Archive for February 2012

Sherlock; Friday Night Lights; Pearl Jam   Leave a comment


There have been a few bitchy comments by the BBC over an American adaptation of Sherlock Holmes for television, which the Beeb feel resembles their UK version.  In a stroke of genius though the US network have cast a women, Lucy Lui, in the role of Dr. Watson.

I’m a huge Sherlock addict, the original stories, and of course for me Basil Rathbone IS Holmes, in much the same way that Pierce Brosnan is Bond, but it is all down to individual taste.  I do like Robert Downey but not Jude Law as Watson.

Adapting a classic work must be hard, you are setting yourself up straight away for the ardent fans to criticise every word you write, every scene you direct.

The BBC do specialise in period drama, yet another one, White Heat, being trailered at the moment.  This is simply because they can sell them abroad, especially the States, but you do have to wonder why the BBC didn’t just agree to sell their Sherlock to the US network, who for their production have now based Holmes in New York (which has actually been done before, plus someone else used San Francisco as the location for a Holmes film).

An adaptation that works for me is Friday Night Lights, yes another US drama, but one that is based on a non-fiction book of the same name.  An excellent film, starring Billy Bob Thornton and also Tim McGraw, was made and then it in turn was adapted into a television series, and it works, works very well.

It centres around a Texan small town’s high school football team, The Panthers, and was originally written by Buzz Bissinger, who did indeed coach a team called The Panthers in 1988.  It was apparently originally planned almost as a journalistic book.

I freely admit to being an easy sell with anything small town, I love the whole ethos of small town America (which is why I was drawn to Hartsville) but the writing for this series is outstanding.  The handheld camera filming, which I am a big fan of and intend to use myself in Trick, adds to the feeling that you are ‘there’, intruding almost on private moments.  The directors also allowed the cast to ad-lib scenes and also block scenes themselves, adding again to a very ‘real’ production.

High school football is a major thing in the States.  Scouts from major league teams hunt and shift through schools for possibly stars of tomorrow, quarterbacks being the key find.  For a young player, a gifted player, it can mean scholarship, college and then major league where they can earn millions.

Mount Juliet, losing to Gallatin

Our local high school in Tennessee, Mount Juliet, is featured every week on television as their games are covered live.  It’s a whole entertainment thing, with the cheerleaders and the commentators, and the attendance is also very impressive, the whole school and community come out to cheer the team on.

The series of Friday Night Lights ran for five years, about 100 episodes.  They have just started showing them from the very beginning on Sky Living on Tuesday and Sunday nights and do try and catch one.

Even as I write this I come across a problem with English and American English; do I put a Z instead of S, or not put an O in say colour, or color – even as I typed that the auto correct corrected me!

The dilemma at the moment is what to call the fourth and final book in the series of short stories – We’ve had Winter, the Spring Trilogy is actually out tomorrow and then Summer’s is out in July but what do we call the last one, Fall or Autumn?  Fall is actually one of my favourite American words and is the one that we will probably end up going for.  A story, Fall into Autumn, will be one of the stories so that will hopefully set the balance.

So the Spring trilogy is out tomorrow, but today is February 29, leap year, the day women propose to men?!?

Today I’m finished proofreading, which I hate – the adrenalin is in the initial creative spark of an idea, and then building that into a story as the characters come to life, but proofreading is a discipline and I’m not a disciplined person, for from it.

Here is a great song which was actually played on last night’s episode of Friday Night Lights.  It’s by Pearl Jam, Come Back –

And finally here’s a great trailer for the film of Friday Night Lights –


Posted February 29, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Zombies; Cardiff City; Wales; Colin Blunstone   Leave a comment


I have a new idea for a film – Walk of the Zombies.  Imagine – very early morning, a blurry eyed couple, two dogs, a creek, disaster waiting to happen.  Does one of the couple fall into the muddy waters, or perhaps gets taken by the Birds – no, I know, that’s already been done, some British director called Hitchcock?  Apparently they are considering making a remake?

Anyway, I digress;  after a few days not getting up early, and the older you get, it takes longer for your body to get out of one routine and into another, and that’s what CJ and I found this morning.

We got back to all the Oscar news, Meryl Streep, the Artist.  I saw one actress say she was surprised about Streep winning as Margaret Thatcher wasn’t popular.  She obviously doesn’t know her facts – Thatcher was extremely popular – in America, because she stood side by side, or lay side by side????, side by side, with Reagan, who was popular.  He put pride back into the States after a few disastrous years.  I remember seeing big, grown men cry in a bar I used to go to in Santa Barbara as they watched Reagan deliver the State of the Nation address.  I still think Michelle Williams was a contender for her portrayal of Marilyn.


We were going to stay up and watch the ceremony but were too exhausted after watching the cup final in the afternoon.  Cardiff played their hearts out and a cruel way to lose, but they can hold their heads up high and hopefully their performance will give them the confidence and strength to secure promotion this year.

Penalties are indeed cruel but incredible television.  You don’t even have to be a sports fan to get caught up in it.


I thought it was interesting too to watch Wales beat England on Saturday in the rugby and the way they used cameras to reply the action to determine whether it was a try or not – it wasn’t.  I also like it that you can hear the ref, like American football, so just why are the football authorities here so seemingly against using technology for say goals, and also why can’t we hear the ref? Taylor tells me that it’s because you’ll be able to hear the players swear.  Well, okay, but then fine them?  and also, it doesn’t take a great lip reader to understand what they are saying anyhow!  One clear example yesterday, I think Steven Gerrard wanted to get intimate with the ref?!?  With so much money at stake though, surely technology is there begging to be used.

Just a quick point about the rugby – Gavin who?  The cost of fame and being a wannabe celebrity is sometimes too high, eh Mr. Henson?  Think you need to find and re-read the script and the plot, as you’ve obviously lost it.

Over the weekend there has also been the case of the British man extradited to the States to face charges for selling batteries to Iran for bombs.  He says it was a sting, and that Cameron and everyone has let him down, and that he would get more rights if he was a terrorist!  He is allegedly on film trying to sell these batteries to Iran!  Apparently he is also going to accept a plea bargain deal – innocent people do not accept plea bargain deals!  It is a human weakness to blame others for our own shortcomings.

Writing and recording this week, getting a celebrity recipe book ready for a children’s charity for Christmas too.  Might just have to try every recipe of course, so there goes the diet.

To wrap this up, what else but a classic track by a Zombie – the wonderful Colin Blunstone.  Colin is not only a dear, genuinely lovely man, but without doubt one of the finest singers ever.  You all know She’s Not There and Time of the Season but I’ve picked a solo song Caroline Goodbye.  I asked him once why he didn’t play this, it wasn’t in the set at the time, (this was with Rod as the Zombies returned).  I’m pleased he plays it now, a great song, with a beautiful vocal as only Colin could deliver.

Posted February 27, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Reba, Bob and Nashville too; careers in music; independent films;   Leave a comment


It’s been one of those weeks.  Very cold last week to yesterday which was almost shorts weather.  It will be snowing again next week.

We had the Brits, with the disgraceful cutting of Adele and her acceptance speech.  The director should never work again!  I really like James Corden but why is he presenting a music awards show?

This is a video for Reba McEntire’s massive hit, Does He Love You, a duet with Linda Davis, who happens to be the mother of Hilary Scott of Lady Antebellum.

Reba is country’s biggest and probably most powerful artist.  Drive down Music Row in Nashville and her company’s building, Starstruck, is amongst the biggest, next to ASCAP and SoNY.

This weekend sees what is claimed to be the first country music festival in the UK for twenty years.  It’s actually a one day concert and will do nothing to enhance the reputation of country music in the UK.

Little Big Town’s gorgeous Bring It On Home –

Headlined by Reba the only other truly contemporary artists are the wonderful Little Big Town as above and Lonestar.  I feel that Bob Harris should organise and compere a concert as he is Mr. Country in the UK, presenting new artists weekly on his radio show.  This Sunday’s show will not attract any new fans.


The music out of Nashville at the moment is diversified – Kings of Leon, Lady Antebellum, Kesha, Paramore, A Band named Perry and of course Taylor Swift plus the many many brilliant songwriters who write the songs that make the whole world sing (written by the way not by Barry Manilow but by the wonderful and underrated Bruce Johnston, and first covered by David Cassidy).


Here’s David’s version, produced by Bruce –

The key in Nashville and indeed anywhere is perseverance and honest commitment.  I saw a tweet from the wonderful Ed Sheeran this morning saying he leaves today for a tour that takes him away until at least through the summer.  (He’s actually opening up for Snow Patrol in Nashville in early April at the Ryman – CJ might be going, Courtney definitely is, sure to be a great show).

You can’t ‘play’ at a career just to feed an ego, make you feel you’re ‘in the business’.  Money can not buy talent either, or any real success.  It’s a full time job, you have to work damn hard, 24/7, networking, promoting yourself, building on foundations, and have the honest passion and drive to get your talent out there, and of course, a true belief in yourself.  If you don’t believe in yourself no-one else is going to.

Gretchen Peters and John Young are just two perfect examples of this, and they are both lovely, genuine people too.

Check out Gretchen’s new CD – here’s the outstanding title track Hello Cruel World

Gretchen’s biggest successes are Independence Day (Martina Mcbride) and On A Bus to St. Cloud (Trisha Yearwood),  She tours consistently, blogs, tweets and networks, a perfect example.

John has a who’s who in rock pedigree – Asia, Bon Jovi, Paul Rodgers, The Scorpions, Bonnie Tyler’s keyboard player for years, and yet he still comes up with innovative ideas for promoting shows, he plays relentlessly, solo or with his band, never gives up.  Here’s one of my favourite songs of his, Insignificance –

There are two new albums available on iTunes from Warners, featuring the original versions and demos by the songwriters of songs you will know, made ‘famous’ by established artists.

It’s Oscar weekend and the nominees are all practising their ‘I haven’t won but I’m sooooo pleased for the winner!’ look.  I’m not going to predict but there are a couple of independent films worth consideration – Drive, Take Shelter, Margin Call and Martha Mercy May Marlene. Okay, out of the bigger films if I had to make a prediction I’d go for the Artist to win big and The Descendents.

To close, here is the opening five minutes from one of my all time favourite films, Rita, Sue and Bob too, with the wonderful George Costigan and a great theme song – if you’ve never seen this film try and do so this weekend – gritty, funny and pure brilliance.



Posted February 24, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Romance, stalking and nights in white satin   Leave a comment

I am an incurable, eternal romantic, always have been.  All the cliches – live for the moment, passion, that’s me, but when does romance become stalking?

One of the new stories in the new book (here’s the ad, Spring Trilogy, out March 1, 2012 – St. David’s Day) is Counting Mississippi, telling the story of a lonely single mother who ‘befriends’ a stranger, a man, on Facebook.  An online relationship develops but when she tries to stop it feeling that it’s going too fast, well she soon finds her life, and that of her daughter’s, in danger.

The Summer Trilogy, out on July 4, features a story The Stalking of Caitlin.

There was a programme last night, My Social Network Stalker which I only caught glimpses of but it seems her boyfriend was stalking her, posting nude pictures of her online etc.

What though of the initial ‘rush’, the longing, the initial attraction?  For example, is sending a single rose to a stranger considered stalking these days.  What about chocolates?!?!?

Some people do have a problem in understanding that ‘No’ means no; they hear what they want to hear.

“You don’t mean that, I know you love me, we were meant to be together.”

Stalking fascinates me, mainly because I’ve had a stalker.  Without going into it too much it was in North Wales, the police were finally involved after my car was damaged.  I was introduced to this woman, DP, and we spoke about three sentences.  She was quite short, petite, pretty, red hair.

For the next six months she became a nuisance, that’s putting it mildly.  She followed me home one night to find out where I lived.  Then she proceeded to park outside the house, staring for hours.  She then sent a bottle of champagne to my then wife for her birthday, but then she started to get violent, trying to push a huge video screen on top of me in my nightclub, and writing threatening notes.  She would intimate anyone she saw me talking to.

I’ve kept that brief but that was all after a very short conversation, so what makes people become so obsessed.

The first screenplay I wrote was called Obsession (it was terrible, in hindsight) and I’ve charted the stalking territory a few times since.  Even my song Hope, which is very simple, with a pure, almost virginal vocal, beautiful song by Charlotte Eyre, has a darker side.

There are many horror stories, real ones, about stalkers, some ending in murder and of course many films including Play Misty For Me (with the beautiful Donna Mills, and the excellent, terrifying Jessica Walter) and Fatal Attraction.

People can genuinely misread situations, signals and most apologise and move on, but the small few are dangerous because there is no reasoning with them it seems.

In the end it’s not even about love or attraction; it’s about power, revenge, pride – ‘you will love me!’

With online dating sites more and more people are finding the love of their life online, but I don’t believe that that can really happen because it is surely all about chemistry – that loss of breath, your heart beating fast, you suddenly becoming a gibbering wreck, lost for words when that ‘someone’ is around, not eating, staring into the distance – all the signs of love.

I also don’t like it when people say ‘ she wasn’t my type’.  Why have a type?  Do they only eat one type of food, listen to one type of music?  How boring!  We can’t chose who we fall in love with, or when surely, but to shut out someone because they have brown hair or green eyes, is crazy.

If a woman receives a gift from a stranger, does she nowadays automatically fear for her life?  I hope not, that’s letting the crazies win, so bring let romance into your life, allow it in, if it’s not there already!

To help, here’s one of the greatest romantic songs ever, the Moody Blues, Nights in White Satin – I actually dreamt this last night!!!

And here’s a quick video made for my song Hope, just a simply montage of pictures:

Posted February 21, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Barbara Thompson, Jon Hiseman; Sun rise; ghost towns; Lightning Seeds;   Leave a comment

Last week I was complaining after being ill for a day or so.   Last night I watched a moving documentary on BBC with saxophonist Barbara Thompson and her husband Jon Hiseman.

Barbara is perhaps best known for Fanaid Grove, which is used as the theme for A Touch of Frost.  What is not so widely known, at least until last night or within certain musical circles, is that Barbara suffers from MS and has been for many years.  It is only through drugs that she is able to remain playing, controlling her fingers.

Her supportive husband Jon is also a respected musician, one of the world’s finest drummers, having worked with Georgie Fame and John Mayall before forming Colosseum, (members included Gary Moore and Don Airey).  With the reformed Colosseum Jon played one night for me around 2005.  Barbara came with him.  They were lovely people and even though she wasn’t having a particularly good day health wise you wouldn’t have known it.  Truly inspirational and next time I complain about a headache I’ll think of Barbara, still playing, and other like her.  Truly inspirational.

After a week off, it’s hard to get back into a routine, especially one that requires getting up before seven, but this morning we did just that, caught the beautiful sunrise – I could hear Rolf Harris in the marshes singing “Sun arise, early in the morning!’ (he wrote that, covered by Alice Cooper years ago on the Love it to Death album.

Busy week ahead, last furlong of recording with Tim over the next few weeks.  Also have to proof read a new story and then we seriously start looking into funding for Trick, the film.

Courtney has her first two clients (of her own) in Nashville doing the publicity for them, two bands, one pop, the other indie, both with releases due very soon so that’s good.  Yesterday Nashville had snow.  I love this photo of Broadway, downtown Nashville, from last year.

Broadway is one of the few places that you have to pay to park in Nashville.  I got a parking ticket just before Christmas in Kent.   A friend of mine has just closed his shop in Kent after many years, blaming parking costs as one of the main reasons trade went down so badly.

Towns are becoming ghost towns, empty shops, 99p stores or charity shops and yet councils seem oblivious to the fact that paying to park is one of the factors that is killing the high street, as they lose out to out of town shopping centres.  You have to question someone’s motive for becoming a councillor, a thankless task in many ways, unpaid except for expenses.  Two mayors I have dealt with in small towns have both been disgraced in regard to financial matters, while others attempt to impose their own personal beliefs and desires on their town, no matter what the cost is to the town and shop keepers and business owners.  Vision is needed if small towns are to survive.  It’s hard enough to keep a business running today with ever increasing overheads and competition from the internet and they need all the help they can get to attract customers, and free parking would go a long way towards that, but that would probably mean a cut in councillor’s personal individual expenses!

To be fair, councils have suffered – ten years ago my local council at the time had an arts department with a manager and three staff; the department doesn’t even exist anymore, all four people made redundant and responsibility for the arts in that area passed on to someone in another department, buildings!

Where is the incentive to start a new business today, financially, and also with all the red tape, employee rights, but no employer rights etc?  There was a crazy story a few weeks ago of a councillor who had to apologise for patting a council worker on her shoulder to thank her for a job well done.  She complained, saying she was scared to go into work and her claim was upheld!  The councillor was just being friendly and supportive.  The world is totally losing the plot, this ‘sue you, sue me’ culture.  People see the dollar signs in their eyes and any opportunity to grab some money, money that they simply do not deserve.

It is frightening just how fast our towns have changed in thirty years, and even more frightening to wonder where they’ll be in another thirty years.

I’ll jump down now from my soap box.  Here’s a bail video for Barbara Thompson’s Fanaid Grove,  as featured on A Touch of Frost:

Never start a sentence with and, so I didn’t but here’s a video I heard for the first time in ages over the weekend and in my little mind is as close to a perfect pop song as you can get, the Lightning Seeds, and Lucky You, with a great montage video starring Liverpool who look likely to win the FA Cup, eh Taylor?


Posted February 20, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Religion in the UK; Matt Redman; Twitter;   Leave a comment


It seems rather apt to talk about church and religion, sitting here on a glorious Sunday, winter morning, the sun shining, disguising the slightly biting chill.

Yesterday of course it seems the world and their brother watched the funeral service of Whitney Houston.  I loved the quote to Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston from Pastor Marvin Winans, who preaches at a church in Detroit – “Miss Cissy has brought the world to church today.”

He meant that the family had quite correctly, and in the end, beautifully, decided to hold the funeral in the church Houston went to as a kid and where she first started singing, in the choir.  This was rather than having the big ‘Hollywood’ service.  The result was an incredibly moving service in a small 300 capacity church in Newark, New Jersey.

What was interesting for me was the coverage.  Sky and the BBC cut back to the studio a few times, in one case cutting the Eulogy, and in another, missing the coffin being taken from the church to the sound of Whitney singing I Will Always Love You.   CJ and I watched the CNN coverage, with an obviously moved Piers Morgan, not my favourite of people, but he was visibly touched by the emotions of the congregation and the performances of the artists – Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, CeCe Winans and for me R Kelly, who was simply awesome – I gave up wiping me eyes at that point!  Kevin Costner, who is a favourite person of mine, a great director who, it may sounds silly, but I feel is slightly underrated, gave a poignant speech.

It was Pastor Winans though that I will remember.  It was interesting to see how the British media concentrated on the celebrity guests, and hardly mentioned the stirring and moving eulogy, and it once again got me thinking about religion in the UK.

Cliff Richard is of course Britain’s best know Christian celebrity.  It seems though that it simply is not cool to be a Christian in the UK and I know Cliff thought long and hard in the sixties about letting people know.

I think Christ needs a new PR agent here.  Watch any award ceremony in the States and the hardest of rappers or rockers will usually dedicate their win to two people – their mother and God.  Eighty percent of Americans go to church, five percent of Brits do, why is that?  Religious programming is non existent over here except for the few dedicated channels on Sky.  Sunday papers in the States cover sermons and services from different churches.

Years ago I was offered a weekly radio programme on a station in Santa Barbara, KGFT, the Gift.  U2 were first introduced to America through the Christian broadcasting stations while today Natasha Bedingfield’s success in the US has come through the same medium, (Christian music is a billion dollar industry, Word being the main label, based in Nashville).  Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill were two ‘pioneers’ of Christian rock songs, whilst today other artists include Matt Redman, an American who actually preaches in Brighton.

Since we have had a home in Nashville we have been invited to attend a couple of churches – Nashville has more churches per head than any other city in the US.  I’d love to attend a true Southern Baptist service, and will one day.  The service yesterday gave everyone a taste of what it is like.  There was a sense of family within the church, contentment, much like there was at the radio station I did the show for.

CJ and I love driving past churches in Nashville and reading the large signs outside, some vert clever.  One we love is “It wasn’t raining when Noah started building the Ark,” and my favourite, “Prayer, unlimited wireless access to God.”

Religion is personal and can be dangerous as we know, extremists, but there are extreme Christians too.  I knew someone who believed that he was a superior Christian because he was ‘born again’, so he would get into Heaven and the local vicar wouldn’t!  What nonsense.  And this was after he had tried every other religion on earth!

It is of course all individual interpretation of the Bible, or the Qur’an – you can possibly read into the text what you want to see.  I have my own beliefs; my Lord has a sense of humour.  A few years ago, when tribute shows were popular, I came up with a premise for ‘Jesus, the tribute show’.  My friend was not amused, but my Jesus was!

It’s just when you try to impose your beliefs on other people that problems are created.

Another Twilight Zone moment right now; on the Andrew Marr show just now Nicky Campbell has told us the subject for the big Questions – is Britain a Christian country?  Great question.

I thought the eulogy was superb and perfect and even CJ was tempted to go to church this morning!

I find one difference with the US and the UK with churches, is that here it seems it is almost a class thing, and a social status standing, whereas in the States it is more a community thing.

It was also interesting to see Twitter yesterday.  While a lot of people were obviously tweeting about the Whitney service, a few seemed oblivious and it embarrassingly highlighted some people’s “It’s all about me,” outlook.  Also, don’t personally retweet compliments, surely?  One Brit TV presenter was one, another a Nashville based songwriter/performer.

Like my friend Mike, you didn’t have to like Whitney Houston’s music to be moved by yesterday’s service.

Here’s R Kelly’s offering yesterday –

I thought a bit of Cliff too – he quickly talks about Christian songs, and how he picks his songs, plus a live performance of one of my favourites – Yes, He Lives –

And finally, an outstanding song by the aforementioned Matt Redman, Heart of Worship.  This is many people’s favourite worship song but it is also just a great song, truly beautiful, regardless.  If this was a general love song it would be massive and it will stick in your mind I promise – give it a listen


“You can never put God first and God forget you” – Pastor Marvin Winans.


Posted February 19, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Castles; hunting; weekends   Leave a comment

Fridays, the last day of the working week, or it used to be, not so much anymore; how things have changed over the last thirty years or so?

I remember opening my own record store in the UK and being told I couldn’t open Sundays.  When I moved to California and opened one there my opening day was a Sunday, at noon, with a line around the block.

Now it is all twenty four hour shopping here nearly, with supermarkets and the internet but is it harder to keep track of the days?  Many people now work weekend shifts and the shops are possibly busier on a Sunday than any other day?

As a kid on a Sunday I’d go to church, have lunch and then my parents would take me for a drive, along with all the other ‘Sunday drivers’ as my Dad called them.  We’d go to the Vale of Glamorgan or maybe Ross on Wye.  My father’s favourite place was Symond’s Yat, where you had to cross the river on a hand pulled ferry to get to the pub on the other side.  My favourite place was Castell Coch, the Red Castle, hence the name of my own company.  I saw America film a video for Horse with no Name there for the Dave Cash TV show and they opened up rooms not normally open to the public.

My father had a revolver from his days in the airforce I think or perhaps it was from my grandfather.  I remember seeing it, it was a cold blue steel gun.  He used it once to shot a rabbit, which he then skinned and cooked.  I refused to eat it and today rabbit is still one of the meats I won’t eat.

Our neighbours in Tennessee hunt.  We have deer on our land, which are cute, but they have a hunting season and sure enough our neighbour teaches his son to shoot and hunt and they came back one day with a deer which he proceeded to skin and then hang upside down from a tree.  He then cut it up and put it in the freezer, after having a BBQ, which I was invited to but knowing what was on the menu I made an excuse.  I have had venison though so I think it was just seeing it.

Here’s a picture Tim took on our way home last year on I-40.

Cardiff Castle is magnificent, in the very heart of the city.  They used to hold medieval banquet nights there apparently, perhaps they still do.  I had a number of drama exams there for LAMDA and it was quite daunting.

I’m not too sure this aerial view does it justice.

It’s funny how you take things for granted; I used to pass the castle nearly everyday and you just get used to it I suppose.  I saw a few great concerts there, Queen, 10 c.c., played tennis in the tennis club behind the castle in the grounds, and went to drama school which was also in the grounds.  Maybe age teaches you to appreciate things more?

Here’s a video for a great song from the seventies, Working for the Weekend, a great ‘driving’ song from a band called Loverboy.

Have a great weekend!



Posted February 17, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized