Nick Curran: Remembered:
It will be five years as of this posting since Rock music lost Nick Curran. No mater how you measure it, his life was short. He died at 35 and not from the stereotypical excesses of the music scene but from cancer — even more poignantly — after a remission. You may have noticed that I implied that their might be another way to measure the length of a person’s existence and that would be musically. Perhaps in some sense, he lived a full 35 years musically.
From what I have read, he was a child progeny. Staring at the age of 3, his father first taught him drums before moving on to teaching him guitar. Nick would eventually play in his dad’s band. I do not know the specific dynamics of their relationship but, just from those two tidbits, I would hope they had a close and loving relationship, albeit possibly unorthodox. In either case, if you subtract 3 from 35 you get a musical career that spanned 32 years. 32 years sounds like a substantial career I think there was more to come. You can feel it. He was building momentum. Each release more complex then the last.
Was he a genre artist with a limited potential audience? Perhaps, but at 35 can you be sure? The man was confident and talented. Who can really say? Here are five reason to consider what might have been:
1)Rock and Roll Guitar — Kim Lenz: Nick was born in Maine but at some point he found his way down to the Texas music scene and in particular the retro music scene. Kim Lenz had already made a stellar debut record but was dedicated to a traditional Rockabilly sound. There rightfully is a good size audience for that specific sound but the sound itself is a bit limited. Nick apparently gave Kim some fresh perspective, as he helped her arrange her sophomore effort.
That album, The One and Only, at least equals her debut. Nick added to Kim’s singing and songwriting gifts by contributing some spot on vintage Rockabilly guitar. If you found this number mixed in with a bunch of 45’s from 1956, I doubt you would be able to determine the year it was recorded just by listening to it.
2) Shot Down — Dr. Velvet: This track is actually from Nick’s third solo release. Now I should point out that all you had to do was look at Nick and follow some of his many sideman projects to know he was at home in many musical genres but especially Punk. So when it came time to lay down his own materials, what genre would he choose to express himself? For lack of a better description, it would seem that he chose a decade. The 1950’s to be specific and to be more specific, Rock, R & B and Jump Blues. Surprisingly, he avoided any straight up Rockabilly…or maybe that should come as no surprise. It seems Nick was determined to cover it all and he already had that genre covered with Kim.
3) Hebby Jebbies — Player: What I haven’t described so far is Nick’s voice. Would you believe me if I told you that after playing perfect Rockabilly guitar in a female fronted band and doing side gigs with various Punk players, that he could — or would — sing almost exactly like Little Richard? Do a blind sound check yourself, listen to this one and then listen to Little Richards version and see if you can tell them apart. The production won’t give it away. Nick loved vintage equipment and recoded with it. So like the original, the production here is over saturated. Meaning the manic energy just can’t be confined to the recording. It jumps out of the speakers.
4) That’s The Breaks — Kim Lenz: Nick rejoined with Kim to help arrange and play on her third release. Breaking a bit from the traditional Rockabilly sound, Kim sounds a little more aggressive on this cut from that third album. The tempo is more electric guitar driven and there is a bit of a Punk attitude flavoring the mix. Nick being her guitarist and arranger here at the very least encouraged the sounds Kim put down on this one. A fun track.
5) Rocker — Reform School Girl: Nick’s final solo outing before his untimely passing was Reform School Girl. It is fully realized in the sense that everything that inspired him finds a place in his retro framework: Little Richard meets the New York Dolls. This is a rave up track for track and the very last one sums it all up. That would be this track, an AC/DC cover, which Nick makes his own by giving it the more throwback sound it initially lacked. Of course the sentiment can’t be ignored. If he knew it or not he was giving his testament. Nick was a rocker till the end. RIP.