A new Johnny Depp-narrated documentary captures
by Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly
When You're Strange
hen it comes to the Doors, you're either a true believer or not. Either you think that Jim Morrison was a lugubrious hippie who wrote overblown '60s doom poetry, backed by music that sounds like a calliope from hell, or you think that Morrison, though he did write a lot of overblown '60s doom poetry, also led the Doors in recording some of the most transcendent music of the 20th century. When You're Strange, a documentary history of the Doors directed by Tom DiCillo, is for people like me who can stumble onto the scrappiest Doors video on VH1 at 3 a.m. and sit there, mesmerized.
The movie includes never-before-seen footage of the Doors backstage and in the studio, as well as fluky clips of Morrison, bearded but not yet bloated, driving through the desert (they're from an aborted 1969 film project called Highway). DiCillo also does a haunting job of reconstructing, through films and photographs, the legendary Miami concert where Morrison was arrested for an indecent exposure he never got to commit. The singer's elevation into a leaping and whirling Dionysian prince in dark curls, conch belt, and leather pants is one of the great operatic-erotic spectacles in rock. The film gets that drama, and the drama of his alcoholic descent as well.
When You're Strange does have one major idiosyncrasy. There are no interviews -- at all. The movie is stitched together with a narration, spoken by Johnny Depp, that sounds like a highly enlightened Wikipedia entry. Yet DiCillo knows what made this band great. He does justice to the music -- to the spangly stoned grandeur of "The Crystal Ship" and the dark majesty of "Light My Fire," to every song in which Jim Morrison, with his lordly baritone, seemed to be entering heaven and hell at the same time. B+
THE MAKING OF WHEN YOU'RE STRANGE
ay you want to get a star to lend some wattage to your documentary. If you're When You're Strange director Tom DiCillo, it helps to have friends in high places. TV mogul Dick Wolf (Law & Order), a producer on the film, called Depp after the movie debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival. (The narration was originally read by DiCillo himself.) "Depp was my first choice," says the director, who wanted a narrator with a strong connection to the band. "Johnny is a Doors fan. I think he identified with their artistic struggle and the attempt to maintain integrity in a world that requires you to get bigger and bigger."
DiCillo and Depp never had a single meeting for the project, and, in fact, the director doesn't even know where the actor's lines were recorded. ("He's very secretive, and I respect that," says DiCillo).
But when the tapes arrived, there was no question that Depp -- who also contributed readings of Morrison's poetry to the film's soundtrack -- was the right choice for the job. "He did something like 10 takes of each line, experimenting with rhythms and meanings," says DiCillo. "You could tell he was putting everything he had into it." And for the director, Depp's legendary ability to channel a character took the movie's narration to a new level. "At times in the film, he speaks some words as if he's Morrison," says DiCillo. "And it was spooky to me. You know it's Johnny Depp, but you fell like you glimpse Jim Morrison for a second." - Adam Markovitz
The country-rockers' smash 'Long Road Out of Eden'
by Austin Scaggs in Rolling Stone
fter grossing more than $130 million over the course of 103 shows, the Eagles are beefing up their two-year Long Road Out of Eden tour by hitting eight stadiums in June. They'll be bringing along two of country's hottest acts, Keith Urban and the Dixie Chicks, who are touring for the first time since 2006. "When the Eagles call, you do whatever they say," says singer Martie Maguire. The Eagles are consistently one of rock's biggest touring acts, but by adding Urban and the Dixie Chicks, the band has assembled one of the summer's strongest bills. "We share musical roots with these other groups," says Eagles frontman Don Henley. "Plus, they'll help us fill stadiums in this still-shaky economy."
But before they hit stadiums this summer, the Eagles -- who also include singer Glenn Frey, guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit -- played their first shows at the Hollywood Bowl in mid-April, a three-night stand that was a homecoming celebration for the quintessential Los Angeles band. "We'll keep things upbeat," says Henley. "But these shows will hae an underlying poignancy for me and Glenn because we lived just a block away from the Bowl when we started the band decades ago. Add to that the possibility that these may be our last L.A. shows, and the whole thing becomes somewhat bittersweet."
The 2010 leg will feature the same superpolished shows the group is known for, mixing cuts from its smash 2007 comeback record, Long Road Out of Eden, with plenty of classics. "We will not be playing any brand-new things," says Henley. "Despite what the critics think, that never works."
Henley, who will turn 63 in July, has settled into his role as a family man with wife Sharon and their three young kinds in Dallas. "We live a life here that is gratifyingly normal," he says. He's also plotting the next phase of his solo career. "I have three different albums in my head," he says. "A country-bluegrass-blues record, a Sixties-style-soul disc and one of contemporary covers."
In the meantime, Henley is busy capitalizing on the band's resurgence: "I want to complete a global circuit," says the singer, who hopes to tour in Asia next. He adds that the band relations are relatively copacetic. "Things are peaceful, but we haven't seen each other since New Year's Eve," Henley jokes. "There are rarely flare-ups, but I have to bite my tongue fairly often. Eventually, I'm either going to have to get a tongue transplant or quit the band."
Best of EXTRA! | EXTRA! | Main Page | Seventies Single Spotlight | Search The RockSite/The Web