How’s it going? I know we spoke on the phone last night and I know we discussed plans to get together and hash out some serious stuff, but I miss the private, personal communications we used to have here, in public. I’ve got something I’d like to discuss. Man to man.
I just tried watching a half hour of a movie I’ve put off watching for the last couple of years, a movie I’ve repeatedly been tempted to watch, I’m Not Here, the Dylan movie by Todd Haynes, who’s directed a couple of films I like a lot, especially Safe, that one with Julianne Moore, before she broke through by dropping trou in that Robert Altman flick. Have you seen it? (The Dylan movie, that is.)
Details about Bob Dylan‘s upcoming album Tempest, his 35th, are trickling out, but for now let’s just talk about this: Is this his worst album cover? It’s a strong contender, mainly due to the red font, which looks like something from an ’80s direct-to-video sex thriller or Carly Simon album.
Even those of you as busy as I’ve been today know that it’s Bob Dylan‘s 71st birthday. Assuming you don’t actually know Dylan and haven’t actually bought him something for his birthday that you don’t want to give away before he opens it, what would you have gotten him?
In the recent Laura Nyro threadTownsman alexmagic made some hyperbolic statements regarding Mike Nesmith. (Seriously, Mike Nesmith “is the most indefensible omission from the Hall of Fame?” I think I could successfully defend his exclusion from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as easily as I could defend his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.) However, he touched on one point that I think the uni-mind that is Rock Town Hall should explore, to whit, the thought that Mike Nesmith is “often given credit for launching the ‘country rock’ genre.”
There seem to be a lot of candidates for that. There are The Byrds, whose Notorious Byrd Brothers showed a bit of country and was released in January 1968, or the more often cited Sweetheart of the Rodeo, released in August, 1968. The latter made it all the way to #77 on Billboard and featured a number by another candidate for country rock launcher, Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
And there’s Graham Parsons & the International Submarine Band, whose Safe At Home came out in 1968. Wikipedia says their b-side cover of Buck Owens’ “Truck Drivin’ Man,” released in April 1966, is “now largely considered the first country rock recording.” It starts at 2:11 of the following clip:
(This was drafted before Mr. Mod’s recent Scarface thread. I didn’t send it since I was concerned that it might be less than well defined. I doubt it could be as misinterpreted as Scarface, but who knows. An RTHer grasp should exceed his reach…)
[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2-01-Tell-Me-Momma.mp3|titles=Bob Dylan & The Hawks, “Tell Me Momma” – Manchester Trade Hall – May 1966]
I was thinking about and discussing with Townsman geo the topic of 1966 & prior Dylan and post-1966 Dylan. Now, there are varying opinions of how great post-1966 Dylan is (and that will be the gist of a future thread), but I think it’s generally agreed that 1966 & prior Dylan is clearly the Best Dylan. Or if someone wants to disagree about “clearly the best” than perhaps we should say the “consensus best.”
This got me to thinking about other artists. Do any other artists have such a “clearly the best” portion of their career? The clearest other example I can think of comes from outside rock. There’s Columbia-era Sinatra, there’s Capitol-era Sinatra, and there’s Reprise-era Sinatra—and you’ll find little disagreement that Capitol-era Sinatra is the best.
The Beatles are often broken down into Revolver & prior and Sgt. Pepper & after, but is there a consensus on which era is greater? Others?
Let’s narrow things down a little though. An artist’s non– “consensus best” period has to still be noteworthy (so if you want to opine on Brian Jones Stones vs. Mick Taylor Stones, that’s fine but not pre- and post- Tattoo You). And death can’t be a demarcation (eg, pre- and post- death of Jimi Hendrix).
If you’ve clicked these opening links you’ll see that U2 drummer Larry Mullen has been known to wear the sleeveless shirt. I’ll grant that an argument can be made that U2 made some music of merit while Mullen donned such a gun-bearing fashion atrocity, but he’s a drummer. In past style pieces on Rock Town Hall, drummers have gotten a pass for all sorts of questionable fashion choices, including performing in barefeet and wearing shorts. We make some allowances for rock’s driving forces based on matters of comfort. For the purposes of this survey, we’ll give sleeveless drummers a pass. Beside, I want no part of George Hurley.
Granted, as a guy who’s never expressed his vanity through his forearms (as if I could), the whole sleeveless shirt thing mystifies me. It’s to be expected that the poster boy of Rock Town Hall’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas series, Alan Vega, would go sleeveless, but the style would spread to some of the coolest of the cool. How much comfort does a man need to be a rock legend? How much do we really need to know about him? Sure, sometimes even the President of the United States has to stand naked, but did Bob Dylan really need to play sleeveless?
Sleeveless shirt, leather pants, two pairs of shorts...Jerry wins this battle of Best Stage Look!
I don’t know when the sleeveless shirt craze took over, but do a search on a number of rock artists with the date “1985” following their name and I’d bet you can come up with as many shots of them sleeveless as I just did with Dylan. (BTW, I didn’t realize he was into the Bare-Chested Vest Look as early as the mid-’70s, for that Renaldo and Clare movie.) You don’t believe me? Try these: