You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story

Wolk's laidback approach enables this sweet and interesting story to unfold fairly naturally.

You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story

Director: Gary Wilson
Cast: Gary Wilson
Distributor: Plexifilm
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-06-17

There are artists who are so far under the radar that it takes years or even decades to truly appreciate what they contributed to different mediums. On the music side, the recluse Jandek has been a cult hero to many but only earned his just desserts the last few years. As well, Daniel Johnston’s background has been vividly captured in the 2006 documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

Indeed, there are few who would even know to this day who Gary Wilson is. Wilson created a seminal album back in the ‘70s that eventually reached the ears of Beck who name-dropped Wilson in one of his songs. Wilson's album You Think You Really Know Me was rarely recognized, matching the largely anonymous way in which he lived. After moving from his hometown of Endicott, New York to California, Wilson basically dropped out of music circles, still playing in different bands but not garnering anyone’s attention.

Hence, director Michael Wolk’s documentary is an interesting look at how Wilson began, what it was like when he did have a bit of attention, and what the heck happened to him. Wolk’s style isn’t all that unusual, starting by talking to friends and colleagues of Wilson’s who tell stories of the arty, ahead-of-his-time performer who took to throwing paint on his clothes and being doused with flour onstage, resulting in a collision of sound and performance art.

Yet for all of the recollections, few from Wilson's hometown knew much about his modest success, nor knew where he had gone. Two members of the small label, Motel Records, go in search of Wilson with the idea of re-releasing You Think You Really Know Me. They find him working at a porn shop, rather resembling the real life version of Jeff Albertson, known as the “Comic Book Guy” on The Simpsons.

The documentary presents Wilson as a seminal musical genius, and just a guy making a living playing the odd wedding gig or banquet, or drawing a paycheck by standing behind a counter with sex toys for sale. Old video footage of live performances as well as concept videos show the younger singer and his band occasionally making out with mannequins or generally being bizarre.

Like most performers who are out of the loop and then suddenly put back in the spotlight, Wilson ends up returning to his hometown and hooking up with his former band mates to do a string of shows in support of the re-release. Perhaps the best portions of the documentary are in the latter half, with the singer returning to his childhood home and plucking the stand-up bass his father used to play.

If there is one scene which sums up how Wilson viewed his career, it’s probably when he's sifting through old tattered pages of lyrics he wrote, still in the same spot he left them in his parent’s basement all those years ago. Wolk doesn’t go over-the-top to heap praise on Wilson or get brief cameos from people to do the same, but generally his rather laidback approach enables this sweet and interesting story to unfold fairly naturally.

At the end of the film, the viewer realizes they know a little bit more of Gary Wilson, but even then he remains an enigma.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.