There is controversy over the controversy… While the popular story has it that there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when Bob Dylan plugged in at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, with folkie Pete Seeger supposedly trying to take an axe to the power lines backstage, Dylan’s organ player, Al Kooper, relates his memory (in his great memoir Backstage Passes And Backstabbing Bastards) that it was not a big deal at all, and that the crowd quite enjoyed the whole thing.
But when have facts gotten in the way of a popular legend? Dylan at the ’65 festival will forever be noted as a crucial, symbolic moment in rock and roll history, myth or not. And now, the symbolic key to that moment, the focus of all that supposed anguish and rebellion, Bob Dylan’s Fender Stratocaster guitar, is going on the auction block.
Dylan is no longer the owner of the guitar – he apparently left it on a plane decades ago, and after some legal back-and-forth, the pilot’s family ended up with it. The guitar will be auctioned off in New York today, and it’s expected to get up to $500,000.
Anyone want to go in on this with me?
A lot of musicians produce their own music, but there is a smaller field of those who can produce other artists AND are successful at it. Here’s a list of nine artists better known (in most cases) for their own musical efforts but who have significant bodies of work as producers. This is not to say that they are the “best” or that they are listed in order of greatness. The list is ordered according to a mixed assessment of the worthiness of the things they’ve produced and the amount of producing they’ve done.
9. Phil Collins
Phil Collins, who has had massive success as a solo artist and as a member of Genesis, produced hits for Frida (ex-ABBA), Howard Jones and Philip Bailey, among others. He then presided over the loosest use of the term comeback, when he helped Eric Clapton score big with Behind the Sun (1985) and August (1986). Weeeeeeeak.
8. Jack White
Seems like Jack White has put touring on the back burner in favor of his newfound music mogul-dom. Before he really ramped up work on his Third Man Records label, store, mobile unit and future empire, White branched out from The White Stripes to produce 2001’s Lack of Communication by The Von Bondies (whose lead singer would later be punched many times in the face by White) and Loretta Lynn’s 2004 LP Van Lear Rose. He has produced most of his own studio projects, including The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and Another Way To Die, the theme to the Bond film Quantum of Solace, with Alicia Keys. White produces sessions for his own Third Man Records and has worked with Wanda Jackson, now ex-wife Karen Elson, The Black Belles and of course, Stephen Colbert.
The EditoriaList is the devious brainchild of one Scott Janovitz, who will use this space to summarize, in convenient list form, the best and worst of whatever occurs to him. Anything related to music, anyway. Janovitz claims to be a Boston-based writer, music producer and award-winning singer and songwriter, but according to the research we can piece together is more likely a petty thief. He is highly opinionated but will begrudgingly listen to those who disagree with him in order to explain to them why they are wrong.
10. Light of Day (1987)
Who in 1987 wasn’t waiting for the Michael J. Fox – Joan Jett big screen pairing? The only question was what the vehicle would be. A rom-com? Sci-fi thriller? A Tango & Cash“esque buddy cop action-comedy? A Back to the Future sequel where Marty meets The Runaways in 1977? To everyone’s surprise, what we got was an unexpectedly gritty family drama, centering on the relationship between brother and sister Joe and Patty (Fox and Jett), who perform together in a struggling E Street-esque bar band called The Barbusters. I have just told you the worst part of the movie. The Barbusters. This blow is softened by the appearance of the great Michael McKean as a band member”one of McKean’s THREE appearances on this list.
Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, wrote and directed this film and in fact commissioned a song by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen came back with Born In The U.S.A. but decided to keep that one for himself. Too bad, it could have been a hit. The Barbusters do a decent job with his alternate effort, the title song Light of Day.” And, hey, look, Michael J. Fox can sing. This begs the question”what the hell, Robert Zemeckis? The idea it’s Fox’ voice singing Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future is the least credible part of a movie about a time traveling DeLorean that runs on plutonium.
9. 8 Mile (2002)
Everyone said Eminem was basically playing himself in this film about an aspiring rapper from Detroit with a fucked-up mom and few prospects aside from an innate and unique lyrical flow. But it’s a mistake to go into this thinking it’s the Eminem Story. Em and director Curtis Hanson wisely keep Em’s character B-Rabbit sullen and low-key. The rapper is not a great actor, but he plays this one just right, with visibly crippling insecurity and remarkably restrained rage. The cleverness of the impromptu rhymes staged on street corners and at club battles are just short of believable, but (spoiler alert) at the end, when B-Rabbit destroys all comers with Eminem’s signature delivery, disbelief is easily suspended. Eminem won an Oscar for the great lead song Lose Yourself.
When one thinks of blues music, images of cramped, smoke-filled bars and weathered black musicians belting out throaty songs as they fret on their worn guitars inevitably come to mind. The names Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Big Bill Broonzy, Son House and John Lee Hooker are synonymous with this picture, with some having laid the core foundation of blues music in the 1920s and 1930s. Their contribution to musical history ended up influencing every conceivable artist who recorded thereafter, blues or not.
Clearing away the dust and cobwebs from the not-too-distant past, there emerged a new breed of blues players out of the musical awakening of the 1960s. As rock and roll catapulted into the mainstream public, it opened the doors for other genres and musicians to once again reach a wider and younger audience. These newcomers weren’t your old legends from the South, nor were they ripened veterans returning to the circuit after a long absence (though there was plenty of that.) A new subsection of blues evolved, with young white players presenting their chops and earning acceptence into a club that paid no attention to skin color even in the wake of racial tensions.
This trend of white blues musicians mimicking styles and covering songs penned by veteran black artists was a stark contrast to events in the 1950s when Elvis Presley was publicly attacked for stealing the music of such legends as Arthur Big Boy Crudup. While the argument about Presley has been endlessly debated over the years, the 1960s blues revival had little of this heated, racial commotion attached to it. Up-and-coming white blues players looking to break into the scene actually performed alongside many of the original artists who gave birth to the blues, strengthening their own skills and bringing certain lost musicians back into the limelight. Within this resurgence there are three artists that stand out from the crowd”not only for their contributions but, more importantly, for the deep respect they held for their musical elders.
Michael Bloomfield was discovered in Chicago when he was only twenty-one-years- old, and after being coerced into the studio, he cut a series of jaw-dropping, dirty blues tracks for Columbia Records in 1964. Although the recordings went unreleased for many years it led him to the ranks of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of the earliest and most influential electric blues combos of the 1960s. Bloomfield stuck around with Butterfield long enough to record the seminal East-West LP on Elektra Records in 1966”a raw, ground- breaking collection of electrified blues that helped fuel the resurgence in the genre and contributed to the growing number of new blues musicians and, better yet, new fanbase. He went on to achieve heightened notoriety by teaming up with the ambitious Al Kooper on 1968’s Super Session LP. This spontaneous recording went gold and thrust the young musician into a spotlight he never fully embraced. Subsequent recordings throughout the 1970s allowed Bloomfield to continue playing his straightforward blues licks while maintaining a low profile until his death in 1981.
In the growing 60s Chicago blues resurgence, Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall formed The Siegel-Schwall Band. Their first self-titled LP was released about the same time as Butterfield’s East-West, and showcased the group’s experimental sound with blues, rock folk, and country all molded into one. Upon sitting in with all the Chicago greats and becoming more comfortable as musicians, they released their ground-breaking follow up, Say Siegel-Schwall, which put these young white boys on the map. From beginning to end, this recording epitomizes both their deep respect for the genre and pinnacle for the 1960s white boy blues revival. With instrumentals that seep into every orifice of your body and a harmonica that blares its presence, the band constructed their own powerful sound while maintaining a mellow blues drawl that is analogous to their predecessors. Siegel-Schwall continued to record following their sophomore opus but were never able to capture that robust sound again.
In my world, I have taken on the responsibility of turning others onto past recordings that have been overlooked by today’s generation of contemporary music listeners. Similar to jazz, blues music’s popularity has been on the decline with younger listeners, and with so many new recordings, some people don’t have time to backtrack into the past to discover great music. So keep an eye out on future posts as I excavate essential albums from various genres; vinyl guru’s seal of approval guaranteed.
In the meantime, here is a sampling of some phenomenal artists on OurStage who are helping keep the spirit of blues alive in today’s melting pot of musical genres.