Another musician dies at age 27. Another member of the so-called “27 Club”. Is it coincidence, or is something deeper going on here?
Shortly after the death of Amy Winehouse, Rolling Stone magazine (no, not really) sent me on assignment to find out. My first stop, an exclusive interview with the Prince of Darkness, the Devil himself, who offered a unique insight into this phenomenon. Here now is that interview…
RS: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones… They all have two things in common. They were groundbreaking musicians in their day, and they all died at age 27. I understand you know something about the origin of this so-called “27 Club”?
PD: Sure, yeah. It all started with Robert Johnson.
RS: Legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, alleged to have sold his soul to play the blues.
PD: Right, you know the story. Robert Johnson wants to play guitar better than anyone so he goes out to the crossroads at midnight and strikes a deal with your’s truly.
RS: So that really happened?
PD: That really happened. There really was a crossroads. It really was in the middle of nowhere Mississippi. It was hot as hell there, even at midnight. I’d heard he wanted to make a deal, and some idiot told him that’s the place to go if you wanted to meet the Devil. Dumb-ass idea if ever I heard one, but what the heck. So on a lark I go down there to see if he shows up. Sure enough he does, and he’s serious, dead serious, so in about half an hour we have a deal. The rest is history.
RS: And dying at 27, that was part of the deal?
PD: Well I had to put some sort of time limit on it, but age 27 was Robert’s idea. Said if he hadn’t made it be then, there was no use in going on. It’s as good a number as any I thought, so I put it in the contract. I few years later, I collected his soul, closed out the contract, and then forgot all about it.
RS: So 27 became the standard age for that sort of deal.
PD: Not intentionally. You have to understand, I make lots of deals, but the Robert Johnson deal, a musician deal, that was new, and the kid was ahead of his time. It would be another 30 years before kids started asking for that kind of deal. And when they did, I just dug up the old Johnson contract and reused it, you know, changing bits here and there for the particular situation, but mostly using it as boilerplate.
RS: Who asked for that type of deal next?
PD: That’d be Brian.
RS: Brian Jones, founder member of the Rolling Stones?
RS: And his contract with you was the same as Robert Johnson’s?
PD: No, his deal was a little different, but the part about collecting his soul in his 27th year was the same, that was copied verbatim from Robert’s contract.
RS: How was his deal different?
PD: Well Brian didn’t just want to be a great musician himself, he wanted success and recognition for the band. He wanted the Rolling Stones to be huge. He wanted the band to go on forever, with or without him. I think my work there speaks for itself.
RS: You seem very proud of your work with the Stones.
PD: Hey, you try keeping Keith Richards alive for a few decades. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that.
RS: Then there was Hendrix?
PD: Yeah, Brian and Jimi were both huge fans of Robert Johnson, but Jimi wanted exactly the same deal as Robert. Robert Johnson was the greatest blues guitarist of all time, Jimi wanted to be the greatest electric guitarist of all time. And he was already talented to begin with, I just helped him reach that next level. Man, I tell ya, I still get goosebumps when I hear his Star Spangled Banner.
RS: I think a lot of our readers would agree with you there. How about Janis Joplin?
PD: Ah yes, Janis. Sweet kid, Janis, a lovely soul. Quirky though, you know what she asked for?
RS: No idea.
PD: A Merecedes-Benz. Figured if the Lord wouldn’t buy her one, maybe the Devil would. Cute story, yeah?
RS: That’s all she asked for?
PD: No, no, no, there was other stuff to. But that Mereceds-Benz was at the top of her list.
RS: Then a color TV?
PD: Ha, ha, ha… right.
RS: And Jim Morrison?
PD: Yeah, I had a deal with him. What a total freak that guy was. I kinda regret that one a bit.
RS: Why, what happened?
PD: I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just say, he asked for… things… really dark things. And I though I was dark. Let me tell ya, I had nothing on him. This guy was world class f***ed up. I stopped doing deals with musicians for a long time after that.
RS: You stopped until Kurt Cobain, many years later?
PD: No, that’s a misconception. I never did a deal with Cobain. He was a talented kid on his own, his big problem was that he never believed it. In his mind, he was still a wannabe. He wanted to be a rock star like his heroes, and he wanted to die at 27 like his heroes. So one day he realizes he’s 27, and grunge has no future, and he doesn’t know what to do next, so he eats a shotgun. Sad really. Like I said, I stopped doing deals with musicians after Morrison, and mostly I’ve stuck to that.
RS: But what about Amy Winehouse, that had to be another of your contracts, right?
PD: Amy who?
PD: No, I’m kidding. But Amy wasn’t my deal either. She might have made a deal with some other deity, but it wasn’t me. Think about it, when you make a deal with me, people know it. You’re name lives on forever. Winehouse was a good singer and all, but lets face it, at the end of the day she was basically a one-hit-wonder. That’s not my handiwork, that’s not my style at all. If Amy Winehouse had made a deal with me, believe me, she would be huge right now. Heck they’re still writing songs about Robert Johnson. You sure wouldn’t have those wiki-nerds arguing over whether or not she belongs in the official list.
RS: What about Brittany Spears? a lot of people speculated you had a deal with her.
PD: I did, but that was a different deal. I didn’t use the musician contract with her, that was more of the standard entertainer, Dick Clark / Bob Sagget kind of deal.
RS: So, do you have any deals with other musicians who are still alive?
PD: Sure I do, one or two, but I’m not at liberty to say who. That would be unfair.
RS: Can you give us a hint?
PD: No, I would never do that. But let’s just say, never say never…