If you are reading this article and you are wondering, “Who is Morphine?” here is what I will say to you, keep reading.
When I was given this assignment by my editor, I had absolutely no idea of who they were, what they were or even what I was supposed to write about after I watched the new documentary, “Morphine: Journey of Dreams” scheduled for release on DVD on December 9, 2016.
However, this is my job. I am given an assignment and I understand that I am not always going to “know” the subject matter prior to receiving it.
When I received the actual film to view, there were several accolades and awards for this film from all over the world, so that softened my attitude a bit, knowing that so many other’s opinions were that this was not a film you want to miss. So, here it goes, I mean, what is the worst that can happen, right?
I watched the film, first going through it as a “critic” and made it to about the half-way point realizing that I had not really learned anything because I was still not being open and receptive to this experience. So, I started over from the beginning, deciding this time I would watch as a “fan” or at a minimum, I would be very open to receiving the content and getting to know what this story was really about.
I had passed the half-way point this time without even realizing where the time had gone only that I was absolutely amazed by this entire group. Front man, Mark Sandman; Baritone Saxophone, Dana Colley and Drummers, Jerome Deupree and Billy Conway (they were both drummers on and off for the band and at one point they both played together); Tour Manager, Mark Hamilton; Soundman, Phil Davidson and Manager, Deb Klein. I did not hit the pause button until almost three-quarters of the way in when I realized I was absolutely connected with this sound, this concept, these artists, this journey and this entire documentary, so I grabbed a pen and paper to start making notes.
Included in my notes were statements of how fascinated I was with Mark Sandman. By all accounts, Sandman was an extremely artistic, talented, well-read, unique individual who truly cared for the craft he created, with this two-string bass guitar, this low-end sound that had not been done before, not in this way. He was meticulous and precise with instrumentation, lyrics and with arrangements of chords and notes, so that when you hear a three piece, low-end sound, you do not miss the elements a conventional band has, such as a full drum kit, a keyboard, a standard bass, oh and yes, the electric and acoustic guitar. The feel that he created and people bought into, was so unique and the terms “dangerous”, “vibey”, “late night” and “sexy” have been used to describe this sound. This sound that Sandman had created was a feeling, not a genre. There was no place to properly place this and have it stick in one particular genre for long because the next track that comes on may be a blues or jazz track and you cannot keep that sound in a rock or alternative slot.
I kept thinking to myself, “I want to interview Mark Sandman”. I could not wait to try to get that interviewed lined up and I almost emailed my contact back immediately, however, I opted to finish the film first.
A little further I went into watching and I hit the pause button once more. Not for writing notes or making a comment, rather because of the grief that overcame me when the story took a turn I never expected, considering I knew nothing about this band prior to hitting play.
Sandman, took the stage during a festival in Italy and at the age of 45, had a massive heart attack and died. I honestly sat there in disbelief, “how could that happen”, “I need to interview him”, “Oh, my gosh, his band mates” and then his manager, Klein, recalled when she received the call. It was as if time stood still when she tells how she was driving, was told to pull off to the shoulder, got the news of his death, how she was in shock. While I listened to her tell this story with such raw emotion, even 14 years after the event, my heart broke for her. I did not want to hit play, I wanted to go all the way back and start this film from the beginning again, as if somehow, this event would not have taken place, as if the “rewind” could be a time machine, of sorts. Yet, there I sat, with tissues in hand, and pressed play, watching the remainder of the film.
I immediately called my editor and asked her if she knew anything about this band, or about Sandman. Was this a set-up of sorts and she did not want to tell me what happens because she did not want to “ruin” it for me? She had not heard anything about this either and just felt that it would be a good assignment for me to have. To bring this full-circle, I need to add one more personal note on this story. Two days prior to receiving this assignment, I had parted ways with an artist that I had been managing in his music career for the past four years, and while that was such a difficult loss in my life, I was trying to throw myself into my work and just move on. I do believe that everything in this life happens for a reason, including this assignment being given to “me” to do at that exact time. I think that is why my heart was so open and able to receive the message of this film. This is not “just another documentary about a band” it is instead, a film about a family, although not related by blood or marriage, a family that has been intertwined with each other in a way that few will ever experience, by heart, passion, love and travelling together on this journey of life, towards a shared dream.
The end of this film, in particular, is not the end of the story of Morphine. The remaining members of the band, specifically Colley and Deupree have gone on and created a tribute to Sandman and equally to the fans of the original music, by forming Vapors of Morphine. This envisioned band, is a way for the legacy of Sandman and his unique approach to everything he touched, the music the band created and shared with the world, along with the millions of fans they earned through the years, to all come back together as one, combined unit, to make fans out of the rest of us, who somehow missed the message that “Morphine is addicting”.
I look forward to bringing you an interview I was able to conduct with Klein, Morphine’s manager and a close friend of Sandman, very soon. The DVD is available to purchase on Friday, October 21, 2016, with On-Demand streaming beginning on October 18, 2016. Make sure you settle in and take your “shot of Morphine”