’n’ roll star while I was still finding my way. He had made his mark in some great music, with great style. To sense where things were at and WHEN they were at, and – if it was something good – there he was; a real force, right in the beating heart of it all. I’m talking about more than just music, friends.
“Tim had a cat-like cat, hungry intelligence, was beautiful to behold, and an inspiring companion. Mooney had a rare gift: the first time he came to my flat for a social call (I was drummer-stealing), my flatmate thought ‘lightning was gonna strike the house’, and went out. His presence could have that effect. Tim could be the quiet man in the room, but every bright and beautiful thing knew that if he got up and left, the light would dim. Well,….”
The next issue Uncut was already on its way to the printers when we heard about Tim’s death, but there’ll be more on him the following issue.
Have a good week.