New Songs For 2016

Every year I try to add new music to the collection. Nowadays I rarely listen to the radio (either broadcast or satellite) for inspiration. I tend to research new music by reviewing end of the year “best of” lists. This year I branched a little more than usual, trying songs suggested from a number of sources.

Over the last few years, NPR Music has been my most reliable source. My tastes are diverging from Rolling Stone Magazine’s favorites; their sensibilities seem to be changing into the greater mainstream of popular music. Review sites such as Pitchfork have wildly different criteria for musical evaluation than I do. Virtually no modern popular music on the radio interests me. I am offended by the lack of diction and inferior mixing that make singing so hard to understand, the loss of melody as a musical component, and the reliance on electronics as a substitute for instrumental virtuosity. It all sounds less human to me.

All of which makes the selection of new songs a very interesting aspect of the project. I have no obligation to include any artist, and am perhaps more free than ever to choose based on my my opinion. This is a topic I plan on exploring in detail sometime. New songs must adhere to the same criteria as all others. They should be well appreciated if called up in a random iPod shuffle. Some effort is made to include different sounding or innovative music, though today there isn’t much in terms of unexplored territory. Many songs I choose tend to fill holes in my personal music education. The last few years seem to include songs by female country songwriters, where there is a wealth of talent. Or maybe I’m just going country in my old age. Overall, modern music has seemed to have completely abandoned the uptempo swing of yesteryear.

I have added 58 new songs for 2016. This is a typical number of songs in recent years, a little less than half of the overall average (11,000 songs in about 100 years). Great songs grow on you over the years, so songs are rarely given a high rating to begin with. It is a rather sedate group of songs, by my standards. If a certain song appeals to you, then consider further research into that artist. My list for new songs will always be woefully incomplete; they are educated guesses. My focus is generally on older music.

It was a big year for working on the collection. In August I completed standardizing and verifying all the song data, a tiring grind which led to a mild post-effort depression that took several months to battle out of. I think I’m ready to start back up again, with an outline for a general essay on collecting the music, and a compilation of lists of specific types of songs. Like the greatest songs with hand claps, or best one-hit wonders. Happy New Year to everyone. I’m hoping to keep making progress on this big project.

2016 Songs

Little Movies, Aaron Lee Tasjan
Memphis Rain, Aaron Lee Tasjan ★★★
Real Bad Lookin’, Alex Cameron ★★
Am I Wrong, Anderson Paak ★★
Celebrate, Anderson Paak

Time Moves Slowly, BADBADNOTGOOD ★★
E.V.P., Blood Orange ★★
Three Kids No Husband, Brandy Clark
There Goes My Love, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms ★★
Opposite House, Cass McCombs ★★

I Am Not Afraid, Charley Crockett ★★
Irene, Courtney Marie Andrews
Wine And Peanuts, Daniel Bachman ★★
Watermelon Slices On A Blue Bordered Plate, Daniel Bachman ★★
Lazurus, David Bowie

Can’t Think, Dawg Yawp
The Government Road, The Del McCoury Band
Falling To Believe, Doug Tuttle
What It Means, Drive-By Truckers
Lord It Over, Dylan Golden Aycock

Looking Up, Elton John
Someone In The Crowd, La La Land (Soundtrack)
Ivy, Frank Ocean ★★
Nothing More To Say, The Frightnrs
June Too Soon, October All Over, Glenn Jones

Mr. Fool, John Scofield
Christmas Makes Me Cry, Kacey Musgraves
Present Without A Bow, Kacey Musgraves
This Girl, Kungs & Cookin’ On 3 Burners
Diamond Heart, Lady Gaga

Humble & Kind, Lori McKenna ★★
Dust, Lucinda Williams
Bitter Memory, Lucinda Williams
Emotions And Math, Margaret Glaspy
You And I, Margaret Glaspy

Moth Into Flame, Metallica
Vice, Miranda Lambert
Tin Man, Miranda Lambert
Me & Magdalena, The Monkees
Tragedy, Norah Jones

It’s A Wonderful Time For Love, Norah Jones
Pining, Parker Milsap ★★
Human Performance, Parquet Courts
I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, The Rides
Never Come Home, Robbie Fulks ★★

Aunt Peg’s Old Man, Robbie Fulks
Drivin’, Robert Ellis
Weirdo, Sammus
What’s It Gonna Be?, Shura ★★
Bluebird Of Delhi, Slavic Soul Party! ★★

Cranes In The Sky, Solange
Easier Said, Sunflower Bean
Every Time I See A River, Van Morrison
Caledonia Swing, Van Morrison
No Woman, Whitney ★★

The Three Of Me, William Bell
Fly Away, Yola Carter ★★
A Change Of Heart, The 1975

96. Buck Owens & His Buckaroos

Buck Owens & His Buckaroos are a country and western band from Bakersfield, California. Alvis “Buck” Owens, Jr. is a guitarist and singer from Sherman, Texas. In 1937, the Owens family moved to Arizona after sustained droughts and high winds forced a move away from the family farm. Owens married and moved west to Bakersfield, California in 1951. For the next several years, Owens performed in local clubs, and worked as a session guitarist for Capitol Records in Los Angeles. After years of trying, his singing and songwriting career languished, and Owens moved to Tacoma, Washington, taking a job at radio station KAYE in Tacoma, Washington. During a live on-air program, he met guitarist and fiddler Don Rich, and began a fruitful partnership that lasted until Rich’s untimely death in 1974.

The characteristic sound of the Buckaroos slowly evolved. While in Tacoma, Owens made his first appearance on the Billboard country charts with “Second Fiddle”, notable for the use of fiddle and steel guitar, and without the saccharine orchestration typical of many country hit songs. Owens and Rich eventually switched to electric guitar, and assembled a quintet with drums, bass and steel guitar to complete the classic Buckaroos lineup. Beginning in 1959, Buck Owens enjoyed a remarkable string of country hit songs; in 1963 “Act Naturally” became his first of fifteen consecutive #1 hit songs during the sixties. He became a household name during the seventies while hosting the corny variety show Hee Haw with banjo/guitar player Roy Clark. By 1980, he essentially retired from recording, focusing on his many business ventures. Buck Owens was inducted to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1996.

buck-owens-carnegie-hall

Buck Owens (1929-2006), rhythm guitar, vocals

Don Rich (1941-1974), lead guitar, vocals
Doyle Holly (1946-2007), bass guitar, rhythm guitar
Tom Brumley (1935-2009), steel guitar
Willie Cantu (b. 1946), drums

buckowensfan.com — Fan Website

Amazon.com Link to “Buck Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens”, by Randy Poe
Amazon.com Link to “Buck Owens – The Biography”, by Eileen Sisk (an unauthorized tell-all biography)

Although Hee Haw made Owens a household name, the lesser known “Buck Owens Ranch Show” from 1966-1968 best represents the band in its prime. Here are three episodes currently showing on YouTube:

Old television programs are much more natural and unpolished. In a word, better.

Bakersfield, California

Buck Owens is considered a founder of the Bakersfield sound, an antidote to the lush “countrypolitan” Nashville sound of the fifties and sixties. His influence within country music can be traced directly to Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam, among many others. The contemporary Nashville sound is a hybrid music, featuring some aspects of the Bakersfield sound, with extensive production techniques.

Buck Owens’ impact on country music is clear. Less discussed is Owens’ influence on rock music, and how he fits in the history of California popular music. In this passage, my friend Corry Arnold discusses the Buckaroos impact on the Grateful Dead:

“Buck Owens influence on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead is no less fundamental. Owens and his Buckaroos played clean, rocking music that was the blueprint for Workingman’s Dead, and Garcia specifically mentioned Owens’s inspiration many times. The biggest success of the Bakersfield musicians was Merle Haggard, and some of Haggard’s songs (“Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home”) also made it into the Grateful Dead repertoire. People interested in some of the roots of Garcia’s twangy Fender sound of the early 70s would do well to listen to Buckaroo guitarist Don Rich.

Owens’s influence on Garcia doesn’t stop with Merle Haggard and Don Rich. Old Garcia pal Pete Grant recalls driving somewhere with Jerry Garcia in mid-60s and hearing Owens’s 1964 song “Together Again.” The pedal steel guitar solo by Tom Brumley was so beautiful that Grant and Garcia agreed on the spot that they had to learn pedal steel. Grant learned before Garcia, as it happened, but the Buckaroos music was one of the signposts for the future Garcia, even if it lay dormant for a few years (and I should add that the New Riders occasionally played “Together Again”).”

— Corry Arnold

“Buck Owens And The Buckaroos, March 9, 1968”, by Corry Arnold, Lost Live Dead Blog

The anecdote gives insight to the young Garcia, who played both banjo and guitar, and was a devotee of both bluegrass and country music. The joys of “Together Again” are subtle at first glance, but a closer listen hears Brumley soloing throughout the song. To me, steel guitar ballads sound like a cat rubbing against your ankles, looking you in the eye and braying for her dinner. “Together Again” is first class kitty music.

One can imagine the two young musicians marveling at the Buckaroos’ precision as something to emulate. Ironic, considering The Grateful Dead, and other San Francisco rock bands of the late sixties, were considered anything but tight or precise, but during the late sixties and early seventies the Dead played a complement of country songs in the Buck Owens style, clean and swinging.

Other California rock bands profiled in this blog are direct descendants of the Buckaroos. Creedence Clearwater Revival, who would be considered a country band today, spent their formative years touring the San Joaquin Valley and have that Central Valley sound. Chris Isaak grew up in Stockton, four hours north of Bakersfield, also shares the California sound: smaller bands with sharp, twanging guitars, well enunciated singing of songs with simple themes, and a basic, swinging beat. California music tends to be unsentimental, with minimal displays of melisma and overwrought emotion.

Buck Owens and Don Rich’s voices overlap one another beautifully. Several Buckaroos songs are punctuated with stop time passages, and possess a brightness matched only perhaps by early Beatles songs. Songs like “Hello Trouble” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here” shine with cheer and lightness that bely the song’s subjects. A little research into Mr. Owens suggests he may have courted and welcomed that aspect of life’s excitement.

The argument for Owens’ influence extends to the surf guitar music of southern California that succeeds him, and even Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, who spent the bulk of their career in Los Angeles, after migrating from Florida. Included for your consideration are a list of twenty fine Buck Owens songs.

Buck Owens & His Buckaroos Song Notes:

1. Most of these songs can be found on either 21 #1 Hits: The Ultimate Collection or Buck Em! The Music Of Buck Owens (1955-1967), The exceptions are:

“Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)” can be found on Buck Owens.
“Crying Time (Live)” can be found on The Best of Austin City Limits – Legends of Country Music.
“Love’s Gonna Live Here (Live)” can be found on Carnegie Hall Concert.
“Pick Me Up On Your Way Down” can be found on Sings Harlan Howard.
“If You Ain’t Lovin’ You Ain’t Livin'” and “High On A Hilltop” can be found on Sings Tommy Collins.

2. The Owens family had a donkey named Buck. One day, at the age of 4, young Alvis Jr. walked into the house and announced that from now on, he would also be known as “Buck”.

3. Reportedly, The Buckaroos never rehearsed.

Buck Owens & His Buckaroos Songs:

Act Naturally, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★★★
Above And Beyond (Alt), Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★★★

Love’s Gonna Live Here, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★★
Together Again, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★★

Second Fiddle, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Hello Trouble, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Foolin’ Around, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Pray Every Day, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Together Again (Live), Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Cryin’ Time, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
High On A Hilltop, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache), Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★
Buckaroo, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos ★★

Cryin’ Time (Live), Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
Under Your Spell Again, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
Made In Japan, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
If You Ain’t Lovin’ You Ain’t Livin’, Buck Owens & His Buckaroos

Related Songs:

Streets Of Bakersfield, Dwight Yoakam

Act Naturally, The Beatles ★★

Foolin’ Round, Patsy Cline

159. Tom Jones (Thomas Jones Woodward)

Sir Thomas Jones Woodward, aka “Tom Jones”, is a singer from Pontypridd, Wales, just twelve miles north of Cardiff, the Welsh capital.  Blessed with a powerful baritone voice, Jones’ singing style is reminiscent of the great American soul singers of the fifties and sixties.  Married with a child before his 17th birthday, Woodward worked by day and honed his musical skills by night.  In 1964, as lead singer for Tommy Scott & The Senators, he attracted the attention of producer Joe Meek, but efforts to land a recording contract were unsuccessful. However, later that year, Gordon Mills, a songwriter and fellow Welshmen, signed Woodward to a management contract, changed his name to Tom Jones, and brought him to London. Once signed with Decca Records, his second single, Mills’s own “It’s Not Unusual”, was a breakthrough hit in both Great Britain and the United States, and the catalyst for Jones’s lifetime, worldwide success as a professional singer and entertainer. In appreciation for his contribution to British society, Jones was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his “services to music” in 2006.

Tom Jones (b. 1940), singer
The Official Tom Jones Website

tom-jones-performs-at-glastonbury_0

The Aging Sex Symbol

Tom Jones was always a mainstream performer, and never considered a rock musician. He was renowned for his sex appeal, which he and his management used to great benefit. In this wonderful early video, It is apparent that Mr. Jones is a powerfully built man. He actually looks a lot like a college roommate of mine who played football.

As his initial success waned, Jones transformed himself in a middle of the road crooner, singing popular songs from many genres. Here he sings the American country hit, “Green, Green Grass Of Home”:

For the next few years, Jones was a consistent presence on popular and easy listening radio programs. From 1969 to 1971, he even hosted a successful TV variety show. He performed regularly in Las Vegas, where he was an object of intense adulation. Women threw undergarments and hotel keys onto the stage, and Jones played to his desirous audience by dancing suggestively, or wiping sweat from his brow and gifting the soiled handkerchiefs to his admirers. A few videos online capture this nonsense, which I find rather vulgar.

Though his star faded in middle age, Jones stayed hip by interpreting new songs using contemporary instrumentation, but he would never have earned a spot in my countdown without a late career renaissance. I was surprised how effectively Jones sang the blues in Martin Scorcese’s 2003 documentary “The Blues”. When an authority like Van Morrison suggests that Tom Jones is one of his favorite singers, further research is merited, and finds that Jones has crafted a fitting culmination to his career. Two recent albums, Praise And Blame and Spirit In The Room, are gentle and thoughtful, with spare, traditional instrumentation. Jones interprets songs of a spiritual nature, that contemplate life’s great mysteries — life and death, and Heaven and Hell.

Avant-Garde

Over the past century, popular music of the English speaking world has come full circle. The formalization of peasant music into jazz and blues, and the major music forms that followed — be-bop and free jazz, rhythm and blues into guitar-based rock, electronics and computerized sounds, the incorporation of Latin and African rhythms, and the spoken word set to a beat — these innovations have exhausted the possibilities for further exploration. Like classical music before it, popular music is a finite art, and has already enjoyed its peak period of innovation.

Wikipedia states, “the Avant-garde are people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics”. In this recent blog posting, Charles Hugh Smith argues that disruptive avant-garde movements in the arts have reached a point of diminishing returns, and that the avant-garde movement’s true concern is social innovation.

“It’s art that’s irrelevant, not the avant-garde. This is a boring age for art, mainly because of how boring the collectors are. These days collectors actually want to buy contemporary art. How boring can you get? It’s like they are buying fantastically expensive bespoke IKEA furniture for their homes. Now, art is not a bad day job if you can pull it off. I don’t begrudge anyone trying to make a living at it, like any other day job. But as day jobs go, it has no more glamour or dignity than doing public relations or corporate law. Not to mention academia! We’re all servants of the most boring and clueless ruling class in a century.

Avant-gardes, on the other hand, are always interesting, but they are not really about art, whatever some silly art school textbooks might say. Avant-gardes are about media, about social relations, about property-forms, but they are only ever incidentally or tactically concerned with art. The most interesting ones around at the moment might be about pharmacology or horticulture or even ‘business models’.”

— McKenzie Wark

What’s Avant-Garde Now? Social Innovation, by Charles Hugh Smith
“McKenzie Wark, Information/Commodification”, DisMagazine.com

To most music fans, Tom Jones will be remembered as a sexy pop singer, but these modern updates of folk songs deserve to be a significant part of his legacy. These big picture songs, with clearly sung lyrics and impeccable musicianship, are the logical conclusion to the popular music era. They are the only innovation in modern music worth preserving for posterity. In the coming century, pop music will endure in its current unimaginative form, at least for a while. The only music worth remembering will be the masters of the various instruments, the occasional jazz composition, and the rare songwriter who eloquently captures the misery of the dying Industrial Age.

Tom Jones Songs:

It’s Not Unusual, Tom Jones ★★★★

What Good Am I?, Tom Jones ★★
Burning Hell, Tom Jones ★★
Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Tom Jones ★★
Help Yourself, Tom Jones ★★
If He Should Ever Leave You, Tom Jones ★★
Hard Times, Tom Jones & Jeff Beck ★★
Sometimes We Cry, Tom Jones & Van Morrison ★★
Tower Of Song, Tom Jones ★★

If I Only Knew, Tom Jones
Hit Or Miss, Tom Jones
She’s A Lady, Tom Jones
In Style And Rhythm, Tom Jones
Goin’ Down Slow (Live), Tom Jones & Jeff Beck

Related Songs:

It’s Not Unusual, Willie Bobo ★★★
It’s Not Unusual (Instrumental), Willie Bobo

Hard Times, Ray Charles ★★★
Hard Times, Ray Charles & David Newman ★★
Hard Times (Live), The Crusaders ★★

Goin’ Down Slow, Duane Allman
Goin’ Down Slow (Alt), Howlin’ Wolf ★★

4. Los Lobos

Los Lobos is just another band from East Los Angeles, California. The original quartet all attended the same high school; Louie Pérez and David Hidalgo were in the same graduating class at Garfield High School, and bonded over a mutual interest in lesser known musical artists such as Ry Cooder and Randy Newman. Conrad Lozano and Cesar Rosas were already a year or two out of school, and playing in local bands. Like most aspiring young American musicians, they listened to the diverse sounds of the late sixties and early seventies, perhaps the peak era for creativity and growth for guitar-based popular music. British greats The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, soul musicians James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, and guitar virtuosos Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were among the influential artists of the era. For young men growing up in the Chicano neighborhoods of East Los Angeles, local stars Ritchie Valens and Thee Midniters served as inspiration, in a town with a rich musical heritage. Though they played modern music in their own bands, the four young men who would become Los Lobos forged their long partnership by learning traditional Mexican folk music together.

los-lobos

Conrad Lozano (b. 1951), bass, guitarron, vocals
David K. Hidalgo (b. 1954), guitar, accordion, vocals, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Cesar Rosas (b. 1954), guitar, bajo sexto, vocals, songwriter
Steve Berlin (b. 1955), saxophone, keyboards
Louis Pérez (b. 1953), guitar, jarana, percussion, vocals, songwriter

Three drummers who have contributed to the band are:

Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez, drums, percussion
Cougar Estrada, drums, percussion
Victor Bisetti, drums, percussion

Los Lobos on Wikipedia
Official Los Lobos Website
Los Lobos Tour Dates & Setlists 1983-Present (Unofficial)

The band spent many hours at Cesar’s house, listening to his mother’s record collection for study, and learning the intricacies of this complex music. The band began to perform at local social functions in 1973:

After lots of living room rehearsals they played at that Florence tardeada/tamalada. The response was amazing and overwhelming for both the audience and the guys. Here were five hippie-looking Chicanos playing for an audience that ranged from teenagers to gray-haired abuelitas. The grandmothers were amazed. Tears welled up in their eyes to hear the music of their heart being played by these youngsters. It was a sign that the musical legacy of Mexico would be perpetuated, albeit with a new, creative, universally appealing twist. Dave recalls, “At that point, we knew we had hit on something.”¹

In its early inception, the fifth band member was Francisco Gonzalez, a gifted harp and mandolin player. In this 1975 documentary video, Gonzalez has a dominant role as lead singer and band spokesperson. The highlights are the introduction, where Gonzalez explains the band’s motivation for learning the traditional songs, and the performance of “Sabor A Mí” at about 10:30 into the documentary.

Small “p” Politics

In 1976, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles was recruited to provide the music for Sí Se Puede, a charity album for the United Farm Workers of America. In 1978, they produced their eponymous first album, which sold a limited number of copies. By then, Francisco Gonzalez had left the group. In the future, he would serve as the musical director for El Teatro Campesino, a theatrical troupe that served as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers, and a teacher of son jarocho, a musical style from the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Little has been written about Los Lobos; to date, no comprehensive biography exists. However, the band’s role in the growing Chicano movement of the sixties and seventies was analyzed in Stevan Cesar Azcona’s book Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979. Azcona concludes that Los Lobos, who spoke English as a first language, wore beards, and dressed in American working clothes for gigs, used musical excellence rather than overt protest as a political statement:

I submit that it was the particular musicality of the Lobos, within the traditional styles of son and huapango, which excited audiences. The technical musical proficiency of the group as instrumentalists, coupled with the improvisational aspect of the son jarocho, in the words of Loza, “affected not only the performance of the son jarocho, but also the manner in which it was heard and evaluated by Chicanos.”²

The Lobos Go West (Of The River)

Los Lobos spent several years performing folk music in East Los Angeles and surrounding cities. But they hadn’t lost interest in electric guitars and rocking music. Pop music had experienced a period of relative stagnation, but the late seventies brought a wave of new bands reverting to simpler forms of rock and roll music, with shorter songs and often rudimentary musicianship. Some bands displayed their societal disaffection with anger and violent behavior. The punk rock movement was growing, and Los Angeles was a hotbed for this new direction in pop music.

The band experimented with electrified instruments at gigs, and took note of the burgeoning punk scene in Hollywood and Los Angeles. They attended concerts and befriended members of the local bands The Plugz and The Blasters. The quartet reorganized for electric music, with Louie Pérez moving to drums and Dave Hidalgo learning accordion in addition to his guitar expertise. They developed a new repertoire of music, Tex-Mex polkas and straight ahead rock and roll songs, while maintaining their Mexican-American roots and sensibilities. In January, 1981, they received their “big break” opening for The Blasters at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Hollywood. They became a fixture on the punk rock scene, and eventually signed a contract with Slash Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. In 1983, they released …and a Time to Dance, their first major label record. The short, seven song EP sold modestly, but enabled the band to begin touring nationally to develop a larger audience.

Here is the band performing in 1984, the subject of its second short documentary in a decade. Steve Berlin, who previously played saxophone in the Blasters, has been added to complete the quintet which has remained intact for thirty years.

Who Is That?

For the first seven years after college, I lived in an old apartment in East Palo Alto, on Woodland Avenue just across San Francisquito Creek from Palo Alto proper. It was a third story apartment with a balcony, and you entered from a central hallway. My next door neighbor Keith and I worked for the same company, and we became loingtime friends after spending three years living across from one another. For a year or so, Keith had a roommate, Mike Murphy, who would come home periodically with a few record albums. One evening, with the doors open between the apartments, Mike played some music which got my attention immediately. It was either “Serenata Norteña” or “Evangeline”.

“Mike, what is that?”, I demanded.
“That’s Los Lobos. You’ve never heard Los Lobos before?”
“No.”

And that was that; I went in to their room, listened carefully for the next 10-15 minutes, and have been in love with the band ever since. I bought a copy of their new album, How Will The Wolf Survive?, plus their first EP as soon as I could find it. I went to my first Los Lobos concert with Mike Murphy later that year, at the old Keystone in south Palo Alto. Thanks to the Internet, the date must have been June 1st, 1985. We were in the middle of the small, packed dance floor bouncing around, just a few feet from the band. I remember the impassive look on Dave Hidalgo’s face as the audience reveled. I also remember Murphy being appalled when I spent something like twenty bucks for a six pack of Michelob beer, only to give four of the beers away when I returned to the fray.

Since then I’ve seen the band perhaps fifteen to twenty times. They always perform at a high level, but like every band some concerts are better than others. At a San Jose Cinco De Mayo celebration in 1990, salsa great Willie Colón opened for Los Lobos and played for three hours, in what appeared to be an act of sour grapes for not headlining. Later that year, we took Cheryl’s youngest daughter to her first rock concert, at the Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga. One of the great concerts was in May 2004, at the tiny Catalyst club in downtown Santa Cruz. It was right after they released their album The Ride to commemorate thirty years together as a band. I drove down from Portland, listening to The Ride a couple times to familiarize myself with the new songs. My old neighbor Keith joined me for dinner and the concert. By then the band had added a dedicated percussionist, with Louie Pérez moving back to the front of the stage as a third guitarist. It was loud in there, and we were blazed, and the songs from the new album came alive. Then there was a 2010 concert at an old theater in Ventura, California with an old college friend which didn’t go well. The acoustics were awful, and before the concert started I witnessed this great big guy lift a much smaller man up by his neck and hold him helplessly against the wall for a good thirty seconds before letting him go. It’s scary to see violence like that close up. Finally, in July of 2011 my wife and I saw Los Lobos at the Portland Zoo. There wasn’t any room to sit down when we got there, so we opted to stand right in front of the stage. The band was on and sounding great. In the middle of the concert, a very tall, athletic woman and her boyfriend moved up to the little dance area, right in front of Cheryl, not only obscuring her view, but also occasionally bumping into her while we all danced in place. She was really pissed. For a moment I thought they were going to go! That girl was big and strong; I don’t know if that would have been a good idea.

America’s Greatest Band

With about one hundred and sixty songs, Los Lobos retains their position as having the third most songs in my music collection. They remain in my top five with four titans of popular music. What an interesting subject to write about! Evaluating bands quantitatively, by the number and quality of songs, makes perfect sense to me. I don’t understand how some bands with just a few good songs receive the type of recognition that has eluded Los Lobos. So why do I love Los Lobos so much?

On the “Introduction” page of the blog I have a list of general criteria for evaluating music. I wrote a rough draft six years ago, and the review of Los Lobos prompted me to take a second look at this section. The Introduction page has been edited and updated.

A. Clear, Understandable Singing: Call me old fashioned, but I like the style of singing where the lyrics can be easily understood. I like plain, controlled singers, and don’t care for singers who sustain notes unnecessarily. Overly emotive singing has the opposite effect; songs lose their emotional impact. Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles are examples of good singers who don’t wail and sing effectively.

B. Musical Virtuosity: Perhaps more than anything I admire skillful musicianship. Though I lack a formal musical education, I’ve listened for a long time, and believe I can tell who can play. Skillful musicians often play with restraint; it’s not always about being the center of attention. Great musicians and great bands play fast or slow, in different keys and different rhythms, and use their instruments to convey a variety of emotions.

C. Swing It and Move Me: Even as simple as bobbing your head back and forth, music that moves the body is the greatest kind. Dance is the timeless mating ritual, where two people express themselves physically. Some songs are too fast or slow for dance; at any speed I’m looking for songs that move the mind.

D. Different Rhythms, Different Sounds: In recent years, popular music seems to have strayed from the use of complex, danceable rhythms, choosing to play it safe with a 4/4 tempo with the emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beat. This would limit both the creativity of the dance, and the musician’s ability to improvise. My music collection should offer good examples of both traditional and non-traditional music rhythms.

Variety is everything. There should be a grand variety of instruments and sounds, and the recognized masters of the common popular instruments shall be included.

E. The Lyrics and The Story: Defining great lyrics is hard, and may require repeat listenings before they make an impact. More than half of my collection features songs about love, sex, and the concepts of home and God. Since I like “moving” songs, I also have many songs that remind me of trains, or driving along in an automobile. I tend to like simple, direct lyrics, and often tire of deciphering dense, complex subjects. On the other hand, ambiguous lyrics that can be interpreted differently by two people are special. As are catchy songs with unique subjects. I recently added a song called “Plea From A Cat Name Virtute”, sung from the standpoint of the cat trying to cheer up its owner. There are infinite possibilities for a good song.

What constitutes good lyrics is personal, though there are consensus favorites. The lyrics should fit to the melody and the cadence. How the singer emphasizes the syllables is essential. Bob Dylan is a master of punctuating his lyrics. Dylan is also the rare author who tells a long story well. Overly abstract lyrics, and nonsensical lyrics chosen for their sound rather than their meaning, have limited value. As always, there are exceptions. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is rather abstract and nonsensical, but it evokes dreamy imagery well, of plasticine porters with looking glass ties.

F. Exceptions To The Rule: There are exceptions to the rule, good songs about nothing in particular, good songs where the singing is unclear, or the music is crude and amateurish. Once again, variety is the key.

G. Perfect Sounding Music is a No-No: I dislike overproduced music, where every human imperfection is filtered out of the final product. There are few exceptions, as it dehumanizes the music. I have a tough time enjoying modern popular music, though part of the problem is the well established repertoire developed over fifty plus years. In contrast, accomplished musicians can take a loosely rehearsed concept and create something spontaneous and beautiful with limited preparation. Many great jazz and pop songs were completed in just a couple of takes.

H. Variety Within an Artist’s Career Almost without exception, the greatest bands and musicians evolve, and have distinctive stages of their careers. The Beatles are still the gold standard in this regard, from their beginnings as a rock and roll quartet singing overt love songs, to a mature phase, writing songs on a variety of subjects, and incorporating the instruments and studio sound effects deemed best to achieve the desired result.

I. Originality: The first musicians to introduce a new style of music, and the best practitioners of that style, are considered valuable traits. I study traditional forms of popular music, including some that originated in foreign countries. Less attention is paid to recent musical trends, after the demarcations between musical styles started to blur. Even the roots of rap music, a genre I listen to infrequently, can be found in the dub poetry of men like Linton Kwesi Johnson, or the socio-political rants of Gil Scott-Heron.

A songwriter’s original version of a song tends to be the highest rated and most coveted interpretation.

J. Short Songs Are Best: When I first started listening to music, most popular songs were brief, often with a short instrumental break between the second and third verse. Beatles and other pop music songs were two to three minutes long. Before the development of long playing records, and the advanced recording techniques of the late forties and early fifties, musicians were limited to about three and a half minutes per song, the outside limit for recording on 78 rpm records. By the late fifties, jazz musicians were creating longer songs with well developed improvisations, and eventually all musicians followed suit. I tend to like short songs better; longer songs, and especially longer improvisational passages, must conform to a higher standard, as it more difficult to maintain the listener’s interest. Ten minute songs are a rarity, about one percent of the collection, and multiple improvisational pieces by a single artist are the exception rather than the rule.

Analysis of Los Lobos Music

Los Lobos is unique among American bands. They began their professional career playing Mexican music, even though they spoke English as a first language. The folk music they perform is complex; they became accomplished musicians at a young age. Los Lobos evolved from Veracruz folk songs to Tex-Mex polkas, on by the mid-eighties had incorporated elements of both rock & roll and country & western music.

A representative song from this era is “A Matter Of Time”. The story of a man searching for work while his family waits at home is revisited in future songs.

The band’s songwriters tend to not make sweeping statements. Even when composing the rare anthem, the small town reality of life’s struggle remains.

A young girl tosses a coin in the wishing well,
She hopes for a Heaven while for her there’s just this Hell.
She gave away her life, to become somebody’s wife,
Another wish unanswered in America.

People having so much faith,
Die too soon while all the rest come late,
We write a song that no one sings,
On a cold black stone where a lasting peace will finally bring.

A wise man was telling stories to me,
About the places he had been to,
And the things that he had seen.
A quiet voice is singing something to me,
An age old song ’bout the home of the brave,
And this land here of the free,
One time, one night in America.

— David Hidalgo/Louie Pérez

The La Bamba Conundrum

In the early days, Los Lobos featured three Ritchie Valens songs in their live repertoire. While performing in Santa Cruz, California, the Valens family approached the band, and asked them to provide the music for a proposed movie about the young star who died tragically in the same accident which claimed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The band was honored to do so, and provided the music for La Bamba, which became a surprise summer hit in 1987. After toiling in relative anonymity for fifteen years, the remake of the song “La Bamba” became a #1 hit.

This created a dilemma for the band, who created three solid albums of original material to limited national exposure and success. The next few years were difficult, as they struggled to establish their own methods of operation. Rather than attempt to capitalize on “La Bamba”, the band reverted to its roots and released La Pistola y El Corazón, a second album of Mexican folk songs. The Neighborhood followed two years later, which was a good rock record, with well crafted songs and performances, but a frustrating experience for the band, who spent months poring over the tiny details. They went back to the drawing board to find a better way to do business.

“So all we could do at that point was basically entertain ourselves and make the kind of music we wanted to make, and use the instruments we wanted to use, and just completely ignore everything and everybody. And that’s more or less the vibe we went into Kiko with. It was like, ‘Nobody’s gonna tell us shit.'”³

— Steve Berlin

“The core of the song was there. The band would listen to it and the run to our instruments. We’d capture that first impression and a lot of times it would be the run-through of the track, but it had a feel to it — I don’t know, it was something we’d never had before…I realized why I loved Jimmy Reed so much, or Howlin’ Wolf, because that was the way they did records. Nobody knew the songs; they came and did them in one or two takes, ’cause they weren’t gonna waste their time thinking, and they had to move on to the next song. So that’s why they’re so fresh.”³

— David Hidalgo

In 1992, Los Lobos released Kiko, a quantum leap forward in songwriting and musical diversity. Solos are kept to a minimum on these song templates, with plenty of room for improvisational exploration in concert. While still grounded in day-to-day life, there’s an element of psychedelic mysticism from deep within the southwestern United States. Kiko is a great record.

As an eagle soars,
Our spirits fly,
To our gentle rest,
Under loving sky.
Oh sacred night,
On quetzal plumes,
Of dying suns,
And purple moons.
Oh sacred night.

— “Wake Up Dolores”, Hidalgo/Pérez

By the early nineties, the band was augmenting both their studio and live music with additional percussionists. This allowed Pérez to move forward as a third guitarist and occasional singer. In concert, Pérez still plays drums for short periods, especially when they perform the old songs. Here are three songs from Kiko:

“Angels With Dirty Faces”

“That Train Don’t Stop Here”

“Kiko And The Lavender Moon”

Having reached a mature phase of their career, Los Lobos continues to produce new music and tour the world. They have a devoted following, but they receive little national publicity. That they only command small to medium size venues is a bonus for true fans, who get to see the band up close and hear their music in a relatively quiet environment. Their new approach to studio recording resulted in greater productivity. They’ve made twelve albums since Kiko, including three live performances and two children’s records. Of these, my favorites are The Ride (2004) with a number of cameo appearances, and The Town And The City (2006), a loose concept album about Los Angeles, which conveys a tired sense of sadness and concern for their hometown.

Cesar Rosas has evolved as a songwriter. From writing bluesy, “greasier” songs in English, many of Cesar’s best songs are now written in Spanish, and incorporate traditional Caribbean rhythms. “Marciela” from Colossal Head is a crowd favorite.

The Beatles used a variety of studio tricks and tape loops to create their iconic songs from Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A testament to Los Lobos musicianship is their ability to recreate the mood of “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

Dear Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Music is very personal, and each person can only hear a small subset of new music. When I was young, there were fewer performers and fewer bands, and the world focused its attention on a few talented artists. By the early seventies, artists like the Beatles, and Charlie Parke, and Sun Ra, had challenged the boundaries of popular music. Since then, the number of gifted musicians has grown, but the frontiers for innovation are more limited. Among post-seventies bands who played traditional dance music, Los Lobos is a rare innovator who incorporated a unique traditional style into their music. Los Lobos plays music of astonishing breadth; no other American band can lay claim to such a wide variety of styles and rhythms. Their songs are grounded in their reality; they do not attempt to make grand, vague statements outside their sphere. To the best of my knowledge, they have never cursed on record or in concert. They sing their songs plainly, and they enunciate well. Their music is often playful; they recorded an album of Disney songs, and a few of their songs have a child-like simplicity. They are very humble in their appearance and presentation. When they were presented with a chance to capitalize on the success of “La Bamba”, they retreated to their own music. They are all family men, with wives and children, though Cesar’s wife passed away unexpectedly in 1999. They have stayed together as a quartet for forty years, and now as a quintet for thirty. From this outsider’s view, they are a clean-cut, great American success story.

“Los Lobos Marks 40 Years of Distinctive, Eclectic Music”, by Chris Junior, Goldmine Magazine, June 2013

I grew up in Palo Alto, the home of the Grateful Dead, but my heart belongs to Los Lobos del Este Los Angeles, four hundred miles to the south. They are closer to my age, and lived close enough where I heard and enjoyed all the same musical influences. I’d like to believe life was not that different for children raised in Palo Alto and East Los Angeles. In conversation they sound like the Californians I know. From the first time I heard them, Los Lobos music resonated deeply with me, and their appearance and behavior is the essence of California cool.

This reminds me of a story. I played basketball in college, at UC Davis near Sacramento, California. For the first couple of years, I was an understudy for Audwin Thomas, the team’s starting point guard, who became one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. He was from Oakland, and in high school the two of us played against each other in a holiday basketball tournament. One day we were talking about that day we played against each other. Before the game, his coach came into the locker room and said, “You can’t let these guys beat you. These guys eat donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast!” Their coach was wrong, as I stopped eating donuts for brunch in junior high.

On the Not In Hall of Fame website, Los Lobos is currently ranked as the 133rd ranked band not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A few publications and websites give the band a little more love, but the chances appear slim. When I suggest to non-fans that Los Lobos belongs in the Hall Of Fame, I get either blank stares or comments that I’m crazy. I admit a tendency to latch onto a favorite band with a passion. But only three or maybe four of the top hundred bands in the countdown appear to be personal favorites that look wildly out of place. I’ve studied music reviews for many years, and the rest of my list looks very reasonable, with consensus great artists of rock, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and reggae. If Los Lobos has a weakness as an all-time rock band, it would be the inability or reluctance to make the grand statement, the catchy pop song with that memorable hook that everyone knows and loves. Had they done this, I still have doubts whether their songs would have gained widespread acceptance.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to induct Los Lobos is to recognize David Hidalgo, a most versatile and talented musician. Not only a fine singer and songwriter, he has the rare gift of swing, propelling songs forward with his guitar or his accordion. Here’s how Hidalgo and the band sent the Austin City Limits crowd home in 2001:

“There’s a big fat heart,
With an arrow through the middle,
Of this place that I call home.
And when I get lost,
And don’t even got a nickel,
There’s a piece of dirt I call my own.

I gotta say one, two, three,
More things before I go on.

You can’t run and try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
You can’t run to try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
Where you are, never really far away,
Good morning Aztlan.”

— Hidalgo/Pérez

Los Lobos Song Notes:

1. There are a couple of essential documents to obtain if possible. One is Chuy’s Tape Box, Volume 1, a 1984 soundboard recording from a small club in Santa Barbara. There are only a few thousand copies floating around. It captures the band in rare form with a very enthusiastic audience. The second is a KFOG radio recording of the December 16, 1993 Christmas benefit program in San Francisco, California. Not only was Kiko recently released; it features both acoustic and electric programs, with definitive versions of “A Matter Of Time” and “One Time, One Night”.

Los Lobos Songs:

Sí Se Puede

De Colores, Los Lobos

(Just Another Band From East L.A.)

El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★
Sabor A Mi, Los Lobos ★★★
Flor De Huevo, Los Lobos
La Iguana, Los Lobos
El Cuchipe, Los Lobos ★★★
Guantanamera, Los Lobos ★★★
La Feria De Las Flores, Los Lobos
El Bon Bon De Elena, Los Lobos

…And A Time To Dance

Let’s Say Goodnight, Los Lobos ★★★★
Walking Song, Los Lobos
Anselma, Los Lobos ★★★
Come On, Let’s Go, Los Lobos ★★
How Much Can I Do?, Los Lobos ★★★
Why Do You Do, Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Los Lobos

How Will The Wolf Survive?

Don’t Worry Baby, Los Lobos ★★
A Matter Of Time, Los Lobos ★★★★
Our Last Night, Los Lobos
I Got Loaded, Los Lobos ★★★
Evangeline, Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know, Los Lobos
Lil’ King Of Everything, Los Lobos
Will The Wolf Survive?, Los Lobos ★★★

By The Light Of The Moon

One Time, One Night, Los Lobos ★★★★★
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes, Los Lobos
Is This All There Is?, Los Lobos
Set Me Free (Rosa Lee), Los Lobos
The Hardest Time, Los Lobos ★★
My Baby’s Gone, Los Lobos
Tears Of God, Los Lobos ★★

La Pistola Y El Corazón

La Guacamaya, Los Lobos ★★
Las Amarillas, Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos ★★
El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★★★
La Pistola Y El Corazón, Los Lobos

The Neighborhood

Down On The Riverbed, Los Lobos
Emily, Los Lobos ★★
I Walk Alone, Los Lobos
Angel Dance, Los Lobos ★★
Little John Of God, Los Lobos
Deep Dark Hole, Los Lobos ★★
Georgia Slop, Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand, Los Lobos
The Giving Tree, Los Lobos ★★★
Take My Hand, Los Lobos ★★
Jenny’s Got A Pony, Los Lobos
Be Still, Los Lobos ★★★
The Neighborhood, Los Lobos ★★

Kiko (20th Anniversary Edition)

Dream In Blue, Los Lobos
Wake Up Dolores, Los Lobos ★★
Angels With Dirty Faces, Los Lobos ★★★
That Train Don’t Stop Here, Los Lobos ★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon, Los Lobos ★★★★
Saint Behind The Glass, Los Lobos ★★★★
Reva’s House, Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes, Los Lobos ★★★★
Arizona Skies, Los Lobos ★★
Short Side Of Nothing, Los Lobos
Two Janes, Los Lobos
Wicked Rain, Los Lobos ★★
Just A Man, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies/Borinquen Patria Mia (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Just Another Band From East L.A. – A Collection

Someday, Los Lobos
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★
What’s Going On (Live), Los Lobos

Live At The Warfield (12/16/1993, KFOG Broadcast) (Unauthorized)

Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
One Time, One Night (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★★
A Matter Of Time (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Red Headed Woman (Live), Los Lobos
Don’t Worry Baby (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★

Papa’s Dream

Cielito Lindo, Los Lobos
La Bamba, Los Lobos

(I chose the second version of “La Bamba” from this disc. Both versions are moderately interesting.)

Colossal Head

Revolution, Los Lobos ★★
Mas Y Mas, Los Lobos ★★
Maricela, Los Lobos ★★
Manny’s Bones, Los Lobos ★★

This Time

This Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Cumbia Raza, Los Lobos ★★

El Cancionero: Mas Y Mas (4-CD Box Set)

La Bamba, Los Lobos ★★
Goodnight My Love, Los Lobos
I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), Los Lobos ★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Los Lobos
Alone In A Crowd, Los Lobos
Tomorrow Never Knows (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Los Lobos (with Paul Burlison) ★★

Good Morning Aztlan

Hearts Of Stone, Los Lobos ★★★
Luz De Mi Vida, Los Lobos ★★
Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos ★★★★
Tony y Maria, Los Lobos
What In The World, Los Lobos
Round & Round, Los Lobos

The Ride

La Venganza De Los Pelados, Los Lobos
Rita, Los Lobos ★★★
Somewhere In Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street, Los Lobos
Wreck Of The Carlos Rey, Los Lobos
Someday, Los Lobos
Chains Of Love, Los Lobos ★★★

Ride This – The Covers EP

It’ll Never Be Over For Me, Los Lobos ★★

Live At The Fillmore

The Neighborhood (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Maricela (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★★

Live In Carmel (3/3/2005) (Unauthorized)

La Llorona (Live), Los Lobos
Sabor A Mi, (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Gema (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Acoustic En Vivo

Canto A Veracruz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Colas (Live), Los Lobos ★★
El Cuchipe (Live), Los Lobos
Two Janes (Live), Los Lobos
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Soy Mexico Americano (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Teresa (Live), Los Lobos
Guantanamera (Live), Los Lobos ★★

The Town And The City

The Valley, Los Lobos ★★
The Road To Gila Bend, Los Lobos ★★★
Chuco’s Cumbia, Los Lobos ★★
If You Were Only Here Tonight, Los Lobos ★★
Luna, Los Lobos
The City, Los Lobos
No Puedo Más, Los Lobos
The Town, Los Lobos ★★

Los Lobos Goes Disney

I Will Go Sailing No More, Los Lobos ★★

Tin Can Trust

Burn It Down, Los Lobos ★★
Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos
Jupiter Or The Moon, Los Lobos ★★
Do The Murray, Los Lobos
West L.A. Fadeaway, Los Lobos
27 Spanishes, Los Lobos

Kiko Live

Dream In Blue (Live), Los Lobos
Angels With Dirty Faces (Live), Los Lobos
That Train Don’t Stop Here (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies (Live), Los Lobos

Disconnected In New York City (Live)

Chuco’s Cumbia (Live), Los Lobos ★★
La Venganza De Los Peladoes (Live), Los Lobos
Little Things (Live), Los Lobos

Chuy’s Tape Box Volume 1 (Live in Santa Barbara, 1/14/1984)

Let’s Say Goodnight (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Our Last Night (Live), Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know (Live), Los Lobos
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos
How Much Can I Do? (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Anselma (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I’m Sorry (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Come On, Let’s Go (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
La Bamba (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Sleep Walk (Live), Los Lobos
I’m Tore Down (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 1)

Just A Man (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 2)

Angel Dance (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand (Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone Intro), Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos
Hearts Of Stone (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy (Live), Los Lobos

Miscellaneous

Rolling, Los Lobos
Carabina 30-30, Los Lobos ★★

“Rolling” is a 56 second single, while “Carabina 30-30” can be found on KCRW Sounds Eclectico.

Related Songs:

Sabor A Mí, Eydie Gorme & Trio Los Panchos ★★
Sabor A Mí (Live), Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina

El Cuchipe, Brigitte Bardot

Guantanamera, Evaristo Quintanales ★★★
Guantanamera (Live), Pete Seeger

El Bombón De Elena, Cortijo y Su Combo ★★

Come On, Let’s Go, Richie Valens ★★

Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Flaco Jimenez ★★★

I Got Loaded, Lil’ Bob & The Lollipops ★★★

Georgia Slop, Big Al Downing ★★★
Georgia Slop, Jimmy McCracklin (added to Wish List)

Borinquen Patria Mia, Claudio Ferrer y Su Conjunto (added to Wish List)

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Alt), Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Live), Chaka Khan

Los Ojos De Pancha, Los Alegres De Terán

Cielito Lindo, Trio Los Panchos

La Bamba, Ritchie Valens ★★★
La Bamba, Los Nacionales de Jacinto Gatica

Goodnight My Love, Jesse Belvin ★★

I Wan’na Be Like You, Louis Prima & Phil Harris ★★★★★

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Nat King Cole ★★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Vince Guaraldi Trio ★★

Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles ★★★★
Tomorrow Never Knows (Alt), The Beatles

Midnight Shift, Buddy Holly ★★

Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes (Live), The Beatles

La Llorona, Chavela Vargas ★★
La Llorona, Alberto Vasquez ★★

Canto A Veracruz, Andres Huesca & Trio Huracán

Soy Mexico Americano, Los Cenzontles
Soy Mexico Americano, Los Pinguinos Del Norte

I Will Go Sailing No More, Randy Newman ★★

Buzz Buzz Buzz, Hollywood Flames ★★★
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Jonathan Richman ★★

I’m Sorry, Bo Diddley

Sleep Walk, Santo & Johnny ★★★

I’m Tore Down, Freddie King ★★

Angel Dance, Robert Plant

Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★

¹ Excerpts from “Siendo la Verdadera Historia de Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles”, by Luis Torres (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)
² Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979, by Stevan Cesar Azcona, p. 234
³ Excerpts from “The Hollywood Years and Beyond” by Chris Morris (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)

5. Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman)

Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941) is a singer/songwriter from Hibbing, a mining town in the Mesabi Iron Range of northern Minnesota. As a schoolboy, Zimmerman was an indifferent student with a keen interest in art and poetry. At nights he would often listen to the radio, where he heard the sounds of blues and country music from Louisiana and other far-flung places. He discovered rock and roll in the mid-fifties, and organized local bands as a teenager. After graduating from high school, he spent one year enrolled at the University of Minnesota. He rarely attended class, but he managed to discover the beautiful storytelling within folk music.

“Folk music was a reality of a more brilliant dimension. It exceeded all human understanding, and if it called out to you, you could disappear and be sucked into it. I felt right at home in this mythical realm made up not with individuals so much as archetypes, vividly drawn archetypes of humanity, metaphysical in shape, each rugged soul filled with natural knowing and inner wisdom. Each demanding a degree of respect. I could believe in the full spectrum of it and sing about it. It was so real, so more true to life than life itself. It was life magnified. Folk music was all I needed to exist. Trouble was, there wasn’t enough of it. It was out of date, had no proper connection to the actualities, the trends of the time. It was a huge story but hard to come across. Once I slipped in beyond the fringes it was like my six-string guitar became a crystal magic wand and I could move things like never before. I had no other cares or interests besides folk music. I scheduled my life around it. I had little in common with anyone not like-minded.”

— Bob Dylan “Chronicles, Volume 1”

Bob Dylan (b. 1941), singer, songwriter, guitar, harmonica, piano

Bob Dylan Records His First Album For Columbia

In early 1961, Dylan traveled to New York City, where he hoped to both perform and meet his musical idol, Woody Guthrie, who was hospitalized there. Indeed, he spent significant time with the ailing folk singer, and established himself as a regular act in the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene. Dylan was not considered a premier performer at first; he was renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of old folk songs, but artists such as Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Fred Neil were more popular.

By late 1961, his talent began to attract attention. A positive review in the New York Times, followed by session work playing harmonica for Carolyn Hester caught the attention of producer John Hammond, who signed Dylan to a record contract. This was a surprise to both the folk music community and Columbia Records management. Hammond was a legend in the business, having discovered and promoted the talents of jazz greats Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Billie Holiday, among others, but few could see the potential in the young folk singer with the unusual voice. Bob Dylan’s first album, recorded in just six hours in November 1961, sold poorly, prompting fellow Columbia record executives to label the singer “Hammond’s Folly”. But Dylan responded with a brilliant second album (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963), which included several songs now considered folk standards, especially “Blowin’ In The Wind”, an instant classic and a popular hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Over the next two years, Dylan revolutionized the art of folk songwriting, crafting songs of great lyrical sophistication, songs of love and protest and hypocrisy, that sent musicologists and sociologists scrambling for their notepads and record players, eager to decipher what the great young philosopher meant. Suddenly, Bob Dylan was the country’s preeminent songwriter, and thrust into an uncomfortable, unwanted role as “spokesman for a generation”.

Dylan Goes Electric

From his arrival in New York City in 1961, until the release of Bringing It All Back Home in May, 1965, Bob Dylan performed as a solo act, though his songs were sometimes recorded with spare, acoustic accompaniment. But he always had an interest in rock and roll music. Bringing It All Back Home marks the first major transition in Dylan’s career, with one full side of music recorded with an amplified band. In July, 1965, he stunned the audience at the Newport Folk Festival by plugging in and playing raucous and distorted music, offending folk purists who considered the switch to electric music as “going commercial”, and destroying myths that this man was beholden to any group or generation. During this busy period of his career, Dylan also recorded the classic Highway 61 Revisited in the summer of 1965, perhaps his greatest achievement, which cemented his intention to employ electric instruments. Dylan adopted the practice of performing one acoustic set and one electric set at concerts, to mixed reviews. He received a nasty reception in England, documented in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary Don’t Look Back. The press hounded him, peppering him with irrelevant and condescending questions. In July 1966, an exhausted Dylan crashed his motorcycle near his home in Woodstock, New York. It nearly killed him.

Wikipedia Page for “Electric Dylan Controversy”
Dailymotion Clip: “Dylan Goes Electric”

Dylan recovered, and though some of the insanity with obsessive fandom remained, he was able to begin a mature phase of his musical career which continues today. He is popular music’s “most interesting man” — hundreds of books have been written about his life and work. He has received dozens of awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of freedom in 2012. I read two books while studying his music, “Bob Dylan In America” by Sean Wilentz and “Chronicles, Volume 1” by Bob Dylan. Both are recommended. He is intensely private, and rarely makes himself available for interviews. After touring sporadically for years, Dylan embarked on a Never Ending Tour in 1988, and has played about a hundred concerts per year through 2013. He is arguably the most influential artist from the second half of the 20th century. There is a wealth of information available about Bob Dylan; here are a few links to get started.

Offical Bob Dylan Website
Johanna’s Visions: Fine Music Site Featuring Dylan and Others
Boblinks: An Extensive List of Websites Dedicated to Bob Dylan

Amazon.com Link to “Bob Dylan In America” by Sean Wilentz
Amazon.com Link to “Chronicles, Volume 1” by Bob Dylan

A Short List of Contributing Musicians

Bruce Langhorne (b. 1938), guitar
Mike Bloomfield (1943-1981), lead guitar
Al Kooper (b. 1944), Hammond organ, guitar
Charlie McCoy (b. 1941), guitar
Bill Lee (b. 1928), bass
Hargus “Pig” Robbins (b. 1938), piano, keyboards
Tony Garnier (b. 1956), bass
David Hidalgo (b. 1954), guitar, violin, accordion
Augie Meyers (b. 1940), organ, accordion

The Band
Rick Danko (1942-1999), bass
Levon Helm (1940-2012), drums
Garth Hudson (b. 1937), organ
Richard Manuel (1943-1986), piano
Robbie Robertson (b. 1943), guitar

bob-dylan-manchester-2002

A Very Brief Recap of His Career, 1967-Present

As he recovered from his motorcycle accident, Bob Dylan recorded a series of informal sessions (The Basement Tapes) with The Band, who would soon achieve widespread popularity of their own. From 1967 to 1969, he recorded three strong albums using country session musicians in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville Skyline is my favorite of the three, featuring short, sentimental songs and Dylan as a deep-voiced country crooner. One of the great curiosities of Dylan’s career is how his voice changed, from the nasal sounding delivery of his youth, to the thing, gravelly voice in recent years.

The Delete Bin Blog: The Eight Voices of Bob Dylan

I have limited interest in Dylan’s work of the seventies and eighties. There are fewer compelling songs. And many major record companies lost their way in terms of understanding what makes good sounding records. Synthesizers often replaced traditional musical instruments, and the performances often sound as if every wrong note is eliminated from the finished product. This studio perfection sucks the life out of popular music, a practice that continues today in many genres. The consensus choice for best album during these two decades is Blood On The Tracks.

The Modern Guitar Band

Dylan evolved as a songwriter in a fascinating way. Over the last quarter century he relied more on his vast knowledge of folk music, both recasting traditional songs or using snippets of previously used phrases to create new songs. The practice of using phrases from older folk songs is an ancient tradition, though few employ it today. His skill at assembling soulful musicians continued to grow, and he recorded them in a live informal manner, with minimal production interference. The best post-1990 Dylan recordings sound like live music. A great example is this take on “Cold Irons Bound”, from Time Out Of Mind:

A great example of what is essentially a small jazz combo, with three guitarists (including bass guitarist Tony Garnier) loosely improvising around a highly syncopated rhythm, with Dylan singing and adding the occasional fill. Five and six piece bands with two lead guitars dominate the top of my list of favorite bands. Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers Band are among the early practitioners, with Bob Dylan’s modern work, along with Los Lobos and late-nineties era Lucinda Williams more recently examples. The modern improvising guitar band is not that far removed from dixieland and swing jazz bands of the past.

Bob Dylan has had a great career as a bandleader, with three distinct great bands — the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, with the tinny, upright piano and bright organ lending a carnival atmosphere, the subtle Nashville sessions of Blonde On Blonde and John Wesley Harding, and the contemporary twin guitar sound featured on recent records like Modern Times and Love And Theft.

With A Little Help

By the time I study each musician, I usually have most of the songs I want. Elvis Costello, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were examples of artists where I was able to find a number of new songs I liked. Bob Dylan is similar, and the last artist in the countdown with a substantial body of unexplored music. Although not yet featured, Billie Holiday is another artist I’m compelled to explore in significant detail; her supporting bands featured many great jazz musicians.

To expedite the process of learning more Bob Dylan songs, I first studied on my own, then showed my initial list to three friends, asking for suggestions. As a result, I added perhaps twenty more songs, for a total of about one hundred and forty recordings. I’ve enjoyed my three month excursion into Bob Dylan’s music. i learned a lot, and my opinion of his music has grown. Thanks to my friends Kelly, Corry and John for their help.

My Concert Experience

I’ve seen Bob Dylan in concert once. He performed as the headliner with Lucinda Williams and Van Morrison, at the Rose Garden, a large modern basketball arena in Portland, Oregon, in September, 1998. On that tour, Dylan and Morrison took turns playing last. Lucinda opened, and though she was riding a crest of popularity after the release of her most famous album, was given only a half-hour to perform. Van took the stage after a very brief intermission, and proceeded to tear the house down with an upbeat, swinging no-nonsense set, one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. Dylan came next and was a major disappointment, though it would be hard to follow Morrison’s passionate performance. The music was uninspiring, and Dylan’s singing was hard to understand. Everything sounded fuzzy and distorted. It was hard to even tell which songs were being played. He played “Mr. Tambourine Man”, but different than the way I knew it. We left about halfway through the set. Part of the problem was not knowing all the songs beforehand, but it’s hard to appreciate the music when it can’t be understood. Surely there are great live performances in Bob Dylan’s career, but he seems best suited to the recording studio, where his expressive but weak voice can be properly heard.

Van Morrison is the musician most similar to Bob Dylan. I see Morrison as highly influenced by Dylan, and not the other way around. Among songwriters of the past half century, Dylan is the top of the influence pyramid. If I had to choose one quality of Dylan’s music I like best, it would be the way he punctuates his lyrics, syncopates the sounds, emphasizes the syllables in such a pleasing manner. I rock my head gently back and forth, feeling the rhythm of the words and listening to the sound of the lyrics that roll along with the music so gently. He doesn’t wail. He sings to the music. His ability to make the lyrics swing within the music is beautiful.

Listen To That Duquesne Whistle Blowing!

“Duquesne Whistle” is the opening song on Bob Dylan’s newest album, Tempest. Co-written by Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter, “Duquesne Whistle” is one of my favorite songs of the past few years. It shares a recent distinction of being the greatest song ever by a seventy year old man, along with Paul Simon’s “The Afterlife”, in the last blog entry.

“Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing,
Blowing like the sky is gonna blow apart.
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me going,
You’re like a time bomb in my heart.
I can hear a sweet voice gently calling,
Must be the mother of our Lord.
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing,
Blowing like my woman’s on board.”

The song starts gently, a delicate but complete introduction to the song structure, before the drums and bass kick and take us on our journey. The recording quality has a primitive feel; it sounds like it was recorded at Chess Studios. This one hits all the right buttons for me, with a train as a metaphor for life. The song makes references to his woman, his Lord, and hints that the end of the line is within sight. Elvis Presley was the big train from Memphis, and Bob Dylan is the Duquesne Whistle.

“Duquesne Whistle” is a medium-fast shuffle, a dance song. The band subtly pushes the throttle down as the song moves through the five verses, but never so fast that the train derails. There is a short pause after the fourth verse, a little stop, before kicking into gear for the final verse:

“Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing,
Blowing through another no good town.
The lights of my native land are glowing,
I wonder if they’ll know me next time around.
I wondered if that old oak tree’s still standing,
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb.
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing,
Blowing like she’s blowing right on time.”

— Dylan/Hunter

A little riff for tension, and off they go, over the horizon and into the sunset, with David Hidalgo (I think that’s right. I’m researching it.) leading the way on guitar. If I were to summarize Dylan’s career as a musician, I see a man who began his career determined to bring attention to the injustices of life, who matured into an elder statesman who wants to have fun and enjoy his life and his music. My father would’ve loved “Duquesne Whistle”. I’ve thought so many times about it. He’s the only one I know that would understand. I just wish I could have played it for him before he was gone.

Bob Dylan Songs:

Although my collection draws upon some greatest hits compilations, I will try to present the collection chronologically, as the songs were first made commercially available:

Bob Dylan

Song To Woody, Bob Dylan ★★
The House Of The Rising Sun, Bob Dylan
Talkin’ New York, Bob Dylan
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, Bob Dylan

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Blowin’ In The Wind, Bob Dylan ★★★★
Girl From The North Country, Bob Dylan ★★
Masters Of War, Bob Dylan ★★
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan ★★★
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan ★★★★
Corrina, Corrina, Bob Dylan ★★★
I Shall Be Free, Bob Dylan

The Times They Are A-Changin’mr.

The Times They Are A Changin’, Bob Dylan ★★
Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Bob Dylan
With God On Our Side, Bob Dylan
Only A Pawn In Their Game, Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, Bob Dylan ★★

Another Side Of Bob Dylan

All I Really Want To Do, Bob Dylan
Chimes Of Freedom, Bob Dylan ★★
My Back Pages, Bob Dylan
It Ain’t Me Babe, Bob Dylan ★★

Bringing It All Back Home

Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan ★★★
She Belongs To Me, Bob Dylan ★★★
Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Bob Dylan
Maggie’s Farm, Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding, Bob Dylan
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Bob Dylan ★★★★

Highway 61 Revisited (Deluxe Version)

Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Tombstone Blues, Bob Dylan ★★★
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, Bob Dylan ★★
Ballad Of A Thin Man, Bob Dylan ★★
Queen Jane Approximately, Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Bob Dylan
Desolation Row, Bob Dylan ★★
Tombstone Blues (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★

Blonde On Blonde

Rainy Day Women 12 & 35, Bob Dylan ★★★
I Want You, Bob Dylan
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Bob Dylan ★★
Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat, Bob Dylan
Absolutely Sweet Marie, Bob Dylan
Fourth Time Around, Bob Dylan ★★
Just Like A Woman, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, Bob Dylan

John Wesley Harding

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, Bob Dylan
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Bob Dylan
The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, Bob Dylan

Nashville Skyline

Girl From The North Country, Bob Dylan (with Johnny Cash) ★★★★
To Be Alone With You, Bob Dylan
Tell Me That It Isn’t True, Bob Dylan
I Threw It All Away, Bob Dylan ★★
Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan ★★★
Country Pie, Bob Dylan
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You, Bob Dylan ★★★

New Morning

If Not For You, Bob Dylan ★★★
Day Of The Locusts, Bob Dylan

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Soundtrack)

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Bob Dylan ★★

Planet Waves

On A Night Like This, Bob Dylan
Forever Young, Bob Dylan

Blood On The Tracks

Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan ★★
Simple Twist Of Fate, Bob Dylan ★★
Shelter From The Storm, Bob Dylan ★★
Buckets Of Rain, Bob Dylan

The Basement Tapes

Million Dollar Bash, Bob Dylan & The Band
Lo And Behold!, Bob Dylan & The Band

Desire

Hurricane, Bob Dylan

Hard Rain (Live)

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (Live), Bob Dylan ★★

Shot Of Love

Every Grain Of Sand, Bob Dylan

Infidels

Sweetheart Like You, Bob Dylan

Real Live

Tangled Up In Blue (Live), Bob Dylan

Knocked Out Loaded

Brownsville Girl, Bob Dylan

Oh Mercy

Man In The Long Black Coat, Bob Dylan
Most Of The Time, Bob Dylan

World Gone Wrong

Delia, Bob Dylan
Lone Pilgrim, Bob Dylan

Time Out Of Mind

Love Sick, Bob Dylan ★★
Dirt Road Blues, Bob Dylan
Cold Irons Bound, Bob Dylan ★★

Love And Theft

Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Bob Dylan
Mississippi, Bob Dylan
Summer Days, Bob Dylan ★★★
High Water, Bob Dylan ★★

Modern Times

Thunder On The Mountain, Bob Dylan ★★★
Spirit On The Water, Bob Dylan
Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Bob Dylan ★★
When The Deal Goes Down, Bob Dylan
Someday Baby, Bob Dylan ★★★
Workingman’s Blues #2, Bob Dylan
The Levee’s Gonna Break, Bob Dylan ★★★

Together Through Life

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, Bob Dylan ★★

Tempest

Duquesne Whistle, Bob Dylan ★★★★
Soon After Midnight, Bob Dylan ★★
Narrow Way, Bob Dylan
Early Roman Kings, Bob Dylan
Long And Wasted Years, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

The Mighty Quinn (Quinn, The Eskimo), Bob Dylan
I Shall Be Released, Bob Dylan ★★

Biograph

You’re A Big Girl Now (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★
Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Bob Dylan

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3 (Rare And Unreleased Recordings) 1961-1991

He Was A Friend Of Mine, Bob Dylan
Let Me Die In My Footsteps, Bob Dylan
Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues (Live), Bob Dylan
Mama, You Been On My Mind, Bob Dylan
She’s Your Lover Now, Bob Dylan
I’ll Keep It With Mine, Bob Dylan ?
If Not For You (Alt), Bob Dylan
Tangled Up In Blue (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★
Call Letter Blues, Bob Dylan
Idiot Wind (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★
If You See Her, Say Hello (Alt), Bob Dylan
Blind Willie McTell, Bob Dylan ★★

Jerry Macguire (Soundtrack)

Shelter From The Storm (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★

Masked And Anonymous (Soundtrack)

Cold Irons Bound (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert

Fourth Time Around (Live), Bob Dylan ★★
Visions Of Johanna (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★★
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Live), Bob Dylan ★★
Just Like A Woman (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★
Mr. Tambourine Man (Live), Bob Dylan ★★
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (Live), Bob Dylan
Ballad Of A Thin Man (Live), Bob Dylan ?
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: No Direction Home — The Soundtrack

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★
Blowin’ In The Wind (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★
Masters Of War (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Take 1), Bob Dylan ★★★
She Belongs To Me (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★★
Maggie’s Farm (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★
Desolation Row (Alt), Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signals

Mississippi (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★
Red River Shore, Bob Dylan
‘Cross The Green Mountain, Bob Dylan ★★

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Bob Dylan

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self-Portrait

I Threw It All Away (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★

Related Songs:

House Of The Rising Sun, The Animals ★★★★
House Of The Rising Sun, Josh White ★★

Blowin’ In The Wind, Peter, Paul & Mary ★★
Blowin’ In The Wind, Stevie Wonder

Corrine Corrina, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys ★★

All I Really Want To Do, Sonny & Cher

My Back Pages, The Byrds ★★★★
My Back Pages (Live), The Byrds

It Ain’t Me Babe, The Turtles ★★

Mr. Tambourine Man, The Byrds ★★★

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Them ★★★

Like A Rolling Stone (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★

Just Like A Woman (Live), Van Morrison ★★★
Just Like A Woman (Live), Van Morrison ★★

If Not For You, George Harrison
If Not For You, Olivia Newton-John ? (on wish list…maybe her best song)

On A Night Like This, Buckwheat Zydeco ★★

Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Muddy Waters ★★★
Rollin’ And Tumblin’, The Seldom Scene ★★★
Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Live), Cream ★★

Trouble No More, Muddy Waters ★★★★
Trouble No More, The Allman Brothers Band ★★★
Trouble No More (Live), The Allman Brothers Band ★★★

Someday Baby, Ray Charles

Worried Life Blues, Big Maceo Merriweather ★★

When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin ★★★

The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo), Manfred Mann ★★

I Shall Be Released, The Band ★★

He Was A Friend Of Mine, The Byrds ★★

Down On Penny’s Farm, The Bently Boys

Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Rod Stewart ★★

Delia’s Gone, Johnny Cash ★★

Wallflower (Live), David Bromberg

The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, David Grisman & Jerry Garcia

13. Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead are a rock band from Palo Alto, California. The band formed around Jerry Garcia, who grew up in the Balboa neighborhood of San Francisco, but moved to Palo Alto in early 1961. Garcia became the guitar and banjo teacher at Dana Morgan’s Music Store in downtown Palo Alto, and over the course of the next four years, he recruited Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Bill Kreutzman into the band. They evolved from a jug band into a rock and roll band, with roots in many styles of music, from Garcia’s love of bluegrass to Lesh’s training as a classical composer. During these formative years Garcia also played music with Robert Hunter, who became a primary lyricist for the group.

images

As a young man, Jerry Garcia embraced the poetry and literature of the Beat Generation.

From Wikipedia:

“The Beat Generation was a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired. Central elements of “Beat” culture included rejection of perceived standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities, an interest in Eastern religion, a rejection of materialism, and explicit portrayals of the human condition.”

Garcia spent much of his free time at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, where he found like-minded souls who shared his desire for free expression. He became friends with authors Allan Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, as well as the noteworthy free spirit Neal Cassady, the subject of Jack Kerouac’s novel “On The Road”.

The Long Golden Road

The Grateful Dead’s journey to worldwide success and notoriety was long. If one might identify when the band caught its “big break”, it happened when Ken Kesey asked them to perform at his Acid Test house parties in the remote, coastal mountains west of Palo Alto. At the time the band was known as The Warlocks; they soon changed their name to the Grateful Dead. They were young, raw and experimental in their approach.

“One day we were over at Phil’s house…He had a big dictionary. I opened it and there was ‘Grateful Dead’, those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else went blank, diffuse, just sort of oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, ‘How about Grateful Dead?’ And that was it.”

— Jerry Garcia

gratefuldead4

Wikipedia Biography of the Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia (1942-1995), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bob Weir (b. 1947), guitar, vocals, primary songwriter
Bill Kreutzmann (b. 1946), drums
Phil Lesh (b. 1940), bass guitar, vocals, songwriter
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1945-1973), keyboards, harmonica, vocals
Robert Hunter (b. 1941), lyricist

Mickey Hart (b. 1943), drums, percussion
Tom Constanten (b. 1944), keyboards
Keith Godchaux (1948-1980), keyboards
Donna Jean Godchaux (b. 1947), vocals
Brent Mydland (1952-1990), keyboards, vocals, songwriter

The association with the hippie subculture in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, combined with the notoriety of the experimental LSD-25 acid tests, raised their profile to a national level. Growing up in the late sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was unclear the Grateful Dead would become the preeminent San Francisco band. The Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow was the most successful album among local bands, though Jerry Garcia played guitar on several of their songs.

But the Grateful Dead, a quintet of societal misfits, were busy playing and performing all the time, writing their own songs, and utilizing their disparate influences to expand their musical boundaries. They toured nationally, and gradually built a devoted audience. Bob Weir, the kid, became a strong singer and fine second guitar who loved to sing swinging country songs. Pigpen McKernan, whose Dad was a soul and blues disk jockey, was the band’s soul and blues man. Bill Kreutzmann, the famous football coach’s grandson, hit the drums instead. They became a sextet when Mickey Hart was added as a second drummer and percussionist in 1967. Phil Lesh, the budding classical composer who never played the bass until Garcia asked him to do so, learned how to use the bass as counterpoint behind the soloists to great effect. Jerry Garcia, the reluctant leader, refined his quiet and mournful singing, and became a versatile, inventive guitarist of great renown, with long improvisational solos that thrilled his fans.

To prepare for this profile, I re-read “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally’s fine Grateful Dead biography.

Amazon.com Link to “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of The Grateful Dead, by Dennis McNally”

“Flashback: Jerry Garcia, October 1978”, Guitar Player Magazine, by Jon Sievert
“Deadhead, The Vast Recorded Legacy of the Grateful Dead”, by Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker Magazine, November 26, 2012″
Grateful Dead Lyric/Song Finder
The Grateful Dead Clubhouse Projects

Also, here are two fine blogs about The Grateful Dead and the San Francisco music scene, by Corry Arnold, a high school classmate:

Hooterollin’ Blog
Lost Live Dead Blog

By the mid-seventies the Dead had become a cultural phenomenon, a traveling party attracting huge audiences, with a devoted fan base who enjoyed the atmosphere of dance, drugs and free expression, not to mention the band’s constantly evolving set list. No two shows were the same, and over their career they performed hundreds of different songs. Sometimes the band’s performance was tired and sloppy; at other times, their improvisations clicked, inciting audiences into a state of bliss. They continued to tour and perform throughout the eighties, despite the deteriorating health of Garcia. In 1986, Jerry fell into a diabetic coma, after which he temporarily improved his consumption habits. The band experienced a final prime in their career in the last eighties and early nineties, but were derailed by the premature death of keyboard player Brent Mydland in 1990. Garcia, who tired of the rigors of travel and performance, resumed some of his habits and eventually passed away in 1995. The Grateful Dead disbanded, though the four remaining original members (Lesh, Weir, Kreutzmann and Hart) continue to perform together periodically.

The Grateful Dead’s large traveling family of musicians, technicians and roadies experienced more than their fair share of tragedies, losing three keyboard players to consumption problems along the way. The band often dealt with these losses in a seemingly cavalier fashion, as if the train was moving too fast to worry about lost passengers.

The Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.

Either You Love Them Or…

The Dead are perhaps the most polarizing band of all time. With the exception of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead is the favorite band of more people I know than any other. Perhaps five to ten percent of my best music friends built their music listening lives around Grateful Dead concerts. The band did not discourage amateur recording enthusiasts from taping concerts, which spawned a whole subculture of sharing tapes, which allowed their audience to collect far more music than other bands.

“The Grateful Dead epitomize hippie rock & roll, and if you’re a hippie yourself, you might want to invert the ratings above. But unless you are, this is one assertedly major oeuvre that’s virtually worthless except for documentary purposes. The Dead’s long modal jams may be the stuff of mesmerism in concert (though even there, it’s questionable), but they’re simply self-indulgent and boring on disc. The band’s attempts at pop, rock and country are rendered effortlessly irritating and stodgy by the band’s lack of a crisp rhythm section and/or a single competent vocalist.

The Dead are worshipped for their image as hip patriarchs, which meant that as long as Jerry Garcia has that acid twinkle in his eye, he’ll never have to worry about his pedestrian set of chops. Truthfully, there simply isn’t very much about this group that’s impressive, except the devotion of its fans to a mythology created in Haight-Ashbury and now sustained in junior high schools across America. At its peak, the Dead has essayed competence: Workingman’s Dead is third-rate next to (The Byrds’ album) Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, much less anything Gram Parsons ever recorded on his own, but it has a sweet ingenuousness that renders it bearable. Similarly, Live Dead isn’t much less interminable that any other Dead concert piece, but it has a freshness that feints towards vitality. But when the Dead attempt to rework rock and blues standards — as they did on their horrible debut album, and have sporadically since — they are a pox on the face of pop. And the group’s patchouli-oil philosophy, which does nothing more than reinforce solipsism and self-indulgence in its listeners, except when it’s nurturing its Hells Angels fan club, is exactly the sort of stuff that gave peace ‘n’ love a bad name.”

Dave Marsh, “The New Rolling Stone Record Guide”, 2nd Edition, 1983

I took LSD about eight or ten times in my teenage years, always in a controlled environment. These were great experiences that I cherish. Though there have been serious LSD casualties in the history of rock music, like Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead managed to use LSD regularly early in their career, and emerge relatively unscathed, while benefiting from the magnificently sensory experiences the drug provides. This is not an endorsement. You have to be with friends, and if you get frightened, it will swallow you in fear, and send you tumbling fast.

Here’s a great video, when the Grateful Dead were invited to perform on Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy After Dark” program in 1969. The merry pranksters dosed the coffee on the set, and shared their psychedelic experience with the more conventional Playboy crowd, prompting Hefner to remark, “Thanks for the gift.”

“It’s a language, that’s all, without words — just the images themselves.”, wrote Art Kleps, an early associate of LSD researcher Timothy Leary, and one of the few to consider LSD in Western philosophical terms. LSD, he argued, lays waste to supernaturalism, since, ironically, much of the LSD experience lies in the realm of the absurd, and there is “no room for the absurd in the cosmologies of the occultists and supernaturalists.” The simple materialism of the lower reaches of scientific thought also had to go: “It is materialism that is destroyed by these overwhelming demonstrations of the limitless power of the imagination, not, necessarily, as those who liked to disparage nihilism and solipsism assume, empricism, logic or honor. It is not one’s experience or character that is intimidated, but only certain abstract concepts about the organization of experience.

Most people come out of LSD trips believing in the oneness of all life, the interconnectedness of things, and from that, the philosophically disposed frequently hit on Jungian synchronicity, the notion that things can be on a non-cause-and-effect basis, as in dreams. “If one’s thesis is that ordinary life is a dream,” wrote Art Kleps, “then anything that can happen in a dream in sleep can happen in waking life also, without disproving the thesis. If you can see that, you can see everything.”

— Excerpt from “A Long Strange Trip”, Dennis McNally

Although not commercially released, the Barton Hall concert at Cornell University (May 8, 1977) was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Here Bob Weir sings “Estimated Prophet” (audio only) with its uncharacteristic 7/4 time signature.

The Grateful Dead flew in the face of convention; most Americans have dismissed them without investigation. Throughout their career they were odds with the corporate mentality, music executives looking for a hit song and a certain image. The Dead focused on the music, and let their sound engineers perfect a stadium-size sound system, no matter the cost. They built their business around the concerts, allowed the tapers to record the shows, and learned to market themselves independently. And please don’t tell me they can’t play. It would be foolish to suggest they possessed the chops of Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but they are early rock practitioners of modal jazz improvisation, not to mention their facility with folk, country and rock and roll. They are one of rock music’s most versatile bands.

“Early in 1981 the Dead went to Europe to play a few shows in London and then appear with the Who on the German TV show “Rockpalast”, and while in London Garcia gave one of his most extraordinary interviews. Few patently hostile interviewers get within yards of a star, and rarer still is the star who will tolerate hostility. Garcia found it stimulating. The interviewer, Paul Morley, was a cutting-edge young punk from New Musical Express, and Garcia revolted him. “You’re just a part of a perpetuation of bland, blanketing myths,” said the punk. “Does that disappoint you?” Garcia chuckled. “Naah! I didn’t have any expectations…If you start out expecting to fail and expecting the worst then anything that happens is an improvement over that…we’re just starting.” Does it upset you that I don’t dig you? “No! I don’t give a damn. I would be afraid if if everybody in the world liked us…I don’t want to be responsible for leading the march to wherever. Fuck that. It’s already been done and the world hates it…a combination of music and the psychedelic experience taught me to fear power. I mean fear it and hate it…First of all, I don’t think of myself as an adult. An adult is someone who’s made up their mind. When I go through airports the people who have their thing together, who are clean, well-groomed, who have tailored clothes, who have their whole material thing together, these people are adults. They’ve made a decision to follow those routines…I would say that I was part of a prolonged adolescence. I think our whole scene is that…I feel like someone who is constantly on the verge of losing it, or blowing it. I feel tremendously insecure.” “My heated irrationality bumps into Garcia’s sheer reasonableness,” wrote Morley, and it was true. Garcia’s egoless interest in authentic communication, even when it involved mocking him, made for one of the more fascinating encounters in rock journalism.

— Dennis McNally, “A Long Strange Trip”

Growing Up In Palo Alto

While researching the Grateful Dead, I came across these two interviews conducted by the Silicon Valley Historical Association. The first is Jerry Garcia’a final interview; the second is a semiconductor executive who discusses the open sharing of technology among scientists over drinks after work:

The Bay Area zeitgeist. Since World War II, artists and engineers alike shared knowledge and wisdom and pushed society forward. Even in the integrated circuit industry growing south from Stanford University, there was a willingness to share and try things differently.

My Dad worked at the university physics lab, and though their Department of Energy directive was to study the nature of matter in its elemental form, their enduring legacy will be to help establish the ARPANET, the world’s first TCP/IP packet switching network. The ARPANET allowed the world’s high energy physics laboratories to share research in a timely fashion. Embraced by other government and educational institutions to share information, the ARPANET grew into the modern Internet, the most disruptive and important technology of the last fifty years. Its economic importance cannot be overestimated.

Not all change has been good for Palo Alto, from the perspective of a kid who grew up there when things were quieter. The county grew crowded and fabulously wealthy. Housing is unaffordable. The egalitarian nature of my hometown slowly slipped away. I moved away twenty years ago, and I probably won’t move back. If I’m lucky enough to live another twenty years, old Palo Alto still has delightful, quiet neighborhoods, places where you could have breakfast downtown, and then walk around town like my granddad did the last thirty years of his long life. Palo Alto has nice sidewalks.

Can you separate the beat generation movement from the the burgeoning scientific community? The Bay Area saw an influx of young, science-minded talent after World War II; my parents followed that dream in 1956. It wasn’t crowded and the weather is so gentle. There were strong bohemian influences, with lots of people ready to stretch boundaries, at a time when society was ripe for it. In my parents’ case, they were first generation college grads who wanted out of an Ivy League society they didn’t feel comfortable being in.

I’m proud of being from Palo Alto. I’m grateful for my parents to have moved there. It’s such a great town, the flatlands below the coastal scrapes near the Bay. As a young high school student I rode my ten-speed Peugeot bike everywhere. I remember riding no-handed down the middle of Hamilton Avenue at ten o’clock on a Saturday night. Many of us were allowed out late at night, and some of us boys used our bikes when we needed to get somewhere. Here’s a weird memory which fits. Of the few times I took LSD, one time we took a light dose early in the day. It was mid-afternoon, and we have no particular place to go, just sticking around our neighborhood in south Palo Alto. So we get on our bikes and jam down to the 7-11 on Middlefield Rd. and Colorado Ave. Not a long ride; about a mile or so. I’m riding no-handed on and off, no problem, but at some point I lose the bike beneath me, and the bike starts to fall. I sense the crash coming, and jump off the bike on purpose, and land standing as the bike fell on the ground. I laughed, looked at my friends, got back on my bike, and finished the short ride to for Slurpees.

1972

Dead Heads talk about concerts the way baseball geeks discuss statistics. It’s a wonder I didn’t geek out on the Dead; many folks got “collection oriented” when the Dead came around with their repertoire. They were never my favorite band; starting around age five or six, the Beatles were my favorite, followed by Creedence Clearwater Revival for a couple years. Curiously, my next favorite was David Grisman, Jerry Garcia’s long time friend. For a few years I never saw a Dead concert, but saw Grisman play a bunch of times, playing that string swing, once with the great Grappelli, with Dad. It was great when Garcia & Grisman started hanging out together and recording music at Grisman’s house in Stinson Beach.

I went to two Dead concerts, the first one (with parents in about 1967) I don’t remember, and during the second one (Laguna Seca, July 30, 1988), we left a few songs after Los Lobos finished. I heard it was a good show. I did give two angel tickets away that day to fans who showed their appreciation by bouncing away with energy, which was nice.

I’ve got a few stories about the Dead that I could share. Not much. A few connections here and there. Mama used to teach exercise class at the local high school with Janice Kreutzmann, Bill’s mom. The McKernans lived in the same Palo Alto neighborhood, and I met Pigpen’s brother Kevin, though not under the best of circumstances. Mom embraced both the music and implied freedom of the San Francisco scene, but it was Dad who liked the Grateful Dead music best. He recorded a cassette tape of the Dead’s first album for regular play. Here lies a difference between me and the typical Dead fan. Daddy liked the amped-up fast songs on their first album, like “Cold Rain And Snow”, “Beat It On Down The Line” and “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”. This kind of hot music runs in my blood. I rate the first Grateful Dead album as among their best.

The Grateful Dead are one of many bands influenced by the beat generation. But they were perhaps the one band closest to the movement, in terms of both physical location and philosophical intent.

How do the Grateful Dead rank seventh among my favorites? For one thing, they have such a large recorded library of music. I can’t possibly take the time to carefully listen to every song to create my personal list of favorites. I’ve collected Dead songs one, two, or a few at a time, over the years. I gravitate towards the fast swinging music more, and the long slow ones less than the typical fan. I’m certain to add more songs to the list.

I like the earliest years of the Dead’s music, from their earliest recordings in 1965 and lasting about a decade. The Golden Road (1965-1973) represents this era beautifully. It’s awkward to say that my favorite year is 1972. It’s a lean year; Mickey Hart was taking temporary leave from the group. Pianist Keith & singer Donna Godchaux joined the band, and Pigpen had become very sick. As a result, Bob Weir is a more prominent part of the soundscape. I also like hearing Bill Kreutzmann drumming by himself. To me, the one drummer sound is more austere and focused. These 1972 recordings show the integral guitar trio and Kreutzmann at their peak. I should probably buy that big box set of 1972 European live recordings. Every Dead Head should own the tremendous new 3CD + DVD box set Sunshine Daydream, a newly issued document that is essential.

My analysis does not give enough credit to singer and keyboardist Brent Mydland. I’ve included a few songs that feature Mydland, when he was an integral part of the band’s sound, but it is not an era I paid much attention to. By all accounts, he was well liked and admired, and in the case of one Dead Head friend, his contributions to Dozin’ At The Knick are among the finest of the band’s career.

Here is a vintage 1972 performance of the band’s seventy-five minute first (of three) set, which conclude with “El Paso”, “Big Railroad Blues”, and a first class version of “Truckin'”. Listen to them go get gone!

Grateful Dead Songs:

More than any other band so far, whittling down the list of songs into a focused overview of their music seems both fruitless and cold. This is a band where there is so much music, over a long period of time, that each person’s list of songs is personal, and will vary dramatically. I’ll offer my favorite ninety or so songs, and hopefully someone will take the time to offer their opinion.

Because the band’s recorded legacy is so complex, I am presenting the list by album, because it is more coherent and efficient. By album, in alphabetical order:

American Beauty (Remastered)

Box Of Rain, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil, Grateful Dead ★★★★
Sugar Magnolia, Grateful Dead ★★★
Operator, Grateful Dead
Candyman, Grateful Dead ★★
Ripple, Grateful Dead ★★★
Brokedown Palace, Grateful Dead
Attics In My Life, Grateful Dead
Truckin’, Grateful Dead ★★
Friend Of The Devil (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★

Anthem Of the Sun

That’s It For The Other One (Suite), Grateful Dead

Aoxomoxoa

China Cat Sunflower, Grateful Dead

Birth Of The Dead – The Studio Sides

I Know You Rider, Grateful Dead ★★
Don’t Ease Me In, Grateful Dead
Cold Rain And Snow (Alt), Grateful Dead ★★★

Blues For Allah

Help On The Way/Slipknot!, Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower, Grateful Dead ★★★

Complete Live Rarities Collection

Viola Lee Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Pain In My Heart (Live), Grateful Dead
Scarlet Begonias (Live), Grateful Dead
Cassidy (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 4

Dire Wolf (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Dark Star (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Dick’s Picks, Volume 6

Althea (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 8

I Know Your Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Beat It On Down The Line (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Candyman (Live), Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
The Other One (Live), Grateful Dead

Dick’s Picks, Volume 35

Next Time You See Me (Live), Grateful Dead

Dozin’ At The Knick

Just A Little Light (Live), Grateful Dead
Row Jimmy (Live), Grateful Dead

Europe ’72

One More Saturday Night (Live), Grateful Dead
Jack Straw (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
Tennessee Jed, Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Beat It On Down The Line, Grateful Dead ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, Grateful Dead ★★
Cold Rain And Snow, Grateful Dead ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World (Alt — Full Length), Grateful Dead ★★★
Morning Dew, Grateful Dead ★★

Grateful Dead From The Mars Hotel

U.S. Blues, Grateful Dead ★★★
Scarlet Begonias, Grateful Dead ★★
Ship Of Fools, Grateful Dead ★★

Live At The Fillmore East, 2/11/69

The Eleven (Live), Grateful Dead

Hundred Year Hall

I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

In The Dark

Touch Of Grey, Grateful Dead
West L.A. Fadeaway, Grateful Dead

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Grateful Dead (Fillmore East, April 1971)

Bird Song (Live), Grateful Dead

Live/Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

St. Stephen (Live), Grateful Dead
Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Live), Grateful Dead
Dark Star (Single), Grateful Dead
Turn On Your Love Light (Live), Grateful Dead

One From The Vault

Big River (Live), Grateful Dead
Franklin’s Tower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Eyes Of The World/Drums (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Reckoning (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Deep Elem Blues (Live), Grateful Dead

Shakedown Street

Shakedown Street, Grateful Dead
Fire On The Mountain, Grateful Dead ★★★

Skull & Roses

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★
Mama Tried (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Big Railroad Blues (Live), Grateful Dead
Playing In the Band (Live), Grateful Dead
Big Boss Man (Live), Grateful Dead
Wharf Rat (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Not Fade Away/Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

Sunshine Daydream

Me And My Uncle (Live), Grateful Dead ★★
Deal (Live), Grateful Dead
China Cat Sunflower (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
I Know You Rider (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★
El Paso (Live), Grateful Dead
Sing Me Back Home (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Terrapin Station

Estimated Prophet, Grateful Dead ★★★

Wake Of The Flood

Stella Blue, Grateful Dead

Workingman’s Dead (Remastered, Expanded Edition)

Uncle John’s Band, Grateful Dead
Dire Wolf, Grateful Dead
Cumberland Blues, Grateful Dead
Casey Jones, Grateful Dead
New Speedway Boogie (Alt), Grateful Dead

Related Songs:

Songs by David Grisman & Jerry Garcia, which are listed here.

Deal, Jerry Garcia ★★
Sugaree, Jerry Garcia ★★★
To Lay Me Down, Jerry Garcia
The Wheel, Jerry Garcia

Friend Of The Devil (Live), David Grisman & Jerry Garcia ★★★
Friend Of The Devil, Lyle Lovett ★★★

I Know You Rider, Seldom Scene ★★★★

Bertha, Los Lobos ★★
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly & The Crickets ★★★
Not Fade Away, The Rolling Stones ★★★★
Not Fade Away (Live), The Rolling Stones ★★★

Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, Big Bill Broonzy ★★

Rain And Snow, Obray Ramsey ★★★
Cold Rain And Snow (Live), Peter Rowan & Tony Rice ★★★

Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Mississippi Sheiks ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Doc Watson ★★★
Sittin’ On Top Of The World, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★

Wharf Rat, Midnight Oil ★★

Good Morning Little School Girl, Sonny Boy Williamson I ★★
Good Morning Little School Girl, The Yardbirds ★★

Morning Dew, Lulu ★★★
Morning Dew, Jeff Beck ★★
Morning Dew, The 31st of February

Ship Of Fools, Elvis Costello ★★

Ripple, Jane’s Addiction

Mama Tried, Merle Haggard ★★

Sing Me Back Home, Merle Haggard

Me And My Uncle, Judy Collins ★★

Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding ★★

Cassidy, Bob Weir
Cassidy, Suzanne Vega

Next Time You See Me, James Cotton ★★★

Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Reverend Gary Davis ★★

Turn On Your Love Light, Bobby “Blue” Bland ★★★★

Big River, Johnny Cash ★★

Deep Elem Blues, Les Paul

Big Boss Man, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Big Boss Man (Take 2), Elvis Presley ★★

El Paso, Marty Robbins ★★★★

7. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley was a singer and guitarist from Tupelo, Mississippi. He was the only child of Gladys and Vernon Presley; his twin brother was stillborn. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee when Elvis was thirteen years old. He was a shy and reserved young man, yet he dressed flamboyantly. His teachers considered him an average music student, but Elvis loved the popular music he heard on the radio, especially the rhythm and blues music on radio station WDIA, where future legends Rufus Thomas and B.B. King were popular on-air personalities. Elvis also loved gospel music, and attended monthly all-night programs where both white and black gospel singers performed. Once Elvis overcame his shyness, he started to sing in small contests and in school talent contests, which earned him admiration among his peers. After high school, Elvis worked a series of jobs, showing neither flair nor desire for any occupation. Curious to hear what he sounded like, Presley paid the Memphis Recording Service a few dollars to record a couple songs, singing and accompanying himself on guitar. Although Elvis was disappointed with the results, the recording service, also known as Sun Records, took note of the young man’s attempts, and invited him back for an audition.

Elvis-Presley

What happened next is a well known part of popular music history. Sun Records owner Sam Phillips invited the enthusiastic young singer to record several times, trying and failing to create distinctive music. On July 5th, 1954, during a break in another unfruitful session, Elvis picked up his guitar and started goofing around, playing Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right (Mama)”. Bassist Bill Black and guitarist Scotty Moore joined in for a few bars, until Phillips stopped them and said, “Start over. Let’s record that.” The next night the trio recorded an energetic version of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass number, “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, which became the “B” side of Elvis’ first single. Just three days later, “That’s All Right” made its radio debut on Memphis radio station WHBQ, on Dewey Phillips’ “Red, Hot & Blue” radio program. The response was immediate, and the song was played several more times that evening.

The Elvis Presley Trio:

Elvis Presley (1935-1977), singer, rhythm guitar, movie star
Scotty Moore (b. 1931), lead guitar
Bill Black (1926-1965), bass

Some Key Contributors:

D.J. Fontana (b. 1931), drums
The Jordanaires (1948-2013), vocal group, background vocals

Chet Atkins (1924-2001)
, guitar, producer
Floyd Cramer (1933-1997), piano
Hank Garland (1930-2004), guitar
Jerry Reed (1937-2008), guitar, songwriter
Jerry Leiber (1933-2011) and Mike Stoller (b. 1933), songwriting team
Doc Pomus (1925-1991) and Mort Shuman (1936-1991), songwriting team

Sun records released four more singles by Elvis Presley, who began to attract a significant regional following. He was controversial for his sexually suggestive movements during his performances, and very popular among young women. Despite Presley’s popularity, plus the development of other “rockabilly” stars Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips had financial problems, and sold Presley’s contract to RCA Victor records for $40,000. In 1956, with the financial backing and promotional might of RCA Victor, Elvis Presley became an enormous television and music star, a household name and a cultural icon.

Elvis starred in thirty-one full-length feature films to capitalize on his immense popularity. Between the movie career and an untimely stint in the U.S. Army from 1958-60, Elvis’s music career was somewhat derailed; he was often asked to record songs of debatable quality, his management valuing songwriting royalties over artistic expression. Still, the hard working singer/actor produced an impressive library of good music, especially between the years 1956 and 1962. In the late sixties, Elvis changed his priorities and added a final, mature phase to his music career, a nice complement to his early groundbreaking work.

Throughout his years of fame and fortune, Elvis developed a growing prescription drug habit, which eventually took his life in 1977. While researching Elvis Presley, I read Dave Marsh’s book “Elvis”, as well as parts of Peter Guralnick’s “Careless Love”, the second volume of his exhaustive biography, which details Presley’s painful descent into drugs, megalomania and death.

Amazon.com link to “Elvis”, by Dave Marsh
Amazon.com link to “Careless Love”, by Peter Guralnick

Memphis, Tennessee

“The country fan did not ask that his star continue to appear impoverished or reject the trappings of success. Nor was the country star obliged to make statements of regret at his estrangement from the workaday world. (Those are the demands of bohemian audiences.) What the country fan wanted was something impossible: that the pampered, expensively clad, luxuriously transported, well-endowed and shrewdly invested star should maintain the same mentality that he and the fan originally shared, that his view of the world should not be altered by the loft of his perch. The effect was pernicious and pathetic not only because it prevented the star from ever making explicit criticisms of the conditions that kept his audience impoverished but because it kept the audience from ever seeing the truth about the human consequences of a change in economic status. The result was a culture that was steeped in vicariousness and utterly passive — and as more Southerners moved into urban America, seeking work during and after World War II, these attitudes came to epitomize working-class attitudes to all culture.

Elvis was a product of this culture of passivity, but he was also a well-informed voice in opposition to it — one of the few who spoke with the real credibility of an insider, neither a patronizing, moralistic leftist reformer nor an equally patronizing moralistic right-wing demagogue. What Elvis did was suggest, especially for younger listeners, that there were more attractive options than the limited ones they already knew about, and that these options were reachable without essential compromise. Although few ever took Elvis up on even a portion of his implicit challenge many permanently honored and revered him for his personal breakout.”

— Dave Marsh, “Elvis”

Elvis Presley was not in my childhood experience. Neither of my parents expressed an interest in Elvis. Part of this was timing; my parents had graduated from college in 1952 and 1953, were newly married and focused on building a life together. Dad was working for the Lincoln Electric Company training salesmen while moonlighting as a writer, trying to write the great American novel. Mom was an underutilized housewife, taking care of the domestic chores. They followed Dad’s career to Cleveland and Chicago before changing course, dropping everything and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1956.

My mother mentioned on several occasions that the fifties were dark days, an oppressed, unimaginative period in life, where accusations of communism were loudly publicized and creative thought was stifled. In the early fifties, the types of entertainment offered for mass consumption were tightly controlled. By the time Elvis Presley became widely known, he was pretty much a corporate product. The television networks eliminated his lascivious on-stage persona and made him politically correct. That Elvis was a popular teen idol singing simple country songs, was probably another reason that Elvis did not interest my parents. If my folks were from Memphis or Nashville, where country and blues music originated, and had heard the great early Sun Records singles, they might have been fans. In my family, he wasn’t even a blip on the radar. I never heard them mention him once.

My self-taught Elvis education began in high school, when I learned the big hits like “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel”. Once I was out of college, and getting serious about filling holes in my musical education, I bought a copy of The Sun Sessions LP and a nifty set of a dozen gold-tinted singles to commemorate what would have been Elvis’ fiftieth birthday. Since then, I’ve gone all in, purchasing the three big box sets, The Complete 50s Recordings, The Essential 60s Recordings, and The Essential 70s Recordings. However, the true essential recordings are the Sun sessions from 1954 and 1955; beyond that, there are a wide selection of good songs between about 1956 and 1962, first class productions featuring excellent musicians and Elvis’ friendly, confident voice.

The phenomenon of Elvis could only happen in Memphis, a culture steeped in both country and gospel music, but also near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the delta blues. Elvis has been accused of being a racist, capitalizing on the songs of black men by singing them for a white audience. I don’t see it that way at all; I’d argue the opposite is true. He was a poor kid from the poor side of town, who loved music regardless of a man’s color. That’s why he’s so important, the greatest progressive force in pop music history. He’s largely responsible for breaking the color barrier. Whether he had personal prejudices is irrelevant; I have no evidence to suggest he did.

“How Did Elvis Get Turned Into A Racist?”, by Peter Guralnick, New York Times, August 11, 2007

The Jordanaires

Originally from Missouri, the Jordanaires were a gospel quartet who also had a long career providing background vocals for popular music artists. Elvis liked their sound, and used them regularly for both live and studio performances from 1956-1972. Their distinctive sound was also used by such artists as Patsy Cline (“Crazy”, “I Fall To Pieces”) and Ricky Nelson (“Lonesome Town”, “Poor Little Fool”). They are one of my favorite singing groups, along with The Beach Boys and the Franklin sisters, Aretha Franklin with her two sisters Erma and Carolyn. Their rich sound helped Elvis create a second phase of his recording career. After the early rockabilly music, there was the Nashville “countrypolitan” music with the Jordanaires and pianist Floyd Cramer, followed by the Memphis blue-eyed soul music of the late sixties.

The Final Years

Here’s Elvis on his great “comeback” TV performance in 1968, singing his Sun Records classic, “Trying To Get To You”:

I can’t imagine anything worse than being physically addicted to barbiturates, and needing them to fall asleep each night. Peter Guralnick’s book “Careless Love” is a detailed account of Elvis’s life — it portrays someone desperately in need of a medical withdrawal from the stimulants and sedatives that became a daily part of life. In many ways, Elvis and Michael Jackson were similar. Both were huge stars, the biggest pop star in the world for a number of years. Both suffered from addictions to prescription medication that ultimately took their lives. Both were rather childlike as adults; Elvis enjoyed bedtime “pillow talk” with younger women, more than he enjoyed full bodied affection. And both were profligate spenders. Elvis bought jewelry and automobiles for friends and acquaintances he wished to impress or control, and jet airliners to travel wherever he wished. By 1975, Elvis was essentially broke, and between his spending and longtime manager Tom Parker’s excessive gambling habit, they needed Elvis to keep hitting the road, heading to Las Vegas, generating revenue, and performing the same program to fans who adored him, despite the listless recitation of old hits, and the occasionally insane, mean-spirited, drug-fueled rant.

Finally, here he is in June, 1977, just a couple months before his death, on a “good” night where Elvis musters the energy to sing the high notes in “Unchained Melody”. You can hear him whisper “I got this” before the finale, indicating he does not want the other singers to help:

Elvis Presley Wikiquotes
Link to SNL Skit “Waikiki Hockey”, starring Wayne Gretzky

Elvis Presley Song Notes:

Most of these song notes will be easy to find on various compilations available on iTunes.

1. The following alternate versions of songs can be found on The Essential 60s Recordings. In particular, the first three songs are beautiful, unadorned takes that equal the released versions:

“In The Ghetto (Take 4)”
“Suspicious Minds (Take 6)”
“Kentucky Rain (Take 9)”
“Big Boss Man (Take 2)”
“(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (Alt)”

2. The following alternate versions can be found on The Complete 50s Recordings:

“Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Alt)”
“I Want You, I Need you, I Love You (Take 16)”
“Loving You (Take 12)”

3. “Shake, Rattle & Roll/Flip, Flop & Fly (Live)” can be found on Platinum
— A Life In Music
.

Elvis Presley Songs:

Mystery Train, Elvis Presley ★★★★★

Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley ★★★★
That’s All Right, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Blue Moon, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Little Sister, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Kentucky Rain, Elvis Presley ★★★★
(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame, Elvis Presley ★★★★
Good Rockin’ Tonight, Elvis Presley ★★★★

All Shook Up, Elvis Presley ★★★
Are You Lonesome Tonight, Elvis Presley ★★★
Good Luck Charm, Elvis Presley ★★★
Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley ★★★
Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Elvis Presley ★★★
(There’ll Be) Peace in The Valley, Elvis Presley ★★★
Trying To Get To You, Elvis Presley ★★★
My Baby Left Me, Elvis Presley ★★★
Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley ★★★
It’s Now Or Never, Elvis Presley ★★★
Kentucky Rain (Take 9), Elvis Presley ★★★
Don’t, Elvis Presley ★★★
Return To Sender, Elvis Presley ★★★
Stuck On You, Elvis Presley ★★★
Suspicion, Elvis Presley ★★★

Milk Cow Blues Boogie, Elvis Presley ★★
Baby, Let’s Play House, Elvis Presley ★★
I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone, Elvis Presley ★★
Blue Suede Shoes, Elvis Presley ★★
Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley ★★
I Gotta Know, Elvis Presley ★★
Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, Elvis Presley ★★
A Mess Of Blues, Elvis Presley ★★
Such A Night, Elvis Presley ★★
Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley ★★
Fame And Fortune, Elvis Presley ★★
Reconsider Baby, Elvis Presley ★★
She’s Not You, Elvis Presley ★★
(You’re The) Devil In Disguise, Elvis Presley ★★
Guitar Man/What’d I Say, Elvis Presley ★★
U.S. Male, Elvis Presley ★★
In The Ghetto (Take 4), Elvis Presley ★★
Suspicious Minds (Take 6), Elvis Presley ★★
Big Boss Man (Take 2), Elvis Presley ★★
(Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (Alt), Elvis Presley ★★
Joshua Fit The Battle, Elvis Presley ★★
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck, Elvis Presley ★★
I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Take 16), Elvis Presley ★★
Burning Love, Elvis Presley ★★

You’re A Heartbreaker, Elvis Presley
I Forgot To Remember To Forget, Elvis Presley
Money Honey, Elvis Presley
Take My Hand, Precious Lord, Elvis Presley
(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, Elvis Presley
Loving You, Elvis Presley
(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care, Elvis Presley
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane), Elvis Presley
I Got A Woman, Elvis Presley
We’re Gonna Move, Elvis Presley
Paralyzed, Elvis Presley
King Of the Whole Wide World, Elvis Presley
Hound Dog, Elvis Presley
Love Me, Elvis Presley
Make Me Know It, Elvis Presley
I Feel So Bad, Elvis Presley
Long Black Limousine, Elvis Presley
Stranger In My Home Town, Elvis Presley
Viva Las Vegas, Elvis Presley
Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis Presley
High Heel Sneakers, Elvis Presley
After Loving You, Elvis Presley
His Hand In Mine, Elvis Presley
Treat Me Nice, Elvis Presley
Ain’t That Loving You Baby, Elvis Presley
(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I, Elvis Presley
Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Alt), Elvis Presley
Loving You (Take 12), Elvis Presley
When It Rains, It Really Pours, Elvis Presley
Young And Beautiful, Elvis Presley
Santa Claus Is Back In Town, Elvis Presley
Trouble, Elvis Presley
Shake, Rattle & Roll/Flip, Flop & Fly (Live), Elvis Presley
Crying In The Chapel, Elvis Presley

Related Songs:

Mystery Train, Junior Parker ★★★
Mystery Train/Crossroads (Live), The Doors

That’s All Right, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★★
That’s All Right (Live), The Beatles ★★

Blue Moon, The Marcels ★★★

Don’t Be Cruel, Cheap Trick

Little Sister (Alt), Dwight Yoakam ★★★

Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys ★★★
Blue Moon Of Kentucky (Alt), Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys ★★★

(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley, Red Foley & Sunshine Boys Quartet ★★★
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley, Johnny Cash ★★

Good Rockin’ Tonight, Roy Brown ★★★
Good Rockin’ Tonight, Wynonie Harris ★★
Good Rockin’ Tonight (Live), Paul McCartney

Trying To Get To You, Chris Isaak ★★

My Baby Left Me, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★
My Baby Left Me, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★

Suspicion, Terry Stafford ★★

Milk Cow Blues, Johnie Lee Wills & His Boys ★★★
Milk Cow Blues, Josh White Trio ★★
Milk Cow Blues (Live), The Kinks

Baby Let’s Play House, Arthur Gunter ★★★

Blue Suede Shoes, Carl Perkins ★★★★★
Blue Suede Shoes (Take 2), Carl Perkins ★★★★
Blue Suede Shoes (Take 1), Carl Perkins ★★★

Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Lloyd Price
Junker’s Blues, Champion Jack Dupree

Reconsider Baby, Lowell Fulson ★★

Guitar Man, Jerry Reed ★★

Big Boss Man, Jerry Reed ★★★
Big Boss Man (Live), Grateful Dead ★★

Joshua Fit The Battle Ob Jericho, Sidney Bechet ★★★
Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho, Golden Gate Quartet ★★

Money Honey, The Drifters ★★

Take My Hand, Precious Lord, Mahalia Jackson ★★

I Got A Woman, Ray Charles ★★★★
I Got A Woman, Jimmy Smith ★★
I Got A Woman (Live), The Beatles

Hound Dog, Big Mama Thornton ★★★

I Feel So Bad, Chuck Willis ★★★

Memphis, Tennessee, Lonnie Mack ★★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Chuck Berry ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, Johnny Rivers ★★★★
Memphis, Tennessee, The Beatles ★★

High Heel Sneakers, Tommy Tucker ★★
High Heel Sneakers, The Rolling Stones ★★

(Now And Then, There’s) A Fool Such As I, Hank Snow, The Singing Ranger

Shake, Rattle & Roll, Big Joe Turner ★★★★
Flip, Flop & Fly, Big Joe Turner ★★★
Flip, Flop & Fly (Live), The Blues Brothers

Crying In The Chapel, The Orioles ★★

Rip It Up, Little Richard ★★★