Blackie Onassis, drummer for ’90s rock band Urge Overkill, dies at 57


John Rowan, the drummer for ’90s Chicago rock band Urge Overkill who carried out underneath the title Blackie Onassis, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 57.

A spokesperson for the band confirmed his dying to The Occasions. No reason behind dying was supplied.

Onassis anchored Urge Overkill throughout their time within the alternative-rock highlight within the Nineties, enjoying on the band’s model of Neil Diamond’s “Lady, You’ll Be a Lady Quickly,” which was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” in 1994, and staying with them by means of their closing major-label album, 1995’s “Exit the Dragon.”

A local of Chicago’s South Aspect, Rowan joined Urge Overkill, the Chicago band led by guitarists Nash Kato and Eddie “King” Roeser, in 1991. With Rowan aboard, Urge Overkill transitioned from practitioners of scuzzy neo-hardcore punk to suave purveyors of refurbished enviornment rock, enjoying their crunching riffs with a figuring out wink whereas sporting medallions emblazoned with their “UO” brand. Though he was a late addition to the band, Onassis typically summarized Urge Overkill’s enchantment higher than its founding members, as when he described UO’s mission to Spin journal in 1992: “We’re right here to resurrect the period of the swinger — the late ’60s, the playboy life when America was a enjoyable place. The golden period of Vegas, Neil Diamond, moonlight dancing, and Anton La Vey!”

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John Rowan, left, and Urge Overkill in 1993.

(Bob Berg / Getty Photos)

Kato and Roeser already had made two albums for the indie imprint Contact and Go when Rowan grew to become a part of Urge Overkill. Adopting the title Blackie Onassis — he’d later say, “I’m not Blackie Onassis due to my private life, I’m Blackie Onassis as a result of I drum in Urge. I like being Blackie Onassis; it’s like residing in a musical wonderland” — the drummer shortly grew to become central to Urge Overkill’s self-made mythology. “The Supersonic Storybook,” the 1991 album that noticed them earn consideration exterior of Chicago, bore a music known as “Right now Is Blackie’s Birthday,” which was not solely a salute to their new drummer however proof of a sharpening sense of ironic humor.

Hunkering down in a Humboldt Park financial institution constructing they aptly nicknamed “the Financial institution” — at one level within the early Nineties, all three members lived there — Urge Overkill styled themselves as louche ’70s women’ males, a tongue-in-cheek pose that alienated outdated colleagues like recording engineer and producer Steve Albini. However the makeover began to realize the group constructive discover. They befriended Liz Phair, who would later take the title of her 1993 debut, “Exile in Guyville,” from Urge’s kissoff to the Chicago punk scene, “Goodbye to Guyville,” and earned a constructive evaluate in Spin for “The Supersonic Storybook”: “The band sounds just like the MC5 with Neil Diamond as entrance man,” the journal mentioned. Quickly, Urge Overkill gained such new followers as Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

Nirvana took Urge Overkill out as a help act on its Nevermind tour in 1991, which led to UO signing with Geffen Data in 1992. The group employed the Butcher Brothers, the hip-hop manufacturing unit that helmed hits by Cypress Hill and Kris Kross, to supply its 1993 major-label debut, “Saturation.” A gleaming, outsized celebration of classic-rock tropes, “Saturation” had an alternative-rock hit in “Sister Havana,” which introduced UO to the cusp of the mainstream success they craved. When “Pulp Fiction” director Tarantino set a memorable scene, through which Uma Thurman’s character by chance overdoses on heroin, to Urge Overkill’s cowl of Neil Diamond’s “Lady, You’ll Be a Lady Quickly,” the group lastly had a breakthrough hit.

Heroin began to play a significant position in Rowan’s private life round this time, an open secret within the alternative-rock group. Gap drummer Patty Schemel wrote in her 2017 autobiography “Hit So Arduous: A Memoir” that discovering heroin in Chicago was “as simple as ordering up just a few luggage from Blackie Onassis, the drummer of Urge Overkill, who had a daily hookup on the town.” Allusions to Onassis’ dependancy additionally surfaced on “Exit the Dragon,” the darkish, sprawling 1995 album from Urge Overkill. On the brooding “The Mistake,” Onassis sang, “Watch out what you are taking, you’ve acquired rather a lot at stake / Greater than you’ll ever know, beware the overdose.”

Shortly after the discharge of “Exit the Dragon,” Rowan was arrested for heroin possession. Whereas the costs had been later dropped, Urge Overkill entered a downward spiral, which led to Roeser leaving the band in 1996. Kato tried to maintain the group alive for some time however wound up releasing a solo album, “Debutante,” in 2000 as an alternative. “Debutante” featured six co-songwriting credit from Blackie Onassis.

After “Debutante,” Rowan successfully dropped out of sight. Kato and Roeser reformed Urge Overkill in 2004 with out him. Whereas talking to the Chicago Reader in 2004, the duo alluded to their bandmate’s missed video shoots and live shows, in addition to a revoked passport on the eve of a visit to England. At that time, Rowan was residing in Los Angeles however was out of contact with Urge Overkill.

Roeser instructed the Reader, “I don’t have [Onassis’s] telephone quantity. He has mine. Put it that manner. He can name me if he desires to. I’ve had the identical quantity for 10 years.”

Rowan is survived by his mom, Mary; his sister Anne; and his brother Tim.


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