From The Desk Of Scott McCaughey: Jimmy Silva

scottmccaugheyMinus 5/Young Fresh Fellows frontman Scott McCaughey has been blurring the distinction between his two bands for a while, to the point where many of the songs on either group’s LPs would be appropriate for the other. Both return this week with new efforts: the Minus 5’s Killingsworth and the Fellows’ I Think This Is. The tunes are more divergent, with Killingsworth featuring a heavy alt-country vibe and I Think This Is being a typically funny garage-pop workout. When he’s not fronting his own combos, McCaughey is a sideman for R.E.M. and Robyn Hitchcock, the latter of whom produced I Think This Is. McCaughey is guest-editing this week. Read our Q&A with him.

jimmy-silva340McCaughey: It’s been almost 15 years since my dear songwriting pal Jimmy Silva died, rather suddenly and freakishly from a run-in with chicken pox. I’ve continued to listen to and perform his songs, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. He was the guy who first made me believe that I could write songs (but don’t hold that against him). I think his albums Remnants Of The Empty Set, Fly Like A Dog, Heidi and Near The End Of The Harvest contain an absolute treasure trove of power-pop and folk-rock classics. But Jimmy was always under the radar—not a particularly ambitious guy, I suppose, though he was serious about the craft of songwriting and worked extremely hard at it. He did have a brush with success, when buddies the Smithereens recorded his “Hand Of Glory” for their surprise-hit debut long-player. But mostly his name and work remain known to only a relative handful of music lovers. A tribute album (Through A Faraway Window, executive produced by MAGNET’s Jud Cost) is shaping up to be released in November, with contributions from friends and admirers like John Wesley Harding, the Posies, Sal Valentino (Beau Brummels) and, of course, the Young Fresh Fellows. Hopefully this will bring the songs of Jimmy Silva to a few more ears.

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  1. Posted July 11, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Nice words about Jimmy. I hardly knew him, but the short time I shared with him was unforgettable. thanks Scott

  2. Posted July 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for that info Scott. I think of Uncle Jimmy everyday also I have a framed picture of him and I on my desk. I think I can speak for Jimmy’s family by saying we are all looking forward to the tribute album that is a great picture you used for your article I haven’t seen that one before. Take Care-Emily

  3. Emett Marrujo
    Posted August 3, 2009 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Scott, that is a great news, a tribute album for Jimmy would be great. He was my dear friend, I still have his original scratch cassette version on his first album, he was a genius, I miss him to this day.

  4. Linda Wedel
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Scott, Thanks so much for the kind words about Jimmy. My sisters and I appreciate all you had to say about our brother. We still miss him and are excited about the release of the album. Thanks again. Linda

  5. Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I find myself listening to his music over and over again after a year of not hearing it. And I always love it. He is truly a musician’s musician.

  6. Posted August 25, 2010 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    I’m gratified that Jimmy is remembered. I spent many a day in his apartment in Northern Hunters Point, S.F., working on songs and recording with him on his little four-track Teac Portastudio. A song we arranged together, “You Might as Well Be Free” ended up being recorded by The Beau Brummels, a band I was playing in at the time (I still have the original demo we made of it on his rig). We recorded and featured three of his songs, which were co-authored with Declan Mulligan.

    We went into the studio with Jimmy and appeared on his “Remnants Of The Empty Set” album, and backed him on the original “Through a Faraway Window”. I played bass on the song, Dec Mulligan on guitar, Jim Moyles on keys, and Terry Thorn on drums. Sal Valentino sang one of the songs on the album, “Weight Of The Wind”. “…Window” is far-and-away my Favorite song of Jimmy’s.

    I got to see Jimmy in Seattle not long before he died, and spent an afternoon talking over old times. I’m glad I got to see him one last time.

    I was in Jackpot, Nevada, playing a guitar gig, backing up The Coasters, when I got a call from Declan that Jimmy had passed away, an unbelievable shock. Just broke my heart. He was a sweet, sensitive man and a wonderful songsmith, and I feel privileged to have know him and worked with him. Thumbs up, Jimmy, wherever you are.

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