A few months back I was on a plane. I’m sort of a nervous flyer. Sometimes I don’t think about it, and sometimes when experiencing turbulence my palms get sweaty and I start looking around to make sure no one else is panicking. A couple of drinks help, couple or three of those tiny bottles of Jack Daniels on ice. And the in-flight movie helps as well, takes my mind off of things. Of course, usually the movie sucks, things like Must Love Dogs, or In Her Shoes. I watch anyway, complain about it, but deep down I’m thankful for the distraction. But on this particular flight, and damn, I love going places but I hate the getting there part when it involves endless churn at airports and in airplanes, it happened to be terribly turbulent and I was having one of those nervous moments where trying to reason with myself just made it worse. So I had, well, let’s just say I had more than one of those little bottles of Jack Daniels. And then the movie comes on, and I’m ready for some horrible film to start rolling, I’m already rolling my eyes into the back of my head. But wait a second, hold on, what movie is this? I wasn’t sure but I was being teased into thinking it might just be… What? I just sensed that this might be a movie I actually wanted to see… And sure enough, before I felt 100% sure, the title Walk The Line appeared on the tiny little screen. Of fuck, what a treat. I ordered another drink and settled into my seat. And while the movie was playing, I felt a stirring, a rattle and roll, but didn’t notice the turbulence once. A great fucking film.
Of course these biopic films, the storylines have to be so neat, they have to fit a complicated life story — a life that has impacted many — into those two hour boxes and ring that universal note to sound right in the gazillion screen multiplexes. You take them with a grain of salt. But Walk The Line made me want to know more about Johnny Cash, and I was especially curious about the concert at the prison.
So I recently bought Johnny Cash At San Quentin. I poured myself a drink and put on the album around midnight the other night. I then went over and sat down at the computer. Figured I’d get some work done. But man, I didn’t touch the keyboard once. I just listened and moved around the apartment and said to my wife "You gotta hear this, you gotta hear this" several times (she loves that, especially after midnight) and poured a couple more drinks and damn, I want to know even more now. I just love it when you discover an artist’s work, or you make a further discovery, and all you want to do is keep on discovering, keep listening and reading and learning more.
The really amazing thing about this album is the banter between Johnny Cash and the men in the audience — prisoners at San Quentin.
At one point, Johnny Cash says this:
"I’ll tell you what, the show is being recorded, and televised for England, and ummm, they said, they told me, they said uh, they said, you gotta do this song, and you gotta do that song, you know, you gotta stand like this or act like this. That just don’t get it, man, you know. I’m here to do what YOU want me to and what I want to do. Alright? Okay? Alright. So what do you want to hear? Alright. Alright. I’ll Walk The Line."
Then he and the band bang into the song. That DOES just get it.
I’m glad Johnny Cash got it, so glad I get to listen to it, and hope I can truly get it like that someday as well.