Former Bauhaus and Love and Rockets principal David J. begins his recently released fifth solo album, Estranged, with a cover of Bread's "The Guitar Man," a choice bound to surprise fans more familiar with his goth past.
"My dad had it in an eight-track in his car," J. says. "I loved it as a kid. It describes an itinerant musician that's had a certain amount of success but now the crowds are getting thin, but you keep playing because you love to play. My take is that it's descriptive of someone who's a junkie."
J.'s melancholy reworking features Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction, friends of J.'s since Love and Rockets and Jane's toured together in the late Eighties.
"I thought of whom I could get to play lead parts on it because I can't play that sort of guitar," J. says. "Dave came in and he did it in two takes. I think he related to the subject matter, too, although he's come through the other side, and he's doing great now."
The song sets the tone for an album that includes guest spots from Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters on acoustic guitar and vocals, and ample amounts of pedal steel from Bruce Kaphan of the American Music Club.
The country-flavored instrumentation matched J.'s mood while he was attempting to ride out a patch of hard luck. "I was going through a bit of an ordeal writing and recording that record," he says. "I was estranged from my soul mate and living the songs. Writing and recording became a way of getting over that and mending the situation. I finished that record three years ago, and there's a lot of water under the bridge since then. A lot of cleansing water."
Determined to finance the album himself and stay free of record company interference, J. made an open plea to fans for help. Opening up his garage to eBay, J. auctioned off Bauhaus memorabilia, including guitars, gold and platinum discs, a "letter from Fiction Records very politely turning down Bauhaus with the guy describing 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' as interesting but overlong," and the top seller -- at $4,000 -- the lyric sheet to that song.
"I was wracking my brains wondering 'How do I raise funds for this?' and it flashed on like a light bulb," J. says. "I really had the attitude of out with the old and in with the new. It felt quite cathartic to get rid of stuff that was just sitting in my garage. And I got loads of letters saying that the winners felt privileged to be a part of the process."