Waiting – The Van Duren Story
Beyond Elvis, Beale Street and Stax there is a bountiful history of music from Memphis, from the blues of Furry Lewis to whatever you wanna call the creations of Jim Dickinson, but power pop and indie music lovers will always hold a warm spot for Ardent Studios, home of the seminal group Big Star. Well, thanks to two Aussie music lovers, Wade Jackson and Greg Carey, we can add Van Duren to the playlist.
Van Duren formed his first band, The Manor Serfs when he was 12. From that early start his career has largely been sadly out of the limelight, but not for lack of talent, as this soundtrack shows. Capturing Duren with various outfits (including the Baker Street Regulars with ex-Big Star founder Chris Bell), Waiting gives you a glimpse of Duren’s pop instincts, and shows that he fits well into the Memphis sound.
Opening up with songs from his first release, 1978’s Are You Serious? with “Grow Yourself Up” and “Chemical Fire”, Duren shows a Todd Rundgren bent, with a vocal presence not unlike Robin Zander from Cheap Trick. Backed and produced by Memphis guitarist Jon Tiven, these are rocking pop numbers, but alas, they didn’t translate to chart success, but thankfully Duren kept on plugging along, forming the band Good Question in the mid-’80s before having health issues in the ’90s. Then Jackson and Carey discovered him via Twitter in 2016, and despite not having made a film before, the pair contacted Duren wanting to make a documentary. If the soundtrack is any indication, it will be special. The 12 cuts contained here range from an unreleased track with Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, “Andy, Please” as well as cuts from his second record, Idiot Optimism from 2000.
Van Duren might not be as well known as other Memphis musicians, but hopefully Waiting will change that and get him back in studio with new material. But until then, fans of Big Star, et al will savor the dead-on pop sensibilities of Van Duren.