I know it’s been, what, a year since I wrote? That’s because there’s nothing really new to report on “Do It Again.”
Yes, I still regularly ask Ray’s assistant if we can ask the man for permission to license his music for a wider release. No, Ray never responds and so we’re left in this limbo. I have a “plan” to put a little more pressure on, but frankly, I’ve just not had the time to execute it. Give me a few months and that plan might spring into action.
But for now, I ask my loyal supporters to come visit another place. My fan page on Facebook, which is connected to an exciting new project. Edge of America is a 30-minute television show set to premiere on the Travel Channel on January 22. Need to know more about it? Watch this or read this or this. Here’s a link to my Facebook fan page, where I’ll be posting photos and comments regularly. Is there any Kinks content? I’ll say only spiritually. The same sense of adventure that drove me for two years, that found me singing with Sting, heading to London to ambush – and then back off – Ray and finally into that room with Dave… that energy is driving Edge of America. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
I know it’s been a while. With good reason. Not much has happened with DO IT AGAIN. As Ray’s assistant can attest, it’s not that I’ve dropped the ball. I remain a semi-regular e-mail nag, asking if Ray has had a chance to watch the film so he can approve it or reject it or make suggestions or… blah, blah, blah. Inside, though, I long ago accepted the reality.
Ray Davies is simply not going to check out DO IT AGAIN. Or more specifically, he’s not going to check out DO IT AGAIN and tell any of us. Personally, I’d be shocked to think, knowing what I know about Ray, that he hasn’t watched the film. Twice.
But for whatever reason – control, questions about my motives, flat out not liking the film – DO IT AGAIN is going to remain what it is: A project of passion that a few thousand good folks will remember experiencing and a whole slew of others will wonder about.
With that, I’m going to take a bit of space to talk about the next step. For me, it is something called EDGE OF AMERICA. This is a TV show and a tv show that won’t be held up by a complicated, brilliant rock hero. In fact, this show has been approved by a cable network, Travel, and will be shown starting sometime in 2013.
The show won’t feature me playing “David Watts” with Zooey Deschanel, but it will give me another unexpected adventure. In EDGE OF AMERICA, I travel the country looking for cool and unique entertainment you can only find in that place. So instead of hiking and chowing down on lobster rolls in Maine, I race lobster boats. Or become a pirate.
Am I forgetting DO IT AGAIN? Nope. And I’ve got a bag of buttons and a stack of records in the attic to prove it. But despite what you may have believed at one point, my life was actually never about reuniting the Kinks. I mean, I wanted to. But the mission was really about something else. It was about finding something creative within and taking that great big leap. On my best days, I’d like to think that I did the same thing, in my own way, as Ray, Dave, Mick and Pete when they rejected the conventions and business trappings of ’60s pop and created their own swaggering soundtrack. Or perhaps I’m giving myself way too much credit. Still, I know, as I travel the world for this TV show, I’ll never forget what made DO IT AGAIN so special to me and hopefully to you. Those unexpected moments, that universal and communal connection we have as fans, and just the plain fun of seeing real life unfold on the screen.
As Lila, who is 10, gets older, I’m starting to realize how much I’ll miss that little girl. She was six when most of DO IT AGAIN was filmed. And one scene I watch often from DO IT AGAIN didn’t even make the final cut. I’m putting her to sleep and we sing “Harry Rag” together, a ritual for a few months of bedtimes during those months. The moment is such a perfect snapshot of a wonderful, chaotic time of creativity. It also reminds me of how long ago we created DO IT AGAIN. Sometimes, I’d love to have that little girl back. But I’m glad I’m not longer stuck in that moment, begging Ray Davies to give me a few minutes of camera time.
I won’t be updating this blog much in the future, so I suggest you find me on Facebook or Twitter and we keep up this conversation.
I barely knew Matt Brown and I’d certainly recommend reading this piece to get a better sense of the man as musician and this story to understand him as a family man. I particularly like how he dealt with being booted out of John Howie’s band, a decision Howie realized was a mistake. But I do remember a moment that probably defines Matt just a little bit and there’s no better time to relate it than now, after his way-too-early death.
Note: There’s a memorial concert for him this weekend. You should go, if possible.
You can also make a paypal donation to Matt’s wife and two girls: firstname.lastname@example.org
And stay tuned, until the end of this blog post, for an especially cool option for a donation.
Back in 2010, during our wonderful Full Frame experience screening DIA, Matt was obviously part of The Kinksmen. That’s Jeff Hart’s Kinks tribute band which, for that night only, was beefed up by the superstar Triangle trio of Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter. Backstage, I met the band and I admit I was a little starstruck. I mean, the dB’s! So I had a version of the DO IT AGAIN poster and a Sharpie and thought, I gotta get this thing signed. Matt was in the room. I remember, because he was kind of a noticeable figure. I big, quiet guy who played drums.
He seemed genuinely surprised I’d ask him to sign the poster.
“Aren’t you the drummer,” I said. “We need you.”
So he signed both of my posters.
The strange thing is, the other day I was going through all the tubes in the attic. I wanted to get the DIA poster signed by Sting and Zooey framed. And I stumbled upon the Full Frame posters. I didn’t think of Matt then – I had no idea what had happened – but it did make me think of that magical night, when my film played in the best documentary festival in the country and the Kinksmen took the stage and kept everybody in Fletcher dancing.
Now I’ve got two Do It Again posters signed by Matt, the Kinksmen, Stamey, Holsapple and Easter. I’m going to offer one of them in exchange for a donation to Matt’s family. And there’s more. You’ll also get a special, DO IT AGAIN button – easy to score the night of our Full Frame screening but impossible now – and a genuine 45 record featuring Figgs leader Mike Gent’s wonderful covers of Big Sky and Victoria.
To score the poster, you need to send a note to bid on a silent auction being held June 3 at Mmedrumgoodnc@gmail.com
Lots of people keep asking me how you can get DO IT AGAIN on DVD. Easy. Write Ray Davies and ask him to allow us to pay for the licensing of his music for our film. I know I’ve said this a lot. But I figure the question keeps coming so why not ask again.
I think Konk would be the place to write. Here’s a link with a mailing address.
Frankly, I’m okay if DO IT AGAIN doesn’t come out on DVD. I loved making this film, the festival experience and showing it on PBS. Since we finished, I’ve had a new baby, embarked on a new project and continued writing for The Boston Globe, a paper I continue to appreciate. So it’s fine if DO IT AGAIN stays in my private collection.
But if you want a copy – and I’m not looking to make money off it, just sell it to offset production costs – tell Ray!
When do you stop? It’s a question we ask so many times of bands and athletes and even ourselves as we approach retirement age. Brian Wilson asked it when he was making Smile and let his masterpiece sit for 45 years. Ricky Williams asked it when he appeared perfectly able to go another three seasons. The Rolling Stones, we could argue, should be asking it more. I’m glad Grace Paley and Kurt Vonnegut never seemed to ask it or at least take the idea too seriously.
I ask this, naturally, in relation to Do It Again. Obviously, I decided to stop pushing Ray and Dave to give it another go. But what about the movie?
See, I keep getting flooded with DVD requests. As in… “I live in [insert state/country] and really want to see Do It Again. Is it out on DVD?” Naturally, for each of these folks, I have to say no. Never mind positive reviews, our strong festival run or the PBS deal. We can’t release our film on iTunes or DVD or any other format. Not until Ray Davies, the creator of all songs that inspire and drive our film, grants us permission.
Meanwhile, this exists.
I know. We were warned from the start. Remember the words of Kinks scholar Doug Hinman. “Ray never cooperates with anybody.” [Now cue echo and Geoff, nodding and rubbing chin with pensive look.) As some of you know, I tend to be pretty stubborn so, for more than two years now, I’ve continued chasing. I’ve let Ray I don’t need to make a penny. I offered him an ownership percentage of the film even though he was about as helpful during the process as Madonna.
Still, nothing. Every once in a while there’s a glimmer of hope. Like the episode right before Thanksgiving, during which Ray actually requested a disc and I thought I might be able to meet with him in Boston. Instead, I spent the night handing out buttons, sitting up in the balcony and then nursing a mediocre drink while my family slept and I waited to hear about whether Frank could squeeze me backstage. You know how that story ended.
So where do we go from here? Is it worth even trying? Should I stop trying to be professional and sell bootleg DVDs out of my El Camino?
The reality is, I’m pretty busy. The baby’s approaching two. Lila and I have a fabulous time fake-battling over what songs should go on her iPod. (No LMFO… Nine-year-olds can’t have songs with “sexy” in the title!) She wrote a story the other day that was nothing short of poetry. I’ve got a 20 mile race in 10 days, a book I’m contemplating writing, plenty at the Globe to keep me busy and another top-secret project in the offing. And Carlene and I have big plans for 2012. She’s been helping create a school paper and we’re likely heading to the Middle East again, which is always inspiring.
Then I think of this eccentric, brilliant, tortured artist approaching 70, his multiple families splintered, his heart unsure of what to do next, his resistance to the outside world as strong as ever, and I get back to the question. When do you stop? Perhaps it’s time to let Ray go and pack up my hard-drives and call it a day.
Maybe that Julien Temple film we’ve been promised for years will finally arrive. Maybe Bobcat can pull off “Schoolboys.”
I know one thing about Do It Again. We finished it and it’s been seen by thousands of people. In a few years, when we’re all older and the e-mails have stopped flooding my in-box, I’ll forget about all the business mumbo-jumbo and just enjoy it for what it is. We can pop DIA into a player, gather the family, and watch this nutty movie in which crazy Dad somehow got Sting, Zooey Deschanel and Dave Davies to play a song with him.
Tonight, we’ve got an important broadcast on Philadelphia’s WHYY. Watch it, tell your friends to watch it and then write into the network and tell them how much you loved the film. (Those of you who don’t love DO IT AGAIN, send me that note… I’ll make sure it gets to, ahem, the proper authorities.)
Thanks to the good folks at the Philadelphia Inquirer, today’s broadcast comes with quite a nice preview. Oregon PBS plays us Jan. 1 and we’re still waiting for word on our broadcast date for Hawaii, though it seems likely for mid-January.
I wasnâ€™t going to see Ray Davies when he came to town this time. I know that sounds nuts. But itâ€™s been a long slog, more than three years since we turned on the cameras to start filming DO IT AGAIN and frankly, with the baby and the house and the regular job, Iâ€™ve been swamped. The PBS run has been wonderful. It has also required endless hours of extra work. Sorry, Iâ€™m whining. But Iâ€™m trying to explain why, after literally begging Ray to watch the film for more than a year and then meet with me â€“ all for the purpose of creating a DVD I can share with you â€“ Iâ€™ve sometimes found it hard to just sit in the crowd and cheer. Then, a few weeks ago, word came from London that Ray might be willing to meet and chat about potentially approving DO IT AGAIN for DVD release. (For those of you unfamiliar with the arcane world of music licensing, I need his thumbs-up.) As instructed, I over-nighted a DVD to him in New York. Then I slapped down $77 for a seat in the balcony of the Wilbur and waited. And waited. There were moments I almost felt encouraged. A fellow journalist told me that he asked Ray about the movie during an interview and was told that he had the DVD. But whether Ray watched it or not, weâ€™ll never know.
Because gig night came and still no word from London on a meeting. It was frankly kind of depressing leaving the family at home on Thanksgiving Eve and heading into Boston on my own. I decided to bring a bag of DO IT AGAIN buttons and let folks know Iâ€™d be at Jacob Wirthâ€™s before the show. Once there, I found a surprising number of people who had seen DO IT AGAIN and wanted to say hello. Then Frank Lima (aka Dan the Fan) texted me telling me he was over at the Rock Bottom. I headed over there and encountered some of the superfans, many of them on their fourth or fifth or eights gig of the short tour. I also ran into complete strangers who, again, had seen DO IT AGAIN and wanted to say nice things. I realized that this was probably the only night in which I might be a pseudo-celebrity. By now, my London contact had told me to try to hook on with Frank. Why not? Frankâ€™s got Rayâ€™s cell number on his phone. He had tickets for the front table. Heâ€™s also been kind about DO IT AGAIN, trying to get Rayâ€™s attention about the film. We left it open how we might proceed post-concert.
The show? I was impressed. Ray played a wonderful version of â€śWaterloo Sunsetâ€ť and â€śNothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl.â€ť He seemed in wonderful spirits. The set with the choir surprised me. At times, Rayâ€™s voice was overwhelmed by the many singers. But at other times â€“ I think of â€śShangri-Laâ€ť â€“ the choir added a depth and richness. I do wish Ray would have thrown at least a couple of â€śWorkingmanâ€™s CafĂ©â€ť songs into the mix, but you canâ€™t play everythingâ€¦
Then, the wait. Frank called as soon as the lights went down and told me to sit tight. Then, he disappeared. I hung with the superfans, first out front until it got too cold, then at the Rock Bottom. Frank wrote, told me he wasnâ€™t in yet. I talked to TA. and Frank Reda and Michelle Pedretti (from Italy!). We each got a drink. Frank wrote again. This time, he had been able to get in but Ray was already taking off. He had to get the bus to Toronto.
It was all sort of depressing, though Iâ€™m not sure why. We made a movie which weâ€™re proud of. It appears lots of folks have seen it. The film is going to continue to be on PBS stations â€“ the Philadelphia Inquirer just called to arrange an interview in advance of our mid-December screenings. And I got to see Ray playing a killer set list and seemingly healthy and in good spirits. Sure, itâ€™s disappointing that I canâ€™t get the film out on DVD so you folks â€“ the fans â€“ can see it more easily. But the DVD/download issue is one of access, not revenue. Iâ€™ll never make money off DO IT AGAIN. I just want to share.
Which gets me to what happened two days later.
It was my birthday last week. I turned 41. So just after getting blown off my Ray, I get a package in the mail from western Massachusetts. The Muswell Hillbillies bought a 45 of â€śDo It Againâ€ť and each member of the band signed the sleeve. They also included a ticket to their Dec. 23 â€śfarewellâ€ť show. (I honestly hope it isnâ€™t farewell, which is why I put quote marks around the word.) I immediately went online and purchased a second ticket for Carlene. She should be there, too.
I donâ€™t know what it was about that package. It was theoretically just a record. But if felt like more. It reminded me of when I was having trouble with Paul McCartneyâ€™s manager and Lila and I were walking to the beach on a summer morning and she said, â€śwho cares about Paul McCartney. Heâ€™s in every movie.â€ť At that moment, I could suddenly let Paulâ€™s footage go.
Not that Rayâ€™s off the hook. I still intend to nag and plead and work out something so I can get you all DVDs of DO IT AGAIN. But I care a lot more about a bunch of people I do know â€“ my extended Kinks family â€“ sending me a thoughtful gift on my birthday than a brilliant, eccentric, artistic stranger (and rock hero) blowing me off on a Wednesday night.
The latest Dave interview tells us that there could be a reunion, provided it only requires Ray and Dave to hang out for an hour. In other words, don’t count on it. I know these stories periodically emerge and I try to ignore most of them. But why not float Dave’s quote out there: “I love my brother, I just can’t stand to be with him.”
I’m a big Beach Boys guy, or Brian Wilson guy. And that’s why I’m still kind of stunned that I hold a genuine pre-release copy of the SMiLE box in my paws. For the uninitiated, SMiLE is the most famous record that never came out. This is what Brian created after “Pet Sounds” and for a variety of reasons – we won’t get into them here – the album was shelved in 1967. It didn’t just end the competition between the Beach Boys and Beatles. It really marked the end of Brian as a vital creative force. It would take years before he could even really crawl out of bed and back into the studio. That’s SMiLE. As I explore the box – which I’m writing about for the Boston Globe, hence I get it to check it out before the November release – I think of how it relates to the Kinks. So much of what Brian Wilson recorded has been unreleased. SMiLE. Landlocked. Adult Child. Sweet Insanity. The Paley Sessions. And countless unreleased songs. If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that some of these songs are godawful. Brian basically singing for cheeseburgers, his voice reduced to a hoarse groan by chain-smoked cigarettes. Yet I love these sessions. They feel so special because of how I discovered them, from other fans, on the original Napster, in record stores on trips to New York. Even if you paid $29 for Brian’s unreleased big band record, you felt as if you were getting a secret widow into the creative process and the psyche (for better or worse) of a tortured genius. Wait. Is there another tortured genius in the house? Are you listening Ray? We’ve all got our favorite Kinks bootlegs and outtakes. But what if whole slabs of Kinks history were relegated to the archives? Imagine if Preservation Act ! and 2 were an unassembled, unconnected group of boots we had to guess our way through? Because as SMiLE reaches my door, I’m feeling a weird sadness that it actually exists in released form. It’s like when the Red Sox finally won the World Series. It felt unbelievable in the moment but you were left thinking… what next?
Of course, Ray is no Brian Wilson. He’s not about to get bullied by his bandmates or the record company wankers. You don’t like my new record? Kiss my arse. That’s Ray. That’s why, instead of cobbling together the rock opera chapter of Kinks history, we’ve got the material in front of us, sequenced, remixed and presented in full.