2008 was a musical year for Johnny Depp! The most memorable music-related events of the year were the Second Annual Sheila Witkin Memorial Concerts, in which Johnny rocked out with The Kids in a pair of shows in August. The shows were held in conjunction with screenings of the Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora documentary, which had had its World Premiere earlier in the year. The film chronicles the history of the South Florida music scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s, as well as the first Sheila Witkin Memorial Concert that took place in January of 2007. Johnny features prominently in this film, both as a musician and an interviewee.
In addition to performing with The Kids, Johnny took on several other musical projects, including directing (and possibly co-starring in??) Vanessa Paradis’ video for L’Incendie and co-producing and co-authoring the soundtrack for the film Gonzo: The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. He was also featured as an interviewee in several music documentaries that were released on DVD in 2008, including Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, Gypsy Caravan: When The Road Bends, and Runnin’ Down A Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (2 DVD edition).
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street featured Johnny’s first major singing role on film. Although the film was first released in the US in December of 2007, its domestic and foreign box office success continued well into 2008; it also received much critical praise and resulted in an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win for Johnny. The soundtrack and DVD releases were also very successful.
So, what do we have to look forward to from Johnny Depp the Musician in 2009? As of now, there seems to be one sure thing and several possibilities. The sure thing is Johnny’s participation on Glenn Tilbrook And The Fluffers’ upcoming album, Pandemonium Ensues. Tilbrook first mentioned in October that Johnny contributes to the album, and a recent item on the Teletext site confirmed that Johnny plays guitar on the song Too Close To The Sun. (Vanessa Paradis also appears on the album, singing on the song Interest & Love). The album is due out in the UK on February 23. Johnny is said to be a longtime fan of Tilbrook and of the band he’s most known for, Squeeze, so this will be a welcome and much-anticipated guest spot! (Corrections- Tilbrook has now clarified that Johnny’s contribution to the album is a narration for the song Too Close To The Sun, and the new UK release date for the album is March 2, 2009).
It has also been claimed that Johnny will play on a follow-up to the Rogue’s Gallery album that was released in 2006. The follow-up was mentioned during a BBC report about some live Rogue’s Gallery shows that took place in the summer of 2008; the report claimed that Johnny, Keith Richards, Tom Waits and Shane MacGowan would be involved in the recording. While I have not yet seen any confirmation of this project, my fingers remain crossed for this great possibility! A somewhat more iffy but intriguing rumor reported last summer in the German magazine, Bravo, is that Johnny is in talks with Warner Music Group to start his own record label. So far, this has not been verified by any reliable source, and it may end up being totally bogus, but the notion of Johnny becoming involved in the recording industry seems like a very cool and natural possibility. Perhaps we will hear about one or both of these projects in the coming year!
2009 may also see the general release of two music-themed documentaries relating to Johnny. The first is Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora, which premiered last year and has had several screenings in South Florida. The official website for the film features a signup page for screening and DVD release information, and it is hoped that there will be more opportunities in 2009 for theatrical screenings and/or a DVD release. Furthermore, the makers of Do It For Johnny, a film about the quest of the filmmakers to deliver a custom guitar and a script to Johnny, promise that the film will be distributed in the US shortly after the New Year. Stay tuned on both counts!
Finally, I can’t help but throw in a couple of wild dream projects that I wish for Johnny in 2009 (or anytime!) The first is for Johnny to play on a new record with Shane MacGowan. Johnny played on Shane’s 1994 album, The Snake, and in 2004 while Johnny was filming The Libertine, it was widely reported that he would be playing on an upcoming album with Shane, while Shane would play a small role in The Libertine. Alas, Shane’s turn as a “Bard” was cut from the film, and the album never happened; instead, Shane reunited with The Pogues and has been touring with them off and on ever since. But in 2005, Shane described jamming with Johnny during this time: “He is a great actor and a great guitar player too. We played together. He really heavied it up. His guitar playing releases all of his rage and frustration. We did one song together, but forgot to record it. But it sounded like an atom bomb going off!” (Forgot to record it?? Atom bomb going off?? D’oh!!) I don’t know if or when Shane will ever get back to recording this album, but if he does, I hope he remembers to include Johnny!
My other great wish is for Johnny to get to play with his Captain Jack Sparrow inspiration, Keith Richards. On whether he’s ever played in front of Keith, Johnny once said, “No. I don’t have the kind of hair that would allow me to pick up a guitar and start strumming. I’ve never been that confident — or drunk. I just couldn’t do it. Unless he asked me to. Then maybe.” The “Then maybe” keeps my hopes up that maybe someday, somehow, probably not for The Stones but maybe on a solo record (or how about the Rogue’s Gallery follow-up??) the opportunity will arise for them to play together. Who knows?
At any rate, here’s hoping for a wonderful, musical year ahead for Johnny and all his fans!