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!

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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!

September 3, 2008

South Florida Rocks!

Well, the Second Annual Sheila Witkin Memorial Reunion Concerts have come and gone. What an amazing weekend in Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano Beach! It was a real privilege to be there, and to share great music and great fun with some old and new friends.

The weekend’s festivities kicked off Friday evening with a screening of Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora… or at least our attempt to see the screening. Despite two sets of directions and some well-meaning people on the streets, we drove around in circles for awhile before finally finding the venue 35 min. into the film. Nevertheless, we got to see the last half, and it was great. The film now includes some brand new interview footage of all four Kids together, shown for the very first time on Friday. This adds to all of the existing interviews and archived footage of many of the 70’s and 80’s South Florida musicians, and concert footage from the First Annual Sheila Witkin concert. I hope to get a chance to see the rest of the film sometime soon!

Then, it was on to the show, where after waiting on a fairly disorganized line at Club Cinema (they had the ticketholders and will-call recipients all in the same line), we got into the club in time to see the first band, Blank Tape, in progress. This is a group of young musicians, including the son of Slyder member Billy Livesay, and they delivered a rockin’ set. They were followed by kickass sets from Charlie Pickett, Slyder, and Tight Squeeze, all of whom were returnees from last year’s show. They played mostly originals with just a couple of covers sprinkled in for good measure, with styles ranging from alt-country to power-pop to hard rock. Next up were The Romantics, who were probably the most famous of all the bands to play. At last year’s show, Coz Canler and perhaps other member(s) of The Romantics joined The Kids for some encores, but this time we got to see the entire band, and it was a real treat. The final act was The Kids…. well… I’ll get back to them!

For Saturday’s show, the venue finally learned to separate the will-call and ticketholder lines, and getting in the club seemed to run much more smoothly. The first band of the evening was The Combination, which was a true mishmash of musicians from Tar & The Nicoteens, Screaming Sneakers, and Roll-N-Pinz, and they played a great punky set. Next up was Mad As Birds, featuring members of The Cichlids and The Eat in an intense set. They were followed by one of my new South Florida favorites, Critical Mass, sadly sans their traditional lead singer, Mick Fazz, but still delivering a great, fun power-pop set. The Reactions next played a set of punk-flavored tunes, joined on one song by Screaming Sneakers alum Lisa Nash. Z-Cars showed great harmony and great humor, ending their set with some Pete Townshend-style instrument-bashing. And LA-based My Dolls, featuring Bruce Witkin’s daughter Vee on lead guitar, showed the next generation of talent with some hard-driving rock. And the final act was…

The Kids. The Kids: Joey Malone, Bruce Witkin, Johnny Depp and Beano Hanti, headlined both nights, and their sets were well worth waiting for. It’s easy to focus all the attention on Johnny, but to do so would miss out on the considerable talents of Bruce, Joey and Beano, all of whom still play professionally. While Johnny was certainly my reason for looking into the Kids’ history in the first place, I can honestly say I’ve become a true fan of the whole band, and I’m so glad to have gotten the opportunity to get to know their music. Among the band’s two sets were many of my old favorites (and by “old favorites”, I’m mostly talking about songs that were new to me a year and a half ago at the first Sheila Witkin concert!) such as Babe, Lonely, Time To Explain, Nothing’s For Nothing, The Man That Knows Too Much, and You Only Want To Be With Me. Can’t Believe has quickly become one of my favorites. The Kids also have a great repertoire of covers, such as The Pretenders’ Precious, Elvis Costello’s From A Whisper To A Scream and Mystery Dance, The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac (joined both last year and at Friday’s show by Vee Witkin on lead guitar), and Joe Jackson’s Got The Time. But by all accounts, the absolute highlight of both evenings was their gorgeous yet edgy version of the Phil Spector/Ronettes’ hit single, Be My Baby. The song featured Joey on awesome lead vocals, and beautiful harmonies by Bruce and Johnny. (NOTE TO JOHNNY– after Sweeney Todd, we know you can sing! You should do more of it! 🙂 ) For an encore both nights, the other musicians joined The Kids on stage for the Van Morrison classic Gloria, which had been modified to be about Sheila… S-H-E-I-L-A, Sheila. On Saturday, this was followed by more jamming on Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Long Tall Sally. Despite a pair of very sore feet and practically no sleep all weekend, I had a thoroughly amazing time.

On Friday, there was a silent auction in which many cool items were available for bidding, including signed guitars, football jerseys and footballs. I bid on a Little Steven Underground Garage package, but unfortunately I was outbid. The proceeds went to the Dan Marino foundation.

After Friday’s show, Johnny was kind enough to agree to meet some of his crazy fans, among whom I was lucky enough to be one. The first thing I said to him was that I was sorry we had to put him through all this meet and greet stuff! It must be a strange thing to deal with. But gracious guy that he is, he insisted that he wanted to be there, and incredibly, thanked ME for coming to the show. Well, it was a very tough chore, but somehow I managed to make the sacrifice! A heartfelt thank you to Johnny, Joey, Beano, and especially Bruce, and to all the other musicians, organizers and crew, for helping to make this such a memorable weekend.

The Sheila Witkin Memorial Reunion Concerts were held in memory of a great woman and driving force of the 70’s and 80’s South Florida music scene, and for the benefit of the Sheila Witkin Foundation and the Dan Marino Foundation. Please visit www.sheilawitkin.org for more information or to make a donation to their cause.

Cathy

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