Monday, January 29, 2007

Well, there was this movie I seen one time



Faccio fatica, ormai da anni, a guardare un film per intero. Dopo un quarto d'ora mi sono già rotto le scatole. Non ci sono più grandi attori, non ci sono più grandi storie. Il buon cinema è un po' come il buon rock'n'roll, una cosa del passato.
Recentemente però mi sono imbattutto per caso, in due bei film.

Il primo è The Island. Se togliete la banalità hollywoodiana che contraddistingue in modo massiccio ormai qualunque film americano (e cioè effetti speciali, violenza a buon mercato e tanta banalità) il messaggio che resta di quel film è formidabile. Era dai tempi di Blade Runner che non succedeva. È la denuncia – coraggiosissima, visti i tempi di omologazione politcamente corretta in cui viviamo – dell'idea di manipolazione genetica e sfruttamento dell'essere umano inteso solo come 'oggetto' da usare a proprio piacimento. Quella cosa che piace tanto a Pannella & C.: essere umani creati a tavolino come cloni da cui prendere parti (cuore, fegato, budella, pelle, gambe etc, addirittura donne che vengono fatte partorire per togliere loro il figlio immediatamente - e quindi ammzzate - da dare a coppie che non riescono ad avere un figlio) da impiantare in altri esseri umani che hanno pagato per questo servizio.
Grandissimo film di denuncia di una falsa idea di diritti civili e di falsa libertà.

L'altro è Lords of Dogtown, un sincero e ispirato tributo alla generazione dei skateboarders, quei ragazzi che a metà anni 70, in California, passarono dalle tavole di surf a quelle più piccole dello skateboard. Non sono mai risucito a fare skateboard - cascavo sempre per terra -, ma ricordo quei giorni della seconda metà anni 70 come un momento in cui cambiò la percezione e il modo di essere giovani. Il che non vuol dire che fu una cosa necessariamente positiva, come ben racconta questo film, ma - un po' come il sempre fantastico Un mercoledì da leoni -, questo film è un tributo alla bellezza della giovinezza e dei grandi ideali che la accompagnano.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Canzoni

“(…) La nostra difficoltà, come veri figli del nostro tempo, cioè ‘moderni’, è quella di riconoscere il ‘Qualcosa dentro qualcosa’, cioè operiamo una riduzione della realtà all’apparenza e perciò viviamo un rapporto con la realtà che ‘ha fatto fuori’ il Mistero (…) quanti, guardando il reale oggi hanno detto: ‘Tu’ al Mistero che fa il reale o che fa l’io destato al mattino?” (J. Carròn).

Star Of Bethlehem (Neil Young, 1977) è una canzone che ha dentro lo smarrimento totale dell’uomo moderno a cui sfugge il confronto con la realtà, come succede nelle migliori canzoni rock. E’ un uomo che si guarda allo specchio al mattino e non sa più riconoscere se stesso perché ha perso ogni capacità di dire ‘Tu’ al Mistero: “Non è difficile quando ti svegli la mattina / E scopri che altri giorni sono passati? / Tutto quel che hai sono ricordi di felicità / Prossimi alla fine”.

La realtà sembra non trattenere le sue promesse migliori e la vita quotidiana diventa un disfacimento, solo ricordi di felicità sfuggita via. La realtà si è fatta miseramente ingannevole e furfante: “Tutti i tuoi sogni e i tuoi amori non ti proteggeranno / In fin dei conti ti stanno solamente attraversando / Ti spoglieranno di tutto quello che potranno prendere / E aspetteranno che tu ritorni”.

Eppure il cantante ha ancora come la vaga sensazione che un tempo c’era qualcosa, un ‘Qualcosa dentro qualcosa’. Adesso è solo come una vaga luce che brilla ancora, e la domanda che lui si pone alla fine, sempre nella miglior tradizione rock, è volutamente ambigua, sembra voler disfare la possibilità stessa di una risposta: “Tuttavia una luce brilla ancora / Da quella lampada nella stanza / Forse la stella di Betlemme / Non era affatto una stella”.



La cometa McNaught il 9 gennaio sulla Spirit Mountain a Duluth, nel
Minnesota

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Miss Jones on Exposition Boulevard



I have a phone appointment with Rickie Lee Jones. Most people still think of her as that nice girl on the cover of what is still today the best Tom Waits album, 1978' Blue Valentine. But she should remembered for a bunch of great albums she wrote and recorded, albums that defined the songwriting of the last 20 and more years. Gone are the wild years of living in the fast lane of the 70s Los Angeles.
Is a few days before Xmas time. Some people told me she is not an easy girl. When she don’t like a question, she can say goodbye, interview over.
I know she is been through quite a lot in her life, so I’m quite nervous. Plus, I find an old interview with her on the Net,: “Rickie Lee Jones doesn't like the telephone. And she's not a big fan of interviews either. She finds the process ‘very unrealistic, superficial’ and trying. ‘Doing interviews about ME-ME-ME,’ she says, ‘is not what I consider part of my job’. So you can imagine how she feels about phone interviews.”
Fuck, I think. I’m done. Keep reading that article, I found something else, tho: “Jones is, however, cool with e-mail. She likes its unobtrusive, literary quality. ‘I can get my thoughts across’. she says, ‘with relative ease’. And since she's also fond of communication and experimentation, she agrees to have a conversation with me via e-mail -- with one caveat: no clichéd questions”.
Well, the phone interview is postponed cause she is blocked in Chicago do to the bad weather. Great, I think. What about asking her for an e-mail interview? Few days after new year’s eve I got a response: Yeah, Rickie Lee would love to do an e-mail interview. Great. I hope mine are not clichéd questions...

Her new album, Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, is a great one, one of her best ever(check here: www.rickieleejones.com). Is a sort of rock opera dedicated to Jesus Christ. About this album, she said some very interesting things, like "if you have faith and don't control it, it will unfold and reveal itself to you but its especially true in art".
She also said that "music is a true living connection to the spirit".
Talking about Christ she said that "the story of Jesus is lived over and over again in each generation but no one ever recognizes the Christ that walks among us".

PV: Many people today, even certain Christians, tend to say that Christ was a good story, but it belong to another era, to the past, like some kind of fable for little babies - what do you think and what kind of experience are you doing to be able to perceive Christ in that way?

RLJ: I think, coming to this from a secular place, that like the Buddha, Siddhartha, Ghandi, the rabbi Jesus has some very meaningful ideas. ideas of profound non violence, of selflessness, and love. I like them alot. The spirit emanates through all kinds of people every day... I think it's there in many unexpected places.

PV: You also said that "people these days when it is about Jesus, they don't want to be associated with the TV evangelists"; aren't you afraid some people - maybe some of your older fans - will think of you as as one of those people, like if you are trying to preach to them? Was any hard at this moment of your life and career to approach such a particoular kind of story?

RLJ: i dont think that will happen. i understand it as an initial reaction, but once people listen to the music or read these discussions about this work, it will be clear that this is a piece of art, not a 'tract,' not something made with the intention of convincing people to become Christians. It is in fact the opposite. It celebrates the life of this man while condemning the poor behavior of the pious, and suggesting women as the vessel of Christ as well as the poor homeless and destitute among us. We tend to be repelled against anything we don't know, we make presumptions. WE make them about Christians, they make them about us. Christ - and I - suggest that this is not the best way to use the opportunity of life.
And this kind of misapprehension about whether or not I am Christian is not a big concern (to me). these are great ideas, and I am not afraid that others have misused them and so I might be mistaken for a misuser. them. Tell me, if The Clash did this record on the words of Christ, would you be concerned that any of the group was Christian? Would it matter? I think it would not matter to reasonable, intelligent people. There are people who have been harmed by the notions of exclusion and some of the ridiculous fantasy of the legend of Christ, and in the hands of unenlightened people these ideas are weapons, and I mention in the record that these are the people I am singing about, for. they deserve a chance to come to any name, any spiritual path without it being defiled before they can even hear what it has to say. What it, Christ has to say, and not a preacher or a pope or rule book from human hands. seeking truth and seeking to be of use in the world, one must listen carefully for the truth and not make presumptions. We are here to make music, to grow as artists, whatever the subject of the record is.


PV: Have you seen Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion"? If so, how did you like it

RLJ: no i did not. i don't like Mel Gibson. i am not interested in Christian propaganda. i did like "The Last Temptation of Christ", but that movie is by a great, great filmmaker.

PV: . Musically speaking, you are rocking harder than ever on this album (I'm thinking about a great song as 'Nobody Knows my Name'); you have always been know as a jazz folk influenced singer. Were we all wrong?

RLJ: yes you were all wrong!
I am a singer, a composer, a lyricist, and a performer. Each of my records has been different from the other, though my career clearly is an evolution. I learn as I go. I am interested in different ideas and I pursue them. I am afraid that for some time i have been associated with a kind of idea that is not me. Not me in totality, not me at all. While I don't have the interest to write a rock song over and over again, I do write rock songs, like 'tried to be a man' and have fun with that. my persona or image has not been controlled and so the media just starts imagining what it wants. Undirected, misinformed people write things on the internet and those ideas get picked up. I remember when a read some recent bio of me , it said ' once touted as the new Joni Mitchell.''
well this is just ridiculous. I was never touted as the new Joni Mitchell. I was on the cover of ROLLING STONE four months into my career, and Joni was not, and this was not because I reminded anyone of Joni Mitchell. I was then, and remain, a very unique character. This is a sexist idea, that because we look alike we are alike. I think of people like Mick Jagger and Steve Tyler, or Dylan and Tom Petty. Now, they obviously sound alike, or look alike, and yet no one mentions the very obvious influence when they write about these men. Yet after 28 years of making records, and influencing many obvious women voices, I began to read Joni in the bio of ME!! I saw that history was being rewritten, and realized I better get busy if I was going to correct the idea of my work and who I am, professionally. So yes, I imagine you may have been incorrect if you thought i was a folky jazz singer. My piano songs, my jazz singing, my guitar playing and style of writing are all very different from each other, and comparing me to anyone or them to me my preclude the understanding that I am not a one trick pony, I am not like Dylan or Joni, I don't have one style that I do. I am a queer bird, my work is diverse.


PV: If I heard right, most of these songs were improvised in the studio; was it your first experience in that sense? And if so, how was it to work that way? Will you do it again in the future?

RLJ: I had improvised on the Horde tour back in 1996, and it was thrilling for me, for my little band. We would step on stage and just make it up. One of the best moments of my life was when a teenage boy came up to me on the fairgrounds after our show in New Mexico, and said to me, unknowing who i was, "what is the name of your band? man, you guys were the best band here. " I always knew that if people could listen to my work without prejudging it, i would be heard much clearer, much more honerstly. For some reason, people can't hear the music anonymously. Nobody knows my name.
I will improvise on stage, this is a great and thrilling thing for us to do. It's a jazz tradition that has never found it's way to pop music. Yes, the Dead did it, but that was still just vamping. I am hoping we create new chords, new melodies. Thats so fun for me. to do this live, in front of people. but it is an evolution of each player, as I said before.

PV: "Tried To Be A Man" is one of my favorite song at the moment, a wonderful, quite shocking, powerful performance. It is a song that lyrically I found very powerful but still I need some explanation about it - the first part of the song, you say "I tried to be a man" - on the second verse you say "she tried to be a man"; there is a lot of imaginary in the song, who is the main character here, who are you addressing with this song?

RLJ: well, thank you. Yes, she is talking about the character i spoke of in that verse. is she Christ? I am addressing you in this song. And the meaning slips, it moves. I thought it might be about Christ, than I wondered if it was about the devil, and then i thought it might be about Scientology. all those things, the corner of Hollywood where i live, all this stuff is going on nightly. It's a battle out there. It is as much a warning as a complaint, a proclamation as anything. Men and women try to be a man, it just is that we can't fit into the mold. Christ too. The Scientologists, I have a problem with this science fiction as religion. They believe some mighty strange stuff, and they are into demeaning discipline and control. Around here (in Los Angeles) they make people wear severe costumes and walk around the streets in demonstrations of penance, but to L. Ron Hubbard? It's very creepy. So that song is like religion in Hollywood, in 2007.

PV: On 'Elvis Cadillac' there is Janis Joplin: on 'I Was There' is Frank Sinatra; and of course Elvis Presley is on Elvis Cadillac; I like these kind of characters to comes out of the songs, can you tell me why you thought about those particoular people? What they mean to you?

RLJ: Sinatra is my touchstone, i think of him if I am worried. He knew his way around a song, and around the block. He was the master, to me. Elvis, well, he is like Jesus to this century, and Janis, well, she had been kind of forgotten. When i was young, she mattered a great deal to me, and I thought, every generation has its Janis... Here is my daughter's generation, who will their heros be? What do they have to hold on to? I am cheering for them, and for the old Gods of my time in this song. I think it is a song of redemption, of my personal coming to grips with this time in my life, with the story of my life, and my generation. Some relief that Bush is nearly over. It feels very good here.

PV: 'I Was There' is surely my favourite song here and one of your best performances ever; how hard was it to write and record this particoular song? It is a real tour de force.

RLJ: this was done at the end of a long day. We had just come back into the studio, maybe it was the first or second day. And we had done two songs already, Tried to be a Man, and Seventh Day. And I said, hey, i think I have an idea, one more, ok? It was 12 hours into the day when I said this. Lee, you sit there and film. I just knew it was going to be good. I was ready for it. And it came, all out. I had some lyrics here and there, but I could not keep track of them and sing at the same time, so I had to rely on making them up, putting out a line and then knowing I would find my way to the next one. And all these amazing images came,
I mean, the rocks, the scorpion dust, I feel like I am walking over time with Christ, and it is really something. Over all humanity, also through my own life. And His.
I agree about the tour de force…, it is really something. I was a part of it. And there is a film of it on the DVD that we put out with the record, the enhanced CD. I recorded, and i had never sung it before. It came out that way, and Lee filmed it, and it is on the record.
And that was the nature of the whole recording. I was very grateful that we were able to maintain that quality. To just throw out the net and catch what came in, and have faith that it would be what it was suppose to be. Really thrilling. And i have a kind of faith now, in my life, in life in general. And I hope very much that I can continue to work that way. I know that the quality to this is translated, people hear this record and they understand things inexplicably. I really do feel a part of it, not the initiator or creator. I am a part of it, and it's really fine.



PV: 'Circle In The Sand' is a terrific great almost pop song. It reminds - for the attitude - of certain garage rock from the 60s, songs like 'Louie Louie'. What do you think

RLJ: yeah, i was thinking of early Rolling Stones, early radio , exactly. The version on the record is different than the one in the movie. And the one we do live is different than the record.

PV: 'Road to Emmaus' is a instrumental track, how come that particoular track came out?

RLJ: i was not part of this, this is one of the original tracks made by Peter (Atanasoff, who collaborated on SERMON) with Lee, for the spoken word stuff. We made alot of these, I just stood there in front of the mike, and made noises, and colored it with effects, my voice, sounds, percussion... to draw a picture of a road back in the year 2. To take you there... There are many more recordings from the sessions we will make available on the internet. stuff like 'road'

PV: I know this album came out from a multimedia project; how are you going to present these songs in concert?

RLJ: just sing them. hopefully we can have something on stage but we haven't mad e it up yet, we have some ideas.


PV: On your website, there is a very cool song which is addressed to George W. Bush and it is available for download only. What about that particoular song?

RLJ: i wrote that when Bush was first elected and nobody would speak out against him. I felt he had defiled our country, our planet. And i wrote that song, 'ugly man'. It's on THE EVENING OF MY BEST DAY. Which, as you can tell by the title, was a kind of ending of days, of the way i had been, the way i had written.

PV: On the album 'The evening of my best day', way before other artists, you were already writing angry songs against this government. Can you tell me a little bit about your feeling about being an American today? What do you think of The Vote for Change tour or albums like Neil Young's 'Living With War' (if you listened to it). Do you think rock musicians should go out and make public statements about politics?

RLJ: I think Neil was too little too late. When he came out with his record it was safe to do so, no big news ensemble would attack by then. I am glad he did something, but...Where was he when Bush was elected? why did he wait so long? It was obvious that they (Bush, etc) were controlling the 9/11 event to keep fear alive, It was dangerous to speak out, and that is when he - and others - should have. I think when fascists take over your country you must do everything you can to stop them. I am not that interested in making politics my life or art. I just could not NOT speak out, myself.

PV: On your website again i found out this and I'd like to ask how it happened to meet Jimi Hendrix, when it was and where, you must have been very very young. (RICKIE: " I have always thought that Jimi was not like us. He even moved in a way that was all his own, and he seemed to fill up the space as only he knew how. I only met him once and now I can say that we have been just blessed from God in order to have had Jimi on this earth. He sang in an amusing way, not at all perfect, but his voice contained something deep. To me, "Electric Ladyland" is the most important record ever made)

RLJ: that is another story....another time... I love "Electric Ladyland" too. Hendrix was maybe from another time, another place, he stood in the air differently than the rest of us. He was a holy man, I believe.

PV: If you should name just one of your songs from your songbook to somebody who dont know, so to introduce yourself to him in the way you think is the best one, which song you'd like to play for him?

RLJ: Alter Boy or maybe Living it up or...Where i like it best or the moon is made of gold.


Monday, January 15, 2007

"Every song and every poem is about one of them: love, sex, death, loss, redemption"



“I get tired of people looking at my songs and feeling that they’re all sad and dark. There’s more to them than that. Some people might read Flannery O’Connor and see that as simply dark, and it is dark and disturbing, but there’s a philosophical aspect, even a comic aspect to it as well” (Lucinda Williams)

C’è qualcosa nei dischi della cantante della Louisiana che, senza apparire offensivi, è sesso puro, nella sua manifestazione fisica ovviamente. Non è solo il modo in cui la Williams usa la voce, caricandola di lussuriosa insistenza, o i testi talvolta espliciti (come Right In Time, su Car Wheels, che metaforicamente – ma mica tanto – alludeva alla masturbazione e perciò si beccò la censura di diverse radio americane). È proprio il modo in cui lei costruisce ed esegue le sue canzoni o fa in modo di posizionarle nella sequenza di un disco come questo. È proprio come una scopata, con quel lento incedere carico di desiderio nella voce e l’accompagnamento musicale che cresce con abbandono in modo esponenziale fino a raffigurare l’intensità di un orgasmo. Ci sono stati esempi in abbondanza, nella storia del rock, di questa capacità espressiva, ma in un’era di reality show (che fa rima con “finzione a tutto campo”) e di sensualità da grandi magazzini (che fa rima con la pacchianeria ostentata dalle varie Mariah Carey e Shakira), Lucinda Williams è l’unica a sbatterti davanti una autentica scopata a tempo di rock’n’roll. Credo che lei sia consapevole di questo e non si offenderebbe a leggere una cosa del genere. Non che ci siano volgarità nei suoi testi: sono canzoni d’amore in cui il desiderio inappagato per un amante inafferrabile o andato via fa sì che il suo struggimento risuoni – almeno per chi scrive – proprio così.

West giunge dopo alcuni dischi contradditori e poco ispirati; non brutti, certo, ma che avevano mostrato scarsa lucidità compositiva rispetto a quella esplosione che era stato lo splendido Car Wheels On Gravel Road.
West porta piuttosto a compimento un cammino musicale cominciato appunto allora, e probabilmente la presenza in studio di quel geniaccio di Hal Willner in qualità di co-produttore è la mossa vincente. I suoni sono curati alla grande, le canzoni sono scelte con gusto (tutte cose che mancavano agli ultimi due dischi) e i musicisti accompagnatori sono eccellenti (Bill Frisell, Gary Louris, Jim Keltner e Tony Garnier fra gli altri). Naturalmente la cifra artistica è quella classica sviluppata dalla Williams negli ultimi anni: dolenti ballate venate di country e di blues (Are You Alright, Mama You Sweet), furiose esplosioni elettriche (Unsuffer Me, Come On, Wrap My Head Around That).

Tanta è la disinvoltura a cui Lucinda è oggi in grado di affidarsi nel comporre, che si può permettere un brano come Fancy Funeral, dove, pur mantenendo un triste andamento musicale, arriva al punto di dire che “alcuni credono che un funerale elegante possa valere ogni centesimo speso, ma per ogni nichelino ci sono soldi che si possono spendere meglio”. Eresia delle eresie, andare a toccare uno degli ultimi tabù rimasti in un mondo che ha fatto piazza pulita di ogni tabù. Non quello della morte, però: “E le lunghe limousine nere valgono tre o quattro stipendi”. Che non sia un atteggiamento snob da no global un po’ radical chic lo dice il fatto che Lucinda Williams ha da poco perso la madre, a cui è dedicata la dolce Mama You Sweet. È piuttosto una constatazione di realismo solo in apparenza cinico. Non aveva forse detto Qualcuno, "lasciate che i morti seppelliscano i morti?".

Quanto West sia un disco profondamente elegante, pensato in modo anche ambizioso lo dimostra la bellissima Learning How To Live. È una ballata country di grande impatto melodico, ma la trovata è quella di mettere dietro al ritornello un coro dal classico incedere gospel: altri ne avrebbero sottolineato l’approccio country. Hal Willner ne fa invece qualcosa di più Unsuffer Me: ancora una volta – come già fatto in passato – il brano mostra il grande amore di Lucinda per il Neil Young degli anni 70, quello all’incirca dell’epoca di Zuma, con quel pastoso e al tempo stesso furioso andamento di chitarre elettriche, ma la genialità è quella di aggiungere alcune parti orchestrali in dissonanza che ti fanno pensare cosa sarebbe successo se i Velvet Underground si fossero recati a registrare il loro primo disco a Nashville. Così come “l’acido violino” che ricama dietro le chitarre poderose di Come On, capolavoro di orgoglio femminile: “Sei così concentrato su di te, vivi nella nebbia (…), non sei capace di accendere il mio fuco e allora vaffanculo, non sei neanche in grado di farmi venire”. Qualcuno ha detto Courtney Love? Non fatemi ridere.

E infine Wrap My Head Around That: qui la Williams usa una classica cadenza hip-hop su una ritmica martellante, e lo fa con risultati eccelsi. Quasi dieci minuti di immersione in una musica che nessun nero oggi sa più fare.
West non è un disco perfetto, naturalmente: come tutti i cd da quando il cd è stato inventato, contiene almeno due brani superflui: Rescue, brutto come un brutto brano degli U2 (cioè uno qualunque dei loro ultimi tre album), e la superflua What If. Ma per il resto sono soldi spesi in modo egregio.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

He is in a cowboy band - Should I care?



“I say it so it must be so”
(Bob Dylan)

“The question is not so much: “Is this a good Dylan album?” – which it is – as “Is this a Dylan album?” – which it isn’t.
(Eyolf Østrem)


Back in the late 80s, when the Rolling Stones went on the road for the first time in about 7 years and after being about to disband, Keith Richards said something like: “This is an interesting moment for all of us. Rock’n’roll music is always intended to be music for teenagers; now (Keith and the boys were in their late 40s) is the moment to go out and test to see if rock’n’roll music can be something good even for adults”.
That from Keith was a promise for all of those, like myself, who grew up during the 60s or the 70s. It was opening up a completely new territory. It was a promise that we would not be abandoned after a decade so musically disappointing as the 80s had been, where nearly all of our rock’n’roll dreams died; killed, in the main, by the same musicians we had trusted for such a long time: The Stones, the surviving members of the Beatles, Neil Young, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan himself who wandered through that decade in complete artistic confusion. Maybe it was Keef’s words that made those people produce some great albums at the end of the decade, or maybe it was just the turning of a new decade that sent them to do their homework and consequently create some of their best work ever (such as the albums New York and Oh Mercy).
Of course, it was not about how immortal (and for adults) music like the ones recorded on albums such as Beggars Banquet, Rubber Soul, Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 could be; that music will always remain music for the mind, music for kids and adults of every past and future generations. Richards’ words were more about the people who 20 or 25 years ago wrote and recorded those masterpieces, to see if, now in their late 40s, they were still able, as they were getting older, to remain faithful and honest to their original musical vision.

In the years after those Keef words, it seems now that those words are about a missing promise. Although Neil Young still gave us a couple of worthwhile albums in the last decade, it was nothing more than that; so too Lou Reed who, in a couple of albums like Magic and Loss and the already quoted New York, was able to record some of his best work ever (‘but only in those two? – note by Andy ☺)’). The Stones, McCartney, never recorded a collection of songs that could be put in the same fields of the music they wrote and recorded when they were in their 20s; their shows now are more like a Disneyland affair than a real rock concert (and with tickets so expensive, their concerts can only really be vafforded by people of the same age: music for adults, indeed). Last kids on the block, The Who – or the surviving members of The Who – have just produced their first original work after a good 20 years. Do we need this Endless Wire thingy? Not really. In the last ten years, Van Morrison has made a long string of one, two, even three albums each year which contain barely enough good songs to create a decent single album.
Talking about this, Pete Townshend, on his official website, recently said: “I heard some tracks from Bob Dylan’s new CD on BBC radio last night. They are great. (…). The critics were favourable about the way Bob Dylan is facing his ageing process and is remaining connected with his ageing audience. (…) Rock’n’roll – and Bob Dylan exploded from the slowly evolving folk traditions of Dave Van Ronk and Ritchie Havens and embraced the rock form by sheer force of will – is getting old. If it embraces the issues of ageing, it will age. Or would you say it is becoming universal now, free of limitation and constraint? Against all the odds I put up in my own jaundiced middle-age, rock is not dead”. Well, if you say so, Pete…

Last year, when Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, the Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang and a new 60s Bob Dylan live collection came out at the same time, David Lister (The Independent), wrote that “(…) the '60s icons have lost some of their gift for songwriting. As The Independent's rock critic pointed out in his review, McCartney's album has hardly any tunes and forgettable lyrics. The Stones' album is cheered, only because it is of a reasonable standard, but no one can name a single song from it. Dylan's gets raves, but then it is an album of bootleg recordings from the '60s. The truth is that the aging process in rock stars does not particularly affect live performance, even though that is what is always wrongly seized upon. But, more than in any other art form, it does seem to affect the writing and composition. Dylan's recent albums have been worthy with the very occasional standout track. But how amazed would the world be if "Mr. Tambourine Man" or "Like a Rolling Stone" were released now. They are from a different planet. McCartney has written nothing remotely comparable to "Penny Lane" or "Eleanor Rigby" for decades. But why can't it happen? These are the same people with the same talent. It is in pop and rock that things seem to take a wrong turn with the onset of middle age. Elton John's last album was something of a return to form. He said he had had a long think and admitted to himself that nothing he had done in the past 30 years or so had matched the songs of his vintage period of 1970-76. It was a painful admission to have to make to himself, but it meant that he made an extra effort with the new one. Perhaps, before their next albums, McCartney, Jagger and Dylan should listen to one of their vintage works and not only try to match it but also try to work out why rock composers lose their way. I don't know the answer either. But this slightly eerie echo of the '60s provides evidence that rock composers lose it at far too young an age.”

Bob Dylan found out the shortest way: he went away, in another life and time (check his radio show on XM Radio and you’ll know what I mean). He already told us about this once: “Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line.” He did indeed cross that line. To quote another song, he lives “in another world” now. Since Time Out Of Mind, step by step, through Love and Theft, and finally with Modern Times, he decided it was better to go to the pre-rock’n’roll era kind of music. It is probably a way to say that rock’n’roll music, as it was intended in the 60s, was a closed chapter anyway. Whoever decided to print the Columbia 30s label on Time Out Of Mind, surely was thinking about this.
Bruce Springsteen seems to be on Dylan’s same wave length (check his last album, The Seeger Sessions; by the way, I haven’t included Springsteen on the previous list of artists, just because Bruce is from a different generation, but I have no hesitation in citing him as the most relevant and significant rock musician of the last years, since his return to form with The Rising, the fine Devils & Dust and his recent triumph with The Seeger Sessions Band’s tour).

In doing this, Bob Dylan did something that many fans think is offensive: to simply steal other artists’ songs. Of course, pre-rock’n’roll era songs… As Eyolf Østrem wrote on his website, www.dylanchords.com : “At the time of writing (Wed 20 Sept, 16:08 CET), the following songs on Modern Times have known models for their music:
* Rollin’ and Tumblin’ • Taken from Muddy Water’s version of Hambone Willie Newbern’s “Roll and Tumble Blues” from 1929.
* When the Deal Goes Down • based on Bing Crosby’s trademark song “Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)” by Roy Turk and Fred E. Ahlert
* Beyond the Horizon • Taken from Jim Kennedy’s “Red Sails in the Sunset”
* The Levee’s Gonna Break • taken wholesale (apart from a few new lines of lyrics here and there) from Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks” from 1929.
* Someday Baby • taken from “Worried Life Blues” (aka “Someday Baby” or “Trouble No More”), performed by Sleepy John Estes, Fred McDowell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, the Animals, and Bob Dylan himself (Toad’s Place, 1990), just to mention a few.
“These are not just influences: in all cases, the chord structure is lifted from the models and the melody is clearly recognizable, and in some cases, the whole arrangement is “borrowed” (…) When Dylan w/band play the exact same notes and the exact same solos as Muddy Waters did on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, that’s not “intuition” or creative translocation, it’s just “letting Muddy do the job”, plain and simple. That doesn’t add to my appreciation of the work – on the contrary. Putting the label “All songs by Bob Dylan” on this CD is plain indecency.”

Personally, I would add that Thunder on the Mountain is just Let it Rock, by Chuck Berry (but if anyone is blaming Bob Dylan because Thunder on the Mountain is a Berry rip off, I’d like to remind them that one of the greatest 60s song, Subterranean Homesick Blues, was already a Chuck Berry rip off. The question instead should be: why Chuck Berry needed to sue John Lennon for his Come Together and never had problem with Bob Dylan stealing his music?). And it should be remembered that a masterpiece like The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan doesn’t have any original music by Bob Dylan (‘none?’ - note by Andy. I still believe so, am I wrong? note by me).
It had already happened with “Love and Theft”. Nothing new, some people said. A lot of songs on masterpieces like Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde are just old blues numbers “revisited”. But what once was the willingness to capture the old music with a fresh, young, hip attitude and to reinvent that music for the “modern times” (aka the 60s), now seems to many simply a man who can’t invent anything new under the sun, not even a new arrangement for an old Muddy Waters song.
About the so-called theft Bob Dylan has been doing in recent years, both here and on “Love and Theft”, this little story might be interesting to show how Bob Dylan’s mind is set about songs. Back in 1999, when the last CSN&Y album came out, I met Stephen Stills for an interview. I asked him about the song Seen Enough on the album, and that it was clearly just like Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues (which, as we already said, is based on Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business). After the song’s credits “music and words by Stephen Stills”, it is written “inspired by Bob Dylan”. I asked Stills about that song. He told me he had that melody in his mind for a long time (I bet: maybe since 1965…) and honestly didn’t remember it was from a Bob Dylan song, that he had forgotten about that Dylan song anyway. When someone made him aware of the song, he asked Dylan if it was ok to write: “words by Stephen Stills, music by Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan”. Dylan said, “No, its ok, don’t include my name on it, just your name”. Stills thought, though, it would be nice to include “inspired by”, just to be fair.
You may also remember Neil Young’s Days That Used to Be on his 1990 Ragged Glory album is Dylan’s My Back Pages note for note but Bob Dylan never protested with Neil about it. I could list a thousand songs that are identical to Bob Dylan songs (the American songwriter Dan Bern should know a thing or two about this…). (‘a very good point’, note by Andy ☺)
Maybe for Dylan, taking other people songs is just the same as people taking from his songs: I can use this Muddy Waters song, Stills can use my music, Neil can use it, and anybody can do it this way. Just like when he took Dave Van Ronk’s Baby Let Me Follow You Down arrangement, maybe? Music is free, for him. But maybe Dylan could have added “inspired by Muddy Waters” on his albums credits, too.

While I can see perfectly Mr. Østrem’s point, I personally think that, while we are a million miles away from the genius of Highway 61 Revisited, what we have on Modern Times is something that works quite well for a 65 year old man.
I think Bob Dylan has finally reached the sound he has been looking for years. He has nothing to prove and nothing to declare anymore (“I already confessed” he says on Thunder on the Mountain “don’t need to confess again”) musically speaking. I also think that in some moments of the NET, he already reached that sound: I’m thinking about the perfect acoustic sets in 2000, when Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton were in the band, where the music of the pre-rock’n’roll era was such an important and defining moment of those shows.
Modern Times could be the third millennium basement tapes. The feeling I get from songs like Spirit on the Water, with all the instrumental mistakes that are on it but also with the totally dedicated vocal performance, is the same I get from many Basement Tapes’ performances. This is Bob Dylan singing for himself more than for an audience, just like during the Basement Tapes recordings or the sound on one of the first albums by The Band. Workingman’s Blues is a song that only waits for Richard Manuel, Levon Helm and Rick Danko to come out of the darkness and make it their own song. If only they could. The vision is the same to me. It is “That old weird America” where Bob Dylan has been living for quite a number of years.
Where Bob Dylan is mostly having a great time, is in the way he is busy with old blues numbers. For a man who was called “the greatest white blues singer” (Bonnie Raitt, after Dylan’s performance at the 2002 Grammy, said “Bob Dylan is more funky than any black musicians around these days”) since Time Out Of Mind and now more than ever, Bob Dylan is in a full blues immersion. While the blues numbers on “Love & Theft” could have seemed a little too forced, with the heavy guitar riffs, the blasting and pumping of the drums so much in front and with little vocal inventions, for someone like me who never was a big blues fan (Well, having said I like the Chicago blues a lot, actually. It is the same kind of blues Bob Dylan is playing on Modern Times, so maybe that’s why I like the blues numbers on Modern Times so much.) On Modern Times, I think Dylan has finally found a way to sing the blues in a magnificent way, like Blind Willie McTell, say.
Throughout his career, except maybe when he was covering blues artists like the great Tampa Red or Willie Dixon – again – during the 1978 tour, or some fall 1992 blues covers – its Muddy Waters – Dylan’s way of writing and performing a blues song always seemed too forced, unnatural, sometimes boring, and sometimes hilarious to me. The blues is such a limited musical form. You must have a special power inside to deliver a great blues performance. That was happening during the Highway 61 studio sessions, but I can’t think of anything along the same level in the last 40 years.
I think the way Dylan performs Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Someday Baby and The Levee's Gonna Break, is a pure delight. Relaxed, concentrated, and focused, with the band behind him like a freight train rolling with joy. You can tell he is having the time of his life in those performances, everything that is missing in his contemporary live performances. This is even more than simply blues: these songs have the same Sun Records old music feeling, they are almost rockabilly, a music Bob Dylan always loved. You can hear it on another excellent performance, Thunder on the Mountain: the way the guitars play is perfect rockabilly Sun Records style note by note, and Dylan’s phrasing is wonderful (‘That’s what I thought of “Love And Theft”!’ – note by Andy ☺)
I’m not a fan at all of Dylan’s current live band, but, with the possible exception of Stu Kimball, these players are all excellent. Listen to their work without Dylan and you will understand. The fact that on stage they don’t appear as that, leaves only Bob Dylan to blame. I believe: how can you be good – as good as you are – when you have to stay behind a hilarious organ stomp and a voice (like Bob Dylan’s voice has been for some years now) that can hardly sing a song? Here, in a studio, things are different. The 3 songs I quoted are for me the best performances on MT. The problems, in terms of performances, are on other tracks.

Spirit on the Water is a good example of a song that has not been properly rehearsed, just “play behind me folks”. At the beginning, and sometime during the song, there are a lot of obvious instrumental mistakes, especially the piano part Dylan plays. Nettie Moore, which, as good as the song might be, gets such an awful arrangement. You can hear the violin, here and there (like at the end of Workingman’s Blues) trying to come out, playing two notes and then immediately disappearing, like a player who is trying to play the song without knowing a thing about it. If Workingman’s Blues might have what I consider the most tender and passionate vocal performances Dylan was able to deliver in a decade, the instrumental part is a mess. Who is playing the guitar there? No doubt: it can only be Bob Dylan, while the drummer still has to figure out what to do during the entire song.
Bob Dylan said recently “I’m the only one that knows how to produce my songs.” Well, you think so, Bob. I can only imagine this album with the production of a man like T-Bone Burnette and with a guitarist like Bill Frisell on board… Or Jack White, thinking how good he was with Loretta Lynne. And don’t even make me talk about Rick Rubin… or Brendan O’Brien (though I hate how he overdubbed Dignity, I cannot deny how good he was with Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising). Or Steven Soles, ex Rolling Thunder Revue buddy, who has produced some great albums in the past years.
We all know that when Bob Dylan says that no producer in the past was able to help him it is just bullshit. The legendary words “Go in, cut it and get the fuck out of it” that Bob Dylan said back in 65 shows perfectly what Bob Dylan has always thought about the recording process. Although no one can touch the genius of his songwriting during the mid 60s, no one should have the nerve to deny the help of Bob Johnston for the way Blonde on Blonde came out,. Or what Jerry Wexler did for what is still the best sounding and best performed Dylan album ever, Slow Train Coming. We all know what happened each time Dylan had the last word on production: songs like Blind Willie McTell or Series of Dreams were left out, albums like Knocked Out Loaded or Down in the Groove… Or, to remain in ”modern times”, anyone who has had the chance to listen to the complete Tell Ol’ Bill sessions, can’t help but wonder why the heck Bob Dylan chose the worst version for the official release, ahead of so many far better versions he recorded. It is not an artistic choice, one to autoproduce himself in the case of Bob Dylan, but more a problem with his relationships with other people. As Daniel Lanois said, “to work with Bob Dylan is something I would never wish on anyone…”
In this sense, Beyond the Horizon – though a nice little melody sung quite well by Dylan – is the worst performed song on the entire album: really, other than Dylan’s voice, the only instrument that sustains the entire performance are the drums. The piano keeps beating the same note. The bass is so dull you want to turn the damn thing off. Is that a pedal steel in the background? I still don’t know. The guitar solo is simply useless. There is no dynamic, there is no life in this song. That said, and with that clearly in my mind, I should say that MT is a mission accomplished, for a man of his age that has “been there, done that” etc.

MT was blessed with 5 star reviews all over the world (for those interested, my review in the Italian magazine for which I write, got 3 stars and a half…). As my friend Doug Evans, with whom I have the honour to be a member of the same internet discussion group, said: “There have been rave reviews over the past few years for Dylan, McCartney, Brian Wilson (for a 40 year old work!), even (…) Ringo Starr (Choose Love). At this point in the history of rock and roll, writers seem to be in a difficult position. They are expected to trumpet the arrival of "product" much like an additional marketing arm of a label's PR department. They spend their time listening to music they know has been produced by computers, pushed through "research groups" and spun to quickly reach the biggest audience with the smallest offense. There are few "artists" that can both sell papers/magazines and expect a career beyond a smash album or two. So... when the writers see a survivor of the fab, gear, now-legendary 60s generation producing _anything_, they can't help but loudly applaud because they feel a "reality" that just doesn't exist in most of the music they write about. And perhaps it isn’t even so much about Dylan and the 60s. It might also be about the White Stripes or U2. The writers want rock and roll to be what they think it once was, and grab every opportunity to rave about what they see as "art" as opposed to "product".

The best observations about MT that I have found so far, come from a musician and from a professor of economy. The first, Patti Smith, said the song Ain't Talkin' is “like walking alongside Bob hearing him thinking”. This way, I don’t care how much the lyrics of MT are similar to those of Henry Timrod (which, btw, makes perfect sense: on stage, for years, Bob Dylan has the look of the XIX century riverboat gambler; since L&T, his lyrics are full of references to the American Civil War, and Timrod was the Poet Laureate of the Confederation…). The latest discovery was about the Latin poet Ovid, of which Bob Dylan himself on Thunder on the Mountain quotes his book The Art of Love. Some of his lines are here and there through the lyrics of MT. At least, as the always smart Andy Muir noted in the same Internet discussion group, “now we are not afraid to call Bob Dylan ‘a classic’ anymore…”
I really can’t believe that Bob Dylan’s attitude, these days, when he has to write a song, is to take 30 or 40 books from his bookshelf and pick lines randomly here and there. The Bob Dylan way of writing has always been one to take notes in his mind from whatever he heard or read here and there: from a coffee table, from tv, from newspapers.
"I wrote these songs in... a trancelike state. This is how I feel? Why do I feel like that? And who's the me who feels this way?” said the man himself.
The other observation I found is from an Italian professor of Economy, not really a music writer, Mr. Giulio Sapelli and it was a revelation. This person took a great care in analyzing each Modern Times lyric. In his vision, Modern Times is a sort of concept album dedicated to the every day working class hero. His review starts out from TS Eliot ‘La sepoltura dei morti’, from The Waste Land. For Mr. Sapelli, Dylan, musically, is singing like a rhapsody of old Jewish Psalms and some ancient Christian tune.
For him, Dylan, on Modern Times, is singing of the life and the desolation of the American working class from a universal point of view. That workingman class that is gone from social sciences and collective imagination. Dylan is giving us a lesson of realism and moral nerve and mixes religious meditation with the most normal every day life.
After TS Eliot’s Waste Land, there is only the desert that comes out, and that is where the MT character is wandering: art goes before the science (Dylan, in a 2001 Rolling Stone interview: “I mean, art imposes order on life, but how much more art will there be? We really don't know. There's a secret sanctity of nature. How much more of that will there be? At the moment, the rational mind's way of thinking wouldn't really explain what's happened. You need something else, something with a capital E, to explain it. It's going to have to be dealt with sooner or later, of course.”)
When the Deal Goes Down, for Mr. Sapelli, is like “When the shift will end”, a job without meaning, useless, a continuous feeling alienated from life itself: “We live and we die, we know not why, but I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.”
Spirit on the Water, like many have observed, gets the title from Genesis: the story of a personal drama, a killing, a pain that is remorse and sin, mixed with the thought of a woman in the Dylan’s song.
Workingman’s Blues is of course the climax of this vision: Dylan sings about the instruments of every day work (on Thunder on the Mountain he already said: “I’ll plant and I’ll harvest what the earth brings forth, The hammer’s on the table the pitchfork’s on the shelf”), telling what goes on in the mind of a common person who is observing every value of his past life dying.
The faith and the hope in a God who can save us if only he would reveal himself to us comes out here and there. Ain’t Talkin is a hymn of an anarchist revolutionary but at the same time the waiting for a Messiah that Dylan doubts can ever arrive, in an album that talks about the workingman’s class but also of the loss and the redemption of faith, of secularity and of workers’ dignity.
“I think Modern Times is the best ode to the workers condition ever written for many many years. But closer to Ratzinger’s vision than to Karl Marx”, said Mr. Sapelli.
If you take Mr. Sapelli’s point of view, surely the title “Modern Times” makes more sense in reference to the Charlie Chaplin film than a simple joke as many people have claimed: “Modern Times, yes, but old songs haha that funny Bob Dylan”.
To think that for me, after listening to Ain’t Talking for the first few times, that song was an answer to Bruce Springsteen’s Paradise, a trip inside the mind of a suicide bomber… Really, to this day, to know what Bob Dylan is writing about is still a not an easy task.

During the first week after MT was released, I was driving in my car. I turned on the radio and Rollin’ and Tumblin’ came on. You don’t hear Bob Dylan’s songs on Italian radio very often. More than that, you never hear Muddy Waters’ songs on Italian radio. If only for that, I was grateful to Bob Dylan for coming out with an album like Modern Times and letting the Italian radios play, at least for few days, a Muddy Waters song. That, I think, is the real value of Modern Times, keeping alive, if only for a few days, a music that is going to die ,.


* The 'note by Andy' are by the great Scottish writer Andrew Muir, who took a great care in trying to edit this stuff.

Monday, January 08, 2007

In the church of rock



I did this interview with Jeff Tweedy before last Xmas. It was about his new solo live dvd. Thanx to my aussie friend Mende for typing, understanding my bad english and taking care of the tape with the entire conversation.

PV: Great to talk to you again. Are you in the studio with the band now?

JT: Yeah, we’re recording. I’m not in the studio right now but we’ve been recording for about a week now. We had a session a couple of months ago where we were very close to being done with the record and we’re just kind of finishing things up right now

PV: Great news. Actually, the last time we met, it was when your live album with Wilco was coming out and there was talk about a possible live Wilco DVD and now we just have a solo Tweedy DVD. So, any news about the Wilco DVD being postponed forever or will there be a chance to se it?

JT: No, I’m sure we’ll have something come out eventually but it didn’t seem right with that record and the footage we had. It just wasn’t the right time but I think we’ll do something sooner than later. I think that footage will come out in some point of time. It was just didn’t feel right last year

PV: I have to say how much I appreciate the Jeff Tweedy solo, live DVD. It’s terrific – fantastic.

JT: Oh, I’m glad you enjoy it

PV: Its great. I only had it for a couple of days and I’m still watching and it’s terrific. Especially for me, I’ve never had the chance to see you in a solo concert - it was truly a revelation.

JT: Well that’s good – I guess that’s good.

PV: I also want to thank you – I don’t know if it was your idea, but thank you for the Italian subtitles on the DVD because its very hard to have a DVD with Italian subtitles.

JT: Honestly, I probably didn’t have anything to do with that, but I’m glad they did that. I think that’s an important thing because I want people to understand it.

PV: It’s great. I was thinking about the short interview with you at the beginning of the DVD when you said something very, very interesting. When you said, “Surrender to the idea that you are at the service of someone else”- those are great words

JT: Well, I think that’s a pretty healthy way of looking at things, even if you’re not just a guy on stage with a guitar. I think we’ll be better off if we can surrender to that idea more often and that we’re not just here for ourselves and that we’re here for each other and I think it sounds really old-fashioned and hippy! (laughs) I think its beautiful and I don’t know any other way to look at it that makes me feel good about it.

PV: Yes, for me its great and also when you say that any kind of environment like a rock concert where people gather around is an important part of any culture, like being in a church and you said if church was what it was meant to be. So, may I ask you, what was church supposed to be for you then?

JT: Um, well unfortunately, church has never been much for me at all. I’ve never gotten that feeling from being in any of the churches I was exposed to as a kid. I never really got that feeling that I was part of a collected experience and that everybody in room really felt good about themselves being in that room. I always got the feeling that everybody felt kind of bad and suspicious about each other and there was a lot of judgement going on. I don’t ever remember the feeling transcendent by being a part of that group. On the other hand, being a part of rock audiences for the better part of my adult life and playing on stage at the service of a rock audience for the better part of my adult life, I’ve had that experience nightly - that there is something bigger than just myself, that there’s something bigger than the group of people that are inhabiting that room and there was chance to lose yourself in that identity and that it was a safe place to do that. Basically a place where it was kind of… I don’t know, one of the only places where you can have an intimate experience with a large group of people

PV: That’s great ok. What about Brendan Canty and Christoph Green, the movie directors, how were you involved with them? Did you know them before? I think they did a terrific job with the film



JT: I really love those guys and they’re the best. I think I might have met Brendan one other time before. They asked us to be in the second instalment of their series, Burn to shine DVD's, I don’t know if you’ve seen them. They go to different towns and buy a house and they either tear it down or burn it down. But before they do that, they film all the local bands playing in that house. It’s a really cool project and all those DVD’s are really beautiful. They did one with Wilco a few years ago and it was so nicely done, I thought the photography looked really beautiful and I really enjoyed being around those guys so much that it felt really nice to work with them in the future and I contacted them about whether they’d be interested in following me around a little bit and making a solo acoustic DVD and they were both very excited about it, so I was flattered by that. At that point, I pretty much gave up on any input. They did it all and I didn’t even watch the movie to be honest with you because I had complete faith and trust in those guys and they did a fantastic job

PV: They did a fantastic job. I loved how it starts in Seattle with the rain and then in San Francisco with the sun and it was great to see all this. It’s like ‘we’ve done it and we arrived safely in the end’.

JT: Well, they definitely put a lot of thought in this movie the sequence. They definitely put a lot of thought into telling the story. I’m really happy those guys did the movie because I don’t know anybody else that would that much attention to detail

PV: Actually, Brendan Canty in the liner notes that your record company gave to me said about you that ‘Jeff is in a really good place right now’ and I think this is beautiful because it’s possible to see that you’re great on stage and very happy to be on stage. What do you think about this?

JT: Well, I’m happy that I’m happy (laughs)

PV: Of course I’m talking musically speaking, from an artistic point of view



JT: Whatever you wanna talk about, I don’t really care. The simplest way to put it is I’m a lot of more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been most of my life and that’s a revelation from me and I think it’s a pretty wonderful thing to happen and I certainly don’t take it for granted that it was going to happen inevitably. I feel like, I don’t know…. I guess it’s the thing I most wanted to do and probably the only thing I ever wanted to do. So, that’s a pretty exalted place to be. Not many people find something they love to do, much less get to do it

PV: And also if I may say, today is the day after the day of the last American election and I’m sure you feel in a very good place now since the winning of the democrats…

JT: Well, to be honest with you, I can try cause I feel so relieved that the American people finally seem to be waking up and have finally put their foot down and I can only hope for the future that things get better. And I have to tell you that it was pretty hairy. The more I thought about this election before it happened, I really didn’t know what I was going to do if it went the other way, if it was another disappointing night like it was in 2004, I’m not going to handle this!

PV: Yes, I think the situation in Iraq has gone too far now and the Americans understood that.

JT: Well, I’m ashamed it took us so long and thinking on behalf of other Americans, I feel like I’ve been upset since the 2000 election when the Bush presidency, ah, the presidency was stolen. I’ve been frustrated and amazed that it’s gone as far as it has but I have to be happy now that at least things seem to be turning.

PV: So, again about the DVD, how was it to perform, knowing that you were filmed?. Was it something that requested a particular approach or was it as easy as ever?

JT: Honestly, I feel so comfortable around those guys that, Brendan and Christoph and the crew they worked with that, I felt really comfortable with all of them. I honestly didn’t think about that much. At the end of the day, I always feel that if it’s really, really terrible and I mess up, the DVD doesn’t have to come out (laughs). Also, I felt if it’s really, really bad, it might make a more interesting DVD!. We certainly didn’t pick the best versions of stuff to put in the DVD. I messed up a lot, I know that, so luckily I’m not a brain surgeon – there might be somebody dead on an operating table if that was the case.

PV: Did you decide which particular songs to include? Was it your choice?

JT: No, I honestly didn’t have anything to do with it. I played the shows, they filmed them and they put the DVD together. I watched it once when they finished with it with my wife and my wife didn’t hate it, so we said OK (laughs)

PV: That’s great, cause I know you have a lot of songs you perform when play solo, a lot of different songs and there might be been a reason to choose particular songs to perform

JT: No, I don’t think they took the best performances. I think they took the songs they liked the most and the songs they felt like fit best into the movie. I really think they had a script to push the story along and that they had a whole different agenda and it was about making a film to them and that was fine with me and I didn’t have a problem with that. I didn’t really care – I just wanted it to be a better movie and I don’t really think the best performances of the songs made it into the movie

PV: Ok, your work’s great anyway. There is a brand new song - Is that The thanks I get, right?

JT: It’s a song that been around a while. I wrote it for Solomon Burke but I didn’t get it to them on time to be on that last record that he did with Joe Henry, so I started playing it cause I kind of liked it and it ended up being in the movie and Wilco started playing it too at some point. We’ve recorded it but I don’t know if it’ll be on the next record or not, but it ended up being on the DVD which is kind of nice, I guess.

PV: Like you did with the last Wilco album, the people that bought the DVD can download for free some songs from your website?

JT: Yeah, all the audio from the DVD, you can download from the website

PV: That’s great. You’re not worried about people on the internet that download Wilco shows and that kind of stuff. There’s a link on your Wilco about live shows, right?

JT: Yeah, I just really want people to listen to our music and I’d be more worried if people weren’t interested in doing that, you know? I don’t really have any use for it once we’ve played the show, so they might as well have it and do whatever the want to do with it. It’s theirs!

PV: That’s great. The recent Harry Smith tribute concert that’s coming out with Wilco involved with a performance, I think it was recorded some years ago..

JT: Yeah, that’s probably four versions of Wilco ago! That’s a long time ago, so it’s a little of a different sounding version of the band but the Richard Rabbit Brown song, I think we’ve played it as slow as you could possible play it, but that’s neither here nor there.

PV: So, you told me you’re working on a new studio album – Is there any idea when it’ll be coming out?

JT: April, I think

PV: That’s great. Are you producing it in the usual way or is there somebody helping you to produce the album?



JT: We’re doing it the usual way. We’re recording it at our loft, Jim O’Rourke is going to mix it again. I’m really, really excited about it. I think it’s the closest record we have to, the way this record is turning out, is Being There. It sounds a lot like Being There, except that I think this is a much more an accomplished and experienced band than we were than when we made Being There. I don’t know what to say, I felt really great doing all the recording and right now, we’re kind of just finishing it up, so I can’t tell you how excited I am

PV: The English magazine, Q magazine, recently labelled your live album, Kicking Television, one of the best live albums of all time. How do you feel about that?

JT: (laughs) I don’t really know. I take all that with a grain of salt. I feel that it’s really nice that they liked the record – I can only look at it like that, I guess that means they liked the record. In ten years, they probably would have forgot about Kicking Television, but we’ll see

PV: I agree with them anyway, I think it’s one of the best live albums ever

JT: Well, thank you!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

People get ready... he is coming back



On January 3, 1974 (33 years ago today, i like that) Dylan opens his first American tour in 8 years at Chicago Stadium, Chicago

On January 3, 2007 (33 years later) I discovered thanx to a very smart aussie friend of mine - they call him froggie, I call him Mende - that during one of the recent fall 2006 shows, Bob Dylan for the first time ever played few notes of a song he never performed before in his entire life, Farewell, Angelina, before going into When the Deal Goes Down.



http://www.files.eocfu.com/uploads/dealgoesdownboston06II.mp3

I'm doing a bet from more than two years that someday Bob Dylan have to play Farewell, Angelina. I got it, someway or another.

Oh, and in a 3 months he will come to visit me in my city once again. Get ready for Farewell, Angelina.

Can't help falling in love with you

Morire sulla tazza del gabinetto non è esattamente una morte da re. Morire perché da giorni non riesci ad evacuare, e lo sforzo è tale da pr...