Everyone likes a good rags-to-riches rock’n’roll story. The story of John Henry Timmis IV, otherwise known as J.T. IV, isn’t one of them. Dying in obscurity (well, until recently) at the age of 40 in 2002 from complications related to his alcoholism – booze being one of his many addictions – it’s safe to say that his story didn’t have much of a semblance of a happy ending until now.
Long, very interesting story short, Timmis was a very ambitious artist whose mother thought he was schizophrenic and, well, she may have been right. Whether it was hiring musicians to play with him for his “concert movies”, his publicity stunts (most notably telling the public that he was disfigured in an accident; apparently, there was no accident – the whole thing was a ruse for attention and a chance to play behind masks under the name Frankenstein), his addictions to booze, coke, heroin, you name it, or his 85-hour film The Cure for Insomnia, Timmis rarely, if ever, stopped believing in his own self-made legend.
Along with help from Drag City, Plastic Crimewave‘s Galactic Zoo Disk imprint has reissued his Cosmic Lightning LP, a compilation of Timmis’ recorded material, originally found on 7-inches, that was originally released in 1987 (don’t think it needs to be said, but original pressings were low in number and are now impossible to find). It would be lying to say that his backstory is not at least somewhat responsible for this reissued record’s hype, but it would also be lying to say that this music doesn’t stand on its own. From his hilarious, horn-infused rewrite of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” as tribute to public transportation for “Waiting for the CTA”, to fuzzed-out punk numbers like “Death Trip” (not a Stooges cover), or his forays into glam (“The Monitors”), psychedelia (“Destructo Rock”), and psych-folk (“Out of the Can”), Cosmic Lightning is as close as we’re ever going to get to Timmis telling us his life story.
This package also comes with a DVD of various live, studio, and home footage. Along with this year’s Tommy Jay/Ego Summit reissues, I am confident saying Cosmic Lightning will end up being one of 2008’s best reissues. At the moment, it is sold out just about everywhere but, if you take my word on anything this year, let this be it, keep your eyes out.