Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dickie Hammond - 1965 - 2015

Dickie Hammond
Photo by @AlanRappa

I've been sitting with the news that Dickie Hammond died for a few days now.  I've posted about it briefly on Twitter and I also re-tweeted a few little articles about it, but in general it's been something that I've just been thinking about a lot.  Considering I've never met him, it's amazing the profound influence he's had on my life.  I only had the pleasure of seeing him play with Leatherface one time and for reasons I'm not sure of, I didn't say hello to him.

Leatherface has been one of my top tier favorite bands since I first heard them.  I admittedly got into them kind of backwards and perhaps a bit later than some other folks.  I am pretty sure the first time I had heard them was in 1995 or 1996 when I purchased the Do The Right Thing CD single at Flipside records in New Jersey.  I had really gotten into the band Broccoli and was told that Leatherface would be right up my alley as they were sort of the grandfathers of that sound.

Ever since that moment I have simply been obsessed.  I tracked down every record of theirs I could find, including a great many of them on a trip to England in 1997 that consisted almost exclusively of trips to record shops.  I paid $110 for a copy of Mush on Vinyl in the earlier days of eBay (Outbidding Billy of Dillinger Four it turned out).  I flew to England to see Leatherface, Snuff and Wat Tyler play a show to memorialize Andy Crighton.  

Leatherface stayed at my apartment when I was in college for a night after a show in New York City. This and the Andy gig were both Dickie-less versions of the band, but rest assured, Dickie was always there in spirit as the band raced through so many of the genuine classics that he helped craft.  

Listening to Leatherface not only made me love that band, but it really shaped the way I looked at music and specifically punk rock.  While the sounds that poured out of their records were fierce and blistering with energy, they had humanity in them.  Soul, if you will.  These were not a bunch of angry punks shouting, these were artists crafting magnificent and beautiful songs.  To this day, if I read a review comparing any band to Leatherface, I always go and take a listen.  I've discovered so many bands this way and the number of bands I listen to that were influenced by Leatherface is almost impossible to count.

I also don't want to pigeonhole him with Leatherface.  I have records by HDQ, Doctor Bison, The Jones and Stokoe that all benefit from this man's mastery of the guitar.  Everything he touched turned to gold, but Leatherface is always the one that spoke to me the most.

Dickie Hammond is one of the greatest guitar players I have ever heard.  The world is a sadder place without him.  I feel so awful for the people that actually knew him, were friends with him and shared stories with him.  Their loss eclipses mine by a mile.  What I can say is it's depressing to think that I will never hear any new sounds emanating from his guitar.  It's a real bummer, but I take solace in how much joy this man has brought me over the years.  How many perfect records he was a part of.  How he set me down a path that would help me discover so many bands and meet so many people that I consider friends.  I didn't know him and he didn't know me, but despite that, I will never forget Dickie Hammond.

1 comment:

  1. Nice words, mate. I've known Dickie since about 1986/87 when he was playing in Hex and HDQ although our paths didn't actually cross until 2006. Dickie was from Sunderland and I'm from Newcastle and we were part of the same scene albeit 10 miles apart but I used to see him at our local venue, Riverside. I first saw Leatherface at a punk all dayer organised by another north east legend, Toot, at Newcastle Riverside. They were stand ins for one of a few bands who never turned up, Napalm Death, ENT and the Electrohippies. They were the first band on and not what you thought they should have sounded like at a gig that was meant to be some sort of shouty shouty gig, although the 2 head liners were GBH and Rubella Ballet.Needless to say, Leatherface blew most of the bands away, includng Concrete Sox. Next I knew I was told that they had released Cherry Knowle which I rushed out to buy and was not disappointed by it. Over the years I bought most of their stuff but as alwayssome things eluded me but I saw them play numerous times at various festivals and supporting bands like Stiff Little Fingers (the pinnacle of Dickie's career as was said at his funeral). Anyway, I eventually met him in Boston Massechusets supporting Dropkick Murphys. Me and my mate had gone over for the Dropkick's St. Patricks week shows. We went in on the Saturday afternoon matinee show and as we were walking towards the auditorium, I sott of recognised a song that the support were playing. It was "We've got the Power by Sunderland band Red Alert who were supporting DKM as part of their American tour. When we got into the auditorium, there was Dickie playing bass for Red Alert. Anyhow, me and my mate had backstage passes and when Red Alert came off stage we had a good bit chin wag. Dickie then managed to get us all, me, my mate and the Red Alert entourage back stage passes for the evening DKM gig. However they had nowhere to stay especially as it was St. Patrick's week and hotel prices were overly expensive so we put them up in our hotel room as that's what punks do, especially us northern punks. Dickie never forgot that and until his dying day always gave me a shout out at various gigs he played as part of Leatherface, Red Alert or the Dipsomaniacs. I was lucky to see him play in the Dipsos and with the newly reformed HDQ (one time supporting Poison Idea) in the 6 months prior to his death. He was a big man with a big personality with big talent but more importantly a big heart. He is a big miss to us all in the North East but I'm glad to say that I got to know him and i'm proud to be able to call him a friend. Again thank you for those wonderful words and for giving me the chance to add my bit.