Rev. Fred Lane is a genre unto himself. He’s a singer few have ever heard of who inspires deep devotion among the converted. Admittedly, that’s a familiar template, but no one’s ever bent that template quite like Lane. With Icepick to the Moon, director Paul “Skizz” Czykz tells the many-layered story of Fred Lane and so much more. (Disclosure: Skizz and I are longtime friends.)
Lane has inspired many nicknames—including the Dadaist Duke Ellington and the demonic Frank Sinatra—but he never sought nor found footing in the worlds of jazz or swing. His support came from fans of underground and/or outsider music. Eric Friedl (Oblivians, Goner Records), Brian Teasley (Chunklet, Servotron), and David Greenberger (Men & Volts, Duplex Planet) are among those who give enthusiastic testimonials.
Lane is best known for a pair of albums he released in the ’80s. In style and substance, his records raise far more questions than they answer. It’s baffling how he makes the jazzy music jell with the absurdist lyrics, and the record covers only add to the mystique. They’re dense with artwork for non-existent releases, visual non-sequiturs, and the perplexing image of Fred Lane—bug eyed, wearing a fedora, and inexplicably covered in bandages.
One of Skizz’s best choices is not dwelling on the “What’s Fred Lane’s real name?” angle.Early on we learn the man behind the myth is Tim Reed, but Skizz doesn’t play that as a big reveal. Rather he uses it as a portal into Reed’s back story and that of the ensemble of artists he collaborated with, the Raudelunas. The Raudelunas were students at the University of Alabama in the early ’70s. They weren’t into sports, religion, fraternities, or sororities. They jabbed at prevailing conventions and made their own fun exploring ideas far beyond the mainstream. They marched in the homecoming parade dressed as vegetables one year, appliances another. They broke into the band building not to steal instruments, but to play them. Then they made their own instruments. One member describes Raudelunas’ concerts as “political confrontations.” Audiences wanted Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers covers. They got free improvisation from people battling instruments (and appliances) as much as playing them. This is the atmosphere in which Tim Reed develops the Fred Lane persona.
Icepick to the Moon works on many levels as Skizz weaves multiple narratives. He peels back the layers of Lane then zooms out to tell the larger story of his collaborators. Among the best interviews are those with former Raudelunas, who’ve maintained friendships for decades. It’s cool to hear people who’ve made their way in the world pursuing creative endeavors. It’s cooler still to hear them talk about Lane/Reed and each other with such genuine admiration and none of the bitterness that often seeps into music documentaries. It’s a tribute to the lasting friendships forged by lifelong creative types.
Icepick to the Moon is funnier, stranger, and more touching with each viewing. Inspiring and highly recommended. –Mike Faloon (fredlanedoc.com)