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Dead People We Wish We'd Seen

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Regrets, sang Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Sid Vicious, I've had a few. (Or, for Sid, a feee-yooouuu.)

So have we all. But if you review concerts for a living, there's nothing worse than someone you like dying before you get the chance to see them live. So for this week's Round Table, Rocks Off Sr. polled our writers to see who that was.

Within reason. All of us would have loved to have seen the Beatles and Elvis, we're sure - and if not, they better keep it to themselves or they are so fired. But the majority of us were born after the Fab Four broke up and Elvis kicked, so that's just not possible.

Therefore, we asked them to limit their answers to people who died, died after they had already attended their first concert.

Chris Gray: Personally, this is the easiest one for me to answer since we've started doing these things. In December 1993, I was getting close to the end of my first semester as a Music Studies major at UT-Austin. Nirvana, the Breeders and Shonen Knife were coming to the AstroArena the Monday of final exam week.

I had been playing In Utero virtually non-stop that entire fall, so I really wanted to go to the show. But I had also been struggling with my first-ever piano class, which was a requirement for all UT music majors, and Monday was the final exam. So the weekend rolled around and I spent most of it in a practice room, fumbling over the keys and trying not to imagine how awesome "Heart-Shaped Box," "Rape Me" and "Serve the Servants" were going to sound.

I may have passed that piano final. I can't remember, but if I did it would have been just barely. I didn't last much longer as a music major, and still can't play the piano worth a damn. But that was the last time the conscientious student in me got the better of the live-music junkie.

Honorable mention would be John Entwistle. Keith Moon died when I was three, I know Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are still touring as "The Who." But I came close to going to Dallas to see the band in 2000 when Entwistle was still alive, and I know it just wouldn't be the same without The Ox.

Neph Basedow: While my easiest answer would, like many others, be Kurt Cobain, I'm going to instead say Elliott Smith, whom I didn't see because I was simply out of town when he came through Texas in 2000 - on college visits, if I remember correctly. My brother saw and met him at La Zona Rosa in Austin that same weekend, which he still deems the best show he's ever seen...

As for Nirvana, as young as I was when they were still touring, I was actually supposed to see them in 1994, as they were slated to headline that year's Lollapalooza, to which I had tickets (as an 11-year-old). After Kurt died, of course, the Pumpkins became the fest's headliners, to the Beastie Boys' alleged surprise, as they were second headliners to Nirvana).

Sigh x 2. But what is rock and roll without some regret, I suppose?

Marc Brubaker: I'm going to cast my vote for Jay Reatard. Jay died in January 2010, well into my concert-going career, and was known for bringing quite a show with him. He'd appeared in Houston just a month before his death, and for the life of me I can't recall why I skipped it. I was certainly sore about it after he passed, though.

John Seaborn Gray: I wish I had gotten into Blind Melon's work earlier than I did. All I ever knew was "No Rain" until I started listening to Soup a couple years after Shannen Hoon died. It's an amazing album.

He died of an overdose on the bus from Houston to Louisiana, so he played his last show here. [Ed. Note: At Numbers, where he allegedly bought the drugs that did him in.] Maybe it's morbid, but I really wish I had gone to see that show.

Craig Hlavaty: Hands down, I am saddened that I never got to see Joe Strummer and The Clash, who at the time of his passing in December 2002, looked to be reuniting. I would have settled for just Joe alone with his Mescaleros too.

I always have this dream about getting to see the Clash at Austin City Limits or at Verizon Wireless, really anywhere, and being in the pit out front as the band strikes into us with "London Calling" and plays the whole album in order for its anniversary. Jesus, who would even be able to open for the Clash these days? Rancid? Gogol Bordello? Gorillaz?

Brittanie Shey: I have a few. The big one is James Brown. I think he just never toured wherever I happened to be living at the time. I will probably also regret not seeing Chuck Berry earlier this year since he's most likely on his last leg. I never got to see Morphine, but who could have seen Mark Sandman's untimely onstage death? Christ, he was only 46. I think about this every time I listen to them.

Incidentally, this is why I'm so hoping for a Stones tour in 2011 or 2012. I have never been able to see them live before. But who'm I kidding? The Stones are eternal.

William Michael Smith: I was too young to see Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music and, if you want to think about it, Texas music. And I was born but hardly old enough to see my hero Hank Williams before hard-living and pain pills ended his run. Same for Johnny Horton, maybe my favorite hard-rockin' Texas hillbilly of them all.

I would also have loved to see Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf before they went up Highway 61 for the last time. I also missed on Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Bobby Fuller. But I'm going with Otis Redding as the one entertainer I wish I'd seen before he died. His short career was like an atomic blast - one day he wasn't there, the next day the man and his unforgettable hits were everywhere, on every television show and on half the radio stations not just in America but in the world.

As his videos demonstrate, when Otis came onstage things got cranked to 11 from the first minute and didn't end until he and the audience was sucked into a sweaty frenzied vortex of joy and release. That "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay" was one of his final pieces of divine inspiration haunts me to this day with the question of "Where could this man have taken American music if he had lived a full life?"

Find me a single person who doesn't like "Dock of the Bay." I was having a drink in a dive in Paris four years ago and a woman dropped a dime - or Euro - on "Dock of the Bay," and it seemed the most natural thing ever. But I have to say that it was a virtual tie between Redding and Louis Armstrong, whose legacy in American music is unparalleled, for this question.

Pete Vonder Haar: Freddie Mercury. I didn't really get into Queen until I was around 12, when "Another One Bites the Dust" was the most popular song on the radio and everybody in my central Texas middle school inexplicably owned a copy of The Game.

They became one of my favorite bands at that point, and I picked up as much of their back catalog as I could find (most of it on those shitty Elektra cassettes). Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to start going to out-of-town concerts, Queen had stopped coming to Texas (their last Houston gig was in 1982), or America at all, for that matter. So I had to content myself with Live Killers and a lousy VHS dub of their set at Live Aid.

The band's performance of "Radio Ga Ga" at that show remains one of the greatest pieces of pure showmanship and crowd interplay ever captured on film, and I wish I could've seen Freddie work his magic live. The band's movements were a little hard to track in those pre-Internet days, however. And even had I known their 1986 "Magic" tour was to be their last, the odds of my being allowed to bop on over to Europe while still in high school were - shall we say - nonexistent.

He died in 1991. My friends and I conducted an impromptu Queen memorial, watching Flash Gordon and Highlander and trying (and failing) to scrape together enough money for a bottle of Moet y Chandon. We had to settle for Asti Spumante, I think.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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