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“I May Be From Another Planet…”: Al Green

Simon Witter, New Musical Express, 16 July 1988

2005 note: I was in New Orleans in April/May 1988, filming items for German TV, when I heard that Al Green would be playing at the massive Jazz & Heritage festival and, according to rumour, returning to his classic secular repertoire after a decade of pure gospel. I had no NME commission, but got in touch with his church in Memphis anyway and set up an interview for 4pm at his hotel the night before the show - and he simply never showed up. The next morning I was woken at 7am by a phone call to my hotel room, and Al Green's voice on the other end of the line, inviting me to breakfast. In my semi-conscious state I decided that I had commited myself to spending the day with two German friends, and wasn't about to blow them out for some jumped-up star who couldn't even be bothered to turn up on the appointed day. Al suggested several other alternatives, including coming to the festival with him in his limo and hanging out backstage, but I was resolute, and insisted we meet that night, after the show at his hotel. When my friends woke up, they were far more mystified than flattered that I had blown off a day with Al Green to hang out with them, and I regret that decision to this day. I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking - except that I'm not at my best at 7am. Al Green was beyond incredible that day, engendering states of true ecstacy onstage and in the 30,000-strong crowd. When we met up that night, he was higher - in a definitely non-narcotic sense - than anyone I have ever seen in my life. He was spasming with joy so regularly that he could barely sit down. I still wonder what a whole day with him would have been like - and kick myself (again). His putative Family Plan album never did come out, but parts of it surfaced on the 1989 release I Get Joy. - SW

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