The Kids Are Alright – Part 2: Hand Me Down Genes

Welcome to Part 2 of our look at the musical offspring of well-known musicians, which I call The Kids Are Alright (click here for Part One). Yesterday, I chose to focus on the children of the Beatles most of whom have opted to follow in their father’s Abbey Road troubled footsteps.

Today we broaden the scope to include a few notable non-Beatles kids.

Ziggy Marley, Damian Marley, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright

It’s almost hardly worth devoting new time to the likes Ziggy and Damian Marley (Bob & Ritas boys) or Rufus and Martha Wainwright (children of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle), all of whom appear to have stepped well outside the shadows of their respective parent. Although it is worth noting that Rufus Wainwright, still reeling over the loss of his mother to cancer (clear cell sarcoma) in January of this year, has just released an album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, that was partly dedicated to her. One song, “Zebulon,” written during the time Kate McGarrigle’s decline, contains the matter-of-fact share “My mother’s in the hospital, my sister’s at the opera.” Here he is on my friend Jian Ghomeshi’s CBC show, Q, performing “Zebulon”.

As a big fan of Split Enz and Crowded House, it’s been a treat to get to know the sons of Neil Finn, Liam and Elroy. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a rather low key and intimate gig by Neil Finn at Largo, along with my brother Mike. Me a somewhat familiar face to the Largo management and my brother a somewhat famous person, we found ourselves lingering upstairs in Flanagan’s office and the band dressing room after the show with Neil, his wonderful wife Sharon and the rest of the family, including Liam and Elroy. Conversation ranged from music to politics to travel, but this is where I first learned that the boys were likely to be following their dad into the business.

Liam Finn. I learned that Liam, the older boy, was already in a band called Betchadupa but I had never heard them. Cut to 2001, and Liam was up there with his Betchadupa band members as part of the Neil Finn & Friends line up on 7 Worlds Collide, recorded at St James Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand. Other players included Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway of Radiohead, Lisa Germano and Liam’s uncle Tim Finn.  The kid could play. Cut to 2007, and the newly reformed Crowded House are playing in Oakland with support act Liam Finn, showcasing songs from his then new , and impressive, album I’ll Be Lightning, recorded at his dad’s place, Roundhead Studios. He was doing a lot of live looping, similar to what Jon Brion does over at Largo in L.A. most Fridays, building the drum track himself and then walking over the to various instruments before picking up the guitar and singing his songs. The gimmick is countered by the fact that the kid can write songs! Subsequently, Liam has toured in support of Pearl Jam (at Cousin Eddie’s request) backed by his vocalist pal, Eliza-Jane Barnes.  Here’s the Angus Sutherland directed video for “Second Chance” from I’ll Be Lightning:

and here’s one for “Better To Be” also from I’ll Be Lightning.

Neil and Tim Finn, along with Liam and Elroy Finn, joined in on Neil’s Oxfam charity  record, The Sun Came Out, released last year, which is a continuation of the 7 Worlds Collide team – Johnny Marr, Ed O’Brien, Sebastian Steinberg, Phil Selway, Lisa Germano, Tim Finn and Liam Finn; as well as Don McGlashan, Bic Runga, Glenn Richards, KT Tunstall and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone.

Elroy Finn, a drummer, has been coming along as well, having similarly grown up in the wings of Crowded House, and on some of dad’s and brother Liam’s stages too. His band The Tricks, with his friends Anthony Brownson (Guitar), Barney Chunn (Guitar) and Chris McDonald (Bass and Vocals) appear to be on something of a hiatus now, on their Myspace page they describe themselves as a band and write that that they are a psychobilly band, just “four boys from Auckland, New Zealand who enjoy. They’ve played around Auckland at various parties and other events and had a swell time at all of them. Unfortunately their Bass player and singer has moved to Melbourne so could temporarily halt shows and advancements on behalf of The Tricks.” Keep an eye out for Neil’s boy Elroy, Tricks or not.

Here’s a link to The Tricks Myspace page.

Before we move from the Finn family, I want to share with you this a poor quality home movie of sorts, a live bootleg of brothers Neil & Tim singing their old Split Enz hit “I Got You” backed by a rhythm section comprised of brothers Elroy & Liam on drums and bass respectively.

I am also a longtime superfan of XTC, and so it has been fascinating to watch the development of their offspring.

Lee Moulding. Last year, when I was looking to find XTC bassist/songwriter Colin Moulding, to discuss the making of XTC’s Skylarking for my upcoming book A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio (Jawbone Press, Oct 2010), my friend Todd Bernhardt suggested I contact Colin’s son, Lee, in hopes of finding his dad. Well, he did help, but along the way I discovered Lee’s band, The Sunday Dogs, on Myspace. The only YouTube clip I found, for their song “Hicks” starts slow, and doesn’t really kick in until the drums do. Don’t let me put you off, judge for yourself:

Holly Partridge is, like her father Andy, something of an extrovert, which is all the more surprising since most XTC fans still remember her as the Alice in Wonderlandesque little girl described in the charming “Holly Up On Poppy” from XTC’s Nonsuch, or the child singing on “Playground” from XTC’s Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2. A few years ago, Andy told me about her band The Shebeats, who were just starting out.  They seemed rather good, a sort of post new wave Girls Together Outrageously, as this little promotional clip demonstrates:

Holly appears to have shed the SheBeats, or at least for now, because I just saw this new clip on YouTube credited simply to Holly Partridge. The song is called “In Your Attic” and it really is quite a firecracker. The oranges and lemons haven’t fallen far from the tree, but I hear notes of Sparks and Transvision Vamp in there too. Have a listen to this audio only clip.

Harper Simon, son of Paul Simon and Peggy Harper, is another late-bloomer (see James McCartney from Vol. 1), having only arrived on the scene in the last couple of years. His father’s career and music punctuates his own, and key events in his life are marked by certain albums, he was born the year that Simon & Garfunkel disbanded, 1972, and his parents split up in 1975, just as dad released Still Crazy After All These Years. That’s a big shadow to live under, so forgive him if his own voice bears a mild resemble to dad. Nothing in his life has been ordinary. His childhood friend was Sean Lennon. He had a cameo in a Martin Scorsese film. You know, everyday stuff. After hearing Elliott Smith, Harper Simon, a graduate of Berklee Music School began to seriously look for his own voice. Having collaborated with Edie Brickell and Carrie Fisher, and his dad, it seems that Harper is now fully comfortable with his lineage, enough so that his eponymous album was co-produced by Bob Johnston, who had worked on Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (although he did get Elliott Smith’s old cohort Tom Rothrock to mix it).

He recorded basic tracks in Nashville, he also added stuff in Los Angeles and New York with pals like Inara George, Aaron Espinoza of Earlimart, Petra Haden, Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda, Adam Green, Eleni Mandell and Joan Wasser, Steve Nieve, and veteran session drummer Steve Gadd. And his dad.

Here’s a couple of songs from that album, first up “Berkeley Girl” from an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

and here he is doing “Wishes And Stars” on The Late Show with David Letterman.

That’s it for today, in Volume 3 of this special two-parter (I under promised!) we’ll look at Jakob Dylan, Sting’s boy Joe Sumner, Benjamin Taylor and more.

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One Response to “The Kids Are Alright – Part 2: Hand Me Down Genes”

  1. Kerry Gordon Says:

    Great series. Having a rockstar parent seems like it could be a positive negative. Check out Simon Collins when you’re diggin around. Excellent music.

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