In my favourite film of all time, “High Fidelity”, there’s a bittersweet scene when John Cusack answers the phone to his ex girlfriend, Laura, played by Iben Hjejle. He is at work in his record shop, Championship Vinyl where two other people work, played by Todd Louiso, who is very mild mannered and Jack Black who, on the surface, is an insensitive bully. They are all snobbishly knowledgeable about music and spend most of their time arguing about playlists.
As John Cusack puts the phone down, Jack Black asks “What’s up?” John Cusack replies “Laura’s Dad died.”
“Oh. Drag. Hey. Top 5 songs about death. Laura’s Dad Tribute List. Leader Of The Pack. The guy fucking beefs it on his motorcycle and dies. Dead Man’s Curve by Jan And Dean. Tell Laura I Love Her. That would bring the house down. Laura’s Mum could sing it. You know what I’d want? One Step Beyond by Madness. You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Todd Louiso replies “Immediate disqualification because of its involvement with The Big Chill. The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.”
There are at least two great themes in this short clip. One is probably how men hide their feelings and are happier compiling lists than discussing what is truly going on beneath the surface. Another theme is how lyrics of songs can take on an importance and relevance to the everyday life of anyone who listens to them. Occasionally, this importance can be blown out of all proportion.
When he was 19 years old in 1966, Peter Bendrey went to the Himalayas to meet some Buddhist monks. When he was there he met a “hipster” called Dan Richter. Back in London, the two bumped into each other in Notting Hill. Dan Richter was with a Japanese artist called Yoko Ono and the three of them had Christmas line together. In 1971, Dan Richter was living with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their huge house on the Tittenhurst estate. He was their personal assistant and organised events, equipment and budgets for them as well as overseeing the building of the studio where “Imagine” would be recorded. he also supplied them with heroin. He asked Peter Bendrey to come and work with him and together they were responsible for the management of the estate. They regularly found strangers camping in the grounds and had to escort them out of the park. One day, they found a tall, handsome but washed out American called Curt Claudio. Before they could eject him, John Lennon saw them and asked to speak to Curt. It transpired that, a few months previously, he had sent a telegram to John Lennon which read “Somebody tell John I’ll be at Gatwick the 18th wearing a three quarter brown sheepskin coat +++ Reply immediately before. Should I come and wait or not? +++ I can’t make the trip over unless I know you’ll be there +++ You say you want to help and you know I need help but I won’t come there until you wire back +++” Dan Richter and Peter Bendrey had taken the telegram seriously but not replied. They thought that he was a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who had recently been released from a VA hospital in San Francisco. However, recent contradictory evidence has surfaced which suggests that Curt Claudio may never have served in the military. Gavin (sometimes Gav) Munro is a British artist, based in Manchester and he is currently making a film about Curt Claudio and I’m hoping that the truth of who he was and what happened to him will become clearer. Here is the trailer for the film.
The conversation between John Lennon and Curt Claudio is remarkable. John Lennon isn’t always portrayed in a positive manner but the kindness, concern and love he shows towards this slightly deranged stranger is beautiful. Curt Claudio appears to be convinced that John Lennon was thinking of him when he wrote songs. The words clearly resonated with him and, maybe, after the trauma of the Vietnam war, he started to believe that he and John Lennon were directly connected.
I get very irritated when I meet people who are 100% certain about things. “Yves Bissouma will never play for Brighton again”. “My dog is deaf in his left ear”. “The power cut was caused by the fan heater”. How can people be so certain about things? Most things are not quite so black and white. There are shades to practically everything. I think you’ve got to admit things look better in colour. There’s more to life than just black and white. So many shades in between. So when I saw the lyrics to “In Colour” by My Morning Jacket, I knew that Jim James was talking directly to me.
My Morning Jacket are an American band who formed in Louisville, Kentucky in 1998. They have released nine albums in that time. Their 2005 album, “Z” was the second best album of the year, according to “Metacritic” which summarises all the end of year lists. The lead singer/guitarist and songwriter of the band is Jim James. The first time I came across him was when he sang “Goin’ To Acapulco” (backed by Calexico) in the strange Todd Haynes’ film about Bob Dylan called “I’m Not There”.
At the moment, I can’t read a newspaper or watch the TV news because there’s so much bad news about which I can do nothing. I’d rather watch sport or buy a new CD. I just forget the war and buy something pretty. Change the channel and create the illusion of real safety. Hang on! Jim James is talking to me directly in “The Devil’s In The Detail”. It’s uncanny.
My point is that anyone searching for a leader to identify with can interpret anything that they hear in such a way that it resonates with their own life. That’s why “Make America Great Again”, “Let’s Get Brexit Done”, “Levelling Up” or “Plan B” have entered into the public lexicon. If it’s what you want to hear, you can make everything yours.
The album is very good. There’s a wide variety of musical styles. UNCUT reckon that the band have been listening to lots of records by The Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band and Crazy Horse. I would write more, but I need to send a telegram to Jim.