Jun 202007


True story. I’m in 7th grade, and my English teacher, Mrs. Millichap, finds out I’m a huge Beatles fan. Not much detective work is necessary. I’ve got the classic band logo scribbled on all my paper bag book covers, I’m wearing the Lennon specs, and I’ve always got my nose buried in a Beatle book (the Hunter Davies bio, The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away, Growing Up with the Beatles, etc.) if I finish a class task early.

Anyway, right before Christmas vacation, Mrs. Millichap tells me to stay after school for a half an hour or so. She’s got two presents for me: Highway 61 Revisited and a book by Paul Gambaccini (I think that’s his name) called the 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time. “Something to keep you busy during your break.” A real sweetheart. People like Mrs. Millichap are like angels sent from heaven, especially when you’re living in a small town where the number one band for anyone between the ages of 10 and 30 is the Scorpions.

So I zip home, tear the shrink off the Dylan LP, flop it on the turntable, study the front and back cover, and check out the Gambacccini book. After the 10-day break, I return to school, and my scholastic career begins to go right down the crapper. All I can think about is getting my hands on some more Dylan LPs and as many of those LPs mentioned in the Gambaccini book.

One of the top 100 is a bootleg called In 1966, There Was… It’s a live Dylan acoustic/electric concert from Manchester Free Hall. A large chunk of the critics believe it to be the greatest live concert of all time. All I can think about is getting my grubby little hands on this thing to find out what all the fuss is about.

To make a long story short, my detective work leads me to a record store/bootleg press out of North Carolina called Pied Piper Records: “Hundreds of live recordings for sale on vinyl and tape” is how the company advertises itself in the back of Rolling Stone magazine, in its classified section. I send away for the Pied Piper catalog, and sure as I’m sittin’ here, the friggin’ record is listed for 10 dollars! It’s a whole lot of money, but it’s worth the extra yard work. I send off the loot and 4 weeks later (yeah, back then delivery was 4 to 6 weeks for some reason or another) it shows up. Never in the history of mankind has anyone ripped through cardboard and shrink wrap so quickly and haphazardly.

I flop side 1 down on the turntable. Acoustic mumbers from Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, and Blonde on Blonde. Just Bob and his guitar. Pure heaven. Up to this point, I’d never heard the man live.

Side 2. Electric band. Sloppy arrangements, sloppy playing, sloppy everything. The verdict? Terrible.

I recently revisited side 2 of the same LP, and the verdict is that it’s still terrible. To this day, I’m amazed at the number of high fives that god-awful side gets. Trust me, those Brits had a right to boo. They’re not booing because their beloved troubadour has invited his friends, the almighty BAND, on stage, they’re booing because his friends sound like a high school pick up band, not a group mind you, but a band – a disorganized bunch of nincompoops fumbling around with Dylan’s gems like a focus group that can’t wait to break for lunch. There’s good reason why Levon Helm took off after some earlier Dylan shows in the states. He was embarrassed by the whole affair and certainly had every right in the world to feel that way. Dylan’s too drugged (which is say a lot) up to keep things on some sort of even keel, Robbie Robertson‘s leads are sloppy and uninspired, Helm fill-in Mickey Jones is inserting fills in places where no man has gone before, and Hudson and Manuel are doing their damnedest to a a create a continual noise similar to that of a dolphin in extreme pain. All around bad.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I rented The Last Waltz a few days after the aforementioned fiasco. Anchored by Helm, the almighty BAND is more together, but Dylan-less, they are about as tasty as a 7-11 microwave burrito: Robertson, trying his damnedest to feign inspiration via 9th- and 10th-fret grimaces, continues to play sloppy fills and solos (and by the way his pinky never hits the fretboard), and Hudson and Manuel continue to create sounds similar to those made by distressed water creatures. That said, Helm and Danko still manage to sincerely entertain. Helm because he’s the real deal, a real rootin’ tootin’ southerner with chops and Danko because he’s an idiot savant of sorts – speaking coherently is apparently quite difficult, but playing complicated bass parts while simultaneously singing lead or harmonizing is surprisingly effortless.

Danko’s communication breakdowns lead me to another of the almighty BAND’S faults. Their overall charm factor is zilch – with the exception of Helm. He’s got it in spades. There’s a vapidity to the rest of the crew that would give the cast of Dawn of the Dead a run for it’s money. But worst of all is Robertson, who truly believes he is really something special, someone who really has the stories. What he really has is a whole lot of nothing. What Scorcese ever found in him will forever be one of the great mysteries of life.

That said, the almighty BAND has still managed to come up with three lifechanging songs: “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and “Up on Cripple Creek” – I recently had a revelation about that number in particular, and if what I think is true about the song’s real meaning, I have to grudgingly grant that Robertson may have a touch of genius. Wallace, I’d like you in particular to tell me what you think the song is all about.

As far as the rest of their catalog is concerned, feel free to dump it all at the side of the curb. Rolling Stone magazine and others of their ilk can continue to champion their efforts for all eternity, but the truth of the matter is that the younger generation aren’t buying it, literally. I oughta know. I’ve been selling records now for quite some time, and I can honestly say I haven’t moved a single Band LP, including Big Pink and the almighty BAND masterpiece, THE BAND, in the last 8 years.

A lot of negative energy is wasted on bad mouthing The Dead, and that’s a real shame because at least half of those negative vibes should be directed at The Band. Think about it. There’s a lot of similarities between the two: loads of boring tunes, lead guitarists who never do anything interesting, zero charm factor, etc… Forget the comparisons with Creedence. It’s a no-brainer. The only thing saving The Band from Dead-like abuse is those three songs. The Dead having nothing of that caliber.

Maudlin, I apologize for the length of this diatribe, but I really needed to vent. Years ago, I almost wound up in a mental institution after Rolling Stone gave Robertson’s first solo LP a five-star review. If you thought Lennon’s Some Time in New York City was band, you really need to check out Roberson’s first solo outing. Know that what galls me the most about The Band is Robertson’s unearned arrogance.

Any thoughts you might have regarding this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Hope to hear from you soon,
E. Pluribus


  90 Responses to “The Grateful Band: Music with a Big Stink”

  1. Huh. So…what you’re saying is that other than the limited charms of the first two albums, the Band pretty much suck.

    Congratulations for coming to this conclusion, and only about three decades after everyone else.

  2. sammymaudlin

    Even though I’m sensing a rhetorical “Maudlin,” I will say that it is nye impossible for be to gather any passion for either The Band or The Dead.

    Given that, and I know I’m breaking one of your rules, I find those 3 great songs to be the best songs that CCR didn’t do.

    I’d rather listen to American Beauty, Working Man’s Dead or even Shakedown Street than The Band’s Greatest.

    I do congratulate you on sitting thru The Last Waltz though. That is truly taking one for the team. I believe Mr. Moderator is a fan, yes? I however would much rather watch The Last Polka.

    I’m off the grid for a while Mr. Gergely and fellow Townspeople.

    Hasta LaBlahBlahBlah

  3. saturnismine

    nice thoughts, gurgler.

    there isn’t a track on “the band” i don’t love, and i think you’re selling richard manuel short (what a voice), but other than that, i agree with you.

    as for the younger generation, hipsters always go through an “american” phase, where they like the byrds, the burrito brothers, etc., and the band are usually a part of that. it usually comes after about 5 or 6 years of hangovers, egg breakfasts, multiple and consecutive decisions not to shave, and unfulfilling relationships. they start to feel a connection with those guys singing those songs by The Band….

  4. Martin Scorcese found a coke buddy in Robertson who could get him laid more often.

    The differrence between the band and the dead, aside from east coast/west coast, is that the band chose to hang it up after 16 years on the road. As opposed to the dead, who kept on truckin till they could fill arenas with throwbacks and hanger-on-ers. (by the way, I haven’t had any actual LSD since Garcia died. Remember how it used to come around every summer with the dead? anyone..?)

    what the 2 bands have in common for me, is that while I don’t like any of their music, I feel a certain bon witth what I like to call their “patina”. A certain spiritual odor that I feel connected to.
    Can’t explain any better.

  5. While I might go along with your assessment of the Band (I maybe I like a few tracks here or there – I don’t own a single disc), I do not agree with you on the Dylan electric set.

    I’m not a huge Dylan fan but enjoyed the bio “No Direction Home” that Scorsese did. I watched the “electric set” footage on that and promptly went and bought the “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall Concert”.

    I thought that these electric sets could be considered and early example of “Punk Rock”…just amazing and exciting “Rock ‘n Roll” to my ears. Wish I could have seen that live.

  6. bond

  7. Mr. Plurby wrote:

    As far as the rest of their catalog is concerned, feel free to dump it all at the side of the curb. Rolling Stone magazine and others of their ilk can continue to champion their efforts for all eternity, but the truth of the matter is that the younger generation aren’t buying it, literally. I oughta know. I’ve been selling records now for quite some time, and I can honestly say I haven’t moved a single Band LP, including Big Pink and the almighty BAND masterpiece, THE BAND, in the last 8 years.

    Then Art wisely retorted:

    there isn’t a track on “the band” i don’t love, and i think you’re selling richard manuel short (what a voice), but other than that, i agree with you.

    as for the younger generation, hipsters always go through an “american” phase, where they like the byrds, the burrito brothers, etc., and the band are usually a part of that. it usually comes after about 5 or 6 years of hangovers, egg breakfasts, multiple and consecutive decisions not to shave, and unfulfilling relationships. they start to feel a connection with those guys singing those songs by The Band….

    Agreed on both counts. Manuel’s lead vocal on “Whispering Pines” is pretty heavenly. Furthermore, on the other point I’ve heard Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service cop to being a huge fan of The Band in recent years, so I think you’re just selling them to the wrong people! My vinyl copy of the s/t Band album was purchased for a few bucks or so at a record store in New Paltz, NY about 5 years ago, for instance, and I was in my late 20s when I bought it.

  8. The Great 48 says:

    “So…what you’re saying is that other than the limited charms of the first two albums, the Band pretty much suck.”

    Well, they’re certainly not Felt, if that’s what you’re getting at!

    Take the stick out of your ass,
    E. Pluribus

  9. saturnismine

    thanks, matt.

    regarding the dylan set, we should also clarify that gurgles is talking about the manchester show, and mrclean, the albert hall show. and the difference between them, to my ears, is not a hair split.

    their respective descriptions of both are accurate.

    does anyone know which one was first?

  10. general slocum

    Boy. I love the Band’s whole vibe. I just bought Last Waltz on the cheap somewhere (the remastered one,) and was re-amazed at them. Their vibe is entirely engaging to me. Robertson is embarrassing, but it still works. Some of their songs, like Independence Day, We Can Talk, are for me, in that category in this week’s questionaire about a mood piece. Maybe it has to do with being a tired old musician, but watching them perform in Last Waltz hits home like watching anyone who has honed something over time. They accomplish a lot while sitting still. Beautiful voices all around. It is sad that Last Waltz was filmed right after whatever ARP keyboard came out, because there is real synth abuse on a few songs, bit only a few. Van Morrison is incredible there, too. Though I’ll say, Mod, the guitar duel between Robertson and Clapton does neither of them any favors. Clapton stands there playing adroitly and without oomph, then Robertson keeps stealing glances at him while running along barking at his hubcaps. Too bad, that one. Frickin Muddy Waters teaches them all a few things, though! Shit, even four white boys playing the drunk frat-boy riff can’t stop him from knocking “I’m a Man” out of the park. He doesn’t just sing that with his mouth. He literally produces those sounds with his jowls, his temples, eyes, neck – his whole stance.
    Well, anyway, I came to the Band as Art suggested. But they are musical in a way no amount of hooks, chops, T&A (literal *or* conceptual)can ape. Granted, there’s a reason I like all kinds of music, and this mood isn’t every day, but what the Band does, if you have a taste for it, nobody else does as well.

  11. Regarding “regarding the dylan set, we should also clarify that gurgles is talking about the manchester show, and mrclean, the albert hall show. and the difference between them, to my ears, is not a hair split.

    their respective descriptions of both are accurate.

    does anyone know which one was first? “

    They are both talking about the same thing. The boot was Manchester (May 17, 1966) and the official Bootleg Series disc was also Manchester. It is titled “The Royal Albert Hall Concert” in quotes because for years it was thought to be from the RAH but it is actually the same Manchester concert and says so on the back of the slipcase.

    So, it is a pretty big hair split.

  12. Regarding the original post, I’m behind E. on everything except his startling lack of judgement regarding 1966 electric Dylan.

    As far as the Band goes, I’ve long thought them highly overrated. Isn’t it odd that before The Hawks hooked up with Dylan they were nothing more than a (retroactively) hyped bar band? Then Dylan calls on them to bring to life his “folk-rock” vision and the result is the classic 1966 tour. Then they are with Dylan in the basement – another classic. Shortly thereafter come their first two, heavily Dylan influenced classic albums. After that? Very little that is classic and – surprise or maybe not – very little Dylan connection.

    My conclusion is that the Band get way too much credit in rock-crit/fan circles and Dylan gets much too little credit for the Band’s success.

    And, even more than the Band, Robbie Robertson gets way way too much credit. Can it be that someone so lauded for his Band work has produced so very little of note in the 30+ years following the Last Waltz? Even if you don’t buy my conclusions, you gotta figure Levon is right!

  13. Nice detective work, Al.

    But what’s really important is your take on the whole fair.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

    P.S. I’ve been listening to the CD comp. It sounds great. You’ve got great ears. There’s plenty of bottom on all the songs. That’s my one beef with most of those northern soul comps. The bottom is usually weak. I don’t get it. How can you remaster a dance record and leave out all the bottom?

  14. Al,

    Please tell me. What specifically are you hearing that’s so damned magical about that whole affair?

    E. Pluribus

  15. saturnismine

    huh? why do i have bootlegs of two different sounding shows?

  16. Shawnkilroy sayz:

    “Martin Scorcese found a coke buddy in Robertson who could get him laid more often.”

    Bingo! Thanks, Shawn!

    E. Pluribus

  17. saturnismine


    while i agree with kilroy’s witty coke quip, i don’t see how supports (or refutes) your larger point. why are you so thrilled with it?

    and what say you about richard manuel?

  18. Art sayz

    “while i agree with kilroy’s witty coke quip, i don’t see how supports (or refutes) your larger point. why are you so thrilled with it?”

    I’m thrilled with it because that most probably is indeed the reason why those two hooked up. What else could Robertson possibly have to offer, isolated from the rest of his crew? The Moderator, in an uncharacteristic display of sheer honesty (something that only occurs during a phone gab) granted that Robertson’s real talent is that he was smart enough to surround himself with real talent. The only real reason some of his silly little musical history lessons shine is because of his crew. And this is probably going to cause even more trouble, but the same more or less goes for Miles Davis.

  19. E., I’m hearing that thin wild mercury sound!

    I wish I could explain adequately but this is pretty much the epitome of rock & roll to me. Dylan and the Hawks are out there on a tightrope with no net. I think they are staying up there and you think they fall and clearly it’s a thin line between those two although the resulting conclusions are worlds apart.

    Maybe this is a case where backstory helps. Dylan at the time was on top of the entire musical world. He had the first of his radical reinventions and the enmity that ensued. It was him (and the Hawks) against the world. Maybe it’s summed up in his response to the hecklers when he turned to the band and said “Play fucking loud!!”. This was fuck-all-of-you music and that’s a good strong part of the appeal of rock & roll to a teenager in the ’60s (and probably any era). Isn’t all good rock & roll either about “fuck you!” or about boys & girls & sex?

    I think the music is there too. Despite my misgivings about The Band, The Hawks were phenomenal here. Fury may make up a good part of that phenomenon but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    And Dylan, well, maybe it was the amphetamines, maybe not but has there ever been anyone cooler than he was at that point? Lennon, maybe?

    Put it all together, the cool, the era, the fury, the music and I certainly see why many hail this as the greatest concert ever.

    You want to see the only other Dylan I’ve ever seen that could compare to this, check out these links to his first appearance on Letterman. Same tightrope quality. If forced to pick, I’d say this is even better than 1966. He’s older (it’s 1984), he’s with an unknown punk band, almost a one-off and has no right to pull off a performance like this, but he does. Check where he has the wrong harmonica and leaves the band hanging.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkW8yCvlMr0&mode=related&search= (Don’t Start Me Talking) Promoting a new album and he starts with a cover not on the album – pure Dylan. E., I really want to know what you think of this one.


    He also did License To Kill but I can’t find that on youtube and I think that’s the one with the harmonica bit.

  20. saturnismine

    thanks gurg. got it.

    i’ve gotta go pull these bootlegs out and see what they are. i always thought one was manchester and the other was albert hall….i’m probably wrong.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Gurgles:

    You really piss me off sometimes, you know? I mean, how can a guy with such seriously WRONG ideas about rock and roll *over here* be so utterly, completely RIGHT *over there*.

    For the record, I agree with every single word you typed, with the following exceptions:

    1. “The Band” is a near-flawless record from one end to the other. I thank the RTH gods that nobody has ever asked us to list our “desert island discs” — but if they did, that LP would be on my list. You’re one of the rare ones who recognizes the value and importance of “myth” in rock music. Well, for the most part, that bullshit upstate-New York-we-churn-our-own-butter-and-wear-civil-war-replica-woolen-underpants thang they exploited was retarded. But, so help me, they *did* capture an amazing, timeless vibe on that album. Helm is a huge part of the reason why, but — as much as I hate to do it — I gotta give props to Robertson for writing some absolutely brilliant songs. I mean, come on — “King Harvest”? “Whispering Pines”? They just keep on comin’, An awesome record — really, for my money, perhaps the greatest “concept album” ever made.

    2. The whole Dylan thing, but you aready knew that about me. (Mind you, I really like his early acoustic work, so maybe we *are* in agreement here.)

    Anyhow, just wanted to share. And kudos to the dude who half-coined the term “patina.” We need a glossary entry!

  22. Mr. Moderator

    OK, I laughed my ass off at some of E’s comments, and I – a true lover of The Band – even agreed with much of what he said.

    So much of what he says about that Manchester gig is correct, but what I like about it is the joy they kick up with Dylan. To my ears, that show sounds like Dylan and his high school garage band rehearsing the first night they scored some quality Thai stick. And you know who really makes that entire performance worthwhile? Rick Danko. His driving bass is outstanding, helping me forget that the drummer doesn’t have a clue, that Roberston’s not a spectacular player, and so forth. I also like the 1974(?) Dylan-Band live album, Before the Flood. Dylan always sounded like he was having fun, playing with friends when he was with those guys. Bob needs some friends now and then.

    The whole mystique of Robbie Robertson had me hooked from the day I first saw The Last Waltz. I grew up with the s/t Band album – my uncle gave it to me when I was about 6 – so that album was and still is very special to me. I used to gaze at that sepia-toned cover, studying each guy’s facial hair and the cool hats. The gatefold shots of them playing in that house blew my mind. THAT’S how I wanted to make music some day. So anytow, when I got to see these boyhood heroes on the big screen and fully appreciate Robertson’s excellent hair and silk scarf, his confidence hanging with my favorite director, Scorcese… And then he made all those great faces while he played! So, I was able to overlook the fact that he wasn’t an outstanding guitarist; in fact, I liked th fact that I could easily play bits and pieces of his guitar parts. I also liked the fact that he set himself up as mastermind of the band. More power to him! Some will know why I feel this way:)

    So where was I? Despite the fact that Robertson put out what might have been the most unlistenable, “are you happy now?” (ie, that your beloved mastermind was finally singing lead) album of all time; despite the fact that not even Music from the Big Pink is more than half a filled with great material; despite the fact that there are no more than a half dozen great studio recordings following the outstanding second album… I love The Band. The performances of even those decent songs from later albums are tremendous. Their backing of a variety of artists is great. (“Helpless” never sounded better, for instance; “Caravan” is the definitive version.)

    So where am I? The Band – the second album – tells you all you need to know about The Band’s worth and their value. Sure, they shared similar grooming and hygiene characteristics with The Dead, which is why maybe the only thing I could find in common with Deadheads (besides digging their women) was a brief discussion on The Band. They got put into the Deadhead package plan, certainly, but The Band’s second album (and the first one as well – thereafter things get sketchy and I won’t defend the end results) – is a work of great craftsmanship and art. They have all those rootsy, folky approaches to playing and singing down pat, which is why the likes of Epluribus and the rest of you hippiephobes think they’re like The Dead, but on their best works the construct little worlds as airtight and imaginative as the best of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and other better-groomed bands that are lauded for their studio and arrangement craft. Who’s that artist who lived with his mom and designed little boxes that captured his weird inner world, Joseph Cornell, or something like that? To me, that’s the beauty of those first two albums. You turn out the lights, get off by yourself, and travel through those fantastic, folky boxes.

    If there’s one thing that Robbie Robertson really did for that collection of guys it was frame out the boxes for their talents. The Dead would eventually try following their route as would Clapton, Harrison, The Byrds, Traffic, and so many others, but rarely did any of them achieve the seamless, timeless nature of The Band. Just because you learn to sing through your beard and play a mandolin does not make you a Joseph Cornell of American music traditions.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting some of my points, but Bravo to Epluribus for calling bullshit on much of what needs to be called, but I hope I’ve been clear enough (and Slocum too, who captured all that’s great about their live playing) to allow at least one of you to hear The Band (the album – skip everything else until you’re convinced of what I’m saying) with new ears.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    PS – I just checked: Joseph Cornell is who I had in mind.


  24. BigSteve

    It’s hard to be objective about this topic, since The Band came along right at the time when I, and many others, needed desperately to be rescued from heaviosity. You can’t really explain to those who caught up afterwards the impact they had when their records were experienced in real time.

    That doesn’t mean we don’t have to think about whether their music holds up. When the 70s started to curdle, so did they. On the other hand I think Stage Fright is a fine record, and Cahoots just a notch or two below the brown album. I can even find things to enjoy in those last two records, even though the main thing that sets them apart and above — male bonding expressed in strong but sensitive vocal and instrumental interplay — was crumbling by that point.

    Sure Robertson fell prey to his press clippings, and even his best songwriting has elements of crudity that Dylan usually avoids, but I’m not going to fault someone for ambition. In a sense Levon was right, but I think my world would be impoverished in The band had simply remained a high class R&B cover band.

    As I stated elsewhere, Robertson is not a lead player on the order of Clapton or say Beck, but show me a solo as perfect as the one on King Harvest and I’ll let you denigrate his guitar artistry.

    I don’t know that many young hipsters, but the one I do know, the son of a friend of mine, has been in a band doing small tours of the US for the past few years. When he was in his late teens, he discovered his dad’s Band records, and after spending some time with them his dad told me he asked “Why can’t all music be like this?” His own music doesn’t sound anything like The Band’s (more like Pavement with Debbi Harry on vocals), but I think his experience gives the lie to the claim that younger folk don’t get it. I’m pretty sure the younger wing of the alt.country scene gets it. Didn’t Neko Case get Garth Hudson to play with her?

    And whatever else Robertson may have done with Scorsese, he was music consultant/scorer on some of his better films.

  25. Fritz and Al,

    I wanna make one thing perfectly clear right here and now. There is no one on the planet who digs the “wild mercury sound” more than me. The sound is perhaps best exemplified on Blonde on Blonde’s “Obviously Five Believers”. Shit hot rock and roll, everything in the pocket, played by shit hot players wired on amphetamines washed down with booze. And the kicker is this -I think Robertson might actually be the guitar player on the track. Maybe Charlie McCoy or Joe South had to take a dump or something.

    That incredible sound is NOT what is served up at Manchester Free Hall.

    Al, I too think there is no one cooler than 64/65/66 Dylan and also find the story behind the electricity absolutely fascinating. That said, I’m judging the Manchester Free Hall performance solely on the music -and the music is definitely not to my taste -especially knowing just how good electric Dylan can sound (the holy trinity of electric Dylan LPs from 65-66).

    Just to keep things simple, listen to “Like a Rolling Stone” from the Manchester show. How can one compare/enjoy that slop when one knows how great the song can actually be?

    What gauls me more than anything about the Manchester show is Dylan’s need to strongly emphasize key words and/or phrases in the lyrics via vocal volume. And when Mickey Jones feels that Dylan isn’t doing an adequate job, he doesn’t hesitate to assit by hitting a cymbal or whacking a tom. I can’t speak for Mickey Jones (God only knows what rationale justified him putting in his two cents where it didn’t belong), but I think Dylan chose to perform in this manner in an act of self defense. Whatever. Granted, the emphasis is there on the LPs, but it’s subtle. The Manchester electric show is like a lecture from an arrogant ass. The holy trinity LPs are like a having a friend over who’s got great stories to tell and tells them extremely well.

    Call me crazy, but that’s the way I see it.

    E. Pluribus

  26. Hey Plurbosity:

    On this list, the name’s mwall to you, but that’s no matter. Thanks for asking about that song, and I think I hear what you’re saying.

    My feeling is that the implication is there, but it’s not quite conclusive. Bessie, in New Orleans, sounds like a name and place that’s more black than white, for sure. And there are at least two images (the mountaintop and the tea) which are images in Bessie Smith’s music too, so they could be references. The Big Mama (a black enough name also, obviously) in the song, though, in the north, seems to be the guy’s wife; she’s contrasted with Bessie. So a black wife and a black girlfriend? Or Big Mama’s white but Bessie’s black? Maybe, but it all feels uncertain. There’s no completely undeniable clue.

    These guys’ girls in these Band songs sure do have black names though. Jemima, for chrissakes.

    The Band is Canadian, so maybe they don’t know the difference between black and white names in the U.S. Or maybe they’re just being “bluesy.” But I find it hard to believe they’re that uninformed. So they’re fucking around with the idea, at least, but there’s no more than hints.

  27. E., common ground looks further away rather than closer!

    I think the ’66 live singing is some of Dylan’s greatest. I love the emphases. “Tell me MOMma, what IS it, what’s wrong with YEW, this TIIIIIIIIIME”. And I’ll agree that while it’s hard to top LARS as a studio recording, I think it’s impossible to top this Manchester version as a live recording. It’s ferocious, he’s singing it like he’s alone in the middle of a hurricane and, in a way, he was. And any complaints about the Hawks, including Jones, melt away at the way the song kicks in. Tell me you at least love that part?!?!

    We are in agreement about too much musically for this to cause a real rift…but if I had known this the other night I would have clipped you upside the head!

    And what about those Letterman clips?

  28. saturnismine

    don’t forget that song on the “basement tapes”….

    “gooooin’ down the road to seee bessie….ooooh see her soon….i’m goin’ down the road to see bessie smith….and when i get there, i’mwonderin whatshe’lldoo.”

    i checked my bootlegs. one is the “albert hall” gig that must actually be the manchester gig. the other is just dylan w/ the band and could be from any era. no idea what show it is. that explains it.

    gurg, as i stated at the top of this thread, i hear ya about the “terrible” aspects of that manchester gig, but you have to admit that they DO sound like they’re on a mission. dylan’s seering vocals match the general abandon with which they play behind him. it must’ve sounded quite strange at the time.

    i’m waiting to hear your take on richard manuel.

    i also forgot to say that i think you’re remiss in not acknowledging the band’s contributions to the “basement tapes”. those songs are what got me back into them after thinking that “the band” was really all there is by them that’s worthwhile. “aint no more cane”, “dear katie” … these songs are unbelievably original sounding for their time….much more melodic and tightly conceived, and more enjoyable for me, than dylan’s own epic contributions. they could have made another great “band” album if separated from bob’s.

  29. Al,

    Beware. The next time you see me you might wanna knock my teeth down my throat.

    Just for the record, so you know where I stand on our boyfriend, I made a clean break with Bob right after Desire, which is more or less around the same time that he became a parody of himself.

    Well, there it is. It’s out. And there’s no way to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

    Praying all this doesn’t jeopardize our friendship,
    E. Pluribus

  30. BigSteve

    A geographical note on Up on Cripple Creek. The town of Cripple Creek is in Colorado, which explains “when I get off of this mountain.” But where does the song actually take place? The chorus implies that “up on Cripple Creek” is the place where “she,” presumably Bessie, sends, mends, and defends the singer. But he also describes going down the Mississippi River to see her. Unfortunately, Lake Charles Looziana is all the way over near the Texas border, over a hundred miles from the nearest bend of the Mississippi River, as well as over 50 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

    Is the whole song a “drunkard’s dream,” one that takes place in the mind of a guy stuck a thousand miles away in a mining camp? Or does J.R. Robertson just have a Canadian’s grasp of southern geography?

    E what is your revelation about the song?

  31. E., so does “clean break” mean you have no time for those Letterman clips?

    I’m much more lenient then you but if you are going to make a break than Desire is an ok place to make it. I’m one who thinks that Dylan after Blood On The Tracks is nowhere near Dylan prior (big revelation!) but I still think that Dylan after Blood is better than any of the “next Dylans” that I’ve fallen prey to. Viewed on it’s own terms, Dylan’s career after Blood is still pretty amazing.

    Parody is a pretty negative term. I’d prefer to call it a “remarkable simulation” of the greatest musical genius ever.

    And as far as the friendship goes, well, it’s not like you’ve dissed basically all of Motown.

    Right, solid, right!

  32. Big Steve,

    I’m gonna keep my mouth shut until I listen to the song again.

    And this is kinda funny, but I just spent the last 15 minutes or so trying to find that self-titled LP in my 10 or so flea market album boxes. No luck! Maybe it’s selling afterall!

    Whatever the case, I’ll reveal all as soon as I revisit the song.

    Still searching,
    E. Pluribus

  33. Al sayz:

    “Parody is a pretty negative term. I’d prefer to call it a “remarkable simulation” of the greatest musical genius ever.”

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read since meanstom posted “Feart” as his nickname for Heart.

    Al, I thank the almighty everyday for allowing me to cross paths with someone like you.

    I sincerely mean that.

    E. Pluribus

  34. Big Steve,

    I gotta go cut the lawn (I gotta get SOMETHING accomplished today or my wife’s gonna begin divorce proceedings).

    That said, check out the following link (I never pull a Links Linkerson, but I think this one’s a doozy).

    All of this explains why I’m so bent out of shape about “Cripple Creek”. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye!


    Talk to ya in a few hours,
    E. Pluribus

  35. BigSteve

    I’m even quoted on this page, though I don’t recall ever emailing Mr. Deviney. I guess I did. There was a lot of stuff in this compendium. What is it that gets you bent out of shape? The ambiguity?

  36. BigSteve,

    Yeah, I guess it’s the ambiguity. Whatever’s in those grooves is interesting enough for return trips to the turntable.

    Talk to ya soon,
    E. Pluribus

  37. BigSteve

    Not good enough e. You said in your original post:

    I recently had a revelation about that number in particular, and if what I think is true about the song’s real meaning, I have to grudgingly grant that Robertson may have a touch of genius.

    You sent me to an incredibly huge webpage, and that’s the best you can do? “I guess it’s the ambiguity”? Stop stirring things up and then disappearing in a puff of smoke. If you’re going to ask everyone what they think, dangling some revelation in front of us, you owe it to us to tell us what it is.

  38. saturnismine

    yes, gurg, steve’s right.

    and for that matter, i’ve been waiting all day to know why you dissed manuel (who sounds, acc. to you like “a dolphin in extreme pain”?).

    and i’ve been waiting half that long to know your thoughts on their songs on “the basement tapes”, about which you’ve said nothing (surely an egregious oversight if one is going to weigh in with an assessment of these guys).

    i’ll restate what i said at the top. i’m generally in agreement with you. i’m looking forward to your thoughts on these matters. you may take your time if you wish.

    but please answer. i really DO want to know.

    you know i wouldn’t leave you hangin’ if you asked me something along these lines.

  39. Mr. Moderator

    Fans of The Band, I urge you to stop whining over E’s disinterest in answering questions about The Basement Tapes and any Day of the Dolphins references. This is your opportunity to celebrate and share all that is great about The Band. Epluribus is so close to getting it. I can tell. And who would have guessed that Hrrundi was on board with the second album! My man! I knew I loved that guy for some reason beside his massive brain and rhetorical skills. This is an opportunity; make the most of it!

  40. saturnismine


    you can address me directly if you want.

    and this is hardly whining.

    i asked questions that strike at the heart of his argument.

    i want answers.

    butt out.

  41. Mr. Moderator


    Remember how I said even Bob Dylan needs some friends? Well, so does my man E. I’m trying to be his friend in hopes that he’ll let down his guard and answer your questions. Trust me. Meanwhile, do not avoid discussing The Band in positive terms, if they so warrant such discussion. I have credited the man (E) for so much of the bad he addressed, but I shall not discuss this issue on my heels. Stay on the balls of your feet, RTH!

  42. Well, I can say this much for sure: Pluribus asked exactly the question about Cripple Creek that needed asking. The guy knows how to pay attention to the details. He zones in when it counts.

    My vote on the mystery relative to that long-winded other site to which Rocktown’s BigSteve contributed significantly: Cripple Creek keeps happening for the same reason that British hard rockers can’t shut up about Whiskey Women. it’s all in the syllables and the mythology.

    If you want maps, go to your nearest Exxon.

  43. BigSteve

    Speaking of Manuel and The Basement Tapes, can you believe they left Katie’s Been Gone off of Big Pink? If there’s a more beautiful sad song out there, I don’t know about it. No wonder he stopped writing.

  44. Art,

    Sorry for not getting back to you. Here are your answers:

    Richard Manuel: snooze

    Basement Tapes: snooze

    Sorry to be brief, but there’s really nothing there to get hot and bothered about to generate enough motivation for pounding away at the keyboard.

    Big Steve,

    Just a couple of things about “Up on Cripple Creek.”

    1) Again, I like the ambiguity, and I love the fact that the song can be appreciated on so many levels. And this is real dumb, but I love the Spike Jones line. Few get away with a lyric containing a proper noun that’s not a geographical location or a loved/hated one’s name, but Robertson truly succeeds here. And I think he might have done that just for Helm, who, I believe, was a huge Spike Jones fan. I like the tip of the hat to those who infuenced the band and the fact that Robertson might have truly wanted others of his generation to check out what he thought they might be missing.

    2) The chorus is just clever as hell.

    Up on Cripple Creek (literally on top of the woman), she sends me(it doesn’t get any better than this)

    If I spring a leak (early ejaculation), she mends me (cleans him up, tells him it’s no big deal, he’s still a man, etc.)

    I don’t have to speak, she defends me (again, no need for the apologies, he’s still her man)

    A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one (it just doesn’t get any better than this!)

    3) And that’s just the chorus. In the verses, the relationship is described in a sort of slapstick way to show that there’s more going on here than those hikes up the mountain. The whole slapstick thing, I believe, is yet another tip of the hat to the past, i.e. old movies Robertson appreciated. Without Helm, Robertson’s lyric might have come off somewhat artificial. Helm takes it all and makes it sound like he’s talking to a fishing buddy.

    Sorry for the awkwardness of the explanation, but it’s early in the morning and the coffee hasn’t worked its magic yet!

    Talk to ya soon,
    E. Pluribus

  45. saturnismine


    i mistook the spirit of your comments. yes, epublius has made strides! and no, i don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    but…(and please forgive me for what i am about to do, mod…we’re going to have to postpone the healing moment until i get this off my chest…and now i adress plurbis as well, now that his opinion on my questions is out)…we’re talking about the voice of richard frikkin’ manuel and the “basement tapes” here.

    if you want to open up the question of the band’s merits for discussion, these are two of the cornerstones, among the first things people cite when praising them, and with good reason i think.

    plurbs, you’re right on in your take of levon. have you read what HE has to say about either Manuel’s voice, OR the basement tapes? matt cited richard’s vocal on “whispering pines”. doesn’t it do anything for you? have you heard him sing “I shall be released”? wow. it’s spine tingling, man. regarding the “basement tapes”, even Levon thinks it’s when they hit their stride, and feels that “the band” is a bit stiff in comparison.

    and sure, levon is probably the coolest guy in the band, but richard manuel = snooze?

    yeah, the quality of the band’s output takes a fast nosedive after “the band” but basement tapes = “snooze”?

    come on, dude. you’re cashing in your credibility with these assessments. you’re making me reconsider your entire argument if THAT’s your response.

    do you KNOW which voice is Manuel’s? are you familiar with their songs on the basement tapes? have i caught you with your pants down (ewww)?

    i call on rth’ers across the globe to RISE UP in defense of richard manuel and the band’s songs on “the basement tapes”!!!

  46. Art,

    I need no one to point me in the direction of Manuel’s voice. It’s not for me. He’s another one of those “singin’ through my beard” dudes. Not an interesting sound, at least to these ears.

    As far as The Basement Tapes are concerned, the only decent thing that came out of the whole affair was Manfred Mann opting to cut “Quinn the Eskimo” and Fairport covering “Million Dollar Bash”.

    And that’s that.
    E. Pluribus

  47. saturnismine

    on another note:

    although the songwriting credits on “the band” give just about everything to robertson, Levon contends, in his book, that it was actually a team effort; in his telling, in addition to riffs that served as the bases for songs, even lyrics were brought in by helm, manuel, and danko, and that hudson had huge input into the structure and arrangements.

    according to Levon, the reason why the songwriting credits say “j.r. robertson” is because robertson handled the business end, dealt with the publisher. when the album came out, it was the first notion that any of them had that they wouldn’t be credited.

    I could be wrong about this final part but I also remember reading from Levon’s book that when confronted by the rest of the guys in the band Robertson claimed it “had to be credited that way” but that the rest of them would still see money for songwriting, which never happened.

    he goes into such depth that i can’t imagine it’s made up. moreover, robertson never issued a rebuttal.

    so, yes, cripple creek’s a great song. but we need to at least hesitate before crediting robertson with “a touch of genius” in light of its greatness.

  48. saturnismine

    and i forgot to add…

    Levon’s description of a more collaborative process on “the band” makes alot of sense….i mean it really rings true, especially if you listen to their songs “the basement tapes” (!!!!!), recorded before “the band”, and where they really sound like a unit, with each guy bringing in ideas, and the rest supporting him.

  49. Art,

    All that’s fine with me. It’s more or less what I’ve suspected for years concerning Robertson’s actual creative gifts.

    E. Pluribus

  50. saturnismine


    thanks for your somewhat less abridged response.

    i can’t believe that a soulster like you can’t find the passion in richard manuel’s voice. he sings to the heavens, not his beard. i argue so passionately in his defense because he’s one of the few vocalists who can really GET TO ME every time.

    and i’m shocked that a song like “dear katie” from the basement tapes doesn’t shoot straight to your heart. that middle 8 is to DIE FOR!!!

    i’m half tempted to force you to go back and listen and report back to me.

    but instead, just consider this a cyber embrace after another respectful disagreement.

    were you aware of Levon’s charges against Robertson? even before I read that book, I had a sneaking suspicion that Robertson wasn’t the “only guy” who wrote those songs…

    i’m on Team Levon in that argument.

  51. BigSteve

    E, I still don’t get what the revelation was that you said you had about Cripple Creek. It’s that there’s a sexual subtext?

  52. BigSteve

    Liking voices is a very personal thing. If e doesn’t like Manuel’s voice, as hard as that is for me to fathom, that’s the way it is. He’s definitely one of my top ten favorite vocalists ever. And you’ve got to give him bonus points for that suit he wore in The Last Watlz. Bold move.

    Supposedly in their roadhouse days, he was the Hawks’ main singer, and Bobby Bland numbers were his bread and butter. Bland can’t be beat, but Manuel’s version of Share Your Love on Moondog Matinee is quite nice.

  53. BigSteve

    Oh, and I forgot to thank e for the youtube link to this version of One Too Many Mornings. One problem with the Manchester gig was that it was so poorly recorded. I still find it awesomely exciting, but you usually can’t hear any piano and it’s very muddy overall. In this video you can actually hear all the instruments, the playing has an understated power, and there’s not a boo to be heard afterwards.

    Remember there were no monitors back in those days. This was at the very beginning of loud rock performances in large halls, and before this screaming teenyboppers had masked the fact that the players usually could not hear what they were doing. Dylan & the Hawks on this tour were supposedly the loudest rock band anyone had heard up until that time, but onstage they were sometimes at sea. Wherever this clip was recorded, the PA gods may have been smiling on them that night.

    Although I would love to hear what this group would have sounded like with Levon on drums, I think Mickey Jones works pretty well on the recordings I’ve heard. Given the fact that they pretty much had to muscle up and basically duke it out with some audiences, his somewhat ham-fisted style is often the only thing that could have worked. On the version of Like a Rolling Stone on the No Direction Home, the way he pounds the whole band towards the climaxes in the choruses adds a kind of majesty I can’t imagine Levon providing, as great a drummer as he would ultimately prove to be.

  54. Count me as a member of Team Levon as well. After reading his book, it made me that much more convinced that the second Band Lp was much more collaborative than the songwriting credits would indicate.

    However, it should be noted that Levon blew a lot of his money on drugs and that his house in Woodstock is in danger of being foreclosed, which is why he does the “Midnight Rambles” up there, bringing in special guests like Elvis Costello, and charging up to $100 a ticket (if not more) for them. Thus, he’s not perfect, but I still say that they all should’ve gotten songwriting credit on that Lp at least. If so, maybe he wouldn’t be in that predicament.

  55. saturnismine


    you’re right, liking voices is a personal thing. But at the risk of stirring the pot further (and kicking a dead horse), eplurbis hasn’t really said anything that makes me think he actually knows the difference between Manuel’s voice and the voices of the others in “the band”. Forgive me, e, but that’s what it looks like from here.

    Matt, is there a causal relationship between Levon’s drugging and his current fiscal woes? I thought he cleaned up his act long before now. Did he recently fall off the wagon and start blowing off mortgage payments?

    As you suggest, either way, it makes no difference regarding his claim of collaboration on the 2d album. Besides, Robertson was no choir boy either.

  56. Art,

    Once again, I need not be pointed in the direction of Manuel’s voice. You may find it soulful. I find it irritating beyond belief.

    And BigSteve is right. The appreciation of vocal chops is indeed a very personal thing. I just can’t relate to whatever it is that you find so appealing about that “singin’ through my beard”, “watch me sound like a black man” voice.

    E. Pluribus

  57. saturnismine

    e, i know “big steve is right”. i acknowledge above that voices are a personal thing, and suggested as much even before he posted that.

    however, it’s curious that you’ve responded to my observation that that thus far, you’ve written nothing that makes me confident that you can RM’s voice from the others by repeating the generic phrases that aroused my suspicions in the first place.

    and now, upon reviewing the whole thread from start to finish, i’m beginning to wonder if you’ve ever really given the basement tapes a close listen. its complete absence from your critical analysis of the band’s oeuvre is quite a sin of omission indeed.

    in the grand scheme of things,however, it aint no big deal to me…

    so if what i suspect is true, you should just say it. aint no shame.

    this horse is dead, by the way…we should just move on….

    lots and lots of love (really!), art

  58. Mr. Moderator

    Hold tight, Townspeople who believe that Epluribus owes the Hall a greater explanation of this whole “singing through the beard” issue. The man is digging through his vast archives to find a piece that will shed new light on this subject. Thanks.

  59. Hey Art,

    For the last and final time, I’ve listened to the Basement Tapes, and they stink! Okay?! I’ve listened to them over and over again to try and find out what the big deal is and no epiphany ever occurs. Yeah, there’s some good tunes there, but you’d never know it from the performances on the tapes. Just for the record, I HATE SLUDGY SOUNDS coming from men who sing through beards, poorly arranged instrumentation, and and songs that drag rhythmically.

    Your patronizing tone is insulting as hell. I’m not the one who needs an education. You really wanna learn something? Come over, and I promise you you’ll get an education you’ll never forget. There are gazillions of other recordings WAY more worthy of my time than anything the almighty BAND or Richard Manuel can serve up. As a matter of fact, I’m listening to one of them now: “Please Send Me Someone To Love” by Percy Mayfield. Now THAT’S singing! I need not waste any time on garbage when the good stuff is so readily available at a yard’s reach from my computer.

    I’m serious about all this crap. Screw the dissertation. I’m ready to educate yiou right here and now. If all this stuff is so important to you and so life changing, begin the change ASAP. I’m waiting for your e’mail confirming our get together.

    E. Pluribus

  60. saturnismine

    mod: “i know right”?

    given plurb’s failure to find any more descriptive language than “singing into his beard” (which might be the LEAST apt combination of words the english language has to offer to describe RM’s voice), WHAT ELSE are we to think? and all this after repeated single word dismissals and displays of disrespect for RM (“snooze”)? sheesh.

    plurb, forgive my continued disbelief, but given your stiff responses (none of which contain the name of a single song RM sings), you have to admit you had it coming. you would’ve reacted the same way.

    and PLEASE forgive the patronizing tone. i was merely trying to communicate good will. there’s NO DOUBT in my mind that you could teach me a ton. A TON.

    but this WILL have to wait. now the Nederlands Kunsthistorisches Jaerboek (that’s not made up) wants an essay based on the dissertation’s 3rd chapter. they want it revised, and they want it fast. i also have to turn this into a 20 minute paper for a conference in Padova. the photon band are completing a video and have two releases on the horizon. moreover, several young women between the ages of 22 – 27 throughout the region claim they “need me”.

    i made that last thing up.


    i’m in dead earnest.

  61. You got it.

    Tell you what. Let’s have a Band/pizza/ beer night at my digs. All are invited. Come armed with your Manuel and Basement samples. I’ll defend myself by spinning better sides from others with similar styles.

    E. Pluribs

  62. What cracks me up about this continued back and forth is the idea that Plurb would possibly change his mind, or that his all-or-nothing tone would change anybody else’s mind. That said, it’s been good to hear people air their views and go right back to what they were already thinking.

  63. Alright mwall,

    Tell me what your bent is on Manuel and the Basement Tapes. I’m not gonna close the door on any enlightenment if it’s indeed really there.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

  64. Mr. Moderator

    One thing I’ll say about The Basement Tapes: Based on song titles alone, it is a major achievement in the history of American music. Stay tuned for further thoughts on this subject, in particular.

    One thing I’ll say about Richard Manuel: He did some great work, but it should be easy to see why some folks don’t like his singing. No big deal, is it? What do you want Plurbs to do, tell you he doesn’t like the sound of tooth decay and bad whiskey on a man’s voice?

  65. Maybe Plurb would like RM better as a drummer. Doesn’t Helm’s book say that RM was a better drummer than him?

  66. I don’t want Richard Manuel as anything. All this chatter about his so-called gifts is really getting out of hand. Hell, if we’re gonna waste time there why not reevaluate Brad Delp’s contributions. Anybody out there think he might have been a half way decent cellist?!

    In the words of Hrundi, SHHHEEEEEESH!
    E. Pluribus

  67. BigSteve

    On the more or less acknowledged masterpiece (the brown album) Manuel plays drums on Jemima Surrender and Rag Mama Rag, right? That’s not a bad resume. Is there another one I’m forgetting?

  68. Is Brad Delp anywhere on that LP? If not, can you hear him playing cello on any given tracks, if he could indeed play cello?

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

  69. hrrundivbakshi

    From now on, any RTH discussion that’s clearly lived LONG past its shelf life shall be known as a “Delp On Cello” thread.

  70. Tell me what your bent is on Manuel and the Basement Tapes. I’m not gonna close the door on any enlightenment if it’s indeed really there.

    Now, Plurb, this may be the funniest thing you’ve ever said. You’ve been closing the door on enlightenment ever since you were 16. Of all the people on this list, you’re the least likely to ever change your mind about anything–and there are some real pig-headed douchebags on this list, myself among them. I’m not holding it against you necessarily–just stating a fact.

    I haven’t listened to The Basement Tapes in more than two years–I don’t have a turntable right now, and I don’t have the music on CD.

    That said, from that distance I’ll give you my take. There are many uneven performances on that record, not surprising given their semi-demo context. But there are great moments all over the place. Still, what I finally like best is the record’s overall aura. It seems to capture a specific time and place in the way very few records do, and the performances seem LIVED; there’s a sense that something’s really happening that’s not just business as usual. Oddly enough though, it also seems otherworldly too, a little bit haunted. I don’t deny that all of it sounds like it’s being played on a cheap tin can. But you’re an American beer guy–you like the taste of tin, so why not the sound of it?

    But believe me, I don’t expect you to be persuaded. If you don’t like the feel of the record, that’s okay by me. I know when you like something, it’ll be good. Hearing what you don’t like holds much less interest for me. I’d love to hear your take on what you think are the greatest rock songs. Then maybe I might learn something.

  71. saturnismine

    this is awesome.

    mod, you have SUCH a boner for gurgs! of course he’s entitled to his opinion. it’s his DEFENSE of it that’s so LAME.

    (and btw gurgs, you’ve got the guy who, in your own words, has “no credibility” because he dissed lennon’s contributions to “rubber soul” on your side. how does it feeeeel?)

    folks, you don’t have to read my posts closely to see that i never expected gurgs to change his mind.

    all i want are clear, descriptive reasons for his opinions. i continued to press because none were forthcoming.

    gurgs, your invitation to spin “better” stuff “in a similar style” contains the rub, on two counts:

    1. i’m sure i’d LOVE whatever records you want to spin. and i’ll be there. but with this suggestion, you’ve outed yourself as the one who clearly wishes to change people’s minds, all the while defend your own dislike of RM’s voice by insisting that vocals are an acquired taste. you can’t have it both ways.

    2. your plan (to spin “better” stuff “in a similar style”) and comments elsewhere in this thread suggest that you’re judging RM’s voice against the voices of his idols, rather than in its own right.

  72. Mwall,

    I agree the thing is atmospheric as hell, but I’m still not hearing the magic. The somewhat rough recording doesn’t bother me in the least. I have loads of early Dylan performances that are very rough. And those are among my favorite performances from the man, stuff that was recorded in apartments by friends and early shows right around time he was signed to Columbia. A huge chunk of the material is songs that never made it to the albums. All of it is better than the first Columbia LP and some of it is just as good as the tracks on the Freewheelin’ LP. Again, don’t pigeonhole me with the whole “it’s gotta be recorded clean” thing. The song and the perfromance are what’s most important.

    The Gold Standard of Rock? Don’t wanna start another thread, but what follows are absolutely flawless recordings:

    1) Manic Depression -Hendrix
    2) She Said, She Said -The Beatles
    3) Rain -The Beatles
    4) Street Fighting Man -The Stones
    5) Happiness is a Warm Gun- The Beatles
    6) Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey -The Beatles
    7) Pictures of Lily -The Who
    8) Brown Sugar -The Stones
    9) Queen Bitch -David Bowie
    10) Jumpin’ Jack Flash -The Stones

    You said Rock. That indeed is the finest that Rock has to offer. As you can see, I’m certainly not an obscurist.

    One more thing. It’s pretty incredible how much isn’t even worth considering when one has to choose 10, and that’s it. The finality makes one really consider what ingredients truly make a great rock song.

    Hope that helps,
    E. Pluribus

  73. saturnismine

    That’s a GREAT LIST.

  74. Mwall,

    Have the moderator post your assignment at the Main Stage. It’s a simple, but very effective way of finding out how an RTHer’s head is put together.

    Good gabbing with you as usual,
    E. Pluribus

    P.S. Rock is a white man’s thing. Down the road the same should be asked of other genres.

  75. Mr. Moderator

    EPG said:

    Have the moderator post your assignment at the Main Stage. It’s a simple, but very effective way of finding out how an RTHer’s head is put together.

    Ugh. Lists! Do what I did a couple of years ago and put down – for the record – the Top 100 Songs of the Millenium (ie, the one that passed a few years back). And add commentary for each entry. That’s a telling list. Just having people post their “Top 10” lists will inevitably lead to obscuro muscle flexing, as I know we both enjoy watching. Not today, though. There are more important issues stirring that Townspeople are ducking. Such a distraction is the last thing they need.

  76. C’mon, man! Do it! For me and mwall!

    E. Pluribus

  77. hrrundivbakshi

    Am I the only one who sees “…Me and My Monksy” as the odd one out on that list? You got some ‘splainin’ to do, Gurgles!

  78. That’s a strong list, Plurb. I could quibble, but it’d only be that: along the lines of what hrunndi said, and also the “Bang Bang Shoot Shoot” backing vocals, which are just a little more funny than they’re trying to be. But other than debating “how flawless is flawless,” I wouldn’t go to the mat against any of your choices.


  79. I have no explaining to do whatsoever. That’s my Rock gold standard. All have somewhat of an edge, which I think is necessary for the best rock.

    Mwall, as far as “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is concerned, those backups contribute to overall bizarreness of the track. They’re absolutely perfect, wouldn’t alter them a hair.

    I don’t know what the Moderator’s problem is. Like I said, the list is a great way of getting inside someone’s head. . . and gaining blackmail material for those times when certain someones need a good solid kick in the rearend (like Hrundi needs right about now).

    I’d love to hear what your tracks would be.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

    P.S. Hrundi, your dissing of “Monkey” is not a good move. You too have a gold standard, and another jab might force me to remind the public of how bad your taste actually is.

  80. I’ll give it some thought, Plurb–I don’t have time now. It’s my birthday today actually–45 glorious misspent years–and I’m headed on the town here in a moment.

    Just to clarify though: when you say I said we were talking about Rock, I assume that’s because we’re distinguishing it from something else, which is what? Just so I’m sure we’re on the same subject.

  81. Fair enough.

    By rock we’re talking pop with an edge made for the most part by longhairs between 1963-1976? 1963 because that’s when the Stones entered the picture and 1976 because that’s around the time when Punk kept things interesting. I apologize for the rough parameters. If you can do better, please put in your two cents. What I’m definitely not looking for are examples from other distinctly different genres like jazz, country, soul, etc.

    See what you can do with all that rambling and get back to me at your convenience. And have a real good time tonight too.

    Happy birthday!
    E. Pluribus

  82. BigSteve

    If I were going to pick the ten greatest rock songs (which I’m not):

    a) no artist would have more than one song on the list
    b) no album would contribute more than one song to the list (certainly not the EP-worthy White Album) … unless I wanted to trick people into thinking I was narrow-minded
    c) my list would contain no waltzes
    d) if I wanted to add edge to my list, I’d leave off warm and fuzzy songs about how it’s all in your mind because I’m stoned and it’s raining, you know?
    e) I’d think about it for more than ten minutes before posting my list

  83. Big Steve,

    Thanks for your input. I think we all know where you stand on the matter.

    That said, I think I’ve proved my point regarding the importance of taking the list to the main stage.

    E. Pluribus

  84. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey — don’t pick a fight where there ain’t one, Plurbs. I love “… Monkey.” I just think it’s an odd song for that list of yours, which is pretty classic rock mainstream stuff otherwise (though I have to admit I don’t know the Bowie tune). I mean, why “…Monkey” and not, say, “Day Tripper”? DT, or any number of other Beatles tracks, would fit better on that list of yours.

    I’m with Moddie on this one — No lists. Here’s what I want to know: where do you stand on Brian Jones’ brief flirtation with chin hair?

  85. Hrundi,

    It’s a good question, but I don’t have a stand. When Jones finally opted for facial hair, it was more or less a cry for help. At that point (late ’67 or so), he was in no state of mind to contribute to the band creatively and probably felt the need to gain some sort of attention in some other way. Tattoos, earrings, piercings -it’s all more or less a variation on Jones’ chin hair.

    Hope that helps,
    E. Pluribus

  86. Mr. Moderator

    Team No Lists, you rule! See how Epluribus wants us to post our lists for the purpose of getting inside our heads? THIS from a man who once exclaimed in the middle of an incrediby heated band argument, “DON’T TRY TO GET INSIDE MY HEAD!” At all costs, I urge you to resist the various “Trojan horse” threads that you’ll see here on Rock Town Hall. (Not really, but saying that’s part of Trojan horse plan itself…)

    Happy birthday, Townsman Mwall!

  87. Hey Plurb:

    I developed a list of Contenders for the Top Ten. Not all these Contenders will ultimately make the Top Ten list, but none of them are Pretenders. They all have a reason for being where they are.

    Lists don’t seem to be wanted around here, so I’ll hold back for the moment. But I’m ready whenever anybody thinks it’s worth addressing.

    I disagree with the Mod that a Top Ten Rock Songs discussion isn’t worth having–especially if it becomes important to provide reasoning. In fact, the narrowing process is one of the most interesting things. Besides, it’s great when Rocktown revisits the obvious and comes up with new answers. It’s one of my favorite things about this list.

    Some problems in putting together a Top Ten (not that I can’t, because I can and will):

    I noticed several different types of songs that were making my list, and comparing them to each other was sometimes a problem. Some songs were sprinters; they blow you away instantly, and from beginning to end, but there’s not huge development. “Brown Sugar” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” are Contenders of this type. Then there are the long-distance runners; songs that take longer in development but blow you away by the distance that they can go. “Like A Rolling Stone” is an example of this type of Contender. Then there are the Unique Works of Genius; tunes that there’s nothing else quite like them. “Norwegian Wood” and “White Rabbit” are Contenders of this kind. Ubu’s “Heart of Darkness” and “Navvy” too, although I’m not sure whether they belong, given the parameters.

    So, does one want balance between different types of songs in the Top Ten? This is a question worth asking.

    Another problem: the greatness of some songs has to do with their context on the album and relation to other songs. “Brown Sugar” for instance is infinitely greater because “Sway” (not a Contender) follows it. It’s a great song, no doubt, but it’s a little bit too much of a sprinter without the follow-up. Similarly, the segue from “Purple Haze” to “Manic Depression” (both Contenders) highlights both the overwhelming power of “Manic Depression” but also the fact that it lacks a little on the level of hook in its opening sections. Those songs are like part one and part two of an amazing beast. Some of the best moments in rock and roll, it turns out, are actually not one song but two songs, and how those two feed off each other.

    Several of my choices of Contenders will be controversial on this list. But they do indeed belong, no doubt about it.

    And I’ll close with this: your buddy Clapton has a song which is a Contender. No two ways about it.

  88. Mr. Moderator

    I have allowed myself to hear The People, or at least some of them. A dedicated thread for this discussion has now been created. Please read the rules carefully before listing. Thanks.

  89. Hey Mark,

    This might scare the living daylights out of you, but your thinking on the whole matter is frighteningly similar to mine, especially the companion piece thing. I too had trouble isolating “Manic Depression” from “Purple Haze” as well as separating “Brown Sugar” from “Sway”. I don’t know just what it is about “Sway”, but it’s always been one of my all time favorites. I never tire of hearing it.

    “White Rabbit” would have been a contender as well, had I not recently revisited “Surrealistic Pillow”. There were few tracks that held up. As a matter of fact, I was surprised by the number of tracks that were just plain bad!

    Screw the moderator and post the list. He’s in my doghouse once again. Wanna know why? As soon as I got home from the flea market this morning, the phone rang, and it was the moderator. He asked me how I was doin’. I told him that the day began on a bad note because I missed out on a 70s Fender Princeton amp in beautiful working condition for the ridiculously low price of twenty bucks. My buddy and I have a deal at the flea market. If we hit up a dealer at the same time, I get the records, and my buddy gets the amps or guitars if the dealer does indeed have the goods. I’m a decent human being (at least when it comes to wheeling and dealing with friends) so you can probably guess what happened. For the most part, it’s been a fair deal for the last 7 years, despite the fact that I got stung real good twice.

    Anyway, I got some sympathy from the moderator, told him I’d talk to him later, then headed to the kitchen for lunch. After I ate and took a little nap (hallelujah summertime!), I got up and checked the RTH site. Lo and behold, my tale of woe is right there on the main stage with no kudos to E. Pluribus. The SOB stole my story! It’s no wonder the Moderator is a Robbie Robertson sympathizer! I’m actually thinking about calling up Levon to see if he wants to compare horror stories tonight.

    So send the list. Like I said, I wanna find out more about what makes you tick. That’s a lot more important than the second coming of Conan.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    E. Pluribus

    P.S. How was the birthday celebration?

  90. 2000 Man

    1. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones. First, because it flat out kicks ass. Second, because it bends and twists the riff to Satisfaction to absolute perfection. Third, because I was asked to pick a favorite song since I had a favorite band. I really don’t usually do that kind of stuff well, and I’ll change the whole list literally the same day, and mean it just as much.

    2. Cracked Actor – David Bowie. I love this song for so many reasons. Huge, chunky riffs. Big, bendy chords. Utterly depraved lyrics. The look in a girl named Mary Jo’s eyes when I put it in the cassette player and turned it up to 11 when we were 16. There’s so much that says, “I’m rock and roll” about this song.

    3. It’s Only Rock N’ Roll – The Rolling Stones. They can’t play this one live to save their asses usually, but the studio version is just sublime. Keith starts with just a little rock n’ roll fairy dust, and practically every bar he finds another chord, or singer, or hand clap to add to it until it’s just too much, at which point the song is over. I don’t care if it was really Mick that did it, either. I’m crediting Keith. Because that record gets to the core of why I love the Stones. It’s the last perfect record they ever made (which is fine, because so few people really ever get one perfect).

    4. Shake Some Action – The Flamin’ Groovies. I don’t think this could have been any more different than one of my most beloved albums of all time, Teenage Head, than if a different band played on it. Which technically it was. But still, Cyril Jordan’s jangly guitars and the big drum sound just blow me away every time.

    5. Louie, Louie – The Kingsmen. Utter lunkheaded rock and roll perfection. Even the fuckup coming out of the bridge is perfect. There’s a reason why every band plays this song, and it’s because if The Kingsmen could do it, then anyone can.

    6. Wild Thing – The Troggs. Whatever rock and roll is, is what Wild Thing is. Didya know the dude that wrote that Juice Newton hit, Angel of the Morning wrote it? Wow! Anyway, like Louie, Louie any band can play this and get asses out shakin’ on the dance floor. Even Hendrix, while trying to kill the greatness of Wild Thing with lighter fluid and brute force, still managed to get asses out shakin’. Cuz it’s just a great song.

    7. Train Kept A Rollin’ – The Yardbirds. This is the song I discovered The Yardbirds with. I think Jeff Beck had the budget and effects available at the time that would be equal to a rock and a stick today. There’s some fascinating reading about who and how the guitar player for Johnny Burnette’s version is, but we all know Jeff Beck was the guy for The Yardbirds. Jeff Beck sounds like a freight train because Jeff Beck used to actually BE a freight train.

    8. Sonic Reducer – Rocket From the Tombs. I gotta show some love for the local kids. Most people would say it was The Dead Boys, but both RFTT releases have better versions on them. I used to stay up until 4AM to hear the college kids play Sonic Reducer when I was a kid. It was so different from all the music my friends listened to, and it still kinda runs through my head on a steady repeat all the time….I got my tele machine…got my ‘lectronic dream…

    9. Reelin’ In the Years – Steely Dan. How come no one does guitar solos like this anymore? Where they actually fit in with the song, and complement things rather than totally distract from them. What an unlikely song for a big hit single, and it still sounds just swell to me.

    10. Honky Tonk Women – The Rolling Stones. It’s my list. I feel I’ve held back by only including three Stones songs (especially my not including Rip This Joint, which surprises me). But this began the golden era of Jimmy Miller produced Rolling Stones. The standout besides the monster riff is quite possibly the best drum sound anyone has ever gotten down on a record. The Stones can actually pull this one off live pretty well, but the record is just extra special cuz it’s got so much sex in it.

    I’d really like to have added some newer songs, but then I think about the “test of time” thing and they just haven’t. I hope that changes for me as time goes by. But I sure do like those ten songs.

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