Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Wed 25 May 05 07:05
I heard at one point that he had covered "I Can See for Miles." At first, it shocked me, but after I thought about it, it made perfect sense.
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Wed 25 May 05 08:06
"I Can See for Miles?" Don't think so but I'd be interested to hear what he'd do with it.
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Wed 25 May 05 08:47
And of course how many others have coveredhis songs. Like, "everyone knows" that All Along The Watchtower is Henrdix tune :-) And there's that line from Garcia, when asked why the Dead did so many Dylan songs he said something like "'Cause it's nice to sing something where you don't feel stupid singing the word."
AwwWWW! Now my head's not taped to the TV! (tinymonster) Wed 25 May 05 08:57
That's a good quote!
David Gans (tnf) Wed 25 May 05 10:05
Matisse's quote reminds me of this from a 1981 interview with Garcia: Jerry Garcia: [Dylans songs] speak to us some kind of universal persona which you can pretty clearly recognize. He hits a real good deep nail on the head in terms of writing songs about something. Blair Jackson: You have any trouble singing a song as bitter as "Positively Fourth Street"? Garcia: No, not at all. It's easy for me to cop that asshole space, easy. I was that guy, too. There's a certain kind of pose that that goes along with--there always were those people, in a way. For me, it occupies the same space as "Ballad of a Thin Man." It tells that person who's lame that they're lame, why they're lame, which is a very satisfying thing to do. Certainly something everybody knows about.... "Positively Fourth Street" has this way of doing it where it's beautiful, too. And "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is basically a putdown, too. It's one of those things like, "you're losing bad--dig yourself." Being able to say that and say it beautifully--it was the beautiful sound of "Positively Fourth Street" that got to me more than the bitterness of the lyric. The combination of the beauty and the bitterness, to me, is wonderful. It's like a combination of something being funny and horrible--it's a great combination of two odd ingredients in the human experience. Anybody who can pull it off that successfully is really a score. That's something that only Dylan has been able to pull off, in terms of modern songwriting, I think--or at least where I can sing those songs and-- Jackson: I think Lennon did it a couple of songs. Garcia: Yeah.
Howard Levine (hll) Wed 25 May 05 12:01
I don't have the book handy, but do you recall your research on the Charles Aznavour song Bob sang on the tour with Joni Mitchell - Les Bon Moments?
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Wed 25 May 05 18:57
The (unedited?) entry for "Les Bons Moments" (below) is fairly typical of the kind of work I tried to bring to the cover song material combining biography and some Dylan lore with a bit of critical insight. What an unusual choice yet consistent with the very wide net Dylan throws over his influences. I think this is one of the things I came to admire him even more than I had before -- a kind of fearless quality. Imagine standing center stage at Madison Square Garden before 20,000 doing a song for the first and probably only time. In the introduction to "Keys" I discuss what I call the "Secret Museum of Bob Dylan" and "Les Bons" is a perfect example of a song you would never expect him to do. Yet it seems so perfect at the same time. The Times We Have Known (Charles Aznavour) AKA Les Bons Moments, The Times Weve Known Charles Aznavour, You and Me (1995) I usually play these songs all by myself. But I feel all by myself now announced Dylan before his acoustic one-off of this English language version of Frenchman Charles Aznavours ballada surprise hit at an Autumn 1998 show in the Big Apples Madison Square Garden. Aznavour (born Shanaur Varenagh Aznavourain May 22, 1924, Paris, France) is a diminutive, raspy-voiced songster of primarily self-composed chansons as well as a sad-eyed thespian who came to personify Frenchness for Anglo-Saxon audiences. Of Armenian extraction, Aznavour first studied acting but turned to songwriting as a means of support in 1942 when he wrote Jai bu with Pierre Roche for George Ulmer. Encouraged by Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf (who became his mentor), Aznavour gained a reputation as singer at the Paris Olympia Theatre and appeared in Paris Music Hall, a 1957 documentary. George Franjus La Tête Contra les Murs in 1958 and Francois Truffauts Shoot The Piano Player in 1960 in which he played the café entertainer, are regarded as his most memorable film roles, highlighting the melancholy aspect of his personality. Those roles opened doors in both France and Hollywood and he has appeared in many films in the past four decades. Sur Ma Vie in 1955, Il Faut Savoir and Je Voyais Deja in 1958, Je tAttends in 1961, and La Mama written with Robert Gall in 1963 were his big music hits. La Mama (re-written with English words and retitled For Mama) provided Matt Monro with a minor British hit in 1964. After Monsieur Carnival, an operetta he wrote in 1965, Aznavour has focused on his cinematic career, writing songs or even entire scores for the films in which he appears. His last major musical success came in 1974 with She and The Old-Fashioned Way but he still frequently appears in films most recently in Ararat, a meditative 2002 Atom Egoyan-directed dramatization of the plight of Armenia also starring Eric Bogosian. Dylan holds Aznavour in high regard for, as he told Rolling Stone in a 1987 interview, he believed that Aznavour was among the greatest live performers hes ever seen. And in 1998, Dylan told Mojo, I became aware of him in 1962. I actually saw him perform in New York because Id seen a movie he was in called Shoot The Piano Player. I saw that movie a bunch of times because the snow part of it reminded me of back where I came from...Well, everything about that movie I identified with. Everything. So Charles Aznavour came to New York to playand I was the first one in line for a ticket.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 26 May 05 05:23
Great backstory. Readers on the Web: you can send questions or comments to be posted by e- mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Thu 26 May 05 06:24
A prime directive I assigned myself: every story has a song and every song has a story.
Howard Levine (hll) Thu 26 May 05 09:32
David Gans (tnf) Fri 27 May 05 11:12
Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Sat 28 May 05 19:52
yes, I agree!
Howard Levine (hll) Sun 29 May 05 15:39
back to the subject at hand - Oliver I was quite suprised to read that Desire is the most commercially successful Dylan album. I must admit that there are several songs that I really like, but it doesn;t compare to Blood on the tracks, Blonde on Blonde or others as a whole IMO. I think the use of the recently departed Jacques Levy may have been a factor in making some of Dylan's imagery more accessible. Any ideas on the subject to share with us?
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 05:02
I think the commercial success of Desire was probably the product of a confluence of events both related to Dylan's personal journey of the moment and the changin' times. It came out right as the Rolling Thunder Revue was hitting its consequential, high profile peak and the general wake of Dylan's return to performing and the artistic success of Blood on the Tracks. Think of it like a baseball team that does great box office the year following a World Series victory. Personally, I love that album -- even a "heavy" song like "Isis" has enough humor in it to keep you from getting too suicidal. And those songs, even "Sara", have aged very well in my opinion. Funny how that song doesn't even seem to be about his ex-wife anymore--just another in a long line of heartbreaks (Johanna, Ramona, Girl from the North Country, etc.). Also funny how a song like "Joey" so generally disparaged as the album's clinker at the time of its release, has really grown some hari in performance through the decades. Dylan called that song Homeric and I think he nailed it. Could be singing about Agamemnon or some cat from the mists of classic literature. Joey, a dude who came from nothing, rose to great heights (in certain quarters) and landed with a thud. I have a recent ('03?) version of Dylan performing this song and it, in my opinion, stands with one of my all favorite performances. And interesting how Hurricane, the big song on Desire, has sort of fallen out of favor through the years. Why does it seem dated and Joey not? And is Black Diamond Bay" an underrated song or what?
Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 30 May 05 06:47
I think it's the hat Bob is wearing on the cover. Plus all the things Oliver said. Joey is almost always fantastic in concert. I have wonderful memories of some performances I saw in 94 at Roseland and 97 in Scranton. In 2003, Bob played Romance in Durango, out of nowhere, in London. Then never again. It was great. What is going on? People send e-mail to bobdylan.com asking about Hurricane all the time: "is it about a real person?" "what happened?" We direct them to the Who's Who on the Expecting Rain site... now we can just send them to "Keys to the Rain".
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 09:11
The hat, definitely the hat. I meant to add something about that particular post-Watergate/pre-Carter (definitely pre-Reagan) moment in recent American history. I remember it feeling like it was the Left's shining moment and Dylan hitting the road troubadour-style with Rolling Thunder and Desire a kind of reclamation, the promise fulfilled. It was all in the air and Dylan was riding the crest of that optimism. He had also been on PBS (and the cover of TV Guide?) performing some songs from Desire and Blood on the Tracks so that must have added some ka-chings to the cash register. Thanks for the bobdylan.com plug Dan. The Hurricane entry is one of the better ones in "Keys." Lays the story behind the song right and tight and not through rose-colored glasses either. And that people write wondering whether Hurricane is a true story or not only goes to prove my point that there has been a loss of learning between then and now. Love "Romance in Durango." Its kind of a sequel to Marty Robbins' "El Paso." He should keep it in the rotation. Little trivia. "Romance" and "Black Diamond Bay" are two Desire songs with a bit of foreign languange lyrics. Any others?
Robert Schuren (robert-schuren) Mon 30 May 05 09:24
Well, Hurricane is concerned with the guilt or innocence of its subject. It is by necessity a narrow focus, much as a news article is. A larger scope, even palette, is avoided. The urgency if such an immediacy always carries much force. But if just left small, in its detail, and not pinned to larger themes that myth can accommodate, it fades without much warming hue of residue, much as the didactic films of say Stanley Kramer or even some of Elia Kazan have done. The strength of Joey is that it is myth, and not meant to be taken as gospel. It is the balance to Hurricane. And, I think, was put there to do so. But as myth, it then can spread over eons and continents. What makes Joey work is that it is told as an insider would tell it, not a reporter. Through the idolized eulogy, great bedrocks and all the earthen ventures that cover them are there for slow discovery. Think of it: what portion of Americana is so steeped in its secretive myth as the mob? The language, the ethics, the goals, are as closed as can be, yet at the same time, as openly tentacular connected to society as they are inwardly hidden from it. This dichotomy is probably unmatched by any other important or influential group or organization. The territory makes it ripe for depth that burrows deeper as years go by. And the use of a narrator from the inside is the key. Black Diamond Bay was always my favorite, it is akin to Desolation Row, but with the more difficult task of telling its truths through description and narrative, instead of metaphor. The listener must fill in the poetic devices, backwards of Desolation, and so it too is a balance to that song and its type, much as Joey is to Hurricane. Hi Dan, how are you? This is Grizz.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 May 05 09:54
Great post, Grizz! Hurricane Carter is a big part of Ratso Sloman's book "On the Road with Bob Dylan" (see Topic 173 here in the Inkwell). (I gained a new appreciation for the song "Hurricane" when I heard my brilliant and talented niece sing it -- all eleven verses! -- with her band The Kissers in Madison a couple of years ago.)
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 11:25
You shoulda written my book. Great insight and analytic sweep. Perhaps also, the remaining fuzziness of Rubin Carter's actual innocence or guilt has rendered the song less powerful. And yes, the narrator of Joey (an aging Mulberry Street urchin as I suggest in "Keys") adds a from me-to-you immediacy and authenticity. And both songs gain great strength from their use of collaquial language and street attitude. Never really considered there to be a link between "Desolation" and "Black Diamond" but considering your points, I can see them as being in the same general family songs. One, Desolation, however, is so deeply personal and tortured while the other more a breezy, even lighthearted, allegory of Armegeddon with the island as a stand-in for Earth.
David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 May 05 11:56
I few years ago I transferred some reels for Greil Marccs, including Dylan's performance of "Desolation Row" from Forest Hills (the first?). I was surprised to hear people laughing at the song (this was a recording made in the audience); it seems so serious now, but after this experience I began to see how it could be received as comedy.
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Mon 30 May 05 15:04
I sometimes pop Desire on just to listen to Black Diamond Bay and nothing else. I still mostly don't like Joey much, although it has some redeeming (mostly musical) qualities. And it kept "Abandoned Love" and some other great stuff off the album. But the only two Dylan songs I outright dislike are "Lay Lady Lay." and Rainy Day Women." I like the intent of the latter one, but it just annoys be to no end. And I hate when he does it live and half the crowd takes it as some kind of pot anthem and starts whooping.
Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 30 May 05 18:17
Hey, grizz! Great to see you here...
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Tue 31 May 05 03:20
Okay, I admit it. I'm a tape collector. Sorry Bob, don't get pissed. It just kind of goes with the territory when you write an encyclopedia about this stuff. And face it, some of his best performances of songs are live and often many years after he wrote and first recorded them. So my reference points for these songs are a bit tangled and scattered. Yeah, Desire would have been better without Joey but Joey has improved in ways on stage that Abandoned Love probably never could. Or take a song like Tight Connection to My Heart (aka Has Anybody Seen My Love?. Anybody ever heard the version from the last set at the Supper Club? Really as good as it gets and with a song that nobody ever thinks that much about. And we have similar tastes in dislikes, Dan, Lay Lady Lay and Rainy Day Woman are not "high" on my list. Dylan the alcehmist at work. Anyway, he's often spoken of his albums as mere blueprints for the songs that can later sprout wings.
Howard Levine (hll) Tue 31 May 05 05:26
I kinda liked Dylan with his "girls" - the period around Empire Burlesque sounded good on stage.
Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Tue 31 May 05 05:46
I would have liked to see some of those shows.
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