"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.

Monday, November 22, 2004

This didn't start out as a good day, at all, at all. Possibly something to do with the time of year always bringing to mind some spectacularly nasty stuff that happened around this time a few years back. Or possibly something to do with my questionable decision to dine on a bag of Kettle Chips and two cans of Stella rather than eating something nutritious before sleeping last night. Either way, the odds seemed to be against fun. i very nearly didn't go to the Eggleston private view at the Victoria Miro Gallery, I mean my years as an art student exposed me to enough exhibition openings and enough cheap free wine to forever remove any vestige of glamour from that kind of thing. But I had to be over the East End to have a production meeting for a friend's no-budget short that I've agreed to AD next weekend - so there was as good a place as any to meet.

The first surprise was that I was met with the unmistakable sounds of Furry Lewis' guitar from a darkened room on the right hand side of the entrance as I walked in. In fact there was a looped screening of footage from 'Canton' going on in there all evening, and continuing through the run of the exhibition. Leaving that behind, I saw the familiar face of Winston Eggleston, whom I had last seen when we were both gulled into assisting with a nudie photo shoot on behalf of JMM, right out on the deserted streets of downtown Memphis in the sunny Sunday afternoon light. He informed me that his dad and he had arrived in time for the screening last night but Bill had felt too tired (or too bored by the prospect of seeing it for the zillionth time) to bother going.

I spotted Bill in the back room, wearing a suit, bow tie and the kind of glasses that Lionel Barrymore might have worn. He looked like a slightly less fearsome version of William Burroughs.

The rest of the evening was a bit blurry but I met Jason Spaceman again, and introduced him to both Bill and Winston, with the result that 'Canton' now looks like it will get a screening in the Newcastle fest. Jason also has tentative good news about a new record deal for Tav Falco which he told me about while juggling the demands of his two very small children, in a manner markedly unlike the hardbitten rock'n'roller the legends would suggest he is.

On the way out I introduced myself to Sean O'Hagan, who's off to Memphis on Friday to do an in-depth piece that will run next year just preceding the Barbican festival. He tells me that he originally saw bits of 'Stranded in Canton' years ago when Harmony Korine screened them for him, and that kind of makes sense given Korine's Tennessee upbringing. He could be a descendent of Eggleston's southern-Gothic-throw-enough-blood-at-the-walls-and-see-what-sticks, woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks, swamp-Warhol sensibility.

There seems to be something in the air about this material right now. The room filled up with greasy Hoxtonites and glassy-eyed art buyers. A man who turned out to have been one of the happy few who were present when I screened 'It Came From Memphis' at the Horse Hospital, however long ago that was, and who turned out to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with that music and those people, told me that he'd been offered a print of 'Greenwood, Mississippi' (otherwise known as the iconic cover of 'Big Star 3rd') for £10K back in 1995. A few weeks ago it sold for a quarter of a million. As I left I spotted Grayson Perry and said to my evening's Viewing Companion, "Look - there's Grayson Perry." "Oh! Which one is he?" she asked. "The transvestite one," I replied wittily. But when you have Turner Prizewinners and most of the East End's buzzword crew turning up for a show that features old Furry, Jim Dickinson and Randall Lyon, then I know the day of Memphis is almost upon us.
Um, "Greenwood, Mississippi," aka "The Red Ceiling," actually is the cover of Big Star's "Radio City" album, not "Big Star Third."
I am going to have to stop writing this blog while drunk, amn't I?
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