This week I've been learning about Blaze Foley. There's a movie about him directed by Ethan Hawke, a name I usually take to be a fair indicator of quality when it's attached to a product; it's out in America now, I think, the film, but when and if it will get to the UK I couldn't tell you. Maybe we'll see it on Netflix. They have a lot of Ethan's stuff.
But back to Blaze. I'd never heard of him until I read about the movie, and I've been listening to country music for forty years. In fact, one of the first albums I ever bought was Guy Clark's 'Old No. 1'. I also realized, early, mainly thru cover versions of his songs by other artists, that Townes Van Zandt was a genius, and a better poet than any of the boring versifiers they foisted on us at school, except maybe Shakespeare, although then I didn't realize how great Shakey was.
Townes' albums, for some reason, were hard to get in Wellingborough, where I grew up. He didn't get played much on Radio 2's Country Club programme either. It was the cooler Bob Stewart show on Radio Luxembourg that gave Townes at least one full concert that I can remember. Unfortunately the reception on those old pre-digital radios was terrible at night when you listened to faraway stations. Townes might have been singing on Mars.
I don't remember Blaze Foley ever being played on the radio stations I listened to, and he definitely didn't get onto British tv. His music, when you listen to it now, makes that seem like a grave historical injustice.
He's fucking great, don't you think? And while he was working his ass off in the US we were being forced to listen to Crystal Gayle and Billie Joe Spears. But when you read just a little about his life, his obscurity becomes less surprising.
According to Wikipedia, the masters of his first album were confiscated by the DEA. The masters of another album were stolen from a station wagon Blaze was living in. A third album was lost until years after Blaze died.
How could anybody with so much talent, you wonder, have so much bad luck? when artists with so little talent become global superstars and make vast fortunes writing terrible songs? It seems with Blaze -- and I never knew the guy so I'm drawing conclusions from what I read -- that his obscurity, while living, was partly at least the result of a chaotic lifestyle and a self-destructive streak. Bad luck has to be a factor too. Some people just don't make it.
But as Blaze (played by Ben Dickey) says in the movie, 'I don't want to be a star, I want to be a legend.'
Congratulations, man. You have people in other countries digging through your archives and telling each other stories about a crazy genius who lived in a tree house and covered himself in duct tape. I think you made it.