Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Of Artifacts & Artists

Lillie P. Bliss was an art collector and patron of artists. Mary Quinn Sullivan was an America art teacher and textbook author. Abigail Green Aldrich Rockefeller was, yes, a Rockefeller; she married John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the only son of the oil magnate.

In the late 20s those three women got together and created the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, which opened in 1929. According to MoMA, Bliss, Sullivan and Rockefeller wanted to “challenge the conservative policies of traditional museums and to establish an institution devoted exclusively to modern art.”

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In 1983 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation (RRHOF) was established by Ahmet Ertegun. Among other things, he was the co-founder and president of Atlantic, perhaps the most influential rock label of all time; he sold his interest in the label in 1967. He made millions. Not petro wealth. But comfortable.

Joining Ertegun on the board of the foundation were Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone; Seymour Stein, who co-founded Sire Records; Bob Krasnow, whose resume includes being the chairman of Elektra Records, and three others.

The foundation decided it needed a home base. It decided on Cleveland, with a groundbreaking in 1993, with participants including Pete Townshend (did he windmill a shovel?), Chuck Berry and Sam Phillips. Architect I.M. Pei was engaged to design the building, which includes a glass pyramid (it is worth noting that in 1983 Pei designed the pyramid that is part of the Louvre).

The building was dedicated two years later, with the ribbon being cut by, among others, Yoko Ono and Little Richard.

Since 1986 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has selected inductees. The first class included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, John Hammond, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jimmie Rodgers, and Jimmy Yancey.

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When I looked at the women who founded MoMA, I have the sense that they were in it to promote modern art and artists. Let’s face it, in 1929 the world economy was tumbling into a morass that required years to extricate itself from. Perhaps there was some notion of raising the visibility of modern art and thereby increase the value of whatever pieces they may have individually had, but somehow I think there was more selflessness involved.

When I looked at the people who established RRHOF my first sense of things was that this was largely a play to sell more records. But when you look at the lists of the first class of inductees, that clearly wasn’t the way things worked, at least not at the start.

Now I am not so sure.

Continue reading Of Artifacts & Artists

Dollars, Sense and Soundtracks

A word or several about the reported $300-million+ that Bob Dylan reportedly will be getting from Universal Music Publishing Group for his catalog of 600+ songs, songs written from 1962 until now. That is $500,000 per song. Yes, some of them—“Blown’ In the Wind,” “The Times They Are a Changin’,”“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”—are certainly well known. One assumes that there are many, many, many others whom only the most dedicated Dylan fan would know or even be aware of (as I am not the most dedicated Dylan fan, I’ll not name any).

While it does make one wonder whether he’d gotten a few more dollars were he to have used the “g” rather than the “’” in the title of some of his tunes, we’ll let that go. Dylan has sold some 125-million records during his career. If we look at this as being a 58-year career (starting in 1962), this would mean that Dylan has sold an average 2.1-million records per year.

The times certainly are changing. For example, according to numbers from Billboard, Taylor Swift’s Folklore has become the first—and only—album to sell more than a million times in 2020.

Since her self-titled album of 2006, there have been nine Swift albums that have sold more than a million copies.

These are:

Taylor Swift: 5.75 million
The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection: 1.08 million
Fearless: 7.21 million
Speak Now: 4.71 million
Red: 4.49 million
1989: 6.25 million
Reputation: 2.28 million
Lover: 1.22 million
Folklore: 1.04 million

That is a total 34.03-million albums during a 14-year period. Which means that Swift has sold an average of 2.4-million per year, just edging Dylan out.

To be fair to Ms. Swift, she is 30 years old. Dylan is 79. She, presumably, has a whole lot more music in her to come than he does. [Correction: Swift turned 31 yesterday. -ed.]

This might lead some of you to think that I am making a comparison between the two musicians, causing a certain level of apoplexy among you. Yes, while I am making a comparison, this is not a comparison of talent.

Rather, it is a comparison of numbers.

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50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 47

Rolling Stone issue #47 had a cover date of November 29, 1969. 56 pages. 35 cents. Cover illustration of Bob Dylan.

This was the “Second Anniversary Issue” and instead of any album reviews it features a five-page overview of Bob Dylan’s discography by Greil Marcus.

Jann Wenner pens a justifiably self-congratulatory column in which he celebrates the magazine’s coups and achievements and especially focuses on the February “groupie” issue (#27) which pushed them onto the national radar. He ends with a prescription and a prediction:

Rock and roll is a thing with great potential and power. In the last year this enerfy has flashed with power at Woodstock, but in so many other areas has diffused and scattered.

Rolling Stone is wailing along at a nice little clip. This country is also wailing along at a nice little clip on the road to destruction. If there is any hop left, I think that before the next two years are out, the culture we represent will make a serious effort at and succeed in taking for itself the political power it represents.

If there happens to be a third anniversary letter from the editor, I hope much of it is about that.

Spoiler alert: the third anniversary letter from the editor (#72) was not about that.

Features: “Allen Klein: I Cured all their Problems” by Our Staff; “New Beatles Film: Let It Be”; “The Rolling Stone Interview: Bob Dylan” by Jann Wenner; “Bob Dylan: Breaking Down The Incomplete Discography” by Greil Marcus.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 47

When was Blonde on Blonde released? Nobody knows.

Fifty years is not ancient history. And yet mysteries are still possible.

Earlier this week everybody celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the release of two groundbreaking albums: the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Both of them are masterpieces but only one of them was released on May 16, 1966.

Why is there confusion around the release date of Blonde on Blonde? Aren’t these things documented? Especially for an artist with the stature and scrutiny of Bob Dylan! Of course they are, but sometimes we don’t have immediate access to everything.

But we do have enough information to definitively rule out the idea that Blonde on Blonde came out on the same day as Pet Sounds.

On Monday morning when I checked my twitter and started seeing people celebrating this milestone, I wondered how many people were fans of both albums at the time. Can you imagine going into the record store and seeing those two albums side by side on the new release shelf? But in 1966, were the Beach Boys loved by the same people who loved Bob Dylan? It’s a fascinating question but there weren’t many publications at the time that took rock and roll very seriously, so it’s hard to find any contemporary comparisons. Rolling Stone wouldn’t publish its first issue for another year and a half (November 1967).

I busted out my trusty edition of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Albums to see how the two albums sold and was surprised that while Pet Sounds debuted on Billboard’s Top LPs chart on May 28, Blonde on Blonde didn’t bow on the chart until July 23. That seemed odd since Dylan was coming off a hit single with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” His new album couldn’t have been that much of a sleeper, could it?

Continue reading When was Blonde on Blonde released? Nobody knows.

Five from the Archive: Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2015

It’s been a few years since the last Five from the Archive post, but we haven’t lost touch with the Live Music Archive.  It just keeps growing and getting better. So we’re bringing Five from the Archive back. To start, we’ll be focusing on my favorite form of musical flattery – covers – from a few different bands. For our first go around, it’s the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Tedeschi Trucks became a band when Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (now married) merged their bands together a few years ago. They are huge on the festival circuit, and growing more popular each year. They do extensive touring, and are currently on their Wheels of Soul Summer Tour, with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings opening up.

As a band, Tedeschi Trucks is like an old school soul revue meets the Allman Brothers. They’ve got two guitar players (Tedeschi and Trucks), two drummers, a keyboard player, a bass player, plus two back up vocalists and a horn section. A big band that knows how to occupy (and not occupy) the open spaces in a song. They’ve released two of their own albums, and they do a good number of covers. Today we’re highlighting five of the covers they’ve played so far in 2015.

1.  Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. A classic Dylan song. From The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, it’s just Bob and his guitar, but here it becomes a soulful big band ballad in the hands of Tedeschi Trucks. There are great flute and trumpet solos in there, too. Full show: Tedeschi Trucks Band – January 17, 2015 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Fl.

2. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Oh! You Pretty Things”. A surprise but welcome choice, and a great cover. This is old school David Bowie, going back to the early 70s and Hunky Dory. It’s mostly just him and the piano on the album, and so it is here – mostly Tedeschi’s vocals and a spare piano accompaniment, that builds to the full band as the song progresses. People have no idea what song they’re playing. I love it. Full Show: Tedeschi Trucks Band – January 18, 2015 at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, Fl.

3. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Space Captain”. “Space Captain” is practically a standard for Tedeschi Trucks now. It’s a frequent encore selection. It originally comes from Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman record. Full Show: Tedeschi Trucks Band – February 21, 2015 at Warner Theatre in Washington D.C.

4. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Living Loving Maid -> What Is And What Should Never Be  -> The Storm”. OK, I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a stretch as a full fledged cover. It’s not. The band plays around with the riffs from the two Led Zeppelin songs for a few minutes, but the rest of the clip is their original “The Storm” from Made Up Mind. It’s a solid jam, though. Full show: Tedeschi Trucks Band – April 17, 2015 at Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, PA.

5. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “I’ve Got A Feeling”. Here’s an example of where the background vocalists get elevated to lead vocal. They both add so much depth to the band’s sound. This version of The Beatles “I’ve Got A Feeling” highlights some of that added depth. Full show: Tedeschi Trucks Band – May 18, 2015 at Central Park Summer Stage.

Not a bad collection of covers, and we’re not even halfway through 2015 yet. I’m going to see these guys again this summer, this time at Meadow Brook Music Festival. Can’t wait to see them and Sharon Jones.

Find more of Mike’s work at MVP Presents. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

[Ed. Note: Image from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Michael F. O’Brien]

A Glorious Noise Guide to Bob Dylan

Bob-Dylan-1966-barry-feinstein

I have a favorite era of Dylan, and it’s short: 1965-66. There’s stuff he did before and after that I like a lot, but the bulk of my mix comes from those two years. And I’ll defend that decision to the death; feel free to make your own Dylan playlist that represents his career more thoroughly. These are songs that I love, songs that showcase my favorite themes of Dylan’s catalog: aching love songs, bitter breakup songs, country-fried rock songs with trippy wordplay. That’s my bag.

There aren’t any “protest” songs here (Dylan dismissed them as “finger pointing songs”), but there’s still plenty of finger pointing. Instead of obvious targets such as warmongers and segregationists, my favorite Dylan songs take aim at his fellow Baby Boomers for being a bunch of pretentious phonies. He was prescient like that.

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Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings

Bob Dylan - The Original Mono RecordingsBob DylanThe Original Mono Recordings (Columbia/Legacy)

Cynics will note that there is virtually no difference performance-wise between the mono recordings of his first eight records for Columbia, so why bother? They will then point to the success of the Beatles’ mono box as the financial motivation for Sony (Columbia’s owner) to pull a similar move, a clear attempt at getting Dylanophiles to dig deep in their wallets once again.

But what cynics also need to acknowledge is that these eight records are absolutely essential and probably half of them changed the course of rock music. So if you’re going to exploit a legendary artist like Dylan with some fancy, overpriced packaging, at least you’re doing it with material that’s pretty hard to fuck up.

In looking at it from that perspective, if someone who is just beginning their studies of Rock Music 101 were to approach the Dylan catalog for the first time, they may as well fork over the dough all at once for the format presented here.

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Bob Dylan Mono Box and Demos Due This Fall

Bob DylanAccording to information acquired by the Bob Dylan magazine, Isis, there are a couple of interesting Dylan projects coming up: a mono box set and a new volume of the Bootleg Series are coming this fall.

The mono box will be an eight-disc collection of his earliest albums (Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a-Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding) in their original monaural mixes which have never been released on CD.

Volume 9 of Dylan’s Bootleg Series will be a 47-song collection of his “Witmark Demos” and “Leeds Demos” that he recorded for his publisher between 1962 and 1964. Some of these were previously released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3.

Bob Dylan: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart

Bob Dylan - Christmas In The HeartBob DylanChristmas In The Heart (Sony)

You will get no bigger supporter of Bob Dylan‘s vocal talent than from me. In fact, I use it as a litmus test for someone’s rock and roll IQ. His voice—regardless of the era—remains one of music’s finest interpreters, its phrasing a huge influence on vocalists even while challenging the notion of what constitutes a beautiful sounding voice.

So imagine how hard it is for me to admit that the main problem with Christmas In The Heart has nothing to do with the idea of Dylan considering an entire album of holiday material, or even with the decision to keep the arrangements close to tradition. No, the problem with Christmas In The Heart is that it sounds like it’s voiced by an inebriated uncle who just happens to be sitting on a large fortune and, because of risking a huge inheritance loss from offending him, no one has the good sense of telling Uncle Bob to sit these numbers out.

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Five from the Archive: Weir Does Dylan

WeirBob Dylan is arguably the greatest modern songwriter, and certainly the most influential. People all over the musical spectrum cover his songs. But there a special few who specialize in covering Dylan. For me, Jerry Garcia has always been the premiere Dylan interpreter. If you don’t believe me – or if you do – you should check out the Garcia Plays Dylan collection. Particularly the “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

But now I have to say that Jerry’s old partner in crime, Bob Weir, is giving Jerry a run for his money these days. Bobby has always been adept with the occasional Dylan cover, but he and RatDog have really embraced it. They play a Dylan cover at well over half their shows.

Below are five of the best from the 2009 RatDog shows available in the Live Music Archive.

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