So why the Cracker and Joy Division clips? Apart from them being great??
Well Tony Wilson says in the Joy Division trailer “Everyone else was on stage because they wanted to be rock stars. This lot were on stage because they had no fucking choice." He meant they had passion. They did want to be rock stars (and a lot of the reason they were burning the night Wilson first saw them was that they were pissed off about the billing) But they were doing something original. They has passion, energy. Soul.
There’s a great scene in Walk the Line where Johnny Cash blandly sings this bland Gospel Song in an audition for Sun Records. Another studio boss, the legendary Sam Phillips, cuts him off, saying “I don‘t believe you.” When an offended Cash asks his why, Phillips tells him “We've already heard that song a hundred times... just like that, just like how you sang it.”
“If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying... and you had time to sing one song, huh? One song... people would remember before you're dirt... one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth... one song that would sum you up... you telling me that's the song you'd sing?
“Or would you sing something different?
“Something real, something you felt? Because I'm telling you right now... that's the kind of song people want to hear.”*
Then Cash sings Folsom Prison Blues (“Ah shot a man in Reno/Jus’ to watch him die,”) literally finding his voice as he does, and the rest is history.
So, the Six Million Dollar Question: would you sing the song you’re singing at the moment? Or, would you sing something different?
See that’s something that’s been bothering me recently. I reread a couple of my old scripts recently, and they were not just better than I thought they would be - They were better than the stuff I’ve been writing recently. Sure they were rough, but they were more heartfelt, or more fun. I've become a hack. I‘ve improved my craft skills, and craft is vital. But sometimes we need reminding that there's more to writing than structure and arcs and act breaks.
Watch the Cracker clip, and imagine Fitz throwing away Field, Mackee…telling you to look inside and think what really matters to you, what you really want to write, how the world really works. How you really work.
One of my favourite ever quotes about music, about art, is from Mick Jones of The Clash. He said something like “The trouble with these modern bands, is that they leave you as they find you.” How will what you’re writing leave the audience?
*Edited Extract From ‘Walk The Line’ - screenplay by Gill Dennis & James Mangold