It's 3:00 AM and the world is asleep, save for the nocturnal. Alone in a garage in Waller, Texas sits God's Lonely Man. He chain-smokes Kools, spins rare Beatles bootlegs, and stares at an imaginary collaged Pop Universe he has Scotch-taped to his walls: Casper the Friendly Ghost, Frankenstein, Marilyn Monroe, Salvador Dali, the Wolfman, and his beloved Beatles. If you observe him long enough, he will eventually let out a loud guffaw at a joke that only he has heard. The smile that washes over his face is as pure as a child's laughter.
This is what I encountered when I arrived at the home of Bill and Mabel Johnston in May of 2000 when I set out to document their son, visionary artist and singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. Why was I there? Simple. I wanted to take a ride on the space shuttle. I wanted to get in the ring and go toe-to-toe with the Cosmic Kid himself. I wanted to dance with the Devil.
This eMusic Dozen is meant to take you on the fantastic journey of Daniel Johnston. It is assembled as a narrative just like the film The Devil and Daniel Johnston and contains, in my opinion, some of the greatest work of one of the great songwriters of our lifetime.
On the last night of a very long and difficult month of filming, producer Henry Rosenthal, Daniel and I found ourselves back in the garage. It was 3:00 AM and Daniel, like Bill Murray's character in Harold Ramis 'Groundhog Day, was once again spinning some early demos the Beatles recorded at the Star Club in Hamburg, circa 1962. Daniel's arrested development is infectious and the music sounded reeeeeaaaaal gooood, like it felt when we were all back in high school. Daniel started dancing, a series of dance crazes he had in his head that were essentially an interpretive dance of his life. I grabbed my Super 16mm Bolex and danced with him. On that emulsion captured for eternity, Daniel does the Propeller, the Jackie Gleason, the Straight Jacket, the Exorcist and, last but not least, the Devil Dance during the end credit sequence of The Devil and Daniel Johnston. I was exhilarated when I walked out of that garage at 5:00 AM. Daniel had given me a gift and I knew that I'd shot the greatest piece of film of my entire life.
Satan is Real.
Jeff Feuerzeig is the director of the The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which won the Documentary Director's Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival