This is a nicely ramshackle version of Woody Guthrie’s “Grand Coulee Dam” performed by Bob Dylan and The Band in 1968. I kind of miss the days when science and industry was the subject of popular song, and lived in the imagination of everyday people, when a young boy’s heroes might include Samuel F.B. Morse and John August Roebling along with, I dunno, Jim Creighton and Wild Bill Hickock. You know, The Good Old Days, when robber barons exploited the working class, and disease and misery was rampant.
When I was a kid, I always thought Little Richard was super corny. But as an adult, listening to this song, I completely understand that he was the baddest motherfucker of all time. First of all, the vocal performance is mind-blowing. Who puts that much energy into a song these days? Second, you can actually hear panties dropping on this track. Close your eyes and press play, and you’ll know why people were afraid of rock n roll.
I’ve had this same reaction to Little Richard in my adult life: it’s 1955 and you’ve got this gay black guy shrieking and beating the shit out of a piano? No wonder parents all across the land went apeshit.
I once wrote this thing about how I had My First Serious Relationship, and it was mostly conducted via the internet, and how I wound up driving the girl halfway across the country, leaving her at her parents’ door, and driving halfway across the country again by myself.
On the way back, somewhere around Princeton, New Jersey, I heard the song “Kansas City” by Okkervil River and its mixture of wounded anger and romantic self-pity had me in tears (“never let no woman tell you she loves you”, “she’ll get on that airplane and wave BYE BYE BYE BYE BYE BAY-BEE BYE BYEEEE” etc). I had no idea who the band was, and a couple of years later, when I bought their album and heard the song, it was shocking; it was like being slapped in the face with the memories of what was at the time probably The Worst Day Of My Life.
So I scratched around in the console of my car and I found a cassette of Hank Williams Jr.’s greatest hits that had belonged to my stepfather. I put it in and this song came on, and I said my own little Fuck You to the east coast, and made eight hundred more miles before I gave in and left the roadside.
Another word on True Grit. It concludes with Iris Dement’s version of the old Christian hymn “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”, a beautiful song that is made staggeringly so by Dement. I was raised a Baptist, and we never attended a church with more than fifty or so members, nearly all of whom were considerably older—I’d guess an average age of about sixty-five or so—and we only sang the oldest of the hymns (“The Old Rugged Cross”, “Victory In Jesus”, “I Love To Tell The Story”), accompanied only by an old upright piano, always played, inexpertly, by an old woman who’d played the songs countless times. At this point in my life, I’d be lying if I said that the songs had any theological meaning to me, but that’s beside the point. They’re beautiful songs regardless of whether I relate to their religious connotations.
When I listen to Iris Dement, I’m invariably drawn back to those churches and those quavering, aged voices gathered in song, lifted up in praise of something beyond them. I’ve written about her and her best song before, but I don’t really think I did her justice. Hers is a talent that is simply beyond words. Beyond mine, at least.
So I watched The Apartment last night. I’d seen a few bits and pieces of the movie before, but never the entire thing from beginning to end, and holy shit, it is so good. I would honestly say it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. God, it’s amazing. And Shirley Maclaine in her prime was possibly the hottest woman ever. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should.
Uncle Dave Macon (a.k.a. “The Dixie Dewdrop”)—“Way Down the Old Plank Road”
Recorded in NYC, April 24, 1926 for Vocalion. Sam McGee on guitar (of course). There is something perfect about these songs tonight. But I’ll tell you a secret—I wish you were all here and we were enjoying them together. Maybe even play a few. Start the first Tumblr string band.
Ah well, consider this an open invitation to each and every one of you to come visit us here in the Lost Provinces. Peace and much love to you. I’ll catch you on the flip flop.
Whenever I make reservations or order pizza or whatever, the alias I always use is “Dave Macon.”
I cannot describe the thrill I get at the two and a half minute mark when he yells KILL YOURSELF!: it’s one of the single most joyous moments in all recorded music.
Snippets from Jaclyn Friedman’s article, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape.” You can read the whole thing here.
This week, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was taken into custody by Interpol on charges of sexual assault, and pundits right, left, and center got busy painting the…
This is one of those things where you have to tread really carefully, but…c’mon. While I’m not exactly denying the points made here, the Assange case is pretty fucking shady. Literally days after this guy spills a shitload of beans that make him a fairly serious threat to multiple governments, he gets arrested? Which is not to say that the charges against him should be taken any less seriously, or that the women who are accusing him are lying, but forgive me if it seems just a little suspicious.
As the article points out, when a rape accusation makes it into the news cycle, it is “most often because the accused if famous.” Again, any accusations should be taken seriously, but can you really blame someone for being somewhat skeptical—why would Al Gore, for instance, do something that would so obviously come to light, something that would so obviously undo all of his success, all of his wealth, his entire rich-and-powerful life? Doesn’t it seem a little more likely that someone of his stature might have enemies, or could attract the sort of person who would make such an accusation? This goes for essentially any violent crime that a rich and famous person is accused of: why would anyone of such high stature do something so inherently reckless?
This is such a hard thing to talk about. I hope no one thinks I’m coming off as, you know, pro-rape here. I’m just suggesting that withholding judgement—one way or the other—until you have all the facts doesn’t really equal “apologizing” for what I think we can all agree is a despicable act.