"It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made." Ray Charles.

How a cult music book became a cult music documentary, and it only took ten years.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Time for a bit of a catch-up.

The documentary has gone a bit on the back burner for most of the last few months while I worked on a drama project. Also, to be honest, it was dispiriting how little progress we seemed to be making. There were one or two little events that bucked the trend, however. One of these happened in early June, when I went along to see the North Mississippi Allstars play with Othar Turner’s Rising Star Fife and Drum Band in a converted Hawksmoor church near Old St in London. The show, to be honest, wasn’t all that – the venue was designed with classical music in mind, and the NMAs were nowhere near loud enough (the acoustics had Cody fooled, he thought he was drumming thunderously when in fact the head on my beer barely wobbled to the beat). It was really affecting to see the late great Othar’s granddaughter take over from him on the fife and vocals, though, and the last few numbers where both bands were on stage together had a taste of the real wild outrageous rhythm that the Memphis sound should be delivering...

Anyway. After the show, I’m outside having a beer with Luther and Cody when this guy – the show’s promoter – comes out all excited and starts talking to Luther about a Memphis music festival he wants to do next year, and asking Luther if he’ll come up with a few suggestions, ideas et al. Luther being the kind of guy who likes his life to be as simple as possible, looks for a polite way out of doing this, and his eyes light on me – and that’s how I end up talking to Bryn from the Barbican about his plans to put Memphis on the London stage. I tell him about the film, about Robert’s book, and so on. He’s enthusiastic and we agree to meet during the week to discuss it. Then Luther and I go for a drink and get really excited about it: “Do you think Jim would travel?” “Oh, yeah, man, definitely, and if Jim came, Sid would come, and if Jim and Sid were coming, there’s no way Jimmy would stay home...” “So we could have most of Mud Boy on stage here in London?” “Wow...”

At this stage it’s all a pipe dream though. I recall the Barbican’s annual Beyond Nashville shows and the scale that they take on (typically spanning several different sized venues suiting different types of artist) and the possibilities are tantalising...

Next step happens later in the summer. I’m totally broke. Lee Hazelwood is playing in the Royal Festival Hall and I know I should go, that I’ll regret it if I don’t. I can’t really afford it but I stop by to check ticket availability. Yeah, tickets still available. Before I know what I’m doing I’ve got two tickets and I’m on the phone to my ex-GF, who I had arranged to go to the movies with later, exactly who Lee is. She sounds dubious about the whole thing. Well, the show was tremendous, huge and by all accounts the best show Lee has done in years. I’m wandering around in a daze after and see Bobby Gillespie, who I’d interviewed last year for the documentary. I stop to say hi, he remembers me, we catch up. I tell him about the planned Memphest and overstep the mark a little by saying that Jim is definitely playing. Bobby’s eyes light up.

“If Jim is playing, mah band would love to play back-up.”

Primal Scream playing behind Jim Dickinson. That could be the greatest rock show in years. Ever. Bobby suddenly looks a bit panicked at the idea.

“Well, we could do three or four songs – I mean, that’s all they’ll want to learn, mah band is lazy...”

I head home on a high and email Bryn the next day. If there was ever any doubt about Jim’s place on the bill, it’s gone. Plans take shape in my head for a Dickinson Revue – solo Jim, Jim with Mud Boy, Jim with the Primals... what a night that would be.

Jumping ahead to events of this week: the impeccably turned out Tav Falco has a screening of his early, shot on video, film/art piece ‘Les Jeunes Filles Eclairs’ at the Cine Lumiere. I go along to meet him afterwards and find him sat at a table in the cafe with Jason Pierce/Spaceman of Spiritualised, discussing the possibility that Jason might produce the next Panther Burns release. By the time I leave, the idea of a Panther Burns/Spiritualised show at the Barbican event is in the air. Jason himself has some amazing plans for his own festival in Newcastle next year, featuring Tav certainly, but possibly also Jim, along with lesser-known bands like the Stooges, the Cramps, Kraftwerk, and good old reliable Brian Wilson. Oh, and Lee Hazelwood. I play Jason back a short snatch of Some Velvet Morning that I’d recorded onto my mobile phone during the RFH concert that summer.

“Is that legal?” he asks.
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