Spencer Case thinks I need to expand my musical horizons. I don't disagree. He writes,
O.K. here are my five picks for good folk/rock music within the last ten years.
First, "The Wrote and the Writ" by Johnny Flynn, an artist I've just discovered. I chose it because of the syncopated guitar and the outstanding lyrics.
Second, "Right Moves" by Idaho's own Josh Ritter. Ritter been one of my favorites for about six years. He isn't instrumentally out of this world like some of the other artists here, but he's a great songwriter. It's hard to find a representative song for him for a first exposure, but this seems like a safe bet. Third, "Simple as This" by Jake Bugg, another new discovery. Great lyrics.
Fourth, "Don't Need No" by Punch Brothers. I've seen these guys live and they are amazing.
Fifth, "Big Parade" by Lumineers. These guys are from Denver and actually, they are quite popular now. So not everything on this list is obscure.
As far as I'm concerned, these artists prove good music is alive and well, if under-appreciated. Interested to hear how you think they stack up.
It's good stuff, Spencer. I enjoyed 'em all. Here are some obscure tunes/renditions I think you'll enjoy if you haven't heard them already. I won't make any invidious comparisons. It's all good.
I met a very interesting man last Sunday, Boniface Thayil. He showed up at our little chess club wanting to learn the game. So I gave him his first lesson. He knew nothing, not even the names of the pieces, let alone how they move. Now he knows a little something. I hope he shows up again tomorrow.
We got to talking. His dark complexion prompted me to ask whether he is Pakistani or perhaps from India. He said he was from the state of Kerala in India, came to Seattle, Washington as a young man, earned a degree in chemical engineering, and had been employed in Chicago. His intelligence and wide interests prompted me to learn more about him via Google. The search pulled up one Kim Thayil. The name rang a bell. A while back I had read about Soundgarden and some Seattle 'metal' bands. So I clicked on this link.
"Kiss Alive was the second album I ever bought, and the first record that made me realize things could be a lot louder and more violent than the Beatles. It emphasized volume and guitar over harmony, melody and lyrics; all the stuff I never listened to anyway," he told Mudhoney's Mark Arm.
Assembling various facts, it seemed possible that Kim was the son of Boniface, so I e-mailed the latter and found out that the former was.
Here is a Soundgarden tune as performed by Johnny Cash, Rusty Cage. Good song. I like it. Here is the rather more 'metallic' Soundgarden version.
Here is some of Kim Thayil's guitar work. The quotation above explains why I can't relate to much of this stuff. Some examples of the guitar work that speak to me follow. It is a generational thing, no doubt. It seems to come from the heart and speak to the soul whereas the metal stuff is more akin to industrial noise. "Music to pound out fenders by." (Ed Abbey) Sorry, boys. De gustibus, et cetera. There is no arguing sensibility. Argument comes too late.
Ventures, Memphis. Mighty fine guitar-slingin' by both lead players.
Hi Bill. Longtime blog follower, here.
Concerning your comment on your Kim Thayil post: "It seems to come from the heart and speak to the soul whereas the metal stuff is more akin to industrial noise."
As you say, there is no arguing sensibility. Nonetheless, just for the hell of it, check out the link below, a sub-forum of reddit called "change by view", and especially the first comment at the top of the chain:
Of course, that concerns death metal, which makes Soundgarden sound very melodic.
Thanks, Martin. I forced myself to listen to the song to which the poster refers. This is music, not to pound out fenders by, but to watch the West decline by. Suppose you like this at 17, will you like it at 57? Suppose you first hear it with a girl who you go on to marry. Will you say to her 20 years later, "Hey baby, they're playing our song"? Well, nobody could accuse it of being sentimental.
To recover from the above, I listened one more time to the marvellous Embryonic Journey by Jefferson Airplane. I loved it in '67 and I love it now. I don't believe this is just generational chauvinism on my part.
And here is nastly slap at Jack from a writer not much better, Edward Abbey: "Jack Kerouac, like a sick refrigerator, worked too hard at keeping cool and died on his mama's lap from alcohol and infantilism."
Cactus Ed on Updike:
John Updike: our greatest suburban chic-boutique man of letters. A smug and fatal complacency has stunted his growth beyond hope of surgical repair. Not enough passion in his collected works to generate steam in a beer can. Nevertheless, he is considered by some critics to be America's finest *living* author: Hold a chilled mirror to his lips and you will see, presently, a fine and dewy moisture condensing--like a faery breath!--upon the glass.
Kerouac's Big Sur opens with a reference to a song:
The church is blowing a sad windblown "Kathleen" on the bells in the skid row slums as I wake up all woebegone and goopy, groaning from another drinking bout and groaning most of all because I'd ruined my "secret return" to San Francisco by getting silly drunk while hiding in the alleys with bums and then marching forth into North Beach to see everybody altho Lorenz Monsanto and I'd exchanged huge letters outlining how I would sneak in quietly, call him on the phone using a code name like Adam Yulch or Lalagy Pulvertaft (also writers) and then he would secretly drive me to his cabin in the Big Sur woods where I would be alone and undisturbed for six weeks just chopping wood, drawing water, writing, sleeping, hiking, etc., etc.
What is this song "Kathleen"? Reading on (emphasis added):
But instead I've bounced drunk into his City Lights bookshop at the height of Saturday night business, everyone recognized me (even tho" I was wearing my disguise-like fisherman's hat and fishermen coat and pants waterproof) and "t'all ends up a roaring drunk in all the famous bars the bloody "King of the Beatniks" is back in town buying drinks for everyone -- Two days of that, including Sunday the day Lorenzo is supposed to pick me up at my "secret" skid row hotel (the Mars on 4th and Howard) but when he calls for me there's no answer, he has the clerk open the door and what does he see but me out on the floor among bottles, Ben Fagan stretched out partly beneath the bed, and Robert Browning the beatnik painter out on the bed, snoring... So says to himself "I'll pick him up next weekend, I guess he wants to drink for a week in the city (like he always does, I guess)" so off he drives to his Big Sur cabin without me thinking he's doing the right thing but my God when I wake up, and Ben and Browning are gone, they've somehow dumped me on the bed, and I hear "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" being bellroped so sad in the fog winds out there that blow across the rooftops of eerie old hangover Frisco, wow, I've hit the end of the trail and cant even drag my body any more even to a refuge in the woods let alone stay upright in the city a minute --
"I'll Take you Home Again, Kathleen" sounds like an Irish ballad but was actually written by an American, Thomas P. Westendorf, in 1875. Kerouac might have first heard it in the 1940s.
Tastes in music are pretty much generationally-rooted. Just to yank (tug?) Dale Tuggy's chain a bit, I said to him while we were rooming together in Prague, that the heavy metal stuff he likes is "music to pound out fenders by," a phrase that Edward Abbey (1927-1989) applied to all rock music. I claimed heavy metal has little by way of melody. Tuggy, who is 20 years younger than me, demurred and pointed me to some songs one of which is Metallica's Fade to Black. The song was released in '84 when Tuggy was 14, so maybe it had the sort of impact on him that Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone (1965) had on me when I was 15.
"Fade to Black" features a very nice acoustic guitar intro and does have a melody, but can it hold a candle melody- or lyric-wise to Tom Wait's suicide song, Shiver Me Timbers? You decide.
The Man Who Wasn't There is one of my favorite movies, and the best of Ludwig van Beethoven is as good as classical music gets. So enjoy the First Movement of the Moonlight Sonata to the masterful cinematography of the Coen Brothers.
Here is the final scene of the movie. Ed Crane's last words:
I don't know where I'm being taken. I don't know what I'll find beyond the earth and sky. But I am not afraid to go. Maybe the things I don't understand will be clearer there, like when a fog blows away. Maybe Doris will be there. And maybe there I can tell her all those things they don't have words for here.
That is the way I see death, as an adventure into a dimension in which we might come to understand what we cannot understand here, a movement from night and fog into the clear light of day. It is a strange idea, I admit, the idea that only by dying can one come into possession of essential knowledge. But no more strange than the idea that death leaves the apparent absurdity of our existence unredeemed, a sentiment expressed in Peggy Lee's 1969 Is That All There Is?
Perhaps no other popular song achieves the depth of this Leiber and Stoller composition inspired by the 1896 story Disillusionment (Enttäuschung) by Thomas Mann.
The 1963 March on Washington now lies 50 years in the past. Those civil rights battles were fought and they were won. What could be achieved by legislation and government intervention was achieved. Unfortunately, the civil rights movement gradually transmogrified into a civil rights hustle and grievance industry as the original ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. were betrayed by race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. And now look at the mess we are in. But it was a time of great and inspiring music. Here are some of Dylan's singular contributions.
Johnny Rivers, Summer Rain, 1967. It came out the summer we were all listening to the Beatles' Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band, and captures the mood of that summer for me.
Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues, 1958. An early teenage anthem in rockabilly style by one who died young. Wikipedia:
On Saturday, April 16, 1960, at about 11.50 p.m., while on tour in the United Kingdom, 21-year-old Cochran died as a result of a traffic accident in a taxi (a Ford Consul, not, as widely reported, a London hackney carriage) traveling through Chippenham, Wiltshire, on the A4. The speeding taxi blew a tire, lost control, and crashed into a lamp post on Rowden Hill, where a plaque now marks the spot. No other car was involved. Cochran, who was seated in the centre of the back seat, threw himself over his fiancée Sharon Sheeley, to shield her, and was thrown out of the car when the door flew open. He was taken to St. Martin's Hospital, Bath, where he died at 4:10 p.m. the following day of severe head injuries. Cochran's body was flown home and his remains were buried on April 25, 1960, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.
Blue Cheer, Summertime Blues, 1968. A heavy metal version of the Eddie Cochran rockabilly number. The first heavy metal song? If you remember Blue Cheer, I'll buy you a beer.
Percy Faith, Theme from a Summer Place, 1960. I remember a girl complaining that this "old fogey music" was being played on the R & R station we were listening to: had to have been either KRLA, KFWB, or KHJ, Los Angeles.
It's a bit of a paradox: leftist race-baiters fly under the euphemistic flag of 'progressive,' while hopelessly stuck in the past. The civil wrongs were righted, but they want to turn back the clock. A pox on their racist house.
Brother Jesse and Co. are stuck inside of Selma with the Oxford blues again.
Those were just some of the songs from that summer of '63, the summer before the JFK assassination. It was a hopeful time, race relations were on the mend. But then everything fell apart and here we are 50 years later in the midst of serious national decline with a incompetent race-baiting leftist occupying the White House.
Gene Pitney was born 17 February 1940 and died 5 April 2006. Biography here.
Pitney was something of a melodramatic crooner in such hits as Town Without Pity, but he also penned upbeat chartbusters like Hello Mary Lou for Rick Nelson when he was called Ricky and He's a Rebel for the Crystals. The latter, featuring Phil Spector's wall-of-sound production job, has that oddly stirring quality common to many of Spector's productions.
Del Shannon (Charles Weedon Westover), December 30, 1934 – February 8, 1990, known prmarily for his Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit, Runaway, 1961. "Suffering from depression, Shannon committed suicide on February 8, 1990, with a .22-caliber rifle at his home in Santa Clarita, California, while on a prescription dose of the anti-depressant drug Prozac. Following his death, The Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of "Runaway"." (Wikipedia)
Dalida, O Sole Mio. I think I'm in love. "Dalida (17 January 1933 – 3 May 1987), birth name Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti, was a singer and actress who performed and recorded in more than 10 languages including: French, Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish." [. . .]On Saturday, 2 May 1987, Dalida committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates. She left behind a note which read, "La vie m'est insupportable... Pardonnez-moi." ("Life has become unbearable for me... Forgive me.")" (Wikipedia)
The Singing Nun, Dominique, 1963. "Jeanine Deckers (17 October 1933 – 29 March 1985) was a Belgian singer-songwriter and initially a member of the Dominican Order in Belgium (as Sister Luc Gabrielle). She acquired world fame in 1963 as Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile) when she scored a hit with the her French-language song "Dominique". She is sometimes credited as "The Singing Nun". [. . .]
Citing their financial difficulties in a note, she and her companion of ten years, Annie Pécher, both committed suicide by an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on 29 March 1985.
In their suicide note, Decker and Pécher stated they had not given up their faith and wished to be buried together after a church funeral. They were buried together in Cheremont Cemetery in Wavre, Walloon Brabant, the town where they died. The inscription on their tombstone reads "I saw her soul fly across the clouds", a line from Deckers' song "Sister Smile is dead". (Wikipedia)
Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, died of complications of multiple sclerosis at age 69 in December, 2010. Obituary here. Apparently, hanging out in the Mojave desert can do strange things to your head. Here is a taste of desert strangeness from the 1969 Trout Mask Replica album. Far out, man. Here is something rather more accessible from the 1967 debut Safe as Milk album. And I think I remember hearing Abba Zabba from that same album back in the day. (Which reminds of the saying, 'If you remember the '60s, you weren't there.')
From Lancaster-Palmdale to Bakersfield and the 'Bakersfield sound' of Buck Owens and his Buckaroos. I once had a girlfriend, half Italian, half Irish. Volatile combo, not recommended. I had me a Tiger by the Tail. My wife's half Italian, but the phlegmaticity of her Polish half mitigates, moderates, and modulates her latent Italianate volcanicity, which remains blessedly latent, if it exists at all.
He peered over the keyboard bespectacled and thoughtful, playing the professor to Jim Morrison's wild man, an Apollo of musical order to anchor the drunken Dionysian front man. Morrison joined the 27 Club in the summer of 1971, expiring of his excesses in a Parisian bath tub, while Manzarek lived on another 40 some years to die on May 20th at age 74. He seems to have negotiated those calm anticlimactic years well.
Here is a beautiful 'Crystal Ship" solo from 2012. The original 1967 Crystal Ship.
Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One (Simon and Shuster, 2004), p. 13:
He was different from the rest of the teen idols, had a great guitarist who played like a cross between a honky-tonk hero and a barn-dance fiddler. Nelson had never been a bold innovator like the early singers who sang like they were navigating burning ships. He didn't sing desperately, do a lot of damage, and you'd never mistake him for a shaman.
Nosiree, Bob, no shaman was he. There is more interesting material on Nelson in the vicinity of this excerpt. Dylan discusses Ricky Nelson in connection with his 1961 hit, Travelin' Man. But the great guitar work of James Burton to which Dylan alludes was much more in evidence in Hello Mary Lou. The Dylan Chronicles look like they will hold the interest of this old 60's Dylan fanatic.
Here is a better taste of James Burton and his Fender Telecaster with E. P. And here he is with the Big O dueling with Springsteen. Here he jams with Nelson's sons. Orbison on Nelson.
It has been over twenty five years now since Nelson died in a plane crash while touring. The plane, purchased from Jerry Lee Lewis, went down on New Year's Eve 1985. That travelin' man died with his boots on -- as I suspect he would have wanted to. In an interview in 1977 he said that he could not see himself growing old.
I have been listening this last week to George Jones. I was pretty much unaware of his work until his dying brought it to my attention. I linked to a couple of his tunes last week. Here are a couple more. A Girl I Used to Know.Am I That Easy to Forget?Here is an essay on Jones by Jim Goad.
In the interests of full disclosure: I am not now, and never have been, a southerner or a redneck. Worse than the redneck, however, is the librul who mocks him. Trying mocking him to his face.
As far as I know, Jones never had a crossover hit, but they were the way I learned about country music back in the day. Here are some of my favorite crossover numbers first heard via KRLA, KHJ, and KFWB, Los Angeles. My Favorite DJ? B. Mitchel Reed! (one 'l.')
Before getting on to tonight's scheduled presentation, we pause to remember George Jones who died Friday at 81, his longevity proof of the human body's ability to take a sustained licking from John Barleycorn and keep on ticking. I don't believe Jones ever had a crossover hit in the manner of a Don Gibson or a Merle Haggard. He was pure country and highly regarded by aficionados of that genre. Here are two I like:
Bob Dylan, From a Buick 6 (1966), from Highway 61 Revisited with Al Kooper on organ and Mike Bloomfield, lead guitar.
Lovin' Spoonful, Six O'Clock (1967). More proof of the vast superiority of the '60s over every other decade when it comes to popular music. No decade was more creative, engaged, rich, relevant, and diverse. Generational chauvinism? No, just the plain truth! But you had to be there.
Here is a passage from Thomas McGuane, Nothing but Blue Skies, Houghton-Mifflin, 1992, pp. 201-202, to which I have added hyperlinks.
He [Frank Copenhaver] turned on the radio and listened to an old song called "Big John": everybody falls down a mine shaft; nobody can get them out because of something too big to pry; Big John comes along and pries everybody loose but ends up getting stuck himself; end of Big John. Frank guessed it was a story of what can happen to those on the top of the food chain.
On to an oldies station and the joy of finding Bob Dylan: "You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend." No one compares with this guy, thought Frank. I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it. Frank paused in his thinking , then realized he was suiting up for his arrival in Missoula. In a hurricane of logging trucks, he heard, out of a hole in the sky the voice of Sam Cooke: "But I do know that I love you." Frank began to sweat. "And I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world this would be."
No, I am not opposed to paying taxes. I am not anti-tax any more than I am anti-government. We need government, and we need to fund it somehow. It does not follow, however, that there must be an income tax. A consumption tax would be the way to go. But that will never happen.
Joni Mitchell wrote the song and her version is my favorite at the moment. Judy Collins made it famous. I am on a Dave van Ronk kick these days and his rendition, though less 'accessible,' is a haunting contender.
According to the Wikipedia entry on van Ronk, "Joni Mitchell often said that his rendition of her song "Both Sides Now" (which he called "Clouds") was the finest ever."
I was surprised, but pleased, to see that the late Lawrence Auster, traditionalist conservative, photo to the left, 1973, had a deep appreciation and a wide-ranging knowledge of Dylan's art. Born in 1949, Auster is generationally situated for that appreciation, and as late as '73 was still flying the '60s colors, if we can go by the photo, but age is at best only a necessary condition for digging Dylan. Auster's Jewishness may play a minor role, but the main thing is Auster's attunement to Dylan's particularism. See the quotation below. Herewith, some Dylan songs with commentary by Auster.
This Dylan song can seem amorphous and mystical in the negative sense, especially as it became a kind of countercultural anthem and meaningless through overuse. But the lyrics are coherent and profound, especially the first verse:
They say everything can be replaced They say every distance is not near But I remember every face Of every man who put me here.
The modern world tells us that everything is fungible, nothing is of real value, everything can and should be replaced—our spouse, our culture, our religion, our history, our sexual nature, our race, everything. It is the view of atomistic liberal man, forever creating himself out of his preferences, not dependent on any larger world of which he is a part. The singer is saying, No, this isn’t true. Things have real and particular values and they cannot be cast off and replaced by other things. And, though we seem to be distant, we are connected. I am connected to all the men, the creators and builders and poets and philosophers, and my own relatives and friends, who have come before me or influenced me, who created the world in which I live.
First off, some comments of mine on the video which accompanies the touched-up Blonde on Blonde track. The video is very cleverly constructed, providing a synopsis of milestones in Dylan's career. The first girl the guy with the acoustic guitar case is walking with is a stand-in for Suze Rotolo, the girl 'immortalized' on the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album cover. But now we see the pair from the back instead of from the front. She is replaced by a second girl representing Joan Baez. (Dylan's affair with Baez helped destroy his relationship with Rotolo.) Then the guy gets into a car and emerges on the other side with an electric guitar case. This signifies Dylan's going electric in '65 at the Newport Folk Festival, a change which enraged the die-hard folkies and doctrinaire leftists who thought they owned Dylan as a mouthpiece for their views. A quick shot of a newpaper in a trash can with the headline "Dylan Goes Electric" appears just in case you missed the subtlety of the auto entry-exit sequence. After that we see a downed motorcycle representing Dylan's motorcycle accident, an event that brings to a close the existentialist-absurdist-surrealist phase of the mid-60s trilogy, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. After the accident Dylan is further from the mind and closer to the earth. Dylan the psychedelically deracinated returns to his roots in the Bible and Americana with John Wesley Harding. The girl in the brass bed is an allusion to "Lay Lady Lay" ("lay across my big brass bed") from the Nashville Skyline album. Dylan then colaesces with the man in black (Johnny Cash), and steps over and through the detritus of what remains the hippy-trippy 60's and into the disco era, his Christian period, marked by the 1979 Slow Train Coming and a couple of subsequent albums, his marriage to a black back-up singer, and on into the later phases of the life of this protean bard on never-ending tour.
By the way, that’s the first time I’ve seen “judge” rhymed with “grudge” since Bob Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” from Blonde on Blonde. Here’s the recording.
Dylan’s lyric (not for the first time) is pretty appropriate to our situation:
Well the judge He holds a grudge He’s gonna call on you. But he’s badly built And he walks on stilts Watch out he don’t fall on you.
There is now on the U.S. Supreme Court an intellectually sub-par Puerto Rican woman whose entire career has been essentially founded on a grudge against whites, a judge who makes her pro-Hispanic, anti-white agenda an explicit element in her judging. “The judge, she holds a grudge.”
Sotomayor is not the first of that kind, however. Another Supreme Court sub-competent, Thurgood Marshall, openly stated to one of his colleagues that the philosophy behind his judging was that “It’s our [blacks’] turn now.”
Thinking about the murder of motivational speaker and “positive, loving energy” guru Jeff Locker in East Harlem this week, where he had been pursuing an assignation with a young lady not his wife but got himself strangled and stabbed to death in his car by the damsel and her two male accomplices instead, I realized that this is yet another contemporary event that Bob Dylan has, in a manner of speaking, got covered. Here is the recording and below are the lyrics of Dylan’s 1964 song, “Spanish Harlem Incident,” where the singer, with his “pale face,” seeks liberating love from an exotic dark skinned woman, and is “surrounded” and “slayed” by her. The song reflects back ironically on the Jeff Locker case, presenting the more poetical side of the desires that, on a much coarser and stupider level, led Locker to his horrible death. By quoting it, I’m not making light of murder, readers know how seriously I take murder. But when a man gets himself killed through such an accumulation of sin and gross folly, a man, moreover, whose New Agey belief in positive energy and transformative love apparently left him unable to see the obvious dangers he had put himself in, there is, unavoidably, a humorous aspect to it.
SPANISH HARLEM INCIDENT
Gypsy gal, the hands of Harlem Cannot hold you to its heat. Your temperature is too hot for taming, Your flaming feet are burning up the street. I am homeless, come and take me To the reach of your rattling drums. Let me know, babe, all about my fortune Down along my restless palms.
Gypsy gal, you’ve got me swallowed. I have fallen far beneath Your pearly eyes, so fast and slashing, And your flashing diamond teeth. The night is pitch black, come and make my Pale face fit into place, oh, please! Let me know, babe, I’m nearly drowning, If it’s you my lifelines trace.
I’ve been wonderin’ all about me Ever since I seen you there. On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding, I know I’m ‘round you but I don’t know where. You have slayed me, you have made me, I got to laugh halfways off my heels. I got to know, babe, ah, when you surround me, So I can know if I am really real.
Dylan talks about Clayton in the former's Chronicles, Volume One, Simon and Shuster, 2004, pp. 260-261.
Mark Spoelstra is also discussed by Dylan somewhere in Chronicles. While I flip through the pages, you enjoy Sugar Babe, It's All Over Now. The title puts me in mind of Dylan's wonderful It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. Comparing these two songs one sees why Spoelstra, competent as he is, is a forgotten folkie while Dylan is the "bard of our generation" to quote the ultra conservative Lawrence Auster.
Ah yes, Spoelstra is mentioned on pp. 74-75.
About Karen Dalton, Dylan has this to say (Chronicles, p. 12):
My favorite singer in the place [Cafe Wha?, Greenwich Village] was Karen Dalton. She was a tall white blues singer and guitar player, funky, lanky and sultry. I'd actually met her before, run across her the previous summer outside of Denver in a mountain pass town in a folk club. Karen had a voice like Billie Holliday's and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed and went all the way with it. I sang with her a couple of times.
Understated topicality also characterizes A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, lending it a timeless quality absent in a blatant 'finger-pointing' song such as Masters of War. The Baez version is probably the best of the covers.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right in the outstanding PP & M version. Another permanent addition to musical Americana. Said to be inspired by Suze Rotolo, the girl on the album cover.
In her memoir, A Frewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties (Broadway Books, 2008, p. 277-8), Suze Rotolo says this about her mother Mary Rotolo:
I remember her informing me that the career army man an older cousin was married to had lost out on a promotion that involved security clearance because of my appearance on the cover of Bob's album. I was astounded.
True, the times they were troubled. Protest against the escalating war in Vietnam was on the rise, draft cards were being burned, and colleges were erupting with discontent. Blues, bluegrass, and ballads no longer defined folk music, since so many folksingers were now writing songs that spoke to current events. Bob Dylan was labeled a "protest singer." But the absurdity of my mother, Marxist Mary, trying to make me feel responsible for a military man's losing a security clearance because I am on an album cover with Bob Dylan, a rebel with a cause, left me speechless. And that was all she said to me about the cover or the album in general.
Surprisingly, I missed the passing of Suze Rotolo some two years ago. She died on 25 February 2011 at 67 years of age. 'Dylanologists' usually refer to the following as songs she inspired:
Don't Think Twice. This Peter, Paul and Mary rendition may well be the best. It moves me as much as it did 50 years ago in 1963 when it first came out. It was via this song that I discovered Dylan. The 45 rpm record I had and still have showed one 'B. Dylan' as the song's author. I pronounced it as 'Dial-in' and wondered who he was. I soon found out.
Boots of Spanish Leather. The wonderful Baez version. There is some irony, of course, in Baez's renditions of songs inspired by Rotolo: Dylan's affair with Baez was a factor in his break up with Rotolo.
Linda Ronstadt, 1967, Different Drum. Cf. Henry David Thoreau: "“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
On this Day in Duluth in 1959, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Richie Valens, Jiles Perry “the Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion and the Bellmonts [sic], and others played to a sell-out crowd at the Duluth Armory for a “Winter Dance Party” promoted by Duluth’s Lew Latto—three days before Holly, Valens, and Richardson perished in a plane crash. In the audience, as the famous story goes, was a young Robert Zimmerman, who became so inspired he picked up a guitar and changed his name to Bob Dylan.
The Marvelettes, 1961, Please, Mr. Postman. The summer of '69 found me delivering mail out of the Vermont Avenue Station, Hollywood 29. One day two girls came up to me and started singing this song. Something this U. S. Male won't forget.
The Showmen, It Will Stand. If you remember this underplayed oldie, I'll buy you one scotch, one bourbon, one beer. There was an apologetic sub-genre around this time (1961) of songs celebrating R & R.
Fleetwood Mac, Mission Bell. Haunting cover of the upbeat Donnie Brooks hit.
A lonely soldier cleans his gun and dreams of Galveston. Marty Robbins messes with the wicked Felina in El Paso and catches a bullet for his trouble. Joan Baez sings of a jilted lover and her counterfactual conditional, "If the ladies was squirrels with high bushy tails, I'd load up my shotgun with rock salt and nails." Gene Pitney sings of the The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And from 1943, here is Pistol Packin' Mama by Al Dexter.
I can't speak for my housemates at the time, Ken Bower and Craig Fellin, but these three albums were my favorites among the ones we listened to, and the selections are my favorites from each.
1. Bob Dylan, New Morning (released 19 October 1970). Sign on a Window. If any song puts me in mind of Craig, it is this one. That's him to the left. He is the proprietor of the Big Hole Lodge in Montana.
Build me a cabin in Utah Marry me a wife Catch rainbow trout Have a bunch of kids who call me 'Pa' That must be what it's all about Thta must be what it's all about.
After his motorcycle accident in 1966, the protean Dylan moved closer to the earth and farther from the mind. Gone the despair and the absurdist imagery of It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding (from Bringing It All Back Home, 1965) and Desolation Row (unfortunately, this is the 'stoned' version, but it too is oddly beautiful) and the haunting Visions of Johanna (from Blonde on Blonde, 1966).
2. George Harrison,All Things Must Pass (released 27 November 1970). The title song. "All things must pass/All things must pass away."
3. Derek and the Dominoes, Layla (released November 1970). The title song. The best part begins at 3:10. It still rips me up, 42 years later.
I wouldn't want to relive those early years. But what I lacked in happiness, I made up for in intensity of experience. Ken and Craig had no small part in that.