Video break: Carlin-Guralnick-Wald:The Music Writers’ Summit at Vanderbilt University

vanderbilt-posterOne of the great experiences of the year for PAC, and here it is captured on video: The full 90-minute discussion on Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, with the great Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick, Dylan biographer Elijah Wald and hotshot history professor Jefferson Cowie.

#brucespringsteen
#bobdylan
#elvispresley
#jeffersoncowie
#vanderbiltuniversity
#nashville
#rock’n’roll
#musicwriters

Thursday night in Nashville: PAC, Peter Guralnick and Elijah Wald talk Springsteen, Elvis and Dylan at Vanderbilt University

vanderbilt-poster

 

If you’re in Nashville, or anywhere nearby, you gotta come down. The official dress code for speakers is: “Casual academic chic.” Can you even imagine?
#brucespringsteen

#bobdylan

#elvispresley

#vanderbilt

#peterguralnick

#elijahwald

#jeffersoncowie

 

Is Paul Simon a poet?

Not according to Paul Simon…at least, that’s what he said earlier in his career. Think he still feels that way now that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature? Consult this latest trailer for Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound
The Life of Paul Simon

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#paulsimon
#homewardbound
#simonandgarfunkel
#bobdylan
#nobelprize
#literature

Nobel Special: When Bob Dylan laughed at Simon & Garfunkel

bob-and-paul

When Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature on Paul Simon’s 75th birthday it’s fun to remember how linked their careers have been over the years. Along with the same record label, producer and musical backdrop they also shared a reflexive suspicion, even antipathy, for one another. Paul would go on to criticize Dylan regularly during the 1960s, most memorably in his sarcastic homage, “A Simple Desultory Philippic,” recorded first for his UK solo album The Paul Simon Songbook, then re-recored for Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Here’s part of the reason why:

The night before the final recording session, Paul and Artie played their first scheduled show at Gerde’s Folk City. It was their first major appearance since they started recording for Columbia and to stir up excitement (Columbia producer) Tom Wilson rallied some of his hipper friends and colleagues to the show. The producer was there, of course, as was Barry Kornfeld and some of his living room regulars. But the real prize was Bob Dylan himself. He came a little late, perching at the bar next to the influential New York Times music critic Robert Shelton. They’d had a few drinks. Maybe they’d blown a little grass. Whatever, he was laughing. Hand in front of mouth, head down, shoulders heaving. Haw-haw-haw, ohmygod. And you could hear it. Paul and Artie played in a hush. One guitar, two voices and delicate strands of melody and harmony. The power was as much between the notes as in the notes themselves and it begged close listening. And everyone knew that beaky high plains honk.

Haw-haw!

In a career whose every twitch and twang has been anatomized for personal, literary, political and Biblical magnitude, the meaning of that Dylan guffaw remains cloaked in mystery. Shelton went to his grave insisting that the laughter — he was giggling too, only more quietly — had nothing to do with what was happening on the stage. That whatever had spurred the giggle fit was completely detached from Paul and Artie’s performance. It was just bad timing that whatever they were talking about, and Shelton never identified what it was, had popped their corks.

But there was more to Shelton’s story. Dylan and Paul had met for the first time only days earlier, and the encounter had gone badly. Despite having so much in common, including extended visits with the same folk musicians in London, Paul and Dylan couldn’t find anything to say to each other. So they traded the smallest of small talk. Neither pretended to be delighted, or even all that interested, in meeting the other.

Oh yeah, how’s it going, I heard you were around, you’re Kornfeld’s friend, right? So, yeah. Hi. Okay.

Then back to their separate corners, separate friends and separate visions of the world and their rightful position within it. And maybe it was the same place. And maybe there was only room for one of them. Which may be why Shelton described that fast-approaching night at Gerde’s as “an encounter typical of New York’s paranoia and instant rivalries.” Which makes his claims of innocent snickering seem a wee bit less convincing.

Homeward Bound
The Life of Paul Simon

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#bobdylan
#paulsimon
#gerdesfolkcity
#tomwilson
#nobel
#homewardbound
#henryholt&co

Please welcome Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan

Originally published in 2010, this review of Dylan’s performance at the Edgefield in Troutdale, Or. returns to celebrate Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded this very day. God bless and God speed Bob Dylan.

This is how he comes out on stage. A disembodied voice (stage manager Al Santos) recites a short, but unbelievably odd interpretation of the artist’s 50-year career, which goes pretty much exactly like this:

“The poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. The voice of the promise of the ’60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the ’70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to ‘find Jesus,’ who was written off as a has-been by the end of the ’80s, and who suddenly shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan.”

The words of a rock critic from Buffalo, constructing a career epitaph that is equal parts hyperbole, cliche, rumor, truth and stone cold absurdity. It appeared originally in 2002. Along with the “Columbia recording artist” part (a contractual obligation going back to his first contract with Columbia back in 1961) it’s arguably the most bizarre, confusing intro-of-an-icon ever. And seeing as this is Bob Dylan we’re talking about, it is also utterly perfect.

Ultimately Dylan is whatever you imagine him to be. Genius, charlatan, lunatic, poetic, thief, rocker, loser. Believe whatever you want, but realize this for damn sure: He is a recording artist. Maybe that’s everything you need to know. So close your moth and listen.

He and the band emerge dressed like a showbiz cowboy bandfrom 1951, Dylan differentiated by what appears to be a 10-gallon hat, glimmering white in the stage lights. The band kicks into a rolling blues riff, guitars blazing, and when Dylan (standing hunched behind a keyboard) bark-croaks the opening line it only takes a moment to realize, ah yes, “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.”

His voice. He prefers that dirt-deep growl these days, a testament to the burden he’s carried (think it’s easy to conduct that much electricity through your nervous system?) and the wisdom of the years. When he’s not sing-croaking, Dylan leans into the keys and locks his eyes on lead guitarist Charlie Sexton, who kneels during his solos, either to emphasize the Atlas-like burden he’s taken on (playing beneath thte gaze of Dylan) or simply prostrating himself before the boss whose dense, swooping organ lines wrap, tangle, support and sometimes subverts the shimmery melodies he’s hurling into the air.

Dylan switches to 2nd lead guitar for “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” riffing with and sometimes against Sexton’s lines, then comes “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and a crystalline “Just Like A Woman” (god, Sexton’s guitar chimes and rings like Easter Sunday) and the song is all aching beauty, from the rich guitars to Dylan’s churchly organ riffs and his wisdom-of-the-ages recitation of the lyrics, whose undercurrent of contempt collapses beneath a new generosity – underscored by the singalong he conducts on the choruses (and beaming happily each time the audience belts the title in perfect, even harmonized unison).

He played 14 songs. Warhorses, by and large (save for “Workingman’s Blues #2,” a Dolly Parton cover and one or so other less-familiar tunes) except for the fact that what he plays has virtually nothing to do with the songs you think you know. The central riff is now off-kilter. The rhythm has been swiveled on its axis, the melody bears no resemblance. The magic moment came halfway through with “Tangled Up in Blue.”  But this was the moment when it all came together. Dylan standing at center-stage, harmonica in one hand, the lyrics torn from somewhere in the most desolate corner of his soul.

But mostly it was Dylan and his keyboard, Dylan and his guitar, Dylan rolling and thrusting his shoulders to emphasize the push-and-pull of his harmonica lines. The secret, as ever, is to forget about what you think you came to hear. Poet laureate, blah-blah-blah. Listen to the guy play. Listen to his thick, evocative organ lines. Listen to his guitar leads. He’s playing that whole band, too – pushing and goading them to wherever the fuck his imagination wanders. That’s what you’re after. That moment of creation. The lightning explodes from the skies and the aged man lights up again, eyes on fire just like they were in ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66. He’s a natural wonder. Experience him while you can.

John Mellencamp opened the show. He was also taking some serious leaps with his hit-heavy catalogue, opening with a roadhouse blues arrangement of “Pink Houses,” then moving right into an even harsher “Paper in Fire.” He’s got a great band, these are really strong songs. Me and all my snotty friends were riveted. The guy is seriously good, and when he takes himself seriously — and bails on the patented Rock Star moves (fists pumping the air, etc.) — you begin to think that you’ve made a huge mistake in not getting him back in the ’80s. And maybe we did.

Did I mention the kick-ass band? The willowy fiddle player who rocked the hell out of every song she was featured on? The star’s willingness to shrug it all off (this being a career-smoker guy who had a heart attack and kept right smoking once he got out of the cardiac unit) and just do his thing? He’s got a dozen, maybe more huge hits he wrote himself, the publishing alone is all he needs to support generations of younger Mellencamps, their charitable foundations, and more. And the new record, the stripped down one recorded in a variety of low-fi, hi-mojo addresses? (Sun studios, et. al) That sounds fine, too. As did the balls-out reading of “Rain on the Scarecrow,” ibid “Check It Out” and the solo (sadly foreshortened) “Cherry Bomb” (my favorite song of his)

The only time he lost me was at the very end, with the big fist-in-the-air singalong for “Authority Song,” one of his lamer pop hits (Don’t get me started on “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”). But by then, he’d already notched a victory. Dylan’s crowd was his. He’s got the stuff. Not ALL the stuff, perhaps. But enough. And enough self-knowledge, and respect, to be himself, no matter what you think.

Yo, Mellencamp: Respect.

#bobdylan

#nobel

#literature

#johnmellencamp

#mcmenaminsedgefield