Paul Simon‘s one-and-only Graceland is the defining album of my childhood. More than any other music, those 11 tracks transport me back to our rickety Volkswagen bus: the brothers “grab-assing” as we slowly traversed the arid Central Valley – Yosemite so close, yet so far for an incorrigible seven-year-old. From 1986 on, there was one cassette perpetually in our tape deck, various Beach Boys mixes came and went, but for me, Graceland is, and will always be, the best album of all time. Continue reading “Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Always With Us”
He’s back. Like Twain, the reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.
Half a century has passed between the release of Bob Dylan‘s first eponymous album and this morning’s release of Tempest, and while some have drawn parallels William Shakespeare‘s final play, The Tempest, it remains unknown if Dylan’s latest offering will ultimately stand as his swan-song.
I, of course, hope not.
For history to stake a claim as a predictive modeler, one would expect more than just a shared name to signify the end. Shakespeare had 35 plays to his name before retirement, Tempest is Dylan’s 35 album. Hmm, spooky.
I’d rattle off more connections if there were any, but there really aren’t.
Bob Dylan remains America’s greatest living musician and Tempest proves yet again that those who claimed the ’80s signaled his demise (again raising the specter of doom post Christmas in the Heart) are damn fools. If, in the end, Tempest becomes Dylan’s final manifesto there will be an argument to be made that he saved his best for last.
We don’t post a lot of country music around the PaisleyBlog. So, if that’s what you’re into, you better enjoy this update.
What I’m Listening To Today:
Hayes Carll: Kmag Yoyo (& Other American Stories).
I guess he’s already kinda a big deal. I don’t know, I just discovered him at the public library. Aside from Kmag Yoyo (the song, not the album) being a pretty awesome Dylan remake, Another Like You is a fantastically catchy, vintage sounding, bar-room alt-country-pop fest.
Anyway, that’s it for our Texas post.
What I’m Listening To Today:
Django Reinhardt: Swing De Paris.
In 1970, Bob Dylan sang that he “went to see the gypsy”. It’s been proposed that Dylan was referring to “The King” when he said “he did it in Las Vegas and he can do it here”. Elvis Presley had recently staged a comeback, resurrecting his career from a self inflicted TV-screen death, by staging a marathon of concerts at Las Vegas’ International Hotel (July-August of 1969).
Or perhaps, having some mystical premonition, when Dylan wrote “the gypsy’s door was open but the gypsy was gone”, he somehow knew that fellow rocker Jimi Hendrix would overdose within months and die at the young age of 27, effectively ending the run for Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies.
Yet I think, most likely, he was singing about Django, an unbelievably talented, self-taught gypsy musician, who died in 1953, the same year that a twelve year old Robert Allen Zimmerman was teaching himself acoustic guitar in his “little Minnesota town”.
Reinhardt’s only visit to the United States came in 1946 (Dylan was 6 years old) when he was invited to tour with Duke Ellington. They even played two shows in Minnesota, on November 12th & 13th, in Rochester & Minneapolis respectively (though neither city is particularly close to Duluth/Hibbing).
Perhaps Dylan was once again creating a lyrical fantasy of what could have been, the parallel lives of groundbreaking musicians, in a similar fashion to the way he sought out and found Woody Guthrie in New York in the 1950’s.
At least it’s not an entirely flawed theory. Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments.
Of the many manifestations of California throughout the years – Gold Country (1849), Yosemite Valley & Natural Beauty (1864), Ravaged by Earthquake & Fire (1906), Glamorous Glenn (1947), Anti-War & Free-Speech Protests (1964), Valley Girls (1980), Silicon Valley (1971-present) – perhaps the most valuable & long-lasting image has been that of tanned beauties lounging on the sandy coast: Beach Boys & Surfer Girls.
Gidget, the 1957 novel by Frederick Kohner about his surfing, beach-loving daughter, gave rise to countless movies and TV spin-offs. The Ventures, a “band that spawned 1000 bands” began their surf-rock procreation in 1958.
However, it was The Beach Boys, formed in 1961, who immediately contributed Surfin‘, and by 1963 had penned the perpetual west-coast anthems Surfin’ Safari, 409, Surfer Girl, and Surfin’ USA, muscling the state’s surf culture and it’s left edge musings to the fore of global consciousness.
California would never be viewed the same.
The tumultuous history of The Beach Boys and the Wilson brothers (Brian, Carl, & Dennis) has been well documented, yet the importance of the band and the image it gifted to the West Coast cannot be overstated.
The resurrection of their sunshiny, sand-and-salt-water pop has been a long time coming.
Preempting The Beatles by a full year, The Beach Boys initially had a tanned leg-up on the Brits. Within a year of the invasion the battle was over, after 1963 The Beach Boys would never again out chart the Fab Four. By the mid-60s rock had turned more serious. Lennon, Dylan, Wilson, and everyone else began pushing the sonic-envelope utilizing every trick available.
In 1966 The Beatles released Rubber Soul, an album heavily influenced by Dylan*, an album that, unbeknownst to the world, would start a bi-lateral battle between Wilson & Lennon. Wilson later announcing:
I really wasn’t quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs… that somehow went together like no album ever made before. I really am challenged to do a great album.*
Pet Sounds was Wilson’s response and his final masterpiece, and while both Lennon and Dylan lionized the album, it became apparent that beyond the fine edge of musical & psychedelic experimentation was a precipitous cliff. The rim crumbled and claimed another mind. This time that mind was Wilson’s, and he was pushed by Lennon and the Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Van Dyke Parks, a lyricist Wilson recruited to help on Smile noted that Brian collapsed. “What Broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper.“* Wilson was a victim of one of the greatest rock battles ever waged.
It has been 45 years since Brian Wilson’s fall and The Beach Boys have finally returned to the base of the hill – home of the sunshiny, sand-and-salt-water pop not seen since the early 1960s. That’s Why God Made the Radio is a Mecca of sorts. While Pet Sounds, Smily Smile & Wild Honey are amazing, TWGMtR signals the resurrection of the happy-go-lucky Beach Boys and all that they’ve embodied. With the current pretense of California sliding toward Fiscal & Legislative Ineptitude (2012), The Beach Boys illuminate the darkness with a flamethrower, reminding that happiness can still exist during difficult times.
The truth is, the sun will always shine last on the state of California.
The Beach Boys load us up on twilight induced nostalgia and restore our faith that, by simply watching a crashing wave, good times always can and always will exist. Life is a a state of mind.
And now you know.
Let’s just pretend.
It’s the early 1970s and you have $5 in your pocket. Who would you rather see?
The Grateful Dead, or
George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, & more – all at one show!
Yeah, thats what I said too: Everybody!
Utilizing the miracle of modern science, mankind is now able to listen to all of these past shows as if they were happening right now, in your very living room.