Saturday, December 9, 2017

From The 2017 Archives- French Rocker Johnny Halliday Passes At 74-Hail, Hail Rock and Roll-“The Greatest Rocker You Have Never Heard Of”    

By Josh Breslin

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]


If you have read the above note you know that there has been great internal turmoil on this site of late with the “exile” to as of today an unknown place Allan Jackson (who used the moniker Peter Paul Markin on this site, a man he knew from high school and I knew from meeting out in the Summer of Love, 1967 San Francisco) the former site administrator, really managing editor and publisher combined. A commentary on a passing public figure, in this case legendary rocker, Johnny Halliday, the French “Elvis” of cancer at 74 would not normally be the place to bring up those squabbles however enlightening in other contexts. But as noted in the headline of this piece Johnny was according to more than one source “the greatest rocker that you have never heard of.”  At least in the English-speaking world that he was never able to break into.       

As I write this short tribute/commentary I have just noticed on the news feed that in Paris something like a million people have lined the streets of Paris, including every high-ranking dignitary and political of the past generation, to bid farewell to Johnny as the casket goes by. And every self-respecting French “Motorcycle Bill” as well so you can see that in France he was without any doubt he was beloved. The place where Johnny virtually unknown in America and the recently concluded internal strife at American Left History meet is what I want to mention since it was at least partially Allan’s stubbornness which if you check the archives makes not a single mention of Johnny despite the overwhelming space given to his, our growing up rock and roll music which has been given more than amble space. More than amble space for Anglo-American rock and roll but has given, had consciously given, short shrift to other rock and roll traditions, I guess you would call it “world music” traditions due entirely to the whims of Allan Jackman. (I would note here that I whole-heartedly supported Allan in the struggle against the “Young Turks” but he certainly was, is a man who had his short-comings including a certain narrowing of subject matter vision with age.)

As I have mentioned I have known Allan for a long time and up until a few years ago he acted much as he had when I first met him out in San Francisco those many years ago when we were all trying to turn the world upside down but then something changed, maybe like Zack James, one of the “Young Turks” noted, he just grew old (he is over seventy)-and cranky. He just wanted to withdraw back to that 1960s personal experience stuff and the hell with the rest of it. Part of the problem I think is that Allan finally realized that he would not outshine the long gone and still lamented despite his tragic and unnecessary fate Scribe’s star (the “real” Markin moniker). Even back in the day he was always in the shadow of Scribe, always a bit off-putting when around him. That is why the direct causes of his downfall, the eternal Dylan syndrome and the over-the-top stuff around the Summer of Love, loomed so large since he had somehow staked his whole reputation to finally best Scribe on those twice pillars. Twin pillars of sand.

Lest you think that I am getting off point here, not doing real justice to the late Johnny Halliday far from it. This fatal flaw stubbornness, obtuseness in Allan was always somewhere in the background. Where it came up in relationship to Johnny (and the whole emergence of “world music” in Johnny’s wake, or a strand of it anyway) was that narrow definition in his mind of rock and roll being in a time warp from about 1955 to 1965 and anything after or different did not exist. And in America with a slight tolerance for England. It might have been worse since he hated the Beatles (as in truth we all did mocking them as a modern day vaudeville act, what they call in England a music hall act except when they covered American rock and roll songs from the 1950s from guys like Chuck Berry) but loved the Stones to perdition since they cherished the blues root of rock as much as he did (under Scribe’s guidance I might add). Beyond that if you asked him to assign you say African drum music, or Latin America rhumbas, he would frown that imperial frown that said no dice, forget it, get out of town.       

But you see I, maybe alone in America, in critic circles anyway, knew Johnny Halliday as part of my growing up rock and roll immersion back in the 1960s during my high school days (Class of 1967). I grew up in Olde Saco in Maine, in French-Canadian come down form the farms in Quebec to the Maine and New Hampshire mill towns to find that pot of American streets gold through my mother (nee LeBlanc) so I spoke the patois growing up as much as English. Knew from cousins in Quebec this big Johnny Elvis-like sound coming from France-rock and roll in French forget the Maurice Chevalier chanson noise my mother loved. Belt out rock for bikers, babes and be-boppers to go crazy over. I tried more than a few times to get Allan interested in my doing stuff on Johnny over the years so that he could get a hearing in the English-speaking world. A little beachhead as Elvis, as the Stones found out would go a long way. So this site, Allan, must take their small part as millions of French people bid their Johnny adieu is why he is the greatest rocker you have never heard of. Meanwhile, RIP, Johnny, RIP.    
Searching For The American Songbook - In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute-With The Joy Street Coffeehouse In Mind-Introduction


Sketches by Jack Callahan

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

[As many readers may know now and if not then the above note should inform you in general there had been a serious shake-up on this blog site (which is linked in with several related although independent other websites that have cross-posted relevant materials) with the untimely, untimely by my lights, ouster of long time administrator Allan Jackson (who as is not unusual in cyberspace for all kinds of reasons simple or nefarious used the moniker Peter Paul Markin, a name which has much meaning to me but which will be explained soon by either Zack James, formerly the cultural czar here, or the new administrator Greg Green so I will move on). Although his current whereabouts are unknown to me since what some of us call a “purge” which will also be gone into by others at some later point Allan and I go back a long way to our high school days in seriously working poor North Adamsville (he said we met in junior high school but I don’t remember him that far back). We have been permitted, encouraged in fact to air our perspectives about what has gone on over the past several months (years really but things have come to a head in this period).
I always got along with Allan even in high school when he stood deep in the shadow of the real Peter Paul Markin whose name he appropriated for his on-site moniker and whom he feared above all for being both intellectually smarter than him and more larcenous. I don’t want to tell tales out of school but will say that I stood by Allan in the recent onslaught against his management mostly by the younger writers who dubbed themselves somewhat dramatically as the “Young Turks” like nobody ever used that designation before and am sorry to see him go.  
On one point though and this can be taken as either a new introductory point or as a second introduction where Allan and I locked was over this project that I started several years ago to look back to the folk minute of the early 1960s as my vivid part of discovering the American songbook that I was interested in. I wished to continue well beyond what I had started and he had posted but he put a stop to the series when he told me that he needed me more for political work and so scrubbed what I was doing.
As it turned out the real story behind Allan’s denial of my project was that he was putting together his own series in the days when he used to write material for the site and solely manage as he has done the past couple of years entitled “Not Bob Dylan” (and later another series “Not Joan Baez”) and wanted no competition for his folk minute work. When I asked Greg Green, by the way no fan of folk music which he said made him want to throw up since he heard it constantly in his growing up home from his old folkie parents who had it on the recorder player or tape deck all day, if I could revive the series he gave me the green light. So I have an initial very good opinion of him and the new direction. Maybe like the younger writers kept harping on Allan’s time had come but I still miss the old bastard wherever he is these days. Jack Callahan]
(Praise be work-saving computers below is the original introduction I had written before I was dragooned into other work. It reads well enough to start with only a couple of points needing updating.)
I recently completed the second leg of this American Songbook series, sketches from the time of my coming of age classic rock and roll from about the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, a series which is intended to go through different stages of the American songbook as it has evolved since the 19th century, especially music that could be listened to by the general population through radio, record player, television, and more recently the fantastic number of ways to listen to it all from computers to iPods. This series was not intended to be placed in any chronological order so the first leg dealt, and I think naturally so given the way my musical interests got formed, with the music of my parents’ generation, that being the parents of the generation of ’68, those who struggled through the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.

This third leg is centered on the music of the folk minute that captured a segment of my generation of ’68 as it came of social and political age in the early 1960s. It is easy now to forget in the buzz of the moment that this segment was fairly small to begin with cluttered up people who stayed with it for a few years and then like the rest of us got back to the new rock and roll driving by the British “invasion” and the West Coast “acid” rock that was taking center stage by the time of the summers of love in the mid to late 1960s. Today when talking to people, to those who slogged through the 1960s with me, those who will become very animated about Deadhead experiences, Golden Gate Park Airplane goings on, their merry-prankster-like “on the bus” experiences, even death Altamont when I ask about the influence of folk they will look at me with pained blank expressions or cite ritualistically Bob Dylan confirms how small and where that folk minute was concentrated.

Early on though some of us felt a fresh breeze was coming through the land, were desperately hoping that it was not some ephemeral rising and then back to business as usual, although we certainly being young did not dwell on that ebb tide idea since like with our physical selves we thought our ideas once implanted would last forever. Silly kids. Maybe it was the change in political atmosphere pulling us forward as men (and it was mostly men then) born in the 20th century were beginning to take over from the old fogies (our father/uncle/godfather Ike, General Ike, Ike Eisenhower  and his ilk) and we would fall in behind them. Maybe it was the swirl just then being generated questioning lots of old things like the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) red scare investigations, like Mister James Crow in the South and  the ghettos of the North, like why did we need all those nuclear bombs that were going to do nothing but turn us into flames. Maybe it was that last faint echo of the “beats” with their poetry, their be-bop jazz, their nightly escapade trying to hold onto that sullen look of Marlon Brando, that brooding look of James Dean, that cool pitter-patter of Alan Ginsberg against the night-stealers, and Preacher Jack, Jean-bon Kerouac, pushing us on to roads not taken.  Heady stuff, no question.

Maybe too since it involved cultural expression (although we would be clueless to put what we felt in those terms, save that for the folk music academics complete with endnotes and footnotes in bigh dissertations to warm their night-fires after the fire had burned out) and our cultural expression centered around jukeboxes and transistor radios it was that we had, some of us, tired of the Fabians, the various Bobbys (Vee, Darin, Rydell, etc.), the various incarnations of Sandra Dee, Leslie Gore, Brenda Lee, etc., wanted a new sound, or as it turned out a flowing back to the roots music, to the time and place when people had to make their own music or go without (it gets a little mixed up once the radio widened the horizons of who could hear what and when). So, yes, we wanted to know what on those lonely Saturday nights gave our forebears pause, let them sit back maybe listen to some hot-blooded black man with a primitive guitar playing the blues (a step up from the kids’ stuff nailed one-eyed string hung from the front porch but nowhere near that coveted National Steel beauty they eyed in the pawnshop in town just waiting to rise up singing), some jazz, first old time religion stuff and then the flicker of that last fade be-bop with that solid sexy sax searching for the high white note, mountain music, all fiddles and mandolins, playing against that late night wind coming down the hills and hollows reaching that red barn just in time to finish up that last chance slow moaning waltz. Yes, and Tex-Mex, Western swing, Child ballads and the “new wave” protest sound that connected our new breeze political understandings with our musical interests.

The folk music minute was for me, and not just me, thus something of a branching off for a while from rock and roll in its doldrums since a lot of what we were striving for was to make a small musical break-out from the music that we came of chronological age to unlike the big break-out that rock and roll represented from the music that was wafting through many of our parents’ houses in the early 1950s.

In preparing this part of the series I have been grabbing a lot of anecdotal remarks from some old-time folkies. People I have run into over the past several years in the threadbare coffeehouses and cafes I frequent around New England. You know, and I am being completely unfair here, those guys with the long beards and unkempt balding hair hidden by a knotted ponytail, flannel, clean or unclean, shirt regardless of weather and blue jeans, unclean, red bandana in the back pocket, definitely unclean and harmonica at the ready going on and on about how counter-revolutionary Bob Dylan was to hook up the treasured acoustic guitar to an amp in about 1965 and those gals who are still wearing those shapeless flour bag dresses, letting their hair grow grey or white, wearing the formerly “hip” now mandatory granny glasses carrying some autoharp or other such old-time instrument like they just got out of some hills and hollows of Appalachia (in reality with nice Ivy League resumes after their names and affirmative action-driven jobs-that to the good) arguing about how any folk song created after about 1922 is not really a folk song both sexes obviously having not gotten the word that, ah, times have changed. In short those folkies who are still alive and kicking and still interested in talking about that minute (and continuing to be unfair not much else except cornball archaic references that are supposed to produce “in the know” laughs but which were corny even back then when they held forth in the old Harvard Square Hayes-Bickford of blessed memory).

For those not in the know, or who have not seen the previously described denizens of the folk night in your travels, folk music is still alive and well (for the moment, the demographic trends are more frightening as the dying embers flicker) in little enclaves throughout the country mainly in New England but in other outposts as well. Those enclaves and outposts are places where some old “hippies,” “folkies,” communalists, went after the big splash 1960s counter-cultural explosion ebbed in about 1971 (that is my signpost for the ebb, the time when we tried to “turn the world upside down” in Washington over the Vietnam war by attempting to shut the government down and got nothing but teargas, police sticks and thousands of arrests for our troubles, others have earlier and later dates and events which seemed decisive but all that I have spoken to, or have an opinion on, agree by the mid-1970s that wave had tepidly limped to shore). Places like Saratoga, New York, Big Sur and Joshua Tree out in California, Taos, Eugene, Boise, Butte, Boulder, as well as the traditional Village, Harvard Square, North Beach/Berkeley haunts of memory.
They survive, almost all of them, through the support of a dwindling number of aficionados and a few younger kids, kids who if not the biological off-spring of the folk minute then very much like those youthful by-gone figures and who somehow got into their parents’ stash of folk albums and liked what they heard against the current trends in music, in once a month socially-conscious Universalist-Unitarian church basement coffeehouses, school activity rooms booked for the occasional night, small local restaurants and bars sponsoring “open mics” on off-nights to draw a little bigger crowd, and probably plenty of other small ad hoc venues where there are enough people with guitars, mandos, harmonicas, and what have you to while away an evening.            

There seems to be a consensus among my anecdotal sources  that their first encounter with folk music back then, other than when they were in the junior high school music class where one  would get a quick checkerboard of various types of music and maybe hear This Land Is Your Land in passing, was through the radio. That junior high school unconscious introduction of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land had been my own introduction in Mr. Dasher’s seventh grade Music Appreciation class where he inundated us with all kinds of songs from everywhere like the Red River Valley and the Mexican Hat Dance. For his efforts he was innocently nicknamed by us “Dasher The Flasher,” a moniker that would not serve him well in these child-worried times by some nervous parents.    

A few folkies that I had run into back then, fewer now, including a couple of girlfriends back then as I entered college picked up, like some of those few vagrant younger aficionados hanging around the clubs, the music via their parents’ record collections although that was rare and back then and usually meant that the parents had been some kind of progressives back in the 1930s and 1940s when Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Pete Seeger and others lit up the leftist firmament in places like wide-open New York City. Today the parents, my generation parents would have been in the civil rights movement, SDS or maybe the anti-war movement although the latter was drifting more by then to acid rock as the foundational music.

That radio by the way would be the transistor radio usually purchased at now faded Radio Shack by frustrated parents, frustrated that we were playing that loud unwholesome rock and roll music on the family record player causing them to miss their slumbers, and was attached to all our youthful ears placed there away from prying parents and somehow if you were near an urban area you might once you tired of the “bubble gum” music on the local rock station flip the dial and get lucky some late night, usually Sunday and find an errant station playing such fare.

That actually had been my experience one night, one Sunday night in the winter of 1962 (month and date lost in the fog of memory) when I was just flipping the dial and came upon the voice of a guy, an old pappy guy I assumed, singing a strange song in a gravelly voice which intrigued me because that was neither a rock song nor a rock voice. The format of the show as I soon figured out as I continued to listen that night was that the DJ would, unlike the rock stations which played one song and then interrupted the flow with at least one commercial for records, drive-in movies, drive-in theaters, maybe suntan lotion, you know stuff kids with disposable income would take a run at, played several songs so I did not find out who the singer was until a few songs later.
The song was identified by the DJ as the old classic mountain tune “discovered” by Cecil Sharpe in the hills and hollows of Appalachian Kentucky in 1916 Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies, the singer the late Dave Von Ronk who, as I found out later doubled up as a very informative folk historian and who now has a spot in the Village in New York where he hailed from named after him, the station WBZ in Boston not a station that under ordinary circumstances youth would have tuned into then since it was mainly a news and talk show station, the DJ Dick Summer a very central figure in spreading the folk gospel and very influential in promoting local folk artists like Tom Rush on the way up as noted in a documentary, No Regrets, about Rush’s fifty plus years in folk music. I was hooked.

That program also played country blues stuff, stuff that folk aficionados had discovered down south as part of our generation took seriously the search for roots, music, cultural, family, and which would lead to the “re-discovery” of the likes of Son House (and that flailing National Steel guitar that you can see him flail like crazy on Death Letter Blues on YouTube these days), Bukka White (all sweaty, all feisty, playing the hell out of his National face up with tunes like Aberdeen, Mississippi Woman and Panama, Limited) Skip James (all cool hand Luke singing that serious falsetto on I’d Rather Be The Devil Than Be That Woman’s Man which got me in trouble more than one time with women including recently), and Mississippi John Hurt (strumming seemingly casually his moaning Creole Belle and his slyly salacious Candy Man).

I eventually really learned about the blues, the country stuff from down south which coincides with roots and folk music and the more muscular (plugged in electrically) Chicago city type blues that connects with the beginnings of rock and roll, which will be the next and final leg of this series, straight up though from occasionally getting late, late at night, usually on a Sunday for some reason, Be-Bop Benny’s Blues Hour from WXKE in Chicago but that is another story. Somebody once explained to me the science behind what happened on certain nights with the distant radio waves that showed up mostly because then their frequencies overrode closer signals. What I know for sure that it was not was the power of that dinky transistor radio with its two nothing batteries. So for a while I took those faraway receptions as a sign of the new dispensation coming to free us, of the new breeze coming through the land in our search for an earthly Eden. Praise be.          

If the first exposure for many of us was through the radio, especially those a bit removed from urban areas, the thing that made most of us “folkies” of whatever duration was the discovery and appeal of the coffeehouses. According to legend (Dave Von Ronk legend anyway) in the mid to late 1950s such places were hang-outs for “beat” poets when that Kerouac/Ginsberg/Cassady flame was all the rage and folkies like him just starting out were reduced to clearing the house between shows with a couple of crowd-fleeing folk songs, or else. But by the early 1960s the dime had turned and it was all about folk music. Hence the appeal for me of Harvard Square not all that far away, certainly close enough to get to on weekends in high school. With Club 47, the “flagship,” obviously, Café Nana, the Algiers, Café Blanco, and a number of other coffeehouses all located within a few blocks of each other in the Square there were plenty of spots which drew us in to that location.
(That Club 47, subject a few years ago to its own documentary, was the spawning grounds and the testing ground for many folk artists like Dylan, Baez, Rush, Von Schmidt, Paxton, and Eric Saint Jean an up and coming performer who got laid low early taking too much sex and too much cocaine before it was the drug of choice among the heads, to perform and perfect their acts before friendly appreciative audiences that would not heckle them. The Club which has had something of a continuous history now operates as a non-profit as the Club Passim in a different location in Harvard Square near the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore.)    

The beauty of such places for poor boy high school students like me or lowly cash-poor college students interested in the folk scene was that for the price of a coffee, usually expresso so you could get your high a little off the extra caffeine but more importantly you could take tiny sips and make it last which you wanted to do so you could hold your spot at the table in some places, and maybe some off-hand pastry (usually a brownie or wedge of cake not always fresh but who cared as long as the coffee, like I said, usually expresso to get a high caffeine kick, was fresh since it was made by the cup from elaborate copper-plated coffeemakers from Europe or someplace like that), you could sit there for a few hours and listen to up and coming folk artists working out the kinks in their routines. Add in a second coffee unless the girl had agreed to an uncool “dutch treat,” not only uncool but you were also unlikely to get to first base especially if she had to pay her bus fare too, share the brownie or stale cake and you had a cheap date. 

Occasionally there was a few dollar cover for “established” acts like Joan Baez, Tom Rush, the Clancy Brothers, permanent Square fixture Eric Von Schmidt, but mainly the performers worked for the “basket,” the passing around of the hat for the cheap date guys and others “from hunger” to show appreciation, hoping against hope to get twenty buck to cover rent and avoid starving until the next gig. Of course since the audience was low-budget high school students, college kids and starving artists that goal was sometimes a close thing and accordingly the landlord would have to be pieced off with a few bucks until times got better.

Yeah, those were “from hunger” days at the beginning of their careers for most performers as that talent “natural selection process” and the decision at some point to keep pushing on or to go back to whatever else you were trained to do kept creeping foremost in their thoughts when the folk minute faded and there was not enough work to keep body and soul alive whatever the ardent art spirit. Some of them faced that later too, some who went back to that whatever they were trained to do and then got the folk music gig itch again, guys like Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin from the Kweskin Jug Band, David Bromberg, gals like Carolyn Hester, Minnie Smith after somebody said “hey, whatever happened to….” and they meant them. That natural selection thing was weird, strange for those who had to make decisions in those days (now too) about talent and drive over the long haul. You would see some guy like Paul Jefferson a great guitar player who did lots of Woody Guthrie covers and had a local following in the Café Nana working hard or Cherry LaPlante who had a ton of talent and a voice like floating clouds and had steady work in the Café Blanc fold up their tents once they hit a certain threshold, a few years working the local clubs and no better offers coming along and so they bailed out. They and those like them just did not have the talent or drive or chutzpah to keep going and so they faded. You still see Paul once in a while at “open mics” around Boston performing for much smaller crowds than in the old days and the last I heard of Cherry was that she had drifted west and was getting a few bookings in the cafes out in Oregon. But in the day it was all good, all good to hear and see as they tried to perfect their acts.   

For alienated and angst-ridden youth like me (and probably half my generation if the information I have received some fifty years later stands up and does not represent some retro-fitted analysis filtered through a million sociological and psychological studies), although I am not sure I would have used those words for my feelings in those days the coffeehouse scene was the great escape from household independence struggles of which I was always, always hear me, at the short end of the stick.

Probably the best way to put the matter is to say that when I read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, over a non-stop weekend I was so engrossed in the page after page happenings, I immediately identified with Holden Caulfield whatever differences of time, place and class stood between us and when asked my opinion of him by my English teacher I made her and the whole class laugh when I said “I am Holden Caulfield”), or when I saw The Wild One at the retro-Strand Theater in downtown North Adamsville if one could call it that term I instinctively sided with poor boy Johnny and his “wanting habits” despite my painfully negative experiences with outlaw motorcycle guys headed by local hard boy Red Riley who hung out at Harry’s Variety Store as they ran through. If I had been able to put the feelings into words and actions it would have been out of sympathy for the outcasts, misfits, and beaten down who I identified with then (not quite in the Jack Kerouac beaten down hipsters or night-dwellers who survived with a certain swagger and low hum existence sense).
So yeah, the coffeehouses offered sanctuary. For others (and me too on occasion) those establishments also provided a very cheap way to deal with the date issue, as long as you picked dates who shared your folk interests. That pick was important because more than once I took a promising date to the Joy Street Coffeehouse up on Boston’s Beacon Hill where I knew the night manager and could get in for free who was looking for something speedier like maybe a guy with a car, preferably a ’57 Chevy or something with plenty of chromes, and that was the end of that promise.  For those who shared my interest like I said before for the price of two coffees(which were maybe fifty cents each, something like that, but don’t take that as gospel), maybe a shared pastry and a couple of bucks in the “basket” to show you appreciated the efforts, got you those hours of entertainment. But mainly the reason to go to the Square or Joy Street early on was to hear the music that as my first interest blossomed I could not find on the radio, except that Dick Summer show on Sunday night for a couple of hours. Later it got better with more radio shows, some television play when the thing got big enough that even the networks caught on with bogus clean-cut  Hootenanny-type shows, and as more folkies got record contracts because then you could start grabbing records at places like Sandy’s in between Harvard and Central Squares.               

Of course sometimes if you did not have dough, or if you had no date, and yet you still had those home front civil wars to contend with and that you needed to retreat from you could still wind up in the Square. Many a late weekend night, sneaking out of the house through a convenient back door which protected me from sight, parents sight, I would grab the then all-night Redline subway to the Square and at that stop (that was the end of the line then) take the stairs to the street two steps at a time and bingo have the famous (or infamous) all-night Hayes-Bickford in front of me. There as long as you were not rowdy like the winos, hoboes, and con men you could sit at a table and watch the mix and match crowds come and go. Nobody bothered you, certainly not the hired help who were hiding away someplace at those hours, and since it was cafeteria-style passing your tray down a line filled with steam-saturated stuff and incredibly weak coffee that tasted like dishwater must taste, you did not have to fend off waitresses. (I remember the first time I went in by myself I sat, by design, at a table that somebody had vacated with the dinnerware still not cleared away and with the coffee mug half full and claimed the cup to keep in front of me. When the busboy, some high school kid like me, came to clear the table he “hipped me” to the fact that nobody gave a rat’s ass if you bought anything just don’t act up and draw attention to yourself. Good advice, brother, good advice.)

Some nights you might be there when some guy or gal was, in a low voice, singing their latest creation, working up their act in any case to a small coterie of people in front of them. That was the real import of the place, you were there on the inside where the new breeze that everybody in the Square was expecting took off and you hoped you would get caught up in the fervor too. Nice.        

As I mentioned in the rock and roll series, which really was the music of our biological coming of age time, folk was the music of our social and political coming of age time. A fair amount of that sentiment got passed along to us during our folk minute as we sought out different explanations for the events of the day, reacted against the grain of what was conventional knowledge. Some of us will pass to the beyond clueless as to why we were attuned to this music when we came of age in a world, a very darkly-etched world, which we too like most of our parents had not created, and had no say in creating. That clueless in the past about the draw included a guy, me, a coalminer’s son who got as caught up in the music of his time as any New York City Village Jack or Jill or Chi Old Town frat or frail. My father in his time, wisely or not considering  what ill-fate befell him later, had busted out of the tumbled down tarpaper shacks down in some Appalachia hills and hollows, headed north, followed the northern star, his own version, and never looked back and neither did his son.

Those of us who came of age, biological, political, and social age kicking, screaming and full of the post-war new age teenage angst and alienation in the time of Jack Kennedy’s Camelot were ready for a jail-break, a jail-break on all fronts and that included from the commercial Tin Pan Alley song stuff. The staid Eisenhower red scare cold war stuff (he our parents’ organizer of victory, their gentile father Ike). Hell, we knew that the world was scary, knew it every time we were forced to go down into some dank school basement and squat down, heads down too, hoping to high heaven that the Russkies had not decided to go crazy and set off “the bomb,” many bombs. And every righteous teenager had restless night’s sleep, a nightmare that, he or she, was trapped in some fashionable family fall-out shelter bunker and those loving parents had thoughtfully brought their records down into the abyss to soothe their savage beasts for the duration. Yelling in that troubled sleep please, please, please if we must die then at least let’s go out to Jerry Lee’s High School Confidential. And as we matured Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind.    

We were moreover, some of us anyway, and I like to think the best of us, driven by some makeshift dreams, ready to cross our own swords with the night-takers of our time, and who, in the words of Camelot brother Bobby, sweet ruthless Bobby of more than one shed tear in this quarter, quoting from Alfred Lord Tennyson, were “seeking a newer world.” Those who took up the call to action heralded by the new dispensation and slogged through the 60s decade whether it was in the civil rights/black liberation struggle, the anti-Vietnam War struggle or the struggle to find one’s own identity in the counter-culture swirl before the hammer came down were kindred. And that hammer came down quickly as the decade ended and the high white note that we searched for, desperately searched for, drifted out into the ebbing tide. Gone.

These following sketches and as with the previous two series that is all they are, and all they pretend to be, link up the music of the generation of ‘68s social and political coming of age time gleaned from old time personal remembrances, the remembrances of old time folkies recently met and of those met long ago in the Club 47, Café Lena, Club Paradise, Café North Beach night.

The truth of each sketch is in the vague mood that they invoke rather than any fidelity to hard and fast fact. They are all based on actual stories, more or less prettified and sanitized to avoid any problems with lose of reputation of any of the characters portrayed and any problems with some lingering statute of limitations. That truth, however, especially in the hands of old-time corner boys like me and the other guys who passed through the corner at Jack Slack’s bowling  alleys must always be treated like a pet rattlesnake. Very carefully.

Still the overall mood should more than make up for the lies thrown at you, especially on the issue of sex, or rather the question of the ages on that issue, who did or did not do what to whom on any given occasion. Those lies filled the steamy nights and frozen days then, and that was about par for the course, wasn’t it. But enough of that for this series is about our uphill struggles to make our vision of the our newer world, our struggles to  satisfy our hunger a little, to stop that gnawing want, and the music that in our youth  we dreamed by on cold winter nights and hot summer days.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Searching For The American Songbook- When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind 

Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown soldier
It's all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up

Comp'nee, halt
Present, arms

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And, it's all over
The war is over
It's all over
War is over

Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby

Ooh, ha, ha, all over
All over, baby
Oh, woah, yeah, all over
All over, heh

Robbie Krieger;John Densmore;Jim Morrison;Ray Manzarek

From The Pen of Frank Jackman

There was no seamless thread that wrapped the 1960s up tightly. A thousand things, or it seemed like a thousand things, came together in pretty rapid succession to draw down in flames, for a while anyway although none of us though it would on be for only a while just as we thought that we would live forever, or at least fast, the dread red scare Cold War freezes of our childhood. But you could traces things a little, make your own “live free” categories of the events that chipped away the ice of those dark nights.

Start in with the mid-1950s if you like with the heat of the black struggle for some semblance of civil liberties down South with fearless ladies refusing to go to the back of the bus (and some sense for equality up North with students and young people mainly wondering what to do and getting an idea of how deep the racial divide was then as now when they started doing solidarity work for the freedom riders and standing tall picketing Woolworth’s telling them to let black people eat at their freaking lunch counters if they wanted too, if they couldhanlde the food is what I though), the first break-out of music with the crowning of rock and roll as the wave of the future (black rhythm and blues, scat, rockabilly mixed all stirred up), the “discovery” of teen alienation and angst exemplified by movie star James Dean, who lived fast, and died fast a metaphor that would work its way through youth culture over the next generation. An odd-ball mix right there. Then start to throw in the struggles against the old authority, the old certitudes that had calmed our parents’ lives in places like Frisco town where they practically ran the red-baiters in the HUAC out of town, but of course the biggest event that opened the doors for liberals, radicals, hell even thoughtful conservatives was the sweet breeze coming down the road from Boston with the election of Jack Kennedy.    

That event opened up a new psychological twist (twist since Smilin’ Jack was not exactly Lenin or Trotsky or guys like that who really shook up the old order), that it was okay to question authority, whatever the limitations and shortness of the Camelot times with the struggles against some hoary things like segregation, the death penalty, nuclear proliferation, the unevenness of life which would get propelled later in the decade with fight for women’s liberation, gay liberation, and the fight against the draft, the damn war in Vietnam that drove a nail into the heart of the generation. There were more things, cultural things and experimentations with new lifestyles that all got a fair workout during this period as well.     

Plenty of us in retrospective would weigh the various combinations of events differently in figuring out how the uprising started just as plenty of us have our specific dates for when the tide began to ebb, when the mean-spirited and authoritarian began their successful counter-offensive that we still live with today for not taking the omens more seriously.

And then we have a mind's eye photograph to grace this short screed. This  photograph is almost impossible to imagine without some combination of that hell broth mix stirred up in the 1960s. Think this-three self-assured women comfortable with the loose and individualistic fashion statements of the day from floppy hats to bare legs, bare legs that would have shocked a mother who all corseted up dreamed a World War II dream of nylons, and would do quite a bite to get her hands on such womanly finery. Uncomfortable about the damn Vietnam war that was eating up boyfriends, brothers, just friends at a heavy rate and they unlike their mothers who came through World War II waiting patiently and patriotically for their military heroes to come home, come home in one piece, have a very different sense of the heroic. A sense of the heroic going back to ancient times when one group of women demanded that their men come home on their shields if they had to rather than speak of defeat and others providing a distant echo for these three women pictured here who refused their soldier boys any favors if they went off to war. That says it all enough said.                     

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Searching For The American Songbook-In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute- With Tom Rush’s No Regrets In Mind 

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 

No Regrets, narrated by Tom Rush and whoever else he could corral from the old Boston/Cambridge folk scene minute still around, 2014  

I know your leavin's too long overdue
For far too long I've had nothing new to show to you
Goodbye dry eyes I watched your plane fade off west of the moon
It felt so strange to walk away alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

The hours that were yours echo like empty rooms
Thoughts we used to share I now keep alone
I woke last night and spoke to you
Not thinkin' you were gone
It felt so strange to lie awake alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

Our friends have tried to turn my nights to day
Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away
Just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn
It feels so strange to lead my life alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

A few years ago in an earlier 1960s folk minute nostalgia fit I did a series of reviews of male folk-singers entitled Not Bob Dylan. That series asked two central questions-why did those folk singers not challenge Dylan whom the media of the day had crowned king of the folk minute for supremacy in the smoky (then) coffeehouse night and, if they had not passed on, were they still working the smoke-free church basement, homemade cookies and coffee circuit that constitutes the remnant of that folk minute even in the old hotbeds like Cambridge and Boston. Were they still singing and song-writing, that pairing of singer and writer having been becoming more prevalent, especially in the folk milieu in the wake of Bob Dylan’s word explosions back then. The ground was shifting under the Tin Pan Alley kingdom.   

Here is the general format for asking and answering those two questions which still apply today if one is hell-bent on figuring out the characters who rose and fell during that time: 

“If I were to ask someone, in the year 2010 as I have done periodically, to name a male folk singer from the 1960s I would assume that if I were to get an answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. And that would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be) the voice of the Generation of ’68 (so named for the fateful events of that watershed year when those who tried to turn the world upside down to make it more livable began to feel that the movement was reaching some ebb tide) but in terms of longevity and productivity, the never-ending touring until this day and releasing of X amount of bootleg recordings, he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, today continue to produce work and to perform. The artist under review, Tom Rush, is one such singer/songwriter.

The following is a question that I have been posing in reviewing the work of a number of male folk singers from the 1960’s and it is certainly an appropriate question to ask of Tom Rush as well. I do not know if Tom Rush, like his contemporary Bob Dylan, started out wanting to be the king of the hill among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. A decent acoustic guitar but a very interesting (and strong baritone) voice to fit the lyrics of love, hope, and longing that he was singing about at the time. During much of this period along with his own songs he was covering other artists, particularly Joni Mitchell, so it is not clear to me that he had that same Dylan drive by let’s say 1968.

As for the songs themselves I mentioned that he covered Joni Mitchell in this period. A very nice version of Urge For Going that captures the wintry, got to get out of here, imaginary that Joni was trying to evoke about things back in her Canadian homeland. And the timelessness and great lyrical sense of his No Regrets, as the Generation of ’68 sees another generational cycle starting, as is apparent now if it was not then. The covers of fellow Cambridge folk scene fixture Eric Von Schmidt on Joshua Gone Barbados and Galveston Flood are well done. As is the cover of Bukka White’s Panama Limited (although you really have to see or hear old Bukka flailing away on his old beat up National guitar to get the real thing on YouTube).”

Whether Tom Rush had the fire back then is a mute question now although in watching the documentary under review, No Regrets, in which he tells us about his life from childhood to the very recent past at some point he did lose the flaming burn down the building fire, just got tired of the road like many, many other performers and became a top-notch record producer, a “gentleman farmer,” and returned to the stage, most dramatically with his annual show Tom Rush-The Club 47 Tradition Continues held at Symphony Hall in Boston each winter. And in this documentary appropriately done under the sign of “no regrets” in which tells Tom’s take on much that happened then he takes a turn, an important oral tradition turn, as folk historian. 

He takes us, even those of us who were in the whirl of some of it back then to those key moments when we were looking for something rooted, something that would make us pop in the red scare Cold War night of the early 1960s. Needless to say the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge gets plenty of attention as does his own fitful start in getting his material recorded, the continuing struggle from what he said. Other coffeehouses and other performers of the time, especially Eric Von Schmidt get a nod of recognition and does the role of key folk FJ Dick Summer in show-casing new work (and the show where I started to pick up my life-long folk “habit”). So if you want to remember those days when you sought refuse in the coffeehouses and church basements, sought a “cheap” date night or, ouch, want to know why your parents are still playing Joshua’s Gone Barbados on the record player as you go out the door Saturday night watch this film.   

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sir Alfred Falls Down- Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” (1976)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Senior Film Critic Sandy Salmon

Family Plot, starring Barbara Hershey, Bruce Dern, William Devane, Karen Black, directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock before he was a Sir, 1976 

[When I first decided on the title for this piece (or rather the beginning of the title) I was not trying to be ironic but merely pointing out that the film under review Family Plot had been far from one of Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s bests efforts, a crude and predictable attempt at some cranky footloose humor involving a couple of scam operations which go awry as they cross paths. Since choosing the title I have come by information via an NPR segment on another aspect of the fall of Sir Alfred, a less savory one, concerning a recent revelation (at least to me) from Tippi Hendron who starred in one of his best films, The Birds, in the 1960s that he sexually harassed her almost beyond endurance. Advances which she repeatedly rebuffed. As we are becoming almost daily aware many years later in 2017 in a slew of other cases involving powerful men in positions to do something gross and get away with it because of Hitchcock’s powerful position as famous and profitable film director he was able essentially ruined Ms. Hendron’s career by bad-mouthing her to others who might be interested in her for a role in some production.

Of course since apparently this whole subject of predatory sexual activity (epitomized by the slightly more than vaguely suggestive term ‘casting couch” the gauntlet that many young actors of both sexes on occasion were confronted with if they expected to go farther up the food chain) “was an “open secret” in Hollywood at the time perhaps she would have had no recourse at all once the big man put the whammy on her when she didn’t respond to his sexual advances. (Apparently even his every-loving wife of many years had no influence when Tippi tried to get him to back off and asked her to intercede to no avail. Jesus.)      

This whole sordid episode (among an escalating number of such revelations about men in powerful positions acting boorishly and worse) brings up a problem which has until now remained unspoken when apparently a great many public men have assumed that given their positions, young women, or for that matter any women, were fair game for their sexual advances, harassment or criminal behavior. The problem exemplified in the Hitchcock case is how much film reviewers, scholars, fans should weigh that outrageous human behavior of any creative person against whatever cinematic or cultural values the works they have produced have. Not an easy question to answer but I would have to think as in the review below knowledge of that rotten behavior will seep into this piece. In any case there is no reason to change the title if anything it is more appropriate than ever. Sandy Salmon]        

Sir Alfred Hitchcock went all fall down in the late production under review Family Plot. A man whose long career gave us such black and white classics as Saboteur and The 39 Steps and all-time modern suspense classics like Psycho, Vertigo and The Birds seemed to have run out of energy when it came time to bring this one to the screen. Not a horrible film by any means but shockingly a rather lame attempt at a humorous look at star-crossed con artists working different sides of the street whose paths cross unconvincingly. The real problem was by the time this film reached its climax this reviewer didn’t care which pair of con artists won the day. Not a good sign, not at all.   

Here is the subtext, what my old friend Sam Lowell who used to do this job and still is in emeritus status calls “the skinny.” A pair of low-end con artists, played by Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern, working the old Madame LaRue crystal ball fortune-telling con have landed a big fish in a wealthy old maid woman who is looking to find her wayward sister’s illegimate son and make amends for shuttling him off to another poorer family to avoid the shame of what that bastardy meant for her family’s good name in order to give him his rightful inheritance. So this pair is hired at a serious for them amount of money to find that heir, to do the leg-work to find a guy who seemingly does not want to be found for his own reasons. That is one thread. The other thread is that another pair of con artists, played by Karen Black and William Devane, are working a high-end kidnapping of wealthy private citizens for ransom racket with the payoff in serious diamonds. The twain shall meet as the storyline evolves because the subject of the first pair of cons search is that male part of the high-end kidnapping duo.               

That is the so-called drama tension of the piece, the unwinding of the plot, the family plot I guess, where the work of each pair eventually cross each other and not for the benefit of what either set is trying to do. The capers each go through on the one hand for the “detective” cons and the other the pursued kidnapping cons are prankish and result in a comedy of errors which however will lead one set to prevail and the other to wind up doing Edgar Allan Poe time. Hey I won’t give away the ending any more than that but if you have a Hitchcock film you really need to watch then try Saboteur or Vertigo to see where Hitchcock was before the wheels came off, before he got cranky.           
The Last Of The Classical Lyric Poets?- Bob Dylan’s 121st Dream-With Professor Richard Thomas’ “Why Bob Dylan Matters” In 2017 In Mind    

[During the past several years, which has built up some extra stream the past couple of year, there has been a storm brewing among the writers who write for various departments in this space, for the American Left History blog (and the on-line Progressive American, American Film Gazette and American Folk Gazette websites with which we have fraternal relations including cross-publication of certain articles). Since a great deal of the storm has subsided after we have now reached agreement on some decisions about the road forward I feel it is appropriate as the about to retire administrator to let the reading public know what those decisions entail, what way we are heading. Over the past few years we have brought younger writers like Zack James, Bradley Fox, Jr., Alden Riley and the writer of the article below, Lance Lawrence, in to begin the transition away from writers, including myself, who were totally “washed clean” as one of the older writers Fritz Taylor is fond of saying by the turbulent 1960s, a watershed in American culture, politics and social arrangements.

While it has been entirely possible to read plenty of other material including older films, music and books over the years the strongest component, the subject that has held sway more often than not has been somehow involved with the growing up days in the 1950s and coming of age in the 1960s of the first wave of writers. That has tilted all have agreed, although I have dissented, vigorously dissented as to the degree and to the extent of my alleged role in the process,  the axis of the American Left History experience we are trying to educate people about and preserve too one-sidedly around experience from fifty or sixty years ago when we came of age as if nothing has happened since then beyond the long haul rearguard actions against the reactionary trends of the past forty or so years when we have taken it on the chin once the “60s” ebbed.         

Almost naturally the storm (what my old high school friend and low time associate here oldster Sam Lowell called a “tempest in a teapot” as he sided with the younger writers against the old guard, against my leadership casting the decisive vote against me) reflected the generational divide-the sensibilities of the old guard against the very different perspectives of the younger writers who were plainly way too young to have appreciated except second-hand all the tales and lies that we older folk have imposed on them. This whole dispute came to a head, although other similar disputes this year played a role, over the figure of Bob Dylan not what Lance will write about below but an earlier dispute over our tendency to have a music review on every one of the seemingly never-ending, seemingly never-ending to me as well, bootleg series volumes including Volume 12 which Zack had considered nothing but a commercial rip-off and composed of nothing but a million out takes and other crap and not worthy of giving review space here.

That dispute was the beginning of our awakening to the fact that not everything the man (our “the Man”) did was pure gold something which would have been blasphemy if one of older generation had uttered those words. The hard fact, as the younger writers were at pains to explain, younger writers who self-styled themselves as the “Young Turks,” Bob Dylan to the extent than any of them listened to him or saw him as anything but some old fogy who will probably die on the road doing his two hundred boring concerts a year, to draw anything from his music was something like our reaction to Frank Sinatra when we were young. Square, too square. That comment by I think Bradley Fox cut me especially to the quick.  In any case other writers can give their respective takes on what has gone on of late. Since I am headed for retirement which just this minute feels like some kind of exile that seems best rather than my going on and on in defense of various objectionable actions I have taken over the past few years. Soon to be retired administrator Peter Paul Markin]         

By Writer Lance Lawrence 

I suppose if a man, if a man like Bob Dylan the subject of this short piece, has lived long enough, has been in the public eye, mostly in his case the public eye of a dwindling number of hard core folkie aficionados then somebody will write what he or she thinks is the definitive say on the subject. Especially some academic somebody like Harvard Professor Richard Thomas who has indeed written a treatise called “Why Bob Dylan Matters” where he regales the brethren, the devotees who will buy the book because they buy everything Dylan-etched including bogus Bootleg series volumes some of which are nothing but stuff better left on the cutting room floor. The good professor’s premise is that Mister Dylan is the second coming of Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, who knows maybe Cato and Cicero too in the “big tent” lyrical poet pantheon.     

Originally this piece was going to be written by I think Bart Webber, one of the older writers who would probably like a number of the older writers in this space, on this American Left History blog drool on and on in agreement with the good professor. (This is nothing personal against Bart which has pulled me out of more dead-ends on stories than I care to count but he unlike the more thoughtful Sam Lowell who was like a breath of fresh air in the dispute Markin mentioned above in that quasi-introduction was his most rabid supporter.) Would have make up a laudatory piece which according to my archival research on this site has had over four hundred Bob Dylan-related articles almost all of them “soft-ball puffs” like Dylan was the King of the world and not the nightshade of the old guard. Looking over the archives nobody except Leon Trotsky, who after all was a world historic revolutionary, led a real revolution, and was a key historic figure even if he seemed to have been snake-bitten in his struggle to keep the faith in the Bolshevik future when old “Uncle Joe” Stalin bared his fangs in public has more entries.

Markin, I might as well say it since we have all been given the go ahead to give our respective takes on the internal fight now that the smoke has apparently cleared, mercifully soon to be retired Markin, or is it “purged” like his buddy Trotsky, started the whole madness early in his regime on when he wrote a ton of his own stuff rather than just run the site and hand out assignments as he was supposed to do. He lashed together extensive 3000 word reviews of Dylan’s five or ten first albums and then went over the top when he decided several years ago to write a series entitled “Not Bob Dylan.” That series seemingly endless series about the ten million or so it seemed male folkies who had not been dubbed by Time magazine to be the “King” of the 1960s folk minute (and it was only a minute despite all the hoopla here making it seem like some world-historic event like Trotsky’s Russian Revolution which even I could see had some merit for that designation rather than a tepid passing fad) and who had gone on to something else or who still inhabit the nether-world of the backwaters folk venue world.

I swear Markin must have written up the employment bios, resumes, and fates of every guy who knew three chords and a Woody Guthrie song learned in seventh grade music appreciation class with the likes of Mister Larkin at my middle school who walked into a coffeehouse back then. Even guys I had never heard of in passing like Erick Saint Jean who was supposed to be big in Boston and New York and Manny Silver who was supposed to be the greatest lyric writer since Woody (and probably if Professor Thomas took a whack at it probably since Milton or somebody like that).  If I hear one more word about those guys, hell now that I think about it he also added insult to injury by doing a series on the ten million folkie women who were “Not Joan Baez” Dylan’s paramour and the queen of that 1960s folk minute (according to omnipotent Time).           

But enough of taking cracks at the folk aficionados wherever they are who saw Dylan as a god, a guy who wrote lyrics better than he could sing. Frankly the guy was a has-been by my time, a leader of the folk minute that had passed mercifully away. We used to laugh at the graying long-haired guys guitar in hand in the subway still singing covers of his songs while the trains roared by. Would drop a dollar in the guitar case if they DID NOT sing Blowin’ In The Wind or The Times Are A-Changin’ one more freaking time remembering Mr. Larkin that music teacher in seventh grade, another guy from the 1960s line-up, trying to get us to sing that crap since the words were so meaningful, so important to know and remember according to him.     

Finally since I am supposed to be an objective reporter of sorts, supposed to give all sides a short at reasoned opinion let me take Professor Thomas’ thesis at face value. Now my take on Homer is that he wrote pretty good stories made up of whole cloth no crime and created quite an oral tradition. Same with plenty of Greeks and Romans we read about in high school and college. They survived the cut, they represented some pretty high standards for the lyric form. Got quite workout by Miss Laverty my high school English teacher who was crazy for those guys and the way she read their words out loud you could see why they lasted. Literary comparisons aside about who was the king the lyrical poetic hill who except those guys like Markin and Sam Lowell, despite his honorable part in our internal fight, and who I do not believe know one song later than maybe 1972 which everybody will admit is a long time to be stuck on an old needle even listens to Dylan anymore except for old nostalgia trips.        

For those three people who may be interested in exploring Professor Thomas’s ideas, see what makes him tick, see why he seemingly a rational man is a Dylan aficionado who probably one of the two guys who bought that dastardly Volume 12 which started this “revolution” here is a link to an NPR On Point broadcast hosted by Tom Ashbrook where the good professor holds forth:

[Although Professor Thomas’ thesis about Dylan’s place in the pantheon was not central to the recent disputes among the coterie of writers who ply their trade here Dylan did figure in the mix when all hell broke loose the day Zack James refused to write a review on Volume 12 of the never-ending Bootleg series. I would still be surprised if going out the door Pete Markin will let my “venomous” words see the light of day. As is. If he does then maybe we will have new day after all.]