Monday, January 31, 2011

And He Shall Be Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John

The fourth song on Elton John's fourth album, recorded on February 27, 1971, is 'Levon'.  The lyrics, like so many others, were written by the great Bernie Taupin.  The track speaks of a son being born to Alvin Tostig on Christmas day ... sing it with me .... And he shall be Levon / And he shall be a good man.  The song [and main character] was named in tribute to Levon Helm, as The Band was one of Bernie and Elton's favorite groups at the time. 

Elton John and his partner David Furnish just a few weeks ago became the parents of a baby boy, born to a surrogate mother, a pawn as it were.  The men named their son Zachary Jackson Levon in tribute to Elton's song from nearly 40 years earlier.  And the best part of this story is that, just as the song goes, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John was born on Christmas Day. 

Let's all tip our caps to Levon Helm and listen to the studio version of 'Levon' from Madman Across The Water, one of Elton John's best:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chris Cotton: White Man Sings The Blues

You know the feeling of elation after finding a 20-dollar-bill in last year's winter coat?  Well, today, I got that same feeling  after stumbling upon an artist I'd never heard while listening to the "acoustic blues" channel on AOL radio.  "Acoustic blues," a long-time favorite of mind,  normally digs deep into the back catalog of old Delta blues and folk standards; rarely do we hear any contemporary artists, and for good reason -- because the movement saw its heyday from around the turn of the 20th Century until the early 1950's.  So I was somewhat surprised to hear a recording without the typical hisses, crackles and pops of most of the songs from that era.  Even more surprising was my reaction to learn that the performer was white -- another paradox when talking about the Delta blues.  Lo and behold, his name is Chris Cotton and I assure you, he is the real deal.  Reminiscent of the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, I was floored by his gritty tone and soulful finger-picking style -- an absolute must if you intend on channeling the spirits of the great ones. According to his bio on
"An aural portrait that owes a debt to Southern bluesmen and Americana pioneers alike, Chris Cotton’s Yellow Dog Records debut sounds like a house party caught on tape – world-weary men effortlessly strumming their guitars and bass, while passing around a jug of whiskey for sustenance. The barrelhouse piano, is, of course, pushed up against one wall; Cotton’s gravelly voice reigns over the debauchery. The scene is timeless – harkening back to days when the distinction between blues and country was hopelessly blurred."
How is that for an endorsement.  Naturally, I searched YouTube but unfortunately found only a handful of amateur clips of Cotton playing on friends' porches, at house parties, and at chatty dive bars.  Overlooking the obvious, I visited his website and MySpace page, where you can buy his studio releases -- which I plan on doing -- and listen to most of his catalog.   

In any event, here is a clip of Cotton performing the Dixieland standard, "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey."   And pay no mind to the cockeyed hat and grunge-inspired attire; Cotton is legit.  You can see it in his face and hear it in his voice.  And while Derek Trucks may be the heir-apparent of the blues-throne amongst the younger generation, I like Cotton as the dark horse candidate.

 Chris Cotton, "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey"

Here was the song I hear today, "Louis Collins" -- another old blues standard:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cover Me Do

Without checking any stats, I think it's safe to assume that The Beatles are the most frequently covered band in music history.  And a cursory search of YouTube pretty much confirms this much.  However, my search yielded some very interesting clips.  The Weight wants to know which of these do you think is the most original (cheap attempt at boosting reader participation):

Jack White performing "Mother Nature's Son"

Franz Ferdinand performing "It Won't Be Long"

Soundgarden performing "Come Together"

Stereophonics and Oasis performing "I'm Only Sleeping"

Booker T. & The MGs performing an Abbey Road Medley

Nirvana performing "I Feel Fine" (sort of)

Elvis Presley performing "Yesterday" (brilliant)

And last but not least...a very tired and jaded Beatles covering themselves (this footage is unreal -- make sure to watch entire clip)

There are countless others -- if you find some good ones, let us know.

Turn The Page: Bob Seger On The Road Again

Reclusive Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Bob Seger has announced plans to go out on a tour this spring with his Silver Bullet Band, his first tour since late-2006 and only his second since 1996. It's not yet known how many dates Seger will play on this year's tour, but I've read rumors of 20-30 dates with another possible leg of the tour coming in the fall. At this time, only four markets are highlighted on a US map for the spring dates on his website: Ohio, Michigan, New York and Missouri. The rest of the tour should be announced soon. Last March, Bob announced that he would be doing a full tour in the fall of 2010, but that outing never materialized with Bob instead choosing to continue working on the follow-up to his 2006 studio album, Face The Promise. I bought Face The Promise when it was first released back in 2006 and its got a ton of spins on my iTunes over the last few years. It was really a great album that not surprisingly didn't generate much Internet buzz, but it has sold over 1 million copies, certified platinum, when so few records achieve that status anymore.

In 1980, Bob Seger released the album Against the Wind and it became his first and only #1 album on the Billboard album chart. The first single "Fire Lake" featured Eagles Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Glen Frey on backing vocals.  Glen Frey and Bob Seger's relationship goes way back to when both were working in the Detroit rock scene in the late 60s. Glen Frey's first recording gig was performing acoustic guitar and background vocals on Bob Seger's Ramblin' Gamblin' Man in 1968.

Take a listen to the studio recording of Fire Lake featuring Bob Seger and the trio of Eagles:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ramblin' Man: Hayes Carll To Open For Levon Helm

When you're writing songs for Guy Clark, who's songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, and The Highwaymen, you know you're doing something right.

This afternoon, I received an email from Levon Helm Studios listing the dates for the next set of Midnight Rambles taking place at Levon's barn/studio/home in Woodstock, NY.  The list of dates includes the artists that will be opening for each of the shows.  Included as the opener and guest on February 12th, which is amazingly the 201st Ramble hosted by Helm on his property, is Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, a name that I expect many of you don't recognize.  I don't know alot about Carll, other than that it looks like his first and last name got swapped, that he is the songwriter I mentioned at the start of this post, and that his song 'Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long' has existed on one of my Grooveshark playlists for well over a year. 

Like all songs that end up on this playlist, I first heard it on Pandora on one of several custom stations I've created over time to discover new music.  When I like a song I hear on there, I make a note of it and add it Grooveshark so I can then listen to it on demand.  Doing some research tonight on Carll, I learned that before graduating from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas in 1998, he began writing songs influenced by Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Jack Kerouac and Dead Poets Society. Looks like I was on to something with Hayes.

With my pleasant surprise in seeing Carll's name in my email today, I decided that I would introduce to you the song that introduced him to me. 

Hayes Carll
Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long

If you like what you hear, Hayes Carll will be opening for Jason Isbell at the Bowery Ballroom in April.

Bonus Content:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interpreting the Grateful Dead

This is hardly breaking news, but something tells me there are a few readers of The Weight that aren't aware of this.  On their new album, 'The King Is Dead', released just last Tuesday, the Decemberist's cover the Grateful Dead's 'Row Jimmy.'  While I admire the attempt at one of the Dead's best slow songs, their take falls far short of the emotive original. 

Row Jimmy

Speaking of 'The King Is Dead', fortunately for us, Elvis Costello is far from dead and knows a little something about interpreting the Grateful Dead.  This is how its supposed to be done:

Elvis Costello
Ship of Fools

Bonus Content

Elvis Costello, Levon Helm, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Larry Campbell, and The Imposters play 'Tennessee Jed' on the Costello hosted interview show Spectacle:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waylon Jennings: Are You Sure Jimmy Done It This Way?

I started this post to write about Jimmy Buffett playing his first concert in Australia in 24 years. Fortunately for me, I stumbled upon a video that led me down a different path.

In 2004, Jimmy Buffett released an album called License To Chill that featured many of the biggest country acts of the day, including Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Chesney.  It's his only album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and we haven't been able to escape 'It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere' ever since.  Its my opinion, and there is much evidence to back this up, that it was right at the same time that modern country artists started to make their money rehashing the Jimmy Buffett formula of singing songs about islands, surf, and sand to people who don't live near any of those things.  This sound further commercialized country music, giving it a slick, produced veneer and removed much of the traditional elements of heartbreak and honky-tonk that make it so honest and relatable.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm actually a fan of Jimmy Buffett and I think he does what he does well, but I don't want margaritas anywhere near my whiskey. 

With this trend in modern country music to sway towards Jimmy Buffett's islands in the past decade, I was very surprised to find evidence that one of country music's superstars tackled a Jimmy Buffett tune way back in 1997, before it was financially advantageous to do so.  Highwayman Waylon Jennings included his take on Buffett's 'He Went To Paris' on his All American Country album.  Waylon's version does this song the real country music way, featuring steel guitar without a hint of steel drums. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Weight Recommends: The Silver Seas

I've had these two 'New-Music Sampler' CDs, that were packaged with a copy of Paste Magazine I'd gotten in the mail, sitting in my apartment since last summer.  Every time I'd come across them while cleaning my place, I decided that I couldn't throw them out without first dropping them in the CD player.  Well, here we are six months later and I've just gotten though the first one (July 2010) with the other one left to go (June 2010). 

What I'd planned to do, in listening to each CD, is downselect the songs I liked and then from there I would pick a single favorite that I could recommend here on The Weight.  I figured there'd at least be a few per disc that I'd enjoy enough to put on my short list.

I started working my way through each of the 20 songs on the first disc, including some artists I'd heard of before (Menomena, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, Andrew Bird) and many that I had not (Blue Giant, Wintersleep, The Young Veins, Spree Wilson).  I'd gotten through 18 songs before I really liked anything that I heard.  What's so disappointing is that Paste Magazine is a publication that I really respect.  In a few cases, the intro was decent enough but I found myself turned off after a few vocal lines.  I consider myself to be pretty open-minded about music, accepting that in all genres there are good and bad songs, and these songs didn't do it for me.  At least based on my first listens. 

So after suffering through 90% of the July sampler, I finally heard what I was hoping for.  In the second to last track I found a song that I could confidently put my seal of approval on.  It's Track 19 from the July 2010 Paste Magazine New Music Sampler.  And its by Nashville band The Silver Seas on their April release Chateau Revenge.  The song is called "Best Things In Life" and its not just the best song on the CD, its one of the best songs I've heard in months.  The Pointer Sisters wish they could still groove like this!

The Silver Seas
'Best Things In Life'
Chateau Revenge

Bonus Content:
Here's another song by the Silver Seas that both nameschecks The Weight favorites ELO and also does a damn fine job of replicating their sound.  Jeff Lynne would be proud. 

The Silver Seas
"What's The Drawback"
Chateau Revenge

The Legend of Big Bill Broonzy

Shame on me and shame on The Weight for failing to ever pay homage to this hero of a man -- a man whose life & times is as mythical as his musical legacy.   Let me share a little of Broonzy's story:

(courtesy of Wikipedia)

Born William Lee Conley Broonzy, "Big Bill" was one of Frank Broonzy and Mittie Belcher's 17 children. His birth site and date are disputed...He began playing music at an early age. At the age of 10 he made himself a fiddle from a cigar box and learned how to play spirituals and folk songs from his uncle, Jerry Belcher... In 1915, 17-year-old Broonzy was married and working his own land as a sharecropper. He had decided to give up the fiddle and become a preacher. There is a story that he was offered $50 and a new violin if he would play four days at a local venue. Before he could respond to the offer, his wife took the money and spent it, so he had to play. 

*                     *                      *

In 1916 his crop and stock were wiped out by drought. Broonzy went to work locally until he was drafted into the Army in 1917.  Broonzy served two years in Europe during the first world war. After his discharge from the Army in 1919, Broonzy returned to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where he is reported to have been called a racial epithet and told by a white man he knew before the war that he needed to "hurry up and get his soldier uniform off and put on some overalls." He immediately left Pine Bluff and moved to the Little Rock area but a year later in 1920 moved north to Chicago in search of opportunity...

 *                      *                     *

After arriving in Chicago, Broonzy made the switch to guitar. He learned guitar from minstrel and medicine show Papa Charlie Jackson veteran , who began recording for Paramount Records in 1924.  Through the 1920s Broonzy worked a string of odd jobs, including Pullman porter, cook, foundry worker and custodian, to supplement his income, but his main interest was music. He played regularly at rent parties and social gatherings, steadily improving his guitar playing. During this time he wrote one of his signature tunes, a solo guitar piece called "Saturday Night Rub."

In 1930 Paramount for the first time used Broonzy's full name on a recording, "Station Blues" — albeit misspelled as "Big Bill Broomsley". Record sales continued to be poor, and Broonzy was working at a grocery store...In March 1932 he traveled to New York City and began recording for the American Record Corporation on their line of less expensive labels: (Melotone, Perfect Records, et al.).  These recordings sold better and Broonzy began to become better known. Back in Chicago he was working regularly in South Side clubs, and even toured with Memphis Minnie...In 1934 Broonzy moved to Bluebird Records and began recording with pianist Bob "Black Bob" Call. His fortunes soon improved. 

*                        *                         *

Broonzy expanded his work during this period as he honed his song writing skills which showed a knack for appealing to his more sophisticated city audience as well as people that shared his country roots. His work in this period shows he performed across a wider musical spectrum than almost any other bluesman before or since including ragtime, hokum blues, country blues, city blues, jazz tinged songs, folk songs and spirituals. After World War II, Broonzy recorded songs that were the bridge that allowed many younger musicians to cross over to the future of the blues: the electric blues of post war Chicago.

*                       *                       *

In Europe, Broonzy was greeted with standing ovations and critical praise wherever he played. The tour marked a turning point in his fortunes, and when he returned to the United States he was a featured act with many prominent folk artists such as Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Leadbelly. From 1953 on his financial position became more secure and he was able to live quite well on his music earnings. Broonzy returned to his solo folk-blues roots, and travelled and recorded extensively...In 1953, Dr. Vera (King) Morkovin and Studs Terkel took Broonzy to Circle Pines Center, a cooperative year-round camp in Hastings, Michigan, where he was employed as the summer camp cook. He worked there in the summer from '53-'56.  On July 4, 1954, Pete Seeger traveled to Circle Pines and gave a concert with Bill on the farmhouse lawn, which was recorded by Seeger for the new fine arts radio station in Chicago, WFMT-FM...

*                      *                          *

By 1958 Broonzy was suffering from the effects of throat cancer. He died August 15, 1958, and is buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Blue Island, Illinois.
{wiping the tears from my eyes so I can continue writing}

One of 17 children? Minstrel and Medicine Shows? Fiddles made from cigar boxes?  A sharecropper?  WWI veteran?  Pullman porter? Was working as a cook at a summer camp where Pete Seeger visited only to play a show with him?  How is there not a national holiday celebrated in honor of this man?  Or an Academy Award-winning film about his life?   Or a widespread revival of his music?  His story and achievements are simply epic.  No doubt a musical journey even Dylan wishes he could claim for himself.  Big Bill Broonzy, The Weight salutes you!

Below is an astonishing clip of Broonzy performing "When Did You Leave Heaven."  The footage, shot in noir-type fashion, I promise will send shivers down your spine.

Big Bill Broonzy, "When Did You Leave Heaven"  (date and source unknown)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lennon & ...Garfunkel?

At the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, on March 1st, 1975, Paul Simon presented the Record of the Year Award with John Lennon.  You'll be very surprised to see who the award is presented to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simon & ...Dylan!

I've just stumbled on yet another amazing live performance on YouTube.  Recorded during one of their on-stage collaborations during their Summer of '99 co-headlining tour, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, along with Dylan's backing band (featuring Larry Campbell at the time) tackle Simon and Garfunkel's 'Sounds of Silence'.  As I've now learned, this song was performed by the two men on every night of the tour as a transition out of the opener's set into the set break, and I can only imagine that it was just as special every time it happened. 

(Click the red link to launch the player)

Bonus Content:

Dylan's recorded version of 'The Boxer' on his own Self Portrait

Simon & ...Oak Ridge Boys?

I'm sitting here on my sofa, surfing the web, trying to find some interesting content to write a blog post about Paul Simon and the Oak Ridge Boys.   While that might sound like an odd combination and a quite difficult task, the reason for it, is in 1977, Paul Simon hand picked the gospel-country Boys to back him up on one of the two new tracks that would be featured on his first greatest hits collection as a solo artist.  The album, eventually titled 'Greatest Hits, Etc' after the original title 'Blatant Greatest Hits' was scrapped, was pulled together so that Simon could fulfill his contract with Columbia Records before leaving them for his eventual home at Warner Brothers.

Instead of my focusing on the task at hand though, I can't take my eyes off the TV where I've turned on Piers Morgan's interview of Howard Stern on his second episode after taking over for Larry King on CNN.  Stern is a great get for Morgan's first week (he had Oprah on last night).  I don't think I've ever seen him properly interviewed on TV before.  Howard always tells it like it is, and with him in the hot seat for once, this is no different.  He's coming across as a very humble, intelligent, witty, self-deprecating, and keenly observant dude; which are all of the reasons that, despite confessing that he came up with the moniker as a goof, he truly is the King of All Media.

....Anyway, back to the task at hand.  Please enjoy this 1987 live performance, that took place during a concert curated by Paul Simon, later released on a DVD titled 'Paul Simon and Friends: A Night of Gospel Glory', featuring himself and the Oak Ridge Boys reuniting ten years later to perform 'Slip Slidin' Away':

Monday, January 17, 2011

Needful Things: James McMurtry Reissues

Two of singer-songwriter James McMurtry’s most popular albums will be reissued by Lightning Rod Records on February 1, 2011. They are 'Live in Aught-Three', originally released in aught-four and  2005’s Childish Things.  Novelist Stephen King, a longtime fan who has written about McMurtry several times in his Entertainment Weekly column (including the January 7, 2011 issue, where he hailed McMurtry as “the best songwriter in America”), described “We Can’t Make It Here” as the “best American protest song since [Bob Dylan’s] “Masters of War.”’ Childish Things and “We Can’t Make It Here” won the Americana Music Awards for album and song of the year, respectively.

The son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment), James grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album, released in 1989, was produced by John Mellencamp. In September 2006, McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008’s Just Us Kids.

James McMurtry
Out Here in the Middle

James McMurtry
We Can't Make It Here

It Shall Be Released: Bob Dylan Chronicles, Volume 2

Chronicles, Volume One, the first edition of a planned three-part memoir written by the hand of Bob Dylan, was released over six years ago.  It spent 19 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and was one of five finalists for the American National Book Critics Circle Award in 2004.  Since that time, there has been almost no news in regards to when the second volume would be penned by Dylan and ultimately released. 

In today's email from Uncut Magazine editor Allan Jones, in regards to a second installment of Chronicles, he writes:
In news just in, though, we hear that Dylan has just signed a new deal, with Simon & Schuster, who published Chronicles and have long maintained they had an agreement with Bob to put out the two further volumes of Chronicles, as previously announced.

The deal is apparently for six Dylan books – the two follow-ups to Chronicles and four more apparently based on Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, which will presumably be based on Dylan's often hilarious commentary and links between songs, although this has yet to be confirmed.
There is no word on when the second book will be on shelves, but hopefully its any day now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Life of Illusion

I have always been a huge admirer of Joe Walsh.  Perhaps no better example of the roller coaster-type careers many great rock stars endure, Walsh was rarely shy about sharing his "story" with the general public.  Most famous for his tongue-in-cheek poke at the excesses of stardom and the music industry in "Life's Been Good," his follow-up hit "A Life of Illusion," speaks more to the plight of the common man.  Here, Walsh continues where he left off, expanding on his inherent skepticism of subjects ranging from chance to irony to the meaning of life.  Take for example:

Hey, don't you know it's a waste of the day,
Caught up in endless solutions.
That have no meaning, just another hunch,
Based upon jumping conclusions.
Caught up in endless solutions,
Backed up against a wall of confusion.
Living a life of illusion. 

Now that is some  philosophical shit!

(The song was cleverly used by Judd Apatow as the main theme to The 40-Year-Old Virgin)

Joe Walsh - "A Life of Illusion" (1981)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dead Funky: Etta James and The Grateful Dead

Phish gave us 20 minutes of the Meatstick for our third set this past New Year's Eve. During their New Years's Eve concert in 1982, at the Oakland Coliseum, the Greatful Dead welcomed the Tower of Power horns and Etta James for their entire third set.  Etta fronted the band for a four song mini set, including her own "Tell Mama," Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do," Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour," and Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle." 

Take a look at this video of the Dead from that night backing Etta James on their last ever performance of "Hard To Handle."

The R Train

The following clip has entirely nothing to do with music, film or pop culture, but I nonetheless couldn't resist posting it here as many of our readers and 2/3 of our contributors, including yours truly, reside in NYC.

Fucking up during a blizzard is one thing, but this is totally unacceptable!  Please be a hoax!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Metamorphosis of a Rockstar

I'm not quite sure what really prompted the idea, but while in the process of jotting down some thoughts for other posts, I got to thinking about why/how certain bands achieve years, if not decades, of success while others' careers end up in the shitter.  My knee jerk response was that the type or genre of music ultimately determines whether a band will enjoy relative long-term success or notoriety.  This would include the artist or band's technical ability, coupled with of course, that musical genre's ability to transcend specific time periods, like hard rock, which is no doubt as popular today as it was in the 70's.  But while this theory seemed to make sense on its face, there were far too many exceptions.  For example, it doesn't support why a band like The Rolling Stones, who were more or less known for their trademark blues-driven songs, are as immensely popular today as they were in the 60's, 70's, and 80's.  Now, I could be wrong, but I highly doubt Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters are amongst the top iTunes downloads with today's younger generations. So, it clearly isn't the genre of music that has driven the Stones' success over the years.  Similarly, take U2, who, despite my unabashed disdain for Bono, has enjoyed infinite popularity and has seemingly mastered the ability to adapt to what the people want to hear -- little of which I attribute to worldwide interest in Irish rock/folk music.  Metallica falls into this category as well.  

My theory equally fails to explain why bands like King Crimson or E.L.P. -- who exhibited great technical aptitude and musical versatility -- remain virtually unknown by the general populous.  Or why bands like The Monkees, Poison or even Bon Jovi for that matter -- who were once considered "cool" during each of their peak years of success (yea, I know, only here on The Weight is it possible to see The Monkees and Poison mentioned in the same sentence) -- have become cliches of decades past or survive solely by pandering to those audiences stuck in their respective generations (e.g. cruise-ship-goers and residents of New Jersey -- and I mean that endearingly, sort of...).  So, after giving it more thought (about another minute or so to be precise), I'm afraid that the answer boils down to, you guessed it:  image.  Like it or not,  there is probably a large element of truth to Peter Gabriel's timeless lyric, "if looks could kill, they probably will."  Now, some of you might be reading this and thinking to yourself, "Well, no shit, Captain Obvious!"  "Of course image matters."  But the fact remains, there is a reason why Steve Miller and Three Dog Night continue to wear bad toupees and play to crowds of suburban Jewish housewives and the Stones can sellout a stadium in under thirty minutes.  Apparently, change isn't that easy.

The Beatles of course, were the epitome of a band who mastered the art of adaptation (granted there are infinite other reasons for the Beatles' legacy, but there isn't nearly enough space to write about it here) and I think few artists typified this ability more than the Dark Horse himself, George Harrison.  Indeed, I think it's fair to say that Harrison was known less for his guitar abilities than for his modest good looks -- and killer mustache growth.  Sure, Harrison was set for life regardless simply because he was a Beatle, but I'd venture to guess that his ability to transcend and stay fresh over a period of roughly forty years, is what ultimately kept him appealing to a wide array of audiences, not just diehard fans of the Fab Four (compare with Ringo whose inability to change has somewhat kept him a parody of himself -- though, I still have much love for you Ringo if you're reading this!).  So if we come full circle, take a look at Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, David Gilmour, Bob Dylan, etc. who I think tend to prove my theory that style + ability to adapt = long-term success.  There will always be exceptions (i.e. Neil Young, Jimmy Page, all 4 members of Kiss, etc.), but I think it's fair to say that while regrettable, and even unfair to some extent, technical ability has little to do with longevity.

That, and because I really wanted to post a picture of Harrison in his Leon Russell phase (see row 3, photo 1) which is just cool as shit and worthy of recognition alone. 

Hence, here is my George Harrison through the years (yes, I created this montage myself [insert nerd insult here]):

In recognition of  Mayor Bloomberg's superior *cough* job tackling last evening's snow (or lack thereof), here's a little GD to get you goin' on a morning you thought you'd still be in bed... 

Grateful Dead, "Cold Rain and Snow" -  Rich Stadium, Buffalo, NY, 07-04-86

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Dylan Met Bono

On July 8th, 1984, Bob Dylan played a concert at Slane Castle in Dublin that was flimed for broadcast on MTV.  His band that night, and his touring band for the entire '84 summer tour, included Mick Taylor formerly of the Rolling Stones on guitar and Ian MacLagan formerly of The Faces on keyboards.  Sitting in on the final seven songs that night was Carlos Santana.  During Santana's extended sit in, Bono traded lyrics with Dylan during "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" and a set closing "Blowin' In The Wind" and Van Morrison appeared on "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and his own "Tupelo Honey". 

On the day of the concert, the publication Hot Press arranged for the young 24-year old Bono to interview Dylan backstage.  When Bono arrived, he found Dylan in the company of Van Morrison. 

Read the fascinating full transcript of the interview/conversation between Bono, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison.

Bono's friend Neil McCormick was at Slane Castle that night, and in his book Killing Bono, Neil recalled:

"It seemed Dylan had asked Bono if he would like to join him for an encore. Naturally, Bono said it would be an honor, the problem was that Bono didn't have the faintest idea what the lyrics to 'Blowin' in the Wind' were, and for that matter, had only the vaguest notion of the melody. A roar went up as Bono took the stage with Dylan, grabbed a microphone and began to sing......the first things to enter his head. Dylan looked rather startled as Bono improvised lines about the northern Irish conflict....clearly Bono wasn't going to let a little thing like not knowing the words stop him from performing the song.

It was all going so well, and then the band launched as one unit into the famous chorus, while Bono, oblivious to the chord change, continued making up lyrics to the verse....Dylan's head swivelled as he turned to look at his guest with an expression of complete eye-popping, jaw-dropping disbelief. I watched transfixed as Bono hovered, on the verge of a spectacular crash, when, realizing his mistake, he started howling 'How many times? How many times?' like a blues mantra while the band brought the chorus home. Wisely, Bono let Dylan sing the final verse."

Listen to the 'Blowin In The Wind encore, where Bono ad-libs a verse of a song he clearly doesn't know the words to. It's nearly a train wreck.

The full setlist that night was:

1. Highway 61 Revisited
2. Jokerman
3. All Along The Watchtower
4. Just Like A Woman
5. Maggie's Farm
6. I And I
7. License To Kill
8. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
9. Tangled Up In Blue
10. To Ramona
11. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
12. Shelter From The Storm
13. Masters Of War
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Enough Is Enough
16. Every Grain Of Sand
17. Like A Rolling Stone
18. Mr. Tambourine Man
19. With God On Our Side
20. Girl From The North Country
21. Simple Twist Of Fate (w/ Santana, through to end of show)
22. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (w/ Van Morrison)
23. Tupelo Honey (w/ Van Morrison)
24. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (w/ Bono)
25. Tombstone Blues
26. The Times They Are A-Changin'
27. Blowin' In The Wind (w/ Bono)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chairman of the Bards?

Is Page the new Shakespeare?  Last year, I uncovered a vintage Phish photo where I drew a comparison between a young Page McConnell and Tom Hanks circa the movie Big.  However, a painting universally agreed by historians to be that of William Shakespeare, bears an even more uncanny resemblance to Leo himself (see below).

Editor's note
According to The Phish Companion, "My Friend, My Friend” is one of the tunes in Phish’s repertoire that bridges the gap between compositional complexity and sing-along simplicity. The lyrics, with their references to knives and bombs are among Tom Marshall’s most unsettling, lacking the giddy smiles of so many Phish songs. Some have even written near-treatises drawing connections between “My Friend, My Friend” and that most unsettling of Shakespeare’s works, Macbeth."

Furthermore, according to Mr. Miner's Phish Thoughts, "The subsequent nighttime interlude comes in the form of the paranoid nightmare of, “My Friend, My Friend,” formerly titled, “Knife.”  With the opening verse, we see a picture of someone who believes his friend will murder him and marry his love.  Rife with Shakespearean overtones, and parallels the deceptive plot of betrayal in Macbeth, this song is the darkest, thematically, on the album."

Coincidence?  Judge for yourself...

I Don't Like Mondays

I'm 32 and it's time I start expanding my musical horizons.  While my roots are, and will continue to be, firmly planted in the realm of classic rock, I'm trying to impose upon myself in the new year a musical renaissance of sorts. So as part of this "awakening," I've been dedicating a few hours each day to various stations on AOL Radio that previously went ignored (Deep Tracks and 70's Country were the usual suspects).  In recent months, I've been particularly drawn to the 80's alternative channel which highlights bands ranging from The Pogues to Public Image, Ltd to The Psychedelic Furs, etc. Now, don't get me wrong -- I've always been a fan of the music; my knowledge, however, was somewhat limited to anecdotal tidbits picked up along the way.  

The Boomtown Rats are one of those bands that needs to make it to my iPod.  Led by artist/activist Bob Geldof, The Boomtown Rats were a highly influential Irish punk rock band that  undoubtedly spearheaded the burgeoning punk rock/New Wave movement, both in the U.K. and abroad.  Hardly recognized in the U.S., one of their tunes did achieve some relative success in the States: "I Don't Like Mondays" -- a controversial song about the 1979 Brenda Ann Spencer shooting spree in San Diego, California.  Due to the sensitive nature of the song, U.S. radio stations significantly limited its airplay, despite the fact that it went to #1 in the U.K. single charts. However, their success was short-lived; The Boomtown Rats' popularity faded and predictably, the band eventually parted ways -- purportedly because of  the cliched "creative differences" (though like his good friend Roger Waters, I imagine this had more to do with Geldof's expanding ego and growing political activism). Geldof of course, went on to become the founder of Band Aid, chief organizer of Live Aid, a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and  undeniably, one of the original pop-activists (take that, Bono!).  Though, Sir Bob was not without his critics -- most notably, Morrisey, who had these choice words to say:

"I'm not afraid to say that I think Band Aid was diabolical. Or to say that I think Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Many people find that very unsettling, but I'll say it as loud as anyone wants me to. In the first instance the record itself was absolutely tuneless. One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England. It was an awful record considering the mass of talent involved. And it wasn't done shyly it was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music."

But most of us will always remember Geldof as Syd Barrett's alter-ego "Pink" in the 1982 film, The Wall.  So, here's to Mondays -- which controversies aside, I can confidently say are universally, not liked by all.

The Boomtown Rats - "I Don't Like Mondays" (Live from The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, Drury Lane Theater, London, 1981)  


Don't Call It A Comeback

2011 New Year's Resolutions:

1) drink less
2) eat better
3) go to gym
4) call my mother more often
5) bring back The Weight.

I can assure you that resolution #'s 1-4 will not happen; #5 however, starts today.
I'm proud to say that effective immediately, everyone's favorite all-purpose blog is back.  Update your bookmarks & be sure to follow us at:

More to come...

It's been a long time/Now I'm/Coming back home.
I've been away now/Oh, how/I've been alone.