Entries tagged with “Bob Dylan” from this Public Address 1.0

Songs

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Songs

On Saturday, I drove in early enough to snag a parking spot a few hundred feet from the key entrance (now that I knew where it was!). No bridge crossing. Trout Fishing in America was playing on one stage, while the other was silent. I hadn’t seen them before, but they were just a little on the happy side for me. As I walked around to the other side, I saw a big man laying on top of a stack of equipment cases, twenty feet up backstage. It turned out to be Chris Chew of The North Mississippi Allstars.

I’d wanted to see them since an acquaintance, Daniel Gold of An Honest Tune magazine, had raved. Daniel rescued a guitar of theirs, when someone attempted to steal it in Fayetteville after a gig. Even though I’m not into the jam thing, Daniel has pointed me at some interesting bands as they’ve passed through town. I was near the front of the stage when they came out, and after a few songs I was glad I was. They had great energy, as they melted a bunch of classic blues tunes together. I looked around and saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, Stephen Koch of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and my old friend Dan Limke who works for some newspaper consortium a bit further north. Then, a skinhead near the center just started pointing and madly gesturing at me like he knew me. Everyone thinks they know me. The band was playing great, until halfway through the set when the jamming became intolerable. I left to get a beer.

When I returned, the band had returned to playing songs. Overall, they were good. I just feel so damn cheated when people start noodling about on the stage. I think it was the drum solo that did it. Didn’t these people learn anything from the sixties? Drum solos don’t work. I left before the encore, to try to get a good position for the man I really went to see.

Steve Earle was a total pro. It was an acoustic show, and the monitor set-up was so bad I could hear the onstage feedback at the front row. He stopped once, to see if they could fix it. They didn’t. He played a few Bob Dylan tunes, and eventually commented “I’d be happy if they could just get the feedback in tune.” Earle explained that he started out as a folk singer, but he had to give it up because there were too many rules. He told stories about hopping trains as a kid, with a funny twist. He said he accidentally jumped on one that took him out of town and he had to call his dad to come and get him.

Later in the set, he played a Lightnin’ Hopkins tune, and told a story that Townes Van Zant had told him. It seems that Hopkins used his mouth like a bank. Any time he had extra money, he would put more gold in his mouth. He decided he wanted to get a diamond inset, but was so nervous that someone would steal it while he was sleeping that he had it placed on the inside. He carried a little dental mirror, so he could inspect it from time to time.

You could tell that Earle couldn’t hear a thing on stage. But he played amazingly well, for having no monitors. He just soldiered on, through a masterful set of tunes. As Tom Waits has said, “Steve Earle writes about American regret as clearly as anybody going.” I haven’t been moved to tears at a concert in a very long time, but this time I was. There’s just something about “Transcendental Blues”:

In the darkest hour of the longest night
If it was in my power I'd step into the light
Candles on the altar, penny in your shoe
Walk upon the water — transcendental blues

Happy ever after 'til the day you die
Careful what you ask for, you don't know 'til you try
Hands are in your pockets, starin' at your shoes
Wishin' you could stop it — transcendental blues

If I had it my way, everything would change
Out here on this highway the rules are still the same
Back roads never carry you where you want 'em to
They leave you standin' there with them ol' transcendental blues
I was overcome as I scanned the crowd, thinking about how so many of these songs obviously touched people. Inside each and every face in the crowd is a universe all its own, with its own thoughts and perceptions which are largely incommunicable to anyone else.

In the encore, Earle played a brand new song written for an album coming out in the fall. It’s called “Jerusalem” and he joked that it might get him deported. It’s obviously political, and unabashed in its claim that “the sons of Abraham must lay down their sword.” Just another one of those folk-singer peace anthems, but gorgeous nonetheless. I wonder when calling for peace became anti-Semitic?

I wondered for a moment at the end of the first encore if there would be a second. I suspected not, so I headed for my car. I feel reasonably confident there wasn’t because Earle was about two steps ahead of me, headed for his bus. I didn’t bother him. As I walked out to the parking lot, I could hear a girl talking:

“I just don’t get this bit about never being satisfied,” she said. “Is it just an artist thing or what?”

I paused for a second, unable to keep my mouth closed. I said:

“If you’re ever satisfied, it usually means that your standards are too low.”

The guy she was with laughed. She looked at him and said:

“He might be right about that.”

Get your motor running...

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John Kay, Bakersfield Civic Auditorium 1975

Get your motor running . . .

I’ve been following with great interest thus far the commentary on On the Road at In a Dark Time. In particular, Diane’s isolation of the themes and Loren’s observations on the geography involved made me think about how difficult it is to capture the past, because as humans we are constantly shifting in perspective. That is definitely the case with my perception of the book and I wish I had time to read it again right now. I’ve been trying to figure out how old I was when I first read it, but I’m pretty sure I was sixteen. It was around the time I took the photograph displayed above, which was 1975.

It was the first concert I ever attended— Steppenwolf at the Bakersfield Civic Auditorium with probably around 4-5,000 people in attendance. I felt like I did fairly well for a rookie. I’d been taking pictures less than six months, and I borrowed an old Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL with a telephoto lens from school. I picked it because it had a spot meter. Good choice, I found out. Concert photography, especially in big arenas, is tough.

Who knew that about 13 years later I’d be photographing a dozen bands a week? Photographing this concert convinced me that I didn’t want to do it anymore; it was too much work. For the thousands of concerts I went to in the dozen years that followed this, I never took a camera. I just enjoyed the show. That is, until I discovered that photographing musicians in bars rather than stadiums had its own rewards. But that part of my history is well documented in the galleries around here. I was thinking about how much I loved Steppenwolf as a kid. I was thinking how this became almost an embarrassment when punk-rock rolled around. Punk rock changed my life. The Minutemen pushed me over the edge; I turned my back on “hard rock” around 1984.

On the Road is like that for me too. It became a guilty pleasure, once I discovered how incredible and complex literature could be. The beats were just, well, a beat— the pulsation of an artery— as Blake would say, which seemed like a lifetime in the long trip down the road of discovery for me. I’d say the same for the Surrealists. These things, for me now, are self-defeating delusions of youth. A sort of “rite of passage.” I grew out of them, but I remember them fondly. There’s much more to say, and I have entries in my head concerning Kerouac, Robert Frank, and Herman Hesse. These were like towns I passed through on my way down the road.

The omnipresence of that road, in that so many people of my age ended up on it, is astounding. I took an upper level history course on US History 1945-80 a few years ago, and it shifted my thinking about the late 50s and early 60s significantly regarding the motivation that so many have felt to hit the road. I’d like to apply that lens to some of the problems with On the Road but I have a headache too severe to attempt it right now. But I stumbled across the photo of Steppenwolf, at the far edge of this mess of thoughts, and it was strange. The last mix tape I made for my car included a song from John Kay’s 1972 solo album Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes.

I bought the album for 50 cents at a massive album sale in the mid 80s, and several of my friends made fun of me for it. But I still had a soft spot in my heart for the guy in leather pants, even though I was smarter then. A girl I knew told me a story about how John Kay was an asshole who slobbered all over her at the Country Club in LA, and turned several shades of green when I said I liked the album. This album wasn’t “born to be wild,” just moving folk-rock. A song from it has been playing in the car for weeks now, and I feel strangely close to “Many a Mile.” It has a bit of the spirit of On the Road

I’ve damn near walked this world around—another city, another town
Another friend to say goodbye— another time to sit and cry
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.

I’ve seen your towns they’re all the same— the only difference is in the name
And the only life I’ve ever known has been my suitcase and the open road
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.

There was a girl who knew me best— you know she gave my poor heart rest
She was my world, my joy, my dear— and now she’s gone to god knows where
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.

So I fill my glass up to the brim
And through my glass the world looks dim
But I know outside there’s light somewhere
Maybe my rambling will take me there
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I will go.

The road, in the Kerouacian sense, ended in the seventies. This song was written by a Native American named Patrick Sky in the sixties. The road became a commodified dream, and there isn’t much looking back. That’s progress for you. The quest has moved inward once again, and in most ways, it’s a better thing. But there is an incredible nostalgia to it, but anyone who aspires to dreams such as these needs to be reminded of the perceptive observation of Bob Dylan: nostalgia is death.

On Ruth!

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Just what is sprezzatura?

An interesting definition came across on the C-18L list, contrasting the term with chutzpah.

From Herman Asarnow:

One definition of sprezzatura I always liked was told me by Gunnar Boklund, John Webster scholar: "greatness with ease."


the 1974 versionPrince Hal, in King Henry IV, Part I-sprezzatura

Falstaff-chutzpah

Sir Philip Sidney-sprezzatura

Ben Jonson-chutzpah

Congreve-sprezzatura

Pope-chutzpah



I was watching the Dub Room Special, a Frank Zappa video that features some great footage of the 1974 band, and the 1982 band. I think the same comparison could be made there. 1974 band- sprezzatura. 1982 band- chutzpah.

Chester Thompson, sax, flute, vocals, telephone, and amazing dancing.

For the non FZ scholars out there, the 1974 band featured George Duke, Chester Thompson, and Ruth Underwood, and more people that I can't remember off the top of my head. The albums associated with this line-up are Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation, though there is substantial overlap in a lot of the personel over the years. Songs like "Stink foot," "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," and "Dynamo Hum" might mean more to some. I've never seen these people in action before, the first time I saw him was in 1981.

Wow. That's about all I can say.

Okay, I lied.

Ruth Underwood is one of the most amazing percussionists I've ever seen. And I have seen a lot. I discovered that she even has a stalker/ fan site— On Ruth!.

sprezzatura in action

I was thinking that this classification scheme could be a useful thing. For example, Tom Waits- sprezzatura. Bob Dylan- chutzpah. Hendrix- sprezzatura. Led Zepplin- chutzpah. I could go on and on, but I won't.

I'll regret this in the morning

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Your brain’s off the hook, but you’re not

Roy Harper- Gadfly interview

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Shilling for Harper once again