Marti Jones and Don Dixon
Fri., 11/11, 7 p.m.
$10 adv. or $12 at door
How great were the ‘80s? big hair. Rainbow Brite make-up. Shoulder pads. OK, maybe they were questionably great. Where I grew up, we held onto the ‘80s until at least 1993 (even now, it’s normal to see a frosted perm lingering in honky-tonks and bars). Sure, the ‘80s gave us an occasional assassination attempt on a president and a cold war, but it also presented us with the musical talents of R.E.M. and Don Dixon. That alone means we can’t complain too much.
Don Dixon was a part of the “jangle pop” movement of the “me, me, me decade”—an American post-punk era that reveled in chiming guitars and pop melodies indicative of the ‘60s. He spent 13 years playing in the band called Arrogance based out of Chapel Hill, but around 1983, he met up with a little band outside of Athens, Georgia, to co-produce their breakthrough debut record. R.E.M.’s “Murmur” positioned itself on the Billboard charts at Number 36 but has continued inspiring music lovers and players beyond.
Now, 28 years later, R.E.M. has announced their official breakup. Yet, Dixon still views his work with them among the most memorable projects he ever believed in. “I was working with my old friend Mitch Easter (Pavement, Suzanne Vega),” he remembers, “[and] we both knew they had something special from the start.”
A successful musician himself, Dixon toured in Europe and America with hits like “Praying Mantis,” off of “Most of the Girls Like to Dance,” and continued producing a plethora of work, from The Connells to Counting Crows to legends like Joe Cocker. He even ventured into acting, playing a role in the 2003 film “Camp” as an alcoholic director named Bert. “I still run into young people all the time that stop me to say how much ‘Camp’ meant to them when they were growing up,” he explains.
Looking back on his accomplishments and several years of producing the work of varied artists, Dixon says he had more fun making wife Marti Jones’ first album than almost any other recording he has done. For more than a quarter century, the two have been together on and off the stage. Touring for some couples might seem nerve-racking at best, but for Dixon and Jones, it’s an opportunity.
“We see each other so infrequently lately, that going on the road is rather like an extended date,” Jones explains. “We get along very well—always have. Oh, we have our disagreements, but he eventually realizes I’m always right, and everything is fine.”
The two met while Jones sang for a band called Color Me Gone, and Dixon toured with her to promote her first solo album “Unsophisticated Time.” He then continued to produce her records until they married in 1988. Though Jones says she has slowed down considerably, playing with Dixon is an easy way to generate income for her other passion.
“I have been spending most of my time painting in my studio for the last nine years,” she shares, “going out to play shows works out well because when I’m done for a while I can have a long period of time to focus on painting.”
Yet, their latest tour together has helped her re-discover the joy that comes from playing music. In support of their new record, “Living in Stereo,” released last June, Dixon describes the album “a true set of duets.” It promises the fun pop-rock that he has been dedicated to mastering throughout the entirety of his career. And if we’re lucky, he and his artist wife will stay out of “semi-retirement” for another project.
When Jones gets the urge to create something musically, she says she tends to pick up a paint brush and forget about it. Dixon, however, doesn’t let her. He is ever resourceful and creative when it comes to producing a follow-up to their recent project—he’s already thinking ahead.
“I’ve been writing and recording songs off and on for about a year with the title ‘Soul Butter & Hogwash’ in mind,” Dixon shares. “[Marti and I] are thinking about doing some sort of dueling release this time: five songs completely by me, five completely by her. It’s fun to think about.”
The creative powerhouse plays the Soapbox Laundro-Lounge on Friday, November 11th at 8 p.m.-ish. Tickets bought in advance are $10 or $12 at the door. Go to www.soapboxlaundrolounge.com for more information; and visit www.martijonesdixon.com to check out the musician’s fun art.