One year ago Andrew “Greedy” Smith of Australian band Mental As Anything died suddenly. While we lose our music icons more and more as we all get older, this one was even more horribly upsetting because Greedy hadn’t been ill, he was way too young, and he was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. To pay tribute to him on this first anniversary, I’m sharing the entire chapter from my book Songwriters Speak on the Mentals’ two key songwriters, Greedy Smith and Martin Plaza, Hope you enjoy.
Fifty years ago I was just six years old. I was growing up in Sydney, Australia. The major music landmarks of 1969 in the United States were worlds away. Yet this year I will find myself preoccupied with many anniversaries of great albums and monumental events. Woodstock, for one, and Crosby Stills & Nash, Sweet Baby James, Morrison Hotel… and today I am thinking about Chicago Transit Authority.
It was 40 years ago today that Chicago’s original and most brilliant lead guitarist, songwriter and vocalist, Terry Kath, died here in Los Angeles. He shot himself in the head. It was a horrible, ghastly accident; he thought the gun was unloaded. He was eight days short of his 32nd birthday.
The news came through to me in Sydney as I lay in bed on a summer morning during school holidays in January 1978.
5 June 2017, Whisky a Go Go, Los Angeles, CA
This year Chicago is marking 50 years since it formed. I was hoping for a seriously celebratory tour, or a handful of extra spectacular concerts with special guests, perhaps even – foolish fantasiser am I – a one-off reunion with former members. But no, they just decided to go on the road with the Doobie Brothers again, because it’s become standard now for Chicago to tour in a double bill each year, be it with the Doobies, Earth Wind & Fire, REO Speedwagon or some other classic rock band…
It’s right about this time of the day on January 18 last year that I saw the news appear on my screen.