"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, March 28, 2005

So, I haven't been posting a lot recently. Apologies. Before I could recover from shooting the no-budget short last weekend I had to deal with a sudden family illness, which meant going back to Ireland for a few days. I'm just back, and getting re-engaged in the whole ICFM thing. Jim and the boys arrive Friday, rehearse Saturday (I'm shooting the rehearsals too - something I'm looking forward to, in a way, even more than the actual show) and play Sunday, returning to TN on Monday. It's going to be a whirlwind weekend. I'm kind of braindead. To pass the time, here's an excellent account, drawing heavily on Robert's book, of how freakshow wrestler Sputnik Monroe singlehandedly did what no musician or politician was able to do - he integrated Memphis through sheer, simple badassery (maybe that should be 'badasserie'? No matter. Let it stand.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A few posts back I referred to having to go into Borders to find a copy of Playboy, so that I could read Robert's piece about Jerry Lee Lewis.... well, you know what? I never needed to put myself through that terrible ordeal, as it turns out the Observer's very fine Monthly Music Magazine have reprinted the piece, and it's available here.

Other ICFM news: looks like we'll be shooting the rehearsals for the Barbican show, which Jim Dickinson reckons should be very interesting indeed. I'm kind of unfeasibly excited about the idea of hanging out quietly in the rehearsal rooms watching some of my favourite players in the world bashing out their set for the next day's show.

Today I go off to a fantastic, Gothic location, on the Camberwell Rd of all places, to finish shooting the short. Our original location finally fell through on Wednesday, leaving us completely screwed for the weekend's shoot, but this place is even better - two Georgian houses knocked into one, furnished with the kind of stuff you normally only see in a Tim Burton movie. Excellent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

In tandem with Robert's book being reprinted, it looks like there will be some live events - I was always a fan of Vox'n'Roll when it used to happen in Filthy MacNasty's in Islington, but I haven't been to it since it relocated to the Boogaloo. Looks likely that Robert will be doing a reading and playing some music there. The last time I went was to see Greil Marcus read from his (less than earthshatteringly brilliant) most recent book, the one about Clinton. He was comprehensively upstaged by the support act - Ian MacLagan, ex of the Small Faces, who read from his autobiography 'All the Rage', and whose stories about Dylan and the Stones cracked the crowd up - I particularly liked the one where Dylan didn't talk to him for weeks because he'd misheard MacLagan's passing comment, "Looking very Byronic today, Bob." Though why Dylan thought his keyboard player would accuse him of looking moronic I really don't know. It might have been the drugs.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

This week, we got to recce the Barbican for our April 3 shoot and now the whole thing is beginning to appear to me as the mad adventure it undoubtedly is... I mean, who mounts a major multi-camera live concert shoot with practically no money, and no broadcaster attached? It's mental. But it is also fun. The possibility has arisen of having two High Definition cameras on stage as well as our three DigiBetas and a DV camera backstage. I may also shoot some of the rehearsal period if the guys don't mind. It's turning into the goddamn Last Waltz or something....and I love it. But I'm the one who's going to have to wade through endless hours of tape when everyone else has moved on to the next gig. Just as well it's tape of people I revere.

Apart from that - waiting for the broadcaster, waiting for the record company, waiting for the Americans. And also shooting the first section of my short subject today. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Robert Gordon's sleevenotes for the Barbican's It Came From Memphis CD are up, and will whet your appetite for what has got to be a compulsory purchase for all fans of fine music and demented trumpet solos that come straight out of nowhere (Sonny Burgess's Red Headed Woman - what the HELL were they on?).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I just got an email from someone I’m working with, not on ICFM but on another and very major project. It read, “I like your blog.” This freaked me out very slightly, as I’ve never made any attempt to publicise this site – quite the opposite. None of the people I’m working with know about it, and I’m almost dreading the day they do find out that I’ve been blogging this whole story. So why do I continue?

I’ve been doing this (‘this’ being film/TV) long enough to know that the process is long-drawn-out and frustrating. Blogging it both records the highs and lows of it for the merely curious or for those fools who aspire to film production. It also allows me to feel that all this time is not being wasted – “There it is, there’s a record of our efforts for all to see.” And when the film is made it will be a valuable reminder of the work it took to do it, so that next time some idea for a music documentary strikes me, I’ll think twice before attempting to put it into production. This is the third music doc I’ve attempted to make – the other two, on Gram Parsons (back in 1991 when nobody seemed too interested in the Cosmic Cowboy – these days I’m bored silly hearing about him) and Harry Partch, both foundered on the rocks of indifference. One out of three isn’t really enough to make it a worthwhile occupation. It certainly won’t pay my bar bills.

Speaking of which, I just this second took delivery of an absinthe fountain and two bottles of absinthe from La Feé. They are kindly sponsoring the short I’m doing with Sebastian this weekend. All I had to do was ask. This is why I got into filmmaking, really – that, and the women, of course. But enough - this isn’t that kind of website.

Now that I know that people I know are reading this I'm starting to get anal about my grammar and punctuation. Blogging anonymously would be a far better way to go, but it's a bit late for that...

Monday, March 07, 2005

And since writing the post below, I've had a call to say that the location we're shooting in next weekend might not be, well, finished in time.... It promises to be an interesting week.
Crunch week for ICFM. We’ve finally managed to get through the doors at one of the major record companies. A DVD distributor they work with passed the project on with a recommendation, so on Wednesday our pilot film and our treatment will be debated by their A&R dept. Pretty much simultaneously, our finance guy will be in the US, pitching on our behalf to a mate of his who is, from what we’re told, at the top of the tree in music television. If either one comes through, we’re made up. If both work out, things get very interesting all of a sudden. And if neither happens – well, we just keep on keepin’ on, like a bird that flew.

By coincidence, I’m also waiting for an important meeting on the other project, the drama, to happen this week – basically, meeting a writer who we hope and pray will be right to adapt this property for TV. Once we have her on board, we can take that one full steam ahead too.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I’m shooting a short – sponsored in part by an absinthe company – next weekend, with no budget whatsoever, and no script either, except for what’s in my head.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Making a living out of music documentaries seems to be an uphill struggle – how many of them actually get any kind of serious profile? Last year, there was Standing In the Shadows of Motown, which I have to admit I didn’t see – it got great festival exposure, and a good TV slot, but no cinema release. Then this year there was the excellent Ramones doc, End of the Century, which I think won an award at Sundance, and ran in cinemas in NYC and London, and is getting a high-profile DVD release (hopefully with tons of extras) later in the year. Since I’ve been trying to think through a biz plan for our potential investors, I looked up the co-producer/co-director of the latter film on the net, sent him a long email and was very impressed to get his response almost immediately – a long, informative and, to be honest, quite depressing response. All I’ll say is that the filmmakers don’t seem likely to make a penny out of all their work, due to some extremely ruthless management strategies deployed by people who were in a position to have the film killed if they didn’t get their way. I’ve always felt that when it comes to sheer, coldblooded greed and viciousness, the music business has film beat hands down, and that confirms the belief.

On the other hand, there’s always schmucks like me who just like the music a lot and want to tell people about it... and I’ve had an email from another such, Deryle, who’s making a movie about the great Eddie Hinton. And if you haven’t heard any Eddie Hinton, go out and find some, soonest. He's got a track on each of the two Country Got Soul CDs, they're pretty widely available and they're great. His first solo album has probably one of my favourite titles, ever - it's called Very Extremely Dangerous. I think I gave Donnie Fritts credit for writing Breakfast in Bed a few posts back, but it was co-written with Eddie. Not only could he write, he had the wildest, most soulful voice imaginable, and could have been a huge star – I don’t know why he didn’t make it, it might be that he didn’t look the part, and from what I hear he had some of the usual substance abuse problems, maybe more than the usual, and I think I remember Jim Dickinson telling me that he eventually got too hard to work with (and for Jim to say that, having dealt with Chilton, the Replacements and quite a few other, er, difficult customers, is really something...) – anyway, from what Deryle tells me, his film was sparked off by a suggestion from Robert Cray, who’s a serious Hinton fan. When someone like him talks, you listen. Which is how most of us get into this kind of situation – making movies for no money about people most of the world couldn’t care less about... until you get it into Sundance, win an award and end up on the transcontinental silver screen express, drinking the complimentary cocktails and wondering when you’re actually going to make any, y’know, money, out of all this....

Also through the genius of the Interweb, I’ve been in touch with Chuck Prophet’s manager, and the former Green on Red guy, ace songwriter and Dickinson cohort is playing London next month, so we get a good window to interview him. It’s a real shame that Jim and Chuck are missing each other by only ten days – the live CD Jim recorded with Chuck, 1000 Footsteps in the Sand, is really something. I’m looking forward to meeting the guy, he’s really one of the not-very-many rockers who have flown the flag for our kind of music, relentlessly, in the face of incomprehension and disbelief, over many years. I hear he’s doing well and selling lots of records these days, and I’m very happy to hear that. Sticking to your guns is a rare virtue in the music biz, it seems, and it’s even rarer to be actually rewarded for it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Excellent news today - Secker and Warburg will be bringing It Came From Memphis back into print in the UK, for the first time in nearly a decade, to co-incide with the Barbican shows. Unfortunately, it won't be an updated version, as the whole thing was done pretty fast. Either way, I'm chuffed that it's happening.

Also, I've just found the Mojo page on the Barbican shows, and it's way better, more up-to-date and just plain prettier than the Barbican's equivalent.

As for us - we're working like dogs to get the Ardent night covered. I've just read a running order for the night, and it's going to be a blast - a real revue-style shitkicking hootin' and hollerin' night. Everybody who's got any intention of ever being anybody has got to be there.

On the downside, I'm becoming aware that the Barbican isn't exactly the most perfect venue in terms of filming the shows, for mundane physical reasons. We'll be hard put to capture the energy that's going to be coming off the stage that night. But that's what we have to do.
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