Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An ear opening (and eye opening) time.

The other night I finally sat down and watched the film The Devil and Daniel Johnston. I may come across as some sort of know it all when it comes to music but there are times I am very humbled. Daniel Johnston was a name I had heard batted around some here and there but never heard much about him or his music other than it was "great/mindblowing" etc.

I read about this documentary a few months back and it is out now on DVD so when it finally came out I moved it right up in my netflix queue and as noted, finally sat down to watch.

First, i LOVE music documentaries. Even better is when a documentary makes me want to rush out and buy everything possible by the artist. The documentary had massive support (it appears) from Daniels family. The home movies, the audio tapes of Daniel's musings on life and love are all through this film. Over the course of 90 plus minutes you watch Daniel go from a "normal kid" to middle aged schizophrenic. Both of Daniels parents are still alive and offered many stories on when they felt things started to turn for the worse, or how "smart" he was growing up. The film goes from his early days as an underground singer song writer to his humble present day existence living with his elderly parents.

If he had any mainstream success at all this would make the most amazing "Behind the Music" ever. Trust me. Daniel battled drug problems, family turmoil as well as "underground" super stardom. As a quick example, Daniel who had left Austin Texas for a few years came back to perform in front of 3,000 people. He played his "normal" set of 2-3 songs and left right away with his father. His dad, who was a private airline pilot was flying home with Daniel, when Daniel took the wheel of the plane and drove it straight up, then straight back down towards the ground. The father, who was very experienced did regain control of the plane to have it crash into some trees. Both walked away.

It is unsettling at times to hear of his battles with mental disease. He would often "freak out" about how the Devil was going to take everyone over. He'd disappear for days and was really quite unable to hold down any sort of a job.

As Daniel's name grew in the underground musically his art work was also gaining notice. He'd often have art shows and sell 90 of 100 hand drawn images before a showing would even take place. Kurt Cobain became a fan and was often seen wearing a shirt bearing both Daniels name as well as the image of his first album. While Daniel was in a hospital a man he'd never meet would begin to make him more widely known.

Now you might be asking, how is the music? How are the songs? Honestly, I'd say 90% of the people I know would hate it. I am not sure I "get it" either but I do appreciate what he has done. He sings out of tune, off key and his guitar playing is less than perfect. If you can get past that and listen to what he is singing about you will be stunned. For most, just getting to that part would prove difficult.

I am by no means an expert on him, but if you have the time its well worth your time to check out this film. Even if you view it as the "diary of a mad genius" you will be glued to your seat with this story.

here is the trailer if that is your thing:

If anyone has a suggestion of "what to start with first" file your comments below. Hotwire digs so it HAS to be at least "okay" right?


At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 12:10:00 PM , Blogger Jenni said...

That documentary looks fascinating - I will have to see it.

At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 12:47:00 PM , Blogger Jennifer said...

I saw it. Couldn't make it all the way through to the end, though. His illness just got too disturbing...

At Wednesday, October 18, 2006 9:13:00 PM , Blogger Code Name: Ryan said...

I want to see this but not sure how I feel about the story. It's like watching the movie Blow. You watch the guy sitting on top of the world, and just know things are unraveling... I will have to get this one for a rainy night!

At Thursday, October 19, 2006 6:38:00 AM , Blogger Hotwire said...

march, you kick ass. when i saw the movie, the night it opened, i was the ONLY person in a 400 seat theater. oh weel, everyone else missed out.

jennifer is right, very disturbing and at times too sad to watch, but what a f*cking story! taking business meetings at the burger king to pushing his way onto mtv, to turning his brother's garage and bench press into a recording studio, to his current band saving him from an attacking dog. i was captivated.

as far as the music goes, you're right, most people (including you and i) won't get most of it, but if you pay attention you can hear what he's attempting to do, you can actually hear the genius in his work. some of his tunes, by the way, are very, very good.

his artwork is also spectacular, if you look past the technique and into the content.

well done, my friend!!

At Thursday, October 19, 2006 9:37:00 AM , Blogger March to the Sea said...

jenni - its good..i hope you like it.

jennifer - i was unsettled at time too.

ryan - its being a music fan you'll dig it a little more than others.

Hot - thanks you have any suggestions on a cd? and thanks for the kind words

At Saturday, October 21, 2006 6:20:00 AM , Blogger Hotwire said...

'songs of pain' is the CD i'd go with


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