Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead – “No Surprises (acoustic/live at Electric Lady Studios)”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 265
Wed. Dec 18, 2013

“No Surprises (acoustic/live at Electric Lady Studios)”
Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead

2003

“♫ Get
me out
of here
♫”

I always thought that “No Surprises” should’ve been the theme song of 1999’s American Beauty. The lyrics and mood of Radiohead’s song match Sam Mendes film and especially Kevin Spacey’s main character Lester Burnham’s impressions of his own disappointed life. Lester has the ideal life, living in the suburbs with his wife and daughter, car, house, money but he’s miserable. It’s as if Mendes and Thom Yorke were in their own ways united in trying to show the world that there’s more to life than just money, possessions and social status. I always saw Beauty and “No Surprises” as the soundtrack for the loss of the antiquated notion of the modern American Dream.

I was actually stunned to discover, according to Thom Yorke, “No Surprises” was the first song Radiohead recorded for OK Computer. Radiohead’s front-man told Mojo Magazine, “We’d brought all this gear, put it all together and it was literally the first time everything was plugged in. We pressed the button, the red light came on and that was ‘No Surprises’. The take on the album is exactly how we played it, bar for a few small fixings. But we did six different versions of it afterwards, ‘that bass-line’s not quite right’ and this, that and the other—being anal. We went back to the first take in the end, because we’d discovered during recording that it’s about catching the moment, and fuck whether there’s no mistakes or not.”

According to Radiohead’s guitarist Ed O’Brien, the band were attempting to capture a child like innocence on “No Surprises” backing track as he explained to Melody Maker in 1997, “It was meant to be like a nursery rhyme. Strangely, it was the very first song we did for the album. Didn’t exactly set the tone, did it? If it had been the first single it wouldn’t have been a very true representation of the album. It’s a bit like Louie Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’.” You can hear it with Jonny’s guitar riff, it’s very childlike, dreamy and ultra cinematic. That’s why I was so surprised, no pun intended, that director Sam Mendes didn’t contact Radiohead to use “No Surprises” for his 1999 film. If you think about it, this OK Computer track completely matches the themes of alienated disappointed in American Beauty.


Matching the nursery rhyme vibe, O’Brien also shared another inspiration to the sound of “No Surprises” when Ed revealed Guitar World in 1998, “We do try to be diverse. The guitar sound on ‘No Surprises’ was supposed to harken back to [the Beach Boys’] Pet Sounds.” Thom himself was trying to channel the Motown legend and author of such hits as “What’s Going’ On” as the Radiohead singer shared with Humo Magazine in 1997, “We wanted it to have the atmosphere of Marvin Gaye.”

OK Computer was the album where Yorke’s lyrics were the star and “No Surprises” was no exception. According to Mirit Eliraz’s book Band Together: Internal Dynamics of U2, R.E.M, Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “[the band] were “completely floored” when Yorke first played them the words to “No Surprises […] his bandmates, they proudly extol his gifts, particularly as a wordsmith, O’Brien referred to [Thom Yorke] as “the finest British lyricist of our generation.”

“No Surprises” is a lullaby lesson to the new generation to follow the dream occupation and craft that you love. My favorite version is this 2003 rendition that Thom and Jonny performed at Electric Lady Studios. This version is a stripped down more intimate one and sounds as if Thom is whispering his advice like lyrics in your ears. I can’t help but think of Kevin Spacey’s character when I hear, “our generation’s finest British lyricist” Thom Yorke sing, in my favorite part of this 2003 version, “Get me out of here!” It’s as if Radiohead singer is externalizing a lyrical barbaric yawp of everything Spacey’s American Beauty character and every living person in his same situation can’t ever do, admit that the choices he made trying to fulfill this antiquated notion of the modern American dream has left him emotionally bankrupt.


I would love to believe Thom was thinking about a Lester Burnham kind of character when he wrote this OK Computer track that Yorke once described as “No Surprises is someone who’s trying hard to keep it together but can’t.” Why work at a job that slowly kills you, every minute of every day? I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, in fact, I guarantee it’s going to be hard to follow your dream job. Most of the people in your life, family, friends and lovers will tell you you’re crazy and to give up, just like they have. The only true amigos are the ones who support you in whatever endeavored path you choose to follow. The question you are going to have to ask yourself is how are you going to define happiness— with money, love or a craft that will explore your voice and leave your literary legacy with the world?

The morale to both American Beauty and Radiohead’s “No Surprises” is don’t ever settle for any one, any job or anything. Love and thrive in the occupation/craft you were born to do, love a mortal beloved/lover who’s enthralled with your passion and love while appreciating every moment of the life you actually deserve to experience. Whatever path you follow, remember Thom’s lyrical advise but most of all— choose wisely, and whatever you do don’t end up like Lester Burnham, a man who gave in to this false American Dream that possessions would ended up with a dismal life in suburbia of discontent. Here endeth the lesson.

Cat Power – “House of the Rising Sun”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 264
Tues. Dec 17, 2013

“House of the Rising Sun”
Cat Power

2006

“♫ There
is a house
in New
Orleans
♫”

Sometimes songs come to you, only when you’re ready, last night—after watching another wondrous episode of HBO’s Treme, Cat Power’s acoustic rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” found me. When the artist originally known as Chan Marshall sings this vintage ballad that was made famous by The Animals and Bob Dylan it’s like I’m back there in the city of New Orleans I still love that I first called home.

One of the reasons I first discovered Cat Power was her sense of history and the way she would inhabit classic songs when she would cover them. Chan Marshall explained why she loves performing covers songs to Interview Magazine when he said, “The idea of doing a cover song today is usually about novelty or some marketing gimmick. But actually interpreting songs—that’s part of the thread work of the history of music. It’s tradition. When people complain about hip-hop— “Oh, they just copy someone else and it’s the same thing over and over . . .” No, it’s the same shit that we’ve been doing since people first started making songs, whether it be country or jazz or whatever. Everybody has always sung everybody else’s songs. It’s about the song. I don’t care if someone else wants to sing my damned songs. You know, if Bob Dylan hadn’t covered “The Moonshiner,” I would never have heard it or played it. If Eric Burdon hadn’t covered “House of the Rising Sun,” I wouldn’t have ever discovered it or probably have ever sought out the Dylan version. So I hate it when people complain about me doing so many covers. It’s part of a tradition. It’s a part of the craft.”

Speaking of tradition, did you know “Rising Sun” is a long-established southern folk song, legend has it that this ballad was based on a brothel “House” named after Madame Marianne LeSoliel Levant, who’s last name literally translate into “Rising Sun.” While touring with Chuck Berry in the sixties, The Animals covered “Rising Sun,” Eric Burdon explained how his band’s version came to light when he said, “House of the Rising Sun’ is a song that I was just fated to. It was made for me and I was made for it. It was a great song for the Chuck Berry tour because it was a way of reaching the audience without copying Chuck Berry. It was a great trick and it worked. It actually wasn’t only a great trick, it was a great recording. The best aspect of it, I’ve been told, is that Bob Dylan, who was angry at first, turned into a rocker. Dylan went electric in the shadow of The Animals classic ‘House of the Rising Sun.”

Being a Dylan fan, in 2006 the artist originally named Chan Marshall recorded her cover on a Live Sessions EP for I-Tunes. In case you’re wondering how Cat Power selects the songs for her records, she talked the process to Nashville Scene when she explained, “First thing that always happens to any song, it’s like a triad. That’s what I call it in my brain. It’s my guitar, my vocal, and the tempo that I’m strummin’ it. There’s three pieces: The tempo is my beat, the note is my key, and the vocal is the words. I think of things as a triad. Same with Sun — every song started with either a guitar and a vocal, a keyboard and a vocal, a synthesizer and a vocal. It’s always the lyrics, the melody and the tempo first. I want to say that it’s super-normal.”

Chan is far from super-normal, that’s what I love about her, has also kept her an uncompromising recording artist since 1995. Marshall talked about the secret to her longevity with Smart Shanghai, when she said, “To me, music is a trade, like sewing or being a dishwasher, or a nanny or a teacher. It’s a handicraft, like knitting or being a chef. It’s something you do with your hands, it’s a visual. I’ve never really been proud of any of my work in the past but I was proud of this record, so I guess that’s something. Me being proud of myself is a much greater award than I’ve ever had in the past, you know what I’m saying? That’s all that really matters. That’s my success.”

Actually one of the reasons, Chan Marshall is successful is becomes she respects her musical history. During the interviews for her latest album Sun, Marshall had to explain the reasons why she recorded another album of cover songs, i.e. 2008’s Jukebox when she told The Huffington Post, “Well, here’s the thing about that: even with classical music hundreds of years ago, people always played covers. From folk to tribal to Cab Calloway, Cole Porter, Gershwin to the Rolling Stones, whose first record was all covers, to country-western, bebop, blues, and even the referencing in classic hip hop to clichéd love ballads of the 80s or whatever — that is kinda gone, and that’s just terrifying to me. My last album was [the 2008 covers collection] “Jukebox,” and I don’t understand why everyone’s like, “Your last album [“The Greatest,” which featured all original songs] was six years ago, and what took you so long?” It’s like, Well, I busted my ass recording and touring a record called “Jukebox,” and I’ve never been happier recording a record or playing a record before. But it’s an inexcusable thing these days.”

What I respect most about Marshall is her uncompromising nature as an artist who follows her heart and her creative voice. Chan explained why she has remained the outspoken musician, singing cover songs and playing music her own way when she told The Beat Juice, “I think I’ve said it a bunch of times, but it’s important. It’s when I learned that the fluidity about consciousness and awareness is important. When you play music, there is a flow, and if you can continue that validity, making it clear that it’s OK to speak your mind, that’s fucking important. That’s why I do it.”

Chan Marshall sings because it’s her life’s calling. But, unlike most singers looking for celebrity, Cat Power not only an artist but also a fan and a connoisseur of all the classics, so much so that during one of her Cat Power shows, cover songs will definitely be sprinkled throughout her eclectic sets, Marshall talked to Creem Magazine about he love of vintage music and why she performs so many cover songs in concert when she said, “ I really am pissed off at the whole modern generation who knows nothing about old music. Historically, you can look at The Rolling Stones’ first record, and you could look at The Beatles. Everybody talks, “Oh, covers,” but all these fuckers, they know every Beatles song, but what they don’t know is that everybody used to do covers. In the ‘80s, everything changed, and it was, “Me, me, me, me, me, me.” For people who don’t understand, that’s a tradition of American song. They just need to get over it, and start learning, ‘cause I’m not going to stop doing covers.”

In case you’re still wondering why Chan Marshall records her favorite classic songs as she told KindaMuzik, “I always love to do covers because I always love songs. I craved for something that was more simple. I crave for a moment in time when I would be there.” Marshall doesn’t just cover songs like “House of the Rising Sun,” she inhabits there essence and re-imagines them by bringing these classics to life with her own voice as Cat Power.

Last night, I rediscovered Chan Marshall’s timeless version of the classic southern folk ballad, “House of the Rising Sun.” During my first grad school residency I was asked of all the cities I lived, which place was my favorite. It’s an easy answer, New Orleans. No song reflects the place that I first found my voice, alone, that the Myth City that is N.O. When Marshall sings this vintage ballad that was made famous by The Animals and Bob Dylan it’s like I’m back there in the place I first called home.

Cat Power’s rendition brought back my own history with her hauntingly beautiful version of “House of the Rising Sun.” While Chan Marshall remains one of the few true artists who is still brave enough to honor the past and perform covers of her favorite classics, songs like this one from her 2006 Live Sessions EP are the reasons that the artist originally known as Chan Marshall will outlast the fame hungry pretenders. Go back and revisit the history, the beauty within these acoustic refrains; when Cat Power inhabits the history of New Orleans capturing our imaginations and breaths when she shines her eternal voice on “House of The Rising Sun.”

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Hey Joe”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 263
Mon. Dec 16, 2013

“Hey Joe”
Charlotte Gainsbourg

2013

“♫ You
better
believe
it right
now
♫”

With Patti Smith writing the screenplay to her critically acclaimed and national bestseller Just Kids, there’s been industry whispers about Charlotte Gainsbourg playing the punk rock poetess on the silver screen. You can see it, just look at any recent picture of Ms. Gainsbourg and she definitely mirrors the look and the photographic intensity of a very young Patti Smith. It’s no coincidence then that Charlotte has covered the very first song Smith cut to wax, the cover of the Billy Roberts penned song that Jimi Hendrix made famous in 1967.

While “Purple Haze” is the song that most fans remember from Are You Experienced, Hendrix made his name in the UK with “Hey Joe.” According to David Stubbs and his book Jimi Hendrix: The Stories Behind The Songs, the history behind the writing of “Hey Joe” is legendary and a cinematic story itself as Stubbs wrote, “Written by Billy Roberts, who was unexpectedly stricken by his muse on a beach in Maine and scrawled down the words of the song as they came to him with his finger on the sand.” Now someone has to make a movie to cinematically document this moment in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Patti’s version dubbed “Hey Joe[1974]” a tribute to Jimi, recorded seven years after Are You Experienced was released, features a spoken word introduction which Smith honors the memory of another famous Patty[sic], Hearst who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army during the seventies when Ms. Hearst was the daughter of one of the most affluent families in America. According to Victor Bockris’ Patti Smith: The Unauthorized Biography, “Patti latched on to the Patty Hearst story, telling a friend that every time she heard Patty’s name on the radio or TV, she wasn’t sure if they were talking about Patty Hearst or Patti Smith.” Channeling the inspiration of both Hearst and Hendrix, talking about how she came to record “Hey Joe,” Smith once famously wrote, “I like the task of drawing on oneself. From one’s ancestors, one’s God, to be a human saxophone.”

Gainsbourg must have been listening to Patti’s version as a child because this year for the soundtrack to Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, the same film she stars in, Charlotte recorded a version produced by her IRM collaborator Beck Hansen. When asked by Time Magazine, why she worked with Beck again, Gainsbourg explained, “I love Beck’s way of writing. I love his language, his vocabulary, his images. It’s like being a character to be able to go into someone else’s world.” Although it was the world made famous by Jimi Hendrix and re-imagined by Patti Smith, Charlotte still felt a kind of symbiotic connection with producer Beck as she told Rolling Stone Magazine, “Beck had a way of guessing what I was thinking and feeling without me telling him. We never discussed these things explicitly.”

Although Beck and Charlotte shared a natural language of music, she still sees herself a stranger to the notion of being a recording artist when Gainsbourg explained to The Telegraph UK, “I don’t think I’m an artist. I don’t have my guts to put out. I really feel that I’m under someone else’s command, willing to be manipulated, like a piece of clay, that’s what I like. To have, sorry, les barrier? To have restraints. And to find my own space inside all those barriers.” Thanks to her musical collaborator Beck, for her cover of “Hey Joe,” the new arrangement mirrors the essence of the Experience’s backing vocals of Jimi’s version; vocally, Gainsbourg has channeled the vulnerability of the punk rock poetess that is Patti Smith, together they created this rendition that made Jimi Hendrix famous a total 21st century recreation.

More than just looking like the author of Horses and Just Kids, Charlotte Gainsbourg has shown the guts and bravery of covering the first song Patti Smith ever recorded, “Hey Joe.” Joining the ranks of these rock ‘n’ roll giants, Charlotte Gainsbourg new rendition from the Nymphomaniac soundtrack may not surpass the original or the 1974 version, at least this French artist proves with her breathy chanteuse like vocal that she should be in the conversation of such fearless musical greats as Patti Smith and Jimi Hendrix. If you’re excitedly craving some “Hey Joe,” with help from Beck Hansen, let Charlotte Gainsbourg, satisfied you’re every one of your lusty lyrical needs.

Jimi Hendrix – “Pali Gap”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 263
Fri. Dec 6, 2013

“Pali Gap”
Jimi Hendrix

1970

Today begins my extended Graduate School sabbatical, I will be away and unable to share any new Don’t Forget the Songs-365 posts while I’m in school, but I am leaving you with this rare Hendrix instrumental beauty.

According Peter Doggett’s Jimi Hendrix: The Complete Guide to his Music, “Pali Gap” name was, provided by Hendrix’s manager Mike Jeffery, “when he was concocting Rainbow Bridge as a supposed soundtrack for the movie of Jimi’s adventures on the island [of Hawaii].” Hendrix didn’t perform “Pali Gap” in Hawaii, this instrumental came to life in 1970, while recording “Dolly Dagger” at Electric Lady Studios in New York.

In John McDermott’s Ultimate Hendrix, John Jansen described how “Pali Gap came to life when this Electric Lady Studio engineer said, “‘Dolly Dagger’ had broken down but the band continued to play. After three minutes or so, Hendrix began playing this beautiful melody and the rest of the guys fell in behind him.” Original entitled “Slow Part,” Eddie Kramer helped produced the results that became “Pali Gap” when he explained, “Afterwards, when [Jimi] realized that there might be something there after all, he overdubbed a second guitar and a new solo with the Marshall back at full volume.”

In Jimi Hendrix: Musician, Keith Shadwick dubbed “Pali Gap,” “one of Hendrix’s most charming and original creations of his final two years.” And today for my final post before my sabbatical, I am dedicated “Pali Gap” to my fellow Antioch Pali’s; I am looking forward to sharing my greatest grad school adventure with my fellow poets! Turn on, tune in and trip out while experiencing Jimi Hendrix filling in the chord-like colors within the glorious riffs of his instrumental masterwork that is “Pali Gap”

Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Hear My Train A Comin [Live 1968 Miami Pop Festival]”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 262
Thurs. Dec 5, 2013

“Hear My Train A Comin [Live 1968 Miami Pop Festival]”
Jimi Hendrix Experience

1968

“♫ Tears
falling down
like rain
♫”

You may have heard there’s a new Jimi Hendrix re-release for his 1968 performance at the Miami Pop Festival. Like Woodstock, Hendrix played during the day. It was a short set due to the humid and rainy southern weather but Jimi did play a very memorably electrifying version of “Hear My Train A Comin.” This song is not only one of Hendrix’s most personal to Jimi because as he once said, “I care so much about my work. I record stuff I believe is great.” “Hear My” is one of Hendrix’s greatest songs and is one of my personal lyrical touchstones that for over forty years has kept me from giving up my creative dreams by waiting at the station for my own train to arrive.

I know Hendrix purists will argue that Jimi’s version from Berkeley is the essential version of this blues classic but there’s something about this Miami Pop Festival version that brings out the best of Hendrix. Jimi never plays the same song the same way twice. So you could have twelve different life versions of “Train” and they would all have subtle differences whether it be with the chord changes, the solo or specifically for this 1968 rendition at the Miami Pop Festival, Jimi must have been inspired by the stormy weather because he added some rain to his classic lyrics to “Hear My Train A Comin’.”

In the new book, Starting at Zero: Jimi Hendrix: His Own Story, Seattle’s most famous guitarist said, “There are basically two different kinds of music. The blues is a reflection of life, and then there is sunshine music, which may not have so much to say lyrically but has more meaning musically.” Hendrix’s 1968 version of “Train” perfectly blends both of Jimi’s ideals by combining the best of blues and the sunshine during this historic performance in the daylight at the Miami Pop Festival. In Starting at Zero, Hendrix went on to say, “I really don’t want to get too heavy. I want to play sunshine music now. I have this saying when things get too heavy, “Just call me helium, the lightest known gas the man.”

The genesis of “Hear My Train A Comin’” comes from Hendrix’s personal sound of the blues. In his book, Jimi Hendrix: Stories Behind Every Song, author David Stubbs called “Train,” “Along with “Red House,” this was Hendrix’s greatest-home baked blues offering.” When asked by Jay Ruby how he defines the blues, Hendrix replied, “You can have your own blues. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the folk blues is the only type of blues in the world. We do this blues one […] That’s what you call a great feeling of blues. We don’t try to give it a name. Everybody has some kind of blues to offer, you know?

In his book, Jimi Hendrix: Stories Behind Every Song, author Stubbs described, Jimi’s home-baked blues of “Hear My Train” as—“Hendrix’s homage to his own sense of destiny.” Hendrix himself once explained “Comin’” as an introduction before playing his blues song live when Jimi said, “It’s about a cat running around town and his old lady, she don’t want him around and a whole lot of people from across the tracks are putting him down. And nobody don’t want to face up to it but the cat has something, only everybody’s against him ‘cause the cat might because the cat might be a bit different. So he goes on the road to be a voodoo child, come back to be a magic boy.”

If there was one song that I always connected to the most, it has to be “Hear My Train A Comin’.” I love the image of Hendrix waiting for his metaphorical train that only he can hear. Jimi knows that it’s coming but no one believes him. No one can see the talent and the gift that Jimi has inside of him. I know I’m no Hendrix but all my life I’ve looked to Jimi and his self-belief and sense of eternal perseverance as a guide to emulate in my own creative life. I’ve always believed that there was something special inside of me, a creative gift, that no one else has seen or heard and even though I’m getting older I can feel my poetic voice growing, igniting stronger, the funny thing, is that my talent is at the beginning and is only starting to come to light. Thank You Jimi for helping me not to give up on my own train.

Why do I connect so much with Jimi Hendrix? It’s his own philosophy of creativity; it wasn’t just about fame it was all about his work and his songs as he said. “Music is my life. It’s about life and feelings, and you must take time for it like in any other occupation. There are certain moments where I feel like I’ve got to write, especially before I go to sleep, when all the thoughts are running through my head. My guitar is my medium and I want everybody to get into it, I want to turn the world on.”

As my life is evolving this week, I’m ready for the next ride on this journey called my creative life. Throughout my long and strange trip Jimi Hendrix’s music and specifically “Here My Train A Comin’” have been my guide to keep me writing and pursuing my dreams even when I’ve been rejected, at my lowest, his rhythms have been the soundtrack to my internal fight.

More than just another song in his electric song canon, Hendrix producer and engineer Eddie Kramer called “Here My Train A Comin’” one of Jimi’s quintessential songs as he explained to Toronto’s Globe and Mirror, “It shows a complete at-oneness with his instrument. Jimi had a thought in his mind, and in a nanosecond it gets through his body, through his heart, through his arms, through the fingers, onto the guitar.”

I may not be able to play a lick of guitar but I understand all the emotions coming from Jimi’s axe and every riff, chord reflects sounds of revelation to me. Hendrix’s music and words are my inspirational light, like when Jimi told Melody Maker in 1969, “My own thing is in my head. I hear songs and if I don’t get them together nobody else will.” Jimi has always been there and will continue to guide me to this next station of my life and thanks to Hendrix’s music and specifically “Hear My Train a Comin” from Miami Pop Festival is the eternal soundtrack that is going to show me how to enjoy every moment of this ride called my creative life.
[click on link to experience Jimi Hendrix “Hear My Train A Comin'” Live at The Miami Pop Festival 1969]

The Blonde on Blonde Bard’s last stand with this unfinished mumbled masterpiece that was Dylan’s “I’m Not There”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 261
Wed Dec 04, 2013

“I’m Not There (1956)”
Bob Dylan & The Band

1967

“♫ And
it’s all
affirmation
♫”

“I’m Not There” may have been released almost thirty years after it’s creation but this Bob Dylan and The Band Basement Tape creation reflected the last stand of the Bob Dylan of the 1960’s, the one like to call The Blonde on Blonde Bard of yesteryears past. “I’m Not There” sounds like the exact moment The Dylan we knew, looked to for guidance and loved so much had disappeared into a ghost-like life of domesticity. On this masterful work-in-progress that Dylan never finished because in its fragmentary state symbolically contained the mumbled remnants of the passing of the metaphorical torch-songs from Bob to The Band. Dylan didn’t have to be the one setting the winds of change in motion with his music because The Band had literally taken “The Weight” off Bob’ shoulders. As a five piece unit, The Band had singlehanded changed the face of rock music beginning with 1968’s Music from Big Pink.

It all started with his famous motorcycle accident of 1966. That was the beginning of the end for The Blonde on Blonde Bard that we knew and loved of the 1960’s. Talking about his infamous accident of 1966, in an interview with Scott Cohen in 1985, Dylan said this, “In 1966 I had a motorcycle accident and ended up with several broken vertebrae and a concussion. That put me down for a while. I couldn’t go on doing what I had been. I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. It set me down so I could see things in a better perspective. I wasn’t seeing anything in any kind of perspective. I probably would have died if I had kept on going the way I had been.”

Robbie Robertson and The Band moved to Woodstock, NYC, specifically in an ugly West Saugerties house that was quickly dubbed Big Pink. The same place where The Band created Music from Big Pink is where the historic Basement Tapes were made as Robbie told Mojo Magazine, “It was a clubhouse, and we would go, every day to the clubhouse, the same way in the Mafia would go to their clubhouse […] we started putting some of our gear. And then Garth hooked up this little tape recorder that we had—a little quarter track model.” But instead of planning crimes, Robbie, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel were putting on the hits, in reality; the boys were just messing around making new grooves and having fun in the basement.

Soon Dylan joined the festivities, “wanting to write songs for other people to record;” Or as Bob once told Robbie. “Sometimes we would record things and he’d say OK. The mood was never really serious. We did a lot of laughing putting down those songs. We would lay something down, and then he would, in fun, say ‘Ok, that’s a great one for The Everly Brothers. Let’s send it to them.” Doing my research on Dylan and The Band, I had the impression that Bob suffered from the same case of isolationism that Elvis did. The Band hanging with Dylan was kind of like The Beatles when they met Presley as Ringo once said, “We had each other if any of us went mad. There were four of us. I feel sorry for Elvis, he was all alone.” After his motorcycle accident, Bob must have felt relieved for one moment in his life to be just one of the guys in the clubhouse/studio with Robbie, Rick, Garth and Richard and the loose sessions reflected this loose camaraderie.

When The Basement Tapes were released in 1975, three of the best songs “I Shall Be Released,” “Sign on the Cross” and “I’m Not There (1956)” were missing. Talking about the later two in Sid Griffin’s Million Dollar Bash, engineer Rob Fabroni said this, “Yeah, they are terrific, those two. But on some of the songs, like “Sign On The Cross,” which is one of the reels I made for myself of Basement Tapes out-takes we did not use, pieces of it were missing. Same with “I’m Not There.” There were technical reasons those songs, as great as they are, could not be issued. They were not complete takes. A lot of songs had bits missing or cut off too soon.”

I never understood that, just because something is missing or cut off doesn’t make it an imperfect take. Look at the Stones some of their best songs have mistakes in them, that’s the reason we connect to their music, Keith, Mick, Charlie and co are imperfect just like us. That’s what Dylan fans love about “I’m Not There,” it’s a snapshot of one of Bob’s song coming to life. Who cares if it’s not in the best shape and Dylan mumbles a few words, Keith Richards’ said it best, “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.” “I’m Not There is definitely in the bones. “There” is a work in progress which what makes this gem so fascinating.

“I’m Not There” is like song riddle, a treasure hunt and we’re all Indiana Jones like music archeologists trying to find the Lost Ark of meaning to one of Dylan’s rarer songs. Like why exactly Dylan subtitled this (1956)? What we love about the Basement Tapes is that these recordings capture the unbridled enthusiasm of Dylan and The Band in this little room in their Pink House. “I’m Not There” is all emotion, So what if we can’t understand what exactly is going on, maybe we’re not supposed to and Keith Richards has a great quote about being too analytical with music when he told Bruce Pollock, “Music isn’t something to think about, at least initially. Eventually it’s got to cover the spectrum, but especially with rock ‘n’ roll; first it has to touch you somewhere else. It could be the groin; it could be the heart; it could be the guts; it could be the toes. It’ll get to the brain eventually. The last thing I’m thinking about is the brain. You do enough thinking about everything else.” That’s what we love about “I’m Not There,” Dylan’s vocal and The Band’s rhythms connect on an emotional level. We’ve been there when thoughts are racing through our minds and we’re struggling to comprehend what’s going on. Even though Bob never understood his fans fascination over this Basement Tape jewel, he and The Band must have been doing something right. Sometimes it takes years to revisit and make sense of a life changing event, for Dylan “There” was tracked in 1967 and we’re still talking about it.

Sid Griffin has a great description about why “I’m Not There” has stood the test of time when he wrote in Million Dollar Bash, “Suffice to say the immediacy of Dylan’s voice, the startling imagery, the viewpoint and even the subject matter off his songs as well as the overall performance he accomplishes with such material are all interlinked in a way that the layperson or the insightful critic will never fully understand. The bard of Hidding nonetheless came up with a classic. Dylan can create in this semi-improvised way and he tells us of his experience/s as he sings it/them. He does so effortlessly. In pop music terms this is the stuff of genius.”

It’s all in his voice. The way he captures the emotion as his improvising, at times he sounds so confident that you can’t tell Dylan is making it up as he goes along. In an interview by Playboy Magazine’s Ron Rosenbaum, when Dylan was describing his sound, it reminded me of the lack of enunciation on “I’m Not There,” as Bob explained, “Sometimes. You get a little spacey when you’ve been up all night, so you don’t really have the power to form it. But that’s the sound I’m trying to get across. I’m not just up there re-creating old blues tunes or trying to invent some surrealistic rhapsody. Yeah, it’s the sound and the words. Words don’t interfere with it. They- they-punctuate it. You know, they give it purpose. [Pause] And all the ideas for my songs, all the influences, all come out of that. All the influences, all the feelings, all the ideas come from that. I’m not doing it to see how good I can sound, or how perfect the melody can be, or how intricate the details can be woven or how perfectly written something can be. I don’t care about those things. “

John Bauldie’s famous depiction of “I’m Not There (1954)” ties in with Dylan’s explanation of the way he sings his songs, as Bauldie described, “‘I’m Not There’ is remarkable… Dylan improvises only vaguely realized lyrics against a hauntingly beautiful melody. The remarkable thing about it is that even, though, for the most part, the lyrics are not lyrics at all, but sounds, the performance is moving, emotionally over-flowing. It is Dylan’s saddest song, and one of his greatest vocal performances, for he catches feeling without words.” You can credit Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel for giving Dylan the rhythmic canvas for Dylan to color one of his most dynamic vocal performances with such mysterious delight.

In his book, The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes, Greil Marcus captured the essence of what The Band brought to the Basement and specifically to this legendary track that is “I’m Not There” when he wrote, “Hudson and Manuel play as if they arrived late, but with the confidence that the funeral wouldn’t start without them. “We had played together for years; we could almost predict what we were going to do next.” Danko said of The Band. “We reached that stage with Bob.” Ironic that Marcus uses the word funeral to describe the way The Band was playing on this iconic track. It’s as if, “I’m Not There” is the unofficial funeral march for The Blonde on Blonde Bard of the 1960’s. The lyrics that Dylan mumbles are the last words from his alter-ego that Bob let go soon after these Basement Tapes sessions. This has to be my so many Dylan aficionados are obsessed with “I’m Not There.” It’s as if in between these indecipherable lyrics has to be an answer why Dylan didn’t keep his inspirational torch going. Instead he decided to pass it to over to The Band who took the mantle from these Basement sessions and changed the face of Rock Music with 1968’s Big Pink.

I believe the best description of “I’m Not There” comes from Anthony Varesi’s response to Greil Marcus depiction of this legendary Basement Tapes classic in his book The Bob Dylan albums: A Critical Study, when he wrote, ““I’m Not There” is even more amazing than “Sign on the Cross,” one of the most unique performances a listener will ever hear.” Greil Marcus has a quotation in his book Invisible Republic that refers to “I’m Not There” as maybethe greatest song ever written”; perhaps it would be more accurate to call [“I’m Not There”] the greatest song never written […]” Varesi is so right since “I’m Not There” was never completed, it sounds more like an inspirational lament, a performance piece, one of the greatest Dylan has ever captured on tape and one of the last in the skin of his Blonde on Blonde Bard persona of the 1960’s. Varesi’s depiction matches the one Clinton Heylin described in his book Behind The Shades, “I’m Not There” as “[…]the most inspired example of Dylan’s ability to capture a moment on tape as vision begins to fragment, he seems to be free-forming words around the rudest of rudimentary outlines.”

I like to believe the reason Dylan fans look towards the mystical nature of “I’m Not There” is that we’re all searching for answers to what made Dylan symbolically walk away from being the movement for change in rock music. This was Dylan said in his best-selling and critically acclaimed book Chronicles Volume One,Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race. Having children changed my life and segregated me from just about everybody and everything that was going on. Outside of my family, nothing held any real interest for me and I was seeing everything through different glasses. Even the horrifying news items of the day, the gunning down of the Kennedys, King, Malcolm X…I didn‘t see them as leaders being shot down, but rather as fathers whose families had been left wounded.

When Dylan released John Wesley Harding the response was lukewarm as British journalist Mick Farren recalls telling Mojo, “For me, it was kind of a wistful disappointment. This wasn’t a son of Blonde on Blonde, just when we could have used one. John Wesley Harding wasn’t what we were looking for. It wasn’t a big meat and potatoes dinner. He sowed up, and it turned out to be a salad. The prophet had quit. It was clear that Bob definitely wasn’t going to lead us to the promise land.

Something had to change, for Bob and so Dylan went country. He made peace with his life, his family and went south but the rest of the rock world was at first reluctant to join him they wanted the Blonde on Blonde Bard back, but that guy was gone and never to be seen again. Dylan talked about the change in his life that happened during the post Blonde on Blonde years when Dylan told Mikal Gilmore in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, “Transmigration is not what we are talking about. This is something else. I had a motorcycle accident in 1966. […] So when you ask some of your questions, you’re asking them to a person who’s long dead. You’re asking them to a person that doesn’t exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. I’ve lived through a lot. [… ]It is whatever it is. I couldn’t go back and find Bobby in a million years. Neither could you or anybody else on the face of the Earth. He’s gone. If I could, I would go back. I’d like to go back. At this point in time, I would love to go back and find him, put out my hand. And tell him he’s got a friend. But I can’t. He’s gone. He doesn’t exist.”


The Blonde on Blonde Bard had “left us” and The Band had risen from Woodstock to take the mantle that Dylan was more than happy to relinquish and the music world embraced this five piece known Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm. The impact that The Band and Music from Big Pink had in the UK earth moving as Ian MacDonald, the late author of Revolution in the Head, once wrote, “Among the student audience, the album immediately became an exalted work, regarded with awe as something at once completely new and timelessly old, listened to as reverentially as Dylan’s 1965-66 trilogy.”

“I’m Not There” sounds like the last stand of the Bob Dylan of the 1960’s, the one like to call The Blonde on Blonde Bard of yesteryears past as Bob told Rolling Stone in 1969, ““Blonde on Blonde” was up on the charts at this time. At that time I had a dreadful motorcycle accident . . . Which put me away for awhile . . . and I still didn’t sense the importance of that accident till at least a year after that. I realized that it was a real accident. I mean I thought that I was just gonna get up and go back to doing what I was doing before . . . but I couldn’t do it anymore.”

The Dylan we knew and loved went out with overtones of Shane and rode into the Nashville Skyline sunset like a lyrical cowboy assume the new identity as John Wesley Harding, and his new ghost life of domesticity. “I’m Not There” was the last stand of the Blonde on Blonde Bard, his mumbles were the final spoken laments from a hero who had enough of the spoils and was ready to hang up his spurs and find a new genre to call home. Lucky we can go back and revisit the last stand of our favorite Bard and with every spin, we can put our ears towards the vinyl and try to figure out what happened during these Basement Tapes sessions, that spawned “I’m Not There” caused Bob Dylan to shed his rock ‘n’ roll sin for a more countrified paradise.

[click on this link to re-experience Bob Dylan & The Band’s “I’m Not There”]

Digging for Eddie Vedder’s meaning behind Pearl Jam’s “Garden”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 266
Tues. Dec. 3, 2013

“Garden”
Pearl Jam

1991

“♫ After
all is
done we
are still
alone
♫”

Just like his hero Pete Townshend, Eddie Vedder has always longed to craft more than just hard songs for more than the egoistic exuberance of cocking sounds just for rock sake. Vedder’s goal has always been to put heavy lyrical soul back into his own classic ideal of rock and roll. Vedder wanted to match Townshend’s genius that he did with The Who’s more memorable classics like “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Baba O’Riley;” in a 1992 interview with Raw Power, Eddie explained the method to his rock ‘n’ roll credo, when Pearl Jam’s front man said, “People listen to music for different reasons. Some people, its background music—but other people need it to survive. Other people need music to get things out and maybe that’s just where I’m coming from, you know, when things weren’t easy for me, growing up. You know, music, I felt, saved my life. Pete Townshend, wherever you are, Pete, you saved my life. You know, whether he knows it or not. I wouldn’t be here. And I had absolutely nothing else besides music. And so that’s still, you know, that’s in me, and so if we’re gonna play, if we’re gonna get up and play, or write a song, you know, write about something that means something. You know, why write about, you know, “Oh, pretty day,” or, “Pretty girl,” or “Pretty people,” there’s nothing… people have different reasons for listening and playing. I need to—for me, it’s much more…religious.” This was the lyrical foundation that Vedder used for matching the guitar sound intensity that Stone Gossard and Mike McCready brought to such Pearl Jam’s timeless cuts like “Garden.”

Speaking of religion, there’s a lot of vivid imagery in the Ten cult classic that is “Garden.” Those vibrant images from this cult classic has rarely, if ever been explained by Vedder. So what exactly is Garden about? When attempting to decipher the meaning of “Garden,” I tried imagining the method in which Vedder writes his lyrics which Eddie shared this process when talking to Australian surfer Mark Richards, in 2013, about how he writes songs for Pearl Jam, when he explained “In the old days, when I just started to write [in] complete isolation, you’d be like, ”Oh I’m gonna work on this song for a few days. I’m just gonna procrastinate me a few lyrics, or … a new bridge […] [Sometimes I use] one line to kind of germinate [an idea] … almost like stem-cell research. I’ve got these little bits of stem-cell lyrics scattered about. I like to keep typewriters around, maybe even three or four going at once, and I can … add to [them]. By the end, I can read things and I don’t even recognize who wrote it.”

Every time I hear one of my favorite songs from Ten, I wonder what Eddie sees when he looks at the lyrics for “Garden?” I remember first discovering Pearl Jam when I worked at Hastings Records in the early nineties. Those sounds coming from the cassette promo were awe-inspiring reflection of the confused soul I was and a yearning from Vedder’s lyrical voices of the immortal poet I longed to be. But I wasn’t alone as author Paul Williams can attest in his book, Back to the Miracle Factory: Rock Etc. 1990’s, when he wrote “Ten is the sort of record young people rock and roll—and, to a certain extent, themselves—through. “I will walk with my shadow flag into your garden, garden of stone.” Yes. This is the sound that first awakened me, and it’s lost none of its power a generation later. I’m glad I know where to find it when I need it.” Garden’s lyrical magic came back to me in my sleep. I woke up with this 1991 treasure from Ten in my head and I don’t even remember listening to “Garden” in almost twenty years. When I get a song like this in my head it’s a sign that I need to discover why;

You may think with hit songs like “Jeremy,” “Even Flow” and “Alive” those songs would be the most important to the band from their debut album Ten, but you would be wrong as guitarist Stone Gossard explained when sharing his memories of “Garden” when he said, “That’s probably my favorite song on the album, because of its simplicity and it’s arrangement. The way that song came together was really cool. I had the verse and the chorus, and the bridge evolved from a jam with Jeff.” Gossard’s guitar partner Mike McCready also a fan of “Garden” remembered the day Stone wanted to update the sound of this gem from Pearl Jam’s Ten when he recalled in a 2010 interview with Kathy Davis, “That one was really hard. Stone came in, and we’re all kind of tired, and he’s like, ‘I’ve got this idea. I want to re-work ‘Garden.’ ‘And we’re like, ‘Mmm.’ (Laughs.) ‘Aw, man. Let’s just go home, you know? We already have ‘Garden.’ ‘And it was a tough thing, because I think Ed was kind of at the end of his rope, and we were getting ready to go on tour. But after we did it about 10 or 20 times it came out OK. (Stone arranged a new intro) Yeah. He arranged that whole idea. I think he just woke up one morning and started messing around. I was skeptical at first. But it’s fun to bring that thing back.”

But fortunately this new version of “Garden” was short lived as Jeff Ament explained in Cameron Crowe’s book Pearl Jam Twenty, “We went through a phase during our second, third, forth records, where we tried to rework those popular songs and do different things to them. And, you know, every single time, you’d go through a phase where you’d fall in love with a new version, and then, all of a sudden, you’d listen back to it at some point. You’d be like, “Man, the old version is way better.” We were playing a different version of “Garden,” and we ended up going back to the old version.”

Regardless of the old and new versions, what exactly is “Garden” about, anyway? When Eddie explained why some songs like “Black” and “Garden” don’t deserved to be decoded, the Pearl Jam singer said, “Some songs, just aren’t meant to be played between Hit No. 2 and Hit No. 3. You start doing those things, you’ll crush it. That’s not why we wrote songs. We didn’t write to make hits. But those fragile songs get crushed by the business. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t think the band wants to be part of it.” From the man who first started writing songs because music was his religion sometimes gets agitated when critics and fans ask him to interpret the meaning to his lyrics, to those Pearl Jam supporters Vedder has this to say, in Spin Magazine circa 1998, about his songs, “If I want to make a song based on sound effects from the movie Mars Attacks, I can do that. That’s our legacy. That’s the good stuff. Fuck lyrics. I’m working on singing more without saying anything. It really takes the pressure off. I’m not a scholar. Don’t follow me. A lot of the songs are about escape, about letting go.”

But still no matter what Eddie Vedder doesn’t say about this Pearl Jam song, fans and critics’ alike still hypothesize about “Garden’s” mysterious meaning. It is rumored that the ‘garden of stone’ image is a cemetery, others believe it could be a metaphor for a cold lover’s privatest shadow parts and it is believed that before a performance of “Garden” during a 2009 show in Sydney Vedder described this Ten cut as inspired by the first Iraqi war in 1990s. I believe the best interpretation of ‘Garden” comes from author Kim Neely in her controversial Pearl Jam biographical tome Five Against One, who unknowingly gave an explanation of this Ten treasure when she wrote, “In some ways, Eddie was no different than thousands of others his age, people who were expressing disenchantment with the soulless consumer culture they’d grown up in. An entire generation, shell-shocked by information overload, repulsed by the greed and hypocrisy they’d been force-fed for years by corporate America, seemed to be yearning for something tangible, something real. […] They wanted to get back to the garden, just like their hippie parents had. But what do you do if your parents have swiped their tie-dye for suits and ties and destroyed the garden?” I love the image of our generation being seeds grown from a garden of hope from our parent’s and we’re trying to find the soil to replant our own patch of optimism during this age of droughting expectation and rotten greed and excess lusting for commercial success.

Eddie Vedder himself expanding on this image in Neely’s book when he said, “Look what we’ve done to this place at these weird fucking buildings, and the freeways, and look at a place like New York. It’s a freak out. Why is that the American dream? It’s perverse. I mean, your goals should be so much more connected to the earth and the sky and family, yet this is the way we live. All I really believe in is this fucking moment, like right now. It’s all I believe in.” I like to believe this emotions living in an emotional cold and culturally bankrupt society is what sparked Eddie to pen “Garden” in 1991.

Just like his hero Pete Townshend, Eddie Vedder wanted to put some heavy soul into his band’s personal band of rock and roll. We may love this glorious songs with their very deep evocative and their obscure meanings may haunt us to no end, but maybe we’ll never know the truth about the genesis of “Garden” and that’s not really a bad thing. Keep digging up new meanings of this Ten treasure who’s seeds was planted in 1991 has now grown to cult status, as you continue unearthing the mystery behind Vedder’s shadowy poetic brilliance, don’t be discouraged just keep spinning “Garden” and I guarantee this beauty will bloom brighter, landing deeper inside your lyrical light again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN0M8Inj4yE

John Bonham and the legend of Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 265
Mon. Dec 2, 2013

“Four Sticks”
Led Zeppelin

1971

“♫ When
the river
runs dry
baby how
do you
feel?
♫”

You can see why Led Zeppelin rarely played “Four Sticks” in concert; one of the songs that almost didn’t make it on Zeppelin’s IV because of the trouble the band was having getting it right in the studio. Zeppelin almost gave up on “Four Sticks,” which according to Mick Wall, was “based on Page’s idea of creating a riff-based song based on a trance-like raga, fluctuating between five- and six-beat meters, the band simply could nail.”

John Paul Jones remembers how much difficulty the band had getting “Four Sticks” right as he explained to Chris Welch and Geoff Nicholls in John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums, “And it took him ages to get ‘Four Sticks.’ I seemed to be the only one who could actually count things in. Page would play something and [John would] say, ‘That’s great. Where’s the first beat? You know it, but you gotta tell us…’ He couldn’t actually count what he was playing. It would be a great phrase, but you couldn’t relate it to a count. If you think of ‘one’ being in the wrong place, you are completely screwed.” What if Zeppelin had given up on “Four Sticks?” If Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones hadn’t finished “Four Sticks,” “Rock & Roll” might have also remained unfinished. “Four Sticks” showed how Zeppelin was more than just Page and Plant, John Bonham is often overlooked with the credit of bringing out the eternal sound we love so much that Zeppelin created in the studio.

I remember ‘four sticks’ was obviously in 5/4 but I couldn’t work it out where the first beat was, and he couldn’t tell us. But somehow we all did it—and foxed each other.” Paul Jones said in Welch and Nicholls book. Although, John believed that Zeppelin never attempted “Sticks” live there is a recording from Copenhagen that exists that I believe trumps the final studio version recorded for Led Zeppelin IV. I actually prefer this low-fi recording to the LP mix. Bonham’s drumming is out of this world sounding like he’s a possessed locomotive furiously beating down the tracks.


Jimmy Page told Mick Wall in his book When Giants Walked The Earth, how “Four Sticks” got its name when Zeppelin’s guitarist explained, “We tried the number and [Bonham] had been playing it in a regular pattern. But we were going to re-cut it [and] have another go at it. [Bonzo] had been to see Ginger Baker’s Airforce and he came in and he was really hyped about it. He liked Ginger Baker but he was like, “I’ll show him!” And he came in and he picked up the four sticks and that’s it, we just did two takes of it. because that’s all we could sort of manage. But it’s astounding what he’s doing… He’d never employed that style of playing before. I can’t even remember what it was called, what the working title was. But it was sure as hell ‘Four Sticks” after that. Bonzo just took it into another stratosphere.”

This wasn’t the first time Bonzo’s genius shaped and drove the essential take of a Zeppelin song as John Paul Jones explained in Chris Welch and Geoff Nicholls book, John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums, “[Bonham] has a lot of input into the riffs we played, more than he was credited for, I’d say. He would change the whole flavor of a piece, and lots of numbers would start out with a drum pattern. We’d built the riff around the drums. He would play a pattern that would suggest something.”

One example of this came when Zeppelin was trying to nail down “Four Sticks.” But with Bonham’s inspirational drum genius, birthed a new song that became of the highlights of Led Zeppelin Four as Page said in Tim Morse’s Classic Rock Stories, “We were attempting “Four Sticks” and it wasn’t happening and Bonzo started the drum into to “Keep a Knocking” [by Little Richard] while the tape was still running and I played the riff automatically, that was “Rock and Roll” and we got through the whole first verse. We said this is great, forget “Four Sticks” let’s work on this and things were coming out like that. [It] was a spontaneous combustion.”

I like to believe that “Four Sticks” was ready to be born fully and from the remnants of those outtakes came another Zeppelin song. This was nothing new for the band, as Jimmy explained to Brad Tolinski in Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, “That’s how it was going back then. If something felt right we didn’t question it. If something really magical is coming through, then you follow it. It was all part of the process. We had to explore, we had to delve. We tried to take advantage of everything that was being offered to us.”

After finishing “Rock & Roll” gave Page, Planet, Bonham and Paul Jones the confidence to take another crack at finishing the recording of “Four Sticks” as Page told Dave Lewis in Led Zeppelin: The ‘Tight But Loose’ Files, “We tried different ways of approaching it. The idea was to get an abstract feeling. We tried it a few times and it didn’t come off until the day Bonzo had a Double Diamond beer, picked up two sets of sticks and went for it. It was magic.”

Speaking of magic, when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited in 1994 for their Unledded/No Quarter shows, one of the songs they wanted to attempt was “Four Sticks.” Originally Page and Plant wanted to record this Led Zeppelin IV rock raga with the Bombay Symphony Orchestra in 1972 as Page explained; “We went to Bombay in 1972, and recorded ‘Friends’ and ‘Four Sticks” with Indian musicians there/ The nature of how good we were is in the riffs. We had all these multi-faceted diamonds. There should never have been any boundaries. And we made sure there weren’t.”

Even though the results were promising it took twenty-two years for Page and Plant to get their otherworldly renditions of “Four Sticks” to come to fruition. Plant described how finally “Four Sticks” circa 1994 developed from idea to reality when he said, “We did a lot of work developing the music before going to Morocco and it was so strong and powerful it almost begged the question whether we needed to do any of the MTV stuff and whether it might be nice to just make a record and be counted along with everybody else in a totally contemporary form without using the past and reiterating it. But, of course, the lure was working with the Egyptians and making ‘Kashmir,’ ‘Four Sticks’ and ‘Friends’ the way we’d always dreamed of.”
click on link to experience Page/Plant‘s 1994 re-imagining of “Four Sticks”

The success of “Four Sticks” from Led Zeppelin IV, the rarely heard live version from Copenhagen and Page & Plant’s dynamic re-imagining of this 1971 rock raga comes from as Keith Shadwick wrote in Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music: 1968-1980, “The whole structure of ‘Sticks” hangs on the flair of the drummer.” Bonham is the star of “Four Sticks,” without him, John’s patience and his intuitive genius most of Zeppelin’s songs would have remained an idea without the spark to bring the music to light. Bonham rarely gets the praise for his contribution to the arrangement and overall Led Zeppelin’s sound.

John Bonham often gets overshadowed by Page’s electric mastery of his guitar and Plant’s golden God like voice but everybody knows, after his unfortunate passing in 1980, Zeppelin couldn’t continue without their genius pounding masterpiece maker wielding his Four Sticks behind the kits. Now you realize how much John Bonham meant to Zeppelin. You know, Page, Plant and Paul Jones still miss their best friend and drummer but at least his masterstrokes are immortalized in songs like “Four Sticks” for us to sit back and amaze at his brilliance on the drums. Fortunately, like a relentless heart, Bonham’s rhythm will keep beating eternally on wax creations like “Four Sticks.”

Otis Redding – “Try A Little Tenderness”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 264
Fri. Nov 29, 2013

“Try A Little Tenderness”
Otis Redding

2007

“♫ You’ve
got to
love her
squeeze
her
♫”

I remember of one those nights before I left the Alamo City, my friends and I were at our favorite dive bar Scandals in San Antonio. One of my buddies, a fellow poet born Down Under, Ricardo, was getting really passionate about life, like he always did after a few cold ones and keeps talking about if we wanted to be successful in anything we had to channel our inner Otis. “It’s your little Otis” my poet friend kept repeating over and over enthusiastically. I knew exactly what he meant. Instead of listening to the li’l devil or angel on our shoulders, Ricardo believed we had to embrace the essence of our inner Otis Redding. And now every time I hear “Try A Little Tenderness” I think of that night at Scandals and my poet friend talking so ardently about Otis Redding.

Did you know, although at first Redding felt some hesitation about recording “Tenderness,” but Otis finally did what does best – by honoring Sam Cooke and crooning his own immortal version of this vintage song sung by such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Bing Crosby. After Otis put the finishing touches of “Tenderness” Redding famously said, ““Try A Little Tenderness” I cut that motherfucker, It’s a brand new song now.” This Soul Stax legend was so right, after taking his turn at the microphone, “Try A Little Tenderness” would always be remembered as an Otis Redding song.

Jim Stewart knew “Try A Little Tenderness” was a hit right after Otis finished recording his immortal version of this classic song as he told Scott Freeman in his book Otis!: The Otis Redding Story, “That one performance is so special and unique that [“Try A Little Tenderness”] expresses who he is. That to me is Otis Redding. And if you want to wrap it up, just listen to “Try A Little Tenderness.”

So why is it exactly that fans of Redding, are still connecting to his music after all these years since his tragic death in 1967? The reason is reflected in this beautifully written sentence that captures the soul of why we love Otis Redding so much, when Carol Cooper wrote, “Even though the poetry of the blues is characteristically melancholy, Otis Redding always used to love as a metaphor for redemption from the wages of sin and injustice.” Amen.

One of my favorite versions of “Try A Little Tenderness” has to be this one from his Live in London & Paris album, Otis sounds like a possessed parson preaching his sermon on love especially in this live version in London.

Hearing this and any live rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness” reminds me of this quote from Robert Gordon, author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion, when he told NPR, “I think you can get the sense from Otis Redding’s records what it was like to be around him. You get the sense that his personality was in constant conflict with his skin trying to bust out even bigger. I think about the horn players who had been accustomed to playing whole notes for a full measure at a time and Otis is leaning into their faces: ‘No, no, no! Do it like this!’ And they’re scrambling with their horns and everything. When you’re with Otis Redding, it’s all about trying to keep up with Otis Redding.”

The way that Otis band tried to keep up with him on stage as he wailed away crooning “Try A Little Tenderness” night after night, reminded me of Jim Morrison, a huge fan of Redding, wanted to be remembered after he was gone when The Doors lead singer/poet once famously said, “I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps “Oh look at that!” Then- whoosh, and I’m gone…and they’ll never see anything like it ever again… and they won’t be able to forget me- ever.”

Remarkably unforgettable that’s what you reverberate when you experience “Try A Little Tenderness.” I believe if Otis had lived he would have become the undisputed King of Soul & Rock n’ Roll. You can feel it in every muscle, bone and inch of you; and “Try A Little Tenderness” is proof, to what my poet friend was trying to tell us, you can do anything in life by channeling the essence of your Little Otis. He was so right because by evoking such passionate dedication the way that Redding did on stage, you will be more than heard, your creative spirit will be felt for generations to come. So this weekend put a little Otis Redding in your life. Embracing “Try A Little Tenderness,” today, will do your mind and body good by ingesting a little dose of Otis in your soul.

Paul McCartney – “Gratitude”

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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 263
Thurs. Nov 28, 2013

“Gratitude”
Paul McCartney

2007

“♫ I
want to
show my
gratitude
♫”

It’s Thanksgiving and what more perfect song to spotlight that this Paul McCartney song where the former Beatle sings about “Gratitude.” Ever wondered what or who exactly sparked this song? Talking about the inspiration for Memory Almost Full’s “Gratitude” Paul McCartney said this, “I’ve always had a couple of voices. Originally you’re just a kid at home, like everyone else, and then you start to dream of being a singer. My heroes then were rock ‘n’ rollers, so my ballad voice was based on Elvis and the screamy voice was me trying to be Little Richard. I loved him so much. When I joined the Beatles, John used to like that and it’s stayed with me as something I enjoy doing – that gritty, souly voice. So on this track I was just thinking of how much there is to be grateful for in life, and I wanted to put that into song and use the gritty voice to do it with.” You gotta love the way that Paul reaches back with a “Oh Darling” and Abbey Road-esque vocal mirroring the gratefulness within the lyrics of his poignantly soulful song.

But McCartney fans have been speculating since Memory Almost Full’s release if Paul had penned “Gratitude” for someone in particular? Maybe as a lyrical olive branch to his ex-wife Heather? Macca responded to this ABC News query by saying, “It’s written for women, you know, but I have a lot of women,” he said. “Well, I mean, it doesn’t sound as, you know, as exciting as it is. … But I think everyone expects you to have written it for one specific person.”

But even with that answer Macca’s fans were still not satisfied. The New York Times surmised that “Gratitude” was a tribute to Paul’s first love, his wife Linda, to which McCartney replied, “‘Gratitude’ is just me being grateful for the good stuff in my life, past and present. That’s the thing about me – when I talk about love, it’s often general, it’s not always specific. If people think these songs are specific to Linda, that wouldn’t be true. But they’re pertaining to Linda, or my children, or other things in life for which I feel grateful. So she’s certainly in there.”

You would think that an artist of Paul McCartney’s caliber would get frustratingly annoyed at all the conjecture over who inspired songs like “Gratitude” this former Beatle composed but you would be wrong as he explained to the New York Times, “I don’t really mind how people interpret my songs. But I don’t want to have to say, ‘Yes, you’re right.’ I’d more gladly say, ‘Yeah, you’re partially on the button, but it means a whole bunch of other things.”
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Although Memory Almost Full might not rank as my favorite Macca solo albums, “Gratitude” is definitely my favorite cut off this often overlooked LP. I believe Paul Du Noyer should’ve been talking about Memory Almost Full when he wrote, “these are songs of gratitude for the past with a ballsy resolve to enjoy the future.”If you’re sitting around with the familia and waiting for the turkey to be ready, spin Paul’s very soulful song of “Gratitude.” You will thank me for this one:

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So I want to take this time to show my gratitude to the people who have made 2013 one of the most memorable of my life. In one week’s time I will embark on a life changing experience I like to call my great grad school adventure and for supporting and believing in me and my talents I have to thank my Mami y Papi and my whole Cepeda familia spurring me on from the Alamo City and beyond. To my beautiful and lovely wife who has stood behind me, loving me and encouraging me to follow my creative voice on this road less traveled by—for this baby, I am eternally grateful. Special shout out to our extended Busher family, Mom, Brian, Eric, Patrick (R.I.P), Jamie and Claudia & baby Matteo, Dad and all the Ferguson clan far and wide.
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I cannot forget Silke Feltz, Kirsten Ogden who helped me reaching my goal of getting accepted into graduate school. And all my poet friends for all the inspiring feedback and sharing your amazing work and voices with me that include: Clement Tsang, Stephen Boyer, Ricardo Perrin, Apryl Skies, Barbara Moore, Angel Uriel Perales, Cristina Umpfenbach-Smyth and Sidonie Tise. And especially to all my amigos y amigas who have been there following my dream from the beginning: I want to send a special thanksgiving wish to: Greg Rodriguez & Julie Hansen, Lisa Balderas, Max Magbee, Keefer Dickerson, Noelle Link, Jason Baker, Erik Rodriguez, Alyssa Gale, Paul Barbosa, Jeff Albers, Bryan Rockwell, Lindsey and David Tenenbaum, Wendy, Eric & Abbey Knouse and Rocky Durand.

And thank you to all my loyal readers and followers of Don’t Forget The Songs-365. I started this my WordPress site as a way to get my lazy butt to make my mark with my voice by spurring my creative mind and most of all write about all the music that I love and inspires me every single day of my very lucky life. Thanks for being along for my journey. I can’t wait till tomorrow.
Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy the family, food and football.