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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at The Theater at Madison Square Garden

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Last week Robert Plant was quoted in the Village Voice as saying that America “needs to hear its music.” Leave it to a Brit to tell us what we need. Plant’s condescension aside, he is right. The former Led Zeppelin singer’s recent album and tour with Alison Krauss, which stopped at the Theater at Madison Square Garden last night, prove that he is doing more than just talking the talk. About halfway through the show, Plant, humble and gracious throughout, paid homage to those American musicians who came before, telling the crowd “If it weren’t for Chicago and Mississippi, I wouldn’t even be here right now.”

Plant gets it. All the amazing musicians who shared the stage with him get it. He is right though – more Americans need to get it.

It’s hard to claim that popular music today has largely forgotten its roots. How can any music become untied from its history when, consciously or not, it is a product, a direct descendent of that history? Take rap music for example. Where would rap music be without James Brown, Bo Diddley (think “Who do You Love?”), Muddy Waters, and even Elvis and his televised gyrations? But, is rap conscious of its ties to history? Despite heavy use of samples, the answer is largely, no. Popular music across the board has lost its ties to the deep past. This would be okay (after all innovation is a good thing) if it weren’t for the fact that American music’s original soul, the soul that makes it exceptional in the truest sense of the word, has been largely flushed out as well.

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 6th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks talking about remixes — their origins, their value, their potential — and how sometimes the remix(es) of a song are just better than the originally recorded version. Today I’m giving you three different examples of this idea, but by picking three different remixes of the same song: Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes,” (listen to the original version here) which was the first single off of his epic “last album,” The Black Album. While I loved The Black Album on the whole, “Change Clothes” is among my least favorite songs on it, and I admit I was moderately horrified when it appeared as the debut single off icon Jay-Z’s supposed farewell to Hip Hop. He’s goin’ out like THIS?? Naw. Can’t be, I remember thinking. Well luckily, as it turns out, he wasn’t goin’ out at all.

1. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Pink Album Remix)

The Black Album is probably the most remixed album of all time due to the (intentional) release of an a capella version, which provided all of Jay’s vocals with none of the Black Album beats behind them. This allowed everyone from top-flight producers like Just Blaze, to wannabes and Garageband users the same remixing ability. Though the most well-known of these remix attempts is undoubtedly Danger Mouse‘s The Grey Album (a mash up of Jay’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album), I’ve never bought into the idea that it was the best of the remixes. In my opinion, one of the best attempts (if not the best), is The Pink Album. For a long time after it first came out, the Pink Album remained a mystery work by an unknown producer (or producers) — though the Internets were ablaze with speculation (even Kanye West’s name was mentioned) — but more recently the Pink Album has been clearly attributed to the team of Hasan Insane and DJ Mills (though which DJ Mills — there are multiple — is not as clear), as the former is now actually selling cuts off the Pink Album on his MySpace page. In any case, the album is great, and “Change Clothes” is definitely among the standout remixes, as the original version’s Neptunes-produced pop appeal is toned down slightly by a new, smoother, Jay-Z friendly beat.

2. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Purple Album Remix)

The Purple Album is another great take on Jay-Z’s Black Album, as it uses tracks and sounds taken exclusively from Prince’s Purple Rain and creates almost entirely new beats with them. I either don’t know or can’t remember who’s responsible for this one, there are just too many Black Album remixes to keep track, though DJ Quest and K12 both come up as possible candidates. Either way, mixing an already pop-oriented song with Prince certainly doesn’t make it any more hood, but it most definitely makes it much better, and a hell of a lot more fun to listen to. This is one of those tracks that when you throw it on a party, half the people in the room (Jay-Z fans or not) will look at you and go, “Where the hell did you get this?” It’s a completely different take on the Black Album, and one that I think works pretty gloriously. As long as you don’t try to take it to seriously. Oh, and if Reasonable Doubt is the only Jay-Z album you listen to, you’re not gonna like this one bit.

3. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Black Chronic Remix)

The Black Chronic is probably among the most understandable (in terms of knowing what it is you’re hearing) Black Album remixes. Done by the Bash Brothers, it’s actually more of direct mash up than a remix, taking the rhymes from the Black Album and laying them over all the sick beats from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 masterpiece. In this particular song, “Change Clothes” is mashed with the hard and heavy beat from Dre’s “Fuck You,” and it works out quite well. Unlike mixing the Black Album with a Prince album, mixing it with something that carries the street-cred and street-sound of a Dr. Dre album definitely turns “Change Clothes” into an entirely different song, transforming it from chart-friendly “hip-pop” back into a legitimate hip hop song. Funny thing is, it really does work too. Problem solved.

JustJake’s Picks

This week’s picks have been a long time coming. They are all from my hands-down, desert-island-choose-one-and-only-one, favorite group, The Band. Eric Clapton said about the group’s seminal first album: “Back in 1968 I heard a record called Music from Big Pink and it changed my life and the course of American music.” Legend has it that it’s the reason he left Cream. But don’t take Clapton’s word for it, here are three picks (and it’s hard to pick only three) off that record.

1. The Band – Long Black Veil

This song is simply tremendous. Written in the 1950’s and originally recorded by country legend Lefty Frizzell, “Long Black Veil” is a haunting tale from beyond the grave that sounds as old as the hills. The organs, tubas, and harpsichord that The Band uses add to the song’s strangeness and emotion without taking it out of dirt and grit that give it its soul. This album has very few songs on it that sound like anything that came before, but “Long Black Veil” serves almost as a reminder from The Band that it knows where it comes from and cares about its roots.

2. The Band – Chest Fever

As the story goes, Garth Hudson, The Band’s organist, horn player, and musical guru originally had to tell his family that he was giving his fellow band members music lessons instead of playing in a rock n roll band. Hudson was raised as a serious classical musician and even jazz was blasphemous. His talents remain to this day and you can still find him making strange music on strange instruments, sounding part seafaring, part space exploring. Hudson was responsible for much of ornamental details and subtle touches in The Band’s music that ultimately help give it its depth. While on tour, this song became Hudson’s time to play around. For an idea of what that was like check out this grainy but amazing video from Wembley Stadium (1974).

3. The Band – I Shall Be Released

The last song on Big Pink, “I Shall Be Released” is one of three on the album either written or co-written by Bob Dylan, who The Band backed before striking out on their own. Richard Manuel was one of three amazingly talented singers in the group (Levon Helm and Rick Danko being the others) and his falsetto (and piano) on this track is both eerie and beautiful. The space stands out in this song almost as much as the music itself does; there’s a pervasive sense of loneliness, as if the song were recorded in a giant empty cell.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 2nd, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. The Misfits – Skulls

You’ve seen the Misfits logo everywhere. You don’t need to know punk all that well to recognize that familiar skull. It’s become such a logo for mischief, that I feel as if plenty of kids who don it haven’t even heard a Misfits song. But they should! The Misfits (straight out of Jersey!) are a really important element to punk. Their dark and sinister lyrics made themselves innovators of horror punk, and probably the prelude to goth rock. Though let’s not really even begin to pigeon-hole them with goth-I’m just speaking about dark lyrics. And anyhow, their songs are far too catchy for that anyhow! “I Want your Skullllllllllllllllll. I NEEEEEEEEED your skkkkkkkkkuuuuuuulllllllllllll.” And Danzig’s voice is amazing- he’s like a punk tenor!

2. Suicidal Tendencies – Institutionalized

All I wanted was just one Pepsi!……I feel like this is my 4th song I’m using from the Repo Man Soundtrack. Not sure if that’s totally true, but it might be. That soundtrack is legit! Annnnnyhow, Suicidal Tendencies are skater hardcore 4 life! Usually their songs are ridiculously fast, and ranting about either how depressing life can be as a youth or Reagan. I respect that. This song is pretty slow for them, except for the chorus. Maybe we can call it their ballad? I find that amusing. I’ve been feeling kinda crazy recently, so I went with this classic. I feel like this song is written for me….Listen to all the lyrics, they’re thoroughly amusing. [Here’s an excerpt: Sometimes I try to do things but it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to, and I get real frustrated and then like I try hard to do it, and I like, take my time but it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to. Its like, I concentrate on it real hard, but it just doesn’t work out. And everything I do and everything I try, it never turns out. Its like, I need time to figure these things out, but theres always someone there going “hey mike, you know we’ve been noticing you’ve been having a lot of problems lately, you know? You need to maybe get away. And like, maybe you should talk about it, you’ll feel a lot better.” And I’m all like “oh, nah, its ok, you know. I’ll figure it out. Just leave me alone, I’ll figure it out, you know? I’m just working on it by myself.]

3. Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike

OK. After just going over the last two songs, I realize how ludicrous this song is. It’s like wuss central. I feel like I read somewhere (American Hardcore?), how this old punker couldn’t understand Pearl Jam, because it was everything he was running away from in the 70’s. But this song is classic. This is truly my generation of music. This is one of the most underrated songs of the 90’s. And I feel like the only reason for that is because nobody knows if it’s Soundgarden or Pearl Jam. Well it’s Temple Of the Dog- Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden) and Pearl Jam. But Vedder and Cornell share the vocal parts, which turned out just heavenly (Say Hello 2 Heaven!). This whole album is pretty stellar, but I’d say this is the highlight. Great riff and great vocals. What else can I say?

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wiz Khalifa – Say Yeah

I got an email not long ago from an old DJ friend anxiously, but nervously, alerting me to the existence of this song. The motivation for his email had nothing to do with the quality of the track, but rather what it might mean to me. See, “Say Yeah” samples liberally from what I consider to be one of the biggest and most important trance records of all time, Alice DeeJay’s “Better Off Alone,” produced by Dutchmen Pronti & Kalamani. I happened to be in Paris in 1998 when “Better Off Alone” first dropped. (It didn’t reach the States for quite a while). And although I was already DJing at that point, playing mostly hip hop and reggae, this song was what made me fall in love with trance music, and I’ve never been able to shake the addiction, nor all the baggage that comes with it. Anyway, I scrounged as many copies as I could get my hands on from DJs and record shops all over Paris, and brought them all back to New York with me, proudly claiming “Better Off Alone” as my song to any DJ that would listen. And for a short time, it was. Now, ten years later, thanks to relatively unknown producer Johnny Juliano, it provides the infectious melody for Wiz Khalifa’s banger, “Say Yeah.” So with mixed emotions, here it is.

2. Plies Feat. Ne-Yo – Bust It Baby Pt. 2

The past few weeks I’ve used the Friday Writers’ Bloc space to make picks that were in some way related to whatever I’d written that week. This time around, I’m just selecting three new tracks — all hot — that I’m really feelin’, and that I think are going to be on everyone’s radar pretty soon. To be honest, my favorite thing about Plies other than his nonsensical stage name — what the hell does Plies mean? Anyone? — is his amazing real name: Algernod Lanier Washington. That’s right, Algernod. How he gets Plies out of Algernod I do not know. But I do know that when I first heard his debut hit, “Shawty” featuring T-Pain, last year, I liked what I heard. Since then Plies has moved quickly up the hip hop ladder, appearing on DJ Khaled’s “I’m So Hood” and Rick Ross’ official “Speedin'” remix, and going gold with his first album, The Real Testament. “Bust It Baby Pt. 2” is a surefire hit, with a ridiculous beat from the ever-popular Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem, and an perfectly catchy hook from Ne-Yo, whose nickname should probably be Midas by now. Oh, and did I mention Plies is incredibly handsome?

3. Tyga Feat. Travis McCoy – Coconut Juice

Since it was just about 80 degrees last week in New York, not to mention the fact that we’re into May, I’m starting to feel summer coming on hard. I’m also starting to think that we’re going to be hearing Tyga’s debut single, “Coconut Juice,” all summer long. It could be “that song” that just seems to represent summer, with it’s summery, tropical, umbrella-in-your-drink, party feel. And frankly, it could be worse: I seem to remember being stuck with with “Shake Ya Tailfeather” from Nelly, Diddy, and Murphy Lee during the summer of 2003 thanks to the release of Bad Boys 2. And that song was just insufferably awful. At least Tyga’s a young, new artist with a clever, and well-timed debut song. He may be 18 years old and straight outta Compton, but don’t worry — he ain’t hard: Tyga is the younger cousin of Gym Class Heroes MC Travis McCoy, who is featured on “Coconut Juice,” and is apparently friendly with Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. And we all know that just ain’t gangsta. Not even a little bit. Anyway, enjoy this potential summer hit, preemptively.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Doc Watson – Deep River Blues

It’s hard to pick out a single song that showcases all of Doc Watson’s talents. There are hundreds to choose from. “Deep River Blues,” off Doc’s 1964 eponymous album, is as good as any. Listen to the guitar style that strolls alongside you as you hear the words. This sound influenced countless young bluegrass and country pickers like Bryan Sutton, Tony Rice, and Norman Blake. Even if you look down on country music, it’s hard not to appreciate the unique sounds coming out of this blind man’s guitar.

2. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Toothbrush and My Table

Over the past four years or so, this band led by the soulful, sexy, and supremely talented Grace Potter has become a staple on the jamband circuit. Don’t let that fool you though, they don’t really jam and have evolved into a full-fledged rock band. The band’s most recent album This is Somewhere left much of their soulful roots behind. But, this track from 2005’s Nothing But the Water is Grace at her best. Try and resist the song’s sultry groove.

3. Sufjan Stevens – Ring Them Bells

Every so often a song grabs me and wont let go. I’m usually blindsided and subsequently spin the tune until it loses all its luster. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard. Well, for the moment, this song, off the soundtrack to the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic flop I’m Not There, has got me. Sufjan’s cover of the relatively obscure Dylan song from his 1989 album Oh Mercy is a bright spot on what is otherwise a fairly lackluster soundtrack. But, it’s more than that. It is a modern-day genius’ transformation of a song that, in its original state is mediocre at best. In spite of (or maybe because of) its religious overtones, the song transcends. Oh, and its got one of the best guitar tracks in a pop song I’ve ever heard.

roswellmueller’s Picks

1. Paul Simon – The Cool, Cool River

You may not like Paul Simon, and you may like Paul Simon from the 80’s even less – but thats probably because you never listened to Rhythm of the Saints. While it reached #4 on the charts when released, the album didn’t lend itself to heavy radio-play – only generating one successful single – and has since been undeservedly lost in the shuffle of the years. Aside from maybe The Soft Bulletin, I don’t think there’s an album I enjoy listening all the way through more often. For shear listen-ability and album cohesion I would have to rank it as one of my all time favorite records. Give it a try – it won’t disappoint.

2. Kraftwerk – Computer Love

I’m including this for several reasons. One, I love this song, album, and Kraftwerk in general. These guy’s invented a genre of music and since then, very few people – if any – have come close to doing it better. Two, I heard that abominable Coldplay song (Talk) again the other day and felt a moral obligation to share the original with those who haven’t heard it. Also, way to go on calling the melding of sex and computers all the way back in 1981.

3. Beirut – Nantes

After a friend’s mix-tape introduced me to the band last year, I’ve been getting into their latest album – The Flying Club Cup – over the past few weeks. This song is an early/obvious favorite and a good introduction into the vaguely nostalgic, slightly foreign, but decidedly interesting sound cultivated by Zach Condon across two albums and an EP in between. Any attempt on my part to go deeper would be a sub-par parroting of the pitchfork review, but I will caution that while there are high points on Beirut’s albums there is a certain over-reaching quality to the music – it almost relishes in its foreignness – that smacks of the worst kind of smugness. That said, this is a great song.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 18th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. X – Nausea

I just ate a few tacos, so I figured I would pull out my anthem that I sing when I’m nauseous-Nausea. Along with bands like the Germs, X was part of the first wave of punk that found LA. Both those bands, as well as previously featured FEAR all were a big part of “The Decline of Western Civilization.” X had a real edge, but a lot of their stuff had plenty leftovers of New Wave dropped in. This is off their first album, Los Angeles, produced by the Door’s Ray Manzarek.

2. Bad Religion – White Trash (2nd Generation)

I was just having a discussion with a friend about the LA punkers- Bad Religion. Among kids our age, they’re most known for their poppy punk anthems that they’ve been putting out the past ten years on KROQ. It’s hard for many to believe that these guys were part of the first Hardcore movement in the states. But after examining their name and their iconic logo it’s no surprise. Their first album “How Could Hell Be Any Worse” was classic hardcore. Too bad they followed the album with “Into the Unknown”, a crappy prog-rock record that absolutely destroyed their punk cred. They came back afterwards, with “Back to the Known” in a form that is more recognizable now, but the hardcore was all gone. If you want to talk to the band, check out a UCLA Life Science lecture where you’ll find the lead singer teaching!

3. The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave

Full of changing and unique DIY lighting, as well as frequent costume changes, these guys are great to see live. But their great on tape too. These guys’ run as a small time LA Smell band is on it’s last legs. I’m pretty certain they’re about to blow up at any moment. After featuring albums with 30 or so spastic 30 sec to 1 min explosions, they’ve settled down to more chewable 2-3 min songs. Their newest album “Hlllyh”, should be hitting the radio at any time. Going between 80’s 8 bit keyboards, chanting sing alongs, a little punk, and great chorus’s, it should be no wonder why they’ll do great everywhere. This song is catchy as hell, and already has a great video. My only question is, how are people going to receive their lyrics? After seeing them a bunch live, I’m pretty certain they’re being satirical, but we’ll see how everybody else receives it

Jonathan’s Picks

1. The Game – Big Dreams

I gotta come clean. I’m an East Coast guy. New York born and bred. Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas — those were my guys growing up. Sure I liked ‘Pac, Dre, and Snoop, and I even respected ’em. But they just never held the same water with me. After ‘Pac passed, Dre stopped making albums, and Snoop signed with Master P’s No Limit Records, West Coast Hip Hop was dead. (My apologies to Xzibit, but you don’t count in this category). But in 2004, my (forced) move to Los Angeles coincided almost perfectly with the arrival of a young, brash, fast-rising West Coast rapper called The Game. Ever since I heard The Documentary in 2005, I have anxiously anticipated his every release, and Doctor’s Advocate did not disappoint. In fact it merely succeeded in raising the bar to an unthinkable level for a sophomore album. The Game and Lil Wayne are by far the two most exciting and interesting young rappers in today’s hip hop community, each with a legitimate chance to become a legend in his own right, and eventually achieve O.G. status. “Big Dreams” is the first single from The Game’s upcoming album, L.A.X., which is due out this June. I can’t even pretend I’m not excited.

2. Rick Ross – The Boss

Since I’m being honest this week, I admit that after Rick Ross’ (undeniably hot, but semi-ridiculous) debut single, “Hustlin”” was released in 2006, I thought that would surely be the last we heard of the always meticulously unshaven drug dealer-turned rapper. Yet another “One Hit Wonder” going by the wayside, drifting quietly out into the waters of the Port of Miami. But clearly, I was very wrong. Ross struck Gold with his first album, and is aiming even higher on his second, the recently released and succinctly titled, Trilla, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, beating out both Snoop Dogg’s Ego Trippin’ and Fat Joe’s (aptly titled) Elephant in the Room. That’s serious business, as Ross took out two hip hop vets in one week. Though I wasn’t grabbed by Trilla’s first single, “Speedin'” featuring R. Kelly, I simply cannot get enough of Ross’ second single off the new album, “The Boss,” featuring T-Pain, and produced by Los Angeles-based hitmaker, Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem. I like bumpin’ this one as loud as possible, and I suggest you do the same.

3. Day26 – Got Me Going

Who the hell is Day26, you ask? Well that’s an excellent and fair question, since chances are they will never be very important or well known. Day26 is the newly formed R&B group from Diddy and his Bad Boy Records imprint, which came together on the fourth try, uh…I mean fourth season, of MTV’s Making the Band. It seems like it took a lot longer than that. (Note: Sorry to interrupt, but is that not the worst name for an R&B group you’ve ever heard? I really can’t think of anything worse. Day26?? It’s inane). Anyway, despite the awful name, and the overwrought production of the band itself, Day26 and its self-titled debut album hit the top of the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of sales. Wow. Okay then. “Got Me Going” is their first single off the album, and come to think of it, it’s their first single off anything at all. Are they any good? Well, you be the judge of that.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Jimmy Martin – Sophronie

Jimmy Martin was the king. He said so, and not too many people disagreed (well, maybe Bill Monroe). Martin was one of those larger than life types and this song showcases his rhinestone-suited swagger even as he sings about heartbreak and loneliness. That’s one of the beauties of bluegrass music: when it’s sad it’s still so fast that you’d never know it. Off of the Monroe tree, Martin played bluegrass right and is a great introduction for anyone not familiar with the genre.

2. Solomon Burke – That’s How I Got To Memphis

Solomon Burke is not related to Jimmy Martin but he is also a king. He performs in a crown, has a scepter, and sits in a throne on stage. The much underappreciated King of Soul released a mindblowingly soulful album (Nashville) in 2006 and this is the first track. Oh, and he’s been doing this for over sixty years, starting as a teenage preacher in Philadelphia, and somehow amassing like thirty kids along the way. When I saw him last year he couldn’t get out of his throne due to his tremendous size and age but still managed to hand out a red rose to every woman in the audience who wanted one, and probably could have bedded any one of them. Truly an amazing man and an amazing song.

3. The Million Dollar Quartet – Just a Little Talk With Jesus

Speaking of kings, Elvis and a few friends recorded this song in an impromptu jam session at Sun Records in 1956. You may have heard of his friends: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Most of the songs are filled with amazing banter and priceless stories like the one about being on the road with some guy named Chuck Berry. This is one of the few songs where the quartet plays uninterrupted. The quality isn’t anything to write home about but, come on, it’s Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

Carman’s Picks

Bob Dylan hat trick (been watching hockey highlights on SportsCenter) today from yours truly. Why? Well I’ve been inspired lately after watching Todd Haynes’ excellent I’m Not There for the second time and his recent Pulitzer Prize award. Oh yeah, and coincidentally you can tune in to my radio show this evening from 6-8 PST for a special Bob Dylan marathon at UCLAradio.com for our pledge drive. Give us your money!

1. Bob Dylan – Queen Jane Approximately

Quite possibly my favorite Dylan tune, nothing tops this tune for the sheer amount of vitriol that his drawl exudes in this song. Not even “Positively 4th Street.” It serves as a nice companion piece to “Like A Rolling Stone” on his magnum opus of Highway 61 Revisited. After the indignation and jeering of “Like A Rolling Stone,” he returns to the subject of the song with “Queen Jane Approximately” almost pointing and laughing while saying, “I knew you’d come crawling back.” Whether that “you” was Edie Sedgwick, Joan Baez, or his fans that abandoned him after proclaiming him as Judas, it doesn’t change the song one bit.

2. Bob Dylan – 4th Time Around

I think John Lennon took himself a little too seriously with “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” So seriously that he got a little upset when Dylan knocked off this little parody of it on his double-album monster of Blonde On Blonde. John, you should’ve been at least honored that he even acknowledged the damn song.

3. Bob Dylan with The Rolling Thunder Revue – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Live)

While I’m not entirely sold on the Rolling Thunder Revue performances of Dylan’s classic songs, this one was a standout to me on the Live 1975 set released in 2002 by Columbia. From a simple protest song came a reinvention of a Dylan classic that the carnival atmosphere of the tour turned into a riot of a performance that perfectly captured the leftover feelings of the conflict in Vietnam that had ended only months before the tour took off. The monstrosity of the conflict still loomed large in the minds of the West, and the anger and shame certainly did not die off.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

But do the Words Matter?

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If you’ve ever seen The Graduate you probably remember the scene where Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) is franticly driving his Alfa Romeo convertible through tunnels and fields to try and break up Elaine’s wedding. You probably also remember that throughout the scene, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” is playing in the background. What you may not remember, though, is that, as the song plays in the film there is only one chorus and no verses, just some “Dee da dee’s.” The reason being, Paul Simon hadn’t written the words yet. When he did get around to putting lyrics down, “Mrs. Robinson,” whose tune was already familiar to anyone who saw the film, went to number one on the charts and became the group’s second major hit after “Sounds of Silence.”

When asked in a recent interview why “Mrs. Robinson” became such a huge success, Art Garfunkel answered that he didn’t know but that all big hits have something about their rhythm that just appeals to people. Sure, Garfunkel wasn’t the lyricist of the group, but his statement does make you wonder if half of such a lyrically-rooted supergroup concedes that songs connect to people because of their rhythm and not their words, then where does that leave lyrics in the broader sense? How important were the lyrics to “Mrs. Robinson’s” success? Does it matter what we, the listeners, are singing along to?

It’s easy to come up with examples of music where lyrics play second fiddle to a song’s overall feel (not to mention all the instrumental songs out there). Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Pearl Jam’s “Evenflow,” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” are just a few random examples of this. But even with songs where we can understand the lyrics (and love them), do we really like the song because of what it is saying, or are we most drawn to it because of how the song says it?

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Written by JustJake

April 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm