All Things Must Pass

I’m only about a third of the way through but I’m digging it so far. Man, I miss record stores …

Everyone thinks they know what killed Tower Records: The Internet. But that’s not the story. “All Things Must Pass” examines this iconic company’s explosive trajectory, tragic demise, and legacy forged by its rebellious founder Russ Solomon.

Dear Mr. Brody

I’ve been watching this and it’s pretty fantastic. Via Amazon Prime Discovery trial, which I will cancel when finished. The producer who had all the letters in storage boxes was Edward Pressman – who produced Phantom of the Paradise. Have you guys ever seen that?

Speaking o’ Memphis

Here’s a radio show of some 60’s-70’s rarities.  I love the ones by the Breakers and Flash and the Memphis Casuals.  I bet they kicked ass live (I’m not old enough to have seen them, although I did see about half of the others on this list).  Unlisted after the Tommy Hoehn song is a pretty terrible cover of “I Walk the Line” by a band called Hot Dogs, who had some good songs;  why on earth was that chosen?  I find Chris Bell’s acoustic version of “I Am The Cosmos” too slow, sludgy, and depressing–which I guess makes sense, as he was chronically depressed.   It’s the sound of Quaalude abuse.  The official single version moves along better, although there’s still about as much sludge as I can endure.

Come To Butthead

First half of season 4 coming January 21st. All episodes, you may ask? I don’t know, I might very well answer.

Musician?

I was bored at a relative’s home over the weekend and noticed a copy of the Neil Young biography, Shakey. I started reading random passages and ran across something interesting. Someone (I forgot who) recalls a meeting between Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan. After the meeting, Stills mentioned to the narrator that although he admired Dylan very much, he didn’t consider Dylan a musician. The narrator was horrified. The great Bob Dylan, not a musician?

Stills was correct.  Let’s look at the facts. As a guitarist, Dylan doesn’t display much that you couldn’t teach anyone. As for the harmonica (barely an instrument really, but let’s be thorough), his playing reminds me of why I hid our harmonica from my two sons when they were very young. As for his singing, you could argue that the younger Dylan’s voice gave an appropriate tone to some of his songs. But we’re talking about musicianship here, and his singing has never been good in purely musical terms. And as for his “mature” voice, it reminds me of the noise my stomach was making a couple of weeks ago after I ate too many ribs.

Then there’s songwriting. I won’t deny he’s written some good ones (hard not to do when you’ve written several million). At best, they are effective support for the main ingredient, his lyrics. Musically, there isn’t much going on in them. You can find great instrumental parts, but they’re the work of others such as Robbie Robertson, Al Kooper, et al.  Well-known covers of his songs are always better than the originals. Well, maybe not always.

So is Dylan a musician?  Nah.

Dylan’s talents lie in lyrics and self-promotion. But as a lyricist, he is not the infallible god of his most ardent fans. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that you can’t be “along” a watchtower. You can be in, on, around, or even buried under one (which might have been a better premise), but not along one. Nit-picking perhaps, but it has a reputation as a great song, and great writing must be precise, even where the meaning is obscure. Then, there are some real clunkers. “Mr. Tambourine Man” is just plain dumb. But to be fair, everyone has bad days, and you can’t write as much as he has without misfiring. I find the protest songs to be overly earnest and boring, but my anti-folkie bias might disqualify me as a judge of those.

His real genius has been in nurturing the cult of his own genius. I can’t think of an artist who has more deftly used aloofness and contempt to rope fans into a sort of narcissistic codependency. It has enabled him to carve out a career on his own terms, so good for him.  It has also worked so well that there will be no clear-sighted reassessment of Dylan until most boomers have downsized to the cemeteries.

That said, I’ve always liked his Live 1966 album where he gave a middle finger to the folkies by going electric. There’s real rock’n’roll tension there, and The Band play like gods. I also enjoyed his Theme Time radio show back in the aughties.

Weekend Viewing?

Available for streaming on Apple TV+ October 15.

The Velvet Underground created a new sound that changed the world of music, cementing its place as one of rock and roll’s most revered bands. Directed with the era’s avant-garde spirit by Todd Haynes, this kaleidoscopic oral history combines exclusive interviews with dazzling archival footage.

And this again, just because it kills me every time …

What Goes On In Your Mind

I’ve been binging on documentaries lately, and this looks like another good one. I got into the VU around the same time I was getting into R.E.M., so it was kind of like listening to the student and the teacher at the same time. I mean these guys, and Nico + Warhol, were pretty out there, but they put together some good records.

I never really was big on Lou Reed solo, in fact, my dumb ass didn’t even know he was in the VU until a few years later.

Sandinista Turns 40

Self-indulgent mess?  Misunderstood masterpiece?  I usually have an opinion on matters musical, but it’s now been forty years and I’m still not sure what to make of this album.  Which may be the point.  Or not.