For every Green Day and Goo Goo Dolls, there’s a Replacements and Big Star, and for every Replacements and Big Star, there’s a Tommy Keene. There are acts that achieve global superstardom, the groups that inspired them which achieve some underground success and acclaim, and then there are the talented acts who find a fiercely devoted following, but none of the radio play, album sales or massive tours that their equally talented peers achieve. That was Tommy Keene.
I first heard about Tommy Keene while reading about a side-project by the Gin Blossoms‘ lead singer where he covered Keene’s songs. The Gins were no strangers to praising Keene’s work, and when he died last week, I learned about it through their twitter. Unlike Paul Westerberg or Alex Chilton, Tommy always was a solo act, fighting the grueling music industry alone. At points he had deals with a label, but never came close to getting the sales to keep him signed, all of which is a shame since he had a heck of a lot of good songs.
One of his most beloved songs is “Places That Are Gone” from his album Songs From The Film (1986). Jangly power pop with a memorable, slightly melancholy chorus that speaks to the outcast in all of us, it’s a song worth hearing from an artist who hopefully will find the audience posthumously that he never found while still here.