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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Genius of Bob Dylan

The legend comes to grips with his iconic status; an intimate conversation prior to the release of the new ''Modern Times''
JONATHAN LETHEM

"I don't really have a herd of astrologers telling me what's going to happen. I just make one move after the other, this leads to that." Is the voice familiar? I'm sitting in a Santa Monica seaside hotel suite, ignoring a tray of sliced pineapple and sugar-dusty cookies, while Bob Dylan sits across from my tape recorder, giving his best to my questions. The man before me is fitful in his chair, not impatient, but keenly alive to the moment, and ready on a dime to make me laugh and to laugh himself. The expressions on Dylan's face, in person, seem to compress and encompass versions of his persona across time, a sixty-five-year-old with a nineteen-year-old cavorting somewhere inside. Above all, though, it is the tones of his speaking voice that seem to kaleidoscope through time: here the yelp of the folk pup or the sarcastic rimshot timing of the hounded hipster-idol, there the beguilement of the Seventies sex symbol, then again -- and always -- the gravel of the elder statesman, that antediluvian bluesman's voice the young aspirant so legendarily invoked at the very outset of his work and then ever so gradually aged into.

It's that voice, the voice of a rogue ageless in decrepitude, that grounds the paradox of the achievement of Modern Times, his thirty-first studio album. Are these our "modern times," or some ancient, silent-movie dream, a fugue in black-and-white? Modern Times, like Love and Theft and Time Out of Mind before it, seems to survey a broken world through the prism of a heart that's worn and worldly, yet decidedly unbroken itself. "I been sitting down studying the art of love/I think it will fit me like a glove," he states in "Thunder on the Mountain," the opening song, a rollicking blues you've heard a million times before and yet which magically seems to announce yet another "new" Dylan. "I feel like my soul is beginning to expand," the song declares. "Look into my heart and you will sort of understand."

What we do understand, if we're listening, is that we're three albums into a Dylan renaissance that's sounding more and more like a period to put beside any in his work. If, beginning with Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan garbed his amphetamine visions in the gloriously grungy clothes of the electric blues and early rock & roll, the musical glories of these three records are grounded in a knowledge of the blues built from the inside out -- a knowledge that includes the fact that the early blues and its players were stranger than any purist would have you know, hardly restricting themselves to twelve-bar laments but featuring narrative recitations, spirituals, X-rated ditties, popular ballads and more. Dylan offers us nourishment from the root cellar of American cultural life. For an amnesiac society, that's arguably as mind-expanding an offering as anything in his Sixties work. And with each succeeding record, Dylan's convergence with his muses grows more effortlessly natural.

How does he summon such an eternal authority? "I'd make this record no matter what was going on in the world," Dylan tells me. "I wrote these songs in not a meditative state at all, but more like in a trancelike, hypnotic state. This is how I feel? Why do I feel like that? And who's the me that feels this way? I couldn't tell you that, either. But I know that those songs are just in my genes and I couldn't stop them comin' out." This isn't to say Modern Times, or Dylan, seems oblivious to the present moment. The record is littered -- or should I say baited? -- with glinting references to world events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, though anyone seeking a moral, to paraphrase Mark Twain, should be shot. And, as if to startle the contemporary listener out of any delusion that Dylan's musical drift into pre-rock forms -- blues, ragtime, rockabilly -- is the mark of a nostalgist, "Thunder on the Mountain" also name-checks a certain contemporary singer: "I was thinking 'bout Alicia Keys, I couldn't keep from crying/While she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was livin' down the line." When I ask Dylan what Keys did "to get into your pantheon," he only chuckles at my precious question. "I remember seeing her on the Grammys. I think I was on the show with her, I didn't meet her or anything. But I said to myself, 'There's nothing about that girl I don't like.' "
For page 2 go to:
http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/11216877/the_modern_
times_of_bob_dylan_a_legend_comes_to_grips_
with_his_iconic_status

Friday, August 11, 2006

Check out this movie...


This is our movie pick of the week.
Why:'The Secret' is a movie about the Laws of Attraction. Wonderful information on how to tune into the flow of the universe to manifest what you want in your life. Ask and you shall receive.
To order, go to: http://www.thesecret.tv

Brodie Rush hosts Pitch Music Awards...


My talented son Brodie, of Be/Non fame, will be hosting the Pitch Music Awards at the Uptown Theatre tonight, August 11, 2006 7:30pm.

If you want to see him in action, now is your chance. Admission is only $5.

http://www.be-non.com

The Long Shadow of Led Zeppelin by Mikal Gilmore

If you like Led Zeppelin here is an excerpt from a story in the current issue of the Rolling Stone.

Savaged by critics, adored by fans, the biggest band of the Seventies took sex, drugs and rock & roll to epic heights before collapsing under the weight of its own heaviness

There is no other story in rock & roll like the story of Led Zeppelin because the story is an argument—about music, who makes it, who hears it and who judges its meanings. Mainly, though, it's an argument about the work, merits and life of a band that has been both treasured and scorned now for more than thirty-five years. The arguments started as soon as the band did, rooted in a conviction that Led Zeppelin represented a new world, a new age—a rift between the hard-fought values of the 1960s and the real-life pleasures and recklessness of the 1970s. Either the band was taking us forward or taking us under, illuminating the times or darkening them. Those in the band weren't always sure themselves where everything was headed; things moved big and moved fast, and nothing simple happened. When everything was done, good and bad, the music withstood it all. Led Zeppelin—talented, complex, grasping, beautiful and dangerous—made one of the most enduring bodies of composition and performance in twentieth-century music, despite everything they had to overpower, including themselves.

Led Zeppelin were playing for new ears, and three and a half decades later, their music still plays the same way. Those sounds rushed through us and ahead of us, into territory that seemed to have no ending.

Led Zeppelin would come to epitomize the 1970s as nothing else ever has, but their ingenuity and ambition were deeply rooted in the changes of earlier decades. Jimmy Page was drawn to guitar in the 1950s by Lonnie Donegan's skiffle sounds and Elvis Presley's sexualized rockabilly, and by the 1960s he was a major player in the London pop scene. He made a reputation playing on sessions for the Kinks, the Who, Them, the Pretty Things, Herman's Hermits and Donovan, among others. In 1966, Page joined Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds. But the band was fraying from Beck's dark-cloud temperament, and in mid-1968, all the members had abandoned the group. Page, with the help of the group's manager at the time, Peter Grant, assumed the rights to the band's name and set out to find new members.

When John Paul Jones, an arranger and bassist who had worked with Page on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman," heard about the new band, he called Page to say he was eager to join. Page told Jones he would be back in touch; first, there was a singer he had to see. Page was looking for a vocalist who was versatile and undaunted—who could interact spontaneously with guitar improvisations. He had thought about Steve Marriott, formerly of Small Faces, and Terry Reid, but they weren't available. The day after Jones' call, Page and Grant went to hear Robert Plant, whom Reid had recommended.

Plant was from an industrial area known as the Black Country, in England's Midlands. Like Page, he had been drawn to Elvis Presley, though Plant had a special affinity for American country-blues singers, such as Skip James, Bukka White and Memphis Minnie. He also had a thing about Lord of the Rings, which inspired the name of the band he was singing in, Hobbstweedle, when Page first heard him performing at a teachers college in Birmingham. When Plant sang a version of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" in what Page later described as a "primeval wail," the guitarist said it unsettled him. It was exactly the voice he wanted. "I just could not understand why," Page said, "when he told me he'd been singing for a few years already, he hadn't become a big name yet." Page and Plant met at the guitarist's houseboat on the Thames and discussed their tastes. Page played a track recorded by Joan Baez, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," and explained that he wanted to find a way to put a song like that in a new context, one that would bring alive both the darkness and lightness of the material and heighten those contrasts. "We were dealing from the same pack of cards," Plant said last year. "You can smell when people . . . had their doors opened a little wider than most, and you could feel that was the deal with Jimmy. His ability to absorb things and the way he carried himself was far more cerebral than anything I'd come across before and I was so very impressed."




Plant recommended John Bonham, a drummer he had worked with. Bonham admired soul and Motown drummers and jazz musician Gene Krupa. But it was Cream's Ginger Baker, Bonham said, who "was the first to come out with this 'new' attitude—that a drummer could be a forward musician in a rock band, and not something that was stuck in the background and forgotten about." Bonham was nobody to remain in the background. He had a crushing attack and had been tossed from clubs for playing too loud. Page later said that when he first heard Bonham, he decided what his band would sound like. "This could be a breakthrough band," Page told Bonham.

Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham came together for the first time in a room below a record store in London. Page suggested that they try "Train Kept a-Rollin'," a rockabilly song popularized by Johnny Burnette that had been given new life by the Yardbirds. They had their sound and groove in that first song. "As soon as I heard John Bonham play," Jones told the drummer's biographer, Chris Welch, "I knew this was going to be great—somebody who knows what he's doing and swings like a bastard. We locked together as a team immediately." Plant has said that was the moment that he found the potential of what he could do with his voice, and also that it was the moment that defined the band: "Even though we were all steeped in blues and R&B, we found in that first hour and a half that we had our own identity."

Days after that first meeting, Page took the New Yardbirds to Copenhagen and Stockholm for some shows, playing covers and some new material of his own. Page understood right away that working any longer under the Yardbirds name would prove a liability. He settled on a new name, according to one legend, from a remark that the Who's drummer, Keith Moon, had made when Page, Beck, Moon and Who bassist John Entwistle had flirted with the idea of forming a group. "It would probably go over like a lead zeppelin," Moon joked. The phrase stayed with Page; it afforded a further example of contrasts between hard and light things. Peter Grant, who would now be the manager of this new band, decided to remove the letter a from lead—he was worried that the word might be mispronounced as "leed."

For rest of story go to:
http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/long_shadow_of_led_zeppelin

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rock & Roll Memoirs

Over the last couple of years there have been some very good memoirs written by musicians. If you are interested in reading about the people making the music in the 50's and 60's, here is a list of some to check out.







I just happened to stumble across "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan Leitch early this summer at the library. I was a big fan of Donovan in the 60's and found his book fascinating when I read so many parallel's with my own teenage years. Having read Sting's book, "Broken Music" in 2004 and Dylan's book, "Chronicles Volume I" shortly after, I discovered all three men discussed alot of the same events and people from their own personal perspectives.



If you want to read about being in the music business from a woman's point of view there is Tori Amos' book, "Piece by Piece." She discusses her childhood being raised by a Cherokee grandfather, who taught her the medicine ways of the native people to the Christian indoctrination of her father and paternal grandparents, who were all ordained ministers. Towards the end of the book she warns you of the do's and don'ts of the recording industry.





I am now reading simultaneously the biographies of Nick Mason, drummer for Pink Floyd, a very large almost coffee-table-like book with many colorful pictures, called "Inside Out" and Eric Burdon (of the Animals) "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." I find his book personally interesting because I met the Animals when I was 16 and became good friends with their road manager, Terry McVay, for many years.



Andy Summers (of the Police)has a new book coming out in October called "One Train Later." Hopefully I'll be done with the other two books by then so I can get started on his.

Happy Reading... Penny