At this juncture in the history of the modern world, rock ‘n’ roll’s once mighty facade is vanishing a little bit more each day. Some days, huge chunks collapse. Other times, it’s less heralded specks or traces that fade or disappear quietly, never to be replaced or patched up. The night of November 9th, a monumental pillar of it crumbled, whether you ever knew it existed or not.
Fred Cole will never shatter the sky with his soul-spearing wail again. He died in his sleep, succumbing to the cancer that had plagued him in recent years. Last month he was admitted to a hospital for treatment of a bleeding liver. Things were not looking good.
You may be asking, “Who’s Fred Cole?” He was certainly not widely known, but those who knew of him and his music felt his presence deeply, certainly in the Pacific Northwest, his base of operations for most of his life. The Las Vegas native moved to Portland in the mid ‘60s while fronting a psych-garage band called The Weeds (later known as The Lollipop Shoppe). The guitarist and vocalist married Kathleen “Toody” Cole in 1967, and had several other short-lived bands (Zipper, The Rats, King Bee, Western Front) before forming Dead Moon in 1987 with Toody on bass guitar and occasional vocals and Andrew Loomis (who died in 2016) on drums.
Dead Moon (pictured, Fred on the far left) blasted out some of the most hellhound-howling psycho-blooze-garage-punk rock ‘n’ roll this side of Roky Erickson or the Gun Club. They were fuckin’ scary, in fact – at least, they seemed that way, and not in a cartoonish heavy-metal band sort of put-on, but in a real who-the-fuck-are-these-freaks-and-what-swamp-did-they-crawl-out-of kind of way. From all accounts, they’re were incredibly sweet, down-to-earth human beings, but I mean, I remember the first time I saw Dead Moon play, thinking they struck me as being some sort of off-the-grid possum-eatin’ mountain clan. They just had that particular unsettling aura about them as they ripped through their dark and primal and beautiful songs. The impact was staggering. If you can find it, get Sub Pop’s double-disc compilation Echoes of the Past for an excellent Dead Moon primer, if you need one. I have no idea how many of their original albums, some of which were self-released, are in print.
After Dead Moon called it quits in 2006, Fred and Toody formed a new trio called Pierced Arrows. They were similar to Dead Moon but didn’t possess quite the same rawness. Personally, they didn’t transport me to another plane like Dead Moon would. But by that point, Cole had made his mark, decisively and enduringly. If you claim to be a rock fan, but have nothing by Fred Cole in your collection, your collection is incomplete. Fix that.