Waiting: The Van Duren Story
Greg Carey, Wade Jackson, Van Duren, Andrew Loog Oldham
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Recommended viewing for anyone in love with creativity and keeping the flame of musical inspiration burning and alive.
Taking a night-in with bottles of wine and a newly discovered record as its jumping-off point, Waiting is a wonderfully positive and frequently amusing doco concentrating on the joys of music and friendship.
Greg Carey and Wade Jackson couldn’t believe Memphis native Van Duren wasn’t better known on first hearing his unique voice and infectious power pop-rock. The melodious highs and catchy piano led hooks certainly seemed to announce a major music star. But nobody had ever heard of him or his music. After making a late-night promise to investigate further, the two vowed to document their search for the mysterious singer-songwriter.
Inevitably drawing comparison with the hit 2012 documentary film Searching for Sugar Man, which also detailed a quest to seek out an under-appreciated musician, Waiting is nevertheless its own unique story.
The decision – largely thought up by fellow writer and producer Jonathan Sequeira (Descent into the Maelstrom) – to push the two debut filmmakers to the front of the story is one that pays off in full. The two friends, both experienced music industry professionals, bring a camaraderie and sense of fun to the project that provides lightening of the mood when things potentially turn dark.
As the two point out, and as we learn throughout, Van Duren was tipped to be a major star in the late 1970s. Indeed, had it not been for a combination of poor management, financial naivete and the strange workings of promotional activity, he might well have been. He was even represented and produced by the former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog-Oldham, who shows up in the film recounting alcoholic misdemeanours, tax-havens and a somewhat random approach to star-making.
In his own words, “you can strike gold, or pick gold, even when you’re out to lunch”. And this expression for being out of one’s mind, sounds like a fairly accurate summation of much of the 1970s career planning on behalf of the singer.
Forming out of the ashes of Memphis cult-band Big Star, Van Duren released his widely tipped debut Are You Serious? in 1978. Despite sell out shows and rave reviews, his dysfunctional record label refused to release his follow up, which was completed in early 1980.
What was never in doubt was Van Duren’s essential talent and musical ability. When Carey and Jackson find out that he no longer owns the rights to his own music, they set about fininshing the film and returning the legal rights to him. The emotional consequences of this decision are beautifully played out.
As well as the fantastic soundtrack drawing on Van Duren’s rediscovered classic cuts, the film also has a great visual sense helped along by the wonderful graphic-novel like illustrations of key points in the tumultuous back story by Sydney artist Aidan Roberts.
Taking the audience on a voyage through seriously strange waters, including legendary rock stars, con-men, barroom legends and Scientologists, Waiting is an enticingly entertaining and insightful feature documentary. Recommended viewing for anyone in love with creativity and keeping the flame of musical inspiration burning and alive.