Monday, May 31, 2010

Rock Family Tree: Sneakin' Sally

I love discovering unexpected connections between bands, musicians, or songs that I hadn't previously known about. With a little effort (aka research online) I've been able to uncover countless examples where I'll learn that: a song I've known for some time was actually originally performed or written by someone else of note (see previous post re: The Band covering Marvin Gaye's Baby Don't You Do It), that one famous band was born out of another famous band (e.g., Neal Schon leaving Santana to help form Journey), or that well known musicians sat in to help another artist record an album (e.g., Stephen Stills first solo album in 1970 featured appearances by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix, and Booker T. Jones in addition to David Crosby and Graham Nash).

It was a new discovery tonight that led me to write this post. To set some context, just yesterday morning while shopping at Burlington Records off of Church Street in downtown Burlington, VT, I picked up a vinyl copy of Robert Palmer's first solo record Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley. I was first introduced to the title track from this album in late 1997 when I'd read that Phish had resurrected it in their setlists after the song had been shelved from their live concerts for over eight years. After listening to the song a number of times back then and also hearing Phish play it live on 8/8/98, I was immediately drawn to it, with its relentlessly funky groove.

Fast forward to tonight where I was reading up on the album after dropping the needle on my new purchase. I was very surprised and very excited to read that Palmer was backed on the original 1974 recording of this particular song by some of my favorite musicians of all time, namely the original New Orleans funk pioneers The Meters (Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr., and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste) and Little Feat lead guitarist Lowell George. I have been a fan of these other musicians for over ten years and had no idea that they were the musical force behind Robert Palmer's solo debut with Sally. In fact, the Meters and Lowell are featured as Robert's backing band on half of the album (4 of 8 songs), with Lowell George playing on a total of five of them. On the last track, one not featuring the Meters or George, an appearance is made by none other than Steve Winwood on piano. Not bad company for a guy to start off a solo career after three unsuccessful albums with a band called Vinegar Joe. Palmer's second solo album, Pressure Drop, including the title track cover of the Toots and the Maytal's hit, found Robert backed this time by the full Little Feat lineup, including friend Lowell George on lead guitar. On one other track on this record, legendary Motown bass player and Funk Brother James Jamerson lends his skills.

Take a listen to the original Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, featuring Robert Palmer, the legendary Meters, and the incomparable Lowell George:

Bonus Facts [Source: Wikipedia]:

- This same year, 1974, Paul McCartney invited the Meters to play at the release party for his Venus and Mars album aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones was in attendance and was greatly taken with the Meters and their sound. The Rolling Stones invited the band to open for them on their Tour of the Americas '75 and Tour of Europe '76.

- Neal Schon was asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos, but since Santana called Neal only a few days earlier, he decided to join Santana instead.

Did You Know: Easy Rider Edition

In reference to the previous post, The Band's version of The Weight appears in the Easy Rider film, but the version of the song that was included on the soundtrack was performed by the band Smith because of contractual problems preventing use of The Band's original.

Listen to Smith's take on our namesake tune:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper: Liberta E Paura

As I have proselytized in past posts, Dennis Hopper is, and should always be remembered as a true American hero (ironically, it was Peter Fonda's character in Easy Rider who was named "Captain America").  Not just because he was a gifted artist -- which he most certainly was -- but because he refused to take any shit from anyone; he stood up for what he believed in -- for what we all believed in but didn't have the balls to do or say.  In fact, I will go as far as stating that without him (and I'm including his ideals, his attitude and of course, the films he bestowed upon us), the "Summer of Love" and on a wider scale, the entire hippie/counter-culture movement, might have been relegated to one forgotten footnote in the short history of this country  (Easy Rider was released about 2 months before Woodstock occurred and many of the attendees, especially those from the East, would not have been exposed to what was going on out West but for the film's penetrating message).  I firmly believe Hopper epitomized the true essence of being an American:  liberty, fearlessness, and rebellion (yes, our country was more or less founded on these principles).  And for this, I think we owe him a great debt -- or at a minimum, the proper recognition he deserves. 

I will not attempt to eulogize Hopper here because there are far better websites and other outlets where you can read detailed accounts of his life and achievements.  But I'll leave you with a quote from Easy Rider, where in his infinite wisdom, acute foresight, and comic irony, Hopper sums up nicely the significance of the counter-culture movement and even more, why this country would never be the same again thereafter:

George Hanson [Jack Nicholson]:  They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em. 
Billy [Dennis Hopper]:  Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.

Well put.

Clip from Easy Rider that brought our namesake, The Weight, into national prominence:


Covered in Dust: The Ultimate Writer's Block

The Weightstaff is comprised of 3 people.  And throughout the lifespan of The Weight's existence, we have each had our time of being prolific and/or fading into the background.  Usually, the exuberance and interest of 1 or 2 of the members carries the site and the the other is allowed to roam outside of the blogosphere.  Well, considering how long its been since I have regularly posted (think the Nixon era...or so it feels) I have been more out of the loop than Walt from the Island on Lost.  [Sorry, I couldn't resist as I'm listening to the Bill Simmons Lost season finale podcast.] 

So I'm the guy covered in dust as alluded to in the title of this post.  I finished graduate school in the last couple of weeks and was so buried in assignments and working full time that my interest in music and pop culture almost disappeared.  So forgive me if this post is more to stretch my blogging legs rather than informing you, the reader, of anything all that interesting.  But I am hoping this is the beginning of another beautiful blogship.  So bear with me here as I divulge what I have found of note in reading the latest Rolling Stone:

1) The George Harrison/Martin Scorsese biopic is still happening!  I love this pairing and am very intrigued by what the final result will be.  I want to hear more from the Silent Beatle and will be able to in 2011.  If this is as good as No Direction Home, I'll be pleased.

2) The Roots have a new tune called Dear God 2.0 with none other than jacketed Jim James.  Back in college, I loved the Roots album 'Do You Want More??!??!' because they were playing instruments when Cash Money and their electronic blips and bleeps were all the rage.  I respected it.  Good for The Roots for staying (somewhat) relevant.

3) Santana continues his spiritual "whoring himself out" streak with a covers album.  Clive Davis has convinced the guitar god to work with Chris Cornell on 'Whole Lotta Love', Joe Cocker on 'Little Wing', Rob Thomas on 'Sunshine of Your Love', and Nas on 'Back in Black'.  Really Carlos?  This sounds like next year's American Idol finale.  Did you already spend all that Supernatural cash on a shrine to Metatron?

Lastly, did Bret Michaels sell his soul to the devil?  He has worked the media perfectly so far in this latest "comeback".  So, it took cheating death to become the focus of media attention.  And I'm sure the attention will flame out.  But he should be on Celebrity Rehab not winning Celebrity Apprentice!  I applaud his latest "career".  You think Vince Neil is trying to figure out how to almost kill himself?

In the upcoming week I'm hitting up Conan O' Brien at Radio City on Wednesday and a Levon Ramble with Drive By Truckers on Saturday.  This post is hopefully the rebirth of a big part of my life over the last few years.  Here's to wasting more time together in the future...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Levon Helm Birthday Week

Not only is it Bob Dylan Birthday Week, but as one faithful reader reminded me today, its also Levon Helm Birthday Week!  Former drummer extraordinaire for The Band, he celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday, May 26th.  On Sunday June 4th, about 20 miles from his home in Woodstock, Levon will be performing on Hunter Mountain for the 4th annual Mountain Jam Festival where his current band will close out the last day of the event with a set labeled as Helm's 70th Birthday Jubilee.  The performance is scheduled to include special guests Warren Haynes, Donald Fagen, David and Patterson Hood, Sam Bush, Ray LaMontagne, Steve Earl, and Jackie Greene.

To celebrate his birthday here on The Weight, we bring you a video capturing one of my favorite Levon-sung tunes, The Band's live take on "Don't Do It" from December 1971 at the Academy of Music in NYC.

"Don't Do It", while being famous amongst fans of The Band as being the song to close The Last Waltz (and open the Scorsese-directed film), is known by fewer as a cover of a Marvin Gaye track officially titled "Baby Don't You Do It" penned by legendary Motown writers Holland–Dozier–Holland.  It was released in 1964 and features Hitsville USA musicians the Funk Brothers.  If you did know that "Don't Do It" was a Marvin Gaye cover, you've likely not heard the original version.  Take a listen here:

OK.  So let's say you knew about the Marvin Gaye version and you've even heard it before, did you know that The Who recorded and released the song in the Summer of 1972 as the B-side to 'Join Together'?

Honorable mention goes to versions of the song by The Small Faces and The Black Crowes.

Which version is your favorite?:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bob Dylan Birthday Week Part 3

On 5/24/06, Bob Dylan's 65th birthday, at the start of Pearl Jam's first encore in Boston, Eddie Vedder sat alone with a guitar and a harmonica to play a heartfelt rendition of Forever Young. This was the first and only time that this song appears in a Pearl Jam setlist. The next track played that night was Dylan's Masters of War.

As a bonus, check out Pearl Jam performing All Along The Watchtower with Ronnie Wood at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London on 11/08/09 (shaky camera alert):

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bob Dylan Birthday Week Cont'd.

In the early 70s, Loudon Wainwright III was one of the many newcomers tagged as the "next Bob Dylan". Twenty years later in 1992, at the time of Dylan's 50th birthday, LW3 wrote a song to commemorate Zimmy's milestone and also address the impact the marker had on his own career. In typical Loudon Wainwright fashion, the song is introspective, catchy...and a little bit weird. Quite coincidentally, he name drops Bruce Springsteen and John Prine, who are both currently featured with Bob Dylan as part of this week's Photo Monday:

Hey, Bob Dylan, I wrote you a song.
Today is your birthday if I'm not wrong.
If I'm not mistaken you're fifty today
How are you doin', Bob? What do you say?
Yeah, times were a-changin',
You brought it all home --
"Blonde On Blonde", "Like a Rolling Stone" .
The real world is crazy, you were deranged,
An' when you went electric, Bob, everything changed --
A shock to the system.
Yeah, I got a deal , and so did John Prine, Steve Forbert and Springsteen, all in a line.
They were lookin' for you, signin' up others,
We were "new Bob Dylans" -- your dumb-ass kid brothers.
Well, we still get together every week at Bruce's house --
Why, he's got quite a spread, I'll tell ya -- it's a twelve-step program.

Yeah, had to stop listening, times were too tough,
Me bein' the new me was hard enough.
You keep right on changin' like you always do,
An' what's best is the old stuff still all sounds new.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Photo Monday

Happy 69th Birthday to Bob Dylan!

(Dylan pictured here with a very "80's" Grateful Dead)

(Rolling Thunder-era Dylan pictured here w/ an impressionable Bruce Springsteen and John Prine)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pearl Jam Hunger Strike w/ Ben Bridwell

Two nights ago (5/21/10) Band of Horses singer Ben Bridwell joined Pearl Jam onstage at the Garden in NYC for Temple of the Dogs' tune Hunger Strike.

Hunger Strike has only been played live by Pearl Jam 24 times since its debut in Copenhagen, Denmark on 2/9/92.  It's been played only 7 times in the US and only 9 times since 1998.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Photo Monday

In celebration of Page McConnell's 47th birthday today, here is a photo (circa 1991) of Phish looking like a pack of Williamsburg Hipsters.   Is it just me, or does Page resemble a young Tom Hanks here?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Concert I Missed...

Grateful Dead, 6/25/95, RFK Stadium, Washington D.C. 
Pink Floyd, 7/9/94-7/10/94, RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.
David Gilmour, 4/5/06, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York (w/ the late Richard Wright and guests David Crosby and Graham Nash)
MGMT, 6/14/08, Late Night Set, Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tennessee (w/ guests Kirk Hammett and Zack Galifianakis)

and most recently...

Mark Knopfler, 5/6/10, United Palace Theater, New York, New York

Due to an {cough} innocent mistake in scheduling by a fellow Weightstaffer, I am adding the recent Mark Knopfler show in New York City to my list of fateful missed concert experiences.  While I can't offer any commentary on the show per se, I can say that after reading a short but pointed review (link below), I feel a bit worse than I did yesterday about not witnessing one of the finest guitarists/songwriters of the last 40 years.  Knopfler, who is of course best known for his tenure as frontman and guitarist for Dire Straits, is undeniably part of the dying -- well, aging -- fraternity of real "guitar heroes":  Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, etc.  He has played with his good friend Clapton on several occasions and has recorded with Dylan, Elton John, and John Fogerty, just to name a few.  He has scored films such as The Princess Bride and Wag the Dog.  He has played venues as legendary as Wembley Stadium and Knebworth.  And while bands like the Eagles and the Stones have played the same setlist for the past 30+ years, Knopfler has dared to explore new territories -- alternative genres that others were unwilling to risk -- and with great success.  Indeed, he has three Grammys to his name -- all in the Country Music category.  As late as 2007, he was nominated again for Best Folk/Americana album for his work with  Emmylou Harris.  Perhaps Robert Plant, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan are his only contemporaries who dared stray from the predictable path of "arena rock" retirement tours.
It would have been nice to have experienced Knopfler, under the lonely spotlight with his red Strat and his haunting guitar sounds, listening to him sing songs of the Welsh working-class and times of old.  There is a great quote in the review from another fan that I'd like to re-state here for emphasis:
"After all this Lo-fi chill wave bullshit, it sure is refreshing to hear clear, confident, crisp instrumentation. Knopfler sounds GREAT."

I can only hope he will visit again... 

The Concert I Missed:

Mark Knopfler, 5/6/10, United Palace Theater, New York, New York

Photo Monday

"Well, he's a frustrated musician, and I guess I was a frustrated filmmaker. So, it was a perfect connect. I would turn him on to music of great obscure things that end up in a lot of these movies, actually. I would try to think of something that would just blow his mind. And he would screen movies for me—like trashy B-movies that are amazing in their own way. It was never the obvious. He was never showing me D.W. Griffiths' movies or what are considered classic films. They were always off the beaten path, but very interesting—Sam Fuller movies, things like that. So, we traded back and forth on all these kinds of things. He knew that I was a film buff long before we crossed paths, and I knew that he was a music fanatic long before we crossed paths. So we had something to work with there."
--Robbie Robertson on Martin Scorsese, speaking about when they lived together while editing The Last Waltz

Monday, May 3, 2010

Awesome; I Phuckin' Shot That!

Phish performing Sabotage at the Lemonwheel Festival in Limestone, ME on 8/16/98.