Johnny Depp Rocks! Blog

December 31, 2010

2010 Johnny Depp Rockin’ Year-end Wrap

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!

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

April 4, 2010

Recapping the recent JD-related music releases

As of this coming Tuesday, Johnny will have 3 count ’em 3 new discography entries so far this year- 2 as a guitarist and 1 contributing spoken word.  In addition, he was also involved in 2 videos and a feature film relating to all 3 audio releases.  This makes 2010 a particularly musically productive one for Johnny, and the year isn’t even half over yet.  I don’t really feel qualified to offer “reviews” of Johnny’s new recordings, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to talk about them, anyway! So here’s what Johnny’s been up to, showing his musical side:

Babybird: Ex-Maniac (Johnny is guitarist and music video director for the lead single, Unloveable):

I had never heard of Babybird or Stephen Jones, not even his (apparently massive) 1995 hit single, You’re Gorgeous, until it was announced last September that Johnny was directing a music video for an upcoming single.  So I am listening to the March release, Ex-Maniac, as a very new, very casual fan.  From the few snippets I’d heard beforehand, I expected this to be a listenable enough album, but I was very surprised at how much I genuinely liked it.  It got several listens when I purchased my iTunes copy (available to US customers a few weeks before the official release), and the hard copy I received last week from the Unison Music Store is now on constant replay on my car’s CD changer.  The album’s tunes are melodic and often pretty, but the lyrics are dark and cynical, and often pull at the heartstrings.  Unloveable is a strong first single, with a large, anthemic sound.  Johnny provides a tasteful if somewhat restrained guitar part which suits the song well; still, I wish he’d have had the chance to stand out a little more.  For the video, Johnny chose to portray Ambrose Bierce’s short story, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, also known as a short film that was shown as a Twilight Zone episode in the 60’s.  The video is stylistically very beautiful and tells a complete story in just 4 and a half minutes.  There is said to be an 8 minute version that may or may not ever be released; let’s hope that it will be.

Ex-Maniac has many other great songs on it, including another candidate for a single, Bastard.  Bastard is somewhat of an anti-Unloveable; the lyrics somewhat mirror the latter song, but the infectious pop sound and chorus defy the listener to love him, to touch him.  Drug Time’s bass line and harmonies are heavily reminiscent of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, while Roadside Girl has some of the same feel but to a lesser extent.  Failed Suicide Club, For The Rest Of Our Lives, and Not Good Enough are other standouts for me, and the mariachi horns on On The Backseat Of Your Car help to bring the album to a memorable close.  Jones’ voice, especially when he sings low, reminds me a little of Echo And The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, who’s always been a fave of mine.  In fact it’s his great, expressive voice that keeps me listening.  The album is produced by Bruce Witkin, who also provides a ton of musical backup on multiple instruments, and his partner, Ryan Dorn.  Here’s hoping that Witkin and Dorn will produce more great music from Babybird in the future (and that Johnny also might be able to participate, too!)

Shane MacGowan & Friends: I Put A Spell On You (Johnny is a guitarist on the single and in the video):

Now, HERE is Johnny’s chance to show off a little bit, on a wicked guitar solo for this single to benefit the Concern Charity for its relief efforts in Haiti.  Shane and a number of singers and musicians, including Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Glen Matlock, Chrissie Hynde, Paloma Faith, Eliza Doolittle, James Walbourne, Mick Jones, Cait O’Riordan, and Carwyn Ellis, participated in a recording session in London, while Johnny recorded his part in LA.  The result is a bluesy, edgy take on the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic that is much more memorable than the typical generic charity single.  The single is available as a digital download and the video can be seen on YouTube.  Now, if only Johnny would do more of this type of guitar work with Shane!  Rumor has it that Shane is working on some new material, and back in 2004 he had invited Johnny to play on his new album (which never materialized at the time), so who knows?  Besides I Put A Spell On You, Johnny previously appeared on Shane’s 1994 album, The Snake, and starred in and directed the video for That Woman’s Got Me Drinking.

When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors (Johnny narrates the film and contributes spoken word to the soundtrack):

The soundtrack will be released this coming Tuesday, April 6, but is already available for listening via streaming on spinner.com.  The soundtrack describes Johnny’s contribution as that of reading Jim Morrison’s poetry, but most of his tracks are very brief- only a few lines here and there.  Nevertheless, each few seconds of spoken word tie together The Doors’ classic songs on the disc extremely effectively.  Johnny’s voice is lush and reverent and provides just the right tone- he is helping to showcase The Doors without upstaging them.  In the film, which will be released theatrically on April 9, I hope that his narration will be equally as effective.  From what I have heard so far from the trailer and first look clip, I don’t think I have anything to worry about.

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

February 28, 2010

Someday we’ll look back on this…

and it will all seem funny, so once said my man Bruce Springsteen.  Back in November, I wrote about some cool pieces of Depp music memorabilia I had come across and put on Johnny Depp Rocks.  In the last couple of months, between holidays, work, not one, not two, but three major snowstorms in the DC area, more work, and various other events going on in my real life, some more cool stuff has been found.  I’d put a note on my home page about these additions, but as I continue to update things and prepare to take the note off, I thought I’d place the info here for posterity.

A bunch of Depp music-related photos and scans have been added throughout the site in January and February.  Thanks to Manya for some photos of The Kids from 1983, performing and posing.  Thanks to Ken M., a South Florida music magazine from 1981 contains a photo fashion spread (!) of Johnny and Bruce Witkin from when they were in The Kids, as well as a number of ads, a monthly schedule, and other references to Kids gigs.

scarlet bugle

a week of October 1981

I’ve also gotten a number of scans from old Rolling Stone issues going back as far as 1988, with everything from interviews to news of side projects to album reviews, and have added them in.  Look for new additions throughout the site, especially in the Galleries, Timeline, Live On Stage, Discography, Videography, Guest Sessions, Bands, and Viper Room sections.  And hey, if anyone is out there and happens to have any old magazine or newspaper clippings of The Kids, Rock City Angels, P, or any other item relevant to Johnny Depp Rocks, please let me know!!

Looking ahead again, Johnny’s certainly been busy with a ton of musical projects lately, and within the next couple of months we’ll be treated to a number of releases on which Johnny has participated:  Babybird’s Ex-Maniac CD (Johnny plays guitar and directs the video for the lead single, Unloveable), Shane MacGowan & Friends’ I Put A Spell On You (a charity single for Haitian earthquake victims; Johnny plays guitar and is featured in the video), and When You’re Strange – A Film About The Doors (Johnny narrates).  Also on the horizon will be a documentary that Johnny is making about Keith Richards.  I’m anxious to talk about all of these as they come about, and will hopefully get a chance soon.  For now, I’ll just say I’ve been thoroughly enjoying both Ex-Maniac and I Put A Spell On You, and am thrilled to see Johnny being a part of all this great music!

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

December 31, 2009

Johnny Depp Rocks! (in 2009)

Johnny plays guitar!  Johnny directs two music videos!  Johnny narrates a film about a legendary rock band!  Johnny is a Grammy nominee!  All this and more occurred in 2009, showing much to look forward to in 2010, as well.

First, the Grammy nomination.  Johnny and Douglas Brinkley were nominated for their extensive liner notes to Gonzo:  The Life And Work Of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson – Music From The Film.  This marks Johnny’s first official Grammy nomination, to my knowledge.  The Sweeney Todd soundtrack was nominated last year; while the Mamma Mia! soundtrack was listed as by “Meryl Streep (& Various Artists)”, Sweeney Todd‘s soundtrack was only denoted as by “Various Artists,” so there was no specific nod to Johnny. (Bah!)  Even though Johnny is not now being nominated as a musician, it’s cool that since his first love is music, he is being recognized by the music industry.  Not everyone takes this nomination seriously- fellow nominees Susan and Lloyd Ecker, who wrote the notes for Sophie Tucker: Origins of the Red-Hot Mama, 1910-1922, say in a Marketwire news item that they are “conceding the ‘Pirate’ vote.”  I suppose this is the Eckers’ attempt at a joke, perhaps in the vein of Sophie Tucker herself.  But I feel that they’re insinuating that Johnny might win based on popularity of a film character rather than on merit.  Bah again!  At any rate, whether you feel the Gonzo notes are worthy of an award or not, we will find out who wins the Grammy on January 31.

In 2009, Johnny also provided the narration for the Tom DiCillo-directed Doors documentary, When You’re Strange.  After premiering at Sundance and screening a second time in Berlin with a temporary narration by DiCillo, Johnny recorded his narration in the spring of 2009, and the film screened for the first time with his narration on June 21 at the LA Film Festival.  The film screened at numerous film festivals worldwide during the summer and fall of 2009, and has picked up distribution deals in France, UK, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia, with a US deal hopefully coming any time now.  Of Johnny’s contribution, DiCillo says, “[Johnny] had been my first choice. My sense was always that the film needed a real actor to perform the narration, someone who could genuinely relate to the Doors and tell the story as if it really meant something to him. He has succeeded.” As someone who grew up with The Doors in the 60’s, I can’t wait for the film’s release!

Johnny also found time in his busy schedule to direct two music videos during the year.  The first, Vanessa Paradis’ Il y a, was released in October to promote her new Best Of CD (which also features a Paradis/Depp-penned song, St. Germain, which originally appeared on her 2000 album, Bliss).  The second, Babybird’s Unloveable, was filmed in September and will be released in conjunction with Babybird’s upcoming CD, Ex-Maniac, in March of 2010.  It has also been announced that Johnny played guitar on the song, which will be the lead single for the album.  While in 2009 we were treated to Johnny’s appearance on Glenn Tilbrook’s Too Close To The Sun from the Pandemonium Ensues CD, that participation was spoken word.  Having a guest appearance as a guitarist to look forward to is even better!

Some things I wrote about in my 2008 year-end blog did not end up happening in 2009.  The follow-up to the 2006 Rogue’s Gallery CD is apparently still on, and according to producer Hal Willner, will be released in 2010, and will indeed feature Johnny as a musician.  We’ll see!  We also have not yet seen theatrical or DVD releases of Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora or Do It For Johnny, but I am still hoping for progress on both of these films in 2010.  One other possibility for the coming year is for Johnny to contribute to an upcoming Patti Smith album.  In a June BBC interview with Edith Bowman, Johnny divulged, “I think I might play on Patti Smith’s next record… just a bit, a song or something.” Since the two were spotted together several times throughout the year, I’m hoping that they’re planning such a collaboration.  As of now, however, I don’t know of any specific plans on Patti’s part to release an album.  Let’s hope!

Here’s to Johnny Depp continuing to Rock in 2010!

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

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