Dead Singer Jim Ellison's Career Was On The Upswing

Material Issue, the band Jim Ellison led.

The mystery of Material Issue leader Jim Ellison's suicide

this past Thursday (June 20) deepened when it came to light that Ellison had

been working with a new "supergroup" called the Wild Bunch that was set to

begin a nine-city tour later this month (June 25). The Wild Bunch, featuring

Enuff Z'nuff singer Chip Z'nuff, Smithereens' singer Pat DiNizio, Guns N' Roses

guitarist Gilby Clark, former Psychedelic Furs drummer Mars Williams, former

Blondie drummer Clem Burke and Ellison--performed at the Chicago club Drink

last month, and according to Chip Z'nuff, on the basis of that show, Camel

cigarettes had asked them to do a tour. (Both the Drink show, as well as a more

recent show in Las Vegas were recorded.) Ellison had also been writing songs

with Z'nuff for Howard Stern's in-the-works movie, working on DiNizio's solo

album, and as previously reported here, had co-written "Rocket Boy" with Liz

Phair (that song appears on the soundtrack of Stealing Beauty, and is

the first single to be released from the soundtrack album). Apparently, it was

the end of a relationship with a woman Z'nuff described as "Jim's chick"--about

a month ago--that led to the suicide (Ellison, who was 31, died of carbon

monoxide poisoning; he was found dead, slumped over his moped, in his garage in

the early hours of Thursday morning by Chicago police). Z'nuff told Addicted To

Noise that "after Jim broke up with his chick he used to call me every day." In

late May, Ellison and Urge Overkill's Nash Kato had joined Enuff Z'nuff

on-stage at the Thirsty Whale for the final show in that storied metal club's

history. The two joined the group on-stage for renditions of "Wild Thing" and

"Revolution." A week later, on June 7th, Material Issue played what turned out

to be their last show, at the Metro in Chicago, and that night Ellison told

Chip Z'nuff he was going to Mexico to vacation for a few days. Z'nuff didn't

hear from Ellison again until last Wednesday (June 19), when Ellison left a

message at one p.m.: "Hey, it's Jim. I didn't want you to worry about me.

Call

me bro." Z'nuff said he didn't suspect that the end of Ellison's relationship

would cause him to take his life. "I never thought in a million years that he

would take it to that extreme," said Z'nuff. "He wasn't like that." Still,

Z'nuff said Ellison had been bummed since the break-up. He recalled that the

night of Material Issue's Metro show, he and Ellison had stayed up late writing

a song called "Lonely Town." Two lines from the song: "Nobody around in this

old lonely town/ They serve no food in lonely town."