Originally named Creeping Ritual, The Gun Club channelled punk energy into a vivid exploration of American roots music, drawing on rockabilly, country and the Delta blues.
The Los Angeles punk-blues quartet was fronted by hell raiser and former Blondie fan club president Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
Fuelled by the feral slide guitar of Ward Dotson, their 1981 debut album Fire Of Love (recorded in just two days) found Pierce howling new life into Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson classics, alongside self-penned psycho-billy blasters such as She’s Like Heroin To Me and For The Love Of Ivy.
Released on a tiny independent label with a brutal Haitian zombie cover, Fire Of Love generated American and European acclaim and garnered a strong cult following.
Blondie guitarist Chris Stein produced the mutant swamp-rock of their second album Miami (1982), while Death Party (1983) was patchy, to say the least. Las Vegas Story (1984) was a great improvement, recalling the fire and ambition of the debut LP.
A prolific period for The Gun Club continued with the stirring The Birth, The Death, The Ghost (1984) which – presumably on the strength of its title – attracted a new audience from the British Goth scene. Indeed, bass player at the time, Patrica Morrison, later joined Sisters of Mercy.
By 1985’s live release, Das Kalinda Boom, Pierce had major drink problems and disbanded the group. He embarked on a bizarre solo career which resulted in a handful of bizarre live appearances, and the intelligently conceived album, Wildweed (1985).
Time spent apart seemed recuperative to The Gun Club and they surprisingly re-formed in 1987.
The critically acclaimed Mother Juno (1987) introduced the new lineup of Pierce, guitarist Kid Congo Powers, Romi Mori (bass and guitar) and percussionist Nick Sanderson was a punchy gem.
After a three-year hiatus, Pastoral Hide and Seek (1990) saw yet another change in direction and the maturing sound was equally evident on Divinity (1991), the release of which saw the departure (for the third time) of Kid Congo Powers. He resurfaced in 1993 as a member of Killing Joke.
1993’s Lucky Jim was a ghostly swansong which saw the band return to the hard blues sound that had made their name in the first place.
As a man whose liver, pancreas and stomach gave up the ghost mid-career, and who was often wheeled on-stage in a shocking drink/drugs mess, Jeffrey Lee’s lifestyle often eclipsed the band’s music.
A hopeless romantic, when sober he was an endearing, passionate sweetheart obsessed with William Burroughs, Blondie and free jazz. When he was drunk he became a belligerent nightmare.
His death from a brain haemorrhage on 31 March 1996 (at the age of 37) marked the end of the band after 16 years and countless line-up changes.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce
Kid Congo Powers (Brian Tristan)