Hearing Rep. Joe Wilson (R – SC) shout out “You lie!” at the President last night reminded me of a similar confrontation between Bob Dylan and a hostile audience at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England recorded on May 17, 1966.
Often mis-billed as the “Royal Albert Hall” Concert, the bootleg documents Dylan a week before his 25th birthday, enduring the tail-end of an ill-fated “World Tour.” Throughout Europe (and particularly in Britain) he had met with widespread distaste at his choice to tour with a full rock band (the Hawks here would later become The Band with the original and incomparable Levon Helm on drums. Sitting in here is Mickey Jones). Many fans who had deeply admired Dylan’s earlier folk music saw the electric set as crass if not an outright betrayal. In a scene from Marty Scorcese’s excellent documentary “No Direction Home”, a prying fan hounds Dylan, asking to inspect his left fingertips for callouses, somehow indicating that he’d been playing acoustic guitar rather than electric or, God forbid, the piano. Dylan bristles, “Left fingertips? I wouldn’t even show you my right hand.”
Dylan caught the same flack from an American audience of folkies at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival after playing in front of the very loud Paul Butterfield Blues Band. It seems fans thought they were owed something from Dylan and so anything apart from their expectations was angrily dismissed as selling out.
So in May 1966 when Dylan sat down at the piano with the Hawks behind him and rolled out a rock-n-wailing version of “Ballad of a Thin Man” the sold-out crowd chafed madly. Amidst the intense between-song grumbling, someone (probably not Billy Bragg) shouted out “Judas!” and was met with loud cheering and clapping of agreement. And Dylan, not a quarter century old, couldn’t comprehend it: “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar!” His only advice for the set closer “Like a Rolling Stone” is “Play it fucking loud!”
There’s no specific analogy to the altercation at the joint session of congress last night. They just both seemed like similar moments of intense anxiety: one in politics and one in art.
I pre-ordered a few of the albums already to fill in gaps in my collection or to replace damaged discs. It’s gonna take all my self-control to not go out and buy a PS3 just to play this game.
What do you think? Is all of this a crass attempt by Apple Records, the remaining Beatles, and the estates of the dead ones to make millions and millions of dollars? Or, is it simply a way to turn a whole new generation on to the greatest, most influential pop music of all time?
John Hartford was one of the great unsung heroes of the American roots music revival. His banjo and fiddle chops were top-notch. His songwriting was robust. He made some great records in the late 60s, including “Gentle On My Mind,” which later became a hit for Glen Campbell. During that time he was a staple musician on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Johnny Cash Show, and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. He also contributed mightily to the countrified sound of the Byrds’ watershed Sweetheart of the Rodeo (hear his fiddle on “I Am a Pilgrim”). His early-70s albums reinvented bluegrass, particularly 1970’s Aereo-Plain. Often considered his masterpiece, Aereo-Plain has long been out of print and is now very difficult to find. For more about it, check the Rising Storm.
In addition to composing and performing music, Hartford was a writer, a dancer, a licensed steamboat pilot, and even provided some narration for Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary. Hartford was the weird heart and soul of newgrass music – a true and vibrant individual.
On the eve of the 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock festival, I thought it would be appropriate to post a few songs that were played there. I’m not posting the Woodstock recordings, but studio versions of the songs. I recently acquired the original 3-LP Woodstock soundtrack for a mere $3 from a Salvation Army store. I only have the Woodstock recordings on LP, and I’m too cheap/lazy to buy it on CD or download the songs again.
So, 40 years on, what’s the big deal about Woodstock? There have been countless music festivals since, and several have attracted more fans than Woodstock. Music festivals today are designed to generate as much money as possible for the organizers and other vendors hawking their wares at festival sites. To be sure, the Woodstock festival was originally intended as a moneymaking venture as well, but the sheer mass of people converging unexpectedly on the site rendered ticket collection impossible. Also, some rather enterprising individuals cut the fences down, allowing people to walk right in. This ultimately made Woodstock about the music, instead of the dollar. Attending a music festival today, one is never allowed to forget that they are seen by the festival organizers as nothing more than a consumer, and that is truly unfortunate.
Also, Woodstock was pretty much the zenith of the hippie subculture. It was really all downhill from there. I’m reminded of a quote from The Simpsons, wherein a couple of old hippies reminisce about their VW Bus: “It was as if the Sixties ended the day we sold it, December 31st, 1969.” Woodstock being in August was in a way the beginning of the end of the Sixties.
Let us not forget that none of this music would have been possible without the invention of one recently deceased Les Paul.
Isaac Hayes – “Walk On By” from Hot Buttered Soul (1969)
I don’t love Isaac Hayes — at least not his gold-chain shaved-head solo career. His singing doesn’t usually do it for me — he often lacks poise and urgency. Few of his molasses-thick string arrangements hit the sweet spot. While his keyboard work tends to be quite good, I wish he let the funk grooves carry the songs. There’s a cheesiness to his music that tends toward the embarrassing.
All that said, his version of Bacharach/David’s “Walk On By” that opens the recently remastered Hot Buttered Soul is damn awesome. It’s a great song, with a great organ sound, a cool string melody, a funky bassline, spooky back-up singing, a simple in-the-pocket drumbeat, weird ringing noises, fuzzy guitar, triumphant brass, flutes, a helluva crescendo. And bad mixing toward the end that cuts and raises the volume of the song willy-nilly. Everything you want in a psych-soul masterpiece.
If you like your buttered soul appetizer sized, try the single edit:
Old-school SWR visitors might remember that I am batshit-crazy about jazz giant Charles Mingus. Some of his best work was done in the early-to-mid-1960s with alto sax/bass clarinet/flute whiz kid Eric Dolphy.
This is easily one of my favorite jazz recordings ever. The musical conversation between Mingus and Dolphy toward the end is both funny and moving, and Ted Curson’s trumpet solo kills. Drummer Dannie Richmond, as always, gives Mingus a unique rhythmic drive and texture. There’s another recording of this on the faux-live album Charles Mingus Present Charles Mingus, featuring the same lineup and much more Dolphy-Mingus interaction, but to me it doesn’t hold the same fire. Listen to it yourself:
Charles Mingus – “What Love” from Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (1960)
Mingus loosely based the chord changes of “What Love?” on the jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Take a listen and see if you can hear the resemblance:
Clifford Brown & Max Roach – “What Is This Thing Called Love?” from Basin Street (1956)
Clifford Brown – trumpet
Sonny Rollins – tenor sax
Richie Powell – piano
George Morrow – bass
Max Roach – drums
Featuring Ray Manzarek on the Fender Rhodes. Since the Doors did not have a bass player, Manzarek normally played the basslines with his left hand on a Rhodes Bass Piano while playing melodies on a Vox Continental organ, but here he goes with the full-blown Rhodes and turns out a great solo.
Check out this video for a look at Manzarek’s usual setup, a blistering organ solo, and Jim Morrison’s likely drug-fueled stage antics.