Wednesday, 22 October 2008
In the early 1990s, some time in the late evening when the needle rumbled and slipped into the wide roll out groove at the end of a record, as Neil Young's vocal burned out, or when the pale phosphorescent dreams of Tom Waits' Asylum Years swept me up into the warm heart of the American night, I lay on the floor and listened to that repetitive crackle and clunk and allowed my thoughts to drift. Switching on the TV, I happened upon a programme, part of a six part series on channel 4 called Road Dreams. Covering 500,000 miles in North America between 1968 and 1982, filmmaker Elliott Bristow managed to capture the faces and landscapes of a bygone world. Those images have remained with me over the years as a series of disjointed scenes, played over and over in my head in luminous Kodachrome. Bright red cherries swirling round and round in a bucket of water, heavy snow falling, filmed from inside a house, a big diesel train rolling by, autumn leaves blowing across a crisp blue sky, children running, a convoy of trucks, more trains, old American diners, farm workers, apple harvests, mountains, deserts, sunrises and sunsets, churches and random prophetic road signage . All of this was sparsely joined together with readings from Jack Kerouack's On the Road and Elliott Bristow's own commentary. Like many others, I had almost given up hope of seeing it again. Last year I punched the words 'Road Dreams' into the Google search engine and found the 'RetroRoadTrips' website. It was a heart stopping moment, and I hungrily filled in the gaps of missing information. If you include the editing of the film in the seventies and the more recent transfer from Super-8 to dvd, the hours and money poured into this 30 year labour of love is mind boggling! So I urge you to buy the RetroRoadTrips dvd(released November 5th), and take some time to read the articles on the website. Darn it, buy the t-shirt whilst you're at it! You never know, if we all buy a copy of his dvd, Elliott might just load up his projectors and multiple screens for one last tour, don't miss out Cambridge, UK! Many thanks to Aidan O'rouke for letting me use the photos that appear at the top of this post.