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Monday, April 01, 2019

Neil Young Helps Complete Long Lost Film Starring Dylan and Hendrix

All Along The Watchtower - The Movie

Neil Young’s Archives aren’t the only ones containing works of fine cinema in various stages of completion. Hollywood notoriously has acres of film canister stacks that may never see a projectionist’s booth. Though starring or directed by the cinematic legends, uncompleted films languish as key creative personnel left a project hanging due to: scheduling conflicts, their death, rehab stints, or the cliché industry excuse “creative differences.” Other works simply over ran budgets and producers failed to find completion funding.

An uncompleted work can become a years or decades long passion project for others to finish. Orson Welles’ 15-year production odyssey of “The Other Side of the Wind” came to an end at his death in 1985. It was finally released in 2018, 35 years after his death. Director Peter Bogdonovich was a Welles confidant and friend and he is one of the film’s actors. He took up the mantle of director and editor from his Mentor Welles, finishing post production in 2017 after decades of work on it as a final tribute to him.

Robert Altman has a new film coming out 13 years after his passing in 2006, and almost 50 years after the death of it’s meteoric co star in 1970. All Along the Watchtower is Altman’s cinematic vision of one of rock and roll’s finest counter culture protest songs.

The film stars the two musicians most associated with the work, it’s writer Bob Dylan appearing as The Thief and the guitarist whose legendary performance of it made it iconic - Jimi Hendrix as the Joker. Dylan’s lyrics tells a story of disillusioned outcasts looking to challenge the establishment and change the system. That is the plot of the movie – the Joker and the Thief attempting to overthrow the corrupt economic and political structure of a western frontier territory in the 1800’s

Jimi Hendrix passed in 1970, months after the filming of his role was finished. He and Bob Dylan spent only a few weeks together filming in British Columbia. Altman was filming two movies there – Watchtower and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which was released in 1971.

Hendrix’s passing brought the post production work to a stand still and tossed the movie into the courts. He and Dylan were supposed to write and perform the soundtrack for the movie. Decades of legal proceedings between Altman’s production company and Hendrix’s estate kept the project on the shelf. When Altman passed in 2006, legal proceedings ceased, unresolved, and the project became a mere glimmer in the eye of those who knew about it.

Fortunately, cinematic and musical projects with the cultural gravitas such as All Along the Watchtower sometimes are revived. Neverwuz Productions, backed by Wall Street Hedge Fund investment in the production company, reached a settlement with the estates of Hendrix and Altman several years ago acquiring it out right.

Making this film relevant to our Dear Readers and fellow Rusties is the involvement of Neil Young. One of the most contentious part of the decades long legal and creative wrangling was over the song AATW’s use in the film. Altman got Dylan and Hendrix to agree to a duet performance of the song. He did not want Dylan or Hendrix’s original recording appearing in the film which Dylan and Hendrix appreciated. Hendrix’s death ended that idea.

When Neverwuz Productions acquired the film the Soundtrack and playing of AATW was the key component of post production that would lead to the movie’s success or failure – it’s release or abandonment. T Bone Burnett was hired to produce the Soundtrack and address the Watchtower issue.

Burnett and his staff spent almost two years on the soundtrack and recording the appropriate sounding version of Watchtower. Burnett had several versions of the song done with his band but none of them captured his imagining. Burnett wanted the song’s emotional component to be true spiritually to Hendrix’s and Dylan’s recorded versions of it. He felt the entire movie would fall flat and disappoint audiences if AATW wasn’t inspiringly performed. Faced with a completion deadline for the soundtrack and no useful version of Watchtower from his recording sessions he went to the one source who he felt could satisfy his artistic ear of the song’s performance– Neil.

Burnett’s staff had been listening to covers as they watched the film’s climactic scene. He said that search for the right sound came to an immediate halt when they heard Neil’s cover that appears on Road Rock, Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives. Burnett told the Producers that Neil’s version of the song has the ideal emotional impact he was looking for.

Road Rock, Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives
by Neil Young

He said the recording from Red Rocks Amphitheater in a driving rain and thunderstorm “captures the song’s narrative and emotional elements. It has the perfect balance and tone between vocal and instrumental performances so why not use this version”, he said.

The Friends and Relatives Band with Neil, Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Jim Keltner, Astrid Young, Pegi Young and guest vocalist Chrissie Hynde capture the entire essence of the song Burnett said. “Chrissie Hynde’s vocal was the perfect sound dueting with Neil on Old Black”. Burnett said he was awe struck by her clarion voice piercing through the sonic atmosphere the band created, bringing a female perspective to what is a male dominated movie. Old Black’s thundering earthly elemental sound feedback and crunch expressed and further heightened the emotion and the chaos of the movie’s climactic scene.

“That’s what you’re looking for when you score a movie. A musical performance that has the same emotional impact as the visual and narrative components of the film,” Burnett said. T-Bone continued, “I always felt that Dylan sang the song the best, his recording focuses on the lyrics to tell the story. Hendrix’s instrumental performance has no peer but over shadows the message of the lyrics. Then you have Neil Young.

Personally, Neil and the band's performance on that night is my all time favorite."

Thanks to TW Tour Manager Hounds That Howl for separating the wheat from the chaff!

ps - Happy ARC Day!

Labels: , , ,


At 4/01/2019 09:58:00 AM, Blogger mark said...

..... i was at Red Rocks that night.
It WAS a dramatic performance of 'Watchtower'
There were waterfalls cascading down the rocks after the show.
Just spectacular !!!

At 4/01/2019 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Paul Dionne said...


At 4/01/2019 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Renaldo56 said...

Might have been intriguing to consider such a lost endeavor, if this hadn't been posted on April 1.

At 4/01/2019 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Gary A. Lucero said...

This is gonna sound crass but I can't stand her voice... Should of used the Bob Dylan Tribute version instead

At 4/01/2019 01:20:00 PM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

The Crazy Horse versions from the '04 Winter Greendale tour are mind blowin' Give them a listen.

At 4/01/2019 02:49:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Lol...well done...Happy Arc Day!

At 4/01/2019 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

If this story is indeed an April Fools joke, I will find it to be a cruel and sad one. I have never found anything practical about practical jokes and will be questioning this site on everything from now on. That is of course if I ever return.

If this story is true, then it will surely be amazing to see the end results, although I have never heard or read anything about Jimi ever involved in a movie except Rainbow Bridge, which we were allowed to witness Hendrix stoned out of his mind.

Caveat emptor......

At 4/01/2019 03:02:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Not only is it another lame (and exceptionally labored) April Fool's joke, it isn't even original:

At 4/01/2019 05:06:00 PM, Blogger Jim said...

My college roommate did a tribute to Robert Altman in 1974 and I never heard about this. Was working the evening shift and each week he'd have someone from the Altman crew in that would start with a breakfast in our apartment. So weird to wake up and having Robert Altman, Joan Tewkesbury (script person for 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller') or Elliot Gould having breakfast as I'm running to brush my teeth. All day long Gould would ask people if he could try on their glasses which I'm sure that is something so simple that they will never forget.

We quizzed Altman about Leonard Cohen in the film "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" and he said he just listened to the record all during the filming and it just fit it perfectly. Seem to recall it was all arranged as a soundtrack after the filming was done.

If you haven't seen "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" it is incredible to watch late in the evening. Too bad Altman didn't do a soundtrack with Neil like he did with Leonard. Might be the pairing of film and soundtrack ever and I can't think of a film that came close to this other than maybe Mark Knopfler in "Local Hero."

Much later Altman left his archives to the University of Michigan, in no small part as sort of a tribute also to my roommate, I'm sure. 900 boxes of stuff is a whole lot of archives over the years that would fill a decent sized truck.

Should really post this tomorrow...

At 4/01/2019 05:23:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Happy Arc Day to all!

@ Dan Swan - sorry you found this cruel and sad. "traveling twice the speed of sound, it's easy to get burned"

April Fool jokes are a long running rustie tradition going back to the '90's by playing ARC at full blast -- with the windows open -- on repeat for 24 hours.

Ever since, rusties have traditionally tried to raise the stakes with gags and jokes. TW also has a long tradition of ARC inspired April foolery over the years. For example, here are a few April 1 highlights from the Archives:

Legendary Cellar Door Nightclub Becomes A Starbuck$
SNEAK PREVIEW: Possible Europe Setlist for Neil Young and Crazy Horse?
Behind The Scenes at the "Americana" Album Playback Session
Free Neil Young Warmup Concerts Cancelled
Time Fades Away To Finally Be Re-released
Toast: New Unreleased Crazy Horse Album
Top 10 Reasons Why Neil Young is Better Than Bob Dylan
Neil Young Suffers Brain Aneurysm: Long May You Run! (Which -- sadly -- was not a cruel April Fool's Day joke.)

At the bottom of the post we clearly indicated Happy Arc Day -- shorthand for "Don't Get Fooled Again". Even Archives Guy has commented in the past on some of our more clever attempts.

Anyways, all in good fun. Traditionally we avoid the internet on 4/1 and are always using our disCERNment the other 364 days of the year.

The fakery and chaff reach new heights practically daily.

TW does it's part in trying to prepare folks for the Big Shift as best we can with posts like:

But hey?!

Lukas Nelson sings "Turn Off The News" and brother Micah sings "Everything Is Bullshit".

So "Speak The Truth" where ever you are, when ever you can.

no harm, no foul.

At 4/01/2019 06:56:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

ps - even Neil's getting in on the fun today. See his tweet:
Happy Arc Day!

At 4/02/2019 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The story about this movie is so absurd,but I think it's a good joke.I had my doubts,but when I saw the day the news was posted,I knew it was an April's Fool-joke.In Holland we have this tradition too.The funniest,most unbelievable and crazy jokes are made.A lot of people think it's true,but were fooled.No need to get angry about that,in my opinion.Keep on laughing in a free world.Ain't too much to laugh about!Cees Mostert,the Netherlands.

At 4/01/2021 09:30:00 AM, Blogger Timmo said...

Hey Dan, you almost had me with your double twist on AFD. I almost believed you were serious. Then it got me - no one could be that dense, or lacking a sense of humor, or be that genuinely sour in spirit as to rip poor Thrasher. He's only carrying on a grand tradition if trickery.
Well done, Dan!

At 4/03/2022 12:57:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

@ Thrasher ! What a fantastic April Fool's joke! Thank you for that. What was that about the Neil Young and Crazy Horse tour talk? Got to check the date on that. T-Bone Burnett, of course! So savvy! Ha ha ha ha ha ha Hah! Same to you, @ Dan ! You guys got me in stitches.

It is indeed a great time to be a Neil young fan.

I am still going strong listening to Mark Lanegan non stop. I have only listened to maybe 5 other albums since we last discussed.
I popped Barn back into my car stereo, And, just ripped my personal Best of Warren Zevon CD. Of course, it has both songs he did with Neil on it: Sentimental Hygiene and Gridlock. So I may listen to Neil before I listen to Neil!

Your Bro Alan in Seattle

At 11/08/2022 01:40:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

......luv 2 C whatever they got on tape visuals/vocals sometime.....cheers
Jonnie Boy....

! !

At 11/11/2022 07:45:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

But this article grabs my attention today on 11/11/22. - no where near April Fools Day. It is not fun. It is not responsible to leave hazards put in the way of people for years into the future. If you want to be trusted , don’t lie EVER.


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