Friday, 27 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy RIP

Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83

Virginia Heffernan
27 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

As part of the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project, Leonard Nimoy explains the origin of the Vulcan hand signal used by Dr. Spock, his character in the Star Trek series.Video by Yiddish Book Center on Publish DateFebruary 27, 2015. Photo by Yiddish Book Center’s Wexler Oral History Project.

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: “I Am Not Spock,” published in 1977, and “I Am Spock,” published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” — an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some primitive special effects by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cultlike following — the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) — coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including — besides Mr. Nimoy — William Shatner (as Capt. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura) and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast — including Zachary Quinto as Spock — he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. And he made records, singing pop songs as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances — to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew, who was both one of the gang and a creature apart engaged at times in a lonely struggle with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth and compassion, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declared. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to California, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch College later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science-fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career — the other three were for his “Star Trek” work — although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; and six grandchildren; one great-grandchild, and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1995 to 2003, Mr. Nimoy narrated the “Ancient Mysteries” series on the History Channel. He also appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published “A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life” in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published “Shekhina,” a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teaching of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/arts/television/leonard-nimoy-spock-of-star-trek-dies-at-83.html?_r=0

Clark Terry RIP

Clark Terry
The Sound of Musical Joy: Clark Terry’s Trumpet

Taylor Ho Bynum
24 February 2015

Master improvisers have a personality in their playing, a singularity to their sound. They have the ability to adapt to any musical context while maintaining a sense of personal identity, displaying distinct individuality while always contributing to the needs of the collective. One of the greatest practitioners of this humanistic art died on Saturday: the ebullient, effervescent, irreplaceable, irrepressible trumpet virtuoso Clark Terry.

Born into a poor family in St. Louis in 1920, Terry would often tell the story of building a horn out of junkyard parts—a garden hose attached to a funnel—since his family couldn’t afford an instrument when he was a child. Even at the height of his fame and technical expertise, he still played with the imagination and abandon of that ten-year-old on a homemade creation; there have been few musicians who so embodied the sound of musical joy, of playful engagement and exploration. He was well cast as Puck in Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s 1957 Shakespearean suite “Such Sweet Thunder”—his playing glowed with trickster energy and elfish glee.

The trumpet (or the flugelhorn, a related instrument with a darker, fatter sound that Terry single-handedly popularized among jazz brass players) is a notoriously difficult instrument to play, but Terry made it dance. He pioneered a kind of “doodle-tonguing” articulation, which allowed notes to spill out of his horn without ever sounding rushed or frantic. His tone was a wonder of flexibility and range, a warmer, more liquid timbre than Miles Davis’s icy cool or Dizzy Gillespie’s bright attack. (And if I were forced to name a triumvirate of post-Armstrong trumpet innovators, those would be the three.) He employed a compendium of jazz styles—from the growling plunger mutes of early big bands to the lightning runs of bebop—while wholly transcending category. He was also an entertainer, a witty man on the bandstand where his “Mumbles” scat-singing routine was a big hit, but don’t let the comedy obscure the music—Terry was a genius.

Terry was present at some of the most important moments of twentieth-century American music. Coming up in St. Louis, he was a mentor and lifelong friend to Miles Davis, who was six years Terry’s junior. A few years later, during an extended stay in Seattle, a young Quincy Jones sought him out for lessons, which Terry would give him at his hotel room in the mornings, after Terry returned from late-night gigs and before Jones would go to junior high school. After emerging from the Navy band in 1942 and developing his chops touring with regional big bands, he came to national prominence as a featured soloist with Count Basie. In 1950, Duke Ellington poached him from Basie’s band, starting a ten-year run in what Terry always referred to as the University of Ellingtonia, one of the most vibrant periods of Ellington’s career.

Duke Ellington had a creative (and psychological) gift for bringing the most out of his musicians, crafting pieces that magnified and spotlighted the extraordinary individual talents of his band members like Johnny Hodges or Cootie Williams or Ben Webster. Terry provided Ellington, and Ellington’s compositional alter ego Billy Strayhorn, a soloist whose brilliance and fluidity thrived in the more harmonically and structurally complex music Ellington and Strayhorn were developing in the nineteen-fifties. One of my favorite sounds in recorded music is the Ellington band in full roar, breaking on a dime to launch a Clark Terry solo into the world.

In 1960, after his long tenure with Duke and a short stint with his former student Quincy Jones, Terry became NBC’s first African-American staff musician. In a time when studio gigs were the lifeblood of working musicians in New York and Los Angeles, Terry was a trailblazer, and actively fought to diversify the pool. The network heads weren’t brave enough to appoint a black bandleader on the “Tonight Show,” so Doc Severinsen got the job instead, but everyone knew Terry was the best trumpeter in that band. Terry also formed a quintet with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer; the tight arrangements and near-psychic improvisational brass lines made that group stand out as the epitome of small-group swing in the post-bop era.

In the nineteen-seventies, Terry fulfilled a lifelong dream by leading his own large ensemble, the aptly named Big BAD Band. Along with the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orchestra, Terry carried the big-band sound into the new decade, in a period when the economic pressures of the shrinking jazz industry had made it almost extinct. The band also became a teaching tool—Terry recognized the hunger for jazz education in American universities, and became one of the first musicians to make college workshops part of the touring circuit. Education and mentoring young musicians became a central component of Terry’s life mission.
Terry continued playing throughout the ensuing decades. Unlike many brass players, whose technical abilities fade as age takes its toll on their embouchure, his virtuosity remained intact well into his eighties. But even when his health deteriorated, he was teaching students from his wheelchair or bedside, as movingly captured in the recent documentary film “Keep On Keepin’ On.” It is an inspiring story of musical mentorship, but also an almost painfully intimate portrait of the vicissitudes of aging, and a poignant tribute to the loving relationship between Terry and his wife, Gwen.

Happily, in addition to the film, Terry’s life and music were well documented. His discography approaches a thousand recordings, with well over a hundred as a leader. His autobiography captures his gift for storytelling and his wry humor, especially in chronicling his early years on the road, with struggles through segregation and gigs in juke joints and carnivals, all while developing one of most distinctive improvisational voices in music history. It pains me to never hear that sound live again; no musician has made me laugh out loud in surprise and wonder more often than Clark Terry. But his imprint is a lasting one—a testament to the power of individual creativity, and a reminder that the best we can do is to be like no one but ourselves.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sound-musical-joy-clark-terrys-trumpet

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Last night's set lists

The Elderly Brothers at The Habit, York: -

Set 1: -
Somebody Help Me
You Can't Always Get What You Want
Bad Moon Rising
Oliver's Army
Let It Be Me

Set 2: -
The Price Of Love
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
All I Have To Do Is Dream

The Elderlys were the first turn to play after our host had finished his introductory set and they closed the show with three Everlys songs. An absolutely packed night with some exceptional players, the highlight being a lass who sang an amazing The Man In The Long Black Coat, accompanying herself on harp!! Another great night of Habit madness.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Goya: the Witches and Old Women - at the Courtauld Gallery


The sleep of reason produces monsters, circa 1797-98

Goya: the Witches and Old Women Album review – staring at monsters
Courtauld Gallery, London
This extraordinary exhibition lays bare Goya’s thinking as he painted some of the most terrifying works of art

Jonathan Jones
Monday 23 February 2015

The hell of Francisco Goya has no parallel in art. No one has ever painted and etched such convincing and utterly terrifying visions of cruelty, superstition and madness. Goya’s Black Paintings unveil a world without hope. A dog drowns in quicksand. The god Saturn eats his children. The Fates – or are they witches? – float airborne over a barren twilit landscape. These visions that Goya painted in his late years on the walls of his house outside Madrid – they were later transferred to canvas and now hang in the Prado – have a unique atmosphere of reality, as if we are seeing matter-of-fact reportage from someone’s unconscious.
'Mirth', one of the 22 drawings in The Witches and Old Women Album, at the Courtauld in 2015.
Mirth

Even their most extreme and repulsive details have this quality of honest observation. They are not fantasy art. They are the awful truth. Now, at last, we know where these appalling pictures come from. An extraordinary exhibition at London’s Courtauld Gallery lays bare Goya’s thinking as he painted some of the most terrifying works of art that exist. This exhibition, it seems, is the key to the Goya Code, the door to this private artist’s inner world. It reveals exactly why his horrific scenes are so convincing, immediate, and yet inscrutable.

The exhibition reassembles Album D, a long-scattered sketchbook that Goya filled with drawings of witchcraft, old age and other obsessions in about 1819-23. These were the years when he was creating the Black Paintings on the walls of his house. Album D thus exposes Goya’s imagination at work as he looked into the darkness of his own mind and dredged its secrets.
Goya's Wicked Woman
Goya’s Wicked Woman, c1819- 23

The faces in these drawings are harrowing. They are tiny masks of monstrosity. Each face is drawn with microscopic precision. Each is utterly demonic. Some of Goya’s witches laugh. Others grimace. In his drawing Visions – the titles are written by Goya beneath his sketches – one face glares darkly at us while its partner, nuzzled close, grins emptily. Neither personage is quite human. Calling these images “old women” seems debatable: most look more like demons or ghosts than mortal humans of any gender. They all look more dead than alive.
Detail from Goya's drawing of a woman carrying a bundle of babies
Woman Carrying a Bundle of Babies

Goya’s merciless depictions of aged faces go beyond cruelty. These sagging, lumpen visages show the skull under the bone. The grave is at hand. That mixture of death and life is at the root of the horror that creeps up on you bit by bit. The horror is not just some Gothic schlock. It is a painfully true recognition of corruption, decay and dying. The bodies of the witches, as they float up into an empty white sky, are round and plump like children painted by Bruegel, but their faces give away the deadly truth.

“He can no longer at the age of 98, circa 1819-23” 

In his drawing Wicked Woman, a creature with just a few shreds of skin on its skull, as emaciated and evil as a vampire, is about to eat a baby. This and all the scenes here have even more truthfulness than the Black Paintings. The calm accuracy of Goya’s brush and ink uncannily creates a sense that he actually saw this. The bestial baby-eater pauses in its meal and looks directly at the artist. The exchange of looks is terrifying. We really seem to be looking at a cannibal caught in the act.
Nightmare

If the curators are right in the sequence they have reconstructed for Album D, what happens next is a direct window on Goya’s creativity. After the drawing of a female monster eating a baby, we see a man kicking violently as he wakes in his bed. This drawing is called He Wakes Up Kicking. It’s obvious the man has woken from a nightmare. He kicks his legs as if to drive off some ghoulish horror. Goya shows us what his dark images really are. They are records of his nightmares. The creatures he sees are not imagined by him – at least, not by his waking mind. They are things he sees in his sleep.

Other drawings confirm this. In a drawing called Nightmare, a man who looks like the artist is falling through empty air. His bed has become a clifftop. He plummets into the void. Another vision, of an old woman bearing what look like two living corpses on her back, is also called Nightmare. But it is the poor dreamer kicking in terror who takes us to the heart of Goya’s darkness. The artist is revealed in these works as a kind of shaman. He sees things. His nightmares are icily lucid.
A detail from Nightmare, circa. 1816-20 

These drawings are not about old women, but an old man. Goya, facing illness and age and death, stares at the monsters in his dreams. He finds fascination there, not to mention artistic inspiration, grotesque humour, the beauty of great drawing. He finds everything, except comfort.

Goya: the Witches and Old Women Album is at the Courtauld Gallery in London from 26 February to 25 May.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/feb/23/goya-witches-and-old-women-review-courtauld-gallery

http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/exhibitions/2015/Goya/index.shtml

Monday, 23 February 2015

John Dobson and John Wilson Carmichael at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle


Central Station, Newcastle upon Tyne (1850) by John Dobson

Newcastle Central Station: Paintings show how it could have looked
Original drawings for the John Dobson designed landmark show the building with an extra portico - and a tower

By Hugh Macknight
14 February 2015

The Picasso is not the only incredible exhibit being shown at The Laing.

Paintings of how Newcastle’s Central Station could have looked have are being exhibited until June.

The images show the John Dobson designed landmark complete with an extra portico - and a tower.

John Dobson and John Wilson Carmichael: An Artistic Partnership showcases the work of two of the North East’s greatest artists.

John Dobson (1787-1865) was the North East’s most outstanding 19th century architect.

His designs can be found across Newcastle and Northumberland, and during the 1830s he worked closely with Richard Grainger on the redevelopment of Newcastle city centre.
Interior of Grainger Market (1835) by John Dobson and John Wilson Carmichael

John Wilson Carmichael (1799-1868) was a talented landscape artist and the North East’s leading marine painter.

Apprenticed to a shipbuilder before becoming a full-time artist, he became renowned for the skill and accuracy of his images of ships and boats.

Both highly successful, these two artists were also close friends, and developed an extraordinary working relationship.

The two often worked collaboratively on pictures, with Dobson producing perspective views of his building designs, and Carmichael adding colour and figures to bring the scenes to life.

Interior of the Central Station, Newcastle upon Tyne (1850) by John Dobson and John Wilson Carmichael

Pictures by the two artists, working individually and together, have been selected from the gallery’s collection for this exhibition.

The Old Fish Market, Sandhill, Newcastle upon Tyne (1823 - 1830) by John Dobson


















The display also includes Dobson’s watercolour of Newcastle fishwives in action in the Guildhall Fishmarket as well as a series of impressive watercolours by the two artists showing the proposed designs for Central Station, which was opened in 1850.

The original design was even grander than the finished building, with two arcades, and huge sculptures of seated figures above the porch.

Costs meant it had to be scaled back somewhat, though the building is still one of the centrepieces of Richard Grainger’s redevelopment of Newcastle in imposing Neo-Classical style.

Wonder what they’d all think of the recent developments...

John Dobson and John Wilson Carmichael: An Artistic Partnership is on show at The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle until 28 June 2015. Entry is free but a donation to the gallery is welcome. For more information visit www.laingartgallery.org.uk

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-central-station-paintings-show-8643253

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Buster Keaton restoration project...

Cineteca di Bologna announces a multi-year project to restore Buster Keaton works
After dedicating over a decade to Charlie Chaplin's films and archive, Cineteca di Bologna and l'Immagine Ritrovata will restore Buster Keaton's silent films

The first restorations will be presented next summer in Bologna during the XXIX edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival

The unforgettable works of another great master of silent cinema will be brought to life again thanks to Cineteca di Bologna and Cohen Film Collection at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna: after devoting more than a decade to Charles Chaplin, now Buster Keaton's entire silent works will be the focus of a multi-year restoration project which will allow audiences from around the world to rediscover Buster Keaton's genius.

The first restorations of the Keaton Project, launched and promoted by Cineteca di Bologna and Cohen Film Collection, will be presented during next edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival (June 27th through July 4th): the 1920 short comedy One Week, which encapsulates perfectly the American collective imagination of prefabricated housing and Sherlock Jr. made in 1924 and listed in by the "Time" as one of the best 100 films ever.

http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/news/n_161

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Last night's set lists

The Elderly Brothers at The Habit, York: -

Set 1: -
The Sound Of Silence
The Boxer
You Can't Always Get What You Want
I'm Into Something Good

Set 2: -
The Price Of Love
Proud Mary
Bad Moon Rising
Lucille
I Saw Her Standing There
Crying In The Rain

Packed from the start, The Elderly Brothers opened the show and acted as hosts for the first hour, our usual host being otherwise engaged. Plenty of players too including a first in 2015 for the wonderful duo, Completely Bananas.

The Elderlys debuted a Rolling Stones song, You Can't Always Get What You Want and were brought back for a second set when rather well refreshed! The after-show jam was a thing of wonder.

Bob Dylan - The Basement Tapes: The Legendary Tales

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Picasso's Weeping Woman at The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Picasso masterpiece Weeping Woman heads for Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery
Pride of place at a new Laing Art Gallery exhibition will go to a celebrated and valuable Picasso painting on loan from the Tate

David Whetstone
14 February 2015

A priceless Picasso painting will have pride of place in the next big exhibition a tNewcastle’s Laing Art Gallery.

The striking painting, Weeping Woman, is one of several done by the great Spanish artist in protest at the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso first expressed his outrage in a huge anti-war mural, called simply Guernica, which shows the devastating effect of the attack on civilians by German and Italian bombers in support of the Spanish nationalists led by General Franco.

Sarah Richardson, keeper of art at the Laing, said: “The big Guernica picture is in Madrid and is not allowed to travel because it got pretty knocked about in the years after the Spanish Civil War.

“But this is one of the Guernica paintings that Picasso did after completing the mural.

“I think it’s a great work. Weeping Woman shows Picasso’s mistress, Dora Maar, in this very fragmented way to show the agony of the people of Guernica.

“In her weeping eyes you can see the outline of the bombers.”

The 1937 painting by Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard, will be the highlight of the exhibition Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War, depicting the response of artists in this country to the conflict and looking at their connection with their European counterparts.

The exhibition will feature work by British artists including Wyndham Lewis, Edward Burra and Julian Trevelyan but the angry Picasso portrait is expected to be the big draw to the latest of the Laing exhibitions for which an admission fee will be charged.

“We don’t have a Picasso in the (Laing) collection and I can’t remember us showing a painting by Picasso while I’ve been here,” said Sarah Richardson.

“It’s not something you get the opportunity to do very often. You really have to go to London or Edinburgh to have easy access to his work.”

As well as Weeping Woman, the exhibition will feature two Picasso etchings, The Dream and Lie of Franco I and II, which scream the artist’s outrage at the Guernica atrocity while lampooning Franco for his delusions of grandeur.

The etchings, usually on display in Edinburgh, belong in the collection of the late Roland Penrose, a British artist who in 1938 brought the fragile Guernica mural to Britain to raise money to support the republican cause in Spain.

Weeping Woman has been in the collection of the Tate in London since 1987 when it was given to the Government in lieu of tax, with an additional part of the purchase price raised from organisations including the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate.

It has to be called priceless because it is not up for sale but two years ago a Picasso painting, Le RĂªve, changed hands in a private deal for £102m.

The Laing Art Gallery, which enjoys the status of a designated collection, is covered by a Government indemnity scheme when exhibiting valuable works of art.

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War will run at the Laing from March 7 to June 7 2015.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/picasso-masterpiece-weeping-woman-heads-8646119

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Clive James - Poetry Notebook 2006 - 2014 review


Poetry Notebook 2006-2014 review – Clive James’s absorbing thoughts on verse
The great critic champions the poems that have given him most pleasure in this provocative collection of essays

Kate Kellaway
Sunday 15 February 2015

Clive James is never po-faced about poetry. He writes with the buoyant, aphoristic panache that made his career and with a judgment refined by a lifetime of reading and thinking about poetry – and writing it (he has a new collection coming out this April). This sympathetic, absorbing and provocative book is a miscellany – most of its articles written for Chicago’s Poetry magazine. But there are unifying thoughts. One is that “poetry” is not what excites him – too baggy a word and covering a multitude of sins – it is the particular poem that matters, the hardest thing to write. He argues that we are living in a time when “almost everyone writes poetry but scarcely anyone can write a poem”. He is on the side of clarity (he hopes it is “forgivable to favour those poets who show signs of knowing what they are saying”) while noting how complicated simplicity can be.

His spreading of the word is a delight. You need a second poetry notebook, as you read, in which to write down the names of unfamiliar poets and poems. This is, in its way, his literary will and testament – he makes no secret of the leukaemia that afflicts him. And he has such a discerning ear and eye that what I long for now is an inventory of every poem that has mattered to him – the one thing missing here. Or, better, a Jamesian anthology (he is pro-anthologies). He makes a splendid case for Australian poet Stephen Edgar and his poem Man on the Moon. And I was grateful to be led towards Robert Frost’s miraculous The Silken Tent, which I had somehow missed. And thanks to him, I now intend to read John Updike’s last collection, Endpoint. I found myself noting down some of James’s phrases, too, complete with Wildean flourishes: “Unless you can get beyond yourself, you were never there.” “Real talent can survive anything, even encouragement.” “Verve travels.”
He writes with verve about Keats, Hopkins, Louis MacNeice, Michael Donaghy, Les Murray. He also explains why Milton and Pound leave him cold. He rummages through Pound’sThe Cantos like a customs official, deciding ultimately, and mainly persuasively, that he is guilty of having nothing to declare. One notices, with regret, that he says almost nothing about Robert Lowell, save for a couple of underwhelmed asides. I was sorry, too, that his fond praise of Michael Longley bordered on condescension. I’d also have liked more about Browning, master of rhyme.


But the notebook is full of surprises, including a marvellously entertaining tribute to the late Australian poet Peter Porter (for many years the poetry reviewer on this paper). He insists Porter did not know how attractive he was to women: “I knew plenty of women who complained that they would have very much liked to kiss him but he wouldn’t stop telling them about Scarlatti,” he reports.

I also enjoyed his brilliant essay “Product placement in modern poetry”, about the way poets, starting in the early 20th century with EE Cummings, used brand names. He observes that Seamus Heaney will tell you “everything about a plough, except the name of its manufacture”, that TS Eliot was pleased to mention ABC restaurants by name, while Betjeman “unblushingly said who made everything”.

This book works like a zoom lens. James does not stop at individual poems. He homes in on the lines that have given him keenest pleasure: “…we could all give examples, from our memories, of how a poetic moment can put the poem it comes from in the shade”. More than once, he quotes the final lines from Larkin’s The Whitsun Weddings: “We slowed again,/And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled/A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower/Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.” And the last three words transport us elsewhere – the reader translated with the rain. It perfectly exemplifies what the best poems do.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Bob Dylan interviewed by Paul Robbins 1965

The Paul J. Robbins interview with with Bob Dylan - Santa Monica California, March, 1965
Originally appeared as a two=part interview in the Los Angeles Free Press, Sepember 17 and 24, 1965

Robbins: I don't know whether to do an serious interview or carry on in that absurdist way we talked last night.

Dylan: It'll be the same thing anyway, man.

Robbins: Yeah, Okay ... If you are a poet and write words arranged in some sort of rhythm, why do you switch at some point and write lyrics in a song so that you're singing the words as part of a Gestalt presence?

Dylan: Well, I can't define that word poetry, I wouldn't even attempt it. At one time I thought that Robert Frost was poetry, other times I thought that Allen Ginsberg was poetry, sometimes I thought Francois Villon was poetry -- but poetry isn't really confined to the printed page. Hey, then again, I don't believe in saying "Look at that girl walking! Isn't that poetry?" I'm not going to get insane about it. The lyrics to the songs ... just so happens that it might be a little stranger than in most songs. I find it easy to write songs. I been writing songs for a long time and the words to the songs aren't written out just for the paper; they're written as you can read it, you dig. If you take whatever there is to the song away -- the beat, the melody -- I could still recite it. I see nothing wrong with songs you can't do that with either -- songs that, if you took the beat and the melody away, they wouldn't stand up Because they're not supposed to do that, you know. Songs are songs ... I don't believe in expecting too much out of any one thing.

Robbins: Whatever happened to Blind Boy Grunt?

Dylan: I was doing that four years ago. Now there's a lot of people writing songs on protest subjects. But it's taken some kind of a weird step. Hey, I'd rather listen to Jimmy Reed or Howlin' Wolf, man, or the Beatles, or Francois Hardy, than I would listen to any protest song singers -- although I haven't heard all the protest song singers there are. But the ones I've heard -- there's this very emptiness which is like a song written "Let's hold hands and everything will be grand". I see no more to it than that. Just because someone mentions the word "bomb", I'm not going to go "Aalee!" and start clapping.

Robbins: Is it that they just don't work any more?

Dylan: It's not that it don't work, it's that there are a lot of people afraid of the bomb, right. But there are a lot of other people who're afraid to be seen carrying a MODERN SCREEN magazine down the street, you know. Lot of people afraid to admit that they like Marlon Brando movies... Hey, it's not that they don't work anymore but have you ever thought of a place where they DO work? What exactly DOES work?

Robbins: They give a groovy feeling to the people who sing them, I guess that's about it. But what does work is the attitude, not the song. And there's just another attitude called for.

Dylan: Yeah, but you have to be very hip to the fact about that attitude -- you have to be hip to communication. Sure, you can make all sorts of protest songs and put them on a Folkways record. But who hears them? The people that do hear them are going to be agreeing with you anyway. You aren't going to get somebody to hear it who doesn't dig it. People don't listen to things they don't dig. If you can find a cat that can actually say "Okay, I'm a changed man because I heard this one thing -- or I just saw this one thing ...". Hey it don't necessarily happen that way all the time. It happens with a collage of experience which somebody can actually know by instinct what's right and wrong for him to do. Where he doesn't actually have to feel guilty about anything. A lot of people can act out of guilt. They act because they think somebody's looking at *them*. No matter what it is. There's people who do anything because of guilt ...

Robbins: And you don't want to be guilty?

Dylan: It's not that I'm NOT guilty. I'm not any more guilty than you are. Like, I don't consider any elder generation guilty. I mean, they're having these trials at Nuremberg, right? Look at that and you can place it out. Cats say "I had to kill all those people or else they'd kill me" Now, who's to try them for that? Who are these judges that have got the right to try a cat? How do you know they wouldn't do the same thing?

Robbins: This may be a side trip, but this thing about the Statute of Limitations running out and everybody wants to extend it? You remember, in AMIMAL FARM, what they wrote on the wall? "All animals are equal." But later they added "... but some are more equal than others." It's the same thing in reverse. That some are less equal than others. Like nazis are *really* criminals, so let's *really* get them; change any law just to nail them all.

Dylan: Yeah, all that shit runs in the same category. Nobody digs revenge, right? But you have these cats from Israel who, after TWENTY years, are still trying to catch these cats, who're OLD cats, man, who have escaped. God knows they aren't going to go anywhere, they're not going to do anything. And you have these cats from Israel running around catching them. Spending twenty years out of their lives. You take that job away from them and they're no more or less than a baker. He's got his whole life tied up in one thing. It's a one-thought thing, without anything between: "That's what it is, and I'm going to get it". Anything between gets wiped all away. I can't make that, but I can't really put it down. Hey: I can't put ANYTHING down, because I don't have to be around any of it. I don't have to put people down which I don't like, because I don't have to be around any of those people. Of course there is the giant great contradiction of What Do You Do. Hey, I don't know what you do, but all I can do is cast aside all the things NOT to do. I don't know where it's at once in a while, all I know is where it's NOT at. And as long as I know that, I don't really have to know, myself, where's it at. Everybody knows where it's at once in a while, but nobody can walk around all the time in a complete Utopia. Dig poetry. You were asking about poetry? Man, poetry is just bullshit, you know? I don't know about other countries, but in this one it's a total massacre. It's not poetry at all. People don't read poetry in this country -- if they do, it offends them; they don't dig it. You go to school, man, and what kind of poetry do you read? You read Robert Frost's "The Two Roads", you read T.S. Eliot -- you read all that bullshit and that's just bad, man, It's not good. It's not anything hard, it's just soft-boiled egg shit. And then, on top of it, they throw Shakespeare at some kid who can't read Shakespeare in high school, right? Who digs reading, HAMLET, man? All they give you is IVANHOE, SILAS MARINER, TALE OF TWO CITIES -- and they keep you away from things which you should do. You shouldn't even be there in school. You should find out from people. Dig! That's where it all starts. In the beginning -- like from 13 to 19 -- that's where all the corruption is. These people all just overlook it, right? There's more V.D. in people 13 to 19 than there is in any other group, but they ain't ever going to say so. They're never going to go into the schools and give shots. But that's where it's at. It's all a hype, man.

Robbins: Relating all this: if you put it in lyrics instead of poetry, you have a higher chance of hitting the people who have to be hit?

Dylan: I do, but I don't expect anything from it, you dig? All I can do is be me -- whoever that is -- for those people that I do play to, and not come on with them, tell them I'm something I'm not. I'm not going to tell them I'm the Great Cause Fighter or the Great Lover or the Great Boy Genius or whatever. Because I'm not, man. Why mislead them? That's all just Madison Avenue selling me, but it's not really selling ME, 'cause I was hip to it before I got there.

Robbins: Which brings up another thing. All the folk magazines and many folk people are down on you. Do they put you down because you changed or...

Dylan: It's that I'm successful and they want to be successful, man. It's jealousy. Hey, anybody, with any kind of knowledge at all would know by instinct what's happening here. Somebody who doesn't know that, is still hung up with success and failure and good and bad ... maybe he doesn't have a chick all the time ... stuff like that. But I can't use comments, man. I don't take nothing like that seriously. If somebody praises me and say "How groovy you are!", it doesn't mean nothing to me, because I can usually sense where that person's at. And it's no compliment if someone who's a total freak comes up and says "How groovy you are!" And it's the same if they don't dig me. Other kinds of people don't HAVE to say anything because, when you come down to it, it's all what's happening in the moment which counts. Who *cares* about tomorrow and yesterday? People don't live there, they live now.

Robbins: I have a theory, which I've been picking up and shaking out every so often. When I spoke with the Byrds, they were saying the same thing as I am saying -- a lot of people are saying -- you're talking it. It's why we have new so-called rock & roll sound emerging, it's a synthesis of all things a ...

Dylan: It's further than that, man. people know nowadays more than before. They've had so much to look at by now and know the bullshit of everything. People now don't even care about going to jail. So what? You're still with yourself as much as if you're out on the streets. There's still those who don't care about anything, but I got to think that anybody who doesn't hurt anybody, you can't put that person down, you dig, if that person's happy doing that.

Robbins: But what if they freeze themselves into apathy? What if they don't care about anything at all anymore?

Dylan: Whose problem is that? Your problem or theirs? No, it's not that, it's that nobody can learn by somebody else showing them or teaching them. People got to learn by themselves, going through something which relates. Sure, you say how do you make somebody know something ... people know it by themselves; they can go through some kind of scene with other people and themselves which somehow will come out somewhere and it's grind into them and be them. And all that just comes out of them somehow when they're faced up to the next thing.

Robbins: It's like taking in until the times comes to put out, right. But people who don't care don't put anything out. It's a whole frozen thing where nothing's happening anywhere; it's just like the maintenance of status quo, of existing circumstances, whatever they are ...

Dylan: People who don't care? Are you talking about gas station attendants or a Zen doctor, man? Hey, there's a lot of people who don't care; a lot don't care for different reasons. A lot care about some things and not about others, and some who don't care about anything -- it's just up to me not to let them bring me down and not to bring them down. It's like the whole world has a little thing: it's being taught that when you get up in the morning, you have to go out and bring somebody down. You walk down the street and, unless you've brought somebody down, don't come home today, right? It's a circus world.

Robbins: So who is it that you write and sing for?

Dylan: Not writing and singing for anybody, to tell you the truth. Hey, really, I don't care what people say. I don't care what they make me seem to be or what they tell other people I am. If I did care about that, I'd tell you; I really have no concern with it. I don't even come in contact with these people. Hey, I dig people, though. But if somebody's going to come up to me and ask me some questions which have been on his mind for such a long time, all I can think of is "Wow, man, what else can be in that person's head besides me? Am I that important, man, to be in a person's head for such a long time he's got to know this answer?" I mean, can that really straighten him out -- if I tell him something? Hey, come on ...

Robbins: A local disc jockey, Les Claypool, went through a whole thing on you one night, just couldn't get out of it. For maybe 45 minutes, he'd play a side of yours and then an ethnic side in which it was demonstrated that both melodies were the same. After each pair he'd say, "Well, you see what's happening ... This kid is taking other people's melodies; he's not all that original. Not only that", he'd say, "but his songs are totally depressing and have no hope".

Dylan: Who's Les Claypool?

Robbins: A folk jockey out here who has a long talk show on Saturday nights and an hour one each night, during which he plays highly ethnic sides?

Dylan: He played THOSE songs? He didn't play something hopeful?

Robbins: No, he was loading it to make his point. Anyway, it brings up an expected question: why do you use melodies that are already written?

Dylan: I used to do that when I was more or less in folk. I knew the melodies; they were already there. I did it because I liked the melodies. I did it when I really wasn't that popular and the songs weren't reaching that many people, and everybody around dug it. Man. I never introduced a song, "Here's the song I've stole the melody from, someplace". For me it wasn't that important; still isn't that important. I don't care about the melodies, man, the melodies are all traditional anyway. And if anybody wants to pick that out and say "That's Bob Dylan", that's their thing, not mine. I mean if they want to think that. Anybody with any sense at all, man, he says that I haven't any hope ... Hey, I got FAITH. I know that there are people who're going to know that's total bullshit. I know the cat is just up tight. He hasn't really gotten into a good day and he has to pick on something. Groovy. He has to pick on me? Hey, if he can't pick on me, he picks on someone else, it don't matter. He doesn't step on me, 'cause I don't care. He's not coming up to me on the street and stepping on my head, man. Hey, I've only done that with very few of my songs, anyway. And then when I don't do it, everybody says they're rock & roll melodies. You can't satisfy the people -- you just can't. You got to know, man; they just don't care about it.

Robbins: Why is rock & roll coming in and folk music going out?

Dylan: Folk music destroyed itself. Nobody destroyed it. Folk music is still here, if you want to dig it. It's not that it's going in or out. It's all the soft mellow shit, man, that's just being replaced by something that people know there is now. Hey, you must've heard rock & roll long before the Beatles, you must've discarded rock & roll around 1960. I did that in 1957. I couldn't make it as a rock & roll singer then. There were too many groups. I used to play piano. I made some records, too.

Robbins: Okay, you got a lot of bread now. And your way of life isn't like it was four or five years ago. It's much grander. Does that kind of thing tend to throw you off?

Dylan: Well, the transition never came from working at it. I left where I'm from because there's nothing there. I come from Minnesota, there was nothing there. I'm not going to fake it and say I went out to see the world. Hey, when I left there, man, I knew one thing: I had to get out of there and not come back. Just from my senses I knew there was something more than Walt Disney movies. I was never turned on or off by money. I never considered the fact of money as really that important. I could always play the guitar, you dig, and make friends -- or fake friends. A lot of other people do other things and get to eat and sleep that way. Lot of people do a lot of things just to get around. You can find cats who get very scarred, right? Who get married and settle down. But, after somebody's got something and sees it all around him, so he doesn't have to sleep out in the cold at night, that's all. The only thing is he don't die. But is he happy? There's nowhere to go. Okay, so I get the money, right? First of all, I had to move out of New York. Because everybody was coming down to see me -- people which I didn't really dig. People coming in from weird-ass places. And I would think, for some reason, that I had to give them someplace to stay and all that. I found myself not really being by myself but just staying out of things I wanted to go to because people I knew would go there.

Robbins: Do you find friends -- real friends -- are they recognizable anymore?

Dylan: Oh, sure, man, I can tell somebody I dig right away. I don't have to go through anything with anybody. I'm just lucky that way.

Robbins: Back to protest songs. The IWW's work is over now and the unions are pretty well established. What about the civil rights movement?

Dylan: Well, it's okay. It's proper. It's not "Commie" anymore. Harper's Bazaar can feature it, you can find it on the cover of Life. But when you get beneath it, like anything, you find there's bullshit tied up in it. The Negro Civil Rights Movement is proper now, but there's more to it than what's in Harper's Bazaar. There's more to it than picketing in Selma, right? There's people living in utter poverty in New York. And then again, you have this big Right to Vote. Which is groovy. You want all these Negroes to vote? Okay, I can't go over the boat and shout "Hallelujah" only because the want to vote. Who're they going to vote for? Just politicians; same as the white people put in their politicians. Anybody that gets into politics is a little greaky anyway. Hey, they're just going to vote, that's all they're going to do. I hate to say it like that, make it sound hard, but it's going to boil down to that.

Robbins: What about the drive for education?

Dylan: Education? They're going to school and learn about all the things the white private schools teach. The catechism, the whole thing. What're they going to learn? What's this education? Hey, the cat's much better off never going to school. The only thing against him is he can't be a doctor or a judge. Or he can't get a good job with the salesman's company. But that's the only thing wrong. If you want to say it's good that he gets an education and goes out and gets a job like that, groovy. I'm not going to do it.

Robbins: In other words, the formal intake of factual knowledge ...

Dylan: Hey, I have no respect for factual knowledge, man. I don't care what anybody knows, I don't care if somebody's a walking encyclopedia. Does that make him nice to talk to? Who cares if Washington was even the first president of the United States? You think anybody has actually ever been helped with this kind of knowledge?

Robbins: Maybe through a test. Well, what's the answer?

Dylan: There aren't any answers, man. Or any questions. You must read my book ... there's a little part in there about that. it evolves into a thing where it mentions words like "Answer". I couldn't possibly rattle off the words for these, because you'd have to read the whole book to see these specific words or Question and Answer. We'll have another interview after you read the book.

Robbins: Yeah, you have a book coming out. What about it? The title?

Dylan: Tentatively, "Bob Dylan Off the Record". But they tell me there's already books out with that "off the record" title. The book can't really be titled, that's the kind of book it is. I'm also going to write the reviews for it.

Robbins: Why write a book instead of lyrics?

Dylan: I've written some songs which are kind of far out, a long continuation of verses, stuff like that -- but I haven't really gotten into writing a completely free song. Hey, you dig something like cut-ups? I mean, like William Burroughs?

Robbins: Yeah, there's a cat in Paris who published a book with no pagination. The book comes in a box and you throw it in the air and, however it lands, you read it like that.

Dylan: Yeah, that's where it's at. Because that's what it means, anyway. Okay, I wrote the book because there's a lot of stuff in there I can't possibly sing ... all the collages. I can't sing it because it gets too long or it goes too far out. I can only do it around a few people who would know. Because the majority of the audience -- I don't care where they're from, how hip they are -- I think it would just get totally lost. Something that had no rhyme, all cut up, no nothing, except something happening, which is words.

Robbins: You wrote the book to say something?

Dylan: Yeah, but certainly not any kind of profound statement. The book don't begin or end.

Robbins: But you had something to say. And you wanted to say it to somebody.

Dylan: Yeah, I said it to myself. Only, I'm lucky, because I could put it into a book. Now somebody else is going to be allowed to see what I said to myself.

Robbins: You have four albums out now, with a fifth any day. Are these albums sequential in the way that you composed and sung them?

Dylan: Yeah, I've got about two or three albums that I've never recorded, which are lost songs. They're old songs; I'll never record them. Some very groovy songs. Some old songs which I've written and sung maybe once in a concert and nobody else ever heard them. There are a lot of songs which would fill in between the records. It was growing from the first record to the second, then a head change on the third. And the fourth. The fifth I can't even tell you about.

Robbins: So if I started with Album One, Side One, Band One, I could truthfully watch Bob Dylan grow?

Dylan: No, you could watch Bob Dylan laughing to himself. Or you could see Bob Dylan going through changes. That's really the most.

Robbins: What do you think of the Byrds? Do you think they're doing something different?

Dylan: Yeah, they could. They're doing something really new now. It's like a danceable Bach sound. Like "Bells of Rhymney". They're cutting across all kinds of barriers which most people who sing aren't even hip to. They know it all. If they don't close their minds, they'll come up with something pretty fantastic.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
The Way You Look Tonight
Autumn Leaves
Sweet Virginia
Make You Feel My Love

Da Elderly: -
I Am A Pilgrim
In The Morning Light
Human Highway
Harvest Moon

The Elderly Brothers: -
The Price Of Love
Crying In The Rain
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
I Saw Here Standing There
Walk Right Back

Another enjoyable night at The Habit open mic with plenty of punters and players; so many players in the end that some had to play unplugged afterwards. There were more Bob and Neil covers on show as well as some welcome Bowie (Space Oddity and The Jean Genie). The Elderlys closed the show and included I Saw Here Standing There as a tribute to the recording of The Beatles' first LP on this day in 1963. Three guys who came too late to make the show treated us to some Hot Club of Paris-style tunes, wielding authentic gypsy-guitars and an upright bass - magic!! 

LATE NEWS: due to a cancellation, The Elderly Brothers will be performing at The Habit on Saturday night (14 Feb).

Monday, 9 February 2015

Bob Dylan MusiCares Speech 2015

Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares Person of Year speech
Randall Roberts
7 February 2015

Bob Dylan was honored by MusiCares, the charity organization that aids musicians in need, at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday night. After performances by artists including Tom Jones, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, Beck, Jackson Browne and others, Dylan himself took a rare opportunity in the spotlight to deliver a 30-plus-minute acceptance speech.

Expansive, funny and insightful, Dylan didn't pull any punches, calling out songwriters who had criticized his work while indicting Nashville and commercial country music.

He was introduced by former President Jimmy Carter, and walked out to a standing ovation. After thanking the organizers, Dylan referred to his notes and began by saying, "I'm going to read some of this."

Because of moments of applause, and some echoey acoustics, a few of Dylan's words were inaudible on the recording I've consulted, and I've noted as such. Though it upsets him to hear it (see below), Dylan does sometimes mumble and slur his words.

Bob Dylan's MusiCares person of the year acceptance speech:

I'm glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn't get here by themselves. It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they're like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they're on the fringes now. And they sound like they've been on the hard ground.

I should mention a few people along the way who brought this about. I know I should mention John Hammond, great talent scout for Columbia Records. He signed me to that label when I was nobody. It took a lot of faith to do that, and he took a lot of ridicule, but he was his own man and he was courageous. And for that, I'm eternally grateful. The last person he discovered before me was Aretha Franklin, and before that Count Basie, Billie Holiday and a whole lot of other artists. All noncommercial artists.

Trends did not interest John, and I was very noncommercial but he stayed with me. He believed in my talent and that's all that mattered. I can't thank him enough for that.

Lou Levy runs Leeds Music, and they published my earliest songs, but I didn't stay there too long. Levy himself, he went back a long ways. He signed me to that company and recorded my songs and I sang them into a tape recorder. He told me outright, there was no precedent for what I was doing, that I was either before my time or behind it. And if I brought him a song like "Stardust," he'd turn it down because it would be too late.

He told me that if I was before my time -- and he didn't really know that for sure -- but if it was happening and if it was true, the public would usually take three to five years to catch up -- so be prepared. And that did happen. The trouble was, when the public did catch up I was already three to five years beyond that, so it kind of complicated it. But he was encouraging, and he didn't judge me, and I'll always remember him for that.

Artie Mogull at Witmark Music signed me next to his company, and he told me to just keep writing songs no matter what, that I might be on to something. Well, he too stood behind me, and he could never wait to see what I'd give him next. I didn't even think of myself as a songwriter before then. I'll always be grateful for him also for that attitude.

I also have to mention some of the early artists who recorded my songs very, very early, without having to be asked. Just something they felt about them that was right for them. I've got to say thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary, who I knew all separately before they ever became a group. I didn't even think of myself as writing songs for others to sing but it was starting to happen and it couldn't have happened to, or with, a better group.

They took a song of mine that had been recorded before that was buried on one of my records and turned it into a hit song. Not the way I would have done it -- they straightened it out. But since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don't think that would have happened if it wasn't for them. They definitely started something for me.

The Byrds, the Turtles, Sonny & Cher -- they made some of my songs Top 10 hits but I wasn't a pop songwriter and I really didn't want to be that, but it was good that it happened. Their versions of songs were like commercials, but I didn't really mind that because 50 years later my songs were being used in the commercials. So that was good too. I was glad it happened, and I was glad they'd done it.

Pervis Staples and the Staple Singers -- long before they were on Stax they were on Epic and they were one of my favorite groups of all time. I met them all in '62 or '63. They heard my songs live and Pervis wanted to record three or four of them and he did with the Staples Singers. They were the type of artists that I wanted recording my songs.

Nina Simone. I used to cross paths with her in New York City in the Village Gate nightclub. These were the artists I looked up to. She recorded some of my songs that she [inaudible] to me. She was an overwhelming artist, piano player and singer. Very strong woman, very outspoken. That she was recording my songs validated everything that I was about.

Oh, and can't forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix perform when he was in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames -- something like that. And Jimi didn't even sing. He was just the guitar player. He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and pumped them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere and turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.

Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too, up in about '63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. "Big River," "I Walk the Line."

"How high's the water, Mama?" I wrote "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" with that song reverberating inside my head. I still ask, "How high is the water, mama?" Johnny was an intense character. And he saw that people were putting me down playing electric music, and he posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing.

In Johnny Cash's world -- hardcore Southern drama -- that kind of thing didn't exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing. They just didn't do that kind of thing. I'm always going to thank him for that. Johnny Cash was a giant of a man, the man in black. And I'll always cherish the friendship we had until the day there is no more days.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Joan Baez. She was the queen of folk music then and now. She took a liking to my songs and brought me with her to play concerts, where she had crowds of thousands of people enthralled with her beauty and voice.

People would say, "What are you doing with that ragtag scrubby little waif?" And she'd tell everybody in no uncertain terms, "Now you better be quiet and listen to the songs." We even played a few of them together. Joan Baez is as tough-minded as they come. Love. And she's a free, independent spirit. Nobody can tell her what to do if she doesn't want to do it. I learned a lot of things from her. A woman with devastating honesty. And for her kind of love and devotion, I could never pay that back.

These songs didn't come out of thin air. I didn't just make them up out of whole cloth. Contrary to what Lou Levy said, there was a precedent. It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock 'n' roll and traditional big-band swing orchestra music.

I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs. And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that's fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.

For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I'd heard it just once.

If you sang "John Henry" as many times as me -- "John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I'll die with that hammer in my hand."

If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you'd have written "How many roads must a man walk down?" too.

Big Bill Broonzy had a song called "Key to the Highway." "I've got a key to the highway / I'm booked and I'm bound to go / Gonna leave here runnin' because walking is most too slow." I sang that a lot. If you sing that a lot, you just might write,

Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose

Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes

He asked poor Howard where can I go

Howard said there’s only one place I know

Sam said tell me quick man I got to run

Howard just pointed with his gun

And said that way down on Highway 61

You'd have written that too if you'd sang "Key to the Highway" as much as me.

"Ain't no use sit 'n cry / You'll be an angel by and by / Sail away, ladies, sail away." "I'm sailing away my own true love." "Boots of Spanish Leather" -- Sheryl Crow just sung that.

"Roll the cotton down, aw, yeah, roll the cotton down / Ten dollars a day is a white man's pay / A dollar a day is the black man's pay / Roll the cotton down." If you sang that song as many times as me, you'd be writing "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more," too.

I sang a lot of "come all you" songs. There's plenty of them. There's way too many to be counted. "Come along boys and listen to my tale / Tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm Trail." Or, "Come all ye good people, listen while I tell / the fate of Floyd Collins a lad we all know well / The fate of Floyd Collins, a lad we all know well."

"Come all ye fair and tender ladies / Take warning how you court your men / They're like a star on a summer morning / They first appear and then they're gone again." "If you'll gather 'round, people / A story I will tell / 'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw / Oklahoma knew him well."

If you sung all these "come all ye" songs all the time, you'd be writing, "Come gather 'round people where ever you roam, admit that the waters around you have grown / Accept that soon you'll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth saving / And you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone / The times they are a-changing."

You'd have written them too. There's nothing secret about it. You just do it subliminally and unconsciously, because that's all enough, and that's all I sang. That was all that was dear to me. They were the only kinds of songs that made sense.

"When you go down to Deep Ellum keep your money in your socks / Women in Deep Ellum put you on the rocks." Sing that song for a while and you just might come up with, "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too / And your gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through / Don’t put on any airs / When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue / They got some hungry women there / And they really make a mess outta you."

All these songs are connected. Don't be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. It's just different, saying the same thing. I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary.

Well you know, I just thought I was doing something natural, but right from the start, my songs were divisive for some reason. They divided people. I never knew why. Some got angered, others loved them. Didn't know why my songs had detractors and supporters. A strange environment to have to throw your songs into, but I did it anyway.

Last thing I thought of was who cared about what song I was writing. I was just writing them. I didn't think I was doing anything different. I thought I was just extending the line. Maybe a little bit unruly, but I was just elaborating on situations. Maybe hard to pin down, but so what? A lot of people are hard to pin down. You've just got to bear it. I didn't really care what Lieber and Stoller thought of my songs.

They didn't like 'em, but Doc Pomus did. That was all right that they didn't like 'em, because I never liked their songs either. "Yakety yak, don't talk back." "Charlie Brown is a clown," "Baby I'm a hog for you." Novelty songs. They weren't saying anything serious. Doc's songs, they were better. "This Magic Moment." "Lonely Avenue." Save the Last Dance for Me.

Those songs broke my heart. I figured I'd rather have his blessings any day than theirs.

Ahmet Ertegun didn't think much of my songs, but Sam Phillips did. Ahmet founded Atlantic Records. He produced some great records: Ray Charles, Ray Brown, just to name a few.

There were some great records in there, no question about it. But Sam Phillips, he recorded Elvis and Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Radical eyes that shook the very essence of humanity. Revolution in style and scope. Heavy shape and color. Radical to the bone. Songs that cut you to the bone. Renegades in all degrees, doing songs that would never decay, and still resound to this day. Oh, yeah, I'd rather have Sam Phillips' blessing any day.

Merle Haggard didn't even think much of my songs. I know he didn't. He didn't say that to me, but I know [inaudible]. Buck Owens did, and he recorded some of my early songs. Merle Haggard -- "Mama Tried," "The Bottle Let Me Down," "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive." I can't imagine Waylon Jennings singing "The Bottle Let Me Down."

"Together Again"? That's Buck Owens, and that trumps anything coming out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard? If you have to have somebody's blessing -- you figure it out.

Oh, yeah. Critics have been giving me a hard time since Day One. Critics say I can't sing. I croak. Sound like a frog. Why don't critics say that same thing about Tom Waits? Critics say my voice is shot. That I have no voice. What don't they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment? Critics say I can't carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I've never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?

What have I done to deserve this special attention? No vocal range? When's the last time you heard Dr. John? Why don't you say that about him? Slur my words, got no diction. Have you people ever listened to Charley Patton or Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters. Talk about slurred words and no diction. [Inaudible] doesn't even matter.

"Why me, Lord?" I would say that to myself.

Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable. Oh, really? Let me tell you something. I was at a boxing match a few years ago seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it and it was beautiful. It was heartfelt and it was moving.

After that it was time for our national anthem. And a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing. She sang every note -- that exists, and some that don't exist. Talk about mangling a melody. You take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes? She was doing vocal gymnastics like she was on a trapeze act. But to me it was not funny.

Where were the critics? Mangling lyrics? Mangling a melody? Mangling a treasured song? No, I get the blame. But I don't really think I do that. I just think critics say I do.

Sam Cooke said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, "Well that's very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth." Think about that the next time you [inaudible].

Times always change. They really do. And you have to always be ready for something that's coming along and you never expected it. Way back when, I was in Nashville making some records and I read this article, a Tom T. Hall interview. Tom T. Hall, he was bitching about some kind of new song, and he couldn't understand what these new kinds of songs that were coming in were about.

Now Tom, he was one of the most preeminent songwriters of the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs and he himself even did it. But he was all in a fuss about James Taylor, a song James had called "Country Road." Tom was going off in this interview -- "But James don't say nothing about a country road. He's just says how you can feel it on the country road. I don't understand that."

Now some might say Tom is a great songwriter. I'm not going to doubt that. At the time he was doing this interview I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio.

It was called "I Love." I was listening to it in a recording studio, and he was talking about all the things he loves, an everyman kind of song, trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think that he's just like you and you're just like him. We all love the same things, and we're all in this together. Tom loves little baby ducks, slow-moving trains and rain. He loves old pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleeping without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on the vine, and onions.

Now listen, I'm not ever going to disparage another songwriter. I'm not going to do that. I'm not saying it's a bad song. I'm just saying it might be a little overcooked. But, you know, it was in the top 10 anyway. Tom and a few other writers had the whole Nashville scene sewed up in a box. If you wanted to record a song and get it in the top 10 you had to go to them, and Tom was one of the top guys. They were all very comfortable, doing their thing.

This was about the time that Willie Nelson picked up and moved to Texas. About the same time. He's still in Texas. Everything was very copacetic. Everything was all right until -- until -- Kristofferson came to town. Oh, they ain't seen anybody like him. He came into town like a wildcat, flew his helicopter into Johnny Cash's backyard like a typical songwriter. And he went for the throat. "Sunday Morning Coming Down."

Well, I woke up Sunday morning

With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.

And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad

So I had one more for dessert

Then I fumbled through my closet

Found my cleanest dirty shirt

Then I washed my face and combed my hair

And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

You can look at Nashville pre-Kris and post-Kris, because he changed everything. That one song ruined Tom T. Hall's poker parties. It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard any of my songs.

You walk into the room

With your pencil in your hand

You see somebody naked

You say, “Who is that man?”

You try so hard

But you don’t understand

Just what you're gonna say

When you get home

You know something is happening here

But you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mister Jones?

If "Sunday Morning Coming Down" rattled Tom's cage, sent him into the looney bin, my song surely would have made him blow his brains out, right there in the minivan. Hopefully he didn't hear it.

I just released an album of standards, all the songs usually done by Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr., maybe Brian Wilson's done a couple, Linda Ronstadt done 'em. But the reviews of their records are different than the reviews of my record.

In their reviews no one says anything. In my reviews, [inaudible] they've got to look under every stone when it comes to me. They've got to mention all the songwriters' names. Well that's OK with me. After all, they're great songwriters and these are standards. I've seen the reviews come in, and they'll mention all the songwriters in half the review, as if everybody knows them. Nobody's heard of them, not in this time, anyway. Buddy Kaye, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, to name a few.

But, you know, I'm glad they mention their names, and you know what? I'm glad they got their names in the press. It might have taken some time to do it, but they're finally there. I can only wonder why it took so long. My only regret is that they're not here to see it.

Traditional rock 'n' roll, we're talking about that. It's all about rhythm. Johnny Cash said it best: "Get rhythm. Get rhythm when you get the blues." Very few rock 'n' roll bands today play with rhythm. They don't know what it is. Rock 'n' roll is a combination of blues, and it's a strange thing made up of two parts. A lot of people don't know this, but the blues, which is an American music, is not what you think it is. It's a combination of Arabic violins and Strauss waltzes working it out. But it's true.

The other half of rock 'n' roll has got to be hillbilly. And that's a derogatory term, but it ought not to be. That's a term that includes the Delmore Bros., Stanley Bros., Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley ... groups like that. Moonshiners gone berserk. Fast cars on dirt roads. That's the kind of combination that makes up rock 'n' roll, and it can't be cooked up in a science laboratory or a studio.

You have to have the right kind of rhythm to play this kind of music. If you can't hardly play the blues, how do you [inaudible] those other two kinds of music in there? You can fake it, but you can't really do it.

Critics have made a career out of accusing me of having a career of confounding expectations. Really? Because that's all I do. That's how I think about it. Confounding expectations.

"What do you do for a living, man?"

"Oh, I confound expectations."

You're going to get a job, the man says, "What do you do?" "Oh, confound expectations.: And the man says, "Well, we already have that spot filled. Call us back. Or don't call us, we'll call you." Confounding expectations. What does that mean? 'Why me, Lord? I'd confound them, but I don't know how to do it.'

The Blackwood Bros. have been talking to me about making a record together. That might confound expectations, but it shouldn't. Of course it would be a gospel album. I don't think it would be anything out of the ordinary for me. Not a bit. One of the songs I'm thinking about singing is "Stand By Me" by the Blackwood Brothers. Not "Stand By Me" the pop song. No. The real "Stand By Me."

The real one goes like this:

When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the world is tossing me / Like a ship upon the sea / Thou who rulest wind and water / Stand by me

In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / When the hosts of hell assail / And my strength begins to fail / Thou who never lost a battle / Stand by me

In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / When I do the best I can / And my friends don't understand / Thou who knowest all about me / Stand by me

That's the song. I like it better than the pop song. If I record one by that name, that's going to be the one. I'm also thinking of recording a song, not on that album, though: "Oh Lord, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Anyway, why me, Lord. What did I do?

Anyway, I'm proud to be here tonight for MusiCares. I'm honored to have all these artists singing my songs. There's nothing like that. Great artists. [applause, inaudible]. They're all singing the truth, and you can hear it in their voices.

I'm proud to be here tonight for MusiCares. I think a lot of this organization. They've helped many people. Many musicians who have contributed a lot to our culture. I'd like to personally thank them for what they did for a friend of mine, Billy Lee Riley. A friend of mine who they helped for six years when he was down and couldn't work. Billy was a son of rock 'n' roll, obviously.

He was a true original. He did it all: He played, he sang, he wrote. He would have been a bigger star but Jerry Lee came along. And you know what happens when someone like that comes along. You just don't stand a chance.

So Billy became what is known in the industry -- a condescending term, by the way -- as a one-hit wonder. But sometimes, just sometimes, once in a while, a one-hit wonder can make a more powerful impact than a recording star who's got 20 or 30 hits behind him. And Billy's hit song was called "Red Hot," and it was red hot. It could blast you out of your skull and make you feel happy about it. Change your life.

He did it with style and grace. You won't find him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He's not there. Metallica is. Abba is. Mamas and the Papas -- I know they're in there. Jefferson Airplane, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan -- I've got nothing against them. Soft rock, hard rock, psychedelic pop. I got nothing against any of that stuff, but after all, it is called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Billy Lee Riley is not there. Yet.

I'd see him a couple times a year and we'd always spent time together and he was on a rockabilly festival nostalgia circuit, and we'd cross paths now and again. We'd always spend time together. He was a hero of mine. I'd heard "Red Hot." I must have been only 15 or 16 when I did and it's impressed me to this day.

I never grow tired of listening to it. Never got tired of watching Billy Lee perform, either. We spent time together just talking and playing into the night. He was a deep, truthful man. He wasn't bitter or nostalgic. He just accepted it. He knew where he had come from and he was content with who he was.

And then one day he got sick. And like my friend John Mellencamp would sing -- because John sang some truth today -- one day you get sick and you don't get better. That's from a song of his called "Life is Short Even on Its Longest Days." It's one of the better songs of the last few years, actually. I ain't lying.
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And I ain't lying when I tell you that MusiCares paid for my friend's doctor bills, and helped him to get spending money. They were able to at least make his life comfortable, tolerable to the end. That is something that can't be repaid. Any organization that would do that would have to have my blessing.

I'm going to get out of here now. I'm going to put an egg in my shoe and beat it. I probably left out a lot of people and said too much about some. But that's OK. Like the spiritual song, 'I'm still just crossing over Jordan too.' Let's hope we meet again. Sometime. And we will, if, like Hank Williams said, "the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise."

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