Once again, long time, no post! But 2010 has been another great year for Johnny’s musical pursuits! First came the announcement that Johnny would put on his rarely-worn director’s hat for a feature film music documentary. Then he played lead guitar on not one, but two music singles. And finally, he returned to the stage for his first live performance in 2 years. Along the way, he found time to lend his voice to other music-related projects. Not too shabby!
The documentary in question is a film about Johnny’s rock hero, friend, and fictional pirate “dad,” Keith Richards. It is tentatively titled Happy, after Richards’ song of the same name. Johnny says they filmed for about 5 days in late January of 2010, and there has been mention of colleagues digging through lots of archive footage. Johnny mentioned the project briefly while promoting The Tourist in late 2010, though he hesitates to refer to himself as a director or producer: “Keith is being a wild beast that you just sort of document. You just turn on the camera and let it run out, and feast upon what he has to say.” So far there’s been no mention of a specific release date, so we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for updates in 2011. In addition, perhaps through his participation in this documentary, Johnny provided a narration for the audiobook version of Richards’ autobiography, Life. We’ll get to see Keith and Johnny together in May of 2011 in a non-musical setting, as Keith will return as Teague in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Still, I’m also hoping to see Keith and Johnny play together at some point… perhaps they will, in the documentary 🙂
Johnny also lent his spoken voice as narrator of the excellent Doors documentary, When You’re Strange, and also did brief readings of Jim Morrison’s poetry for the related soundtrack. The film seemed to be more welcomed in Europe than in the States, where it only played in a handful of cities and didn’t come within 150 miles of Washington, DC. I had to settle for a viewing on PBS and the DVD. On the bright side, the film received a Grammy nomination for long form music video, so we’ll see in 2011 whether it wins.
Johnny’s two singles contributions were Babybird’s Unloveable and Shane MacGowan & Friends’ I Put A Spell On You, both released in the spring. Johnny also directed the video for Unloveable, the first single from Babybird’s album, Ex-Maniac, which was produced by Johnny’s Kids bandmate, Bruce Witkin, and Bruce’s partner Ryan Dorn. The video, a take on An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, was perhaps more memorable than Johnny’s lead guitar on the song, which is solid but not particularly flashy. But Johnny let himself loosen up and get appropriately bluesy on the Shane MacGowan single, which was a benefit single for relief of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Wish he could let himself stand out like this a little more often!
It was a wonderful surprise when in late August, a few days before the Voices For Justice concert in Little Rock, Arkansas, to benefit the West Memphis Three, it was announced that Johnny would attend and perform. Because Johnny has long stood on record in support of the West Memphis Three and efforts to give them a new trial, it made sense that he would lend his support at the concert and perhaps give a speech. But would he actually play?? I still remember the thrill I got when I saw the first few still photos, and then some brief music clips, through the magic of Twitter and YouTube. Johnny held his own with the likes of Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith for a heartfelt and emotionally powerful show. Since the concert, the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed to new hearings for the WM3, which is the first step in allowing for a new trial.
What’s in store for 2011? First and foremost, we can await the new Patti Smith album that is planned for release in 2011. While there has been no official confirmation of Johnny’s participation, Johnny has mentioned previously that he might play on it, and an Italian article about Patti also mentioned Johnny’s involvement. Patti herself has not said much about the album, declining even to give its title, but we will see! Also a possibility for 2011 is the long-awaited followup to the 2006 Rogue’s Gallery album. Last year, there were reports that it would be released in 2010, and that Johnny would be featured, but there has been very little news in the last year (I did see one brief mention of Tom Waits recording something for it, but that didn’t ever seem to be confirmed). But with Pirates 4 coming out in May, who knows if that may be the chance to tie in a release of Rogue’s Gallery II? For what it’s worth, Babybird is currently recording a new album in LA with Witkin and Dorn, and while nobody has mentioned that Johnny would play again, it’s nice to hope! Either way, I loved what I heard of the recording session that was streamed from the Unison studios in December, so I’ll be purchasing the album regardless! The two unreleased documentaries that have been mentioned here on the blog and at Johnny Depp Rocks! for several years, Do It For Johnny and Rock And A Hard Place, appear to be in limbo but would certainly be welcomed if they should see the light of day in 2011. Finally, here’s hoping for Johnny to play a live show(s) in 2011, or to pull out some more music-related surprises!
Happy New Year, all!