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.

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