Thursday, 17 May 2012

‪Band & Emmylou Harris . Evangeline‬‏ EVENSONG . Levon Helm died last month. His was not the sole but it was perhaps the most recognisable of the singing voices in The Band. A redneck shitkicker, Helm was a no-nonsense, country-rockabilly- blues singer and multi-instrumentalist - playing mandolin in this clip - who famously - after the worldwide acclaim awarded The Band's Music From Big Pink - deplored the industry's preceding mountain of druggy doggerel rock pretence thus: Pyschedelia? We just thought that was Bullshit. Perhaps less culturally adventurous than his bandmates - who were then called the Hawks - Helm declined to do the famous World Booing Tour, accompanying motormouth, speedfreak wunderkind, Bob Dylan, leaving Dylan, Robertson, Manuel, Hudson, Danko and stand-in drummer Micky Jones to, without him, speak loud, amplified amphetamine-peace unto the heathen. Helm, however, was not so reticent when it came to shacking-up with Bob in Woodstock, NY and, via the jamming sessions, which would later emerge as the Basement Tapes, honing The Band's ensemble playing until finally, for a decade, it swept all before it. The Weight, Up On Cripple Creek, Long Black Veil, Chest Fever, Stage Fright, Tears of Rage, I Shall Be Released, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (written by Robertson to Helm's Johnny Reb sensibilities), these, North American roots music, anthems, knees-ups and laments, redirected such meagre artists as were then working in what had started out as Rock'n'Roll. Despairing at his own - in my view as yet unrelieved - artistic morbidity, Eric Wogbasher Clapton, on hearing The Band, dismantled the pompous, overblown and over-rated Cream and Richard Thompson sought to craft Fairport Convention into a similar but English roots music band. Self-indulgent supergroups crumbled, slip-sliding on double and triple "concept|" albums. Roberta Plant and Mick Jagger continued waving their cocks at vast androgyne audiences but more adept musos, such as Steve Winwood got back, if not to their roots, to somebody else's. Steeleye Span, Lindisfarnne a nd countless even lesser conclaves plundered the Anglo-ethnic and celtic traditions of the Copper family and the McPeakes Of the original members of this massively influential group, Richard Manuel hanged hinself, young; Rick Danko OD'd, young;Levon Helm died more prosaically, at 71, of cancer; Robbie Robertson suffers from crippling and incurable egomania and Maestro Garth Hudson lives in relatively modest normality. Former manager, |Albert Grossman, died in his fifties and former amenuensis, Bob Dylan, 72, nightly treads the boards in his own, freakish, travelling salvation show. There are giants in US popular music, Stephen Foster, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry; The Band, as a creative and performing ensemble, are more difficult to place than those individuals but they're in there somewhere, Down Along The Cove, Up On Cripple Creek, Across the Great Divide.


the noblest prospect said...

I hadn't seen this in over 30 years, so decided to take the Mrs to see it as part of a documentary festival here last week.

Funny how the time goes...

call me ishmael said...

Most of the performances are very superior, Van Morrison excepted, but Scorcese's homo-erotic focus on Robbie Robertson was a bit much, even for a liberal such as I. Across the Great Divide is a smashing book which, amongst much else, details the Scorcese-Robertson, coke-fuelled fling that took place after the Last Waltz. Smashing music, regardless of all that. If I don't do it, mr tnp, somebody else will.

Mrs Ishmael was shown it on DVD about ten years and has loved the Band ever since, especially RR and his solid bronze Strat. How did it go down in your gaff?

the noblest prospect said...

The young Mrs tnp is from a different, less rock and roll generation than I, Mr Smith and was more probably more curious in this auld hippys' roots, than in the music itself. Although quick to spot old Marty's wandering lens, she was blown away by the genius on show.

Levon reputedly hated the movie, but ironically it helped him to a more successful movie career than the pretty-boy of the group.

At the time, I thought the big mistake had been Neil Diamond, but seeing it again, even he was better than the ghastly Van. Even Mr Bob was smashing that night.

I fell off a stool once, very pissed, in the Invercarse Hotel. That was in 1976 too.

call me ishmael said...

Maybe it is some cosmic watering hole for disenchanted cybervoyagers, the Invercarse Hotel. All I need is mr verge popping up telling me that William Burroughs wrote books there and I'll cancel my next visit.

Having said that, it was young Buster, the late blog dog's, favourite hotel. He much preferred it to Travel Lodges and Holiday Expresses, and who can blame him?

Yes, I thought Neil Diamond was OK, too but I never did, even right up to now, see quite what the fuss was about Muddy Waters. Apart from his name; y'know; 'most anyone can spell three letter words, over and over again.