Beach Boys, 409. With a four-speed manual tranny, dual quad carburetors (before fuel injection), positraction (limited slip differential), and 409 cubic inches of engine displacement. Gas was cheap in those days.
ZZ Top and Jeff Beck, 16 Tons. Tennessee Ernie Ford's 1955 #1 version.
Justin Timberlake, et al., 500 Miles. (From Inside Llewyn Davis)
We'll start with murder. David Dalton (Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan, Hyperion 2012, pp. 28-29, hyperlinks added!):
Most folk songs had grim, murderous content (and subtext). In Pretty Polly a man lures a young girl from her home with the promise of marriage,and then leads the pregnant girl to an already-dug grave and murders her. In Love Henry, a woman poisons her unfaithful lover, observed by an alarmed parrot that she also tries to kill. So it was a bit bizarre that these songs should become part of the sweetened, homogenized new pop music.
[. . .]
The original folk songs were potent, possessed stuff, but the folk trios had figured out how to make this grisly stuff palatable, which only proved that practically anything could be homogenized. Clean-cut guys and girls in crinolines, dressed as if for prom night, sang ancient curse-and-doom tales. Their songs had sweet little melodies, but as in nursery rhymes, there was a dark gothic undercurrent to them -- like Ring Around the Rosies, which happens to be a charming little plague song.
The most famous of these folk songs was the 1958 hit Tom Dooley, a track off a Kingston Trio album which set off the second folk revival [the first was in the early '40s with groups like the Weavers] and was Dylan's initial inspiration for getting involved in folk music. [I prefer Doc Watson's version.] And it was the very success of the syrupy folk trios that inspired Dylan's future manager to assemble one himself: Peter, Paul and Mary. They would make Dylan, the prophet of the folk protest movement, a star and lead to consequences that even he did not foresee. Their version of Blowin' in the Wind would become so successful that it would sound the death knell for the folk protest movement. Ultimately there would be more than sixty versions of it, "all performing the same function," as Michael Gray says, of "anesthetizing Dylan's message."
Be that as it may, it is a great song, one of the anthems of the Civil Rights movement. Its power in no small measure is due to the allusiveness of its lyrics which deliver the protest message without tying it to particular events. It's topical without being topical and marks a difference between Dylan, and say, Phil Ochs.
And now for some love songs.
Gloria Lynne, I Wish You Love. A great version from 1964. Lynne died at 83 in 2013. Here's what Marlene Dietrich does with it.
Ketty Lester, Love Letters. Another great old tune in a 1962 version. The best to my taste.
1. Keith Burgess-Jackson quotes Jamie Glazov on the hatred of Islamists and leftists for St. Valentine's Day. Another very interesting similarity between these two totalitarian movements. Recalling past inamorata of a Saturday night while listening to sentimental songs -- is this not the height of bourgeois self-indulgence when you should be plotting ways to blow up the infidel or bring down capitalism? But we who defend the private life against totalitarian scum must be careful not to retreat too far into the private life. A certain amount of activism and engagement is necessary to keep the totalitarians in check.
2. On Thomas Merton: “All the love and all the death in me are at the moment wound up in Joan Baez’s ‘Silver Dagger,’” the man wrote to his lady love in 1966. “I can’t get it out of my head, day or night. I am obsessed with it. My whole being is saturated with it. The song is myself — and yourself for me, in a way.”
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.Bonnie Raitt does a good job with it. Or perhaps you prefer the angel-throated Joan Baez. 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.
In Chapter 42 of his Essays, Montaigne remarks that
We praise a horse for its strength and speed, not on account of its harness; a greyhound for its swiftness and not its collar; a hawk for its wing and not for its jesses and bells. Why then do we not value a man for what is his? . . . If you bargain over a horse, you remove its trappings, you see it bare and uncovered . . . . Why, when estimating a man, do you estimate him all wrapped and muffled up? . . . We must judge him by himself, not by his attire. (Tr. E. J. Trechmann)
I am tempted to agree by saying what I once said to my mother when she told me that clothes make the man, namely, that if clothes make the man, then the kind of man that clothes make is not the kind of man I want to be. (Women are undeniably more sensitive than men to the fact that the world runs on appearances. They have a deep intuitive understanding of the truth that the Germans express when they say, Der Schein regiert die Welt.)
But there is another side to the problem, one that the excellent Montaigne ignores. A horse does not choose its bit and harness, but has them imposed on it. A man, however, chooses how he will appear to his fellows, and so choosing makes a statement as to his values and disvalues. It follows that there is some justification in judging by externals. For the externals we choose, unlike the externals imposed on a horse, are defeasible indicators of what is internal. In the case of human beings, the external is not merely external: the external is also an expression of the internal. Our outer trappings express our attitudes and beliefs, our allegiances and alignments.
But enough philosophy! On to some tunes. We get things off to a rousing start this fine Saturday evening with
ZZ Top, Sharp-Dressed Man. This one goes out to Mike Valle who is definitely strutting his sartorial stuff these days.
David Dalton, Who is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan, Hyperion, 2012, p. 65:
As Dave van Ronk pointed out in his autobiography, many of the people involved in the first folk revival of the 1930s and '40s were Jewish -- as were the folkies of the '60s. Van Ronk reasoned that for Jews, belonging to a movement centered on American traditional music was a form of belonging and assimilation.
[. . .]
"The revelation that Jack [Elliot] was Jewish was vouchsafed unto Bobby one afternoon at the Figaro," Van Ronk recalled. "We were sitting around shooting the bull with Barry Kornfeld and maybe a couple of other people and somehow it came out that Jack had grown up in Ocean Parkway and was named Elliot Adnopoz. Bobby literally fell off his chair; he was rolling around on the floor, and it took him a couple of minutes to pull himself together and get up again. Then Barry, who can be diabolical in things like this, leaned over to him and just whispered the word 'Adnopoz' and back he went under the table."
Lacking as it does the proper American cowboy resonance, 'Elliot Charles Adnopoz' was ditched by its bearer who came to call himself 'Ramblin' Jack Elliot.' Born in 1931 in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who wanted him to become a doctor, young Adnopoz rebelled, ran away, and became a protege of Woody Guthrie. If it weren't for Ramblin' Jack, Guthrie would be nowhere near as well-known as he is today.
Pretty Boy Floyd. "As through this life you ramble, as through this life you roam/You'll never see an outlaw drive a family from their home." No? An example of the tendency of lefties invariably to take the side of the underdog regardless of whether right or wrong.
After a long and leisurely breakfast this morning with Peter Lupu, Mike Valle, and Richard Klaus, I stopped by Bookman's and got lucky. I found a used copy of Milton Steinberg's 1939 novel, As a Driven Leaf. The title is from Job 13: 24-25: "Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face. . . Wilt thou harass a driven leaf?" I learned about this novel from Joseph Epstein's recent WSJ piece, Balancing Faith and Reason.
And then I got lucky in the CD aisle, stumbling upon the soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis. I listened to it on the drive home with raindrops on the windshield and tears in my eyes. Here are some tunes from it:
John Lennon was gunned down this night in 1980 by Mark David Chapman. I remember that night well: a student of mine called me in the middle of it to report the slaying. Lennon was my least favorite Beatle due to his silly utopianism, as expressed in the lyrically inane 'Imagine,' but this tune of his from the 1965 Rubber Soul album is a gem, and more than fit to remember him by.
And I believe he penned Tomorrow Never Knows from the Revolver album, the best song I know of about meditation. It gives me goose bumps still, almost 50 years later.
What is wrong with people who don't drink or enjoy coffee? They must not value consciousness and intensity of experience. Poor devils! Perhaps they're zombies (in the philosophers' sense).
UPDATE (11/24): Up from a nap, I pour me a serious cup of serious java (Kirkland Portland Bold), and log onto to email where I find a note from Patrick Kurp who recommends Rick Danko and Paul Butterfield, Java Blues, one hard-driving, adrenalin-enabling number which, in synergy with the nap and the aforesaid java, has this old man banging hard on all synaptic 'cylinders' and ready for some more scribbling.
Chicory is a cheat. It cuts it but doesn't cut it.
"The taste of java is like a volcanic rush/No one is going to stop me from drinking too much . . . ."
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, into "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns," 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 1970 Is That All There is?
Hazy, warm memories of listening to this on the Bringing It All Back Home album . . . with my sweet girl at an after-party in some guy's pad following a night at the Sink on the Hill in Boulder, 1965 . . . filtered, rosy light . . . youthful bliss before Vietnam . . .
Before we get on to songs with 'I' in the title -- the word, not the letter or the Roman numeral -- we pause to note the passing of Jack Bruce, bass player for Cream who died a week ago. It is appropriate, therefore, that we should begin with
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, New York Review Books, 1990, p. 223, Notebook L, Aph. #67:
If we did not remember our youth, we should [would] not be aware of old age: the malady of age consists solely in our no longer being able to do what we could do formerly. For the old man is certainly as perfect a creature in his own way as is the young.
Sex, drugs, and rock & roll without the drugs. In memory of the recently late Paul Revere of Paul Revere and the Raiders, a '60s outfit with a garage-band sound I never much liked, which had a hit with the anti-drug Kicks with which I shall kick off tonight's offerings.
No “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton?! That’s a huge and surprising omission, unless you don’t take it to be either pro- or anti-drug. Clapton himself calls it anti-drug, so perhaps a Sunday supplement should ensue. On the kudos side, I’m glad that you labeled “Puff” and “Lucy” as only dubiously classified as drug songs, as both songs’ authors have vehemently and repeatedly protested their songs’ innocence.
My title indicates that my focus is on anti-drug sons. J. J. Cale's tune "Cocaine" is pretty clearly pro-drug, as witness the lyrics:
If you wanna hang out you've got to take her out; cocaine. If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine. She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.
If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues; cocaine. When your day is done and you wanna run; cocaine. She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.
If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on; cocaine. Don't forget this fact, you can't get it back; cocaine. She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.
True, Clapton has claimed that the song is anti-drug, but the claim is simply not credible. Generally speaking, artists' opinions about their works are not to be given much credence. Dylan is an example of one who has spoken nonsense about the meaning of his own songs.
Just read the above lyrics. The meaning is clear. You need cocaine to 'hang out' and to 'get down.' The second phrase means to party, to have sex, to have a good time, to jump up and dance. It does not mean to bring yourself down either physically or mentally. But then why "down on the ground"? Because it rhymes, and this is just a popular song the lyrics of which were scribbled in a couple of minutes. To write a song like this you start with a chord progression and a guitar riff and then find some words to go along with them.
And then we are told that cocaine "don't lie"; she takes you away from the phony workaday world of the uncool and puts you in touch with reality. And in her embrace there is an escape from bad news and a cure for the blues. If you've lost your 'mojo' and its on the sag and your 'thing' is gone, you can get it back with this stuff. And "she don't lie!"
There is simply no way this song could be interpreted as anti-drug. It is pretty clearly, though not obviously, pro-drug.
Clapton ought to 'man up' and admit it. Arguing that it is anti-drug would be like arguing that the Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together is a stern warning against premarital sex, or that their Under My Thumb is a feminist anthem.
That's why I didn't include Clapton's "Cocaine" on my list of anti-drug songs.
Jack Kerouac in a letter from 17 January 1962: "Everybody is making money off my ideas, like those "Route 66" TV producers, everybody except me . . . ." (Selected Letters 1957-1969, ed, Charters, Viking 1999, p. 326; see also p. 461 and pp. 301-302.) Here is the Nelson Riddle theme music from the TV series. And here is part of an episode from the series which ran from 1960-1964. George Maharis bears a striking resemblance to Jack, wouldn't you say? And notice Maharis is riding shotgun. Kerouac wasn't a driver. Neal Cassady was the driver.
Now dig Bobby Troup. And if that's too cool for you, here is Depeche Mode. Chuck Berry, the RollingStones, Dr. Feelgood, and others have covered the tune.
While I was making dinner, Susie put on a CD of Pete Seegar [sic] songs. I was struck once again by the oft-remarked fact that for half a century, the left has had all the good songs. That cannot be irrelevant.
By the way, the old commie's name is 'Seeger' not 'Seegar.' In the ComBox, some guy confuses him with Bob Seger! The Left has had all the good songs over the last 50 years? Nonsense. Here are 50 counterexamples.
The really interesting case is Bob Dylan. The Left can of course claim the early topical songs such as "Only a Pawn in Their Game" and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. (Not that we contemporary conservatives don't take on board all that was good in these critiques of racism and Jim Crow.) But it wasn't long before Dylan distanced himself from politics and leftist ideology, a distancing documented in My Back Pages. And then came the absurdist-existentialist-surrealist phase represented by the three mid-'sixties albums, Bring It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. After that, the motorcycle accident and another attitude adjustment culminating in a couple of masterful albums, John Wesley Harding and New Morning, in which religious and conservative themes come to the fore.
I'll give just one example, Sign on a Window, from the October 1970 album, New Morning. This marvellous version sung by Melanie Safka. The song concludes:
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 That must be what it's all about.
Now for a few tunes from the NRO list with the NRO write-up.
1. Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who. The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naïve idealism once and for all. “There’s nothing in the streets / Looks any different to me / And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye. . . . Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” The instantly recognizable synthesizer intro, Pete Townshend’s ringing guitar, Keith Moon’s pounding drums, and Roger Daltrey’s wailing vocals make this one of the most explosive rock anthems ever recorded — the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives.
2. Don’t Tread on Me by Metallica. A head-banging tribute to the doctrine of peace through strength, written in response to the first Gulf War: “So be it / Threaten no more / To secure peace is to prepare for war.”
3. 20th Century Man by The Kinks. “You keep all your smart modern writers / Give me William Shakespeare / You keep all your smart modern painters / I’ll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci, and Gainsborough. . . . I was born in a welfare state / Ruled by bureaucracy / Controlled by civil servants / And people dressed in grey / Got no privacy got no liberty / ’Cause the 20th-century people / Took it all away from me.”
5. Wake Up Little Susie by The Everly Brothers. A smash hit in 1957, back when high-school social pressures were rather different from what they have become: “We fell asleep, our goose is cooked, our reputation is shot.”
From time to time it is perhaps appropriate that we should relax a little the bonds that tether us to the straight and narrow. A fitting apologia for a bit of indulgence and even overindulgence is found in Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind, XVII, 8-9, tr. Basore:
At times we ought to reach even the point of intoxication, not drowning ourselves in drink, yet succumbing to it; for it washes away troubles, and stirs the mind from its very depths and heals its sorrow just as it does certain ills of the body; and the inventor of wine is not called the Releaser [Liber, Bacchus] on account of the license it gives to the tongue, but because it frees the mind from bondage to cares and emancipates it and gives it new life and makes it bolder in all that it attempts. But, as in freedom, so in wine there is a wholesome moderation.
Sed ut libertatis ita vini salubris moderatio est.
. . .
Yet we ought not to do this often, for fear that the mind may contract an evil habit; nevertheless there are times when it must be drawn into rejoicing and freedom, and gloomy sobriety must be banished for a while.
Joan Baez, Rock Salt and Nails. "If the ladies was squirrels with high bushy tails/I'd fill up my shotgun with rock salt and nails." This is undoubtedly (!)the best version of this great Utah Phillips song.
A lonely soldier cleans his gun and dreams of Galveston.
A slacker standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona spies a girl in a flatbed Ford.
Johnny Rivers heads East via Phoenix and Albuquerque.
From Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah, this sojourner of the American night has driven every kind of rig that's ever been made.
Update (9/1). Ed Farrell writes, "The Little Feat version of I'm Willin is a good one. But my favorite version will probably remain the one done by Seatraincirca 1970--which was the standard road song for Sierra climbing trips in late high school/college. Seatrain never really took off as a band but their musicianship was quite good though their style was difficult to pigeonhole."
That is a good version, indeed better than Little Feat's. There were a lot of great bands back in the day that never really made it. Another is Fever Tree. I remember hearing them circa '68 live at a club called The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood or West L. A. Give a careful listen to The Sun Also Rises.
Ed also recommends Seatrain's version of the Carole King composition, Creepin Midnight. Produced by George Martin.
Finally, please take a look at Ed's spectacular photography.
A musician needs a muse. George Harrison and Eric Clapton found her in Pattie Boyd. Here are five of the best known songs that she is said to have inspired. If you don't love at least four of these five, you need a major soul adjustment.
Once upon a time Once when you were mine I remember skies Mirrored in your eyes I wonder where you are I wonder if you Think about me Once upon a time In your wildest dreams In your wildest dreams In your wildest dreams.
Maybe somewhere down the road a ways You'll think of me and wonder where I am these days Maybe somewhere down the road when someone plays Purple Haze
[. . .]
Well it's all right, even if you're old and gray Well it's all right, you still have something to say Well it's all right, remember to live and let live Well it's all right, best you can do is forgive.
For some reason, The Monkees's Daydream Believer always puts me in mind of Jean H. who captured my fancy back in the first and second grades. I don't know why it should except for the line, "wake up sleepy Jean . . . ."
I remember my old pal Joe O. who I've known since kindergarten riffing on the "roovi do" line in the Randy and the Rainbows 1963 hit Denise, so I'll dedicate this one to him. Great video, by the way, from a time when America stood tall in the world.
List found here. Hyperlinks by BV to songs he is in the mood to revisit this Saturday night while he drinks a specialty boilermaker: a bourbon and sweet vermouth wine spodiodi with a Sam Adams Boston Lager 'chaser.' He will repeat as necessary to achieve the requisite mood. He drinks only one time per week, this time of the week. For some, alcohol is the devil in liquid form. For BV it is a delightful adjunct to a civilized life, one he can take or leave. To hell with Sharia and its 'liberal' and leftist enablers.
BILLBOARD (USA) MAGAZINE'S SINGLES CHART FOR WEEK OF:August 1,1964 TW LW Wks. Song-Artist 1 2 3 A HARD DAY'S NIGHT-BEATLES 2 1 7 Rag Doll-Four Seasons 3 6 6 The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)-Jan & Dean 4 11 5 Everybody Loves Somebody-Dean Martin 5 18 4 Where Did Our Love Go-Supremes 6 9 7 Wishin' And Hopin'-Dusty Springfield 7 8 8 Dang Me-Roger Miller 8 3 11 I Get Around-Beach Boys 9 4 10 Memphis-Johnny Rivers 10 5 9 The Girl From Ipanema-Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto 11 13 6 Under The Boardwalk-Drifters 12 14 6 Nobody I Know-Peter & Gordon 13 7 8 Can't You See That She's Mine-Dave Clark Five 14 10 9 Keep On Pushing-The Impressions 15 20 7 I Wanna Love Him So Bad-The Jelly Beans 16 12 9 Good Times-Sam Cooke 17 22 6 How Glad I Am-Nancy Wilson 18 15 9 Try It Baby-Marvin Gaye 19 23 7 Farmer John-The Premiers 20 25 7 Steal Away-Jimmy Hughes
Before getting on with tonight's theme, we pause to remember Johnny Winter (1944-2014). Can a white boy play the blues? I heard the question debated in the '60s and I took the line that the blues was a language anyone could learn whether a Jew like Mike Bloomfield (Albert's Shuffle) or an albino like Johnny Winter (Serious as a Heart Attack).
Wikipedia: According to [Dylan] biographer Clinton Heylin, "When The Ship Comes In" was written in August 1963 "in a fit of pique, in a hotel room, after his unkempt appearance had led an impertinent hotel clerk to refuse him admission until his companion, Joan Baez, had vouched for his good character". Heylin speculates that "Jenny's Song" from Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera was also an inspiration: "As Pirate Jenny dreams of the destruction of all her enemies by a mysterious ship, so Dylan envisages the neophobes being swept aside in 'the hour when the ship comes in'." Dylan's former girlfriend Suze Rotolo recalls that her "interest in Brecht was certainly an influence on him. I was working for the Circle in the Square Theater and he came to listen all the time. He was very affected by the song that Lotte Lenya's known for, 'Pirate Jenny'."
It was 30 years ago tomorrow, during a training run. Running pioneer James F. Fixx, author of the wildly successful The Complete Book of Running, keeled over dead of cardiac arrest. He died with his 'boots' on, and not from running but from a bad heart. It's a good bet that his running added years to his life in addition to adding life to his years. I've just pulled my hardbound copy of The Complete Book of Running from the shelf. It's a first edition, 1977, in good condition with dust jacket. I read it when it first came out. Do I hear $1000? Just kidding, it's not for sale. This book and the books of that other pioneer, George Sheehan, certainly made a difference in my life.
The atavism and simplicity and cleansing quality of a good hard run are particularly beneficial for Luftmenschen. Paradoxically, the animality of it releases lofty thoughts.
See here for a comparison of Fixx and Sartre. And here for something on George Sheehan. Now for some 'running' tunes.
Del Shannon, Runaway. Charles Weedon Westover was born 30 December 1934 and is best known for his 1961 #1 hit, "Runaway." Suffering from depression, Shannon committed suicide on February 8, 1990, with a .22-caliber rifle at his home in Santa Clarita, California. Following his death, the Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of "Runaway".
I should have mentioned it last night. Today, 20 July, is not only the 30th anniversary of Jim Fixx's death, but also the 49th anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. Wikipedia:
The song had a huge impact on Bruce Springsteen, who was 15 years old when he first heard it. Springsteen described the moment during his speech inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and also assessed the long-term significance of "Like a Rolling Stone":
The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind ... The way that Elvis freed your body, Dylan freed your mind, and showed us that because the music was physical did not mean it was anti-intellect. He had the vision and talent to make a pop song so that it contained the whole world. He invented a new way a pop singer could sound, broke through the limitations of what a recording could achieve, and he changed the face of rock'n'roll for ever and ever "
Dylan's contemporaries in 1965 were both startled and challenged by the single. Paul McCartney remembered going around to John Lennon's house in Weybridge to hear the song. According to McCartney, "It seemed to go on and on forever. It was just beautiful ... He showed all of us that it was possible to go a little further."Frank Zappa had a more extreme reaction: "When I heard 'Like a Rolling Stone', I wanted to quit the music business, because I felt: 'If this wins and it does what it's supposed to do, I don't need to do anything else ...' But it didn't do anything. It sold but nobody responded to it in the way that they should have." Nearly forty years later, in 2003, Elvis Costello commented on the innovative quality of the single. "What a shocking thing to live in a world where there was Manfred Mann and the Supremes and Engelbert Humperdinck and here comes 'Like a Rolling Stone'".
Your humble correspondent was lying in the sand at Huntington Beach, California, when the song came on the radio. It was like nothing else on the radio in those days of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. It 'blew my mind.' What is THAT? And WHO is that? I had been very vaguely aware of some B. Dylan as the writer of PPM's Don't Think Twice. I pronounced the name like 'Dial in.' That memorable summer of '65 I became a Dylan fanatic, researching him at the library and buying all his records. The fanaticism faded with the '60s. But while no longer a fanatic, I remain a fan.
But before getting on to the greaseball crooners, a bit of R & R history. London Ed reminds me that today, the 5th of July, 2014, is the 60th anniversary of the recording of Elvis Presley's That's Alright, Mama, his first commercial record. It was written and first recorded by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup in 1946. Some say that Presley's recording is the first rock and roll record. Others give the palm to the 1951 Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Kings. The associated video features footage (and 'leggage') of Bettie Page, that innocent and unwitting sex kitten of the '50s. She got religion big time later on, as did Dion Dimucci, but that's another and another Saturday Night at the Oldies . . . .
But first one who didn't. An early manager suggested to Frank Sinatra that he adopt the stage name 'Frankie Satin.' Sinatra would have none of that bullshit. He did things his way. You got a problem with that? That's Life.
Margaret Battavio (Little Peggy March), I Will Follow Him. This one goes out to the sycophants of the Ladderman.
Frank Castelluccio (Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons), Can't Take My Eyes Off of You. Dawn.Walk Like a Man. Wifey and I saw Jersey Boys, the movie, and enjoyed it immensely. Here's the trailer. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Gets a lot of the period details right, like women's slacks with the zipper up the back. See how many period references you can identify. Topo Gigio. The Blob. Etc.
Two pop music notables died this last week, lyricist Gerry Goffin and disc jockey Casey Kasem. Both played key roles in delivering the Boomer 'soundtrack.' Goffin, ex-husband of Carole King, died in Los Angeles on Wednesday at age 75. Here are some of the tunes he co-wrote with King.
America's greatest songwriter, Bob Dylan, turns 73 today. We celebrate with some outstanding covers of some of his best songs. There are two reasons for sending you to the covers: Dylan's own renditions tend to get removed from YouTube very shortly after they've been posted; many cannot stand Dylan's voice. If you are among the latter, these renditions may change your mind about his music.
No reason to get excited The thief he kindly spoke There are many here among us Who feel that life is but a joke But you and I we've been through that And this is not our fate So let us not talk falsely now The hour is getting late.
Laurence Auster comments: 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.
How many of these do you remember? If you were too much of the '60s then you probably don't remember anything assuming you still animate the mortal coil; if you were too little of the '60s then you won't remember any of these for a different reason. But among the latter are some very beautiful songs from that amazingly creative time.
Dick Dale and the Deltones, Misirlou. Before Clapton, before Bloomfield, my first guitar hero. "King of the Surf Guitar." Pipeline (with Stevie Ray Vaughan). Nitro (with So Cal scenes). Let's Go Trippin', 1961. The first surf instrumental?
I missed Saturday Night at the Oldies because I was in La Mirada, California, for a conference at Biola University. Ed Feser gave the keynote address and I was the commentator. More about the proceedings later, perhaps. But for now a quick make-up:
An appropriate selection given the seismic events of Friday and Saturday in LaLaLand. On Friday evening I was quietly and comfortably ensconced in an easy chair in the guest suite of the Biola Philosophy House reading the Bible and Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics back and forth, when I felt the chair shift. I was puzzled for a second until I realized that I was in Southern Calfornia, earthquake country. I thought: no big deal. As a native Californian, this was nothing new to my experience. (I remember in particular the early morning San Fernando/Sylmar quake of February '71.)
Later that night, in bed, it was a bigger deal: the bed began moving back and forth. I reflected that the Philosophy House was single-story and that egress was quick and easy should that be necessary. So I went back to sleep.
The third tremor I recall was near the end of the conference, and the fourth, rather more serious, occurred on Saturday night while David Limbaugh, Adam Omelianchuk, Ed Feser and I were enjoying a nice quiet conversation over beer in the Philosophy House.
It is good to be back on (relative) terra firma, here in Arizona, where earthquakes are infrequent and mild. I've been out here 23 years and I don't recall experiencing even one.
Experts say a bigger earthquake along the lesser-known fault that gave Southern California a moderate shake could do more damage to the region than the long-dreaded "Big One" from the more famous San Andreas Fault.
The Puente Hills thrust fault, which brought Friday night's magnitude-5.1 quake centered in La Habra and well over 100 aftershocks by Sunday, stretches from northern Orange County under downtown Los Angeles into Hollywood — a heavily populated swath of the Los Angeles area.
A magnitude-7.5 earthquake along that fault could prove more catastrophic than one along the San Andreas, which runs along the outskirts of metropolitan Southern California, seismologists said.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that such a quake along the Puente Hills fault could kill 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage. In contrast, a larger magnitude 8 quake along the San Andreas would cause an estimated 1,800 deaths. [. . .]
Bob Dylan, High Water. This is a late-career Dylan gem from Love and Theft (2001). A tribute to Charley Patton. Demonstrates Dylan's mastery of the arcana of Americana. Our greatest and deepest singer-songwriter. Here is some fairly good analysis by Kees de Graaf:
“I got a cravin’ love for blazing speed, got a hopped-up Mustang Ford, jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties overboard. I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind, I’m no pig without a wig, I hope you treat me kind, things are breakin’ up out there, high water everywhere”. When the world is under threat of being wiped out, one may expect that man will repent. But that is usually not the case. On the contrary, in the Apocalypse, the low natural tendencies of man seem to thrive like never before. The saying “let’s eat and drink and be merry, because tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32) rings true. This is expressed in various ways in the song. First in “a cravin’ love for blazing speed”; the word ‘craving’ indicates that this love for blazing speed has something of a compulsion neurosis. The words “A hopped up Mustang Ford” in combination with “craving love” and “blazing speed” is a brilliant pun. A Mustang Ford is said to be a “speedy car, but “speed” is also a drug for which you may be “craving”. So you may be “craving” for the drug “speed”, but you may also have a craving love for blazing “speed”” – that is for driving very fast. The reason why the Mustang Ford is called “hopped up” is because it is a very “speed-y”, fast car. By the way, speed (methamphetamine) is a dangerous and unpredictable drug, sometimes lethal, representing the fastest growing drug abuse threat in America today. Speed is a potent and addictive central nervous system stimulant, closely related chemically to amphetamine, but with greater central nervous system effects. “Hopped up” means ‘high’ or ‘stoned’, the word is derived from “hop", a nickname for heroin and/or opium, but it can refer to the effects of any drug. . . .
My favorite verse:
Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew You can't open up your mind, boys, to every conceivable point of view They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway 5 Judge says to the High Sheriff, "I want them dead or alive" Either one, I don't care, high water everywhere.
Nosiree, Bob, you can't open up your mind to every conceivable point of view, especially when its not dark yet, but it's getting there.
Karla Bonoff, The Water is Wide. I listened to a lot of Bonoff in the early '80s. She does a great job with this traditional song.
Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, Banks of the Ohio. Joan Baez's version from an obscure 1959 album, Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square.
Similar theme though not water-related: Doc Watson, Tom Dooley. Doc and family in a BBC clip.
Standells, Dirty Water. Boston and the River Charles. My mecca in the '70s, the Athens of America, the Hub of the Universe, etc. A great town to be young in. But when it comes time to own property and pay taxes, then a right-thinking man high tails it for the West.
Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water. A beautiful song. May it provide some solace for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Henry Mancini, Moon River. This was Jack Kerouac's favorite song. Ellis Amburn, Subterranean Kerouac (St. Martin's 1998), p. 324:
One night he [Kerouac, during a 1962 visit to Lowell, Mass.] left a bar called Chuck's with Huck Finneral, a reedy, behatted eccentric who carried a business card that read: "Professional killer . . . virgins fixed . . . orgies organized, dinosaurs neutered, contracts & leases broken." Huck's philosophy of life was: "Better a wise madness than a foolish sanity." They drove to a friend's house in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and on the way, Jack sang "Moon River," calling it his favorite song. Composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, "Moon River" was the theme song of the popular Audrey Hepburn movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Sobbed by a harmonica, later swelling with strings and chorus, the plaintive tune's gentle but epic-like lyrics describe a dreamer and roamer not unlike Kerouac.
Indeed they do. A restless dreamer, a lonesome traveller, a dharma seeker, a desolation angel passing through this vale of mist, a drifter on the river of samsara hoping one day to cross to the Far Shore. Here is another version of the tune with some beautiful images.
Doc Watson, Moody River. A moodier version than the Pat Boone hit. Clever YouTube comment: "It might be a little early in the day for an Am7." But this here's Saturday night and I'm working on my second wine spodiodi. Chords minor and melancholy go good 'long about now.
The Left Banke, Walk Away Renee, 1966. This song is the personal soundtrack to 40-year-old memories of a woman, older than me, whom I loved from afar, a love never revealed to its object. Does hidden love count as unrequited love?
Lenny Welch, Since I Fell for You, 1963. You say it's sentimental? Well, what would life be without sentiment and feeling? Qualia are what make life worth living, as a philosopher might put it. It would be interesting to try to figure out just what sentimentality is, and what is wrong with it.
One self-indulgently 'wallows' in a sentimental song, giving into its 'cheap' emotions. The emotions are 'false' and 'faked.' The melody and lyrics are formulaic and predictable, 'catchy.' The listener allows himself to be manipulated by the songwriter who is out to 'push the listener's buttons.' The aesthetic experience is not authentic but vicarious. And so on. Adorno would not approve.
It was 50 years ago tomorrow. Your humble correspondent was among the 73 million Americans who tuned in to see the Lads from Liverpool, the Four Moptops, the Fab Four, as they were variously known. Later, in '64 or '65 I saw them live at the Hollywood Bowl. What remains are all those great tunes, hundreds of them. So pour yourself a stiff one, and give a listen.
Something, 1969. Although not as prolific as Lennon and McCartney, George Harrison here proves he can write a song as good as anything they wrote. Frank Sinatra considered it the greatest love song ever written. A Sinatra version.
0:00 - You Never Give Me Your Money 4:03 - Sun King 6:29 - Mean Mr. Mustard 7:35 - Polythene Pam 8:48 - She Came in Through the Bathroom Window 10:47 - Golden Slumbers 12:19 - Carry That Weight 13:55 - The End
According to Ron Radosh, ". . . 'The Hammer Song,' known by most as “If I Had a Hammer,” was written by Lee Hays (not Seeger) as a song to be used in defense of the indicted Communists, and not as a clarion call for brotherhood." May of us were fooled way back when, we who heard it first in the Peter, Paul, and Mary version. The Seeger version.
Back to Radosh for context, and to stem the deluge of uncritical praise (bolding added):
Pete Seeger’s death at the age of 94 has brought forth scores of celebratory tributes. America had long ago showered him with honors, which all but made up for the scorn with which he was once held in the age of the blacklist. Seeger received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1994, as well as multiple Grammys. He was named one of America’s “living legends” by the Library of Congress, was asked to sing at the 2009 inauguration of President Obama, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had become, as a Washington Post story once put it, “America’s Best Loved Commie.”
Without Seeger’s influence and sponsorship of folk music, from traditional Appalachian ballads to slave songs of the Old South, many would never have appreciated folk music, nor would it have become a genre whose influence has spread far and wide. He experimented with “world music” long before anyone had used that term; when abroad, he collected songs and brought them back to the United States. “Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight),” written by Solomon Linda and used in The Lion King, is a major example of a South African song Seeger brought here generations before Paul Simon.
What other artist would receive a statement from the president of the United States honoring him, not to speak of the scores of senators and members of Congress who found inspiration in his voice and his singing?
Yet, an honest appreciation of Pete Seeger cannot be left at what most accolades have done. Indeed, since his political vision, his service over the decades to the brutality of Soviet-era Stalinism and to all of the post-Cold War leftist tyrannies, was inseparable from the music he made, it simply cannot be overlooked. For, more often than not, Seeger’s voice was heard in defense of causes in which only fools could still believe. As Paul Berman put it, “Let us sing ‘If I Had a Hammer,’ then, and, at every third verse, let our hammers bop Pete Seeger on the head for having been a fool and an idiot.”
And calling him a fool and an idiot is, indeed, not too harsh a judgment to make about Pete Seeger. I say that sadly, as a person for whom Pete was a childhood hero. I studied banjo with him, got to know him, and visited him at the legendary home he built from scrap in Beacon, New York.
For years, all that Pete Seeger said about Joseph Stalin, whose regime he served without a blink for decades, was that the Soviet leader was a “hard driver.”
[. . .]
During the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939-41), Seeger sang antiwar songs that, in effect, called for the support of Hitler. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, he withdrew the songs he had just recorded and suddenly supported the “antifascist alliance” between the United States and the Soviets. During the Cold War, he supported unilateral American disarmament and backed one Soviet propaganda campaign after the other. “Put My Name Down, Brother, Where Do I Sign?” he sang, calling for signatures on the Stockholm Peace Petition developed by KGB fronts in Europe.
During the Vietnam war, Seeger not only helped lead the antiwar movement, he also sang in praise of the brutal Ho Chi Minh. Lyndon B. Johnson was called “a big fool” in one of his most famous songs, while he sang of Ho Chi Minh: He educated all the people, / He demonstrated to the world, / If a man will stand for hisown land, / He’s got the strength of ten.
In 1999, Seeger traveled to Cuba to receive an award from the Castro regime. The fading Cuban tyrants honored him with their highest cultural award, given for “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism,” which was in and of itself a travesty. Accepting an award from Fidel Castro should make it clear that Seeger’s would-be humanism and protest was aimed at one side only: his own country, which he clearly thought was led by the world’s sole oppressors.
One cannot hope to be thought of as a defender of human rights and also accept an award from the Cuban police state. That, too, must be taken into consideration when evaluating what Pete Seeger really learned from his own Stalinist past.
In his last years, Seeger, who, in the period when the Soviet Union was briefly pro-Israel, sang songs in both Hebrew and Yiddish (including Israeli songs), gave his support to boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) against Israel, even to the extent that he handed over royalties from “Turn, Turn, Turn” to the movement.
A great folk singer who contributed much to the American story, he was fatally flawed by the leftism he imbibed with his mother’s milk. How telling that a man who sought social justice, peace, and a livable world could, at the same time, believe that serving leftist tyrants was somehow compatible with his dream of universality and solidarity.