Johnny Depp Rocks! Blog

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!

April 25, 2009

Pandemonium Ensues – a review from a casual Tilbrook fan

Wow, my second blog post within a week!  Let’s see how often I stay this active.  Anyway, I thought I’d offer a record review of Glenn Tilbrook and The Fluffers’ new album, Pandemonium Ensues, which features a guest appearance from Johnny.  I should preface this by saying I’ve never been a huge fan of Tilbrook or Squeeze.  I’ve long heard lots of accolades and praise for Squeeze, but songs like Pulling Mussels From A Shell or Black Coffee In Bed never caught my interest quite enough to really pursue that band’s music; I guess it was just not a genre for me.  On the other hand, this allows me to listen to the album without any preconceived notions of what Glenn’s music should sound like, so I can just enjoy the music on its own terms.

All in all, I enjoyed the record more than I expected to.  There is a range of styles, and some work better for me than others.  I have a feeling that the songs that work best for me are the ones that sound the least “Squeeze-like” to my uneducated ear.   The first single, Still, along with songs like Little Ships and Interest & Love, the latter of which features lovely vocals by Vanessa Paradis, strike me as the type of easy-listening Brit Pop that I was expecting.  They are enjoyable enough, but not particularly engaging to me.  On the other hand, Product, featuring lead vocals by the Fluffers’ bassist, Lucy Shaw, is perhaps a little too experimental and bizarre.  Another more experimental, techno-sounding song is Happy Disposition, and I’m still deciding what to think of that one.  At the least, Glenn should be given credit for trying things.

However, I had no trouble getting into the harder rock songs, Slaughtered Artist and Beachland Ballroom.   Though The Net and Melancholy Emotion remind me a lot of Paul McCartney, and are catchy, memorable pop tunes.  Black Sheep is an odd one that reminds me somewhat disconcertingly of The Monkees– perhaps something that Davy Jones would sing.  At first, the song seemed silly and a little annoying: “Baa baa baa baa baa, black sheep.”  Really??  But I am starting to find myself going along for the ride, because it’s such a sweet tune.  Relentless Pursuit is a standout with gorgeous harmonies that are reminiscent of both The Beach Boys and, more recently, The Polyphonic Spree.  My favorite song on the album so far is the opening number, Best Of Times, with an infectious Cajun-style sound, which really draws the listener in right off the bat.

And what of Johnny’s guest spot on Too Close To The Sun?  Well, it sure is different!  This techno tune isn’t one I’d automatically choose as a favorite musical style, but yet, it’s a fun, psychedelic melody that reminds me a lot of 60’s soundtracks with maybe a little 70’s prog-rock thrown in.   It’s a cool way to top off the record, and Johnny is game to play along, with his repetition of the line, “Too close to the sun.” Don’t forget to listen with earphones!  Johnny gets to mix it up at the end by saying, in a rather Jack Sparrow-like voice, “Whose son are we talking about?” Heh.

According to an interview Glenn gave in the Newark Star-Ledger, the song was originally going to be called “The 13th Bar”, and was going to feature a friend of Glenn’s named Pete.  The band would count out 13 bars, and then Pete would recite the line.  However, poor Pete got bumped once Glenn had the chance to invite Johnny to guest.  Now, try counting the bars, if you can!  It’s easy to get mixed up, and once or twice when I tried, the line seemed to come in a little early or late, but that could’ve been me miscounting!  Or maybe they decided not to keep the count so rigid when they changed the title.  But most of the time, especially in the middle portion, I counted 13.  At any rate, I thought that was a cool little tidbit.

In summary, I find Pandemonium Ensues to be a cool, very listenable album, with some average but agreeable ditties, along with some standouts.

3 stars (out of 5)

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

March 15, 2009

Love Him Madly

I told myself I would write more posts in 2009, but between being busy at work and waiting and hoping (in vain, mostly)  for final information on some potential projects, I kept putting it off!  Now that nearly a quarter of the year is over, though, I feel that I’m overdue to at least drop a few lines.

The big music news so far this year is that Johnny will provide a permanent narration for a Doors documentary entitled When You’re Strange.  With a temporary narration by director Tom DiCillo, the documentary already had its World Premiere at the Sundance International Film Festival on January 17, 2009, and it also screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February.  DiCillo has been somewhat criticized for his dry and wordy voiceover, but he has assured fans that his narration was always intended to be just temporary.  He has supposedly tweaked the wording for Johnny’s reading and vows not to screen the film again until Johnny’s contribution has been added.

Johnny would’ve been a small child during The Doors’ heyday in 1966-1970, but his love and respect for rock legends makes him a perfect fit for this film.  I’m thrilled that in the last few years, Johnny has lent a hand to several music documentaries (Taraf de Haidouks, Joe Strummer, Tom Petty) and I’m sure he’ll do the story of The Doors justice!  According to DiCillo, Johnny may be recording the narration as early as this weekend.  If  it does not happen soon, his schedule is going to be pretty tight for the next few months, between filming The Rum Diary and doing press for Public Enemies.  So I just wish the project well and hope that the film can be completed soon so it can start getting some screenings!

I’ve already corrected my 2008 year-end post regarding the Glenn Tilbrook release, Pandemonium Ensues.  Johnny does indeed participate on the album, but not on guitar as had originally been reported by Teletext.  Glenn himself states in this interview that he asked Johnny and Vanessa Paradis to sing on the album, but while Vanessa duets with Glenn on the song Interest & Love, Johnny was uncomfortable about singing and therefore did a spoken voiceover on the song Too Close To The Sun.  While I love any form of musical participation on Johnny’s part, I admit that I wish that Johnny had played guitar.  In Glenn’s interview, he mentions that the album was pretty much finished and was being mixed in LA by the time Johnny and Vanessa came on board, so I guess that there were no more instrumental parts left to add.  Next time, Glenn! The CD has already been released in the UK, and will come out in the US on April 9.

I’ve seen no news so far this year on the status of the Do It For Johnny or Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora documentaries.  Neither web page has been updated in quite awhile.  I’m also anxious to hear more about the possible Rogue’s Gallery follow-up, but there has been no info about that since the BBC report last summer.  Here’s hoping for more news soon on any or all of these potential projects!

Cathy

Johnny Depp Rocks!

December 31, 2008

The year in (Johnny’s) music, and a look ahead to 2009

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!

Cathy

JohnnyDeppRocks!

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