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ALABAMA SHAKES AGAIN - BUT LIVE

This song comes from the same studio album as their great breakthrough number, 'Hold On'. It's the similarly yet oppositely titled 'Hang Loose', but this is a live version and reminds me of how exciting this band is:

HOAGY AND BOB AND LUCY ANN POLK

On this, the 115th anniversary of Hoagy Carmichael's birth, here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:


Carmichael, Hoagy [1899 - 1981]
Hoagy Carmichael was born Hoagland Howard Carmichael on November 22, 1899 and raised in Bloomington Indiana. He grew up to be a singer and actor but primarily a popular songwriter. His very first composition was called ‘Freewheeling’, and he also wrote a song titled ‘Things Have Changed’. More famously he wrote or co-wrote, among many, many others, ‘Stardust’ and ‘Georgia On My Mind’.
            Carmichael is one of the many improbable people whose work and persona Dylan admires, possibly just to be perverse. Hoagy’s photo is pinned up on the wall of the shack behind him on the photo by DANIEL KRAMER planned for the US hardback of Dylan’s Tarantula but rejected (it’s reproduced in Kramer’s book Bob Dylan) and in the Empire Burlesque song ‘Tight Connection To My Heart’ Dylan names a Hoagy Carmichael composition. Dylan sings: ‘Well, they’re not showing any lights tonight / And there’s no moon. / There’s just a hot-blooded singer / Singing “Memphis in June”’.
             ‘Memphis In June’ was composed by Carmichael with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (who also wrote the lyric to ‘Moon River’, which Dylan sang one night on the Never-Ending Tour in tribute to the late STEVIE RAY VAUGHN). Dylan’s ‘hot-blooded singer’ is a neat small joke about Hoagy, whose many assets include a calculatedly lizard-like presence. It was a joke Dylan had retained from an earlier version of the song, then called ‘Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart’, which he’d recorded at the sessions for Infidels, the album before Empire Burlesque. At least two performances of this have floated around, but the one eventually released officially, on The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3 in 1991, offered these alternative lines: ‘I hear the hot-blooded singer / On the bandstand croon / “September Song”, “Memphis in June”’. Clearly Dylan was determined to retain Hoagy, whatever other changes he made. (‘September Song’ was written by Maxwell Anderson and composed by Kurt Weill for the 1938 Broadway play Knickerbocker Holiday.)
            ‘Memphis’ was written for the 1945 George Raft film Johnny Angel, in which Carmichael played a philosophical singing cab driver. (‘After that I was mentioned for every picture in which a world-weary character in bad repair sat around and sang or leaned on a piano’). Subsequent film roles included being the pianist who sings ‘Hong Kong Blues’ in the Bogart-Bacall film To Have And Have Not, one of Dylan’s favourite hunting-grounds for lyrics in the Empire Burlesque period.
            The least hot-blooded cover version of ‘Memphis In June’ may be by Matt Monro, from 1962; the best (and ‘on a bandstand croonin’’) may be by Lucy Ann Polk, cut in July 1957 in Hollywood. Hoagy himself recorded the song in 1947 with Billy May & His Orchestra and again in 1956 with a jazz ensemble that included Art Pepper. Carmichael and Mercer also wrote that great song ‘Lazy Bones’  -  in twenty minutes, in 1933  -  which was revisited magnificently in the 1960s by soul singer James Ray (who made the original US hits of ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’ and ‘Itty Bitty Pieces’; in the UK he was unlucky enough to find these savaged in unusually distressing ways, even by the standards of British cover versions of the time, by Freddie & The Dreamers and Brian Poole in the first case and by The Rockin’ Berries and Chris Farlowe in the second).
            Carmichael played ranch-hand Jonesey in the 1959-60 season of the TV series Laramie. In 1972 he was given an Honorary Doctorate by Indiana University back in Bloomington (which is where BETSY BOWDEN got her doctorate for a study of Bob Dylan’s performance art that became her book Performed Literature).
            Hoagy Carmichael died two days after Christmas, 1981. When a retrospective 4-LP box set of his work, The Classic Hoagy Carmichael, was issued in 1988, with copious notes by John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution, it was released and published jointly by the Smithsonian and the Indiana Historical Society. (American hobbyists are so lucky: there’s always plenty of places to go for funding. Imagine trying to get funds to research, compile and write an accompanying book about Billy Fury from the British Museum and the Birkenhead Historical Society.) The Carmichael box-set notes say this, among much else, and might just remind you of someone else (not Billy Fury):
            ‘At first listeners may be distracted by the flatness in much of Carmichael’s singing, and turned off especially by his uncertain intonation. The singer himself said, “my native wood-note and often off-key voice is what I call ‘Flatsy through the nose’”. But... one becomes accustomed to these traits and grows to appreciate and admire other qualities of his vocal performances, specifically his phrasing... intimacy, inventiveness and sometimes even sheer audacity. Also, many... evidence spontaneous and extemporaneous qualities, two important ingredients in jazz.’
_________

So here's 'Memphis In June' by Hoagy:

And by Lucy Ann Polk:


[Hoagy Carmichael: The Classic Hoagy Carmichael, 4-LP set compiled & annotated by John Edward Hasse; issued as 4 LPs or 3 CDs, BBC BBC 4000 and BBC CD3007, UK, 1988; Johnny Angel, , dir. Edwin L. Marin, written Steve Fisher, RKO, US, 1945. Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan, New York: Citadel Press edn, 1991, p.127. Betsy Bowden: Performed Literature, Bloomington: Indiana University Pres, 1982.]

TRAMPLED BY TURTLES ON THE INTERSTATE

I thought this was too soft - too sentimental - but found there was something compelling about it (helped, perhaps, by the romance of the evocative title) from this bluegrass band from the town of Bob Dylan's birth, Duluth MN. And the sound quality, for a live performance, is formidably good:

GRACELAND AND ITS "HOUSE NIGGER"



 
from www.elvispresleyfansofnashville.com

In a recent book-review-based article about Elvis in London Review of Books (accessible here if you’re a subscriber), Ian Penman was in full and fascinating flow - especially in advancing the argument that rather than Elvis having offered, as generally claimed, “black carnality sieved through white restraint” maybe it was more like the opposite: a fusing of “black politeness and white carnality”. He argues that Elvis was essentially placid and biddable - and quotes this from Pamela Clarke Keogh, in her 2004 book Elvis: The Man. The Life. The Legend : “Beneath his extraordinary politeness he has the docility of a house servant”. Penman adds that “it’s hard not to hear in Keogh’s ‘house servant’ the echo of a far less neutral phrase: ‘house nigger’.”

They get there by building far too much on Elvis’ famous politeness - his saying “yes ma’am” and “no sir” to reporters. It wasn’t “extraordinary politeness” and it wasn't particularly black. Every white southerner still talks like that: I was a guest in a home in Georgia only six years ago and its teenage boys, truculent enough in general, called their father “sir” and their mother “ma’am” at the end of every dinner-table sentence. As for Elvis, well yes: he almost never defied the Colonel, and he agreed to record all kinds of crap; yet early on in his career, when he might have been expected to defer to all those record-biz professionals, it was Elvis who took charge at those first recording sessions for RCA, for instance demanding, as Peter Guralnick reports, 31 takes of ‘Hound Dog’ before he was satisfied. He knew exactly what he wanted, from himself and from Scotty Moore, and he insisted on achieving it.

But Penman makes many another point, and with great eloquence, and it’s only in the concluding flourish of his piece, when he envisages Presley’s last days, that he gets careless and makes a mistake that’s often made, describing Elvis as lost, malfunctioning and stranded in “the huge echoing mansion”. A letter in the next issue of London Review of Books corrects this misdescription of Graceland briefly, but I should like to offer rather more detail, from a feature I wrote for the Sunday Telegraph  in 2001.

Everyone thinks they know about Graceland. How tacky it is, how redneck vulgar and gross. As a true Elvis fan  - who therefore finds it hard to recommend anything he recorded after 1961  -  I too came to scoff. I expected it to emanate a lethal mix of Colonel Parker’s Las Vegas Elvis and the stultifying buddy-buddyism of his “Memphis Mafia”,  and that my fellow visitors would be obese women in Babar trousers tottering on white high heels under nosecones of sticky hair.

Driving out from downtown along bleak Elvis Presley Boulevard, the first thing you see is Heartbreak Hotel: “A new place to dwell… heart-shaped swimming-pool… affordable rates”. Then the car-parks and an airport terminal’s worth of “facilities”: a vast reception area with Elvis soundtrack, Elvis video screens and long queues for tickets. You file past the Post Office and Burger & Soda Bar to the shuttle buses. Many punters are well-dressed, articulate, young and even black: no odder a crowd than for Alan Bennett (and its average age lower too).

The 42-seater buses arrive incessantly. Headsets guide you on your journey. You can repeat bits and pause at will (though few senior pilgrims manage more than clamping them to their ears). Snippets of hits chime in resourcefully. Setting the unabashed tone, a Deep Heat Rub voice intones: “Just across the street, beyond the stone wall”  -  it’s brick  -  “is Graceland Mansion. The shuttle will take you through the famous gates and up to the house.” Here El breaks into “Welcome to my world  -  won’t you come on in?”, retreating before the narrator’s “You’re about to hear the story of Elvis’ life and phenomenal career. He’ll tell you some of the story himself.” As comically ghoulish as you could wish.

Through the gates and up the hill, you de-bus, thrilled to stare up at those antebellum pillars. The house is so small! It’s a delight. Far from being enormous, enormously vulgar and 1970s, it proves modest and demure  -  and so strongly redolent of the 1950s that the Elvis whose presence you feel inside is not the bloated figure in the rhinestone jumpsuit but the lithe 22-year-old who first moved in.

It was built by a doctor in 1939 and, excepting those pillars, is altogether restrained: smaller than any Edwardian vicarage and seriously less grandiose than anything Tom Jones or Michael Heseltine would live in.

The entrance hall is ten foot wide, and a few steps in is the five-foot-wide plain staircase. You are not allowed upstairs, “because Elvis never invited visitors up there himself.” It’s a sensible rule  -  best not to think how people might behave in that death-scene bathroom.

Turn right and you stand in the roped-off entrance to the sitting-room: a modest room with muted pale cream carpet. There’s a 15-foot-long sofa, but it’s neither florid nor overstuffed. Blue closed curtains guard the windows. Cream armchairs sit opposite, flanking a large fireplace with mirrored panels above. The middle of the room is uncluttered space. There’s a long coffee-table, a table-lamp, a tall glass-fronted cabinet. OK, the open double-doorway through to the music room is framed by lurid stained-glass panels depicting peacocks, but the music room itself is small, almost diffident, accommodating an elderly TV set, small sofa, side table and a Story & Clark baby grand as baby as could be.

Off the hall in the other direction is the dining-room, 22 feet by 16. “Around this table,” proclaims the headset, “Elvis shared many evenings of warmth, laughter and storytelling. Everyone at Graceland liked the same downhome southern cooking they grew up with.” Impossible not to contemplate Elvis’ notorious obesity  -  and that of so many Americans. Yet the room holds no frisson of underclass gross-out. We are at the humble end of Dynasty culture here: gold and purple chairs  -  but only eight  -  around an oval metal-edged table sitting on streaked black marble, the mirrored table top matching the walls. A chandelier holds eighteen electric candles.

Down the hallway is Vernon and Gladys’ bedroom: purple clothed headboard and coverlet, bad landscape paintings, old chests of drawers, pink and mauve tiled bathroom, small sad stains on the pale carpet. How little time most visitors spend peering into each room! “Beautiful bedroom.” “Beautiful chandeliers”. “Beautiful.”

It’s not, but it isn’t as bad as millions of American interiors. 1970s unpleasantness hovers, of course: it was the last decade available to him. But the recurrent surprise is how much the Presleys kept faith with 1950s suburbia: their aspiration when Elvis first made it and could rescue them all from their public-housing tenement downtown (itself a climb up from the shotgun shack in Tupelo, Mississippi where Elvis was born in 1935) and the temporary home on Audubon Drive. It’s an unassuming dream and I’m moved by his lifetime loyalty to it.

The kitchen (cue El singing “Get into that kitchen make some noise with the pots ’n’ pans”) is a long slender room with muted wood cabinets and undesigner toaster, coffeepot and eggtimer. It has 1950s simple solidity, and little touches like a small cheery wall-clock, its green face showing limes and lemons. No dentist’s wife would find it good enough if she moved into Graceland today.

Down a narrow staircase with walls and ceiling mirrored we reach the basement TV room, “professionally decorated in 1974 in bright yellow and navy blue”. Again, ’70s ghastliness is undercut by ’50s naivété. The huge white porcelain monkey with black toenails squatting on the coffee table is magicked away by Elvis’ disarmingly inexpensive record-player on a shelf alongside about thirty LPs (the front one by gospel group the Stamps) and lovely old racks of singles not in their sleeves. Three television screens sit side by side, apparently because Elvis read that President Johnson watched all three network news programmes at once.

The basement also holds the den, where 350 yards of multi-coloured fabric entirely cover the walls and ceiling, reminding me of Central Park’s Nirvana Indian restaurant and hippie-tent sumptuousness. Dark blue carpet, red leather chairs, smoky blue snooker table, ostrich feathers, Toulouse-Lautrec poster, Tiffany lighting  -  its deliberate bombardment confesses that Elvis was touched by the 1960s too. “Wow!”, people exclaim here, “Oh Jesus!…”, “This is wild!” and “Boy, this is a cosy place!”

There’s a bad patch after this: back to ground level via green shagpile-covered stairs with shagpile walls and ceiling. These were once the back steps accessing the yard; but Presley added a family room. In 1974 it got the Indonesian jungle treatment. That monkey belongs here. Dark fur-covered Far Eastern sofas. An ugly teddy on an enormous round chair. Floor and ceiling in, er, green shagpile. Exaggeratedly highbacked chairs carved to look like you’re on drugs when you see them. Ruched curtains. A bare brick wall with dribbling waterfall under red spotlights. This room holds all the later Elvis’ dark paranoid misery. This is what he sank to, fat and isolated in a vortex of self-loathing boredom. Unable to face the world but obliged to record, this room became a makeshift studio. Here in this hell-hole in 1976 he made his last LP.

It’s a relief to get outside, via an annexe converted from the 4-car garage for a special display: a 1960 stereo console; a gold sofa once in the music room; the slightly famous white fake-fur round bed; a model of the Tupelo shack (in the headset, too briefly, Vernon sings “Jimmie Rodgers was born in Dixie”: an eerie authentic hillbilly prefiguring of very early Elvis). Here too is the 1950s desk and furniture from Elvis’ office, touching as well as risible, with its bible, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet and a consoling Roosevelt quotation about how “it is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled…” The TV shows home-movie footage of Elvis diving incompetently into the pool, and Priscilla doing it perfectly.

Across the homely little yard, past Lisa-Marie’s swings, the garden-shed office where Vernon dealt with fan-mail is another time-warp, with ancient filing-cabinets, a small fridge covered in brown leather like the sofa, and the oldest photocopier I ever saw. This room should be in a proper museum.

Another TV runs Elvis’ post-Army press-conference. He says proudly: “No, sir, I have NO plans for leaving Memphis.”

The back of the house is white and well-proportioned, standing peacably in its several acres of pasture with well-judged trees and horses. The swimming pool is small and pretty; it isn’t shaped like a guitar or a heart and doesn’t shout money or ego. You move on to the chic Italianate meditation garden with its circle of graves where the family now lies oblivious to the constant earthly turmoil.

A shuttle bus returns you to where you began. You head into the black hangar of the car museum. A screen plays the car bits from all his worst films. The cars are excellent, and so is the detailed printed information.

Here is his 1962 Lincoln Continental with gold alligator-hide roof; a black 1975 Dino Ferrari he bought second-hand; the red 1960 MG 1600 used in Blue Hawaii; the batmobile that was his 1971 black Stutz Blackhawk. How nice, if true, that Sinatra had ordered it and Elvis charmed them into reassigning it. Then also a 1973 for which he paid $20,000 up front, leaving, bizarrely, $10,000 owing in instalments. Best of all is the legendary 1955 pink Cadillac Fleetwood, a wondrous colour and gigantic.

You exit, of course, through one of the giftshops. Get your Elvis lunch-box here. Don’t forget your boarding-pass for the Lisa Marie®, Elvis’ aeroplane. It was being readied for another concert date on August 16, 1977, when he died. What sort of plane is it? No executive Lear Jet, nothing state of the art: an ex-Delta Airlines Convair 880 passenger plane. It won’t surprise you that it was manufactured in 1958.

_____
© Michael Gray

BOB DYLAN WEEKENDS - THE FOOD BOOK

It's Friday, October 24 - which means it's official publication day for Sarah Beattie's new, seventh book, Meat-Free Any Day: Food For All Reasons, published by Select, UK (978-1908256508).

For anyone open-minded about, and truly interested in, food and its great pleasures, this is a compelling collection of imaginative, innovative writing and photography.

It's also a sampler of the food our guests have eaten at the Bob Dylan Discussion Weekends here in Southwest France - food which those guests have written afterwards to rave about like this:

 

"the food sublime"
"Wonderful food"
"delicious meals"
"Sarah's cooking was brilliant"
"Sarah's fantastic food"
"Lovely food"
"absolutely outstanding"
"The food was divine"

Obviously I'm not disinterested, but I'm sincere in saying - and I say this as a omnivore - that this is an exceptional book from a superb cook, and you should buy it.
 

STEVE GOODMAN: 30 YEARS GONE

September 20, 2014: Today it's 30 years - 30 years! - since the sweet-natured, self-deprecating singer-songwriter Steve Goodman died.

Here's the entry on him in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:


Goodman, Steve [1948 - 1984]
Steve Goodman was born on Chicago’s North Side on July 25, 1948, the son of a used car salesman, about whom Steve eventually wrote the song ‘My Old Man’. He started learning guitar and writing songs as a young teenager and while at Lake Forest College and the University of Illinois he began to perform in a local club, soon dropping out of college (in 1969) to make music his career. In this he was never financially successful, though he survived early on by writing and singing advertising jingles. He returned to Chicago after a short stint trying his luck in Greenwich Village and in 1971 was recorded performing live on a local album, Gathering at the Earl of Old Town. A support spot to KRIS KRISTOFFERSON that April led to a record deal with Buddah and a first album, Steve Goodman, in 1971. Typically, as soon as Goodman had Kristofferson’s attention, he insisted he go and hear another performer who deserved to be discovered too  -  his friend JOHN PRINE, whose song ‘Donald and Lydia’ Goodman would cover on his own début album.
            That album also offers Goodman’s signature song, ‘City of New Orleans’, which was a hit not for Goodman but for ARLO GUTHRIE  -  and then again, the year of Goodman’s death, a hit for WILLIE NELSON. Also on Steve Goodman’s first album is the good-naturedly parody of a country song ‘You Never Even Call Me By My Name’ (which Prine had co-written but wouldn’t take credit for); this too would become a hit, a couple of years later and for David Allen Coe.
            All this tells the Goodman story: he wrote songs others had hits with, and he was, as writer and performer too, much admired by big-name fellow performers. He was a fine guitarist (he plays on all Prine’s early albums, just as Prine plays on his) and it’s said that when, in solo performances, he broke a guitar string, which was often, he would keep singing while getting a new string out of his pocket, fitting and tuning it, and would then resume his playing unphased  -  yet he never broke through as a performer himself.      In September 1972, with Arif Mardin as producer, Goodman went into Atlantic’s studios in New York to make his second album, Somebody Else’s Troubles, and a single, ‘Election Year Rag’, and for that single, and for the album’s title track, Bob Dylan was a participant. It’s said that Goodman was frustrated at Dylan’s turning up hours and hours late, and perhaps this is why he doesn’t appear on the rest of the material, but he plays piano and sings harmony vocals on these two tracks (both penned by Goodman), along with DAVID BROMBERG on dobro and mandolin, and Prine, among others. The album also included the song that Goodman would come nearest to having a hit with, ‘The Dutchman’  -  the one song he didn’t write. When the album was issued, in early 1973, Dylan was credited as Robert Milkwood Thomas.
            Though Buddah issued The Essential Steve Goodman in 1974 (which also featured ‘Election Year Rag’), it was 1975 before Goodman made his next album, when a label switch gave him greater encouragement and saw an increase in his output. The 1975 album was Jessie’s Jig & Other Favorites; then came Words We Can Dance To (1976), Say It In Private (1977) and High and Outside (1978), which included a duet with then-newcomer Nicolette Larson, and Hot Spot (1980). ‘Chicago Shorty’, as he was dubbed by friends, had also acted as a producer, notably of John Prine’s 1978 album Bruised Orange, and formed his own label, Red Pajama Records, for which he duly recorded Artistic Hair and Affordable Art (both 1983) and his last album, Santa Ana Winds, which reached record stores the day after his death.
            Goodman had been suffering from leukemia all his adult life, and from Chicago made regular and frequent trips to New York for treatment. He moved to the West Coast (to Seal Beach, just below Long Beach, in Southern California) at the beginning of the 1980s, and received treatment in Seattle. The Artistic Hair album cover depicted him standing in front of a hairdressing salon of that name, his own head bald from the effects of chemotherapy. On August 31, 1984 underwent a bone marrow transpant. Twenty days later he died of the liver and kidney failure brought on by his leukemia in hospital in Seattle. He was 36.

[Steve Goodman: ‘Eight Ball’, ‘Chicago Bust Rag’ & ‘City of New Orleans’, Chicago 1970-71, on Various Artists, Gathering at the Earl of Old Town, Dunwich 670, Chicago, 1971, CD-reissued Mountain Railroad, US, 1989; Steve Goodman, NY, 1971, Buddah BDS-5096, US, 1971-2; Somebody Else’s Troubles, NY, Sep 1972, Buddah BDS-5121, US, 1973; ‘Election Year Rag’, Buddah BDA-326, 1973; Artistic Hair, Red Pajama 001, US, 1983; Affordable Art, Red Pajama 002, 1983; Santa Ana Winds, Red Pajama 003, 1984. Many posthumous recordings have been issued, and CD-reissues of the original LPs, some remastered and with extra tracks. There is also a video, Steve Goodman Live From Austin City Limits…And More!, including Prine, Guthrie & Kristofferson, nia, US, 2003.]
 

MEAT-FREE ANY DAY


MEAT-FREE ANY DAY is the new book from food writer Sarah Beattie. As some of you may know, Sarah is my wife, so yes, this is a plug - but it truly is a fine book, so allow me to tell you a bit about it... 

It contains over 150 recipes, and dozens of colour photographs, all genuinely of the food itself. No glue or plastic, no food-stylist tricks. It's an authentic cookbook for every day, for everyone.

Instead of the usual Starters / Main Courses/ Desserts, the book is, brilliantly, divided into ideal recipes for Sunny Days, for Busy Days, for Sundays, for Hanging on 'til Paydays, for High Days & Holidays, etc., etc.

MEAT-FREE ANY DAY is based on Sarah’s monthly feature in Vegetarian Living magazine, but there’s nothing Worthy or Hair-shirt or Preachy about it. This is modern, imaginative, richly satisfying food, not only for people who never eat meat but for those of us who just like to reduce our meat consumption now & then yet still want quality cuisine when we do.

I've eaten this food - I know how good it is.

MEAT-FREE ANY DAY is published in large-format paperback in the UK on Friday October 24th, at £14.99. You can advance-order it here now: http://tinyurl.com/mpvnmm9  or through your local bookshop. (The ISBN is 978-1908256508.)

PS. You can find Sarah Beattie's Facebook page here.



QUAINTNESS OF THE RECENT PAST NO. 39

Welcome back to a favourite irregular series. This one's a corker (to use a quaint phrase from the recent past):

SALE! "BOB DYLAN ENCYCLOPEDIA GREATEST HITS" CD HALF PRICE



Sale! From today the beautifully digipackaged CD Bob Dylan Encyclopedia Greatest Hits  is half price for a limited period: £5 + p&p instead of £10 + p&p.

The running-time is 56 minutes 34 seconds. Tracklist is of the author (ie me) reading this varied selection of entries from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

1.  1965-66: Bob Dylan, Pop & the UK Charts  [6:19]
2.   Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat  [3:33]
3.   Being Unable to Die, and Howbeit  [3:00]
4.   Blood On The Tracks  [10:49]
5.   Telegraphy and the Religious Imagination  [4:40]
6.   Eat The Document  [4:38]
7.   Frying An Egg On Stage  [0:52]
8.   Duluth, Minnesota  [3:52]
9.   Musicians' Enthusiasm for Latest Dylan Album, Perennial  [0:52]
10. Dylan in Books of Quotation  [3:31]
11.Love and Theft"  [13:35]



JAMES BURTON AT 75


Ricky Nelson & James Burton; photographer unknown
On the occasion of James Burton's 75th birthday, here's my entry on him in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:



Burton, James [1939 - ]
James Burton was born in Minden, Louisiana on August 21, 1939, moved to Shreveport ten years later and became one of the defining stylists of electric rock’n’roll guitar, playing mainly a Fender Telecaster yet owning 200 other guitars. He worked his way through backing Slim Whitman and others on the Louisiana Hayride while still virtually a child, escaping into session work after playing a striking solo while still a young teenager on the 1957 Dale Hawkins hit ‘Suzie Q’. It was on RICKY NELSON’s records that he became widely noticed and admired, playing a series of discreet yet inventive, tantalisingly brief solos on Nelson’s big hits. It’s astonishing how short the instrumental breaks were on pop singles.
            In 1969 he was asked to back ELVIS PRESLEY on his return to live performance, and stayed in service through all the numbing, demeaning tours until Presley’s death, though he was never free to impose either his flair or his restraint on this overblown orchestral unit.
            His credentials were better respected on albums by Hoyt Axton, JUDY COLLINS, RY COODER and others, and on the Gram Parsons albums GP  and Grievous Angel. After Parsons’ death he was a member of EMMYLOU HARRIS’ Hot Band (between Elvis tours), touring and recording with her. He and the steel player Ralph Mooney made the duets album Corn Pickin’ And Slick Slidin’ in 1966 (CD-reissued in 2005), and five years later Burton made his only solo album, which suffered under the title The Guitar Sounds Of James Burton, the sort of name normally associated with albums by middle-of-the-road hacks, and catches Burton trying haplessly to look early-1970s hip, in one of the world’s nastiest shirts. This album was CD-reissued in 2001.
            James Burton’s connection with Dylan  -  aside from the mere rumor that Dylan had wanted Burton in his band when he first ‘went electric’ in 1965  -  is that when the Never-Ending Tour came through Shreveport on October 30, 1996, the veteran guitarist came on stage and played with Dylan and the band on five numbers: ‘Seeing The Real You At Last’, ‘She Belongs To Me’, ‘Maggie’s Farm’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and the final encore item, ‘Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35’.

[James Burton: The Guitar Sounds Of James Burton, A&M, US, 1971. James Burton & Ralph Mooney, Corn Pickin’ And Slick Slidin’, Capitol T 2872, US, 1966.]

AUGUST 19, 2014: BLIND WILLIE McTELL DIED 55 YEARS AGO TODAY

Blind Willie McTell died at 4.25am local time in the Ingram Building of Milledgeville State Hospital, Georgia, 55 years ago today.


 As my book Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes reports:


Whether Willie was taken into Milledgeville [after his second stroke] by ambulance or train we don’t know, but he arrived on Wednesday August 12, without any luggage or money, and after a partial examination he was placed on the ward for acutely ill patients. The doctor who saw him found him “poorly nourished”. He had no strength in his right hand, and after being asked several times how long this had been the case, he said it had happened the previous night. He could not stand up unaided, and in the days that followed, he had to be cared for in every way, and remained “always quiet”.
            The medical notes [I] obtained from Atlanta show that his condition was monitored constantly, and in great detail... On admission, he was given a “partial physical” examination by a doctor, whose report was typed up that day, and his temperature, pulse and respiration were measured. Relevant aspects of his “blood chemistry” were measured at least once daily, and the results logged. A sheet of doctor’s orders included putting him on a salt-free diet, fitting a catheter and prescribing tablets on the day of his admission and making changes in his medication two days later.
            A serological report was typed up and he was given a Wasserman Test the day after he arrived, and by the next day his chest x-ray had been developed, analysed and written up. The day before he died, the “lab girl” was told to check things every four hours (though she seems to have skipped two of these). His breathing, pulse and temperature were measured and logged twice daily throughout the week; his medicine, quite rightly, was specified item by item, daily.
            His severe deterioration on August 18 was noted promptly  -  the medical note “get stat blood sugar” implies that they were worried he was going into a diabetic coma  -  and they put him on a drip twelve hours before he died. Presumably to cover themselves, a letter dated August 18 was sent from the Director and the Clinical Director to [Willie's uncle and friend] Gold Harris, saying “This is to advise you that the above named patient is being treated on the ward for acutely ill patients and…We regard his condition as potentially critical and such that he is likely to make a sudden change for the worse and the end come abruptly.”
            He died at 4.25 next morning, Wednesday August 19. The death certificate gave the cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage. The hospital’s more detailed notes were that Dr. M.E. Smith “offered a diagnosis in this case, of: CBS (Cerebral Brain Syndrome), associated with circulatory disturbance, other, cerebral hemorrhage, left side, with psychotic reaction.”
            Today, the diabetes would be better managed, and we would term it Cerebral Vascular Accident rather than CBS. The hemorrhage was on the left side of his brain, so that it was the right side of his body that was impaired. He might well have had cerebral vascular disease for some time, and the earlier stroke may have been part of that: clearly from the medical evidence here, something had happened around nine months previously  -  that is, at the time of [his uncle] Coot’s and [his wife] Helen’s deaths  -  that propelled him into much greater illness. By the time he arrived at the hospital, the nerve-endings in his leg were impaired by blood not reaching it properly.
            There was one more significant fact in the medical records. The Wasserman Test result showed that Willie had syphilis. His “very small eyeballs” and their “opacity” therefore suggests that there may have been  -  may have been  -  congenital syphilis. This, passed through the placenta from the mother, can reveal itself in many other physical abnormalities, which Willie did not have (commonly an odd bridge to the nose), but congenital syphilis could certainly account for under-developed eyeballs and perhaps their congenital cataracts...
            So it might be that this information from the very end of Willie’s life tells us something about its very beginning.

BRIAN AUGER AT 75 & 35


The British jazz-fusion musician Brian Auger is 75 today (18 July 2014) and is still recording and performing. To mark the occasion of this significant anniversary, here is the interview he gave me 40 years ago, and which was first published in Melody Maker on July 27, 1974. It's a time-capsule now - a reminder of how things stood back then, at a moment of great mutual unease between rock and jazz and when a jazz person like Auger was recognising a break-out into pioneering complexity by the pop figureheads of Tamla-Motown:



BRIAN AUGER has been stomping round the commercial radio stations as part of his duty in promoting his latest album Straight Ahead by the Brian Auger Oblivion Express.
             “We’ve spent the last three months on tour in America, covering just about everywhere. I have very few plans for working in England: two weeks at Ronnie Scott’s Club starting July 22 and that’s about it. But we are busy on another album.
            “We cut a live album while we were in the States and at present we’re mixing that. That’ll take quite a while to sort out because there’s so much to listen to: three nights of it, done at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles.
            “But I’m very pleased with it; hopefully we can make it a double, and make a presentation thing of it – and try to get it out for October.”
            Did Auger find the contemporary music scene exciting, bearing in mind that he was one of those musicians who started out in jazz, not rock?
            “Yes, in a way. I do see something new happening. You have to look at it in terms of various scenes. There’s an English rock scene, for example, which I don’t really think I fit into.
            “All the people I feel a connection with – that I’ve listened to and been influenced by – have been out of black American music: from blues through to early jazz, Charlie Parker, hard-bop, Miles Davis, Coltrane, and then people like Herbie Hancock; Ray Charles even.
            “And now what’s exciting is that there’s a whole stream got going in the States – Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield: those guys have been in Tamla, or round about that sort of level of musicianship, and they’ve now sprung forward, using sort of jazz harmony.
            “The whole thing has taken a turn into a new music, in fact. And that’s the kind of scene I’ve always felt for.”
            Did Brian think this new black music has been influenced, en route, by any white American jazz-rock fusions? Had anyone like Frank Zappa contributed in any way?
            “Well Zappa’s a strange example, because he’s really out there on his own. A brilliant musician, and he’s written some great things – he really knows his music. Up to a point he’s contributed. But people like Stevie Wonder, restricted for years, suddenly came out and did their own thing and knocked everyone out.
            “There seemed to be a lull all of a sudden, for a year or so, when in Europe anyway we weren’t hearing those things; and then suddenly there’s a whole stream that’s there.
            “The thing is, inevitably the mainstream of rock is feeding on information drawn from either the classical side or the jazz side or both. That’s what’s there: those are the two areas which contain the harmonic knowledge necessary for the rock scene to evolve.”
            Brian went on to talk about what was happening when he first started playing music professionally.
            “Oh, well, first it was the end of the Cyril Davies-Alexis Korner blues era; I was far more into playing jazz. I was playing jazz organ, and about six months after I started doing that I met Long John Baldry, who saw us in Manchester. Now his Hoochie Coochie Men thing had just ground to a halt and he was looking for someone to act as a sort of MD – someone to just take care of everything for him. So we were talking about putting something together; and he had another guy, name of Rod Stewart, who he said was pretty good – I think maybe we could have him in. And we had a young lady who was just answering Yardbirds fan mail in our office at the time, whose name was Julie Driscoll.
            “I’d done a session with Julie on a first single, so I suggested she should come in too, and we’d do a whole package show, which would go right across the whole spectrum from sraight, pure blues – which Baldry did very well – to Tamla and Sam Cooke stuff, which Rod was very much into.
            “And then Julie was into a funny mixture of things – some Tamla things, but also Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. And I was doing more jazz material. So, after a year and a half working with all that lot, I knew exactly what areas of rock really interested me. Having decided, I came out, and Julie and I formed the Trinity to do our thing.”
            But way back before that, what had been the music that had had real impact on Auger? What had he listened to before he ever started playing at all?
            “Oh, right back when I was ten or eleven? I used to listen to early Stan Kenton records, and Shorty Rodgers. West Coast jazz, mainly – they were the more easily available records to buy. Then I heard some of the Blue Note catalogue – Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Miles: and that was it. Once I’d heard that, that was it. The guy who influenced me most was a guy called Horace Silver, a really funky bluesy hard-bop jazz player who had his own band (and still does). And then of course one always listens to guys like Charlie Parker: there’s so much information there.
            “That’s how it all started off, from there; and because it was bluesy stuff, it wasn’t too hard for me, when I started playing organ, to align myself with the blues field.
            “Another great influence I should mention is Eddie Harris – not someone who is too well-known. I’d been listening to Miles Davis – to ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ on the Miles Smiles album, and I’d assumed he’d written that number; and then when I looked I found it was by this guy Eddie Harris.
            “I thought, you know, who the heck’s that – he sure writes good things. So I looked round and came up with an album by him on Atlantic, which I really liked. He’s very funky, very down-to-earth. So I listened to a lot, and in fact we recorded a couple of his things later.”
            Auger had long been raving too about another jazz keyboards man, McCoy Tyner.
            “McCoy Tyner was the late John Coltrane’s piano-player, and he’s my favourite keyboards player. He’s one of those guys who comes along and suddenly makes that strange harmonic turn, and just puts piano-playing from the earth to the moon, and you say ‘Wow! How the hell did we get from there to here?’ And then a lot of people start to work at it. I should imagine that a lot of people like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, all those modern keyboard-players, have all come out from this guy, although he’s relatively unheard of. An excellent, excellent musician – a fantastic player; deserves so much credit and gets so little. He’s definitely my man. Anyone who can continue Coltrane’s work, and has actually broken that harmonic barrier and let everyone else in – if one could ever achieve that in one’s lifetime, that would be enough.”
            I picked Auger up on the mention of Herbie Hancock, whom he also admires.
            “Yes, I’ve been into Herbie Hancock for a long long time, but more recently he’s been one of the people on which the rock scene has stamped itself – and in a very authoritative way. Some of the very best musicians now cannot avoid its influence. I was in Philadelphia a while back, and I went down to see Herbie Hancock, and I was expecting something very ethereal – horns and close-voicings, pretty and rather nebulous – because the last album of his that I’d got was like that; very difficult music. When I got there it was quite different. He had an unbelievable band. It was rock – or anyway a fusion of rock and jazz. Who knows what to call it?
            “It’s just music now, good music, and that’s how it should be. And the fact that the Headhunter album by Herbie Hancock got to about No. 10 on the American charts, and took about six or seven months to do it, means that we’re really into one of those periods when it’s not not impossible to sell good music. I’d like that to be clear to all the record companies.”
            I wondered whether Brian Auger looked back at the Trinity with fondness. Did he still regard that as good music, or did he, like many artists, find his old work a slight embarrassment?
            “Well apart from one or two tracks, which have faded a bit, most of the stuff I’m happy to say stands up very well. I think it’s because the Trinity was put together for a particular function, and that was to make a bridge the rock scene as it was then – around 1965 – and the jazz scene.
            “And those two scenes in England at the time were totally separate. At the time it wasn’t easy. We laboured on for about two years and the pop people said ‘What the hell are they playing?’, while the jazz guys said ‘Oh! God! I can’t listen to that: it’s commercial!’ So we were in a sort of limbo for a while.
            “But as you see, it had to go in that direction – because to make the rock scene evolve itself it had to turn to jazz (or to classical music). There was going to have to be a fusion of one or other of those things with rock. And now of course it’s happened. I think the Trinity albums stand up quite well, mostly.”
            We turned to the question of what Julie Driscoll is doing now:
            “Well, as you may remember, the band came apart around 1969 or ’70 – we had a hell of a lot of management hang-ups and pressures which nearly drove us right round the bend; so what with trying to put up with that, and trying to put up with the pressures of being on the road almost full-time, the quality of our lives suffered so badly that it just wasn’t worth it. It got to a point where you could have offered us anything and we wouldn’t have done it.
            “Plus we were let down very badly at the end, and were left with nothing – for four years’ work. So Julie took the attitude that if that’s what can happen in the business, I really don’t want to be associated with the people who can do that. I felt more or less the same way, but I went out and started a new band and set up as an independent, whereas Julie just stayed really in the background.
            “She’s done a few gigs here and there, done a little bit of recording but that’s all. We’re still in touch, though – still great friends. She was in a bit of a car accident a while back – which was not only unfortunate for her personally, but also messed things up because at that time we were about to get together to record a new album, and that’s gone by the board now.
            “Maybe we can do it later, in the States or something. I think a lot of people would be interested in that, and I’d like to do it anyway.”

_______

BOB DYLAN DISCUSSION WEEKENDS: UPDATE!

Breaking news: because of a cancellation due to illness, there is now space for either one person or one couple sharing a room, for the Dylan Discussion Weekend of September 12-14 - and there is still similar availability for the Weekend of October 3-5. So if you can come after all, please see HERE for full details!


Our dog is Mavis. She's gentle and unobtrusive, yet she's a key member of the Dylan Discussion Weekend team, working behind the scenes. She even likes cats (but we don't have any). And for those who don't like dogs, well, one visitor of that strange kind said "I like Mavis. She's so quiet it's almost like not having a dog at all."

And while we're on testimonials, here's a couple of quotes from people who came to previous Dylan Discussion Weekends:

"A special thank you for a gem of a weekend. Wonderful food, warm hospitality and an amazing giving of knowledge."
Jill and Louise


"Thank you again for this excellent weekend. Sarah's cooking was brilliant and both Dylan Evenings are engraved in my mind. It was an unforgettable weekend. It's sometimes so easily said or written, but it really, really was. We're wallowing in pleasure. May you stay forever young."
Lukas and Saskia

FAREWELL GERRY GOFFIN, LYRICIST OF A SWEET AGE

I'm very sorry to have learnt this morning of the death of Gerry Goffin, whose lyrics paired mostly with Carole King's melodies made up a huge part of a (my) generation's soundtrack between the late 1950s and the arrival of the Beatles. I watched a compelling documentary on Carole King very recently on BBC4-TV, in which someone - I've forgotten who - said that Goffin's lyrics tended to be a shade dark but that King's tunes were cheerier. I think that's right and that it's what made for a perfect pairing. You'd be hard pressed to beat, for affecting simplicity and earworm catchiness - for the genius of pop, in fact - their quintessential Will You Love Me Tomorrow?', made wondrous by the Shirelles and yet very capable, decades later, of holding up when revisited by Amy Winehouse.





Gerry Goffin wrote with others too, including, much later and less significantly, Bob Dylan.

Here's my entry on him from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (updated only to note his death):


Goffin, Gerry [1939 - 2014]
Gerry Goffin was born in Brooklyn on February 11, 1939. He began writing song lyrics at the age of 8 but had to wait many years before finding a music-writing partner. After high school he enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve and was duly admitted to the Annapolis Naval Academy in Maryland, from which he resigned after a year, returning to New York and majoring in chemistry at Queens College, where he met Carole King.
            For a few golden years as from 1959, when they married and started to dream up songs together, they enjoyed huge success as the prolific writers of pop hits, working out of the famous Brill Building at 1819 Broadway, New York City, for Nevins-Kirchner-Colgem from 1960 onwards. For details of their joint songs, see under King, Carole. While in this golden age, Goffin also co-wrote with Barry Mann (whose usual partner was Cynthia Weill), as in the case of ‘Who Put The Bomp?’, which Goffin himself recorded, scoring a Top 10 US hit.
            Just as Goffin and King did not write together exclusively while married, so too their professional collaboration did not end with their divorce (they co-wrote Blood Sweat & Tears’ ‘Hi-De-Ho’), though Gerry Goffin seemed to come out of this less well equipped than Ms King, both as a songwriter and a performer. He made a 1973 solo album, It Ain’t Exactly Entertainment, which was not a success (while King enjoyed spectacular solo success with her album Tapestry, albeit including the Goffin-King song ‘Smackwater Jack’) and he wrote only the occasional hit in the 1970s  -  notably Gladys Knight’s ‘I’ve Got to Use My Imagination’ and Rod Stewart’s ‘It’s Not the Spotlight’, both co-written with Barry Goldberg (who recorded the latter himself, with some minor assistance from Bob Dylan, on a 1973 album, while on Dylan’s 1984 European tour, musician Gregg Sutton was given, unfathomably, a solo slot in which he regularly sang the former). In the 1980s Goffin managed to co-write, with Michael Masser, ‘Tonight I Celebrate My Love’, recorded by both Perry Como and Roberta Flack, Crystal Gayle’s ‘A Long and Lasting Love’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘Savin’ All My Love For You’, released on her début album in 1985 (an album that eventually sold 24 million copies) and a no.1 hit single.
            In late 1995 or early 1996 Gerry Goffin was working on a new solo album, his first for aeons, when Bob Dylan dropped into the studios, brought along by their mutual friend Barry Goldberg. Dylan duly played guitar (along with Goldberg on keyboards and Tim Drummond on bass, plus various others) on two tracks that made it onto Goffin’s album. The tracks are ‘Masquerade’ (on which Dylan is listed as co-producer with Goffin, and as co-writer) and ‘Tragedy of the Trade’ (co-written by Goffin, Dylan and Goldberg). A posting on Amazon’s website suggests that Dylan can also be heard on background vocals on the track ‘A Woman Can Be Like A Gangster’. The album, Back Room Blood, was released in July 1996. You might assume the title refers to the fact that Goffin’s main career has been as backroom boy  -  songwriter rather than singer  -  but the long, bitter, foaming, ‘Hurricane’-style lyric of ‘Tragedy of the Trade’ includes the opaque couplet ‘The world’s been run with backroom blood / Long before the time of the flood’. A third co-written song, ‘Coast to Coast Blues’, is covered by Anders Osborne on his 1999 album Living Room  -  on which Freddy Koella can be found playing guitar  -  but isn’t included on Goffin’s.
            Back Room Blood  is not a great album, and Goffin’s voice sometimes sounds like a poor imitation of Dylan, but these co-written songs have certainly been under-attended to by Dylan aficionados, and the album that contains them has, overall, a kind of floundering agitation that’s rather endearing.
            Gerry Goffin died of natural causes at age 75 on June 19, 2014.
           
[Gerry Goffin: It Ain’t Exactly Entertainment, nia, 1973, CD-reissued Airmail nia, 2001; Back Room Blood, Genes 4132, US, 1996. Anders Osborne: Living Room, Shanachie 5375, Newton NJ, 1999.]
 



MORRISSEY

So Morrissey has cancelled the whole of the rest of what would have been a long US tour, because of acute fever", and has blamed his support act, the unsigned American singer-songwriter Kristeen Young (who was first his support act in April 2006) for passing this on to him. She denies this, very reasonably, though she's deleted the Facebook post in which she said so.

His blaming her seems ungracious, especially since they've gushed about each other extravagantly in the past:

Him: Do you remember an ancient notion of how good the very best should be? This is Kristeen Young."

Her: This man, who I think is the greatest lyricist that ever existed and who I've worshipped since I was a teenager, is now my friend. And he's a good friend. He's extremely generous and accommodating."

He's obviously one of those people who quarrels with everyone in the end. It doesn't stop me admiring him as an artist nor stop me awaiting his new album, World Peace Is None Of Your Business, due out next month. Here's a song from it, Kick the Bride Down the Aisle', as performed at one the US concerts he did  manage, at Boston Opera House five days ago:



A curiously old-fashioned rock-group set-up, don't you think?

[News re tour cancellation c/o Matt Everitt on BBC Radio6Music this morning; quotes from Morrissey and Young from http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/mar/10/weekend7.weekend8.]