Jul 192009

Today I spent another delightful evening with Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely and his family. We briefly discussed the Paul McCartney issue, raised after discussion of Paul’s recent appearance on Letterman. We agreed that Paul’s plastic surgery, Botox, and hair dye were relevant in any criticisms of his performance because he continues to try to sell us on the fact that he’s got something left in the tank when he’s had nothing for the last 25 or more years.

Then we had a little disagreement when I compared him to Bob Dylan, saying, “Dylan doesn’t resort to the Botox; he’s not trying to fool anyone.”

Plurbs said, “No, Dylan’s just as bad. He should go away too.”

I see a difference, though. To me, he deserves credit for his willingness to wander the earth until his dying day in full acknowledgment that he’s got little left to offer the world. I think it’s admirable that Dylan has, over the course of the last decade or so, been humbled enough to openly aspire to being a two-bit troubadour. Check out the above performance, from 1994, in which Dylan, like McCartney to this day, makes one last effort at reviving his Glory Days. Check out the polka-dotted shirt, the teased hair, and the shades. Compare this effort to bring it all back home with the reality of the music. It’s a little depressing, the way McCartney is depressing with his attempts at cheating time. Today’s Dylan may still be a put-on, but his creepy, low-life, man out of time Look matches his music. It makes it possible for some of us to hear his music with humbled expectations, possibly uncovering unexpected riches. Can there be hope for uncovering unexpected riches as long as McCartney poses as a wax likeness of his younger self?

Plurbie wasn’t quite buying this distinction between Dylan and McCartney and suggested that I bring it to the Halls of Rock. What say you, Townspeople?


  51 Responses to “Bob Dylan: Admirable Two-Bit Troubadour or Yet Another Faded Legend Who Can’t Get Over the Fact That the Dream Is Over?”

  1. Im 58 have been listening to Dylan,buying his music,going to concerts since I was at school.Have grown old with the guys music and do have a certain love for the style he has put on over the years.What is he expected to do now he is in his late 60s?I guess he could go to a retirement home but instead he is out there earning a crust and lets face it no one is compelled to pay the ticket money.I think he and other artists like him who have been over the course offer a certain kind of music to a certain age group.His concerts are always sell outs and there is always young people there so he must be doing something right.I read an item yesterday from the Guardian archive when a Fellow from the English Folk Music society was quoted in 1964 as saying that Dylan would not be around in 40 years time as his music had(in essence) no real value.I think he and his modern critics are wrong.
    Regards from Scotland.

  2. mikeydread

    I recently saw a clip of Ray Davies doing Lettermen, dignified, stylish and still capable of making eloquent, interesting music.


    It put me in mind of guys like Dylan and McCartney. I know it’s not a competition but can they do this?

  3. Well from what I’ve seen and read of some of the interviews he has given from the eighties and nineties up until recently I don’t think that Dylan is under any illusions with regards to his standing today. He knows that his days are numbered, that his time is over and that its time for the younger generation to take charge. However I find it way more than admirable that he is still out there plugging away and continuing to find a unique way to say what he wants to say the way he wants to say it. Unfortunately I do agree with you when it comes to McCartney though.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    Alecko and jujuman, welcome to Rock Town Hall, and thanks for supporting my points here. Time passes, we all age, skills diminish, but the act of keeping on keeping on with a realistic, dignified perspective allows the best of what’s left to come to the fore.

  5. BigSteve

    Isn’t epg’s position that no music worth listening to has been made by anybody since 1981? If so I don’t feel that it’s worthwhile to respond to his opinions about this.

  6. I think what saves Dylan is that he never valued youth as much as his peers, such as Macca or Young (“better to burn out than to fade away”).

    Thus he doesn’t seem to even remotely try to recapture his youth. As a friend of mine put it, he now has the age-old perspective–and voice–to sing about the age-old characters he was always writing about.

    I think there are songs on Time out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times that are real keepers and should belong in any Dylan fan’s collection.

    Keep in mind, too, that Dylan joked about being washed up long before anyone had the guts to make such an accusation.

  7. Dylan never had a really good voice, now its just terrible. But hey, if he wants to keep on touring and people keep going to see him, let it be.

    I’ve learned my lesson though.

  8. Dylan is already on the Mt. Rushmore of Rock so nothing is going to change that. With due respect to comments about how seeing or hearing him now evoke memories of better days, or congratulating him on his energy to keep the never ending tour going, or his ability to attract high paying ticket-goers; I have to agree that his voice now is just purely, objectively BAD. He really sounds like a throat cancer survivor.
    Unlikely as it is, if he were to write his 5 all time greatest songs tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to get past that painful sounding voice to appreciate them.

  9. Some of the stuff Dylan has done in the past ten years is up there with his best. I just don’t understand this post, I guess I would if it were about, say, David Lee Roth…

  10. The thing about Dylan havinhg no illusions about his current career is actually important.McCartney comes across as constantly referring to his past. “Look at me, I’m a Beatle.” Dylan seems completely aware that his 60’s self is long gone, and from Chronicles it seemed like he knew it was gone in 1970, before he dropped the hint to everybody else with Self Portrait. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the 60 minutes interview from a few years back, but it seems sad but somehow brave when Dylan talks about how the songs used to just come pouring out of him, and how that doesn’t happen anymore. It seems that he sees himself as a performer. That’s his job, no, more than that, his vocation. What exactly would he do if he gave it up. But he doesn’t seem to personally go in for that self-promotion we’re all so familiar with where the guy keeps explaining how his new record is where he got back on track from all of those weak efforts that undermined his legendary status. Dylan just tosses them out there The tours aren’t a promotion for his hot new record; the records aren’t an excuse for another high priced mega-tour. They are just what he does. I get a very different feel from that compared to McCartney’s seemingly desperate need for attention. I don’t think McCartney has lost anywhere as much a step as Dylan, but he just wan’t really a heavyweight to begin with. In the context of that big group he was in, his talent and skill flourished, but on his own, he was another brilliantly talented lightweight, not something that would last forever.

  11. Why so quick to get Grandpa Bob out of the way? He’s not hurting anybody really, and it isn’t as if the pop stations are all breaking their bones to play him anymore.

    Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of BD, but seriously, what do most younger bands have to offer us now besides retread crap inspired by the likes of Dylan and his peers anyway? It’s all just a shell game. And far too many of the genre’s most influential artists are either in a state of–or are approaching a state of–geriatritude (yeah, I made it up) to just shove them all in the same closet, never to see them again. Where would we put our luggage then?

    How’s about we clear out some space and make room for all who want it? I think that’s more the problem with music nowadays than whether or not some geezers still strap ’em on when they get the urge (or the bank manager calls, whichever). And yeah, maybe the conviction is a little bit on the wane, but I should think that after years of touring, recording, fighting, and ingesting we’d all be a little less acrobatic in how we performed. Just sayin.’ Dylan’s more than paid his; let him do it the way he will. If we can still stand Ozzy (hell, the whole of Black Sabbath for that matter), then what the hell?

    I do agree that Paul McCartney has nothing to say to anyone worth listening to nowadays, though, if he ever did in the first place.


  12. hrrundivbakshi

    What I find most confusing is the fact that Paul McCartney continues to make interesting — even good — music, *despite* the godawful, pointless live performances, the plastic surgery, the trophy girlfriends, the cringeworthy interviews and the hair dye. Seriously, Plurbs has no leg to stand on if he hasn’t listened to the “Fireman” or the “Memory Almost Full” albums. With an open mind. Without thinking back to the bygone days of his youth, when his johnson sprung to attention at the sight of a panty-line.

    Those two albums are not flawless — not by a long shot. But they’re good — by which I mean, really worth listening to.

    Now, back in 1979, rock and roll was a vitally important component of Plurbie’s life, as it was for me and most geezers on this list. It’s not so much anymore. I still get a softie for occasional album finds these days, but I don’t feel like I’d prefer to stop living in their absence. I dare say, if I’d heard either of Macca’s two most recent albums when I was in high school, I’d consider them much more important than I do today. Not “Band On the Run,” or even “Ram” important — but important nonetheless. I’d grab a few tunes from each album, drop ’em onto a C-60 mix tape, and they’d enter my deep musical vocabulary.

    Beyond Paul’s recent music, I have no use for the guy. As I’ve said before in these parts: I actually think he’s gone a bit insane over the last few years. If nothing else, he’s extremely irritating and more than a little bit depressing.

    Not sure all that makes sense; I’ve been enjoying a bit of booze this fine summer evening.

    And Plurbie: You know I love you, mannnnnn. I just think you’re giving Paulie’s recent music short shrift.


  13. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Geo —

    Other than the stuff you write about Dylan’s Importance In the Timeless Rock Firmament… I’m *totally* on board with your read on his recent “purpose” in Rock. That bit about how he sees himself as a troubador; a traveling minstrel — *that’s* a DYlan I can get behind. Know your place, Bob Dylan!

    I kind of felt that way after my two most recent Geeze-Rock shows, ZZ Top and David Byrne. I forgave them for their basic irrelevance to current music — and to my real, grown-up life — and I dug their enthusiasm and eagerness to put on *great* shows. Not great as in pandering greatest-hits reviews, but great as in: let me entertain you!

    I may even like Bob Dylan now.


  14. saturnismine

    I couldn’t agree less about Ray Davies, who seems to use his solo act as a series of opportunities to revise Kinks history to suit his personal vision on several levels, such as:

    “we used a sitar before the beatles did…”

    “my brother was the asshole, not me…”

    “we would’ve been world famous if we hadn’t signed that contract that angered people of power in the music biz…”


    at least, as the mod points out, dylan has stopped grabbing for the brass ring. but with Ray I get the sense that ray is still chasing something that he feels was unfairly denied him in 1967. he sounds like Uncle Rico, in Napoleon Dynamite (“if only the coach had put me in…we coulda won states…i woulda been a pro, i know it!”).

    Maybe he comes off better in a short format, like a spot on Letterman, but he’s no less guilty than some of the other geezers we’re discussing.

    And on that note, it seems like we’re arguing over which corpse still has the most color.

    There’s lots of interesting new stuff out there. It’s lazy and misguided to characterize “most younger bands” as “retread crap inspired by the likes of Dylan and his peers.” but of course, it’s a little harder to find because the media is still paying too much attention to the older guys.

  15. Bob is just Bob and always has been. I don’t think Bob has ever been too concerned with his image or any real trends. I think he just keeps plugging away. He has always divided people, including his own fans, yet the folks keep lining up. This may be because of his own brilliance AND his reluctance to enter into any real dialogue of why and how he works. For all the folks (like me) who think he’s one of the most unique vocalists ever, there’s 14 more who think he’s an awful singer and can’t get beyond the sound of that “voice.” There are those who are willing to give credit to his writing skills (“He’s a great writer, but I hate his voice.”), which is almost a cop because most of those people can’t even tell you anything he’s written. I’ve been hearing the “Dylan can’t sing” argument for so long that I’ve given up trying to convince anyone. It’s old hat and not worth the breath.

    I don’t think Bob has any real interest in trying to revive past glories. I don’t think he cares if you are pleased with his performances. I have seen Bob several times in the past few years and can honestly say that the man has never ever let me down. His ticket prices are modest compared to the other icons of his day (like Macca). His band is one of the best I’ve ever seen and this dude will continue to shell out the bucks to see whenever he comes around me. But, I’ve talked to those who have been to the same exact show I had seen and would swear it was God-awful (“His voice is shit. I couldn’t recognize the tunes. etc”). I’m sure those people wouldn’t go back to see him. Either way, Bob just keeps plugging away.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Macca. I have seen him twice and have no desire to see him again. His shows were very polished and he played alot of songs that made the audiences (including me) very happy. It was cool to see/hear a real Beatle in the flesh, but that thrill is gone for me. Been there, done that. Having said that, I am going to see ol’ Macca with my 11-year-old daughter in August. I’m excited for her. She’s a Beatle fan. He does a family-friendly show that will delight the audience. It’s her first concert. Beatle Paul isn’t getting any younger and I don’t know that she’ll ever get another chance like this. All of these things formed my decision to take her, but make no mistakes: This concert is all about her. How cool will it be when she gets older to say that her first show was Paul McCartney?

    My main beef with Macca is the way he feels the need to validate his importance. Has anyone seen that concert film from the 2002 tour called Back in the U.S.? This was my first Macca show and I remember the thrill of the being in the arena. All of that is sapped from this movie as it filled with testimonials from celebs like Howard Stern and John Cusack about how great Paul is. THe the concert sequences are filled with audience shots of people screaming/dancing/crying along with said celeb shots (“Hey look, Howard Stern is at my show! There’s Corey Feldman dancing the night away! Aren;t I cool?”). I don’t need Howard Stern to tell me that you’re cool, Paul, just show me the concert. Thanks you. Now he’s passing himself off as the “avant-guard Beatle.” Sheesh…

    As far as their music, the biggest difference to me is that Bob is still making important music. I honestly feel that his recent work will hold up among his very best when history judges. I think it will be admired and talked about and rank right up there with his all important work of the 60s. Does he write “It’s Alright, Ma?” No. And he’s said as much (someone mentioned the 60 Minutes interview.). But he is writing strong material. Paul, however, is still cranking out music and some of it is pretty decent. Let’s not kid. This stuff doesn’t hold a candle even to his best 70s work. What made The Beatles so damn great to me was that they were a sum of all of their parts. Four guys that made perfect music together. Anyone who says that their brilliance lied solely in the minds of Lennon/McCartney are simplifying it way too much. To me, Ringo and George (and George Martin)contributed just as much. Sure, the great song may have started with them, but it was the personality of the other two that brought it all home. This is evendent in each’s latter solo careers. Four (The Beatles) versus one (Paul or Bob).


  16. alexmagic

    Like HVB, I still find things I like on latter day McCartney releases. Not all of it, but he’s settled into something like an every-other-album success rate for me.

    What’s missing, I’d say, is that he’s not as weird as he used to be, musically. He’s kind of ironed-out all the odd stuff that used to pop up in the ’70s, and I miss some of that. Not all of it, but I think it added to those records up through Tug of War that I like and think remain underrated.

    As for his perennial greatest hits touring, I’m blaming Ringo. The last All-Starr band had Colin Hay, Billy Squier and Hamish Stuart in it. If he can’t field a better team than that, Paul has to be the guy out there doing the Beatles Revue for people who never got the chance to see the the real thing. I had the chance to see him a few years ago, and it was a great experience. I got my (considerable amount of) money’s worth and saw what I wanted to see: a greatest hits tour from a guy who has the good/bad fourtune to have a show’s worth of some of the most well-known songs of his time.

    I do agree about the hair dye, though. He should have dumped it after the divorce. I also couldn’t help but notice in the Letterman performance how the two guys on either side of him suddenly look like older guys pretending to be young guys, in that creepy Krofft Puppet way that Aerosmith has. I’d keep the drummer, but get some people in the band with respectable middle age haircuts. Bring in Hamish’s barber to consult.

  17. I think McCartney is good for the occasional single or so. That “Ever Present Past” song (that’s what it’s called, right?) was swell.

    I don’t think everything Dylan has done from Time Out of Mind is brilliant, but there is fine stuff, esp. Love and Theft. I do agree with Mr. Mod’s general thesis though.

    McCartney often seems eager to preserve his youth, or maybe just his Beatleness. This is why he hires a band that basically recreates those old arrangements, with some occasional arena overkill. Whereas Dylan surrounds himself with guys who aren’t going to necessarily sound like Blonde on Blonde. Not that his bands are therefore better. Some of the recent lineups have been too snoozy, if you ask me, esp. the Modern Times guys.

    HOWEVER, I don’t think that Dylan is Mr. Freewheeling. His PR is as carefully managed as McCartney’s: the four-or-five star ratings from RS; the profiles written by prestigious writers; the well-hyped archival releases. It’s just that part of Bob’s PR is that he plays the part of Mr. Mysterious, whereas Paul’s is being Mr. Showman.

    Ultimately, though, I agree with Saturn: There’s plenty of good music out now that maybe isn’t as good as ’66-era Paul or Bob, but is easily better than most anything they’ve done since 1970 (except Blood on the Tracks).

  18. 2000 Man

    I’m with Oats and sat. There’s plenty of interesting new stuff to listen to, and I wish there was some place to listen to it besides my house. The Baby Boomers stranglehold on music has got me to the point where the next amplification device I buy is gonna be an integrated amp with no tuner. The radio makes me want to gouge my eardrums out.

    I don’t need everything to sound like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Hell, all the classic rockers were busy ripping off old blues and country guys, so it’s not like they were all that original. If the songs are good, then that’s cool with me. Dylan’s newer stuff isn’t bad, but with his last three albums, I really can’t tell where one ends and the next begins. They’re enjoyable enough, though. McCartney hasn’t really interested me at all pretty much ever.

    I’d be okay with it if they were just huge touring conglomerates, but they suck up air time with all their reissues and their new releases even get airplay even though no one will remember anything about them in a year (and that includes my beloved Stones – I’m okay with them not caring if a record sells less than 10,000 copies, so long as it sounds like they enjoyed doing it). I’m glad Dylan’s still at it, I suppose, but I think the planet in general should be spending more time finding out about what’s going on now.

  19. mockcarr

    I think those yuppies should continue to stay away from the bands I like and keep them poor and irritated.

  20. Imagine how hard it is for Dylan and McCartney to find good rock and roll to listen to. Like, where do they go record shopping?

  21. “There’s lots of interesting new stuff out there. It’s lazy and misguided to characterize ‘”most younger bands”‘ as ‘”retread crap inspired by the likes of Dylan and his peers.”‘ but of course, it’s a little harder to find because the media is still paying too much attention to the older guys. “

    As someone who has listened to her share of rock music that has come out over the past 20-30 years or so (and a nice little stash of stuff before that), both as private citizen and as college radio DJ, I know of what I speak, I tell you (she says in her best Rex Harrison voice). A lot of stuff is indeed retread crap that maybe has been tweaked a little here and there, but oftentimes only takes but a minute’s listen (and I’m a lot more generous than some people I’ve known when it comes to that) to hear a style or a bassline or whatever that I’ve heard before, usually done a long time ago (and often with a little more cojones).

    Bands like Queens of the Stone Age don’t even try to hide their derivations (and I like Queens of the Stone Age), and stuff like the Stills (again, another one that I like) reminds me in many ways of the smidgen of poppy New Wave I got exposed to as a little kid in the early 80s. I for one don’t mind if bands are derivative, so long as they can pull it off well. The problem comes when they don’t–and in my view there are a number of groups and solos that people swear by now who I just can’t see as anything special. Dashboard Confessional doing Big Country? Nah, that’s okay…

    And as far as the media not paying attention, well my friend, this ain’t 1990. We don’t need a Nirvana-like takeover of the TV/radio airwaves. We have a little funky tool called the Internet now, which means bands today have a lot more avenues open to them when it comes to getting themselves some attention, and they’re doing so. Barack Obama got elected president using YouTube–great footprint for the next Little Garage Band That Could.

    As I said before, why can’t there be room for all comers? The new kids and the oldies? We’re all entitled to our own particular sounds of bliss. Let’s keep that closet free for the tree ornaments.


  22. saturnismine

    bobby, in that statetment of mine that you’ve quoted, you’ve made lots of assumptions.

    i wasn’t asking for a 1990 Nirvana-like takeover by new bands.

    i was suggesting that the media’s continued preference for discussing old geezers has created a misperception among those who aren’t willing to dig deep (those who are dependent on mainstream media outlets), that the only new music out there is indebted to the old.

    are you attempting to argue that most younger bands ARE putting retread crap out there? it sounds like you are.

    if so, you’re just plain wrong.

    and in fact, as 2k has suggested, being derivative isn’t the sin that some on here are making it out to be.

    the key is the distinction between a “retread” (something that slavishly apes its inspiration), and something that takes earlier music as its inspiration and builds on it.

    knowing the difference comes with lots of listening, as you suggest.

    sorry to say it, but in your post above you sound like you need to keep working on that.

    this may not actually be the case, but i find it ironic that you claim to be a deep digger who is “generous” in giving new stuff a chance, but who can also tell after “a minute’s listen” that something is a retread.

    that’s the embodiment of the “lazy and misguided” viewpoint i was contesting. a good connoisseur never stops looking or listening, is never convinced that he / she knows all he / she needs to know.

    as far as youtube is concerned, you’re right, it’s great. but it does cut down on the chance for a collective experience. a whole nation will never sit down in front of the computer to watch a youtube all at the same time. that’s gotta count for something.

  23. “We don’t need a Nirvana-like takeover of the TV/radio airwaves.”

    Nirvana was more lucky than innovative or interesting.

  24. saturnismine

    cdm, not that i disagree, but…is this a scientifically proven fact? : )

  25. As I see it, Nirvana was more a product of timing than luck or being innovative. It’s not like they doing ar trying anything new, but like them or not, they gave the music biz a swift kick in the rear. And it needed it. I’m no huge Nirvana fan in the least, but I do recognize what they accomplished. Seeing that cassette tape, with the swimming baby, was almost like a “Where were you when…” moment in my life. I was in high school. These two dudes (who seemed to always be on the cutting edge of music) were passing it in class like some well-guarded secret. Two months later, that band was EVERYWHERE. And Warrant was sent to the unemployment line. Keep in mind that I live in Mississippi where the radio we get is country and classic rock. Our exposure was limited to word-of-mouth.


  26. is bobby or brenda the rock town hall version of glen or glenda?

  27. Sat,
    Yes, it is. Otherwise, I would have said, “In my humble opinion” first.

  28. “he continues to try to sell us on the fact that he’s got something left in the tank when he’s had nothing for the last 25 or more years”

    1. I disagree. Paul has been BETTER the last 4-5 years than he was in the 1980s. Firemen, Chaos & Creation…and Flaming Pie before that were fantastic.

    2. He does the hair dye, botox to (a) pull in the younger birds (b) stay the “cute Beatle” to the millions of the Woodstock Generation who look to him as the “good old days” incarnate. (Plus it’s the “Hamptons way”)

    I don’t have a problem with McCartney, Jagger, Bowie, Elton using makeup, wigs, dyes to appear younger. We don’t want our rock stars to look old on TV do we? really?

    It’s not like Paul is trying to be 25, he is trying to be 49

  29. 2000 man

    this should be it’s own topic

    “The Baby Boomers stranglehold on music”

    and I am a POST boomer (my dad was almost too old to be one..born 1945..I was born in late 1970)

  30. The 80s weren’t good to anyone from the 60s, were they? Maybe this is topic, but did ANY major artist who rose to prominence during the 60s release a truly GREAT album in the 80s? I’m trying to think of one, but I am drawing a blank.

    Maybe Paul comes close with Tug of war. Maybe. I like that record pretty good.

    Most of those guys had a “comeback” in ’89. Some might argue that those “comeback” were maligned in the sense that after a decade of crap, we were relieved to hear decent music from those dinosaurs. Come to think of it, ’89 was the year of the comeback. Stones with Steel Wheels. Dylan with Oh Mercy. Macca with Flowers in the Dirt. Neil Young with Freedom. The Who had a good year despite there was no new music. ’89 must have been a good year for the Boomers.

    Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Stones, The Who…were the 80s good to anybody from the 60s?


  31. diskojoe

    Well, the Kinks did very well financially in the 80s, although not so well on the artistic front compared to VGPS or “Waterloo Sunset.”

    Here’s a couple more 60s comebackers in the 80s, John Forgerty’s Centerfield in ’85 & Brian Wilson’s first solo album from 1988.

  32. saturnismine

    jungleland, a few months back, BigSteve and i tussled on this babyboomer topic that I and 2k mention again here.

    i can’t remember which thread it was in, however, we had quite a bit to say…

  33. THAT’S what I was looking for, Disko! How could I forget the Brian Wilson solo record? I’m sure that one has some mixed views in these RTH parts, but I myself like it enough that I can call it a success, despite the Landy factor and the 14 different producers. The Fogerty album may be a better example.

    There’s two. Any more? Is anyone going to go to bat for “Harlem Shuffle?”


  34. I think Oh Mercy is really good album.

  35. diskojoe

    The Travelling Willburys also came out in 1989.

    Speaking of the Brian Wilson solo album & its “Landy factor”, it was interesting to note that there were no Dr. Landy credits in the remastered Rhino version of the album that previously appeared on the original CD.

  36. Leonard Cohen, a late 60’s phenomenon, had a great album in 1988 called I’m Your Man. It sort of re-defined his career.

    The Stones put out 2 and a half good albums in the early 80’s: Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You and half of Undercover.

    Slim pickins really.

  37. BigSteve

    TB, are you forgetting your man-crush? Townshend’s Empty Glass came out in 1980. I’d also suggest Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights.

  38. Mr. Moderator

    I don’t think we should be able to suggest any albums made from 1980-1983. Music was still good then:P

  39. BigSteve

    Another front-loaded one — Doc at the Radar Station by Captain Beefheart.

    Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man is a good one. Unlike any of the albums mentioned so far, it used synthesizers and was on some level a contemporary recording.

  40. BigSteve

    David Bowie — Scary Monsters 1980
    Paul Simon — Graceland 1986

    And I’m not sure I believe this one myself, but:

    Michael Jackson — Thriller 1982 (I Want You Back came out at the end of 1969, so he barely qualifies as being ‘from the 60s’.)

  41. Saturnismine, I wasn’t gonna do this, but there’s a lot going on here, and my scroll button isn’t the best friend I have, so here goes. My responses come with asterisks.

    bobby, in that statetment of mine that you’ve quoted, you’ve made lots of assumptions.

    *** First off, it’s brenda, but I won’t hold that against you. And I made no assumptions about what you said in your quote. I was merely responding to your assumption that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    i wasn’t asking for a 1990 Nirvana-like takeover by new bands.

    i was suggesting that the media’s continued preference for discussing old geezers has created a misperception among those who aren’t willing to dig deep (those who are dependent on mainstream media outlets), that the only new music out there is indebted to the old.

    ***Well, that’s a bit troublesome because any musical style deemed groundbreaking over the years has always built off what has come before it. If you bang two pots together on your kitchen floor, then rest assured that act has surely been beaten to death by a million and one toddlers. And who are these mainstream media dependent people of whom you speak? If anything, those hooked into the current scene of the status quo can’t run fast enough from the old boys like Bob Dylan (if they’re even listening to rock music at all.). I have actually met teenagers who have no clue who John Lennon was. That might surprise some folks, but that’s how it is sometimes.

    are you attempting to argue that most younger bands ARE putting retread crap out there? it sounds like you are.

    if so, you’re just plain wrong.

    ***Yeah, I am. The bands may not even realize it, but a fair number of offerings that have come out over the last decade and a half or so–be it certain subgeneres of punk or indie or thrash, whatever–sound like stuff that’s come before it, and they’re often not really as good as what’s being aped. This probably has a lot to do with certain limitations of the rock genre itself (I mean, how many ways can you spin a few chords?), but I have listened to my share, and that’s one of the conclusions I’ve come up with. Some groups are either lazy about it, or they’re trying so hard not to sound like someone else (whom they do anyway) that they overdo it and it’s just an exercise in pretense.

    and in fact, as 2k has suggested, being derivative isn’t the sin that some on here are making it out to be.

    ***I never said that. If you re-read the post, what I said was derivative is absolutely fine, so long as it’s done well. The best thing is if a band can start with a base of brilliance–like the Ramones, say–and either simply “do” the
    Ramones, or build upon that base and add a little something extra of their own. But make no mistake, if that influence is in their sound, and your familiar enough with that sound, you’re gonna hear it and you’re gonna know it. What you do with it after that is up to you.

    the key is the distinction between a “retread” (something that slavishly apes its inspiration), and something that takes earlier music as its inspiration and builds on it.

    knowing the difference comes with lots of listening, as you suggest.

    ***Exactly my point above. That’s how I know. The thing is though, if you are a serious listener of rock (as I consider myself to be), you simply can’t go for the okie-doke nowadays without that barometer clearly at the ready any time you play something “new.”

    sorry to say it, but in your post above you sound like you need to keep working on that.

    ***And I do. There is some, believe it or not, brilliant stuff coming out all the time, all over the world (Ireland, for example, happens to be pretty hoppin’ for the good music right about now). But it takes a long time to find it, and in slogging through all the mess, you can miss some things, it’s true. We just have to do the best we can. If only I had Superman’s heat vision (or is that X-ray?).

    this may not actually be the case, but i find it ironic that you claim to be a deep digger who is “generous” in giving new stuff a chance, but who can also tell after “a minute’s listen” that something is a retread.

    ***Well, apologies for this one, but it’s 2009 and we’re all running 18 hour days in 12. At least I am. A minute is about all I have, which is fine, considering that some of the most classic tunes ever put on wax lasted no more than twice that in duration.

    that’s the embodiment of the “lazy and misguided” viewpoint i was contesting. a good connoisseur never stops looking or listening, is never convinced that he / she knows all he / she needs to know.

    ***Once again, you score higher than I do in the assumptions category. You have no idea what my relationship to contemporary music is. Were I not still actively engaged in seeking out new musical possibilities, I would never have been so bold enough to come here and assert what I have. I just know what I’m up against. And the original point of this was not really to argue over new artists versus older ones, but instead to make the case that there should be room for everyone, no matter the age, ethnic background, whatever.

    ***I agree with you that the media is too narrow in its focus on what certain musical movements should look and sound like (or whether certain movements get invited to the table over others), but kicking out the codgers just to make way for their grandkids while the codgers are still viable to somebody makes no sense to me. We like to deal in polarization too much in this country, and our music has triumphed in many ways over this, despite the best efforts of those in control, but regretably, barriers still exist. I would love to see that change in my lifetime.

    as far as youtube is concerned, you’re right, it’s great. but it does cut down on the chance for a collective experience. a whole nation will never sit down in front of the computer to watch a youtube all at the same time. that’s gotta count for something.

    ***Right– a whole nation that is more linguistically and culturally diverse than it has ever been in history, with access to the most expansive technology that has ever existed, will have a truly collective experience with singular, isolated rock performances on TV (and I don’t mean the mega charity concert)? If you believe it, maybe it could happen. I’d love to shake the hand of the genius who indeed could make it so.


  42. saturnismine

    nice post, brenda…sorry, thought you were bobbyb (and i wrote most of this post before realizing the difference again: thick as a brick, i am).

    we’re sort of talking past each other, but not entirely.

    our views aren’t that different. in fact, it seems we agree on lots of things.

    just a few clarifications: i wasn’t suggesting that *you* were making being derivative out to be a sin. i said “some on here” are doing that, not you.

    as far as my making assumptions about you and your approach to listening, i apologize if i’m making mistakes. i can only go by what you write. and my interpretations of the things you’re saying aren’t unreasonable.

    in the post to which i was originally responding, it sounded to me like you were very full of your own connoisseurial skills for parsing the retread crap from the worthwhile stuff.

    and i’m still not entirely convinced that you realize that the difference between the two is elusive, difficult to determine, and even shifting (we had a great rth thread a while back on how surprised we were to come back to some music we thought was great, only to be disappointed by it, or vice versa).

    and while we both are clearly willing to keep listening to new stuff, and we have our likes and dislikes, based on what you’re saying, you sound much more willing to wag the finger and deem something a retread after a minute than i ever would be.

    above, you characterize yourself by saying “i know.”

    i just keep listening / reading / looking, and asking “what the hell do i know?”

    but yeah, you’re right, there’s lots of garbage, lots of music that others recommend that i don’t feel.

    i suppose our criteria are different.

    as for your last comment re. youtube, i don’t know what your point is. but it sounds like you didn’t understand my meaning. when i said that youtube doesn’t give a “collective experience,” i meant that youtube doesn’t allow for the “where were you when so and so played on the so-and-so show?” moment.

    of course, that’s not the end-all. sure, the conveyor belt video was a watershed for Ok Go AND youtube. but it wasn’t experienced by a large %-age of the population *at the same time.* and that *does* differentiate between the generation of rockers who are still getting most of the attention and the current generation. i don’t claim to know exactly know what it means. i’m just making an observation.

    you’re trying to tell me something about this, but i don’t know what. what is it? a fire? down by the old mill?

    ruff! ruff!

    back on topic: i do think the things we’re discussing are germane to the Bob question. he would probably agree with both of us where we suggest that other rock should be getting more attention. it’s all about audience. and he has his. but he will keep going any way.

    i do find him less troublesome than mccartney. his music is earthier, his approach — to play until he dies — is more traditional; if your calling is to play music, then go to your grave playing music. mccartney’s “calling” — if he has one — is to be a media figure from the pop music world. it always has been. i find that much less compelling.

    dylan’s archetype is sisyphus: he keeps pushing the rock up the hill. mccartney’s is narcissus. dylan could give a rat’s ass about the attention aspect that’s been the subtext of our discussion. mccartney needs it.

  43. Here’s the thing about my boyfriend Pete (and a confession that I can honestly make): If it weren’t for the Chinese Eyes album, I doubt that I would be writing songs today. I know that record has its detractors and I understand those who dislike it. For me, it touches some weird nerve and I relate to that record more than any other. And yes, Empty Glass is the true PT solo classic and I will give it its due. (I hope that my confession doesn’t lessen me in the eyes of Townsfolk.)

    When I talk of of bad 80s music from 60s icons, I am discluding the comebacks of 1989. That was the year most of our heroes got back on some track. In other words, I concede that Oh Mercy is good album and its greatness towers over the rest of Dylan’s 80s output. Some might argue that Infidels is a classic? Any takers?

    Graceland is a perfect example!

    I can give one over to Thriller, but even though the Jacksons made their debut in the 60s, I still consider them a 70s band. That’s my own weird connection probably. Led Zeppelin is a 70s band for me, although their roots lie firmly in the 60s.

    No one is taking up for old Neil Young here. He must’ve really been set adrift in the 80s. Old Ways? Anyone?


  44. Saturn, I think you summed up what I was trying to say in earlier post related to this subject on the diffrences in old Macca and old Dylan versus the younger ones.


  45. 2000 Man

    I think Undercover is a great album. Feel On Baby is kind of a snooze, but everything else rocks with great daceability. Not that I can dance or anything, but if I could, I could dance my ass off to Undercover. I’ll go to bat for Dirty Work, too. Other than Steve Lilywhite fucking up the drums in the worst way, it’s just trying to be a fun little rock n roll album. I can let it do that for me. At least in the 80’s the radio played the old bands AND the new bands. It’s music, it should be able to coexist easily.

    I really like Nirvana and I think they deserve all the respect they generally get. Sure, they were lucky, but More Than a Feeling was huge the first time, too. Radio then did what it always did, it split up and there were oldies stations and new stations. The Boomers can’t stand to think that their music should be relegated to Oldies status and they hate new things. Since they’re the largest collective wallet, the radio stations just recycling catalog music made the most money, and the stations playing the new music made money, but not enough money to satisfy the media giants that owned them. Ahhh, fuck it. I can get worked up about this and rant for hours. You guys all know the score.

    But what bugs me is that there’s no place for us to hear new stuff together. We can all hear new Stones because they’re gonna be at the Super Bowl. No one will remember the new song they played (Rough Justice, and yeah, it’s boring as hell), but they get the shot because of who they were. Dylan and Springsteen are kind of the same thing. Those guys had their shot, and they made the most of it. It’s time to let someone else in the limelight. It’s not sports. We can like lots of bands.

    I guess I could have just said, “Man, it just bugs me that Greg Cartwright isn’t getting all the attention I think he deserves.”

  46. What is it about rock music that makes people want to exclude the elder statesmen? I mean, what about all those great old blues guys? Muddy Waters, BB King, etc. They all played just as long as they could. I see Dylan as more a continuation of that tradition than an old guy trying to be young. I am pretty much indifferent to the music of McCartney, but I cringe when I see pictures of him these days.

    Dylan is not only vital in terms of new music, he continually reworks the old stuff, which I think is great. Soemtimes I hate the new version, others I think are much improved. At any rate, I am grateful that he’s still willing to play, and I get something new from every show.

  47. I’m sure that back in the day, there was a website that discussed Muddy Waters’s (BigSteve) LOOK and how GREAT Mississippi John Hurt was. And how dare that Lightnin’ Hopkins make that last record!

    Hey! And if you guys have checked my blog lately there’s some smilin’ pics up. Rejoice!


  48. BigSteve

    Rock has never shaken its association with youth culture. When the giants of the blues were performing in their later years, no one expected novelty. And the blues performers that were coming up behind them weren’t really changing the basic templates that they inherited.

    In rock though new generations keep coming along who are convinced that they are doing something new and innovative. They may be, to varying degrees, but the oldsters tend to stick with what they know, and that has turned out to be a reliable business strategy in the era when touring performers make big money (it wasn’t always so).

    The interesting thing is that Paul actually has adapted to the changing times on record, but live he plays the jukebox hits pretty straight. Dylan may play the old songs in new arrangements, but those arrangements are within his normal stylistic range. And he plays new material too.

  49. saturnismine, I thank you for your response to my response to your response to–ah, yeah, you know. I would respond in kind at this particular moment, but I have had one of those 18 hour days in 12 and I’m beat, beat, I say. I wouldn’t want to start mindlessly lobbing expletives (and not the nice ones!) at you without thinking. So, instead I blow both a kiss and a candle out and bid you (and all) bon nuit. Cheers.


  50. Well, I will raise the old flag for Neil Young’s “Freedom”. I especially love “Crime in the City” from that record.

  51. Graceland of course, but two others come to mind…

    Steve Windwood’s – Back In The High Life was considered a HUGE comeback and critical and commercial success.

    George Harrison’s Cloud Nine was just prior to our 1989 cutoff, right?

    Most of my record buying was in the 1980’s so I think many of the 1982-1988 “turds” just have some sort of nostalgic hold over me.

    Rolling Stones – Dirty Work / Undercover
    Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque
    The Kinks – Think Visual / UK Jive
    Robert Plant – Now & Zen
    Jimmy Page – Outrider
    McCartney – Pipes Of Peace / Press To Play

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