elmergantry

' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Category: Dylan

Bob Dylan’s One-Sided Folk Process

In his rather unpleasant Rolling Stone interview in advance of the release of the musically mediocre and lyrically shoddy Tempest, Bob Dylan claimed that ‘in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It’s true for everybody, but me. I mean, everyone else can do it but not me. There are different rules for me.’
Given his expression of that opinion, one would expect that he would be relaxed and forgiving in relation to other artists who quoted from his own work. Indeed, a one-sided ‘folk process’ would be an obvious contradiction in terms.
Yet, in reality, this seems to be the way in which Dylan operates- for example, this is what happened when Hootie and the Blowfish quoted from ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ (in this case after making it clear that the lines were ‘borrowed’):
http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=490

Discovered this fact from this quite judicious article:

http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/12/bob-dylan-and-plagiarism/

The details of the settlement between the two parties can be found here (Bob’s signature appears prominently on it, so he cannot put all of the responsibility on his lawyers):
http://entertainment.ha.com/itm/music-memorabilia/autographs-and-signed-items/bob-dylan-and-hootie-and-the-blowfish-signed-agreement-total-2-items-/a/7006-50043.s#47584758096
There are also some rumours around that Bob threatened Rod Stewart with a plagiarism suit over the latter’s song, ‘Forever Young’:

http://rulefortytwo.com/2009/06/18/1988-countdown-68-rod-stewart-forever-young/

Apparently, he was eventually given a songwriter credit on that rather abysmal song…

How Bob’s quotes from the Rolling Stone article fit in with his actions in both of these cases, I leave the readers of this piece to judge

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Dylan-Joni Mitchell feud – Revisited

A quick update to my previous post in which I referred to Joni Mitchell’s claim that she had had a conversation with Bob where he had said that many of his more recent songs had been written by “the box”. She then said to him “What do you mean ‘the box’?” and he replied “I write down things from movies and things I’ve heard people say and I throw them in the box.”

Did not know at the time that Larry Charles, who collaborated with Dylan on Masked and Anonymous, had actually seen ‘the box”. Here is his description of it:

“The first thing he did, and this gives an illustration of how his mind works, he had this box on the table. He opened it and dumped out the box. It was all these little scraps of paper, stationery from all around the world. And on each scrap of paper was an aphorism or a line or a name of somebody. He dumped it out and said, ‘I don’t know what to do with all this.’

“I started looking and I said, ‘This can be a line of dialog. And this could be the person’s name who says the dialog.’ He was like, ‘You can do that?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I realized that’s how he writes songs. He has all these fragments and he weaves the fragments until they become poetry. It’s kind of automatic writing or the cut-up technique William Burroughs used. That’s how we started to write that script actually. It was a very organic, very stream of consciousness process.

The full interview from which this quote comes can be found here:
http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/blogs/152114935.html

Dylan Sings while Rachaninov Swings

Further to my recent post, it seems that the Sinatra song, Full Moon and Empty Arms’, is based on a theme from the third movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto.

It can be heard here from about 2.14 onwards:

A theme from its second movement also formed the basis for Eric Carmen’s dreadful ‘All By Myself’, but we won’t hold Sergei responsible for that.

Bob’s fine and quietly dignified version of ‘Restless Farwell’ at Sinatra’s eightieth birthday ‘do’ can be seen here:

http://www.mojo4music.com/10252/bob-dylan-serenades-sinatra-at-80/

Full Moon and Empty Arms

Just listened to Dylan’s cover of Sinatra’s ‘Full Moon and Empty Arms’ here:

http://www.bobdylan.com/de/home

It is a superb cover and is one of his best vocal performances in a long long time.

For comparison’s sake, here is the Sinatra version (an excellent one, of course):

And another version by the great Erroll Garner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq9hVrLtY_I

 

 

 

Don’t Think Twice Revisited – Again

Have been looking further into the origins of Paul Clayton’s ‘Who’s gonna buy your Ribbons’ and have come up with a few new ‘leads’, as it were.

Especially after the contributions here from Jaan Kolk on ‘Gotta Travel On’, I have come to the conclusion that Clayton’s original songs were usually based on a range of sources -in effect, having a patchwork quality, which, ironically enough, is similar to the way in which Bob Dylan writes songs today…

Bearing this in mind, it seems that the formulation ‘sit and sigh’ was a pretty common one in folksongs – in a quick search, I found it used in “Lady Margaret” –
‘My hounds will eat o’ the bread of wheat
and ye of the bread o’bran
And then yo’will sit and sigh
That e’er ye loved a man’

It is also used in the song, the ‘Faerie’s Love Song’:
‘Why should I sit and sigh?
Pullin’ bracken, pullin’ bracken
Why should I sit and sigh,
On a hillside weary?’

The lines about the ‘long lonesome road’ and being forced to ‘travel on’ in Clayton’s song may also owe something to this song, ‘The Lonesome Road’, which was recorded by Gene Austin in 1927. In an ironic twist, Bob Dylan was to use part of the lytic of that song in his ‘Sugar Baby’.

Here is Gene Austin’s version of the song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5AM8xtl-uU

and this is Bing Crosby’s, recorded in 1938:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB3CRO9WL10

Clayton also recorded his own version of ‘Lonesome Road’ on his classic album of dulcimer songs and solos. He claimed to have learned this version – which he suggested was the original that was followed by the other more commercial versions – from ‘Negro sources in Bedford County, Virginia”.

This version can be heard here:

Surnames and Placenames: More Songs about Cities, Towns & People

I know I said the last one was the ‘final’ themed post, but due to widespread popular apathy, have decided to add another.

1. Will start with The Blasters< 'Marie, Marie":

2. Dave Alvin, 'Gary Indiana 1959":

3. Orange Juice, 'Felicity":

Living in Australia, had to include a few Sheila's
4. Eric Andersen, 'Shelia':

5. The Smiths, 'Sheila, Take a Bow':

6. Kevin Coyne, "Marlene":

7. Elton John, 'Daniel': Can take or leave a lot of Elton John's music, but have always liked this:

8. Gilbert O'Sullivan, 'Claire": Classic pop from the best Paul McCartney wannabe:

9. The Beatles, 'Julia":

10. Bob Dylan, 'To Ramona":

11. Paul Clayton, 'Geordie'
Sample here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geordie-Georgie/dp/B001HCL5ZE

12. Chuck Berry, 'Memphis, Tennessee':

13. Johnny Duhan, 'Molly':
Sample here: .amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_srch_drd_B0012E4AIQ?ie=UTF8&field-keywords=Johnny Duhan&index=digital-music&search-type=ss

14. Ralph McTell, 'From Clare to Here':

15. Sean Keane, 'From Galway to Graceland":

16, Randy Newman, 'Marie':

17. Randy Newman, 'Baltimore":

‘Time’s Revenges and Revenge’s Time’: A Theme Time 45 Minutes (or thereabouts) – Part 1

This is the fourth ‘theme time’ instalment. In it, I have included those songs with a substantial historical element under the ‘time’ label. Unlike in earlier instalments, I have also included two songs from those artists who, in my opinion, have handled such themes particularly effectively

So, here goes

1. Phil Ochs, ‘Changes”:

——-, ‘Links on the Chain”:

Apparently ‘Changes’ was one of Drake’s favourite sings

2. Nick Drake, “Time has told me’

—–, ‘Time of no reply’:

3. Bob Dylan, ‘Blind Willie McTell’:

—–, ‘Girl from the Red River Shore’:

http://www.pandora.com/bob-dylan/tell-tale-signs-bootleg-series-vol-8/red-river-shore-736-unreleased-time-out-of-mind (sample only)

4. The Kinks, ‘Victoria’:

—–’Days’:

5. Howlin Wolf, ‘The Natchez Burning”;

6. John Lee Hooker, ‘Tupelo’:

7. Bert Jansch, ‘There comes a time”

——, ‘The Ornament Tree’:

8. Merle Haggard. ‘When times were good’:

8. Dick Gaughan, ‘The World Turned Upside Down’:

9. Pete Seeger, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn”:

——, ‘Guantanamera’:

10. Woody Guthrie, ’1913 Massacre”;

11. The Clash, “Spanish Bombs”:

12. Edwyn Collins and Frank Roussel, ‘Time”:

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Shadows & Light – A Theme Time 45 Minutes or thereabouts

Have decided to include colours in the definition of ’light’, so here goes…

Will start with Bob Dylan’s favourite Lightfoot song…

1. Gordon Lightfoot ‘Shadows’:

Will follow it with another ‘Canadien Errant’:

2. Joni Mitchell, ‘Shadows and Light”:

3. Rory Gallagher, ‘Shadowplay’:

4. Joy Division, ‘Shadowplay”:

5. Rowland S. Howard, ‘Autoluminescent’:

6. REM, ‘Green grow the Rushes O”

7. Orange Juice, ‘Blue boy’:

8. Bob Dylan, ‘Its all over now, Baby Blue”:

9. Roy Orbison, ‘Blue Bayou”:

10. Eric Andersen, ‘Blue River”:

11. Michael Martin Murphey, ‘Red River Valley”:

12. Joe Heaney, ‘Roisin Dubh’:

133. Christy Moore, ‘Black is the Colour”:

14. The Pogues, ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’:

15. Lal Waterson, ‘Red Wine Promises”:

16. Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze”:

‘Home Before Dark’: A Theme Time 15 Minutes – Part Two

Should add that I named the original post after one of my favourite books of all time, Susan Cheever’s great memoir about her father, John Cheever. In my opinion, Cheever is, perhaps – along with Raymond Carver and Richard Ford – the best American short story writer.

Have been thinking about songs with ‘Home’ in the title or as a theme and have come up with these additions to the list:

1. Rory Gallagher ‘Philby’ – Rory’s great song about not having a home:

2. Robert Johnson, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’:

3. These are, I think, alternative versions of the same original song (the ‘folk process’, as it were), but they show clearly the differences between these two fine artists:
Paul Clayton, ‘Home, Dearie, Home’:

There is a sample of this song here:
http://www.pandora.com/paul-clayton/bay-state-ballads/home-dearie-home

Luke Kelly, ‘Home, Boys, Home’:

4. John Martyn, ‘Baby Please Come Home; – from his greatest album…

5. Mary Gauthier, ‘Can’t Find the Way’ – a great, great song about homelessness:

6. Eric Andersen, ‘Feel like Coming Home”
There is a sample of this song here (it is track 12):
http://www.amazon.com/Beat-Avenue-Eric-Andersen/dp/B000087DRW

7. Bert Jansch, Running from Home’:

8. Bob Dylan.’I was young when I left Home’: Dylan’s great re-working of ’99 Miles”

9. Eric Bibb, ‘New Home’:

Bob Dylan and the ‘Folk Process’ 2

Further to my post yesterday, what I am arguing for here is that a degree of rigour be used when employing terms like the ‘folk process’. In this regard, it is important to remember here that it was coined by Charles Seeger specifically in relation to folk music and that it was a contribution to a broader debate about the existence of variant forms of individual ballads in different countries. It was also primarily designed to refer to the oral transmission of such ballads and their subsequent adaptation to local circumstances when they reached new areas.

In recent debates, this concept is often linked in a loose way with vague references to ‘postmodernism’ etc, but this is a dangerous conflation (in my view) of two distinct ideas…

By definition, most folk songs can hardly be ‘postmodern’ since they pre-date ‘modernity’ and the author can hardly die when one does not exist or at least can never be traced…

However, it does seem to me that some of Dylan’s early songs can fit well within the definition of the ‘folk process’, loosely defined, as, for example, with the re-working of ‘Lord Randal’ into ‘A Hard Rain’…

But this type of definition becomes far slippier if we move to a song like ‘When the deal goes down’, which is a re-working of a conveniently out-of-copyright Bing Crosby song ‘Where the Blue of the Night’ which also includes (again) conveniently out of copyright lines from the poet, Henry Timrod:

It seems to me that if I were, say, to record a version of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ set to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’, this would hardly be an example of the ‘Folk Process’..

Indeed, Dylan’s recent writing methods have struck me as being much closer to unacknowledged borrowing than it is to any version of that ‘process’. It also strikes me as being more related to a dearth of genuine inspiration than to the creative adaptation which lay at the heart of the transmission of the old ballads.