DVD REVIEW-GHOST ON THE HIGHWAY, A PORTRAIT OF JEFFREY LEE PIERCE AND THE GUN CLUB (French Fan Club/Powell Factory Films)
Flakier things have happened in the strange world of celebrity documentaries, with the likes of Rodney Bingenheimer and Roky Erickson being featured in their own flash-inna-pan tell-alls over the past few years. Now it's Jeffrey Lee/Lea Pierce and the Gun Club's turn, and if anyone woulda told me that this denizen of the long-gone bubbling-under-of-the-underground scene of the eighties was ever gonna be the subject of any sorta filmatic excursion I woulda thought 'em a pretty thick headed sorta batch of individuals. Well, now that a Pierce documentary is not only out but readily available for you rich-enough aging punk rockers out there all I gotta say is what's next...THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EDGAR BREAU??? Don't laff, I heard one was in the process!
Anyhoo GHOST ON THE HIGHWAY is a decent enough despite the usual pratfalls documentary, especially considering that most of this is made of of interviews with a buncha late-seventies SoCal scene survivors looking older and much grottier for the wear. And considering that there is no Gun Club music to be heard (only some typically nada incidental synth-string heart-tugs) and Pierce himself is in such short supply himself, seen only in photographs and brief bits of home-made video, its not like your'e getting the E! HOLLYWOOD STORY treatment here. But for what it is, GHOST ON THE HIGHWAY is an average yet at-times informative enough for you film about the former Gun Club leader and all the carnage he wreaked not only with audiences, but with former friends and associates who I'm sure felt a lot better after venting some of their anxiety and frustration for all to see.
Former Clubbers Ward Dotson and Jim Duckworth (from the "classic" lineup) take up a good portion of this flick giving their two cents as to what a great talent and guy as well as utter fiend Pierce could be when the right mood or drug took effect. Kid Congo Powers (looking real El Lay Vice Squad lineup) also takes up a hefty portion of this documentary as does none other than drummer Dee Pop which kinda surprised me at first until I remembered he was a member of the band somewhere around the time I kinda vamoosed from a lotta the eighties underground rock scene lest I go bankrupt. Also on hand telling us all about the BOMP! janitor made good are everyone from onetime BACK DOOR MAN editor Phast Phreddie Patterson to John Doe, Dave Alvin and a few more from what I would call the Slash contingent...even Plimsoul Peter Case pops up here which I guess is to be expected (big name from the same day and scene) but why did they get none other than Lemmy to make disparaging remarks about the music biz whilst sitting at a bar anyway? I mean, the closest Pierce and Lemmy probably ever got to each other was maybe a few yards at a Motorhead gig with Pierce in the audience so what's the purpose, hunh?
But as far as creating a portrait of yet another troubled young soul who joined the music-go-round only to end up a member of Kurt Cobain's fabled "Stupid Club", I'm sure GHOST ON THE HIGHWAY fulfilled whatever promise it may have had. And I do think it fulfills at least some. What I mean is...Pierce was just a young rock fan kid like I and presumably you who wanted to be a big star and was swept up in the vast tidal wave of underground music that enveloped the whole lot of us way back in the dreaded seventies, and yeah when big egos, drugs and instability enter into the picture only a fool wouldn't think some sorta disaster is in the cards. But at least I gotta stick up for Pierce for being a young upstart who made good (or at least better than most of us in the underground rock game), and whether GHOST ON THE HIGHWAY is exactly the right vehicle to tell at least part of the saga will probably be pretty much up to you and how this music figures into your very own sphere of rockism obsession.
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