“World Premiere usually means Last Performance” (Frank Zappa). My “NOT FOR PROPHETS” show on 2 February 2014, to a full house at Kiosk 2, The Waiting Room, Colchester, was put together as a one-off experiment. I had no expectations of it being anything beyond the final gig of the month-long Microgigs Arts Festival, promoted and curated by the admirable James Sarek. Anticipating that quite a few in the audience would have seen and heard me before, possibly several times, I decided to give them something different.
NOT FOR PROPHETS was a title I dreamed up in November 2013, and a quick google showed that it hadn’t been in popular use before. For motivation, I submitted my NFP one-man all-new-material show idea to Mr Sarek, and he decided he would run with it, him having sat through some of my sets in the past, and swayed by our joint interest in obsolete confectionery brands of the 60s to 90s. So the 2 February 2014 slot was booked, and I started writing. And by mid December I had completed three words, and these were “Not”, “For” and “Prophets”. I had several worthy ideas about capitalism, corporations, religion and society, and maybe I’ll revisit those themes later. Instead, I elected to go with a subject that’s been with me for four decades, my love of Delta Blues music.
Conscious that no one would want to listen to forty-five minutes of undiluted spoken word, on a less than popular subject, I wrestled with how to make an entertaining show of my nerdy ideas. And for me the trick was to have it appeal to a general audience, not just to earnest (and slightly lost) white middle-aged men. (That’s a coincidence; I fit that demographic.)
Focussing on the Life, Music, Death and Legacy of Robert Johnson, I punctuated original 1936 recordings with five new spoken word pieces I had written, and one additional poem based entirely on the lyrics of my favourite Johnson song “Hellhound on my Trail”.
“Yes, but who the hell would be interested in that?”, you might well say. Which is why I told my own personal stories of how Robert Johnson has touched me, through my pieces in prose, sonnet form, biblical verse, shipping forecast and downright map-geekism. And people seemed to like it, with much positive feedback, and the possibility of a podcast and CD release. So “The Premiere” will not be “The Last Performance”. Some of the debut show script has been rewritten, and more material is under preparation.
“Welcome to Three Forks Jook House. It’s 13 August 1938, and someone’s passing me an open bottle” was my opening line, as I talked about the death of Robert Johnson by poisoning from a jealous landlord. In the Kiosk 2 audience was a homeless man, Chris, who had had several drinks, and was getting into the spirit of the occasion. He interrupted the show a few times, possibly confusing my set-up for an actual party. The fabulous Jonathan Marriott was in the audience, and he persuaded him to join him outside, in a very kind way. Ah, the fun and risk of running a premiere free public-event, without tickets!
I’m waving my mojo hand at you, and expect to see you at the next incarnation of the NOT FOR PROPHETS show. Anyone not attending can expect stones in their passway, and a sprinkling of hot-foot powder. You have been warned.