Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

CREEQUE ALLEY AND THE ROOTS OF FOLK-ROCK

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

It is an article of faith (or at least urban legend) that Folk Music passed the baton to Rock on that tempestuous day in July, 1965 when Bob Dylan plugged in his electric guitar and shocked (thrilled?) the audience of the Newport Folk Festival. It is said that folk paterfamilias Pete Seeger was so mortified by the desecration of the acoustic shrine that was Newport that he literally wanted to pull the plug on Dylans’s sacrilege.

Cooler heads prevailed, and the once successor to Woody Guthrie’s legacy went on to sing three “electric” numbers beginning with “Maggie’s Farm.” The rest, as they say, was history. Host Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, about whom more will follow), invited Dylan back for a couple of acoustic numbers, including “It’s all over now, Baby Blue,” which has since been viewed as his farewell to the world of folk music.2 The truth, while not quite as dramatic, was equally interesting. Not only had Roger McGuinn’s group “The Byrds” already recorded no fewer than four Dylan songs with electric accompaniment 3, but Dylan himself had charted (at 39) with “Subterraneum Homesick Blues,” in April of ’65 and had recorded the half-electric breakthrough album, “Bringing it all Back Home” earlier that year. Dylan had apparently been bitten by the electric bug even earlier. When he first heard the Beatles’s “I want to Hold your Hand,” he is reported to have said, “Did you hear that? Fuck! Man, that was fuckin’ great. Oh man, fuck.”4 I guess Bob must have liked them, as did we all.

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A Selective Sinatra Retrospective

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

Part 1: “Only the Lonely” – Frank Sinatra and the Concept Album
It is hard to believe that Frank Sinatra has been dead for five years. Just like many long-time fans, I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by his voice and still feel the creative void caused by his absence.

Think about it-Sinatra’s work made its imprint on the musical scene in the late 30’s, when All or Nothing at All was first heard with the Harry James Band, and continued through the surprise hits of his two “Duets” albums in the early 90’s. Imagine some other singer (before or after) having newly recorded songs on the charts in seven different decades. Most popular musicians would consider five years in the limelight a goal worth achieving, and five decades an impossibility. Paul Simon correctly observed that, “Every generation drops a hero off the pop charts.” Not so with Sinatra.

Both before and since his passing, there has been much written about Sinatra the man and Sinatra the singer.1 He, of course, was a man who inspired strong reactions among friend and foe alike. I’m not going to dwell on his having had four wives (not to mention countless paramours), his “Rat-Pack” exploits, the political odyssey from F.D.R. liberal to Reagan conservative, his non-musical achievements as a movie star, let alone his notorious Jekyll and Hyde personality. Suffice it to say, his was a larger than life existence. But I’d much prefer to focus on his major contribution to the world: his music.

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