to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and Led Zep's Robert Plant. On Groundhog's Day of '96, while Rainer was riding his bike to work at the Chicago Store (where he repaired string instruments), his brain faded out and he fell over. He wound up at the University Medical Center where they scanned him and imaged him and concluded that Rainer Ptácek had brain cancer. They said it appeared like a cloud throughout his head - no lump of malignancy that could be excised and let the man live in peace.
So Rainer had to commence the exhausting ordeal of radiation and chemo treatments. "It took some time to relearn everything he'd known before the seizure," says Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand fame and Rainer´s best friend) of Rainer's initial recovery period. "The most amazing part of his trek - which was unbearably frustrating, given how his brain wouldn't work with him for the longest time to remember so many things, let alone the coordination it takes for his hands to carry out his brain's ideas - was that he not only was able to teach himself all over again; his stunning achievement was then to surpass his ability before he got sick!" Howe Gelb also was the moving force behind "The Inner Flame", a Rainer-tribute that featured the likes of Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando, Page & Plant, P.J. Harvey etc., but also showcased Ptacek and his trademark National Steel guitar on several cuts.
The record which was just finished before his seizure - "Alpaca Lips" - was released in the fall of 2000 on Glitterhouse Records. Another triumph occurred at a Tucson concert on June 6, 1997, prior to Rainer's relapse. Recorded professionally and released in late 2001 (on Glitterhouse) as the second installment in the trilogy, "Live at the Performance Center" is, by Gelb's description, "the best live recording I have ever heard from anyone, anywhere, from any time. And if you listen with a critical ear - which is hard to do, given the emotional status - he keeps getting better and better as the set goes on.
He's on a plane I have never heard anyone ever get to." The brain tumor that was thought to be in remission returned. "That came about after his final seizure [in '97]. I raced home from a European tour to find him talking in numbers. Again, he slowly began to relearn his guitar, but this time the end was imminent.
We all knew it. And we had to tell him, as well. Anyway, I mentioned to him that he was coming up with all kinds of ideas on the guitar; would he like to record again? To focus on that for the healing it can do, and the relief of the art he gave himself to his whole life. A day or so later, he was up for it.
He put in 4 days of recording spread over a couple of weeks, until his brain could not make sense enough to go on." (Howe Gelb) The result is "The Farm", Rainer´s last recordings. Rainer Ptacek passed away on November 12, 1997. "What a great struggle for him at times to even read and make sense of the notes he'd made. The spine tingle is the delivery from a man who is perched on the precipice and able to look over into the void and deliver still, in this world, what he sees on both sides.
What can I say? You can hear it." (Howe Gelb) Sites: Discogs Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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