By now you’ve probably seen local comedians Dave and Brian’s new Santa-grinding parody of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” But please allow me to tell you a Philly holiday bedtime story about another video, one made back when MTV actually cared about music.
In 1983, Alan Mann, a highly regarded Philadelphia singer/songwriter with a crack band, got together with a young Temple University-based director named Rich Murray to film a video for Mann’s ballad “Christmas on the Block” as well as a documentary on the musician. “When I was at Temple, I used to follow Alan around South Street,” says Murray. “I had to talk him into letting me making a doc about him.”
Mann’s “Christmas” became the first independent music video to screen on MTV, and Murray went on to direct 2001’s Snipes and 2003’s Philly Blunt. Mann didn’t benefit much from the honor. He died in October 1987 during a fire in his South Philly apartment (rumors called it suicide). “It was my first video, and I never stopped thinking about it and the song, especially at this time of the year,” says Murray. “There are so many interesting stories associated with him and that song — he was kind of an enigma. Plus, I always wanted to do a doc on Alan, so I guess I’ve decided after 30 years to go ahead and make it.”
With that, Murray started interviewing many of Mann’s friends and collaborators — musicians such as Kenn Kweder, George Manney, bandmates like Larry Saklad, as well as managers, bookers and radio scenesters like Mitch Goldfarb, Cyndy Drue, Rich Wolfe and Debra Kaminsky-Bouchegnies — for a mosaic-like look at Mann. “When I started work on the doc, I thought it would be a short about the ‘Christmas on the Block’ song and video, and my own personal relationship with Alan and his then-manager [the late] Butch Shinn. But it’s turning into something more complex and interesting that will now delve into Alan’s life and music as a whole.”
Now Kweder, Manney and Saklad have joined forces for a 30th-anniversary party and sing-along Dec. 22 at Mann’s onetime spiritual home — J.C. Dobbs, now renamed The Legendary Dobbs, at Third and South. Starting at 3 p.m., friends and fans will gather to sing Mann’s holiday anthem and watch rare footage — all to be captured by Murray for his doc. “I haven’t done anything film-related in five years,” says Murray. “You start looking back to the past, to when this all started, to when all that you were was new. This was a nice place to think about.”
More Icepack at citypaper.net/nakedcity.
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