Here’s news indeed. Fans of Big Star and their Memphis contemporaries know of Van Duren. Managed and produced by Andrew Loog Oldham he was in a post-Big Star band (Baker Street Regulars) with Chris Bell and Jody Stephens, and made a debut album Are You Serious? that drew comparisons with McCartney.
It didn’t break through, though neither did Big Star at that time of course, and a second album Idiot Optimism was recorded in 1979 and then shelved (eventually released on Lucky Seven Records, with sleeve notes by Bucketfull’s Kent Benjamin, in 2003). Van Duren continued making music and had a regional hit with the song ‘Jane’ as Good Question.
Now forty years on there’s a documentary movie imminent; Waiting: The Van Duren Story premieres in Memphis in November. It’s made by two Australians, Wade Jackson and Greg Carey, who came across the lost album, fell in love with the music, and set out to discover what went wrong. They tracked Van Duren down on Facebook and despite having never picked up a movie camera, journeyed to the U.S. to meet him and tell his story.
Along the way, they crossed paths with rock stars, Scientologists,and a host of talented musicians who never quite made it. Van’s lost career is a parable of the trials and tribulations of the music industry and Waiting: The Van Duren Story is a love letter to the artist and his music that should have helped define a generation.
Along with the movie Omnivore Recordings are putting out a soundtrack album. Waiting: The Van Duren Story: Original Documentary Soundtrack comes out on February 1st next year.
According to Duren: “In May of 2016, I was contacted by two Australians who had suddenly discovered my first album Are You Serious? from 1978, on someone’s Twitter feed. Having been through the shredder of the music business for decades (yet continuously coming back for more) I was naturally sceptical. Why these guys? Why now?
“It took a few weeks, but it became evident that Wade Jackson and Greg Carey were serious—perhaps a long awaited answer to the album’s title. I hipped them to the second album Idiot Optimism and they were even more blown away. Their plan was to film a documentary about this music and by association, who the hell I am. Now, more than two years later, the film has reached fruition and touched off several other projects related to my life’s work: music. I am more than a little stunned by it all.
“We now have an association with the legendary Omnivore Recordings with plans to reissue some of my work. This will include rare tracks previously unreleased. This is such a beautiful turn of events, and it is an honour to be associated with such a fine label. I am excited and humbled most by the attention this music will receive now, 43 years after it all began at Ardent Studios in a town called Memphis.