Song Lyric Sunday: Rock And Roll Heaven

For today’s Song Lyric Sunday Jim has invited us to play something from the ’27 Club.’ His post introducing this is called A Tragic Coincidence, and it gives you all of the details. For those who don’t know, the ’27 Club’ is the name given to those who have died at that young age, many of whom were musicians but there are also loads of others from different walks of life. For a rock music fan such as me this gave a wide range of choices for a song to play, as the likes of The Rolling Stones (Brian Jones), The Doors (Jim Morrison), Nirvana (Kurt Cobain), Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and even Amy Winehouse were possibles. So, faced with an overwhelming choice, what did I decide to do? Yep, you guessed it: I’m playing something by none of them. This is today’s song, and I think you will see fairly quickly why I chose it:

You may well have spotted that there are mentions of some of the ‘club’ members, which is why I’m playing this. The lyrics are on the video but if you want to see the full set, here they are again:

Freedom found me
When I first heard the Beatles sing
Music surrounding me
Church bells start to ring

I stole my Daddy’s vinyl
And burned that needle out
Jimi, Janis and Morrison
A garden full of sound

I sold my car for an old guitar
And set out on the road
My Mama cried as she waved goodbye
Praying for my soul

In rock and roll heaven
The great gig in the sky
Gotta make it to twenty-seven before I die

In rock and roll heaven
Couldn’t get more high
Gotta take what you’ve been given and just fly

Well I learned a long, long time ago
That life is like a song
And the music goes on playing
Even after you are gone

But to live so fast just to die so young
I hope you found some peace
Everything I am today is
What you made of me

In rock and roll heaven
The great gig in the sky
Gotta make it to twenty-seven before I die

In rock and roll heaven
Couldn’t get more high
Gotta take what you’ve been given
And just fly

People come and go but deep down I know
We’ll meet again some day

In rock and roll heaven
The great gig in the sky
Thought I was done livin’ but I’ll survive

In rock and roll heaven
Couldn’t get more high
Gotta take what you’ve been given
And just fly

In rock and roll
In rock and roll
In rock and roll

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Ben Phillips / Taylor Momsen

Rock And Roll Heaven lyrics © BMG Rights Management

The Pretty Reckless are a fairly loud grunge rock band, but this is them in one of their quieter moments. The song was included on their fourth album, Death By Rock And Roll, which was released in February 2021 and reached #28 in their native US, though it fared much better here in the UK, where it peaked at #6. Songwriting credits for all of their songs are shared by vocalist Taylor Momsen and lead guitarist Ben Phillips, though this song was actually written by Taylor. It was a reflection on life and her age – 27 at the time she wrote it – and the background to the album as a whole is described thus on Wikipedia:

“In April 2018, the band’s longtime-producer, Kato Khandwala, was involved in a motorcycle accident and died later due to injuries from the crash. Speaking about Khandwala’s death, Taylor Momsen stated: “That was the nail in the coffin for me. I threw my hands up in the air and kind of went ‘Yeah, I give up.’ I went down a very dark rabbit hole of depression and substance abuse and everything that comes with that.”

The band was also affected by the suicide of Soundgarden’s lead vocalist Chris Cornell in 2017: they had been the support act for the band’s final performance with Cornell. These two events are reflected in the visual dedications at the end of the video.

I love the autobiographical feel of this song, from when Taylor was first introduced to music by her father’s vinyl record collection, with what it has meant to her through her life, and her despair at how so many young lives have been burned out by the pressures that fame and stardom can bring, thus bringing the ’27 Club’ into being. The lines that really bring it home for me are:

“Gotta make it to twenty seven before I die”

And

“Thought I was done living’ but I’ll survive.”

Thankfully, she did, and was almost twenty eight when this was released (she’s now twenty nine). Look her up, she’s an interesting character: she started out as a child actor, with a role in How The Grinch Stole Christmas when she was just seven, plus several further acting roles and a modelling career, before she turned full time to music at the age of sixteen when The Pretty Reckless were formed. If you watch some of the band’s videos on YouTube you’ll see that she lives up to their name as a stage performer: somehow, her clothes don’t always finish songs still attached to her body. And yes, that is her on the album sleeve at the top of this post. But boy, can she sing! I rather like her.