Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
I love my job.
Update: Later Saturday. The music and streaming is done for the day.
Here’s a trip back to Newport, 1958. It’s the documentary film “Jazz on a Summer’s Day.”
(Sorry for the obnoxious ad that runs before the film starts.)
The live video feed from The 2012 Newport Jazz Festival, via NPR Music.
You can also listen via this stream courtesy WBGO.
John Lennon’s birthday was today. As we’ve done several times over the years we’ve observed the occasion at Strawberry Fields, the memorial near the Dakota Apartments which are generally remembered for two things: Being used as the setting for the film Rosemary’s Baby, and as the home of John and Yoko from 1973 on. As this would have marked his 70th year, the crowds at the annual singalong tribute were tremendous. Maggie and I stood near the center of the action for about four hours. She took several pictures of the people we encountered there, some of whom we’ve come to know from prior events.
Between songs people would often call out suggestions for the next song they thought should be sung. Several times I heard this tiny voice behind me calling out “Revolution 9.” It was from an eight-year-old boy, which I found entertaining given his age and the fact that this song is about the least-accessible, and utterly un-singable track of The Beatles’ catalog. Who knew eight-year-olds had developed a sense of irony? He had, I learned, become exposed to The Beatles by way of a video game, which says a lot about how media consumption habits have changed since I was that age.
His gag got me thinking about the song, and about a bootleg recording I had recently heard that’s been making the rounds on the Web called “Revolution 1 (Take 20).” It’s a 10-minute track that bridges the musical gap between the slower version of the familiar hit “Revolution” that appeared on “The White Album” and the freakier “Revolution 9.”
This newly discovered version finally shows that the two Revolutions were, at least at one point, one. It is contained on a bootleg album called “Revolution: Take Your Knickers Off” that started circulating earlier this year. There is, between them a certain music logic, as you will hear in the track below. I have no idea why this track didn’t appear in final volume of the Anthology collection though perhaps its very existence was unknown at the time. The story goes that there were only two copies, one that left the studio with Lennon on the day he worked on it, and one remained in the studio. It’s not clear which one this is. Perhaps it could be packaged with that ultimate of Beatles rarities, “Carnival of Light.” So without further delay, here’s “Revolution 1 (Take 20)” via “Never Get Out Of The Boat.”
And here, courtesy of Wolfgang’s Vault, is a 1980 radio interview with Lennon, recorded as he was mixing “Double Fantasy.”
Finally, an audio curiosity I happen to have. This is taken from a John Lennon’s actual birthday party held in a Syracuse, New York hotel room on Oct. 9 1971. In attendance were: Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Phil Spector, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Keltner, Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall. It seemed appropriate to include here.
A friend called up one day this week and told me to meet him downstairs. He was sort of mysterious about why, but he told me to bring a camera. I agreed and met him on the corner of 49th and 7th and we walked a few blocks uptown. Below is what we saw from outside the Ed Sullivan Theater, as recorded by the CBS cameras, (HD version here) but you can see it how I saw it here and here. Thanks to Thomas for insisting.
About 10 or 11 years ago I had tickets to see a performance by the folk/country singer John Prine, but a hurricane, or rather what was left of one, caused a huge downpour in New York on the night of the show and so I opted not to attend. The show of course went on, and that was that. I have been waiting for him to return to New York ever since, and finally got my chance two nights ago.
During the intervening years, Prine has battled throat cancer, the treatment of which has changed his voice, released four albums, and won a trophy case full of awards, including a Lifetime Achievement award from the BBC, and been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
I came upon Prine by happenstance in 1992. He appeared on the duet track “If You Were The Woman, And I Were The Man” opposite Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies on that group’s album “Black Eyed Man.” They toured toured together that year, and among their stops was one at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon where I was at the time attending college. I got tickets, and attended with a friend, and was prepared to leave after the Cowboy Junkies had finished, but was convinced to stay.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Prine’s show, and quickly realized that most of the people in the audience were there not to see the Cowboy Junkies, but to see him. It was my first exposure to the Prine standards like “Big Ol’ Goofy World” and “Dear Abby.” What I didn’t yet know was that I was seeing a performance by an honest-to-goodness national treasure of the American folk songbook.
A few years after seeing that show, at the suggestion of yet another friend, I started exploring more of Prine’s work and became a devoted fan. I learned that if you peel back the outer skin of the often catchy, funny, self-effacing, working-class songs, you find work of uncommon emotional complexity expressed in an unambiguous manner. In “Blue Umbrella” he comtemplates the state of being emotionally overwhelmed by a relationship gone wrong beyond repair. He tackles false patriotism in “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore,” a song which can’t help but evoke memories of Country Joe McDonald.
While it’s easy to dismiss Prine’s early work, in particular his 1971 self-titled debut, as intended to be cheap knock-off of Bob Dylan. Casual contemporary observers remember him as “the guy who was supposed to be the next Dylan.” His trajectory from Army vet to postal worker, to open-mic night regular in a Chicago nightclub is well known, as is his discovery by Kris Kristofferson, made him seem a good candidate for the adjective “Dylanesque.”
Songs like “Sam Stone” sound today as though a record executive told Prine to “do it like Dylan.” Despite its whiny, Dylan-as-hayseed delivery, the subject of the song was cutting edge for 1971. The Vietnam War was entering its closing phase, and a song about a heroin-addicted veteran having difficulty returning to civilian life was something not widely addressed. With “Sam Stone” Prine raised an issue that would not be on the national legislative agenda for another three years, nor firmly established within the popular culture for another seven. The song went on to be covered by no less an American icon as Johnny Cash.
But over time, Prine’s voice of occasional political protest gave way to songs about the emotional indignities of life, expressed in ways that anyone can understand, but which aren’t always easy to put into words. Take the bittersweet “Souvenirs,” a meditation on growing older, or the loving recollection of his grandfather in “Grandpa Was A Carpenter.” Love and relationships, with their relevant pains and joys, as in “Gold Inside Of You” and the peculiarities of intra-couple humor as in “In Spite Of Ourselves,” are constant themes of his work. “Paradise” sounds like it came from the pen of Woody Guthrie.
The performance was excellent, and I was especially happy that Maggie came along as she has endured hearing me talk about Prine for several years. Given her sophisticated and multi-faceted taste for music — she was the one who first introduced me to the work of Tom Waits — I had really wanted her to come away appreciating Prine.
Like me, she had discovered some of his work by accident. At the DEMO Conference in 2005, we attended the Jam Session party at the close of the first day and slow-danced to a rendition of “Angel From Montgomery.” She became a fan of the song, and was surprised to learn it had been written by the man about whom I had over the years been an occasional nudnik . At Friday’s show she especially liked the spare charm of “Six O’Clock News” and Prine’s standard concert-closing number “Lake Marie,” where he lets loose with the electric guitar, and nods more toward his love of rock, while telling a wide-ranging historical and personal narrative. I have to say I agree with her on that note. On the subdued John Prine scale, “Lake Marie” is a musical epic, and in this performance it lasted 12 minutes.
Prine was backed only by two other musicians variously adding electric guitar, mandolin, and bass fiddle. At times, he appeared solo with only his acoustic guitar. Yet he proved that his simple approach can be suitable for so grand a venue as The Beacon Theater without the assistance of any elaborate performance tricks. His achingly direct delivery, propelled by the power of a heart filled with genuine emotion, to me, was enough to fill the room.
I must admit that in recent years lost some of my interest in Prine. I didn’t think much of his 1999 release of duets “In Spite Of Ourselves,” — it was a little too conventionally country-fied for me — and had concluded that Prine’s best work was behind him. In 2000 he followed with “Souvenirs” in which, post-cancer, he re-records his earlier and best-known work. When he bowed “Fair and Square” in 2005, I presumed there couldn’t possibly be anything on it to write home about, and skipped it without much thought.
How wrong I was. Prine is still writing quality songs. As evidence I submit the gentle “She Is My Everything,” the sunny “Glory Of True Love,” and the rollicking “Bear Creek Blues.” He even nods to political and social commentary in “Some Humans Ain’t Human.” In 2006 “Fair And Square” won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. I’m even enjoying “Standard Songs For Average People.” Clearly, Prine isn’t done with us yet.
I’d say the world needs more John Prines in it, but given the the volume of his output over the years, one has so far proven to be enough.
Below are two samples taken from the performance. The first is his Prine’s well-known “Angel from Montgomery”; the second is “That’s The Way That The World Goes Round.”